Fans can make the difference

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 5, 2004

Have you ever heard the saying, “Fans make the difference”? Of course you have, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick has said it 10,000 times this past year in his ad for Coca-Cola. But have you ever really thought about what it really means?

There are thousands upon thousands of sporting events that are held each year, but if it were not for fans supporting these events, what would we have?

Well for one thing, sports writers like myself wouldn’t have a job. But more importantly, there would be no such thing as ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN Classics, ESPN International or even an ESPN Deportes for all of our Spanish-speaking sports fans. Not to mention all the other 20,000 sports shows that has sprung up over the years.

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Not that that matters though, especially to all of us sports fanatics who eat, sleep and breathe sports everyday.

Fans obviously make the difference; just look at the Alabama/Auburn game, or any college football game for that matter. Basically we could safely say that without fans, the game would be meaningless.

With that in mind, this year the Demopolis High School varsity girl’s basketball team claimed another area championship with an (4-2) area record and come February 10th they will host another Class 4A Area Tournament.

But just how many fans will be in attendance to support the Lady Tigers?

Judging from the past, the answer is quite disturbing and the effects could be even more disturbing for the Demopolis High School girls basketball program.

For the last four out of the past five years, the DHS Lady Tigers have had held the title as the Class 4A Area 8 champions. Along with that title comes the distinct honor of hosting the Area Tournament.

Having the home court advantage is a great way to honor a team for all their hard work throughout the season.

But without fan support, there really is no advantage.

The DHS Lady Tigers regularly have a great fan base, mostly due in part to having played all of their games just ahead of the DHS boys. But when it comes time for the Area Tournament the two teams are split and the DHS Lady Tigers are left playing to an almost empty gymnasium.

According to DHS Lady Tigers head basketball coach Tony Pittman, in the four years that the DHS Lady Tigers have hosted the event, the average attendance has been around 50.

In a gym that can easily hold 400 people, only 50 show up in support of girl’s basketball.

What is wrong with this picture?

For starters, for every game that is held at DHS there are expenses that must be paid. Officials are paid roughly $30 for every game they officiate and there must be at least three officials at every game. The Area Tournament is a three game tournament-add that one up.

But wait there’s more. At an Area Tournament such as this one, the officiating crew is selected from another region of the state, which means travel expenses. That’s $.32 for every mile traveled to and from the game. There is also a $20 clock operator and a $20 scorekeeper fee to be paid, not to mention a trainer fee of about $30 per game.

And after the host team pays out all of those expenses, they must then take whatever money is left and divide it evenly amongst all of the participating teams. Without fans in the stands, when it’s all over with what your left with is bills.

Coach Pittman has seen that the numbers have somewhat improved over the years, but not enough to keep the team form going into the red. “Every year we that we host the event we go into the red,” Pittman said. “We don’t make any money off the event. In fact, we lose money.”

A difference can be made come February 10th, but that difference will have to made by the fans.