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Debunking the myth of a “wine-and-cheese” Magic fan base

2011 December 28
by Brian Serra

Wouldn't you enjoy free beer in this venue?

It’s time for everyone to get off their high horses regarding what paying fans choose to do with their time at sporting events. Me included. I believed for a long time that the true test of fandom was never missing kickoff, never missing a tip, never missing a second of action. Want to hear the truth? It’s all asinine.

The Amway Center and Amway Arena have housed 121 consecutive sellouts (including playoffs). Far from a fickle fan base. Season tickets, which I have never been able to afford in my lifetime, will run you $250 for nosebleed seats to upwards of five figures for lower bowl seats. Per season. Per seat.

Josh Robbins addressed this issue today in the Orlando Sentinel, calling the next few months a “spotlight” moment for fans to shine.

“But have Magic fans been engaged ever since the team moved into its new building?

That, too, is a fair question even though the team has announced sellouts for its last 99 regular-season home games.

In most games at Amway Center, the priciest lower-bowl seats are half-empty when the third quarter begins. Team officials have said that the new arena simply has so many amenities — including nice restaurants — that people have more options for their time.

Whatever the reason, players notice. People watching on TV notice. The fans in the upper deck, where seats are less expensive, notice.

People may do what they wish. If you spend your hard-earned money on tickets, it’s up to you to decide what you do with those tickets.

But the image of all those empty seats with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter is an arresting one — one that could define Orlando’s image as a sports town.”

Is it disconcerting for the rabid fans to see empty seats at the start of a game or start of the 3rd quarter? Yes, it is.  But who cares? Are they paying damn good money to be at the game? Yes. Are they back in their seats cheering shortly? Yes. Are they there in the 4th quarter of a close game? Yes.

It’s disconcerting to me that the media, and I’m including myself, even has to spend time addressing such petty issues. Players need to play ball, wake up, and realize that they don’t exist without out those “wine-and-cheese” fans.

Remember that whole BRI (Basketball Related Income) argument from this summer? The players make million$ of dollars every season because of those rich fans that aren’t in their seats at the start of the 3rd quarter. When those fans go away for good, so do players salaries.

Does that still bother you though, Dwight? Do you think it’s going to be any different in a brand new Barclays Arena? No, it’s not.

Because people come to basketball games for the social experience. This is the most misunderstood fact in all of sports. Yes, they like basketball and the competition but they love the social community that it brings even more. That’s why in 3 years when Dwight is gone, those seats will still be the same price and fans will still be rooting for the Magic. They will still be late to their seats and they will still be enjoying the free food and beer they receive in the Mercedes Benz Lounge.

I understand how easy it is for Dwight and the team to be short sighted. Of COURSE they think it’s all about them, that’s all anyone has told them their whole lives. Or as my college professor called it, “bubble theory”. Fans spend boatloads of money to enjoy themselves, not to make star athletes feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Yes, it would be nice if Orlando had a Green Bay Packer-esque fan base… but it’s not reality and never will be.

It’s time to dismount from the high horse and understand what sporting events are really all about. When the consecutive sellout steak ends, and only then, we can complain.

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