A mystery to solve

Here is a mystery for you to solve. Please email me with your thoughts.

I went to watch Syracuse play basketball against Rutgers a few weeks ago. There were five men playing for each team, of course. And ten men coaching. That is correct. Each time the five players came off for a time out, ten men surrounded them. Ten in ties and suits and bearing clipboards.

At one end I counted about 20 SU cheerleaders. They rah-rahed most of the game without paying much attention to what the players were up to.

At the other end were about 25 members of the dance team. They performed Rockette-style at mid-court from time to time. Most of them were not watching the game either.

At the cheerleading end the band played on. Dozens of brass players, including six tubas.

Facing the fans were huge ads. Moving billboards that showed us different messages every 30 seconds. These were at floor level.

Above us, a huge television carried lots of commercials. And speakers the size of cars boomed out the ads.

During breaks in the game we had promos on the court. For various products. People rushed out to plonk logos on the court. They brought on teens to try to sink half-court shots. And kids to romp around in inane games.

A crew lugged a big reclining chair to the foul line to promote a furniture store. A contestant lay back in the chair to try to sink a free throw.

A “kissin’camera” roamed the stands, capturing kisses between couples. Promoting a florist, or some other business.

In other words, we were in Advertising City. Make that Advertising Circus.

 We also had time outs that were three and four times longer than normal. Because advertisers demanded them, for their TV commercials. In other words, advertisers have changed the rules of college basketball. Welcome to tonight’s advertising marathon, sports fans. Tonight, somewhere between the ads, we feature Syracuse basketball.

The players were mostly black. This is usually the case in big time basketball. The spectators were almost entirely white. About 40,000 blacks live in Syracuse. Twenty-five percent of the population. Evidently they don’t come to SU basketball.

The players did not seem to make any connection with the crowd. They did not look up at spectators. They did not gesture to them or talk with any.

I can understand why they might not connect. They would not connect with students because they can hardly be called students themselves. Most will never graduate. Often college ball players are in special classes and special dorms or apartments. In reality, they are junior professional athletes hired by the big colleges.

Athletes like this are often paid with cars and goodies. And with scholarships that have lots of hidden extras. And with the chance of turning pro - a one-in-a-thousand chance. But in many regards they are fodder.

Here is the mystery.

The Carrier Dome hosted over 20,000 fans that night. Lots of them, of course, spent the game eating.

I talked with lots of them. I listened to lots of them talk with each other. It was clear to me that many barely watched the game. And many would have trouble naming more than two players.

Syracuse got ahead and stayed ahead.

Now, the game is only 40 minutes long. With 12 minutes to go, about 4000 fans had left. With 4 minutes to go, 12,000 had departed. I hate to think how many would abandon the team if it was losing.

The campus does not have traffic jams after the game. So why the rush, sports fans? You paid a lot of money for the tickets. You took the time to make the trip to the Carrier Dome. For what?

SU staged a circus for you. We had cheerleaders. And an oversized orange character frolicking through the aisles. And advertising. We had a zillion ads, a zillion commercials, a zillion hot dogs and boxes of popcorn. We had trombones and tubas, six of them. We had dancing girls. We had ten coaches for five players. We probably had a partridge in a pear tree. Brought to you by... Oh, and we had basketball.

Yet most of the crowd hit the parking lots before the game was over.

Maybe you can enlighten me as to what was going on?

From Tom ... as in Morgan.

For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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