Radio-TV Observer

A special USA-365 supplement by Mark Smith

6-6-2005

We are all media observers.   We all watch, listen and read and we know what we like.

Media is a business designed to make money off the public by entertaining them.  It often does not have redeeming value, logic or a moral base.  But it isn't required to.  I ask you to accept TV, newspapers and radio as the creative, possibility and mistake-laden free form entities that they are.

Don't make too much of what is said, written or aired.  It isn't about you, it's about them.

That also applies to anyone who dares to be a critic.

Pro Softball hits foul ball on Comcast Sports Channel

CROWN POINT (6-5-2005) -  The debut game of pro softball on Comcast sports on Thursday (6-2-2005) was less than stellar.

The ideas of a new pro softball league isn't necessarily bad. But softball isn't a fan friendly game, even with California-blond Jennie Finch playing for the Chicago team.

Comcast hired Eric Collins, who decided to be a used-car salesman and not a reporter, telling us how wonderful everyone is., Collins needs to take a sedative. He's a good announcer but softball and baseball are not hyper games. You need to stay calm and be consistent. He's young. Hopefully, he'll learn.

The problem with pro softball is softball. Most games are 1-0. There's less action than soccer and less scoring than a Chicago Bears intra squad scrimmage. What I'd hoped they'd try in pro softball would be to make the infield larger, getting away from the almost Little League distances which make the game a bloop and slap fest.

If the pitcher was 50 feet from the batter and the bases were further apart, we'd have a game that would be more watchable. High school softball is not a watchable game most of the time because the pitcher over matches the batter.

Two things are certain in the 21st century. 1.) Six 'Star Wars' movies were five too many, and 2.) No one will ever pay money to see sacrifice bunts.

Pro softball will go the way of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) if all you ever see is Finch striking people out and hawking her dad's workout equipment. The concept of teams playing 75% of their games at home and facing touring teams from around the world most of the time is strong. I'm sure all the players are quality because there's no place else for college graduate softball players to go.

But for six innings, the score was 0-0 and the 'sellout' crowd at Illinois Benedictine college sounded like they were in church. I'd like to see somebody hit a grand slam homer off Jennie Finch once in awhile. Pro softball will not survive unless somebody does.

 

The Region Sports Network, the self proclaimed OGIT (Only game in Town) got the jump on WJOB Monday (5-30-2005) in the baseball state playoffs as the Region boys aired live action from three different games over WWCA and WCFJ in Chicago Heights. Though they did cut away from Lake Central's 10-0 win over Lowell when it was still close and lock in on Morton's blowout of defenseless Hammond high, that was three high school baseball games on the air on Memorial Day, a strong effort.

The Regional Radio Sports Network aired La Porte's state playoff opener over 95.9 FM while WJOB chose to give everybody the day off. That's a judgment call. I don't particularly want to go to baseball games on Memorial Day, but I would like to listen to them on the radio.

All three local prep sports stations bypassed the Chesterton 4A Sectional, another example of how Chesterton is not always considered 'the region.'  All stations missed a three-hour 4-3 Valpo victory over Merrillville, a flawed classic.

In their defense, these stations can't air every playoff game and it's probably too much to ask them to agree to never air the same game at the sectional level. It is not unusual to see two radio stations in Highland or Munster while it is very rare to see any radio stations at Boone Grove, which was ranked this year in boys and girls basketball, and baseball.

I'm not against Whiting being on the air but LaPorte-Lake Central, has to get on. It is a major game state-wide. The PCC championship game deserves to be on.

WJOB (1230) AM did air the very competitive softball games from the Highland and Whiting Sectionals, again bypassing Hanover Central. Perhaps they simply chose the best broadcast facilities. Whiting and Highland are superior to Noll in that respect.

There are far more games on the air now than there were 10 years ago, but local outlets can stop patting themselves on the back for the that and look for ways to get better. One station clearly did.

On Saturday (6-4-2005) WJOB succeeded with concept of carrying six regional softball games, three of them on tape delay. All the 4A and 3A regional games were carried and largely, done well. The natural break between the morning and evening sessions of the regionals allowed time for the two tape delay games that were not carried live.

Very well done. A day-long local radio sports fest.

Brian Jennings lets it be known often that he is a pro-region announcer but he doesn't homer it up for Griffith, even though he is head baseball coach there. He called the West Lafayette-Griffith game. Jennings is the best baseball announcer WJOB has but you could tell that Sports director Jerry Siska, who called the Elkhart regional involving Lake Central and Chesterton, had seen more softball. That's okay. When you are doing max coverage, all the announcers and color commentators can't have seen a lot of games. It just doesn't work that way.

Note to all color commentators. Please do not repeat what the play-by-play announcer just said. I know your job is difficult but you MUST add something not said. Otherwise you sound like you're not paying attention and just being a parrot.

Tape delay is OK for prep baseball and softball. WJOB had a highly successful day on June 4. They made a great effort and were rewarded when local teams won five of the six games they aired. That means more cash for the radio sports departments, which is always good.

But media broadcast outlets need to FIND A WAY to carry games involving smaller schools later in the tournament and not carry the same teams consistently. Lake Station beating Boone Grove for their first sectional title in 31 years moments after Boone defeated defending state champ Bishop Noll was an epic day in local baseball.

The Noll-Boone game was suspended from the day before so everyone knew what could happen.

Radio should have been at the Lake Station-Boone Grove game. Just to cover what would have been a big event, no matter the outcome. Both local newspapers were there. All broadcast media missed it.

Local radio simply doesn't have small schools, other than Whiting, on their radar.

Here's a plan. It's OK to do the same local big-school match ups early and then blow off Lake Central at the regional level to carry Hanover Central, Boone Grove or Lake Station.

You know in advance that you'll be going back to the big schools at the state finals. That's okay. Munster athletics will not cease to exist if you don't air every team sports playoff game.

In my mind, AM Radio wants to constantly cultivate a new audience. If all WJOB or the RSN does is LC, Highland and Griffith, those are the only communities who will sample your station at playoff time. One of the reasons to do prep sports is to introduce a new community to your radio station at a time when you know they'll listen. There are communities in this area (Chesterton and Cedar Lake are two) who take it for granted that their kids' games will almost never be on the radio if Munster or Highland is playing because, referring to WJOB and the RSN, “those are their schools.”

One more thing about broadcasting state playoff games. Obviously, I feel that announcers are reporters and should not root for the 'home' team. It's funny to hear local broadcasters and writers ridicule Cubs homer announcer Ron Santo and then go on the air and suck up to the local prep home team far worse than Santo ever could. But you've got make money and the home sponsors and parents are NOT sports fans. They want to hear how great their kids are. Plus, most in the media attended one of the schools they are broadcasting for. They are alumni as well as fans. So, if you are an announcer and not a reporter, with few exceptions, it's hard not to cheerlead as hard and as fast as you can. I don't like it but I understand it.

One unfortunate trade mark of 'Region' announcers is that they always ridicule and downgrade out-of-the-area teams because:  1) “The region' is better” and 2.) “They cant hear us anyway.”

I didn't hear any of that Saturday, which is a plus.

But a major failing among local broadcasters is that they simply know nothing about the teams that local squads are facing in state tournament play. It makes it a lot easier to suck up when you don't know whether the opposition is superior or not. If you lack facts about both sides, just keep saying how amazing, outstanding, fantastic and unbelievable the home team is and always has been.

Local media should report on the games, as many do on the RailCats (when anybody cares) and the Cubs and Sox, when they discuss them.

If I'm a big fan of Andrean baseball, I want to know how good West Lafayette is. I want details. It makes a 59er win over WL that much better. It makes a loss understandable. I want to know how New Palestine and Andrew Clark, the team and pitcher that defeated them in the state finals last year, is doing. If I'm a fan of Crown Point or Munster, I want to know how top-ranked Brownsburg is doing and I want to hear everything I can about Brownsburg when the teams meet. You need to hear on-air facts on the out-of-town opposition. You need to pronounce the opposition's names correctly as a matter of honor. They deserve at least that. I believe that some local announcers secretly feel they are so talented they don't NEED to know much about either team. They just start talking and ad-libbing and they believe it gets them by.

Lets be honest, most announcers call games because it's not like work and learning about the opposition is too much like work.

It's not all the announcer's fault. Every announcing team that does a game (especially a playoff game) should be supplied with information on both teams by who ever produces the broadcast. Not just batting averages but facts. Pages of facts. It's all on the Internet or at the library. You can find every box score on Lafayette area teams or LaPorte. You can get statistical leaders on the entire Indianapolis area. Again, I know it sounds like work. Obviously, you should have the majority of box scores on stories of local teams. They are in the paper every day. It takes a little effort. As many flowing sugary, kissy-kissy stories are done in NW Indiana on local athletes, there are 100 local papers in the rest of the state who do the same thing. All you have to do is search for them.

Newspapers do the same thing every year. Like birds fly south. If Elkhart Memorial is playing in a regional or semistate Saturday, the Elkhart Truth will have a preview on Thursday or Friday. If West Lafayette is in the regional, the Lafayette Journal and Courier will have a preview on Thursday or Friday. If South Bend Adams is in the regional on a Saturday, the South Bend Tribune will have a preview on Thursday or Friday.

If you can get two of those previews from two opposing viewpoints, you can halfway get by. If you can find at least three previous game stories on each team, you are well-prepared. Every single pro-style box score on the five major Lafayette high school baseball teams appears in the Lafayette paper. You can know what every single player has done in every game. If you can access the season preview and find out what the out-of-the-area teams did last year and what their expectations were, you are 90% there. The clincher is, if you can actually see the out-of-the-area team but, again, that's a lot of effort.

Broadcasters are not supposed to be sports experts. They are entertainers. But state tournament events are news and you should be a reporter. They're observers who can talk fast and, in some cases, clearly. But if you are in a position to be on the air for two hours, you should feel a responsibility (and it would be to your benefit) to know as many facts about both teams you are watching as you can.

I can accept announcers putting on a skirt and getting out the pom poms to cheer for the home team if they can find out everything possible about both teams before the first pitch. That's a fair trade.

 

Along those lines, You didn't hear Hanover's run for back-to-back state softball championships because Lake Central and Andrean were still alive in the playoffs. You did not hear live regional radio coverage of the 2A regional games. It's Hanover Central and I've talked about it repeatedly but, other than the RSN, which did air Hanover's sectional title game from Bishop Noll, local broadcast media has again shunned the girls from Cedar Lake. 

(Editor's Note:  USA-365.com provided live coverage and archived replays of the Lady Wildcats from the LaVille Regional 9 Tournament -- the ONLY long-form broadcast outlet there from anywhere.)

For reasons that I suspect go back long before I got here, Cedar Lake has a visibility problem. Nobody truly recognizes the town as being in Lake County. I've had people ask me where Cedar Lake is and how do you get there. That's messed up.

If Beth and Amanda Wendlinger had both won 70 games (I doubt if two sisters have ever won more in state history), five league championship tournaments, four sectionals, two regionals and a state title (those two girls were the winning pitchers in each one of those title games) in their pitching careers for Highland, they would be referred to constantly as the greatest sister act in the history of local girls sports. Instead, local announcers still have trouble pronouncing their last name.

In seven years, Hanover Central is 142-32-5 in softball (2nd best in all of NW Indiana), they have had a grand total of ONE game on live local radio and that's probably because they were playing Bishop Noll at Bishop Noll. To my knowledge, during that run, no Hanover player has ever been selected as player of the year by a local newspaper and no HC coach has ever been coach-of the year. That won't change this season. Broadcast media ignores their state playoff games against out-of-town foes.

I'm not naive. I know print coverage is based on subscribers, familiarity, fondness and feedback. Radio games are determined almost totally by sponsors. Cedar Lake will never pour bucks into the piggy bank that Munster can. I'm not asking for equality here because that's never going to happen.

Lets' talk out of school, too. North Lake County folks, including many in local media, consider people in Hebron, Lowell and Cedar Lake hillbillies and farmers. It makes them feel better to think that way. There is a 'hick' bias that was established many years ago. I've said it before, Cedar Lake is 'Cedar-Tucky' to many up near the Lake Michigan and the term is not used to flatter the town. Crown Point girls are adorable little 'Bettys' while Cedar Lake girls are considered 'Trailer trash' in the making.

Folks from Gary visit Lowell and they expect to see the boys in overalls bucking broncos and the girls singing lyrics from that Gretchen Wilson song 'Red Neck Woman.'

Now, true, it doesn't help when Munster plays softball at Hanover that there are dairy cows roaming beyond the center field fence. But that's Indiana reality. Griffith and Whiting are nice places, but they are not really Indiana. They are suburbs of Chicago. Cedar Lake is Indiana. There's far more Cedar Lakes in Indiana than there are Munsters.

Many in 'da region' do consider themselves superior to those who live in Cedar Lake and Lowell (and Gary, for that matter). So, when the time comes to make a choice between 'their kids' and 'our kids,' there is no choice to make. The code words are there. 'Our kids' deserve to be on the radio and in the newspaper. 'Their kids' are probably OK, too, but 'We can't cover everybody.'

Past evidence is there. Hebron went to the girls state basketball finals in 2002. No post-season Hebron game was ever on local radio or TV that year. Highland was on 15 times in four years.

Boone Grove has won seven sectional basketball titles but no regional Boone Grove basketball game has ever been on the radio in Lake County to this day. Boone is five miles from Crown Point which has six games on the radio every year. Crown Point and Munster, win or lose, are on live radio in the post-season every season.

But every day is a new day. Hanover Central opens a new gymnasium next year. I'm hoping that the first game will be aired on some local radio station. It would right a wrong. No HC basketball game has ever been broadcast live on local over-the-air radio out of Hanover Central's gymnasium. I know that's hard to believe in the state of Indiana but there are employees at Hanover who have been there since the schools opened 35 years ago. They do not remember local radio ever coming there to air a live game. None. Not one. In parts of four decades. When I bring this up, it is considered an attack on local media outlets. It's not. Its just a fact. A blind spot. One that is easily corrected except that the same schedule-makers schedule the same games every season. For Hanover Central girls softball. Seven years of unprecedented state-caliber success and virtually no broadcast coverage.

 

Now, who was that 'Will and Grace' reject who called the Indianapolis 500 on ABC-TV over the Memorial Day weekend? The cloying, weeping, whining race call, gushing about Danica Patrick like she jumped naked into his lap was impossible to listen to. Two hours of how Danica was making history and proving she belonged, reminded me of those old limp-wristed Dick Button Olympic ice-skating commentaries in the 70s and 80s.

I can't add much to what Jeff Carroll said (He was all over it) in his May 30 Times' column, but I thought the way the Danica Patrick situation was portrayed on national TV was highly embarrassing to women and men. The announcer (who is too lame to name) didn't treat Patrick as a driver. He treated her as an alien female life form come to reinvent racing and save mankind

All rookie drivers have to prove they belong. Indy Car racing is all about pressure. Patrick wasn't the only rookie. Here, again, was the difference between an entertainer and a reporter.

Women have driven cars in the Indy 500 before. They just haven't looked good doing it. Attention was given but nobody gushed over Lyn St. James or Sarah Fisher. Lyn St. James finished 9th in the Indy 500 but she was about as attractive as Edgerrin James. Sarah Fisher looked like Eddie Fisher.

The Patrick difference? You male chauvinist pigs understand. Danica is cute. Dark-haired. Button nose. A little of that 'Goth chick' in her. The ladies will want to be her and the men will come to see her.

She's a young hottie, unlike what racing has seen before. They may not know how to act.

Danica was lucky to finish at all but she finished fourth. She may never win the 500 (see Michael Andretti about that one). But she is a racing star as long as the nerves and looks hold out. And then someone younger and prettier will come along to replace her. Maria Sharapova and (and Martina Hingis before her and Chris Evert and Evonne Goolagong before them for those of us old enough to remember them) were all good-looking tennis players who won dozens of tournaments. None of them made seven figures contracts off the court and became cultural icons like Anna Kournikova, who never had a pro date (except those with Russian hockey players) where she ended up on top. Why? Because men still want women in the back seat as opposed to the driver's seat.

The dirty secret of sports media is that they believe they are allowed to be perverts when it comes to women who appear to be underage as Danica does. Remember that Elliott Harris, probably an otherwise decent guy who writes a periodic sports tid-bit column for the Chicago Sun-Times, used to run a weekly picture of a very teenage appearing Kournikova in the sports section doing anything he could find a picture of her doing.

Let's review that situation. She never won a pro tournament. She's from Russia and lives in Florida. The Chicago Sun-Times ran a picture of her every week for at least two years. And no one at the Sun-Times sports department thought that was at all odd, much less a newsprint version of Peeping Tom meets R. Kelly.

Why? Because of her body. If Annika Sorenstam was built like Anna Kournikova, she'd have her own cable TV channel by now and it would be pay-per-view. If Hall-of-Fame golfer Nancy Lopez looked more like Jennifer Lopez than George Lopez, she'd have 500 commercial endorsements like Tiger Woods. Again? It's the same reason that the local high school valedictorian wears a cheerleader skirt shorter than a hooker's on Friday nights in the fall and jumps around like a crack addict cheering for the big, strong boys. Because men designed it that way. The problem is that sports departments are run by and populated by boys. And not new-age, feel-your-pain guys but the low end of the food chain. The ones who want the local ball club's manager fired every five minutes. The ones who buy the sports talk hosts' simple-minded logic that management is conspiring against you, the fan!! The ones who DO talk radio.

The slack-jawed beer-belied 'Da Bears' guys who are looking for a fantasy sex object that you don't have to blow up. Good-looking women are rarely treated intelligently by male sports media because good-looking women aren't treated intelligently by males as a whole. They suck up, slobber and act out like 14-year-old Tom Arnolds on a sugar high. That's why a talented little girl car racer is treated like the Queen of Sheba by some 'Queer Eye for the semi-straight Guy' reject. Here's hoping that in the future, ABC can find someone to announce the 500 who gets off on racing.

Incidentally, did some logic-challenged Indy Car driver actually complain because little Danica weighed less than he did and thereby had an advantage in the Indy 500?” That's too stupid an argument to fathom. Does this mean the fat drivers can force the others to load weights in their cars to even the score? Pure insanity.

Whoever runs the Indy Racing League needs to very quickly get every driver who has any complaints about anything relating to Patrick into a dark room and show them a tape of the May 28th '500' broadcast. (with the sound turned down). Hit the complaining drivers with a tire iron while asking them 'How many of those people in the stands do you think came to see you lose???

The IRL, like the National Hockey League, has to wake up while they still have a sport. Mario Andretti retired in the early 90s and that's the last time they had a star.

Indy Car TV ratings in recent years have been lower than dirt. NASCAR is beating the IRL like a dusty rug and open wheel racing on Saturday and Sunday afternoons was losing the TV battle to reruns of 'Married With Children' and the Weather Channel's 'Storm Stories' until they replaced it with Arena Football. I watch or listen to the '500' every year but I was born in Indiana. I don't count.

Outside of the Midwest, folks would rather wear a Bush-mask in the Sunni triangle than watch three hours of unknown foreigners going 225 miles an hour on the west side of Indianapolis.

If a unique natural American star like Danica Patrick falls into your lap, the IRL needs to put her in every race she can make and get all those races on TV. Fire everyone who complains about her because nobody knows who any of your drivers are anyway and the entire sport should ride that little lady like she was a Shetland pony.

And you better hurry up doing it. Because if the 300,000 people who show up at the Brickyard every Memorial Day ever sober up, they might start staying home on the holiday and then you'll all be hauling pigs down the interstate in 18-wheelers.


Many did not like Post-Tribune columnist Justin Breen's May 23, 2005 column on the Gary West Side track meet. Breen said the conditions were deplorable and that the meet should be moved out of Gary, something coaches have been saying privately for years.

Gary West Side basketball coach John Boyd later wrote a column that criticized Breen. Boyd took it somewhat personally. But Breen did not make a personal attack in his column.

(Incidentally, we did not hear from Boyd when Gary Roosevelt did not show up for their state playoff game with Andrean on June 3. The Roosevelt baseball program should be suspended a year for that decision. Can you imagine West Side basketball not showing up for a playoff game? I cannot.)

Breen specifically said he did not blame the track meet operators. He said that meet officials were doing as good a job as they could. I was in Gary that night and, while I did not see everything he saw, I did see broken hurdles and the meet ALWAYS runs long in Gary. Everybody knows that's true, but it always happens.

I believe the girls track sectional meet is still in Gary as a throwback to the 70s when Gary track ruled the state. Times have changed. I think the meet should be in Merrillville, if they want it. It's no picnic to run a track meet.

Justin Breen, who came to the Post-Tribune from the Michigan City Post-Dispatch is outspoken and says some things I don't agree with. He does come off as an angry young man but I believe he says what he thinks, which is something that locally we need more of. He does not suck up, that I can see. He was assigned to cover Valparaiso basketball and he spoke freely in print about how the women's game is dull and the men's game is crippled by their conference. I don't agree totally. But many, who won't say so in print, do agree. If agreement is the point.

He took the heat from some at VU and I know he didn't enjoy that but that's part of writing a column. Writers have to get out of the trap of saying things that they know the reader will agree with. Every time you say what you think in print, you can be attacked. It's the price you pay. If you're willing to pay it, you most definitely can say it.

Which, to me, is really the only reason to be in the media. I'll give you an example.


I would not cover the Iraq war for any amount of money. I want to tell you that we lied to get into it and that boys are dying every day because of George W. Bush. The so-called 'embedded reporters' are facilitating a situation which sees American troops die every day. People who put those little Mickey Mouse decals on the windshields of their cars 'supporting the troops' and wave their little flags are really helping them get killed. People who voted for President Bush got lots of American boys killed, based on a lie about WMDs that did not exist. If you voted for Bush, America GIs blood is on your hands because he sent them to occupy another country, a country we stole by force from the people who ran it. All deaths in the war in Iraq are the fault of George Bush. The American public bears responsibility for ALL dead marines.

Now, whether you agree with that last paragraph or not, that's exactly how I feel and I'll defend every last word. I know that's not the popular opinion, but I could not care less if you agree with me.

It is not just something I wrote to be controversial. There's no point in me saying anything at all in print unless I say how I feel. Your opinion makes you what you are and it you are afraid to express it, you do not really exist.

So how can you ask a writer, someone with skill in using words, not to express his opinion. Accept what's said as one view and don't take it personally. Respond if you know it's wrong. But I'd rather have people tell me how they feel than lie to my face.


I'll say it again. Almost every coach I have every talked to in 10 years of attending the sectional track meet feels it should not be in Gary because they do not have the facilities and the organization. Maybe Justin Breen wasn't supposed to say it, but he said it. That's why you give a guy a column. To say things that aren't being said.

Breen comes off as angrier than, let's say, PT teammate Tom Wyatt. But that's just the way they both are. That's why you give more than one guy a column. People are different.

The trick on writing a column is to be consistent. Don't change your opinions with the wind or the situation like Jay Mariotti in Chicago often does in the Chicago Sun-Times. And believe what you are writing. That makes it easier to defend.

No columnist totally tells it like it is. Have you ever seen any writer critique writers at other newspapers? Or at his own paper? They all have informed opinions on the saints and sinners at the other paper but they stay silent. It's a media 'good old boys' club' taboo that hurts everyone's credibility. But I like it when someone will take a stand, knowing he'll take some heat. It encourages the rest of us to take heart felt stands, which makes it easier to live.


WJOB (1230) has dropped the Gary RailCats, whose games they've carried for two seasons, and picked up a summer full of games of the independent pro baseball Windy City Thunderbolts, who play their game in Crestwood, Illinois.

It only seems like a change from an Indiana point of view. The Thunderbolts play at 127th and Crestwood, well within WJOB's listening area. While I have little knowledge of or interest in the Windy City team, I like baseball as summer radio programming. The word is that WJOB is getting paid per game to carry the Thunderbolts. That's not a deal a local radio station can turn down.

Especially since WJOB, to live long and prosper, needs to expand its audience and listenership on the Illinois side of the state line. They need to program for the 40-50 miles the 'JOB signal flows into Illinois and seek sponsorship there. And the baseball team is paying them to do it. Summer baseball is just filler for local radio anyway until the prep football season begins. Radio doesn't expect to make money off local sports over the summer. The way they have spent money in the past year, you can assume that the new ownership at WJOB will use monies made on the Thunderbolts to help other sports coverage. That's all good.

(Don't forget the Little League and American Legion playoffs, folks)

As for the Railcats, who are still on WEFM (95.9) FM, the lack of a Lake County and south suburban Chicago outlet does hurt them.

Their visibility is not good, even though the Times and Post-Tribune still probably give them as much or more coverage than their popularity warrants.

The RailCats could use tape-delay games on Comcast Cable (that is unlikely) or Channel 56. They need to expand their visibility, which is low right now. But they need to win more. Win two out of every three games and people will come to see you.

 

As far as talk that the Gary Steelheads CBA basketball team was in financial trouble, that isn't a surprise. The Steelheads battle high school, college and pro basketball in the Chicago metro area and, while crowds have been OK, there's no way they can beat the competition. The Railcats are different. Other than American Legion and Little League, there's no baseball games to go to on summer nights unless you want to drive to Chicago and pay $100. The baseball teams fills a need. The Steelheads do not. They are pure Gary ego and it hurts when they fail but the Steelheads have failed financially and in concept because they are losing their shirts despite a winning team and decent crowds.

It's nobody's fault. There just isn't enough of an entertainment dollar to support all the basketball in NW Indiana. The Steelheads backers never understood that many of their potential fans are teenage basketball players and their dads who are involved in high school basketball, couldn't come to see them if they wanted to and cant get interested because they are too busy.

Indiana is a college and high school basketball state. Even the Pacers struggled with attendance for years. They succeed only because their season runs well beyond the high school season. The CBA does not. Any CBA team in Gary would fail.

There is a ticket price problem. High schools have trouble getting people to games for $4 and those kids are all from your neighborhood. How many people will spend $8 a seat to see strangers?. Clearly, not enough.

I love basketball but bankruptcy is God's way of telling you to go another way. Advice to the teams ownership. Something they already know: Don't throw good money after bad. Know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em.

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Revised: June 06, 2005 .