Hoops Madness an Epic Fail
The much anticipated Hoops Madness basketball pep rally took place last night in Rec Hall. This years event signified the first time Penn State decided to do a “Midnight Madness” type event in line with what elite basketball programs have been doing for years. When I first heard rumors about Hoops Madness in early October, I was ecstatic. As a five year season ticket holder and someone who fell in love with the team last year and their magical run to the NCAA tournament, I was happy to hear that the basketball team was finally getting some love from the athletic department. What we got, however, was three-and-a-half hours of utter embarrassment.
Where do I begin?
The rally started just a few minutes late in front of a less than half capacity crowd in Rec Hall. The estimated attendance at the beginning was only 3,000, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has attended an early non-conference game at the Jordan Center. What began as a standard pep rally quickly turned into two-and-a-half hours of rallying and not a lot of pep.
Maybe I just set my expectations too high. We’ve all seen John Wall’s famous introduction at Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness a couple years ago and the Cameron Crazies going insane at Duke’s Countdown to Craziness on ESPN highlight reels. I certainly wasn’t expecting something like that, but I was at least hoping for a well organized, exciting event to kick off the basketball season for a new team who deserves our support.
I couldn’t have been more disappointed. The pep band played relentlessly every ten to fifteen minutes. I must have heard every Penn State fight song a half dozen times. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge supporter of our pep band and they create a great atmosphere for games. However, it was clear that they were being overused to stall for time.
One of the biggest busts came in player and coach introductions. I was expecting an epic entrance for our teams, with dim lights and the band blasting our best pump up songs. What I got was a fully lit gym with a student introducing each player. The players then awkwardly walked down from the top row of the stands onto the court with little excitement. Even when the women’s team requested the lights be turned off for their dance routine, event organizers refused because they were worried about being able to turn the lights back on quickly. With a coach as crazy and awesome as Patrick Chambers, I was expecting something a little more like this.
There was a seemingly endless array of contests that took up much of the time and didn’t add anything to the excitement level. Musical chairs with kids is adorable, but it has no place at a college basketball pep rally. The half court shot contest for $10,000 turned into a half hour ordeal. Instead of simply picking one number and that lucky person getting the chance to shoot for the cash, they picked eight numbers. Those in attendance got to see these eight people play a game of knockout, and only then did one person get to shoot from half court. Although, I must admit, Tim Frazier and Maggie Lucas hitting back-to-back half court shots before the contestant missed was one of the highlights of the night.
There was a dance competition. There was a pushup competition. There were several trivia contests. I love games and free stuff as much as the next guy, but at some point it becomes redundant. What I was hoping for would be a tribute to our team turned into a free t-shirt giveaway orgy with little excitement or climax.
This is not a complete knock on the athletic department or Nittany Nation. There is one man most at fault for causing this event to suck, and that man is Fabolous. He was the reason most students came out, but only around 2,000 stuck around by the time he arrived. Fabolous, who was already infamous for being late to the Spring 2010 Last Stop music festival at Penn State, was scheduled to perform around 9 p.m. but didn’t show up until just after 10:30, causing event organizers to squeeze out an extra 90 minutes of filler time to entertain us.
Now I am far from a music critic, but by most accounts, Fabolous failed to live up to the hype. His stage presence was awful, and I was instructed to “put my hands up” more times than I care to count. After playing an assortment of his old hits, he resorted to playing covers of LMFAO, Trey Songz, and Chris Rock. Acoustics in Rec Hall are far from ideal, and I found myself struggling to stay interested throughout his forty-five minute performance. Most of the comments in my Twitter timeline were also extremely negative and disappointing.
Not everything about the night was awful. The team dance routines were both hilarious, and Billy Oliver showing off his dance moves will certainly have me randomly bursting out in laughter for a long time to come. Coach Chambers and Coach Washington each pledged $1 to charity for each person in attendance, so no one can complain about raising $6,000 for charity (Chambers is giving his full share to THON and Washington is giving half to THON and half to the Pink Zone).
Coach Washington ended her speech by promising that the Lady Lions will be “one of the most exciting teams in the country,” and their preseason ranking of 12 seems to indicate that. It was also great to see several of the men’s players going through the crowd toward the end of Fabolous’s performance thanking people for coming out. It is that type of fan interaction that will keep people coming back in what will likely be a rough season for the young Nittany Lions.
I hope that the organizers of this event can learn from this year and at the very least, hire a performer next year who doesn’t have a reputation for showing up late. Penn State basketball is far from elite, but events like Hoops Madness spark interest and get students to come out to games. Regardless of how much of a failure Hoops Madness was this year, it is certainly a step in the right direction in marketing our basketball team.
But still, get it right next time.