Spring Game, NBA Playoffs, Packers Schedule

Saturday is the annual spring football game at Camp Randall Stadium.  I’ll give you a minute to soak in the excitement that opening sentence undoubtedly stirred within your soul.

Coach Bielema, apparently frustrated that last year’s spring game drew only 18,020, has put his money where his mouth is in his pleas for increased attendance, donating $2,000 of his own money for four student drawings to be held each quarter. Various other attractions, such as the annual Badger Sports Kids Fair and a live broadcast of ESPN 1070’s “Heller and Murphy,” are also scheduled in place to hopefully increase attendance to somewhere in the range of Bielema’s goals of “30,000 (or) 40,000 people.”

Personally, I’m shocked that even 18,000 people would show up for what is in essence a practice. But Bielema is not crazy to want more butts in the seats. There is precedence for higher attendance in the spring: Alabama had 78,200 fans this year (down from 92,138 in 2007), 61,000 showed up for this year’s Florida Gators spring game, and tickets for tomorrow’s Nebraska spring game are reportedly going for $95 from local brokers.  Not to mention the tens of thousands of people that come out to Lambeau for the annual Packers scrimmage.

So what can be done to boost attendance in the spring here? While Badger Nation will never be as fantatical about the spring game as the Crimson Tide, Gator, or Cornhusker faithful, we should be able to come close to the attendance numbers posted this spring in Oklahoma (22,306) and LSU (33,624).

First, the University has to start charging for tickets. That seems counter-intuitive, but right now the spring game has a perception of being worthless partly because the University says it isn’t worth charging for. Charge $5 per seat, donate the proceeds to a worthy charity, and the perceived value of the game will greatly increase. Not to mention that people with paid in tickets in hand will be more motivated to attend no matter what the weather.

Second, the answer of who this spring game is targeted for has to be addressed. With the Kids Fair, It seems like a family event, but now with the student drawings, it also seems like a student event. Students are less likely to attend something marketed to families with small children, while families with small children are likely to stay away from something they feel will be largely attended by drunken swearing students. The University has to narrow their target audience and market the game to it. 

Lastly, the University has to walk the walk and talk the talk. They are trying to make the game “as close to a regular game as it can be” (according to www.uwbadgers.com), yet they insist on the irregular scoring system of the second team’s points counting for twice the first team’s points. Why? Sure the second-team offense should be less efficient than the first team, but shouldn’t the second team defense also be easier to score on? And if this is a family event, how do I explain the oddball scoring to my five-year-old? I’m trying to interest him in the game of football, not to scare him away by trying to explain a format and scoring system more labrytine than a Coen brothers movie.   

Anyway, if you go to the spring game, have a good time. Me, I’ll likely be home watching the NBA playoffs, which start on Saturday. This year’s NBA playoffs are potentially the most interesting in years, not only because the West is even deeper than in years past, but because the East — with statistically the two best teams in the league — has some intrigue this year as well. Namely, how good will Boston be in the playoffs after admittedly coasting through the last couple weeks of the season? Can Detroit — which gave Boston one its rare home losses this season — challenge the Celtics?

In the West: In the first round, I like the Lakers to sweep, I like the Jazz in five, I like the Hornets in seven, and the Spurs in seven.  Then I like the Lakers in seven and the Spurs in seven. In the conference finals I like the Lakers in six.

In the East: Boston in a sweep, Cleveland in six, Orlando in six, and the Pistons in five. Then Boston in five and the Pistons in six. Then Boston in six.

In the Finals, I’ll take Boston in six. Bad for the philosophy of building your team from within, good for KG. He deserves a championship.

The 2008 Packers schedule is out for next year. Pretty average schedule in terms of difficulty — Packers have 12th toughest schedule for 2008. At first glance, potential losses come in the second week at Detroit (comedown from emotional first game with Favre retirement jersey; Lions seem to always be better early in season); the third week at home against Dallas (Dallas should be out for blood next season, especially if they land Chad Johnson); the sixth and seventh game at Seattle and against Indy (the bye will be richly deserved after that double shot); and the fourteenth game at Jacksonvile. Otherwise, the schedule appears easier than last year’s did at first glance. But the Packers of 2008 won’t be the Packers of 2007. Still, nothing I see here leads me to believe they won’t win the NFC North again.






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