More Flash Fallout

December 10th, 2009 | by Spencer Hall

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Honestly, I’m more than a little exhausted with the whole Flash hoax nonsense.  You can read the latest as summarized by Darnell Dickson at the Daily Herald. The Herald’s opinion page today called for owner Brandt Andersen to make good on his offer of donating $100,000 to charity.

You’ve all read the comments and heard the back and forth. You’ve read D-League commissioner Dan Reed’s apology. The local heavy hitters made some great points. As usual, Ross Siler was spot on.

Overall, I have to agree with the Salt Lake Tribune’s Kurt Kragthorpe, who summed things up this way:

There’s a distinction between minor league and bush league, though, and Andersen crossed that line. Whether he recognized it or not, thousands of fans made a statement by leaving early, and I doubt they’re coming back.

Kurt was sitting right next to Dan Reed while the whole debacle unfolded. I was few feet away at the same table and kept wishing David Stern had been in the house, if only to watch him morph from Good Times David Stern to Cyborg David Stern, or at least Heads-Are-Gonna-Roll David Stern.

The worst part about the whole thing was that very few people really showed up to the game thinking Michael was going to show up. Almost everyone I talked to before the game and during the first half were treating the whole thing like a fun joke, that there was no way Jordan would actually show up. On the other hand, it was the home opener, it was a good night to get out and watch basketball, and hey, if he really does show up…

So when halftime arrived and the lights went down, and the P.A. announcer is saying things like “…AND NOW…A MAN WHO NEEDS NO INTRODUCTION…” You can’t blame the crowd for getting whipped into an absolute frenzy. And then to have the euphoric excitement turn to stunned silence and then palpable rage as the horrible imposter was revealed was one of the most unforgettable sports moments I’ve ever experienced.

Andersen’s apology talked of having fun, but fun without trust is the kind of one-sided affair that leaves a bully laughing and a kid crying. Monday’s hoax was the worst kind of violation of trust in entertainment: punking the very people who decided to suspend disbelief for a moment and spend money to take a ride. To refresh our memory, here’s the informal contract we enter as sports fans:

According to the theory, suspension of disbelief is a quid pro quo: the audience tacitly agrees to provisionally suspend their judgment in exchange for the promise of entertainment. These fictional premises may also lend to the engagement of the mind and perhaps proposition of thoughts, ideas, art and theories.

That’s why it felt like a punch to the stomach and left people throwing free t-shirts back on the floor and very nearly turning into an angry mob. Probably three fourths of the crowd filed out angrily, leaving a conspicuously sparse and shell-shocked crowd for the second half.

So how did it get so completely out of hand? I’ve met most of the people who would have been involved with the decisions. How in the world did it get taken this far? There was enough poor judgment all the way through the organization to last for a long time.

The sad part is that I spent most of the first half thinking about how much I love the D-League. It doesn’t cost a lot, you’re close to the players, everyone has a good time. I spent the second half questioning everything about sports in general, and wondering why we waste our time with nonsense. I’ll get over it, and so will you, but the onus is certainly on the Flash to give us a reason to believe.

Update: Matt Moore of Fanhouse interviews Brandt Andersen.

Moore and I emailed before this interview and I mentioned the point about free tickets. Tickets were being handed out all over the UVU campus as well as around town in the days leading up to the game, so the criticism about using the stunt to sell tickets doesn’t really add up.

It’s clear from all my interactions with people in the front office leading up to the game that creating buzz was the main goal. But that only makes the decision to take the act all the way to the end even more bizarre. Why not just end it with Bryon Russell announcing to the crowd that MJ didn’t show? Even getting Jeff Hornacek to walk out and join Russell in a game of H-O-R-S-E would have delivered a better result.

Spencer Hall
Founder Spencer Hall has covered the NBA, Team USA and NBA D-League since 2007 and launched Salt City Hoops in 2009. Spencer is now the news director at KSL.com
Spencer Hall
Spencer Hall

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2 Comments

  1. Matt T. says:

    The outrage over this is more outrageous. I live in MN, and even I knew MJ wasn’t showing up. You said it yourself that most people felt the sane way, so why be mad and storm out and throw a free item away? Nice support for your local squad.

    No reason to get mad for the sake of getting mad. I like your idea about how it could have been resolved at the half, but overall, the people should only be disappointed with themselves for not recognizing what this was. An attempt to put people in the seats, which it did, draw interest in the team, which it did, and have some fun with a sore spot in Utah sports history.

    Poor execution right at the end by the team, but even poorer response from fans and some media.

  2. Matt, thanks for the comment, but I think you missed my whole point: The fans aren’t stupid, they just wanted to have a good time. But the way the prank was executed left everyone in the house feeling dirty and used.

    Maybe I’m not doing a very good job of explaining how it all went down, but believe me, if you had been there you’d know why people are still talking. It wasn’t about being disappointed about MJ at that point — it was the raw emotion of realizing you’re being lied to so brazenly.

    The team could have easily escaped the situation and had feelings goodwill from the fans if they hadn’t taken it to the point where a spotlight is focused on the tunnel to the locker room and the PA announcer is hyping it like someone is about to come out of the tunnel. It was teased out waaaaaaay longer than necessary, considering they knew the circumstances. It was all about execution, and by taking it just that small step too far, they crossed the line and shouldn’t be surprised at the reaction.

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