From intros to media timeouts, it’s about entertainment

Major college basketball teams and the NBA love elaborate pre-game introductions. The player introductions may slightly delay the start of a game, but they don’t factor in its outcome. They’re largely for entertainment value.

Earlier this spring, when I was traveling on business, I had some free time, so I attended a Miami Heat at Washington Wizards game.

The Heat lineup was introduced quickly and almost imperceptibly. Granted, I was in the nosebleed section about 15 rows from the top of the Verizon Center, but I could still see the court if I looked hard enough. The big scoreboard helped. It was almost like watching a game on a big-screen TV.

Anyway, when the Wizards were introduced, the lights were turned low and the spotlights came on. Fire was shooting out of several contraptions and the whole thing turned into a spectacle.

The public address announcer, who sounded bored when racing through Miami’s starting lineup, was wildly enthusiastic when introducing the Wizards.

As this game was near the end of the regular season, I wondered if the players were bored by it all. I mean, it’s really more for the fans than the players, especially when teams play 41 home games.

For all I know, the Miami players took a catnap during the introduction of Washing­ton players. It was dark enough and long enough.

The same thing occurs to a lesser degree at the collegiate level. For example, at Wichita State, the visiting team is introduced matter-of-factly. Then a 60-90-second video plays touting WSU’s recent successes before the home team’s lineup is introduced.

I recall hearing that one Big 12 coach went so far as to take his team to the tunnel at Allen Field House, so his players wouldn’t have to watch the video about KU’s successes.

These elaborate starting lineup introductions are for the fans, trying to whip them into a bit of a frenzy as the game begins. I guess it’s also an attempt at giving fans their money’s worth.

Speaking of that, the crowd at the Verizon Center was as loud as ever during one particular in-game promotion. The PA announcer said that if the Miami player missed the next two free throws, all fans in attendance could turn their game ticket in for a free chicken sandwich at an area Chick-fil-A.

After the player missed the first free throw, the crowd started going nuts, imploring him to miss the next one. Almost on cue, the player missed the second free throw and you would have thought the Wizards won the NBA championship.

Of course, most of the promotions came during media timeouts. I saw one that was new to me, and it was one of the more popular activities that night.

During one media timeout, a mat about 10-15 feet in length was brought out with four lanes marked. They also brought out two babies, and I assume their parents, to help with a baby race.

Each baby was placed at the starting line. They were young enough that all they could do was crawl. When they were told to start, neither baby seemed all that interested in racing. One baby crawled ever so slightly and stopped and sat there, probably terrorized by the thousands of people cheering.

Finally, one dad picked his baby up and placed him or her (remember, I was in the nosebleed section) on his or her knees, while encouraging him or her to crawl to mom at the finish line.

For as little action as there was in the race, it was quite entertaining. Of course, time ran out long before either baby was halfway to the finish line, but it accomplished its purpose, making the media timeout feel much shorter than it might otherwise have.

I’ll confess, of all the promotions that night, the baby race was a winner!

Hillsboro resident Joe Klein­sasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University. You can reached him at Joe.Klein­sasser@wichita.edu.