Fans Scarce at Breslin Monday Night
Michigan State Basketball Coach Tom Izzo wasn't exactly thrilled with Monday's "sold-out" crowd at the Breslin Center as MSU played host to Portland State.
Coach Izzo expressed his displeasure while speaking with the media today. Numerous empty seats were visible during Monday's game, in both levels at Breslin. I understand Izzo's frustration. After all, it's hard to find a more electrifying environment than a jam-packed Bres being enthusiastically led in cheer by The Izzone...the same Izzone that was credited for a close win over Columbia last Friday night. On the other hand, I can see the reason for a loyal fanbase, with high expectations, to not be so enthusiastic about another home game against a less-than-primetime opponent.
Anybody who has participated in, or has even attended, an organized sporting event knows there is a thrill and rush unlike any other when a large crowd is amped up for a game. And let's not forget, we're talking about a Spartan Basketball team that is top-ranked nationally for the first time in over a decade...despite the countless milestones and frequent Final Four visits. Who can blame Coach for expecting a huge welcome for his #1 team from a packed house? His teams will play anybody, anywhere, anytime. MSU Basketball tickets have been a hot commodity for more than two decades since the Breslin Center opened. As Izzo said, thousands of fans would love to attend a game. It could be a friend, family member, neighbor, co-worker, or a fan less fortunate. Your season tickets are all ready paid for. Give them to somebody. Point taken, Coach.
Though there may be a bit of jaded-ness on behalf of Spartan Basketball fans, let's not forget...this isn't a new problem. After all, Portland State is just another home "tune-up" prior to the rigors of a Big Ten Conference Schedule. MSU, rather handily, discarded the former top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats less than a week earlier. How exciting can a game against Portland State be? Unfortunately, that is the realistic thought of many season ticket holders. But, they've endured seat restructuring that left some lifelong ticket holders watching high-dollar donors take over their once premium seats. They've dropped good coin for their tickets, regardless of any restructuring, only to be treated to home games against not-so-primetime opponents prior to conference play the last eight seasons. The "anyone, anytime" games seem to have been scheduled anywhere but Breslin. I'm not talking about the early season tournaments and showcases. Rather, games scheduled by the MSU Athletic Department that have been played at Ford Field, The Spartan Clash at The Palace, on aircraft carriers in remote locations, and on, and on. Sure, these games have all had great purposes: program exposure, branching out to an alumni base that isn't local, doing things that have never been done before. But these are games that have pitted the Spartans against the nation's top-flight talent playing for historically prominent programs. They are not included in any season ticket packages. Season ticket holders have to pay extra for those games, just like Joe Public, while being treated to home games against the likes of Alcorn State, The Citadel, Wofford, IPFW, IUPUI, Prairie View A&M, and, yes, Portland State. (Did you know Erik Spoelstra played for them?)
You can't blame the fanbase of a wildly successful program to be a little jaded, or turned off by what some consider a smack in the face. Season tickets aren't cheap, but some of the non-conference games scheduled at home sure are. But, there is something to be said about doing your part to make sure that those tickets don't go to waste, simply out of principle...and pride.