Feb 23, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers power forward Thomas Robinson (41) reacts after dunking over Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng (5) in the second half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers: The Live Experience, Part Duex

Feb 23, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) dives for the ball in front of the Minnesota Timberwolves

 

Three months after my initial observations about going to NBA games live, I have now attended enough games that it is worth revisiting the topic. This decision was fueled in no small part by last Sunday’s comeback win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, which was one of the best games I have ever been to in person.

So, we’ll start with that – the positives. The Timberwolves game emphasized everything great about attending a Portland Trail Blazers game live. The atmosphere was the best I have experienced all season, and the crowd was the loudest I have ever heard it. The teams were getting chippy with each other, and that just fueled the crowd’s energy even more.

Boos were rained down when appropriate (and they often were with that officiating), and Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard’s double dive to try and save a loose ball earned an ovation that nearly took the roof off (pictured above). This is the type of stuff that sports fans live for.

When the crowd gets going like that, I am not sure if there is another, equal sensation. I’ve only been to two NFL games, but both times my impression has been that the larger, more open nature of the stadiums hinders a single fan from feeling the collective arena’s heartbeat. And in a city that identifies with its team so much, on game nights, the Moda Center can really become the pulse of Portland.

Watching the Thomas Robinson block and subsequent Will Barton alley-oop live was pure magic. Despite my euphoria during that moment, the small, logical remaining part of my brain could step back and say, “Wow, that moment wouldn’t be nearly as special on a TV.” That is a memory I will cherish for a long time, and makes some of the more annoying parts of the going-to-a-game process completely worth it.

On that topic, there are certainly negatives to go along with the positives. The first is not even the team’s fault, but a huge problem nonetheless – traffic. In the four short months since the season has started, by my completely unscientific measurements (aka Jason’s rising iritation levels while driving), I truly believe game night traffic has gotten worse. This culminated in trying to get to the most recent Oklahoma City Thunder game, which was truthfully the worst traffic I have ever been in in my life.

It made me again reconsider taking public transportation, but the lack of MAX transit centers in my area (Tigard) really kills any convenience or speed factor of this option. I am not sure humanity will ever figure out a solution to traffic, but if it is possible, that is probably the single biggest improvement that would improve my personal experience as a fan.

Inside the arena, during the game itself, the plethora of timeouts still frustrates me to no end. I understand the “TV deals, money, sponsorships, etc.” argument, but at this point in time, it’s too much. My tentative suggestion would be to only have nationally televised (TNT, ESPN, etc.) games have extra timeouts, and allow fans a more streamlined process for most games.

That thrilling win against the Los Angeles Clippers earlier in the year? I can’t even put it on my list of favorite games to have been at this season, because the utterly excessive amount (and length) of timeouts destroyed the experience. I was legitimately bored at times because the timeouts ran so long.

I still find games to be too long, but now I have a more concrete example to work with: during the aforementioned Thunder game, we were so late, we missed the entire first quarter. In a base sense, we saw a 36 minute basketball game, and I can attest that that was too short. Thus, I find the idea of matching FIBA quarter lengths, 10 minutes, to still be completely valid. Sadly, this change will probably never be implemented for the previously mentioned precious ad revenue.

Perhaps no factor is more important than ticket prices, and my thoughts have changed little. I maintain that single-game tickets bought from the team have been noticeably overpriced this season, which is a definite downer for fans. Compare the official page to the team’s page on StubHub, and you will see discrepancies (as of this writing), such as Hawks tickets for $22 instead of $15, and Golden State tickets for $45 instead of $33 (all prices for 300 level).

From a business sense, you would have to assume it would behoove the team to keep their prices more competitive with the secondary market, but my guess is that would violate team president Chris McGowan’s promise to season-ticket holders. In short, he told them that single-game ticket prices would never be sold below what they paid for season tickets. It’s a rant for another time, but I strongly disagree with this mentality, and have no doubt that it is a huge part of the reason for pricey tickets.

On the whole, StubHub has been a wonderful resource for tickets this year, especially if you can wait until extremely close to tip-off in order to purchase tickets. Sadly, the recent spate of bad traffic has rendered this strategy very difficult. My advice for fans who want to buy single game tickets would be to carefully check both the official site and StubHub, as on rare occasions the official site has been cheaper (this was the case for the Clippers game).

To end on a good note, the drinking glasses promotion is awesome. They may seem like small tokens, but this team, and this year have been a huge part of my life recently, and a permanent reminder of the starting lineup is something I will enjoy. It also incentivizes fans to go to games, which is never a bad thing.

All in all, I have absolutely enjoyed this season. There are quibbles here and there, but I believe the Blazers as a whole offer one of the most enjoyable opportunities to watch live athletics anywhere. I doubt I would have the endurance to purchase season tickets (cough the season is too long cough), but picking and choosing games has led to some great memories.

 

 

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