Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Fall Weather Is Coming!! And With It, The Boo-Birds are out!!

I have a great deal of respect for the folks at SI. They've been covering sports for years, and being relevant for this much time, especially after the explosion of the Internet and other competitors, is pretty impressive. However, in the zeal to be on their game, they really missed the boat about the MLS effort in Portland. With things changing so much this summer with stadium plans, financing, the state of the Beavers, and other things, I know there's a lot of things to cover about the topic, but you can't do better than talking about events that happened months ago as if it was today? All I can say about this is wow.

In the same thread of talking about sportsmanship and integrity, I've heard a lot of talk lately about sports fans booing at games, and there's been a lot of talk about the conduct of fans at high school, college and youth sports. There's been a movement of sorts to try and keep the boos away from the young kids and unpaid amateurs, because in most cases, they are giving their all out there.

It's a tough dilemma for sure, because some fans think buying a ticket gives them the right to do anything they want, and for my viewing of Timbers matches, I sit in the middle of the section of fans that sing, chant, and cheer the entire match. I know there are fans that don't like what we do, and as much as I try to be a good fan, I'll admit I've booed the team at times because of performance. I don't feel badly about booing professionals, especially since they are paid for their efforts. Ok, some players aren't played as well as others, but I think that being a professional means taking the good with the bad, and you get adoring and angry fans.

I wished that some fans would behave with some decorum, but booing isn't nearly as bad as other things fans could do to show their voice about what's going on with the field. Besides, if you really read the disclaimer on any sporting ticket, every team and venue includes a clause that says the venue has complete control over conduct, language of signs and banners, and such. Free speech doesn't immediately give you carte blanche to make a complete jerk of yourself at a sporting event, as you could be ejected at any point if it gets that bad.

Where the line hits for me is conduct at other events, like youth events, high school, and things like that. Kids play games because they want to be part of a team, learn skills, perhaps earn a scholarship for college, or just be with friends, and as such, it's important to keep results and conduct in perspective. If you are throwing profanity at an official or coach of a little league baseball team for a missed call, are you really providing support for your child or just taking the whole thing too seriously?

I get there's a lot of pressure out there now, as parents often times see sports as a way for the kids to pay for their future, and so they push their kids to be the best. While I admire that tenacity, it's important to allow kids to be kids, and play sports because it's fun. It's also important to learn the lessons of sports, like respecting your opponent and officials, working together with your teammates, pushing yourself to do your best, and how to win or lose gracefully. Yes, we do keep score, but the lessons of sports for youths is more important than the score.
The only slippery slope is college, because for me, I can see both sides of the argument. Colleges are full of young people who are trying to learn the same lessons as noted above, and they might be paid a scholarship and other benefits for their efforts on the field, yet colleges are treating some programs as near professional in their program and approach. You might have paid or unpaid kids giving their all out there, and if things don't go right, does that give you the right to boo?

If you use the argument of booing the coaches, that might be worthy of the situation because coaches are well paid for what they do. But do you need to do it when the athletes are out there? And being paid a scholarship to play ball, is that enough to consider college students paid, meaning that it's probably OK to boo. For me, I don't see enough about college to convince me that it's OK to boo while there. The unintended consequences of booing while the game is going on if you are angry with the coach still means that athletes will hear it, and I don't care how strong a person you are, but hearing boos raining down on you would register with most people. Professionals deal with things like this day in and day out, but college athletes shouldn't have to deal with it.

Finally, the Portland Trail Blazers announced a change in ticket policy, as they will now charge slightly different prices for single game tickets, depending on opponent, day of the week, and other factors. This has been part of the ticket standard for many sports for years, as the English Premiership has had a form of tiered pricing for many years, as the more attractive matchups would be more popular for purchasing. However, these standards are usually set before the season. For the Trail Blazers' model, they will adjust pricing each week as the season progresses for any available tickets. They've announced that the price won't fall to less than what a season ticket or multi game ticket holder pays for their package, as they will push static pricing for tickets as an advantage to buying tickets in a bundle like this.

I'm surprised that this hasn't happened before with other sports and teams, although I've seen that the University of Portland does charge a slightly different price for tickets to see Gonzaga at Chiles than they do other WCC games. If you have a game that potentially could be a big deal with top flight competition or billboard type players, I think teams should be able to charge a slightly higher price for more in-demand games. What I hope is that they will practice some restraint so to not gauge fans to make more money just because they can. Teams already have a lot of revenue streams, and it's important to keep this idea from really becoming a huge distraction.

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