Are Toronto Raptors’ fans "good" fans?
By averaging almost a sell-out this year in terms of attendance, does that constitute being "good fans?"
Somehow, from a comment by Chris Bosh at the halfway point of Wednesday night’s match against Milwaukee, this question is now being bandied about.
In fact, we now have "Fan-gate."
Yes that’s right, and it was the hot button topic on Hoops last night on RaptorsTV.
Bosh of course not only stated that "this place is like funeral," at halftime, but he reinforced those thoughts after the game and was seen throughout the match trying to get the crowd more engaged in the action.
And in a follow-up interview with the Fan590’s Eric Smith (aired last night on Hoops), Bosh took things one step further by saying that not only was the arena deathly quiet on Wednesday night, but it’s been that way the past number of games…
It was at this point that I turned the Spoon down that I had casually been blasting, and put a stop to the overwhelming pile of dishes I had been vehemently scrubbing so I could turn up the interview.
Smith did a great job following up Bosh’s statement by asking if perhaps the team’s play of late had been the cause of the fan indifference, and if Bosh was worried about alienating fans. He replied that no, he was not worried, because he knew he was right.
But was he?
Immediately I started to question the whole situation and Hoops’ regular panelists Jack Armstrong, Paul Jones and Eric Smith did the same.
The three essentially both agreed and disagreed with CB4’s comments saying that while the fans at the ACC were quiet against Milwaukee, the team’s play hasn’t exactly inspired standing ovations of late.
However as usual, it was Jack who really got me thinking about the whole "fan support" subject.
Jack took the fans side and argued that the Raptors in many ways owed it to the fans and that by losing 15 of their last 21 going into the match against the Bucks, "fans have had a right to BE skeptical."
The interesting thing was then this discussion started to veer off from strictly Bosh’s comments to the behaviour of fans in general at the Air Canada Centre…especially in light of the recent fan issues during Blue Jay games.
Are Raptors fans, the same ones who chant for pizza and boo when their team is down, simply bad fans? Are they uninformed and simply there to be seen? Are these the same folks, as Paul Jones put it, who "look at you like you have 3 heads" if you erupt in celebration during the first quarter? Why are fans in places like Utah and Detroit almost EXPECTING their team to come back after being down, and therefore instead of booing, turn up the noise to try and give their team a boost?
It’s the same as the Cameron Crazies of Duke refusing to sit until the final second has ticked off the clock, or fans at Yankee stadium hurling insults at those who leave before the last pitch is thrown. Why are Raptors fans different?
In my opinion, it’s because of the way this franchise was born. Unlike the Lakers and Celtics, or even the Warriors and Jazz, this team not only lacks history, but was also born during the media marketing age. The age where you clap at the big-screen for the correct answers to movie trivia questions and where every night fans are guided through a rehearsed set of call and responses and other chants.
I think Jack said it best last night:
"Fans are being treated like idiots. I’m sick and tired of people having to run around with flags, and put things up on scoreboards to try and get cheers." "Fans are just kinda there. Now is that the fault of the fans, or the arena?"
I have to say that it’s a bit of both, but more so I lay the blame on the side of the marketing and in-game entertainment folks. I mean, if the pizza gimmick had never been implemented, would we have fans cheering for pizza as Toronto approached 100 points?
If such a premium wasn’t placed on luxury boxes and "platinum and gold" seating, would we have dead-beats in suits talking on cell phones instead of chanting "DEFENCE?"
No we wouldn’t.
And that’s not to say that all suits are on their phones and all fans are chanting for pizza, but unfortunately the fact that the Raptors are a business means that with the crazy fans dressed entirely in red also comes the sushi-eating shooshers.
And I’m by no means immune to all of this either.
I try to be as vocal as possible at games but it’s hard not at times to feel like instead of a Raptors’ game, you’re a participant in some sort of Pavlovian experiment. Only in this case, Herbie Kuhn is playing the roll of Pavlov, and us fans are at his beck and call.
Let me end it on this note.
Raptors’ fans aren’t dumb. There are more blogs and discussion about the Raptors than any other team in the league. Perhaps not all of these well-read fans are losing their minds as a cheering section at each and every game, but I hope Chris Bosh doesn’t confuse fans’ apathy with fans’ recognition of poor play.
Simply put – they know a dog when they see one.
A few of the HQ entourage and I snuck into the gold section during the second half of Toronto’s loss to Charlotte a week ago. The fans around us were boisterous, and along with others throughout the building were cheering as loud as possible when Toronto was making its comeback. However when TJ’s lax dribbling lead to an Earl Boykins steal, and that in turn became what seemed like unnecessary loss number 57 in recent weeks, the fans react accordingly.
The fan reaction has been poor in the past bunch of games Chris? No kidding, look at your record during that time span! And does it concern anyone else that Bosh, Moon and others are making such a big deal of this? As Jack put forth last night, these are very well paid professionals…shouldn’t they have enough motivation internally to get the job done?
I’d agree that Toronto fans need a bit more "Utah" in them, but I just don’t believe the current "in-game" situation is doing much to help matters. Fans nowadays end up being distracted by so many non-basketball related contests and promotions during games, that I’m not sure the players themselves shouldn’t be clapping for those fans who manage to still know what the score is by the time the fourth quarter hits!
In any event, what does all of this have to do with tonight’s game?
Well nothing really…except that I expect the "crowd noise" issues to suddenly disappear thanks to it being a Friday night game against Vince and the Nets.
And maybe that’s the point everyone’s overlooked here.
A 26 win Bucks team on a Wednesday night, playing against a Toronto team backing into the playoffs by losing 15 of its last 21 games isn’t exactly Lewis and Tyson Part II.
And therefore tonight I fully expect the ACC faithful to make like Public Enemy and Bring the Noise.