Last season, I wrote a post regarding the in-game experience for the 2010-2011 season and with some things I'd like to see for what was last season. This post follows up on that.
I know that a large part of the basketball game experience is the basketball, and to some of you that really is the only thing that matters. I get that and I agree that the on court product is ultimately why season ticket holders pay to watch these games. However, for many fans, especially either children, or first time and casual fans also tend to take this into account in their game watching. Even I take this into account as pluses to the game itself because these games are events as well..
1. PA Announcer: Ralph Wesley
Like last year, I have no complaints about the voice behind every "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND ONE!!!" and "WALL....the Dime!!!" call in the arena, which should be trademark slogans now. In fact, these calls sound really good with the flow of the games, and I do like Ralph's calling out of assists throughout them too.
It's a shame that the rest of the NBA doesn't get to hear his voice in the background when we make great plays, but that is due to the talent on the court. If and when we are at least a playoff contending team, I think most people will agree that he is at the very least one of the better PA announcers of today's NBA unless they like a more neutral voice like Lawrence Tanter of the Lakers. I don't know how the USA Basketball game operations will go, but I hope that basketball fans worldwide will get to hear Ralph at the mic this July in the USA vs. Brazil showdowns. Those games will likely be on national TV so fans should be able to hear him in the background then.
2. In Game Host and DJ: Big Tigger
If you don't know who Big Tigger is, he plays the game music before each game, announces the Wizards starting lineups, hypes the fans at tipoff, and roots for G-Man and the Secret Service Dunkers between the third and fourth quarters. He was previously on WPGC, a DC rhythmic station (for those of you not from here) as the morning man, but he was let go last December, though I figure that he'll be back on the local airwaves sooner rather than later. He also has a nationally syndicated radio show called Live in the Den.
He is a guy that knows how to do announcing, and given the dearth of talent on the court, it seems that he's the only guy who is cheering loudly for the home team. It's not Tigg's fault, he's doing a great job I think. However, if he announces the Team USA men's and women's national teams' starting lineups in July, which I think he will if FIBA allows a more homecourt atmosphere, then you can then see his potential as a hype man come to more fruition because pretty much everyone on the teams will be cheered for loudly by the local teams' fans. At least I can root for them ONE night.
3. In Game Host: GeNienne Samuels
GeNienne is our only new entry from last year, but she's a veteran of DC sports though you may not know her by name. Many if not most people will recognize her as a pro sports team cheerleader over the past decade for the Washington Redskins and also for the last couple of seasons as a Wizard Girl. However, she's not a novice as an in game host by any stretch. Like Ralph, GeNienne also comes from the sister team, where she has been the Mystics' In Game Host for the past two seasons. She replaces WJLA reporter Autria Godfrey who was the in game host since the 2007-2008 season.
GeNienne can be seen helping out fans pick the right ball during the Verizon "pick the ball G-Wiz is in thing", asking fans to "name that tune" before the players take their shot at it, and she also advertises the discounted item at the team store for almost every home game. GeNienne is a great fit for the role because she is genuinely (I know, the pun) enthusiastic for the team, and is very friendly to the fans during Wizards and Mystics home games.
The cheerleaders are almost always an attraction to pretty much any pro sports team and they look better in Monumental Red than the old teal and gold. Like I thought last year, maybe they should be cheering closer to the court like we see in college, but that may be hard to do when there is a need for season ticket seats to be placed, and when there are photographers trying to get the best possible shots for in game action. Overall I think they are doing a good job as well, because they are friendly to the fans, and will take pics with you during most pregame times.
5. Capital Crew
I've seen that the crew has been a lot more active this season. It's kinda hard to see that when their signature guy, Terrance Briscoe is dancing and booing his heart out at the other team, but yes, I have definitely taken a look at the other guys and they are now yelling for the team, and dancing to the tune as well. The only suggestion I have for the Crew is to throw more giveaways toward the sections in the corners and behind the baskets that are behind the VIP seats. They get all inclusive food, I don't. That was a little self serving, I know but I want a puncher's chance at a burrito too once in awhile.
6. G-Man, G-Wiz, and the Secret Service Dunkers
The mascots are fine in their new jerseys. As for the dunkers, well, I don't know if this is too much to ask, but I'd like to see the multiple trampoline setup for multiple games. That would be sweet.
You won't see Bruce out and about because he's deep in the 400 section, playing the ivories during the game. Unlike most NBA arenas, an organist plays the tunes most of the time. I think organ music gives that retro feel. This season I noticed that some non organ cheers crept back in, most notably the "DE-FENSE" chant. I had no problem with the chant actually, and I like the fact that some non organ cheers were back, though I can't explain exactly why.
8. Food and Drink
I don't really eat in the Verizon Center because it is overpriced, but it's an arena monopoly so what do you expect? I have tried the burger they had once which tasted pretty good (despite costing me like $14 including a drink), and the Hard Times outlets there are also good options.
Speaking about inclusive food tickets, I think we could actually use better options there. Right now, you only have these places to get inclusive food with your tickets:
- "All You Can Eat Seats" - they are a reasonable priced option, and there's a general stand where you can get soda, hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn, and soft ice cream. Only available as a single game package and for pretty much any game not against marquee teams where they may not be available. These seats are typically available only the 400 level, and as a single game ticket only because I never heard of a season ticket holder in the 400's with an all inclusive option.
- Acela Ledge Seats - These seats start at around $130 each at the gate, $74 each for a full season ticket holder and give you gourmet food and soft drinks. I haven't eaten at the Acela Club before, but I hear that the food there is the best in the arena and higher quality than VIP which I'll mention below.
- VIP Level Seats - All seats inside what is the ice rink during Caps games (and Disney on Ice when it comes to town) give you access to two tunnels that provide a buffet of food ranging from stadium fare (hot dogs) to a carvery. It includes soft drinks, and cervezas. Tickets start at $200 at the gate, $137 for a full season ticket holder. The owner seats (where Ted sits next to the team) also give you access to complimentary fine dining (I assume it's gotta be filet mignon quality meat) in a special club located underneath the owners' suite though those ticket holders may also eat in the regular VIP tunnels. I don't call the VIP food "five star restaurant dining" but the food there certainly is of higher quality than nearly all of the concession stands (aside from hot dogs).
As you can see there is no option for non-VIP season ticket holders to have all inclusive food and drink. I believe STH's are allowed to eat at the Acela Club if they buy tickets for it, but perhaps there should be an option like the 400 level seats where 100 level holders at least can get an all inclusive food and drink package (at least the soft drinks, I understand if beer isn't included). Yes, it will cost more dinero, but I think it's an option worth having for all season ticket holders.
I have no hard core complaints about the current in-game crew for the Wizards during this overall, tough season. I really don't, and the suggestions I have are really not make or break things for me. I know some of you guys may think that the whole game experience may be bad from the basketball alone and I can understand why because the basketball is the most important thing at the end of the day. However, I honestly think our in-game personalities are very good and it will definitely be more appreciated when the team itself starts playing at least like the way they did after the Nene trade for a FULL NBA season.
For fellow Wizards STH's here, how do you feel our in game personalities and entertainers are? What would you like to see next year besides better basketball and cheaper food and drink?