Did you read Chris Sheridan's TrueHoop post about the crowd in Turkey?
A crowd of 15,500 sang in unison, belting out the theme song of the Turkish national team -- "12 Giant Men" -- beginning at the end of the third quarter and continuing right on into the start of the fourth as the host team at the FIBA World Championship moved into the quarterfinals by handling France with ease, 95-77 behind 20 points from Hedo Turkoglu.
Their decibel level did not even drop when Nicolas Batum was opening the final period with consecutive dunks, for everyone knew they wouldn't matter in a game that was all but over just a couple minutes into the third quarter.
"I got the shivers," said guard Sinan Guler, who shot 8-for-10 from the field and scored 17 points in a game the Turks led by as many as 28. "Any time I hear the songs that they start singing I get excited, and I'm definitely one of the players that feed off that energy, and I know our team feeds off and plays a lot better with that energy that the fans give us."
Here are a few seconds of video of that crowd.
I guess a bunch of fans singing out of joy and pride is generally seen as something cute or nifty. (Those crazy Turks! They do all these wonderful things! And you should try the baklava!)
But that's not how I see it. I see people in those stands who know something we don't about how to make sports a fantastic experience. They sing at sporting events in much of the world. Honestly ... why do we essentially never sing at NBA games?
And it's not that I'm some nutty advocate of opera or whatever. More than anything, I guess my point is that a lot of what matters about going to see a sporting event is the experience of being in a crowd. And that experience, at an NBA game, is fun, but a fraction of what it could be. These days you can count on some super rich dude who insists he has every right to scream obscenities at players he does not know. You can count on seeing people who have had plastic surgery and botox. You can count on people in suits who are texting much of the night. And you can count on the reality that crowd will not burst into song.
You're still way better off going to the game than watching it on TV, if you seek the full sports experience. But imagine if buying a ticket meant getting to be a part of something really special. When 15,500 people sing together, out of love, there's just no way around the fact that you're having a unique experience. Some of those people will cry when the they tell the story of being at that game, and that's a good thing!
I don't know if we're too macho, if the people who can afford NBA tickets are too stuffy or if there's some other reason. But I can tell you that even though we have a limitless supply of passion for sports in the U.S. but we simply do not know how to unleash the kind of ecstatic crowd that was present for Turkey's dismantling of France. And that's too bad.
In the NBA, we have figured out how to run a sport where we can afford to pay two billion a year or so in player salaries. That matters! Good for us! That's why the best basketball in the world is played in the NBA. However, that doesn't mean we do everything perfectly, and it sure would be fun if we could pick up the trick of having truly passionate fans.
UPDATE: TrueHoop reader Daniel e-mails:
I would love for there to be singing at NBA games. But: how could we sing actual songs if the people in charge of the "game experience" at our home arenas don't even let us chant or cheer?
One of the worst things about going to a Raptors game at the Air Canada Centre is what happens during a timeout that follows a game-altering Toronto run. Fans are standing and cheering, maybe even starting a "Let's go Raptors" chant ... but then, after ten seconds or so, it's, inevitably, "tiiiime, fans, for the KFC Win-a-BUCK-et-of-Chicken Challenge!" or some other not-made-up corporate-sponsored contest that sucks the life out of the place. During the game itself, meanwhile, the PA systems at many arenas blast ear-splitting hip-hop beats or "DE-fence" chants -- even during key fourth-quarter possessions when nobody needs to be riled up. It would be hard to sing a song over any of that loudspeaker noise.
I think a lot of our non-singing in North America is because we don't have a cultural tradition of team-specific songs like they do in Europe and South America and elsewhere. But I think some of it is because singing is a spntaneous expression of joy, and the current "NBA experience" is designed to deny us expressions of spontaneous joy. Singing is also a create-your-own-experience thing, and the NBA seems to prefer that we sit silently and passively observe the "experience" they've created for us.