Joel Anthony (R) of the Miami Heat defends against Dirk Nowitzki (L) of the Dallas Mavericks during Game 4 of the NBA Finals on June 7, 2011 at the AmericanAirlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
At Dallas Mavericks games, anyhow. The somewhat hyperactive Mavs owners and semi-regular blogger writes about how he's always getting pitched about ways to bring smartphones into the Mavs game experience — and why he wants no part of it:
We in the sports business don’t sell the game, we sell unique, emotional experiences.We are not in the business of selling basketball. We are in the business of selling fun. We are in the business of letting you escape. We are in the business of giving you a chance to create shared experiences. I say it to our people at the Mavs at all time, I want a Mavs game to be more like a great wedding than anything else.
Bottom line is that he wants you looking up, not down, at almost all times. And he goes on to describe a pretty wild wedding. You wouldn't have time to do some appy smartphone things at such a wedding...er, Mavs game even if you wanted to.
Cuban's perspective on his product is just about the most effortlessly postmodern take on the professional sporting spectacle I've ever read. It sounds exhausting — perhaps because it is. It reminds me of a time I took my daughter to a taping of a kids' TV show, in which we both had to appear in the audience — an audience that was part of the show. An absolute blast for her and plenty of good fun for me. But afterwards, I needed a vacation.
Let me restate Cuban's take on what his product is all about. He isn't selling unique, emotional experiences. He's insisting on emotional commitment as a condition of being a Mavs fan. This is very now. When you go to a game, you buy into the opportunity to perform your fan-ness. There is no room for blasé spectatorship in professional sports anymore (at least not at NBA games).
Cuban is against bringing Facebooky/Twittery stuff into the Maximum Mavs Emotional Experience Show, but that's just because he doesn't want anyone providing free emotional content to anything other that what's happening in his arena. On one hand, his heart is in the right place. On the other, he making fans pay for privilege of providing him with a free spectacle he can sell for gajillions on TV — and shutting it down, as much as he can, to social media. This is not completely unlike what Facebook is doing — it's just that Facebook doesn't have a basketball team and gets people to donate their emotions online.
You have to watch that Mark Cuban. He's a very, very good salesman.