It is one thing to be a spectator from behind a bright monitor, snug under your blankets, and ready to pause the game at any given second. It is a whole different thing completely to watch a live game of basketball.
As I have mentioned in my previous entries, I am a Thai expatriate based in Vietnam. This fact limits most of my viewing experiences of the Thailand Basketball League (TBL) to checking in for the live feed or browsing through the video archive on the Mono29 website. This method has it’s advantages such as
- Data harvesting. During this process to get the information that I use sometimes to emphasize my point, I will have to scroll the video back and forth and back and forth to get the accurate information. It’s not the most effective process, but it’s the only way to do it with the resources and man power I have right now.
- Flexible time constraints. Except for the live streams, I can pretty much watch the games anytime I want on my computer or my smartphone. During my work hours, during the alledged “bathroom breaks”, before bedtime, during dinner, or even during sex (for the rare occasion that I get some).
- Flexible location constraints. All I need is my computer/smart phone and a reliable wifi connection and I’m set.
However, a rare event happened last weekend, when I got to go back to Thailand to celebrate my father’s birthday. I got the chance to go spectate a TBL game live and I didn’t hesitate one bit.
I repeat: I went back to Thailand for my father’s birthday and I spent half of my time there watching basketball. That’s says pretty much about how my priorities are arranged.
Mono Vampires @ Thai General Equipment (6/7/14) SCORE: 85-87
As I had no idea where the Thungkru Gymnasium (which was the venue for half of that day’s ABL games were held) was or how to get there, I had to hitch a ride there. One of the Thai General Equipment (TGE) players were driving to the game so I decided that tagging along on their car was the most efficient way to get there.
Side note: That’s one of the things I like about Thailand professional basketball. The social status of the players are not that much on a different level as that of the spectators. Sure, in the NBA there are still guys that are down-to-earth type players, but you won’t find yourself in a situation where Kevin Durant is going to drive you to one of the Thunder Home games (How awesome would that be though?).
The stadium from the outside looked more like a warehouse more than an official basketball venue but you could tell by the fans waiting outside that you were there. For around 50 THB per person, in my personal opinion is a rather reasonable price to pay for a an hour or two of watching basketball.
Because I had come early to the game, I got to catch the end of CAS-Siam University (2nd to last team) versus Provincial Electric Authority (PEA, current runner ups in the league).
Show Your Colors
The PEA-CAS game ended with PEA running the field by putting a full-court press on a CAS team shorthanded (only 2 bench players) from the Mid-Season Reboot Rule (a rule which allows teams to completely overhaul their roster after 9 games, which is half of the season). It had been pretty quiet in the gymnasium at that point as it seemed that the crowd was either a small group of regular fans or a couple of neutral basketball spectators and none of the crowd seemed to be diehard PEA or CAS fans. I took that advantage to have a healthy conversation with one of the Mono Vampires founders. He was telling me about how the team was founded when I started to realize a shifting in the crowds. I was sitting at midcourt and saw that the seats on my right side were starting fill up with people donning the Black and Orange of the Mono Vampires.
On my left, the crowds were filling up as well, albeit not as brightly colored. You could see the Hi-Tech apparel logo here and there in that part of the crowd, as Hi-Tech are the owners of TGE. You could start to hear the murmurs in the crowds getting louder and louder. Some were asking each other who the new players were. Some were discussing who was going to start today. Some were discussing the last time that these two teams matched up and who would star in this game. It was a pretty crowded gymnasium and the capacity of spectators filled up pretty quickly for this game.
The two imports, Anthony McClain (Mono Vampires, whom we had covered to some extent) and Justin Howard (TGE, a midseason addition who had averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Saigon Heat last season), approached for tip off. You could hear the crowd quieting down a little bit , but as soon as the Vampires gained possession of the tip, the Mono Vampires fan section erupted and the Hi-Tech crowd started the Defense Chant. In a crowded gym (which I should mention was well ventilated considering all the people and heat gathering up inside), both of crowds screamed their lungs out rooting for their teams.
I had never expected this kind of experience as a spectator of Thailand Basketball. My ear drums were getting numb from the consistent abuse of air-horns. Every referee whistle that had the slightest bit of controversy got a huge reaction from the crowd that felt they were being taken advantage of.
It was the kind of experience that made me feel positive about the fan base of the TBL in general.
So naturally, I had to take a look into the numbers.
Numbers to gauge fan base can be harvested several ways. Teams can issue for an official registration of fandom. Home stadiums might record the attendance. Due to limited resources, I have selected to use Facebook Page Likes as the indicator of “Fandom”. It might not be the perfect method, but I feel that the difference is pretty much significant to prove a point.
Except for the peak mid-standing for TGE, the trend of the data is pretty convincing. The higher you are in the standings, the more fans you have. In fact, if we take out TGE and CAS-Siam University, two teams who are considered as “sister clubs” (to Chonburi Hi-Tech and Thew-Charoen Aksorn, respectively) the trend will be even more clear.
We can take these findings and conclude in many ways, such as:
- The more fans you have, the more successful your team will be
- The more successful you are the more fans you will have
- Hi-Tech basketball (Chonburi Hi-Tech and Thai General Equipment) are the New York Yankees/Manchester United of the Basketball League. They have a huge fan base and are extremely successful. Thankfully they are not also one of the most hated clubs in the Thailand Basketball League either.
The relationship between fans and success is pretty co-relative in an eco-system of sports teams. The more you win, the more fans you get. The more fans you get, the more support you will have to get more wins.
It is the same trend throughout all sports league, and you really don’t need my numbers to make you believe it, but I feel that it is even more impressive when you see them. In the NBA, the top 5 teams in fan attendance all had winning seasons (except the Knicks because they will always draw fans no matter how much they suck. And they sucked last season).
Make Some Noise!!!
I was very impressed with my first live viewing of a TBL game. The atmosphere in a crowded gym with team fans trying to deafen each other was a quite sensational experience. I loved how prepared both of the fans were in terms of dressing up and cheering equipment. I love how the crowd seemed to feed off the players and the players seemed to feed off the crowd. This is what makes basketball so lovable.
The Mono Vampires vs. TGE game was very close throughout the entire game. I can’t recall if at any point the lead went over 13 and even once the lead grew up to 10, it would not stay like that for long. Each time you thought the lead was going to blow away, a Vampire would make a huge play and bring them back in. Every time the Vampires made a run biting in to the TGE lead, TGE respond with a huge shot of their own to push the game out again. In the end, the Vampires made one mistake too many down the stretch and TGE came away with a huge win. Maybe it was the fan’s cheering that fueled the huge plays. Maybe it was the huge plays that fueled the fan’s cheering.
Whatever the case, as a fan, if you knew your fandom might have the slightest impact on your favorite team’s performance, would you scream you hearts out for them?