For the past three years, I have announced Yale men’s basketball games for WYBC student radio. While there have been a handful of times over the past seasons when the John J. Lee Amphitheater has been packed with students, there have been far more sparsely populated home games.
So far this season, the average home attendance for the five home Ivy League games has been reported at a generous 1526. The Lee Amphitheater holds 2532. Although that indicates that games have been about three-fifths populated, the large swaths of open, wooden seats stand out loudly.
In contrast, I know what it is like to take in a sell-out game at Lee Amphitheater. Two contests in particular come to mind: last year’s match-up vs. Harvard and hosting Florida this past winter break. When Harvard visited last winter, the atmosphere was incredible, as anyone who was at the game would tell you. Unfortunately, the result was just the opposite: a 30-point loss. But if you were at that game, don’t let it fool you: last year’s team was 11–1 at home.
This Jan. 6, while many of us were away on winter break, the mighty Florida Gators, then-ranked No. 9 in the country, came to town. And what fun it was to be at a game against one of the best teams in the country. Of course, Lee Amphitheater was sold out for that one, but it was mostly orange and blue in the stands.
Sell-outs are the exception, not the norm. The regular lack of attendance is a shame, both for the students and the players.
Of course, there has been a debate at Yale over recruiting caps and how it effects our teams. I believe that our basketball team has enough talent to win the Ivy League as early as next year. But in order to do so, it would be very helpful to have the help of a sixth man: the crowd.
Here are ten reasons that for the end of this season and next season (and beyond) you should make it a habit to head over to Lee Amphitheater for games on winter weekends.
1) The Ivy League has the best basketball schedule of any conference in the country. Ivy games are played on Friday and Saturday evenings, back–to–back. This means the team is easy to follow, and that you will be able to see all their home games, should you wish to – you don’t have an exam on Saturday or Sunday morning.
2) Every game matters. The Ivy League season is really just a 14-game round robin tournament, where each team plays every other team twice. There is no post-season conference tournament, and only the first place team automatically qualifies for the NCAA tournament.
2) The vast majority of Ivy League games tip-off at 7 pm. This is perfect timing. Come over together with your friends after an early dinner and before you go out for the night.
3) This is very good basketball. Last year’s team included two players who went on to play basketball professionally—Reggie Willhite in the NBA D-League and Greg Mangano in Turkey.
4) No wasted time. The John J. Lee Amphitheater is in Payne-Whitney, literally a 30-second walk from Stiles and Morse. The action at basketball games is nearly non-stop. Whereas for football games, you need to devote half a day to attend, basketball games require little more than the two hours that the game lasts.
5) The Lee Amphitheater is an amazing place to watch basketball. And you don’t have to take my word for it. In November 2011, the Lee Amphitheater was featured in ESPN The Magazine as one of the top five places in the country to watch a college basketball game.
6) You might very well see a spectacular play. This past weekend’s game vs. Harvard featured the No. 3 play on SportsCenter’s Top 10 the following day.
7) The team right now is young and on the rise. It features just three seniors and three juniors and several of the team’s biggest contributors are sophomores or freshmen. The team’s improvement this year is the start of something, not the end of it.
8) You will likely see Yale win. The team is 17-5 in its 22 home games over the past two seasons. With a more fervent home support, perhaps that record could even be improved.
9) Attending is plain fun. If you don’t like basketball, I challenge you to go to a game with a friend of yours who does. You might find yourself venturing back and back again.
10) Support your friends on the team. It is true that our athletic teams represent Yale in a very visible way. It is important and fun to cheer for them and for our University.
The Bulldogs next play at home on March 8 and 9 against Penn and Princeton. If you’d like to kick your spring break off right, I’ll see you that Friday night at the Lee Amphitheater.