The Rockford Lightning is playing in its 20th, and what could turn out to be, its final season here in the river city. Its hard to believe it has been 20 years since I was a season ticket holder and went to every game those first two years.
My memory is a little foggy, but I seem to remember the MetroCentre was always rocking during those games. From the tip-off to the final bucket, it was never-ending hoopla.
Fans on one side of the court would start an exchange by yelling, TASTES GREAT, while the fans on the other side shouted their response, LESS FILLING. Rock giant Queens We Will Rock You blared from the overhead speakers. The public address announcer encouraged fans to join in with one of his signature calls, 3-POINT PLAY!
Fans would not only yell at the officials, but also at the players and coaches. The only problem back then was the place was usually so loud their insults and suggestions were rarely heard. The place was alive and electric.
My, how times have changed. Ive recently attended some games, and things are very different. Last week (Wednesday, Jan. 25 and Thursday, Jan. 26) the announced attendance both nights was slightly more than 1,800. The referees could actually hear the jeers. There were no coordinated cheers. The music was still blaring; however, now it echoed in the nearly empty arena. There was very little energy in the building.
Ive heard several people offer a variety of excuses as to why things have changed. The blame has been placed on everything from the economy, to the lack of weekend games, and competition from other entertainment choices. Instead of playing the blame game, this team needs our support. I believe they deserve it. One thing for certain is the quality of play has not diminished. The players today are far more exciting and athletic than 20 years ago. Ronnie Fields, Marlon Parmer and Roger Powell are among the best players in the league. Head Coach Chris Daleo has his team in first place in the Eastern Conference. At time of publication, the team had won five straight and had an 8-2 record in the month of January. This team is playing some of the best basketball in the league and, for that matter, in their 20-year history.
The franchise is currently for sale. I hope someone can buy this team and return it to its glory days. This may be a huge challenge, but its worth the effort. The team has become a part of Rockford, perhaps so much that it has been taken for granted.
I encourage everyone who reads this, who wants the team to stay, to lose the apathy and make a commitment to get out to some of the remaining games. Take your families, youth groups, Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, Red Hat Ladies, or whatever group youre a member of, and arrange an outing. We need to show our support for the longest-tenured franchise in the Continental Basketball Association.
We must prove to any potential buyer that we do care. We dont want to lose this team. We need to boost attendance at the remaining home games from the current levels, to up around 3,500 to 4,000. This would certainly show anyone who is willing to invest in keeping the team here that we as fans are willing to do our part.
Now its up to you! Call the MetroCentre box office at 815-968-5222 to order tickets, or visit www.rockfordlightning.com for a schedule of games and other information about the team.
See you at the game! TASTES GREAT!
Doug Halberstadt is a local resident and is track announcer at Rockford Speedway. He can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Feb. 1-7, 2006, issue