From the Cheap Seats

The Arizona Interscholastic Association executive board and its athletic directors continue to spin heads like we’re taking part in the 1973 horror film “The Exorcist” with the new divisional and sectional alignments, making it understandable only to those who possess a doctorate in athletic organizational mayhem.

One day, hopefully, we’ll all get used to what school and what sport is in what division and what section.

Say that three times fast.

Perhaps the biggest mind boggler of them all, however, is the increase in ticket fees for regional and state tournaments this season in team sports, and sectional and divisional tournaments for individual sports.

I attended the 3A West Regional Volleyball Championships this past weekend in Sedona, and to my surprise, there were only two — that’s right, two — students in the stands at Sedona Red Rock High School for the West semifinals.

For teams that absolutely depend on a good student turnout to help them strive to be their best, it’s difficult playing in an empty gymnasium. Make no mistake, teams feed off an emotional crowd filled with a few hundred students.

The AIA is now charging a whopping $6 a head for students, with school identification of course, and $8 for any parents or other adults looking to attend. For state tournaments, which began this past weekend in some sports and begin this week for others, the AIA is charging a monumental $10 a head for adults, with no change to student rates.

I’m sorry, but, this seems to be a bit much, wouldn’t you say?

Major League Baseball fans can pay less than $10 to get a seat to a pro baseball game, never mind the fact parents and other fans will have to pay the same amount to watch a bunch of pimply-faced kids kick the ball around this spring.

For a team like the Scorpions, who wound up winning the regional tournament by the way despite a lackluster crowd, a student fan base is key to its success.

Asking a team to work hard all year so it can host a tournament match or game at the end of its season is more than enough, never mind the fact that many students who attend regular season games pay $1 and $2, or get in free altogether.

Asking a young teenager who probably doesn’t work for a living to pay $6 to get a seat at a high school game is silly.

In the end, this will eventually hurt the AIA, not help. Let’s not forget that every penny of a regional or state game goes to the AIA — not the schools themselves.

There’s a reason why two years ago the AIA put every 1A conference state basketball tournament game at Prescott High School, asking teams to play all four rounds in four days time, and then turning around and allowing the 3A conference state tournament to be played at Arena in Glendale.

What’s the reason, you ask?

Well, the 3A will bring northern schools down from the reservation, which happen to travel well. A final four basketball game between Tuba City and Monument Valley high school’s could bring 10,000 people.
What does that equal? More money for the AIA, not Tuba City and Monument Valley.

Isn’t it supposed to be about a special moment, a special memory for the kids, for the athletes who work hard all year toward one common goal?

Getting to play at a lousy high school for a state championship isn’t even close to playing on an NBA pro basketball court like United Airlines Arena for a title like high schools did years ago.

When I attended SRRHS and played basketball for the Scorpions, we made the state semifinals in 2000 and played on the same floor as great Suns players like Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash. You can bet I’ll never forget that, and neither will any of my teammates.

Yes, you could say, “If we are to have those special venues for everyone, we need to charge more.” OK, well, how about the thousands of dollars schools pay in fees to be a part of the AIA in the first place?

What ever happened to loading up a bus full of kids to go watch their team play at state? You don’t see much of that anymore either, thanks to everyone trying to cover their butt with a generation of legalities not even Moses himself could part.

In the end, charging adults to attend high school games is one thing, but I call for a free pass for students.

It’s the right thing to do and it gives our student athletes a natural high to be cheered by their peers.{jcomments on}