I took on a sports assignment this past weekend (Saturday Night). No it was not the Portland Trailblazer game. No it was not a Winterhawks game. And no, it was not a Timbers game. What else is going on right now? Portland State Basketball is what was going on Saturday night among many other entertainment opportunities to spend my money at.
It was honestly my FIRST time attending a Portland State basketball game and even a Portland State University sports event at all. I’ve been to OSU, and U of O, and even University of Portland games when I was younger, like 12. I live in Hillsboro though, so going to an event in Portland is a little more time consuming then just a 5 minute drive in suburbia. Instead of driving, we took Max which wasn’t bad using the Trimet app to figure out which way was best and what correct Portland Street car to get on.
Saturday night’s matchup was against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. Not being familiar with the Big Sky conference, right now I probably wouldn’t be able to name even 2 or 3 teams outside of Portland State outside of PSU and Northern Arizona (which I know now from Saturday’s game).
Let me quickly talk about the sports portion and then I can discuss the entertainment portion. The game, was sub-par at best. It reminded me a lot of Recreational ball at THPRD during the night when drop-in basketball is on. Play was sloppy, shooting was horrible, and defensively was an on and off night. PSU lost by 13 (73-60). Being down by 7 at halftime, PSU pulled within 4 at one point, but Northern Arizona seemed to take control back just in the nick of a timeout call and controlling the temp of the game.
My real purpose there was to evaluate Sports Entertainment at Portland State on a random game on a random night. A little over a year ago, PSU hired the big-name man known as David Hersh and his company, C-Level Management to takeover sports branding and marketing for the University, in hopes to build Portland State into a destination entertainment option. After now a year into a 5 year agreement, I haven’t seen too much change other than a few marketing plows by Hersh and company to drive ticket sales. Do you remember seeing advertising for the Dallas Cowboys at a Portland State football game? Yep, that was David Hersh.
If you are unfamiliar with him, here’s a brief history. He bought the old Portland Beavers baseball team back in the late 1970s; well he bought it with other people’s money, with David becoming the General Manager. He brought a trophy home after a few years then left to work for the Yankees. Left the Yankees and has been playing around in the south east buying and selling minor league baseball teams for a while. He recently moved back to Portland in 2012, just before beginning his stint with Portland State. I’ve had the opportunity to meet David Hersh and actually had dinner with him over a business discussion. I have nothing bad to say about David and I find him an honest, gut-check character. He tells it how it is, whether that is good or bad, no matter whom you are.
David and his crew started a promotion during the season of basketball games where you bought a higher priced ticket ($18 for General Admission) and you got 1 game ticket and UNLIMITED hot dogs, pizza, drinks, popcorn, and Chili. Yep… Chili. Not sure why Chili is included as they didn’t seem to be giving too much of that away… I think it’s an old guy thing… as those I did see eating it were well over the age of 50.
That is how my friend talked me into going to the game. Unlimited anything should almost drive a crowd in, right? Not in this case. Attendance is shown (in the picture I took from my Bleacher (General Admission) ticket to be pretty small… maybe a few hundred in the Stott Center. This was my first trip to Stott Center and I was definitely not too impressed. It is basically one half-step up from a high school gymnasium. Not to mention a god-awful TV big-screen board that just looked completely out of place on the wall. My friend said PSU bought it from PGE Park when they renovated. I’m not sure if that is true, but if it is, I hope PSU got a heck of a deal, because it looks too out-of-place at the Stott Center.
Pregame warm ups happened and everyone was pretty much standing around and finding seats. Then introductions appeared to start… but no lights dimming, no flashy spot lights, but they at least had music I guess… It was pretty the antithesis of entertainment for a basketball game. Look, I know you aren’t the Ducks or the Blazers, but you ARE a Division 1 school, right? Give me something, at least dim the lights, and get a disco ball or something to make it interesting. Isn’t that part of entertainment? I could care less “who” the players are because unless I come to every game, I am not going to remember, or get to know them. I came for the free hotdogs, pizza, soda, popcorn,… and chili (not really).
I will have to give a shout out to the announcer though, he was doing his best and his voice sounded great. Now let’s turn our attention to the in-game entertainment… like I discussed earlier, the basketball game was a little above what I would expect to see at Rec-ball (Drop-in basketball at a Recreational Center or 24-hr Fitness). Not much “team” basketball and more of just players going one-on-one with each other and only passing if they had to or got stuck. My bar for basketball entertainment though was already set pretty low because I knew this wasn’t a Duck game and I knew it wasn’t the Blazers… I expected a C-level (no pun intended David Hersh) performance in Basketball entertainment. I felt I left with a D-level.
Now onto more important things like in-game entertainment that wasn’t basketball. Once again I expected a C in this category, and I think I got what I thought I would have. The Dance team and Cheer team were there (all 4 of them). They did a decent job, although I wasn’t a fan of “where” they were. Much like football, I expected to see the cheer/dance teams in front of the stands, not on the sides of the gym where I had to turn my attention away during the game to catch a glimpse of a pretty lady that is out of my league. When timeouts were called though, yes, they each did their routines in the middle of the court, which was nice. I felt I left with a C, so it met my expectation of what to see.
Other in game entertainment featured the usual mini games for kids, shootout contests, toilet paper costume building. The in game entertainer could have been a little more excited in his job… as he seemed to just be going through the emotions. Hey Mr. Hersh, can you give that guy some lessons on building up the game? Interact more with the crowd, get them to cheer, yell, anything to get the crowd going. Give me something to cheer about! I came to yell and be loud and be a sports fanatic, I ended up sitting on my butt the whole game exchanging quick-tips of plumbing with my father during the game.
Overall, Mr. Hersh has a STEEP hill to climb with the entertainment aspect at Portland State. There wasn’t much to begin with, but it’s hard to build a castle when the only thing around you is crap. Ok, that was probably a little harsh, but not far off. I think you (PSU) has a long way to go… but hay, look at it this way, you got ME to come to my first game with David’s promotion of unlimited food… so there’s that to build on.
Matt Brown – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor
Born and raised in Portland Oregon, Matt Brown is Sports & Business Management Consultant with experience working with everyone from small and local Mom & Pop shops to working with professional sport league’s on business development. He brings a wealth of knowledge on the business side of sports, a side that many fans don’t get to see too often when they watch their favorite team battle each week.