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Sports town Burque, Part I

January 7, 2008

Rio Rancho Observer: Where are City of Vision Duke City sports fans?

ABQrising: In front of their televisions watching the big leagues!

Its no secret the Scorps and T-Birds struggle to pack the stands. The Scorps are easy to diagnose: you’re in Rio Rancho; you’re hockey. Nothing against Rio Rancho or hockey, but getting people excited to drive out to the middle of nowhere to watch third tier hockey — look you don’t need an Anderson grad to tell you that isn’t a winning business plan.

T-Birds are a little more difficult to square than the Scorps. They’re in Albuquerque and we’re a basketball town. D-League basketball is actually a great product. The quality of player in D-League basketball is certainly on par with the player in Triple-A baseball. The problem? How many future hall of famers will come out of the D-League compared to hall of famers out of Triple-A ball? You see, minor league baseball has a real impact on major league baseball. Heck, if the NBA regular season barely impacts the playoffs, how can you expect fans to care about the D-League season?

College basketball is the second biggest stage in its sport. D-League, in many ways, is a step down. Sure you get paid, but where is the respect? Where is the love? College basketball players are put on pedestals for ‘[Major College Program] Nation’ to worship. D-League players are anonymous figures. Is it any wonder most of them jump to Europe or Australia/New Zealand as fast as they can? Abroad, they can reclaim the spotlight and earn a paycheck. Nice.

This isn’t rocket science. Look in our own backyard. The Lobo’s are again packing the 18,000 seat Pit. The paid-to-play T-Birds had their best attendance in franchise history when they forged a double header with gimmicky pro wrestling. How many T-Birds returned this season? Zero. Who cared? No one. Lobo’s men’s and women’s basketball — we get at least one print story a day! Two or three stories when the Lobos actually play a game!

It’s not that the T-Birds can’t survive in Burque, but they are doing a terrible job of connecting with the community. Sponsor a 3-on-3 tournament. Play in the tournament! Get on the radio a talk the product up. Not just the lone sports AM station — get on the FM dial and talk about your college days, your opponents’ college days and how you can wait to avenge your college team’s March loss on the Tingley hardwood. Send a player or two to area high school games and let them talk up the T-Birds at half. “T-Birds in Tingley.” Great alliteration there. Not Thunderbirds in Tingley; T-Birds in Tingley. That phrase should be the tag line of every print and broadcast ad. Kick down the doors of city administrators, the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, NM Department of Tourism, and every entity with a stake in raising Albuquerque’s profile — what a horrible job we did of celebrating the championship two years ago! Where is your T.V. presence? High school sports and UNM athletics have a weekly show, why not our professional teams?!

Don’t get me wrong. T-Birds, I’m only talking to you like this because I love you and I think you need to hear it. I want you to succeed. Every Burqueños should want you to succeed. Your success is directly tied to our self-perception and how outsiders perceive Burque. We need to support each other. Tomorrow I want to address how Albuquerque can help you and our other professional sports. Tonight, rest up.

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