When I first started the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog, I often ended each entry with a short blurb about my favourite sports team; the Toronto Raptors.
I’ve been a Toronto Raptors fan since Day 1. I was an NBA basketball fan long before the Raptors came to Toronto, so convincing me to root for the Raptors was an easy sell.
I remember the nay sayers when we drafted Damon Stoudamire as the franchise’s first ever draft pick. The rise, and fall of Vince Carter (along with his graduation ceremony on the same day as a Game #7 playoff game vs. Allen Iverson). I remember the promise of so many failed draft picks and free agent signings: Michael Bradley, Yogi Stewart, Rafael Aruajo, Aleksandar Radojević, Rasul Butler, Hedo Turkoglu, and my all time favourite: Uros Slokar.
I was there for what I believe was the most poorly attended game in Raptor history: vs. the Charlotte Bobcats back when the Bobcats wore those ugly orange uniforms on a Tuesday night of a heavy snowstorm. I think Gerald Henderson went off that night.
I was there when Joey Graham was promised to be the “next great guy” because he had a remarkable NBA physique. Those “next great guys” came and went. From Jamario Moon to Sonny Weems, to the Slovenian Gangster Primoz Brezec, just to name a few. I loved watching the Raptors. I loved going to games. I would stay up late on Western Conference Road trips. I remember watching Darrick Martin hitting a late game three point shot vs. the Blazers to keep the Raptors consecutive game streak with hitting at least one three point shot in a game alive in a very meaningless game.
I took my son to his very first Raptor game on Easter Sunday. It was the last game of the regular season.
Before the golden years of the Raptors (you can classify the past decade as their golden era), the Raptors were rather poor. To reward their loyal fans, the last regular season game was dubbed as “Fanapalooza“. It featured so many prizes and give aways, it felt like every fan left the building with some free Raptor swag.
Sadly, this last game was nothing compared to the Fanapaloozas of old.
It brought the notion of shrinkflation to mind. The fans were paying more, and getting less.
Oddly enough, that’s the same thing which has been happening for decades with car insurance and accident benefits in Ontario. Drivers are paying more for car insurance premiums; and year after year; they are getting less because benefits are being slashed, capped and limited. I suppose that the insurance industry was an early adopter of shrinkflation. And they have been getting away with it ever since.
My son brough $5 to the game, wanting to spend his own money on water. Shrinkflation was on display yet again. Water cost $7.60 or so at the game, and I couldn’t see any water fountains anywhere. Perhaps there are a few hidden, but none that I could find. This was price gouging at its finest. Once they got out inside the stadium, they really got you.
The game itself was fine. I give full credit to the Raptors and to the NBA for putting on an entertaining and engaging product. What I would like to see is theater lighting at all NBA games. This is what you have for the Lakers whereby the lights on the crowd are dimmed, and the lights on the court are bright. This puts more emphasis on the game and creates a more dynamic atmosphere. I would also like to see the Raptors Game Ops let the game breathe. Every play there is some background music or sound effect being pumped through the sound system. Sometimes, its just nice to hear the fans react organically, and hear the sounds of the game. But that’s me. I guess that I’m an older NBA fan. It’s likely that younger NBA fans or casual observers of the game really like all of those things I’m not so fond of.
The last thing I wish to discuss are ticket prices.
I understand that Toronto is a world class city. There is a a lot of money in Toronto. Toronto is an expensive city to live in as well.
People travel from across Ontario, and from across Canada to see Canada’s only professional basketball team. Corporate Canada has no problem paying (and writing off) season tickets and all of the other associated costs with going to a game (food, beverage, parking, taxi, Uber). But that’s enough to fill the lower bowl. What I don’t understand is how game in, and game out, the Raptors continue to sell out the upper bowl? The views from up there are fine, but aren’t the best. The atmosphere is ok, but you are miles away from the actual game and the entertainment on the Court. You don’t get the same sights and sounds of the game, the players, coaches and refs as you would sitting in the lower bowl.
You would have a better view at home on a high def TV, or at a bar. Some can argue you have a better overall fan experience watching the game from home vs. sitting in the upper bowl. So why are people continuing to pay astronomical ticket, transportation, parking and concession prices to go to a game and have a poorer visual experience? Is being at the game, spending hundreds of dollars on a meaningless regular season game just to boast to their friends that they were at the game worth it? Is it worth that money for the gratification of an Instagram post? When bonafide NBA stars not only aren’t playing, but aren’t even making the trip for the game, worth the high price of admission?
I love it when people get together. That fan experience is nice. But there is a certain breaking point when the high cost associated with going to a Raptor game outweighs the high you get from a shared fan experience. Based on the inconsistent performance of the team, the state of the economy, the poor value for your dollar in attending at a game, I believe that we will see that breaking point soon enough for the Raptors if things don’t change. I cannot see people continuing to pay a premium for a so-so team, and a so-so game experience when they can save their money, and watch the game on a high def TV from the comfort of their own home. Those corporate tickets on the lower bowl will continue to sell out. As I said, there is a lot of corporate support for the Toronto Raptors and Toronto is a wealthy city. But I can see a breaking point coming should things not change for the better when it comes to going to a Raptor game for the average fan. Either the team needs to improve dramatically, ticket prices for the upper bowl need to drop; or they need to do something to make attending the games more worthwhile to the average fan in the upper bowl.