A half-dozen times a year, these stories tend to hit. Usually during that dull in-between that marks the end of the trade deadline season and the start of the playoffs. Some home crowd in some home arena doing something unseemly late in a game because a fast food promotion listed on the other side of a ticket ensured them a free artery-clogger. In one-sided games, the cheers behind the statistical hallmarks (usually coming in the form of the home team getting to 100 points) are often the loudest in the game. And the saddest.
This was the case in Toronto on Monday night. Raptor big man Ed Davis nailed a shot late in the fourth quarter towards the end of his team's blowout loss, the crowd went bananas (for pizza, ironically), and opposing Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy had no idea why. As detailed by the great Eric Koreen, at the National Post:
"I mean, everybody's on their feet, standing ovation and the whole thing and then a guy in the crowd next to me sitting baseline said everybody gets a free pizza, so I guess that was exciting," Van Gundy said. "That was the loudest the crowd was all night. They were into that. That was a big basket by Ed Davis. They're going to put that on the highlight film at the end of the year. I was like, 'Wow, what happened, I thought they had like an 18-point play and tied the game or something."
At that point, Van Gundy was informed the fans did not get an entire pizza; just a slice.
"Really? We got a standing ovation for a slice? They told me they got a free pizza. A slice? A slice you have to sit in your seat and clap; you can't stand up on a slice, that's bad etiquette."
Well, I've got a "really?" for SVG, as well.
You knew, buddy. You knew. You've been sitting on NBA benches for over a decade as a head and assistant coach, and anytime a swell rises for what seems like a disproportionate act in a basketball game, you know it's because of some promotion. That has to be your first instinct. Just like when you're watching a regular-season baseball game and in between pitches the crowd goes nuts for some reason -- you automatically assume that there's usually a shirtless guy running around the outfield, stinking of domestic beer.
Now, Stan (one of our favorites. Hell, our favorite) likely had his tongue placed firmly in cheek throughout this funny little rant, and he's not wrong to be a little annoyed.
It's not so much the promotion, but the fans' obsession with the promotion. We've seen fans boo their own team for not only failing to make the mark that would earn them free (cheap) food, but also for declining to take wild shots while trying to run out the clock in a close game. And we've seen plenty of excited late-game play that runs the risk of rubbing in against a losing team, all to win the crowd some cheap food.
Some teams do it right. The Chicago Bulls smartly amended their promotion by making it so that the Bulls had to score 100 points and win in order for their fans to get a sandwich. The Los Angeles Lakers base their promotions on holding teams under 100 points. The teams, by and large, have done their job.
Now it's on the fans to, geez, get a hold of themselves.
I understand the joy in it. Sometimes you can't be bothered to walk four more feet down the aisle in order to save $1.50 on a box of cereal, but if you found an unattended dollar on the floor of that aisle you'd think yourself the luckiest guy on earth. Free food is fun, and having something to cheer about towards the end of one of your team's worst games of the year towards the end of yet another rebuilding year in Toronto is a needed tonic.
But do you need to do it … so much? Can't we get a silent fist pump? A smirk or a smile? Oprah didn't give you a new car. You just got a coupon for Sad Blowout Pizza.
Koreen writes that he wants the promotion to stick, and I agree with him. In the end, Sad Blowout Pizza is still pizza, and pizza is the best. But let's chill out a bit, Toronto. Don't be the kid at the birthday party that ruins the pizza for everyone when you excitedly rush and accidentally knock that whole thing of Dr. Pepper all over the one large pepperoni that Jeremy's parents bought. Now all there's left to eat is cheese, thanks to Kyle.
Don't be Kyle, Toronto.
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