This global warming and the end of the football season has really got me down. I’m trying to make the transition. I really am. But it’s like going from filet mignon to Taco Bell, trading in the Lexus for a Pinto.
It’s like moving from a three bedroom beach house in Newport to a studio apartment in Norco. Not that there’s anything wrong with Norco.
And not that there’s anything wrong with basketball. It’s just that it’s not…well… football. There’s no build up, no anticipation, no tension and really no excitement.
If you’ve once dated Eva Longoria but you end up with Roseanne Barr… well you get the drift.
One weekend I was covering the Southeast and Mid-Valley Division CIF football championship games in stadiums that were standing room only – close to 5000.
A few days later (last week) I was at a basketball tournament with about 20 other fans. Yeah okay 20 might be an exaggeration. It was more like 10.
You could literally hear every instruction the coach shouted to his players. You could hear the basketball dribbling, the ball bouncing off the rim on missed shots. Occasionally you could hear a fan yelling encouragement, “Let’s go Johnny, play defense!”
If you closed your eyes you would think you were at a summer pick up game at Live Oak Park.
It’s not that the players and coaches weren’t working hard. It’s not that they weren’t doing everything in their power to win. You could tell that they cared. It’s just that nobody else did.
This is nothing new. High School basketball has been this way, especially here in the San Gabriel Valley, for a quite a few years.
And it’s only getting worse. Interest in basketball seems to be waning even while I write this.
Why? There are several reasons – inconvenient tip off times, unavailability of rosters, and lack of administrative support to name a few.
Last week I was snapping pictures at a game while standing at the north end of the court on the baseline beneath the basket. I wasn’t in anybody’s way. When a player came my way I would quickly move. The officials had even begun to make small talk with me as they recognized me as a reporter.
After about 15 minutes of taking shots, an administrator approached me and asked me who I was. I showed him my CIF credential and identified myself as a reporter. But after several more questions he told me to move away from the baseline and over to the sideline, much farther from the action. Mind you there was nobody there. The bottom tiers of stands weren’t pulled out and yours truly and Mr. Administrator were the only ones on the floor while the rest of the fans were in the balcony.
I did as I was told without argument but it was just another example of why basketball suffers. This guy was more concerned with my position on the floor than why there were 10 people watching a tournament game. And he wonders why the coverage is lacking.
Football will always be king. There’s no changing that. But here are five things that CIF and the schools can do to make it a little better.
1. Move the start of the season to January: In December everybody’s mind is still on football. Wait until the gridiron is completely clear until tipping off. If it means canceling a Christmas classic so be it. Nobody is going anyway.
2. Start all games at 7:00 pm: Football does it and those games last an hour longer. Allow the parents time to get to the games. Teachers and coaches may have to stay a little later to lock up but attendance numbers will double.
3. Have the cheerleaders attend all games: It increases enthusiasm and the players would love the encouragement. You never see them blowing out a football game. At the tourney last week there wasn’t one in sight.
4. Announce the starting five before the game: It helps to build the excitement of the opening tip off and lets the fans know who’s who.
5. Realign the divisions to parallel football. Create the Southeast Division, Mid-Valley etc. It’s nice for the locals when Temple City makes the playoffs. But the excitement is quickly diminished when they learn they have to drive out to Avalon.
That’s my principle.
Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.