Recent news for the Australian Boomers' exhibition games against USA Basketball in Melbourne, have been a steady stream of disappointment.
From the seemingly ceaseless flow of US NBA All-Stars withdrawing their commitment for the FIBA 2019 World Cup and exhibition games, to Sunday's announcement of Australia's own Ben Simmons also stepping away from the two-game series, there has been a wave of disappointment and frustration towards those games, when in reality, it should be otherwise.
Despite the outflow of NBA All-Stars, these games are still going to be competitive. Local basketball fans who have not had the opportunity to head over to the United States to watch legitimate NBA talent up live, are still going to enjoy watching these games. Team USA will still field a good team, albeit one composed of much younger names, playing against a strong Boomers team featuring multiple NBA veterans, many of whom participated in the Rio Olympics. This holds true especially for Australian Boston Celtics fans, who could be watching our Aussies matched up against four core Celtics players in Melbourne: Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart.
What really went wrong, came back to one thing: misaligned expectations.
Despite steep ticket prices, a lot of fans were willing to invest in said games, simply because marketing messaging made sense. They would be paying for top-tier NBA stars, names like Anthony Davis, James Harden and Damian Lillard, and a lot of the time, cost is proportional to quality.
Watching an NBA game is not the easiest for Australians. It's unlikely we would get one at home anytime soon. Even setting travel costs aside, it's not easy for locals to make the trek over to the US and catch an NBA game, given constraints like family, work or simply time. These games were a golden opportunity for long-time basketball fans to catch a quality basketball game at home, and even bring their family along and share their passion of the game together, if the budget allowed for it.
Spending hundreds or even thousands on game tickets, to fly interstate, paying for accommodation, all of it made sense - if the expected level of talent showed up.
One could choose to be cynical (or conservative), and say the top-tier stars were never going to show up. But consumers can only trust in the product presented, and marketing messages from official channels going out earlier, had outlined the names that were expected to play.
A fan on social media, Dean J likened the current situation to one ordering eye fillet and getting rump instead. Another fan, James Y said it was like selling tickets to a music festival with The Foo Fighters, AC/DC, Tool and Muse, only to see Björk for 12 hours straight. It was tongue-in-cheek humour --with the point going back to badly aligned expectations-- and no disrespect was obviously meant to either rump steak or Björk. But is it really the fault of the event organisers involved?
From a consumer perspective, we expected the list of names presented to be an ironclad agreement, likely written in blood. Those NBA stars would make it down to Australia without question, come hell or high water. Given the withdrawals we've observed in recent weeks, the situation might have been closer to a friendly nod and a verbal, even tenuous "I'll be there, if everything works out". We have no insight into the contractual agreements involved, or if there were any to begin with.
Obviously, situations have changed for said players, and with that their commitment to the cause. What were the event organisers to do, when presented with a situation like this? They could only tread water, keep pace and make the best of things. In short, the show must go on.
According to a TEG Live spokesperson (via Fox Sports Australia), official marketing assets for those games were "updated as promptly as possible to reflect any personnel developments once confirmed by the competing nations".
There have been feedback on marketing campaigns not being adjusted accordingly, even as players withdrew, with banners featuring athletes who would not be making it down. The news cycle has been fairly active on the topic of player withdrawals, and you would expect the average basketball fan to know. But an unknowing fan who has been out of the loop, could have very different expectations on the situation, when presented with said marketing.
According to Fox Sports Australia, Marvel has not responded to a request for comment yet.
Ticket refunds for the Boomers USA games have become a hot topic, as covered earlier. Full compensation or refunds seem unlikely, given the fact that the games will still proceed as planned, but discounts on remaining tickets, or partial refunds to existing ticket holders could be a gesture of goodwill that would be greatly appreciated. And it's not inconceivable that a secondary market could emerge for these game tickets, for fans looking to get a portion of their investment back, giving other fans a chance to get better value as the games get closer.
Again, there is no doubt the games remain competitive, or possibly even more, given Team USA's reduced depth.The series still stand as a major milestone, but the disparity on original expectations and the actual event generates anger, disappointment and frustration from all ends.
If nothing else, the current situation points to the rising empowerment of NBA players in this age --especially in the recent NBA offseason where multiple players forced their way out of teams-- and how their decisions affect the landscape, even for an event like a couple of exhibition games in far away Australia. It's about the fans that are left disillusioned about the once-exciting prospect on watching a game featuring NBA players on home soil - but are now instead, anything but that.
Amidst all of this, we should not forget our stalwart Boomers; the ones who will be suiting up and playing at home, as they prepare for the upcoming FIBA 2019 World Cup. They should not be forgotten, and as Australian basketball fans, we should be giving them our utmost support.
SCHEDULE OF INTERNATIONAL BASKETBALL GAMES IN AUSTRALIA
August 16: Australia vs Canada @ RAC Arena, Perth
August 17: Australia vs Canada @ RAC Arena, Perth
August 20: Canada vs New Zealand @ Quaycentre, Sydney
August 21: Canada vs New Zealand @ Quaycentre, Sydney
August 22: USA vs Australia @ Marvel Stadium, Melbourne
August 24: USA vs Australia @ Marvel Stadium, Melbourne
August 26: USA vs Canada @ Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney