LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love will not travel with the Cleveland Cavaliers for tonight’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies, greatly devaluing the worth of a ticket. Memphis fans who are missing out on their only opportunity to see the big three of the NBA’s defending champions this season are understandably chapped. The leaguewide practice of giving superstars nights off on the trail end of back-to-back games is not fan-friendly but serves the more important team interest.
Solutions to treat as many fanbases to the best players are not easy, as my colleague Ryan Glasspiegel points out. And while I don’t disagree with his conclusion that this is a rough break for Grizzlies fans, my reaction is less sympathetic.
Purchasing an advance ticket to a sporting event carries a significant risk for the consumer to weigh. The ticket itself guarantees only entry to the event. It carries no promises that said event will be of the highest — or any — quality.
Major League Baseball, NFL and NCAA fans have long operated with this knowledge. Cold, wet or severe weather could hamper the event. In baseball, lengthy delays could turn a three-hour game into a six-hour test of patience. Not all events, even the ones most attractive on paper, materialize into worthwhile experiences. The argument could be made that the potential for a lesser experience has been increased by decisions to play football games on Thursday or to start more in primetime.
Injuries to marquee players, of course, are a universal risk as is plain old poor play by the teams involved.
On the other side of the coin, some of these elements have been addressed. Indoor facilities impervious to the elements have been built. Player safety measures have been taken when possible. But, there is only so much a league can control. And that’s probably a factor in why the regular-season respite sweeping the NBA is so offensive to fans.
A coaching decision is something a coach can control. A league, if motivated, could steer those decisions in the direction of a higher participation rate.
As much as NBA fans would like to see Adam Silver strongarm teams into playing marquee players, it’s not a realistic short-term goal. Their ideal solution of never being burned must be replaced with a more applicable one.
And that’s the realization that buying a ticket to a pro basketball game is no longer a safer bet than, say, baseball or football. The risk may be primarily coach-made instead of from Mother Nature, but is no less real. It’s a harsh reality in concert with rising prices.
This general uncertainty is an element underappreciated in discussions of in-person viewing versus at-home viewing. It’s definitely a serious plus for the television networks that they can sell an unfettered experience. It’s definitely a negative for owners that the arena experience is wrought with moving parts.
Buying a ticket in advance has always carried implied risk. Buying closer to game time helps mitigate some of that risk but is still a gamble. A responsible consumer must weigh this reality when purchasing.
Going in with your eyes wide open might help feeling like the wool’s been pulled over your eyes later.