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The Ralphie Report Field Trip - Pauley Pavilion

Or, for a few hours on a Thursday evening, Philly Pavilion (all of my friends call me Philly, BTW. Apparently they think of me as an anthropomorphic cartoon unicorn). At any rate, I took in the CU/ Ucla basketball live and direct from the iconic and yet updated arena. Here are my thoughts

Pauley is fantastic. It's beautiful, and for the most part has wide open concourses (except behind one basket). There are even spots that are simply open air to the outside where food trucks and other vendors can push their wares. I don't know if they're there every night, but tonight featured my absolute favorite food truck- the Komodo Truck. There was also a California Pizza Kitchen Truck and some sort of kosher truck, plus kettle corn and glazed almond vendors, along with normal arena food and a Subway spot. The interior of the venue itself was also nice. The seats were especially comfortable; they had the cushiest seats my butt has ever experienced at any stadium or arena, and I have a very bony butt, so it is sensitive to such things (TMI).

So it's really too bad that more people didn't choose to come out and enjoy such a plush venue. To complain about a poor showing at tip off would be folly. Tip off was scheduled for 6 PM local time, which is right in the middle of rush hour in one of the worst cities for traffic in the world, 2 blocks from the 405, which is the worst freeway in the history of traffic (possibly hyperbole). The point is- it is bad. I parked at my friend's house and we walked the 1.7 miles to the arena. It took 40 minutes (including the side trip through the farmer's market for funsies) but we figured that the drive, plus parking, would take about the same amount of time, and be worse when trying to leave. Also it was nice to enjoy a walk and a chat with my friend. That picture up there was taken 15 minutes before tip. After half time, the crowd did eventually grow to levels I would call decent, but far from acceptable, especially for such a "blue blood" program. The crowd in the lower bowl was hit and miss, and there were entire sections of the second level that were completely empty. I think they closed sections at half time, because several Buff fans were sent our way at the break, which I can only believe was done as a way to cut staffing to those sections.

After that, our section (216) ended up as something close to 70%-30% Buffs, with some quite lively fans to boot (I am not one of them. I am actually quite quiet at games usually, because I am busy worrying). All that is said, simply, because there has been a lot of discussion lately about the poor attendance at the CEC. Stop doing that. The attendance at Coors for any given conference game is far, far superior to what I witnessed last night, and far superior to what I see every other night at Ucla. Or USC. Or Stanford. Or... It's just better. We like to complain because attendance has been flat, or even taken a small step back, but more, I think we complain because we like to complain.

THAT SAID- there are things that Ucla did well for their students. They have 3 separate student sections. One on the sideline that TV viewers rarely see- it's right below the TV cameras, one behind the basket similar to CU's, and one on the second level behind the basket, where the more chill students who don't want to stand all game choose to stay. It's a pretty neat set up. The rabid fans get the good seats, the late arrivers get the still okay seats, and the kids that just want to take in a game without having to learn all the cheers and wave the distraction pieces behind the basket for free throws get their spots. They really should flip their arena, so TV cameras can get good shots of their most rabid student fans, like at Duke.

The actual in-game experience was a mixed bag. Friend of the Ralphie Report @Rumblinbuffalo (also follow him on twitter, unless you're a jerk) would be appalled at the band situation. They have a pretty good student band, but they spent most of their time sitting on the bench in favor of the actual house DJ they have posted on the floor. How do you apply for the job of Ucla house DJ? "I have a list of the top 20 pop songs and know how to turn the volume up." That appears to be the answer. The noise, at all times, was pretty unbearable. I do not want to hear "Timber" during timeouts. That song should be called "This Crap Doesn't Even Rhyme." Just do a college band version of Cheeseburger In Paradise or whatever other throwaway terrible song, and I'll be happy. Hell, do Timber, but with tubas and that one guy banging the giant sideways drum. Aside from introducing the team, I didn't hear the fight song a single time until well into the second half. That is sacrosanct to the CU band.

But they did do a good job with promotions. EVERYTHING was branded, which is what we should be pursuing. There's been talk about free tee shirts or trips to the tournament spit out on CU message boards, but here's the answer- engage your current sponsors to offer up prizes for the students. Ucla had a giveaway of a fancy Ucla watch (as if anyone wears watches) and a gift certificate to a fancy local grocery store. CU should be soliciting a sponsor like McDonald's to give away a free Big Mac with a ticket stub after a CU win, or a 10% discount at McGuckin, or or or... whatever. It shouldn't be about the athletic department creating opportunities, it should be about the marketing arm creating opportunities with our corporate partners. Look, I've done this before. It's not that hard. So let's get it done now. "This band version of 'Cheeseburger in Paradise' is sponsored by McDonald's. Bring in your coupon for a free cheeseburger following a CU win." How hard is that? Just get it done. Get your corporate sponsors to offer something- ANYTHING- as an incentive to get students to come out. We're trying to engage the next generation of CU donors and Buff Club members? Well we're also trying to engage the next generation of Pasta Jay's customers- so give up the prizes.

And what about the actual guys on the floor, getting sweaty and shooting threes? These are the thoughts of Phil:

King should have redshirted. Period. He jumped for a rebound so early he started coming down before the ball did. He's also reverted to his 7 seconds or less shot choice. It's now 2 seconds or less.

Dustin Thomas needs a lot of mental work. After he air balled that 3, he just crumbled. He lost all confidence and became completely useless. And he was a complete liability on defense.

Speaking of which- we had a 9 person rotation. It took me a while to identify Fletcher, because he was fully dressed and took part in the warm ups. And he was in the middle of the bench. But Spencer is out. Fletcher is out. Gordon is out. So we're down to 9 scholarships. 3 of those are Mills, Stalzer, and King, who haven't shown the ability to play to the rotational level that they are currently being forced to play.

Is there a reason Spencer isn't traveling? I would like to see him on the bench. There were some nice dunks though! The game was closer than the final score and we sang the fight song afterwards in a dark alley with no one else around, so it was a good night.

Go Buffs!