Written by Jeff Vorva
The sweaty people crammed in the stands probably didn’t notice.
The folks watching all along the fences likely didn’t notice either.
Oh, and those people who had to walk what seemed like endless miles from their car to the stadium probably weren’t aware either.
Last Friday’s huge non-conference football tilt between Brother Rice and Marist drew about 4,000 fans at Marist. Not a bad crowd. One guy parking cars on the campus called it a “zoo.’’
But the zoo was missing some animals.
Marist officials said that two years ago, they put a limit of 5,000 tickets on sale for the game and thousands of more people who wanted to see the game were angry they were shut out. This year, 1,000 tickets were unsold.
Some in Redhawk Nation say that High School Cube is the reason for the dropoff.
High School Cube is a website that broadcasts sporting events and other high school happenings on the internet and has become a major player in broadband circles. It’s been around for a couple of years and has made an impact.
When the broadcasts are done right, it’s a brilliant concept. When they aren’t…well…watching someone else’s home movies might be more thrilling.
On a given night, a football or basketball fan can stay home with a computer or phone and have the choice of watching dozens of games either in Illinois or other parts of the nation. If your kid is playing football at Stagg and the game is on the Cube, Uncle Elmer in Idaho, grandpa in Florida or a cousin in the military stationed in the Middle East can watch the kid run for touchdowns live or watch a broadcast later.
And that’s very cool.
However, some of the concern I heard at Marist Friday night is stuff I started to hear from folks during the football playoffs last year and during the basketball season. People are staying home and watching the Cube rather than coming out to the games.
High school sports attendance dropoff has been a topic for decades. In the 1960s and 70s, the blame was that more kids were getting jobs and cars and didn’t have time to watch their school’s sports. In recent years, kids’ addictions to video games received the blame.
Now, it’s the Cube.
I don’t think the Cube went into this venture saying “Let’s take attendance away from live games’’ but it appears that the technology is causing some of the downturn. Technology is also blamed for hurting pro sports including NASCAR and Major League Baseball. People buy high-definition TVs that make you feel like you are right on the field and may not want the hassle of actually being at the game, paying for parking and 10 bucks for a cup of beer.
Look, 4,000 people at a Marist/Rice game isn’t a small figure, but if a thousand more fans stayed away, that’s some significant money that is not coming its way.
And whether it’s Cube or any of the other reasons attendance is taking a hit, the ball is in the schools’ court to try to drum up some more interest to get those people out of their houses and back into the stadiums and gyms.
It’s a tough war technology is presenting. Just ask anyone in the newspaper business.
The Marian kind
Also over the weekend, St. Xavier’s football team, ranked fourth in the nation, erased a 14-point deficit and beat defending NAIA champion Marian 31-24 in overtime.
The second half was thrilling.
It was nail-biting.
The overtime was dramatic.
The postgame emotions after the OT were running wild.
It lived up to the hype as a battle between the past two national champions.
Marian played one of the dumbest games I have seen in a long time. The squad from Indiana was whistled 16 times for 139 penalty yard. These guys took themselves out of drives and kept St. X drives going with late hits, unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, leading with their helmets and a huge facemask penalty that hurt them during St. Xavier’s game-tying drive late in regulation.
That team has a lot of talent but didn’t deserve to win the game.
But in the long run, that might not hurt. In 2011, Marian won the regular-season meeting and St. Xavier won the national championship. In 2012, St. X won the regular-season hookup and Marian went on to win the national title.
‘Worth’ while winners
The last of our winners from a drawing in August during our subscription drive in Worth were presented with tickets to “Next to Normal.”
Winners were Robert Wagner, Mary Ann Aldrich, Edward Zajac, Elaine Johnson, Sharon Reinheimer, S.J. Gloede, Rose Marie Kunz, William Nilles, Joan E. Zoel and Patricia J. Schultz.
In last week’s column on area tollway scofflaws, I forgot to mention that the state’s No. 11 company on the list, Excel Waterproofing, is from Chicago Ridge.