More Cowbell!

March 22nd, 2011
By

When the UH basketball team lost Saturday night, my wife and I were among the 6,000 fans who walked out disappointed. What hurt most was how they lost. The Bows led all the way to the end, and then a combination of missed free throws/bad decisions/fatigue, or just choking under pressure, allowed the University of San Francisco to steal the win. Correction: the USF Dons earned the victory. The visitors stayed close, hung tough and stepped it up in crunch time.

That's the takeaway I got from the game. In business, you still need to do the basics and little things from start to finish. All your good work will be for naught if you get sloppy or rush to complete a task. If you're competing for a job or up against a rival business for a contract, it means don't give up until it's over, no matter how bad the odds look. Your competitor might get complacent or fail to check one small detail that opens the door for you.

But what I really wanted to comment on is the turnaround in the UH basketball program. I had season tickets back when Anthony Carter and Alika Smith were packing the arena and beating big schools like Indiana and Kansas. Under Riley Wallace, there were some pretty good teams and at home, the Bows were rarely out of any game. Unfortunately, in his final year and the next three seasons under Bob Nash, the electricity was gone. However, that's not why we stopped buying season tickets for basketball.

The real reason was the atmosphere at the Stan Sheriff Center. By and large, the SSC does a great job of being fan-friendly. It's the little things though that turn off people, or conversely, get them excited about attending sporting events. Whether it's football or basketball, a common complaint is parking problems -- usually because crowds tend to arrive less than an hour before game time. So to avoid that situation, my wife and I used to get there early. If you're a business-minded person, you'd think this would be an ideal opportunity to take advantage of a captive market, right? Instead, that extra hour before tip-off became an excruciating headache due to the mind-numbing rap/hip-hop that was being played game after game, with no regard for the fact that most of the fans were over the age of 45 or parents with young children.

Look, I'm no old fuddy-duddy, who hates all new music. On the contrary, I'd love to see a mix of old and new, along with mash-ups that blend R&B, pop, rock and hip-hop. Music can set a mood from the moment you walk in the door. It can make strangers smile and nod at each other. Watch the opening of any Ellen DeGeneris show -- she gets her crowd up on their feet dancing. And they love it, because motion is emotion. We've seen it before at UH volleyball matches when a couple of students would start dancing in the aisles between breaks. The key though was it came from the students, and it was largely spontaneous. That's not something you can easily manufacture. But the UH is starting to bring back students to the games, and for that, they are to be commended.

Anyhow, at Saturday's game, the music levels weren't ear-splitting and the rap stuff (which sounded more like angry dogs barking non-stop) was mixed in with a couple of local tunes, and then some old school Motown like "Signed, Sealed, Delivered"... but it was as if the music guy wasn't even there. Go to a club and watch real DJs in action. They try to pump up the crowd. I happened to be sitting next to the area where DJ Slacker was "programming" music, and the young dude seemed utterly bored. He slouched down, pressed a key on his laptop, and that was it. His body language said he didn't care, and the fans were pretty flat when the game began. Can't they find someone who actually loves music and knows how to play to a crowd?

This goes for businesses too. You can't fake passion or enthusiasm. Find people who love what they do -- people who want to grab that cowbell and bang it for all its worth to sell themselves or your company's services! Then reward them for it, because those are the ones who will keep customers (and fans) coming back for more. That's what UH coach Gib Arnold has brought back to the basketball program: enthusiasm and a sense of fun. He even smiles on the court once in awhile. Now, if only the sports marketing people can tap into that renewed energy and liven up the pre-game atmosphere, we'll really have something to get excited about for next year.

*****

Thanks for the comments on my "Made in Japan" blog post and name suggestions for the motor-cooler. Although comments are closed for both due to the barrage of spam-bot comments, you can still email me name ideas for the cooler at richfigel@gmail.com. Winners won't be announced for awhile. I'll also have more to say about the growing wealth inequality in the U.S. that some of you wrote about. It's real, but why aren't more people outraged over it?

And I'd just like to bang the cowbell for my Career Changers TV show. The current episode, which features segments about Wilhelmina Hawaii, plus Judy Bishop's excellent interview and resume tips, airs through next week on OC16 and their interactive on-demand Channel 96. Click here for daily viewing times and links to our CCTV YouTube Channel.

9 Responses to “More Cowbell!”

  1. UHfan:

    Rich,
    I think the pre-game and halftime songs are selected by the players. It's the music they choose to warm-up to.


  2. pali:

    good observation on the pre-game or lack of real pre-game entertainment. sure the players probably request rap or hip-hop for their warm-up, but that should be played before the front door opens for the fans. the demographic is definitely older and/or family-oriented. "ellen"-type music would be great. you should send your thoughts to jim donovan so he can enhance the total fan experience. it really would provide a win/win situation no matter how the warriors play.


  3. Rich Figel:

    UHfan and Pali - From what I've heard, yes, the players do have input on what's played when they warm-up... okay, I get that. But I'm talking about the hour before they hit the court. It's not as bad as it used to be in the walkways outside the arena, where you literally could not escape the loud yelling hip-hop stuff they were playing. They've toned that down, but they're still playing a lot of lame tunes over and over... Are they limited by royalty fees or something?

    There are actually DJs in big cities who make a good living playing dance/party music at events geared to families and Boomers.The thing is, a lot of young kids don't even know half the "samples" and remixes they're listening to are songs that came out 20 years ago! The truth is I actually like some old school rap... heck, I was listening to "Rappers Delight" before the game on our car stereo, and laughing at the word play.

    But nothing irks me more than the poser kids who try to dress/act gangsta when they've never been remotely close to a real urban city! It's just silly posturing. And the beat sucks much of the time.


  4. Rich Figel:

    Oh, the other thing I wanted to add is what's missing is CREATIVITY in the music mixes. I remember one season during the Christmas tournament when they didn't play any Christmas music at all -- they were actually playing reggae tunes for some reason! Last year I think they did work in rock and pop Christmas songs between games...

    But when you're playing UNLV, how can you not play some version of "Viva Las Vegas"? Or when La Tech is in the house, wouldn't it be cool to hear "Born on the Bayou" by CCR, or some other Louisiana-related song?

    I actually did write Bob Nash when he took over and suggested he change the pre-game music to show he was going to put his own stamp on the program... even sent him a CD with a sample mix. Never got played, and Nash never really did do anything to set a new tone, did he? Everything was the same as far as the pre-game rituals and music... I mean, I love the band and think the cheerleaders are good, but it would freshen things up if they changed some of their routines more often as well.


  5. pali:

    hi rich,
    i don't agree w/ the idea of playing tunes relating to the opponent. i'm in favor of a pink locker room for the visiting team. no advantages, period. for example, at la tech, if they played the theme from 5-0, that wouldn't that pump the warriors and possibly backfire on the home team?

    anyway, if you don't mind, i'll send an email to the athletic department and attach your comments about improving the pre-game music for the fans one hour before gametime. it's worth a try...maybe this time gib would agree.


  6. Rich Figel:

    Thanks, Pali, but I think it's actually the Stan Sheriff Center that calls the shots on pre-game stuff... and for years it's been Billy V who does the MC duties, so they probably leave the music up to him. Which is why it's been pretty much the same tunes all these years.

    One of the best things I ever saw was when the UH volleyball team had the guys from Israel (Yuval, Sivan and Milo), and they would play "Hava Nagila' during their warm-up. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about! But I think that was when students used to be in charge of the music -- that's when Alan Hackbarth (the Rubber Man) and Warren used to do their dance thing too at v-ball matches.

    Re songs related to the opponents, I doubt the visiting teams would even care... but it would be a goodwill gesture to their fans who make the trip out to Hawaii. And the fact is there are a lot of Mainland high school and college bands that play "Hawaii Five-O" as part of their repertoire.

    Side note: Remember when June became coach? At first, it was fun to hear his music mix for their pre-game warm-ups. But it was like his tape got stuck in the cassette machine and he insisted on playing the same songs year after year until he left! How many times can you listen to "Car Wash" before you get sick of it?


  7. pali:

    i'll contact billy, too. it would be great if each player had an opportunity to present their own playlist for each home game to be played as the pre-game music. i'm so complacent about same the pre-game rap these past years that i never thought about pursuing the matter until you brought it up. i've been eating my grub oblivious to the music because it's not my style and i've been blocking it out all along. i always eat, then check my email, then reply upon which the national anthem begins. it would be great if there were activities, entertainment, give-aways along w/ the warm-ups. if more fans showed-up earlier for the pre-game, the concession would probably sell more, etc. anyway, you raise a great point and i'll see you at the stanley, go bows!


  8. Rich Figel:

    The main thing is to get more students and fans involved, one way or the other. The other is the parking issue. If more fans would come earlier, there would be fewer traffic jams that prevent people from getting in before the games start... but no one seems to be asking WHY fans don't want to come earlier (and spend more money on food, merchandise, etc.).

    Speaking of merchandise, I still don't understand why they don't offer any "throwback" shirts or jerseys or caps with the old Rainbow logos... which IMO were much more colorful and distinctive than the drab green H-wear. Look at Oregon -- they have all kinds of color combos, and I bet they sell a lot more merchandise because of that. Ditto for pro sports -- the NFL makes huge profits on retro throwback jerseys. But if you buy one green or black UH shirt, how many more do you really need in the same shade of drab green or basic black?


  9. Rich Figel:

    Sorry but have to close comments, now that I have received over 50 spam-bot comments overnight, bringing my total to 200 in the past three days. Why the Star-Advertiser won't pay for spam-blocking by Akismet remains a mystery to me. Sigh.