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Live Action/TV Ambiance

By RD Heldenfels Published: February 12, 2006

On Saturday night the bride and I took in a Cleveland Cavaliers game. Actually, we stared down at the Cavs' duel with the Golden State Warriors, since we were up in section 226, row 11, just a few yards below the Van Allen Belt. But even from that height, the sight-line was very good and we had a better sense of how the action unfolded than you usually get in the close-up-conscious confines of a TV image. Although the Cavs lost, and LeBron James managed to score 33 points and still seem under par, the overall spectacle and the excitement were enjoyable.

Except for the way it was also a TV event.

I am not talking about the two TV teams you could see doing pregame reports on the floor. I am talking about the need to keep the audience entertained during breaks, no matter how short they might be. You've got the flashing lights around the stadium, and the gigantic TV screen showing not only action on the floor but themed clips from movies and TV shows.

While I've seen similar time-filling at an Indians game, the Cavs took it to extremes. During one time-out, you had cheerleaders dancing in two corners of the floor, and break-dancers in the middle, and Moondog the mascot doing something else. Plenty to keep the eyes occupied, as if a lack of visual stimuli would cause the brain to freeze.

And yes, I think television has something to do with it.

Most of us see most of our sports on television, after all. And when there is a break in the action, you can do something -- run to the bathroom, grab a snack or, most importantly, hop around the channels in search of something else entertaining until the game resumes.

In the Gund (I'm sorry, but I still resist the notion of ''The Q'') a time-out does not give you time to get to and from the gents', or to endure a line at the concessions, especially if you have to climb over some other people to get from your seat to the stairs. So that leaves you awaiting amusement, without a channel-changer to do it for yourself. The activities in the arena are a substitute.

And, sometimes a distraction. More than once, I got so caught up in a display on the big screen that I missed something more important in the game itself. It was like watching two TV sets at the same time -- while listening to a third.

The people sitting behind us clearly believed that their game commentary was as significant as anything we might hear on TV, full of references to plays and nicknames for players and knowing analysis, punctuated by occasional screams over referees' calls and blown plays. What was most entertaining about their comments was how wrong they often were, with one correcting the other on a play, or a rant about a blown call becoming muted when they saw a replay that showed the official was on point. But they still had a good time; I think the dialogue was their soundtrack, do-it-yourself announcing to take the place of what they were missing without TV.

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