The Nevada Wolf Pack football team has not averaged as many as 20,000 fans at home since Chris Ault returned to the program in 2004. The last year the Pack hit the magic number in average attendance was coach Chris Tormey's final year in 2003 when they averaged 22,258. Will this year be different? The home opener against South Florida and the home finale against Boise State will draw around 55,000 fans to Mackay Stadium. That means the Pack will likely have to average 17,000 a game in its four other home dates against Northwestern State, Wyoming, San Diego State and Fresno State. The key game to the entire season as far as home attendance is concerned is the season opener at Cal on Sept. 1. A loss at Cal and, well, a 20,000 average will be a struggle unless they add 25,000 temporary seats when Boise comes to town. A win at Cal and it will be a party like it's 2003 once again at Mackay.
Is the city of Seattle excited that its SuperSonics are back in the NBA Finals? Probably not. The Sonics, which are now the Oklahoma City Thunder, just might be the next new NBA dynasty with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. And it could have -- make that should have -- happened in Seattle. But it didn't because Seattle wouldn't build the Sonics a new arena. It seems a little silly to lose a NBA franchise over an arena, doesn't it? It does now.
If the Wolf Pack was a NBA, NFL or MLB franchise, it would have left Reno years ago because of a lack of fan support. And that is not really the fault of the Wolf Pack or its fan base. It's just tough to sell tickets (and even tougher to buy them) to college events these days unless your school is winning almost all of its games or the opponent is special (like Boise in football). So stop blaming Wolf Pack fans or the university for mediocre attendance figures at Lawlor Events Center or Mackay Stadium. It is not a Wolf Pack problem. It's a mid-major college sports problem. It is simply not 1965 anymore. There is a great college game - or a professional game - on TV every night now. Tickets no longer cost $3.50. A hot dog or a beer no longer costs 25 or 50 cents. Gas no longer is 35 cents a gallon, making it difficult to drive in from Fernley, Fallon, Truckee, Gardnerville and Susanville, not to mention Winnemucca and Elko, to catch a Pack game on a regular basis.
You just know the NBA is secretly hoping the Boston Celtics win the NBA title this year. Yes, OKC is a talented and fun team to watch. But nobody outside of the Big 12 wants OKC to win the title. The Celtics, with all of their old stars, is the feel good story of the league right now. The NBA its champions to have mass appeal. The league thrived when the Lakers, Celtics and Bulls were winning titles. The worst NBA era was when one-hit wonder champs like the Warriors, Blazers, Bullets and Sonics won titles from 1975 through 1979. And if OKC wins this year, coupled with Dallas winning last year, we might be seeing the start of another one of those ho-hum eras.
Why does most everyone outside of South Florida hate the Miami Heat? LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh seem like good guys. Fun, friendly guys. The don't get in trouble off the court. They aren't complaining floppers like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. None of them are ball-hog stat stuffers like Kobe Bryant. Is it simply because James and Bosh signed with Miami as free agents? So what? They didn't break any rules. They certainly aren't the first free agents to sign with a new team. We created the James' myth. The public has fawned over him since he was in elementary school. Sports Illustrated put him on their cover when he was in high school. ESPN turned his signing with the Heat into a national television show. Love them or hate them, the Heat is great for the NBA.
Quick. Name three Los Angeles Kings. And, no, Wayne Gretzky doesn't count. The Kings don't have any superstars. They are just a bunch of nameless, faceless guys in playoff beards about to win the greatest trophy in sports. But it doesn't matter if the average Southern California fan can't name three Kings or immediately thinks of cake or cupcakes when the word icing is mentioned. The Kings are great for the NHL. Los Angeles loves a winner and it will be cool to wear Kings colors in Southern California and celebrities will jump on the Stanley Cup bandwagon.
Then again, as soon as the Lakers go out and get Dwight Howard, nobody in So Cal will remember that the Kings won the Cup.