Sunday, March 22, 2009

WORTH THE GAMBLE?

CIAC administrators, sports writers, fans, parents, coaches and players alike have been assessing the pluses and minuses of holding future state tournament final games at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Of the eight games played there over Friday and Saturday, The Herald had only one dog in the fight -- the Berlin girls in Class M -- so I can't speak to the overall impact, but I think the atmosphere was quite favorable.

I'm not a big supporter of gambling. I can't for the life of me figure out why people want to bring wads of cash into a building knowing they have only a 13 percent or so chance of leaving with the wad intact, knowing that the tribal council didn't construct the glorious site figuring on turning away legions of winners. But we're all so different.

Anyway, I don't believe the players were exposed to the detriments of gambling by playing basketball there. From what I understand, the youngsters were ushered into the building through a direct entrance without having to listen to that mind-numbing drone, inhale the second-hand smoke in the casino proper or witness desperados mesmerized by slot machines.

The arena is cozy; not a bad seat in the house. The accomodations for the media were exceptional, thanks in no small part to the game administration provided by Central Connecticut State University sports information director Tom Pincince and his able staff. In other words, we were handed statistics, which is a true luxury to a lifelong scholastic reporter like myself.

If you consider that the one-year arrangement between the CIAC and Mohegan Sun was based on finances, the games would seem to qualify as a success. The CIAC, I'm told, did not have to pay for use of the building. The tribe must have made its money with basketball fans enjoying the amenities of the destination -- the wagering, the restaurants, the shops, the lodging.

Sounds like a classic win-win scenario to me.

The only drawback, which has been brought out by many of my sports writing colleagues, is how the games were scheduled. Two teams -- Coventry and Old Lyme girls -- played at 9 a.m. Cromwell and Hyde boys played at 11 a.m. While I find 11 a.m. early, 9 a.m. is like the middle of the night to me. I was thrilled that Berlin played at 1.

As my colleague Matt Straub suggested, why not three games on Friday and five on Saturday rather than the two/six split they went with this year? Maybe Saturday's slate could begin at 11 and run the others at 1, 3, 5 and 7. Friday's games could run at 3, 5 and 7.

But I haven't thoroughly investigated how the CIAC feels or how the tribe feels so my opinion doen't have much depth. I do believe it is a workable situation. The kids seemed to enjoy it and that's what's most important.

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