Saturday, July 29, 2006


The last time I went to a Billings Outlaws game, I said someone would have to pay me a hundred bucks to go again. Well, someone did, so I went.

The Fayetteville, N.C., Observer came up short a stringer a couple of hours before game time on Friday and called in desperation. The sports editor offered me $100, so I borrowed a laptop and headed out.

I hated it. From the moment I walked in the door at a quarter to six, until the last bit of recorded music faded at 10:30 p.m., it was an unrelenting onslaught of noise and hype. Everything I wrote before still applies, with at least one new twist. The public address announcer, instead of simply saying, "Third down," has adopted the habit of yelling, "Third down! Third down! Third down! Third down! Third down!" He is trying to create a once-in-a-lifetime "Giants win the pennant!" moment every time two passes fall incomplete. In 39 states, this is a capital offense.

I'm an old sports writer, but my skills have rusted, and the Observer is two hours east of here, so I had a tight deadline. Also, MetraPark's internet was down. So I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out a way to get my story to North Carolina. Then the contact number I had stopped working.

By the time the third quarter rolled around, I was typing play-by-play directly into my story, polishing the top of the story between plays, keeping notes on the action and trying every couple of minutes to place a phone call. Those blogging jerks who think reporters are lazy ought to give it a try sometime.

I wound up doing the story the old-fashioned way: With the game still in progress, I called in the story to a rewrite man, who turned it into serviceable English. With all the noise, he could barely hear me, and I couldn't hear him at all. I literally shouted myself hoarse into a cell phone. But we got it done, and someday I may get up the courage to actually read the story.

But the next time somebody offers me a hundred bucks to see an Outlaws game, I may just say that my price has gone up. I would rather spend a night in Abu Ghraib.

UPDATE: The Gazette story today emphasizes poor sportsmanship on the part of the Fayetteville Guard. But the worst case of poor sportsmanship I saw was when the execrable PA announcer went down onto the field (which should be a violation in itself) with about five minutes to go and the game still technically possible for either team to win. He urged fans to stick around after the game for the presentation of the championship trophy to YOUR BILLINGS OUTLAWS!

Is there a class below no-class? That's the class he's in. I thought the Guard showed admirable restraint by not dismembering him on the spot. If they had, I would have contributed to their legal defense fund.


Dave Rye said...

David, you are basically fighting the 21st Century. That's okay; it's a good thing to fight. The people who market sports and entertainment events these days apparently can't convince even themselves that the event is its own reward. There have to be hype and loud music, even between innings of a Mustangs' game, which used to be a pastoral occasion. We don't need this extraneous garbage any more than we need the "whoosh" sound between TV news items, or quick-cuts replacing dialogue in movies, but those are the trends. Filling the night with phony, manufactured, continual emotion rules out most of the chances of getting to experience the real thing.

Ed Kemmick said...

David is right, and so is Dave. And yeah, it's a good fight, but it's a hopeless one. The only real victory is staying home. (I can't say I mind the distractions at the Mustangs games, however. A little bad rock over a terrible PA for a minute or so between innings is easy to handle. God knows what they'll install if the bond issue passes...)

David said...

Ed, I agree with you that the Mustangs' music doesn't much bother me, especially since there are some seats where I can barely hear the PA system. So you sort of have a choice.

And it especially doesn't bother me because I know that many, many minor league parks are much, much worse. I'm just grateful it is as quiet as it is.

Anonymous said...

When the new arena in Glendale, AZ opened a few years ago, I went to the very first event held there, an Arizona Sting indoor lacrosse game. The PA system played basically the same heavy-metal song over and over for the entire game. The volume varied from headache-inducing to jet-engine on the runway loud (ironically, they tried pumping up the volume when the Sting got the ball, at which point the Sting would lose the ball).

I thought it was just a thing that this particular organization would do, but I later saw a game by two other teams in the same league (in Toronto, no less), and it was the same (albeit a different song).

Music during stoppages of play if fine (especially if performed by a virtuoso organist), but during play is another matter entirely. I will never go to another indoor lacrosse game (even though it's a very exciting sport that doesn't need bells, whistles and/or AC/DC) again. (Although it's unlikely I'll ever go to another event in that particular arena, since I live in Mesa, which is about 30 miles away, and given rush hour traffic here, it would take at least 2 hours to get there.)

The Guard had shown the Outlaws no respect coming up to this game (going so far as to try to have the game moved to their arena because they didn't want to travel to Montana). The fact that the Outlaw players didn't try to run up the score showed a great deal of restraint on their part, especially after the pre-game antics by the Carolinians. Having said that, the antics of the PA guy (perhaps it was the Outlaws' owner, who tends to hang around the field during games) was over the line, and a fine is in order.

Kirk Dooley, Mesa, AZ

Anonymous said...

There is a term for this--Bush League.

Anonymous said...


Consider yourself lucky that you got $100 dollars for the "experience". I just wasted $10 and several hours of my life. I'd agree with you and all the commentators here, cut the music and certainly the corporate sponsorships! Fieldgoals sponsored by EBMS, 1st down by Cellular Plus, and my personal favorite Penalties by MT Liquor. Who wants to sponsor penalties? Oh, yes, and don't forget the evening sponsors who were mentioned at least every other play.