Sports

Wainger ’16: Come for the shirt, stay for the game

By
Sports Columnist
Friday, February 19, 2016

Two weeks ago, I made the 20-minute trek from my off-campus apartment up to the Pizzitola Center to watch the men’s basketball team take on Princeton. I like to get to the court early and stake out a good seat, but at 5:45 p.m. — a full 15 minutes before the start of the game — droves of people were walking in the opposite direction, back to their dorms and away from the student section in the bleachers.

Did I misread the schedule? Did this game actually start at 3 p.m.?

No, it was just a giveaway night at the Pitz.

If you’ve never gotten a bobblehead at a baseball game before, giveaway nights are when teams give out free goodies in an effort to attract large crowds for important or meaningful games. Ahead of the basketball games against both Princeton and Penn, the Brown Athletics Department handed out hundreds of t-shirts, an iPad mini and 1,500 life-size posters of Cedric Kuakumensah ’16. All of this was in hopes of drawing a strong student presence for Brown’s first home series after winter break.

And it worked! According to BrownBears.com, the team drew massive crowds of 1,948 and 2,165 fans against Princeton and Penn, respectively. Compared to an average of just over 1,000 fans for every other home game, that’s a huge turnout. But these numbers don’t tell the full story.

Student attendance at games is tracked by event staff members using pitch counters. Every Brown ID they see counts as another butt they assume will be filling a seat. At the end of the game, the number on the counter is added to the number of tickets sold to get the final total. But the event staff doesn’t count how many students walk in, take a t-shirt and head right back out the door. That is to say that many of the extra 1,000 fans that showed up for the Princeton and Penn games stayed just long enough to ask if there were any mediums left before hitting the road.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning giveaway nights. A decent percentage of my wardrobe has sponsors from giveaway nights written on the back of it. I think Brown Athletics does a fine job of advertising and distributing quality giveaways that entice even the most aloof members of Brown’s community to make their way up Hope Street.

My issue is with the students: Do that many people really see no problem in simply accepting a free gift and walking away without considering why the gift was given to them in the first place? Sure, you do it all the time when the guy at Cajun Luau offers you a free sample of orange chicken, but Brown Athletics’ giveaways serve a greater purpose than getting you to buy the chicken teriyaki special.

In the end, it’s about supporting your classmates. Cedric may seem like the massive guy you see walking around campus every now and then, but he eats in the Ratty, studies at the Scili and passes out in the snow outside the GCB just like you and me (or maybe that’s just me). If any of your other classmates invited you to their movie screening or the opening night of their show, would you take the free hors d’oeuvres and then head home? Of course not. That would be rude, and you’re not rude.

So why is Brown Athletics any different? I’ve seen the extra zip Tavon Blackmon ’17 puts on his passes in front of a raucous home crowd. I’ve seen the face Steven Spieth ’17 makes when he drains a three-pointer and a packed student section stands up in unison. I think it’s safe to say that the players, coaches and fans all enjoy themselves more when the Pizzitola is filled to capacity.

But maybe the issue is more deep-rooted than I make it out to be. Maybe you just don’t like sports. Or maybe you still bitterly believe that athletes didn’t work as hard to get here as you did (with which, for the record, I entirely disagree). Whatever your reason is for taking a shirt and leaving or never even attending a Brown game in your four years here, I challenge you to reconsider and check out the game you’ve been ignoring. Pick a team and get invested in it. Learn the rules, players and coaches. Scream your head off when someone hits a game-winning shot and applaud the team’s effort after a tough loss.

I’ve followed the men’s basketball team for the last three years. I spent two of those years writing recaps for The Herald, but even with my reporting days long behind me, I still go to every game. I’ve seen Cedric develop from the team’s third or fourth option to the anchor on both sides of the ball. And this year, I’ve seen guys like Corey Daugherty ’19 and Travis Fuller ’19 prove that they’ll be leading this team some day. And when I come back to Brown for my 25th reunion, I’m going to remember the time Cedric broke the Ivy League’s all-time record for blocked shots. Will you remember the two episodes of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” that you watched instead of going to the game?

It shouldn’t take a free giveaway for you to come out and support Brown’s teams, but if you’re only in it for the apparel, at least have the decency to stay for the first half. And if I see you walking around campus wearing a free t-shirt, don’t think I won’t ask you who Brown’s starting point guard is and what the score was at halftime.

Alex Wainger ’16 will come to literally any game with you. Shoot him an invite at alex_wainger@brown.edu.

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