There are many differences seeing the Cavs play in Cleveland last night as compared to twenty years ago. The obvious changes are in place, changes like player and coaching differnces. Add a marquee name like Lebron James into the mix and it seems everything factors differently.
The first difference I can point out is the venue. Cleveland now plays its home games at Quicken Loans Arena. The scoreboard is huge! The lights change frequently, there is music playing even while the game is going on. Twenty years ago, Richfield Coloseum was home to the Cavs. It was little bigger, but less flashy. It was where a purist would rather had seen the Cavs play. The scoreboard there was about a third of the size compared to the electricity eater at the Q.
The prices of everything have risen. This is a given. Despite the fact that people are paying much more for food and drink, there is so much more to choose from. Last night in the Club Lounge, you could choose from several beers, mixed drinks, wine, whiskey, or water. An unreal display of beverages! At Richfield, the most you could do was select between a Budweiser or a Miller High Life. There was no Quaker Steak and Lube, Pizza Hut, Specialized Deli Kiosks, or many other choices. The biggest decision was whether to have a regular hot dog or a footlong for the extra buck.
The most disturbing thing that has changed, to me, is activity during the timeouts. When the play on the court stops, five other things start immediately. The girls danced at both venues, but in Richfield, I believe the Cavs dancers only showed up at halftime and maybe between quarters wearing the same outfit for , get this, the whole game! Last night at the Cleveland – Milwaukee game, the dancers were there every single time play stopped in a different skimpy outfit. Clowns and dogs are throwing up shots backwards from half court. People are doing layups at both ends of the court, stacking Timwe Warner Boxes to win a prize package. A timeout announcer is urging people to make noise while some old school steel garbage can shoots plastic Taco Bell balls into screaming fans. Boobie Gibson is on the scoreboard playing a small Casio synthesizer while two fans try to name the tune he is playing. Last nights choice was Heart And Soul, the contestants incorrectly guessed Chopsticks. Too much going on at once! You don’t see all of this on television. I popped my friend Dave a short elbow to point out to him that the entire Cavs bench other than Coach Mike Brown and the two starters I could see, were watching the festivities at this three ring circus called an NBA timeout. Z, JJ Hickson, and Wally Szerbiak were zoned on watching Boobie do Billy Joel instead of paying attention. The entire assistant coaching staff was staring at the closest cheerleader. The rest of the bench was pretty well split between the animals at half court, the Time Warner challenge, and the dancers. Delonte West was just staring into the crowd that whole timeout like Rocky looking for Adrian.
The differences were obvious. The game has turned into a spectacle, an E ticket ride at Disneyland, every timeout. 20 years ago, the game was still the spectacle and you didn’t need the smoke, mirrors, and dry ice to make a fan happy. Hopefully we can see a bit of a reverse trend over the next 20 years to put the focus back on the game.