RON YENGICH, THE famous Salt Lake defense attorney, is a true sports aficionado, a man who collects sports memorabilia, claims part ownership of the Ogden Raptors baseball club and attends college and pro games frequently.
For years, he owned season tickets to Utah Jazz games, but he finally gave them up. Not because of the team's failure to win a championship; not because of the expense; not because he's too busy. He gave them up because, well, let him tell you.
"I could not take the constant, unyielding, unbending flow of noise during the game," he says.
It's crazy. You go to a ball game and an over-caffeinated circus breaks out. You're bombarded with sirens, smoke, fireworks, revved-up motorcycles, exhaust, rock 'n' rap music, showgirls, fan contests, promotional giveaways, cavorting mascots, advertising, silly skits on the JumboTron, and loud, obnoxious P.A. announcers who apparently get paid per word.
It's not just Jazz games it's the same in all professional and collegiate sports arenas everywhere.
It's no longer a ball game; it's a Salute to Noise and Pollution, brought to you by Miracle Ear.
Fans can actually feel the heat from the flames as they shoot out of the scoreboard. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich says it's only a matter of time until someone gets hurt. Cleveland's Ben Wallace said pre-game pyrotechnics in Boston, which leave a fog over the court for most of the first quarter, worsened allergies that benched him for most of Game 2 of the playoffs, causing team officials to keep him in the locker room prior to Game 3. Game 1 of the Spurs-Hornets series was delayed 19 minutes to clean up the mess after firefighters were forced to use a foam spray to extinguish a fire used for a mascot routine.
The game itself has become a sideshow to the sideshows.
NBA commissioner David Stern recently called the explosions and the assault of noise "ridiculous." He will urge team owners to do something about it during the off-season.
Hear, hear well, you probably can't if you've attended a game, where noise levels reach into the 100-decibel level and higher. Anything above 85 can cause permanent hearing damage.
What happened to the days when you could go to a basketball, football or baseball game and actually talk to the person sitting next to you?
"During the time-outs, you can't turn to your wife or friends and have a conversation about the game," says Yengich. "I really grew to hate that. ... It's the same thing at Bees games. Instead of saying to your neighbor, 'Look how the outfielders are shading the hitter; they must be playing him to pull,' you have to say 'LOOK HOW THE OUTFIELDERS ARE SHADING THE HITTER!!! THEY MUST BE PLAYING THE PULL!!!"'
What happened to the days you could go to a ballpark and just see a ball game and that was enough? Who needed the other stuff?
"When sports have to do that to me, what they're saying is that our game isn't good enough to watch," says Yengich.
So they treat fans as if they have the attention span of 5-year-olds. They feel compelled to fill every second between the action (and sometimes during) with some alternative "entertainment," if they're not trying to sell you something.
"If you're a fan, it's the game you want to see," says Yengich.
Nobody is mistaking a stadium for a library. But do we really need the JumboTron or the announcer to tell us to "MAKE SOME NOISE" after Deron Williams sinks a three-point shot, or when Derek Jeter knocks down a liner up the middle? Do we really need the P.A. guy to tell us at the outset of the fourth quarter to GET LOUD?
"We don't need to be told that there was a foul ball and hear a window crash," says Yengich. "I know what a foul ball is."
Just because the P.A. guy has a microphone, doesn't mean he has to use it constantly. During breaks in the action, fans are assaulted with advertisements and promotions (been to LaVell Edwards Stadium recently?). If they want that, they could stay home and watch it on TV.
People go to games to enjoy the games themselves, to enjoy the people they're attending the game with and to escape the hustle of the world. They can't do those things any more. The only noise real fans need is the (unsolicited) cheering of the crowd.As Yengich says, "Sports are intended to have an aspect where you leave behind the constant and unrelenting assault on our senses and are able to sit there and dream your dreams through your team and share it with the person next to you."
Doug Robinson's column runs on Tuesdays. Please e-mail [email protected].