Wednesday night, the Philadelphia 76ers got what was inarguably their biggest win of the year, at home against the Chicago Bulls. Not only did they beat the team with the East’s best record, but they won handily, getting out to a 20-point lead in the third quarter and keeping the Bulls’ reigning MVP Derrick Rose on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. It was a statement win, one that solidified the Sixers as a real threat in the Eastern Conference, and it should have sent the Wells Fargo Center into a rapturous frenzy. Yet, as the clock ran out the Sixers’ victory, amidst the cheers on Broad Street could be heard a large number of disappointed “awwwww“s, even a smattering of full-throated boos.
Was it rogue Bulls fans? Sixers fans stuck in 2010, still mad at the team for not tanking for draft picks? Hip Hop acolytes who haven’t gotten over the team ditching their beloved brain-dead lupine mascot?
Nope. The Sixers had just fallen a bucket short of Big Macs.
In case you’re not familiar with the Sixers’ home-game policy — and many home arenas out there have similar deals, whether it be tacos in L.A. or chalupas in Portland — everyone in the arena gets a voucher for a free Big Mac if the team scores 100 points. Because clearly the Big Mac is still the finest culinary option available in the greater Philadelphia area, and everyone knows that fast food won is twice as sweet as fast food earned, Sixers fans start buzzing when the team’s point total starts creeping up into the high-90s, groan whenever the team misses a bucket that could’ve put them into triple digits, and go absolutely batshit when the team finally breaks the century mark.
So as Jrue Holiday held the ball in Sixers territory with the clock running out and Philly up 98-82, basic basketball etiquette obviously dictated that the Sixers not try to show up their opponent by attempting to score when the game was already well in hand. Yet, with the promise of Big Macs so close, the fans tried to egg Jrue on, hoping he’d lose his sense and drive in for a cheap layup. Sixers color man Malik Rose pleaded in vain for the Bulls to foul and give The Damaja a chance to break 100 at the line. Holiday himself even bluffed a jumper, giving the fans a brief flash of Two All-Beef Patties. But it was all for naught. The clock ran out, the Sixers finished with 98 points, and fans at the WFC were cruelly forced to fork over $5 at Wawa on the way home for a 6-inch Shorti Hoagie and mac n’ cheese.
This foolishness must be stopped. It’s not the first year the Sixers have done this stupid promotion, but it’s the first year they’ve done it as a winning team. I didn’t mind it when the team was losing or mediocre — any gimmickry to generate some good will under those circumstances is fairly understandable — but when the team’s winning, I find it insulting, demeaning, and just fucking stoopid for the Sixers to still be doing this promotion, and for the fans to still be taking it so seriously. I can’t imagine how the Lakers have put up with their idiot fans chanting “WE WANT TACOS!” during home blowouts for the three straight years they went to the Finals.
Now I know what some of you are thinking, and believe me, I’ve heard it before — “Oh, come on. It’s not like we’re cheering for the Big Macs during close games. We know that the result of the game is more important. It’s just that when your team is beating the Wizards by 20 points in the fourth quarter, the Big Macs give you a reason to keep watching and caring about the game. I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
To those fans I say this: Shame on you. You’re so spoiled as an NBA fan that you can afford to be blase about your team blowing out another professional basketball team in front of their home fans? There are teams out there that won’t win 10 home games this year, there are some that might only win a couple by double digits. And you say that your team performing so fantastically in front of their fans that the game is out of reach late isn’t enough to keep you entertained? That you need the allure of a crappy hamburger that isn’t deserving of smelling the Baconator’s farts to hold your interest? Even for a Laker fan, that kind of arrogance would be questionable. For a fan of a team like the Sixers (who haven’t posted a winning record since ’04-’05), it’s absolutely inexcusable.
Understand, I’m not saying that these promotions need be eliminated in totality. Like I said earlier, for certain teams in certain situations, it’s perfectly acceptable. But it seems like we need to draft up a contract between the three branches of NBA home games — Ownership, Team and Fans — to make sure that we don’t again have situations like the one we’re having in Philadelphia. I see it going a little something like this.
THE OWNERSHIP AGREES TO:
- Only offer the Big Mac Promotion (or another promotion giving out another fast food item of roughly equivalent value) for the team if they are less than five games above .500. Arbitrary demarcation perhaps, but generally speaking, if your team is six or more games above .500, they are probably a Good Team, rather than a Mediocre or Bad Team Due For Regression. Good teams shouldn’t need this promotion, and fans who still demand such a promotion for their good team don’t deserve it anyway. (And yes, I understand that this rule will invariably lead to fans of teams six and seven games above .500 to bemoan how their team is “just good enough to keep us out of free Big Macs.” This is regrettable but unavoidable. Dickishness will always exist amidst fanbases in some capacity.)
- Add a complementary promotion that offers a free item of lesser value than the primary promoted item — say, free fries and/or shake instead of a free Big Mac — when the team loses by 30 or more. It’s not when the home team wins that the fans should be rewarded for sticking around and cheering, it’s when they’re losing by a lot. Hopefully the 30-point barrier will keep smart aleck fans from cheering for the team to do badly until the game is already well out of reach anyway. Of course, fans would only get their voucher upon exiting the arena after the game officially ends, so only those who endured all four quarters would be rewarded, and those who left early to beat the traffic left out of luck.
THE TEAM AGREES TO:
- Try their damnedest to break the Big Mac point threshold whenever possible and reasonable. This, of course, does not include closely contested games — nobody’s expecting the team to start jacking threes indiscriminately when up 92-91 with 90 seconds to go — nor does it include final possessions like last night’s in Philly, where a last bucket would be a slap in the opponent’s face. But if they’re up 96-79 with two minutes left, the team should at least make a good faith effort to get the final four points and send their fans home with that extra bounce in their step (and/or extra burning in their heart, should they cash in on the way home.) Seems fair enough.
- Show good humor with the fans and media for caring about the promotion. I don’t anticipate this being much of a problem — most players seem to enjoy winning their fans the free food — but If the fans “awww” a little for you missing a shot that would’ve put them over, don’t dog it the next time. If a reporter asks you after the game about missing that shot, don’t get all huffy and snap “Look, I don’t give a damn about no fucking Big Macs!” Just laugh it off and say you hope to get it for ‘em next time. Be patient and comfortable in the knowledge that once your team gets a little better, you won’t have to put up with any of this any more.
THE FANS AGREE TO:
- Ignore the promotion completely during close games or losing efforts. If your team gets a bucket late to break 100 but still trail 108-101 with a minute or two to go, don’t pay your team the insult of cheering for them winning you fast food despite, in all likelihood, not winning you the game. And if they’re trading buckets with a team and go up 100-97 with three minutes left, don’t confuse or distract them by erupting into disproportionately rapturous applause like they just won the game. Keep things in perspective and don’t ever let the promotion coming to fruition overshadow the actual outcome of the contest.
- Not get on any player too bad for missing an opportunity to break the Big Mac threshold. If the players are living up to their end of the bargain, they should at least be trying hard to get you those free Big Macs, so don’t boo ‘em or even give ‘em a hugely audible moan of disappointment if their corner three rattles out, or if their attempt to initiate contact in the lane results in a no-call and a turnover. It’s hard to imagine a pro athlete experience much more frustrating than helping your team come up with a big win (in terms of scoring margin, if not necessarily importance), yet being remembered by fans as “that asshole whose missed layup with 40 seconds to go cost us hamburgers.” They’re better than that, and you should be too.
- Leave ownership alone when the team’s improved record eventually leaves the home arena Big Mac ineligible. Not to get all Herm Edwards here, but the point of home games is still to win, and if you care so much about free fast food that the team’s record becomes a secondary concern … well, then have fun watching on basic cable, because our home arena is no place for the likes of you.
And there you have it. Anyone feeling like a road trip to Fuddrucker’s?