BY TYLER BRADFIELD | Ball State Sports Link
Perhaps it’s because I’m at a loss for words on exactly how to say this? By chance it’s a selfish frustration due to the lack of support from my peers for something I’ve been passionate about for years? Or maybe I’m just disgruntled and out of place?
Regardless, it’s 12:31 a.m. on January 11 and I lay in bed… frustrated.
For the last five years I’ve followed Ball State Women’s Basketball about as close as anyone without actually having a spot on the roster (they probably don’t want me to have a spot on the roster either).
I’ve seen this program at its best and at its worst the last five years. I was on the bus ride back to our Cleveland hotel after upsetting No. 25 Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference Tournament in 2014.
More recently, I sat in the middle of the charter bus on the return trip from West Lafayette following the first win over Purdue since 1979. Coach walked to the midway point of the bus to a share with the team a congratulatory text from Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns. A loud eruption of applause and chanting followed.
I’ve also been on those quiet bus rides after disappointments. Like the one two years ago when they were confusingly beat by Kent State who had as many conference wins heading in as John Bennett had friends growing up in the fantastic movie, TED. Which, by the way, was one — a talking teddy bear.
Although as the radio voice of this team, I’ve learned to never get too caught up in the wins and losses. Never get too high in the highs, and never get too low in the lows, as my high school radio teacher taught me. It will affect your performance.
But in an honest moment, I love to see this team and program do well. This program has afforded me more opportunities as a college student and now as a young professional than I will ever be able to repay. More importantly it has introduced me to some of my closest friends and even taken me across the globe (quite literally).
So needless to say I look forward to game days. Not just because I get a chance to do play-by-play, but because I get to watch this team play from one of the best seats in the house — especially this year. In my five years with this program, no team has been more entertaining than this one.
It’s fast. It’s clean. It’s hard nosed. It’s tough. It’s diving after lose balls and trapping defenses. It’s jaw dropping pace and transition offense. It’s everything a true basketball fan appreciates about basketball.
But yet, for some reason, that has not reflected in the attendance.
Ball State averages roughly 1,500 per home game. Seems like an okay number for a casual fan, but it’s around middle of the pack in the MAC. Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Toledo, and yes, even, Eastern Michigan average more fans than Ball State.
Now, how accurate are those numbers? Who knows? It’s what the conference sends out as the official attendance numbers, but those are known to be flubbed here and there.
For example, I was at the Ball State-Eastern Michigan football game in Ypsilanti this past year for radio network coverage. And, I can guarantee 23,465 people were NOT in attendance even though that was the announced number. (I could have dropped a pen on the sideline and the parent in the 30th row more than likely could have heard it.)
Regardless, it is no secret Ball State Basketball — men’s and women’s — are in desperate need for a boost in attendance, and it seems as though now is the most fitting time to see it. Yet, despite one of the best teams in program history on the women’s side, we still aren’t seeing an overwhelming sense of support.
And that’s why at 12:31 AM on January 11 I lay in bed… frustrated. Not because I’m struggling to fall asleep on a Wednesday night after a charter flight back from Akron. No, not because of that. I’m frustrated because, quite frankly, people just don’t care.
That probably sounds a little harsh to read, but it’s the unfortunate reality we live in right now. And it extends way past this very meaningless, insignificant microcosm of an issue. This feeds into a larger problem in the world. A growing trend in the wrong direction.
Voting rates aren’t good. Government pass out rates are concerning. People just don’t care. But that’s a lengthy conversation for another day.
For some unbeknownst reason to me, people refuse to support this team by simply coming and watching them play.
It’s the least demanding two hours of your life for some of the cheapest entertainment (especially if you’re a student… it’s free).
The lack of support from the Muncie community and the student body across all athletics is disheartening. It’s an obvious problem that needs addressed, but to be honest it isn’t a problem proper ticket promotions and marketing can fix.
I’m a graduate student at this University. I also received my Bachelors from here. I laugh –and in some strange way — accept the “Robbie Hummel of Ball State” comparison (just minus the injuries). I live with other students. I hang out with other students. I go to the same bars as other students. I’m as close to the heartbeat of the student body as you can get.
I’m a portion of the crowd I’m addressing. The common excuse I hear from Ball Students is:
“I’d go, if we were good…”
“I’d go, if we were relevant…”
Good is a relative term. What’s good in my eyes is probably different than yours. As mentioned, I think the movie TED is as good as it gets. You probably hate the movie. It’s rude, it’s crude, and it’s a talking teddy bear. It’s dumb. Okay, I get it.
But just face the facts here:
1) Best start in program history
2) Longest winning streak in program history.
3) National recognition and relevance: rated as high as No. 22 in the country in RPI (computer based rating system used by the NCAA selection committee to help determine at large bids). At one point receiving votes in the Top 25 by the Associated Press in AP Poll. Ranked as high as the No. 2 mid-major in the country by ESPNW.
This is as “good” as it gets people. If your excuse is ‘I’ll come when they’re good’ or ‘I’ll come when they’re relevant’ well now is the time. They’re good, like real good. They’re relevant.
Another one I’ve heard. And this isn’t just exclusive to Ball State, this pertains to women’s basketball as a whole: “It’s just not as exciting of a sport as the men’s game.”
Okay, I can buy that to some degree. Yes, the game isn’t as fast. You aren’t going to see the freak athleticism, dunks or blocked shots at the rim. They don’t jump as high. It’s just a different game physically.
But, if the sole reason you’re attending a basketball game is the hope of seeing a dunk or freak athletic play for a sliver of a second, then I question why you’re there in the first place.
True basketball fans come to a college basketball game to watch two teams compete for 40 minutes. They come to watch two teams execute a game plan for 40 minutes as they analyze it themselves in the stands. How is this team defending the other? What is this team’s plan of attack compared to the other? More specifically how are they defending ball screens? The post?
Basketball is a strategic game. Its intricacies and strategies are complex. Fans come to watch that. Attending the game just to watch a player jump high for a half second would be like booking a cruise solely because you like the unlimited ice cream bar.
Sure it’s entertaining to watch a guy jump high. And yes the ice cream is good. But it’s a very, very small part of the whole package.
You can get good ice cream just about anywhere without having to book a $700 cruise and spend a week on board a ship. You can watch a guy jump high without paying to watch a two-hour basketball game. Just search “high vertical” on YouTube.
I’m not saying it’s not entertaining. It is indeed entertaining to watch an athletic freak jump high. But it’s foolish to solely come to a basketball game for that reason. That’s such a small part of a much bigger package.
And especially in the state of Indiana where people pride themselves on basketball being a strand laced into their DNA. “In 49 states it’s just basketball, but this is Indiana.” Okay? Great, then get to a few games.
So what makes this team so entertaining?
Maybe because they play fast. They have one of the best point guards in the country. Remember Whitney Jennings (Butler) and Karissa McLaughlin (Purdue)? Yeah, former Miss Basketball winners you packed high school gyms across the state to watch play? Carmen Grande had both of them on skates trying to defend her. It looked like my friend’s first attempt at ice skating in third grade.
An outstanding go-to scorer in Moriah Monaco who can shoot outside, take people off the bounce and play in the interior.
Athleticism in Destiny Washington and Frannie Frazier that makes your jaw drop.
Tremendous outside shooters with Jasmin Samz and Maliah Howard-Bass.
A rebounder off the bench that best resembles the MAC’s version of Dennis Rodman, minus the strange colored hair and eccentric piercings.
A coach who has more facial expressions to react to officials than emojis available on your phone. 😳😒😮🙄🤔😡😏😁😂
But don’t just take my word for how entertaining this team is. Take Ryan O’Gara’s article from the Star Press.
This is a fun, entertaining Ball State team. (Star Press, Nov. 30, 2017)
So you’re not a huge sports fan? Or you are a sports fan, but you just don’t like basketball? You instead like ‘haaaaawkeyyy’ or THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE. That’s fine.
I am not here to tell you what you should and should not like. I too enjoy football and the occasional fist fight (I mean hockey game).
But if you are a fan of any sport, can’t you enjoy the same basic competitive nature of all sports?
I’ll freely and openly admit, I’m not the biggest baseball fan. I try every year to follow the Reds, but after 20-30 games I lose interest. Not because they haven’t been good, but because it’s a lot to digest for someone who just doesn’t fully understand the sport. So you like ‘haaaaawkeyyy’ or THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE, but not basketball? Maybe, because like me with baseball, you don’t fully know the sport?
Regardless of my lack of baseball knowledge I still pay attention and go. I still get the Reds updates all season. I follow their wins and losses. I read the commentary. I listen to the games and occasionally watch a few on Fox Sports Ohio. I still go to at least one Reds game every year. Why? I appreciate the competitive nature of it. (My favorite player is Amir Garrett if you’re wondering.)
But all that nonsense aside, sports fan or not, as a member of the Muncie or Ball State community (students, faculty, alumni, locals) you should care. This University has benefitted you and this community in more ways than you can count. The only thing keeping this community alive economically is Ball State. Without it, Muncie would be a stranded version of Anderson minus the casino and proximity to Indianapolis.
If you’re a student, these are your peers. Support them.
Here’s a scenario. You’re a political science or communications major or a member of the speech team. You’re passionate about it. You prepare weeks for a presentation or persuasive speech over gun control. You research the topic. You formulate your thoughts. Hours upon hours of preparation has been invested into it. You show up to give the presentation except every single member in the class is sleeping and the one annoying kid who always chimes in from the back row is visibly and audibly yawning. Or even worse, the entire class just didn’t show up.
That’s exactly what’s going on with athletics. Your peers are investing hours upon hours into something to represent YOUR university at the highest level. And you’re yawning in the back row or just not showing up. You want support for things you do. It starts by showing others support.
I went to the Rocky Horror Show this past year at Halloween. Sure, I knew someone performing in one of the acts. But there I sat, by myself in Emens. I sat through an improv skit, a dance routine, an A Capella performance, and even an uncomfortable burlesque show. And guess what? At the end of the night, I enjoyed it.
I knew someone singing in the A Capella group and that’s why I went. I watched the dance routine and was entertained. I laughed at the improv group, they were funny. I had no idea these students were on our campus. I discovered their talents and appreciated them because I went to watch someone I knew.
So why don’t you come out and watch Carmen from your math class? Or Moriah from your sports management class? Come watch Destiny from your communication class. Maybe you’ll be entertained.
They support you. They go to class and listen to your presentations. They give back to your community by reading to your elementary students and conducting community service projects. Go watch them for two hours.
And for goodness sakes, you aren’t sitting through a two-hour church service at 8 a.m. where the preacher has the most monotone voice ever.
Or attending yet another social gathering on a Friday night where you just hope “Pledge Porkens” does that thing again where he attempts to eat a Big Mac in two bites. You’re watching a basketball game.
I’m not really one to lobby for support. Support in an entertainment or sports setting should come as a by product of placing a good or entertaining product on stage. But seriously, come on people. They’ve been good for years. They’re a postseason team every single year. Yet amazingly only a sparse crowd shows up to watch. It’s baffling. It’s astonishing.
I’m amazed every single year we go to Toledo. It’s a near capacity crowd. They’re loud. They care. They actually show up, it’s amazing. In return it creates an incredibly tough environment to play in as a road team. Toledo every single year leads the league in attendance. They’re habitually ranked in the Top 25 nationally in butts in seats.
And guess what? It seems like every single year we go there and win. We are a good team. We come home and about half as many people show up. Why don’t people care?
It’s frustrating. It’s disheartening. Why does it take some strange ticket promotion connected to Dance Marathon and your Greek life organization just to get you to show up and watch a basketball game for free? Heck, I paid $15 to go to Air Jam this year and so did 3,000 other student peers to watch people with zero dance training move their hips on a stage to popular music. These games are free. You pay $15 to watch that. This costs nothing. In fact, it’s less of a time commitment too.
Was I entertained? Yes. But, to be quite honest, as funny and entertaining as it was, it was very average to below average dancing.
“Well, I’ll come when they’re good.”
Give me a break. They’re good now. And again I ask, where are you?
Another excuse. “I just don’t have time.” Classes and work and homework and Greek life stuff and all my extracurriculars. Blah. Blah. Blah.
Just stop. You have time.
I kid you not, I was told this very excuse one time while standing at the bar trying to flag down a bartender for the next round. Yeah, you read that correctly, the bar.
Huh, that’s ironic. You’re just too busy to go watch a two-hour basketball game, but you have five hours to socialize away on a Thursday night at the bar. You have at least enough free time to read this.
Hands down the busiest and most important person on this entire campus is the president. And guess what? I see good ole “Mearnsy” at every. single. game.
So please tell me again, you’re just too busy? Oh my gosh, I have three exams this week and I pull off the impossible and work 89,675 hours this week for $3 an hour.
Yeah just stop. Oh, by the way, here comes the bartender, I’ll take a Blue Moon.
It’s disheartening to watch these women represent this University at the highest level and you just stay at home because, well, you frankly don’t care. I don’t get it.
Maybe I’m just disgruntled and out of place? Maybe I’m off base? Maybe I’ve stayed somewhere too long and I’ve turned into that always negative pessimistic view?
Please tell me. Blow me up on Twitter. Put me on blast. It’s @_TylerBradfield. Angrily tweet at me how Oozma Kappa raised X amount of money for the kids and I just made fun of a made up character, “Pledge Porkens” eating Big Macs.
What does that have to do in combat of you not showing up to a basketball game? But please tell me “Oh Mr. Treasurer of ‘I Eta Pi'” how ignorant I am. I’ll gladly like it and retweet it.
You probably think I don’t like Greek Life. That’s not true. Two of my best friends were in it. I’ve been a date to a sorority formal. They do a lot of good. They raise a hefty chunk of money for great causes. But the support you want at your philanthropy is the same desired support others want.
I’ll make a deal. Tweet me a picture of your Greek life organization at one of these games and tell me when and where your next philanthropy event is. I’ll show up. I’ll donate my time if you donate yours to women’s basketball. I’ll gladly go and enjoy my time there. It’s only fair.
You have a 14-1 women’s basketball team upsetting teams out of the SEC, Big Ten, Big East and Conference USA.
You have a men’s basketball team beating ranked Notre Dame at the buzzer and winners of 10 of its last 11 games. Both with legitimate shots to make the NCAA Tournament this year.
Now is the time to buy into these programs. Now is the time to show up. It’s two hours of your time. It’s 1 percent of your 168 available hours in a week.
So as 2018 is now a week old and your New Years Resolutions are either alive and well or a fading after thought, the only thing I ask is maybe this year you start to care about those around you.
It’s time to care, Ball State. It’s time to stop making excuses. All I’m asking is you show up and — maybe — clap.
Join me at Worthen Arena. Join “Mearnsy.” Join the other 1,500 who have took notice of this team.
Trust me, it’s okay. They’re kind of good and relevant.