At a recent basketball match between Wollongong and Canberra, the total lack of interest from the 4500 fans was amazing. Where the majority of any rugby league crowd is glued to the action on the field, the thousands who had paid close to $20 to witness a crack NBL match seemed oblivious that there was a contest on at all.
Arriving five minutes late with the 48 minute match in progress, the astounding scene of around 10% of the crowd walking around the stadium did not cease throughout the match. There was a continual procession of teenage girls circling the venue and people generally going back and forth to the canteen, toilets or to smoke outside. The PA man vainly tried to get the crowd to chant throughout the night, and despite Wollongong leading the competition frontrunners by 20 points, he got little support because the majority of people were not there for the basketball itself.
The Mexican wave is the ultimate guide to a bad event. Trying to watch the basketball, this annoying wave not only went around the stadium but sections that refused to participate were booed. If you want me out of my seat, sink a three-pointer from five metres outside the line, but don't expect me to join in a wave because your sport cannot generate any legitimate passion.
The cricket is not much different to the basketball. 'Fans' who have never been to a state match, let alone local cricket, seem to turn up with the main aim of getting themselves and their 20 mates on TV wearing identical shirts and wigs. The 50 seconds of dead time every minute also takes it's toll. The Wallabies also seem to attract these groups of wig-wearers who wouldn't know Randwick from Gordon.
At any NRL game there are the same type of people who go just because it is a big event, or to get on TV, however it is on a tiny scale compared to the basketball, rugby or cricket.
At NRL games the best action is the match itself, ensuring that appropriate attention is given to it.
All the Americanisation of sports is well and good if the sport itself is lacking. Rugby league is a battle for every metre and if there were no cheer girls, no piped music or no other entertainment, it would still be superior to any other sport witnessed personally, and they all have been given a go.
Rugby league has a future of exciting expansion if marketed correctly. It's fans know that it a great spectacle and one that will be embraced by new fans exposed to the sport. After years of decline, it is moving into position as a legitimate world sport and simply is the greatest game of all.