Game #9-197: Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles at Gardner-Webb BulldogsDecember 8, 2012 7:00 pm
Paul Porter Arena
After the previous game at USC Upstate went longer than expected due to technical problems
, I then headed to Gardner-Webb. This was a game that I looked forward to as well since it featured the Runnin' Bulldogs of Gardner-Webb, a team that had played surprisingly well compared to the rest of the Big South so far. Their opponent would be Tennessee Tech, a competitive Ohio Valley team and one I had never seen before despite going by near their campus all the time on Interstate 40 in Cookeville, Tennessee. But the main reason I was interested in this game is that it would be simply another game I could go to after the 2 PM game at USC Upstate (which of course did not start until after 2:30). It was just another game that was less than an hour from Spartanburg, and would keep the day going. But when I looked up information on the game on Gardner-Webb's website, I found out that there was a special promotion. Fans were to not make any noise between tip-off and the eighth Gardner-Webb point. Once GWU got to eight points, the fans were to go nuts. Could this be successfully pulled off? Would everybody cooperate? Would there be a big noise difference in the early minutes of the game? I would have to find out.
The first time I heard this promotion, the only thing I could think of was the time a minor league baseball team did a "Silent Night" promotion (this was also what Gardner-Webb called this promotion). That was when the Charleston RiverDogs held a promotion where everybody was to remain quiet throughout the game
. In that game back in 2003, the RiverDogs rigidly enforced silence in the ballpark from all reports. "Quiet please" signs were held up and fans and vendors were distributed cards to communicate what they wanted to say. The goal was to minimize noise more than at any other time in baseball history. Where Gardner-Webb would do this until GWU scored eight points, the RiverDogs did this for just over half the game, five innings so the game could be officially played without crowd noise. But that's not the craziest thing that the RiverDogs have ever done. The previous year to Silent Night in Charleston featured Nobody Night
. This 2002 game went as far as to bar fans from entering the ballpark until after 5 innings
. The rationale behind this was simple: if no fans were in the stadium for over half the game, officially the attendance would be 0. And how many baseball games have there been with zero fans? None! So this would constitute a record the RiverDogs could break!
These promotions that go over the top are done in the name of fun. That said, it's hard to say what exactly is fun about not being permitted to talk at all or in the case of Nobody Night not even attend the baseball game you have a ticket for. And one problem I have with it all is that it takes the point of emphasis on the gameday atmosphere away from the game and instead on the team's organization itself. Much of these promotions are simply self-promotion. Baseball has a history of this, going back to the late owner of multiple major league teams in Bill Veeck. Veeck once sent a midget to bat for the St. Louis Browns just to set the record for the smallest player in pro baseball. Veeck's son Mike has had trouble getting involved in MLB front offices after helping his dad plan the infamous Disco Demolition Night
in Chicago. But Mike Veeck now works with multiple minor league teams and was behind those bizarre promotions by the RiverDogs. Many other minor league owners have taken this strategy, and unfortunately Minor League Baseball teams rarely market actual baseball. And it's a shame considering that like with college basketball the minor league players are the best at their sport aside from the athletes in their sport's top pro league. In fact, you are more likely to see a future MLB player at a minor league game than a future NBA player when watching Our Game. Yet throughout most of Hoops Nation the emphasis remains on the sport, even if there are other promotions to encourage fan support. And ultimately that was the case with Gardner-Webb as well. It usually only takes a few minutes for a team to score eight points, and would be much more brief than the RiverDog promotions. And this promotion was not as widely promoted as either Charleston promotion, only being targeted towards the normal fans who might come out to a GWU game rather than at a national level. All Gardner-Webb was trying to do here was be different. And "Silent Night" makes for a good holiday promotion. So it would be interesting to see how this would get pulled off.
Despite the delays in finishing the last game, I got dinner and still arrived to Gardner-Webb nearly 30 minutes before the ticket table opened. Gardner-Webb is only 45 minutes northeast of Spartanburg, with Gaffney halfway between and where I had dinner. Signs were posted throughout the arena reminding fans of the Silent Night promotion. There was still a lot of noise before the tip, and I wondered how well the fans would cooperate. Would Tennessee Tech's fans cooperate? Obviously the Golden Eagles would likely get some baskets, and you would expect their fans to cheer. You would also have other people there who would not care about the promotion. So I was skeptical that it would remain silent.
But after tip, most people were silent. The early Gardner-Webb baskets did have some people briefly begin to cheer before realizing they shouldn't. The small group of Tennessee Tech fans cheered after their baskets, but was also otherwise quiet. The Gardner-Webb students had an active group, but did not make noise and discouraged others quietly from doing so either. The GWU students also sat during the silent period as well. There were some students and other fans that walked in late, and weren't necessarily quiet in doing so but were not noisy either. But overall this was not a quiet opening stretch. Much of the noise from basketball comes on the court itself. Players yell on the court when trying to communicate, as do coaches. You have the sneakers squeaking, the buzzer sounding on players checking in, and the whistles of the refs blowing. There is actually a lot of noise in basketball that does not depend on the crowd. And given how close in the crowd is to the court at a basketball game, it can still get somewhat noisy. At a baseball stadium, there is more open air to distribute noise coming from the field rather than a basketball gym where the noise is more concentrated. It really did not sound any different than if the game was played over Christmas break with no students there and few other fans. A 3-pointer with just over three minutes played gave the Runnin' Bulldogs a 10-6 lead to end the silent period. The season ticket holders and students alike got noisy and there was certainly a noticeable difference between before and after as Gardner-Webb played another minute before making an and one going into the first media timeout. I recorded this first part of the game on my digital camera, and as I have mentioned in all of my recent recaps those pictures are on a computer being fixed (my next recaps coming up will not have this problem). It's a shame that Gardner-Webb scored eight points before the first media timeout. It would have been nice to have seen a silent media timeout with no blaring music on the PA and cheerleaders or pep band. A silent timeout would likely be a bigger difference in the atmosphere than a silent game would be.
But lost in all this is that the Runnin' Bulldogs are playing some pretty good basketball right now. And most of the Big South cannot say that right now. Tennessee Tech had earlier defeated another Big South team in Coastal Carolina. But with that and one going into the first media timeout, Gardner-Webb had an early 13-6 lead. And Gardner-Webb would do the right things to keep that lead. Gardner-Webb played a slow tempo game (in spite of the Runnin' prefix on their nickname) and concentrated on defense. Gardner-Webb continued to build on their lead and was up 32-23 at halftime after leading by as much as 16 with five minutes left in the half. Tashan Newsome would have a big game and would keep it going in the second half with a total of 27 points. In a low scoring game, this would be the offensive spark GWU would need. Tennessee Tech would continue to hang around a bit and keep the Runnin' Bulldog lead at aroud ten most of the second half. But the previously silent home crowd boosted Gardner-Webb onward late in the game, and GWU would pull away. Gardner-Webb would finish the game on a 13-4 run to win by 20 with a final score of 61-41. The game was not lopsided as the final score indicated, yet it was still a convincing win for Gardner-Webb. And convincing wins have not been common for Big South teams against Division I opponents this season.
The promotion would serve as an experiment. And the result of the experiment demonstrates that basketball has a lot of inherent noise, and no game can be silent of itself. Gardner-Webb tried to be different, but instead showed that Our Game has a constant about it when it comes to sound. There will always be basketball related noise, regardless of what we as fans make. And that is important for the players as well. There will never be a gym free of noise, and the sounds of the game are often the same everywhere. So regardless of what we might think, there is not much of a noise that contributes to how tough an arena might be for the visitors. Gardner-Webb however found something this game that it can promote for future basketball games: a pretty good basketball team.
at GARDNER-WEBB 61, TENNESSEE TECH 41
TENNESSEE TECH 5-4 (0-0) -- W. Regan 8-11 7-7 26; J. Samarrippas 2-8 0-0 6; J. Dillard 2-12 3-6 7; D. Ogbe 2-3 1-2 5; L. Johnson 2-8 2-4 8; T. Barnes 0-2 1-2 1; M. Marseille 4-8 1-2 10; J. McKay 1-4 0-0 2; M. Hill 0-2 0-0 0; R. Riggins 1-1 0-0 2; A. Diressa 0-0 0-0 0; A. Morse 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-48 8-16 41.
GARDNER-WEBB 6-5 (0-0) -- K. Hartley 2-6 0-0 5; T. Newsome 8-12 8-10 27; D. Harper 5-13 1-1 11; T. Strange 2-3 0-0 4; M. Landis 1-5 1-2 4; J. Hill 3-5 0-0 6; O. Branch 0-2 0-0 0; C. Hensley 1-2 0-0 2; M. Byron 0-1 0-0 0; I. Ivey 0-1 2-2 2; J. Davis 0-1 0-0 0; A. Sweeney 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-51 12-15 61.
Three-point goals: TNT 5-13 (M. Marseille 1-2; J. Samarrippas 2-3; J. McKay 0-2; L. Johnson 2-6), GWB 5-19 (T. Newsome 3-6; J. Davis 0-1; D. Harper 0-1; T. Strange 0-1; M. Landis 1-5; K. Hartley 1-4; I. Ivey 0-1); Rebounds: TNT 28 (T. Barnes 7), GWB 33 (T. Newsome 8); Assists: TNT 9 (J. Samarrippas 5), GWB 12 (T. Strange 4); Total Fouls -- TNT 19, GWB 19; Fouled Out: TNT-None; GWB-None.