May 13, 2008

Commissioner Stern: "the noise, the fire, the smoke, is a kind of assault"

NBA commissioner David Stern wants a review of music and pyro used in pre-game shows. Here's an article from the Canadian Press:

CLEVELAND — On the subject of the NBA's infatuation with pre-game pyrotechnics, smoke and noise, commissioner David Stern was loud and clear: He's had enough.

"I think they're ridiculous," Stern said Monday before Game 4 of the Cavaliers-Celtics second-round playoff series. "I think that the noise, the fire, the smoke, is a kind of assault that we should seriously consider reviewing in whether it's really necessary given the quality of our game."

His comments came just a few minutes before Cleveland's over-the-top player introductions, which include fire - hot enough that fans can feel the heat in the stands - shooting out of four swords on the scoreboard.

Such pyrotechnic displays have become common around the league. The barrage of fireworks in Boston is so intense it leaves a fog hanging over the court for most of the first quarter.

"It may be that these are the maniacal rantings of a fan from a different era and I recognize that, but you know I'm sitting there waiting for the next cannon to go off and then the fire heats up the arena," Stern said, "so the temperature in the arena raises by 15 degrees. That's if you can see it because you're still waiting for the smoke, which is chemical, to clear."

Cavs forward Ben Wallace says the smoke in Boston contributed to the dizziness that forced him to leave Game 2. Wallace didn't go onto the court for Game 3 in Cleveland until the onslaught of smoke and fire had ended. Anderson Varejao ran onto the court in his place.

The special effects aren't limited to pre-game introductions. White residue from fire extinguishers delayed Game 1 of the Spurs-Hornets series for 19 minutes between the first and second quarters after a mascot soared through a ring of fire for a dunk in New Orleans.

Another thing that annoys Stern is the non-stop loud music and other noise that isn't generated by fans.

"I always bite my tongue because I say, 'Well, maybe I'm not the demographic that likes to be assaulted by loud rap, smoke, pyrotechnics and chemicals,"' he said. "I'm outdated, but I think it's time for us to say, 'Hey guys, lets look at it one more time."'

There's rarely a quiet moment in Cleveland's arena where the video screen routinely displays a metre registering over 100 decibels, as loud as a rock concert.

Stern, more of a Simon and Garfunkel fan, says he's got nothing against hip hop and the music appreciated by younger audiences, but says the volume is over the top.

"What's happened is that very well intentioned people feel that it's their obligation to root their team on to victory, to urge them ... they think if you turn up the loudspeaker it's going to help them perform better even though there are babies in the building," he said.

AP Sports Writer Tom Withers contributed to this report.

Read the entire article...

I blogged last week about the mascot fire stunt at a Hornets game that caused a delay lasting more than 20 minutes, and speculated that the incident could be the beginning of the end of fire stunts in the NBA.

The NHL has already banned most pre-game pyro due to concerns about ice conditions (not to mention the smoke and haze that interferes with sightlines for fans & broadcast).

And one of my students pointed me towards this article about Rai Henniger, the senior vp of marketing for the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox. Last year he was severely injured in a pyrotechnics accident at the ballpark. (Thanks JV for the pointer.)

Safety for fans, safety for players, arena playing conditions ... there are plenty of reasons for every sport to consider a ban, or at least severely limit, the use of pyrotechnics.

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