If you win, they will come, TV or no TV
By Ferd Lewis
Since KHNL began televising University of Hawai'i sports, beginning with baseball, going on 26 years ago, the debate has raged:
Do live, free telecasts cripple attendance at UH events, in general, and baseball games, in particular?
Baseball, a mainstay of the TV package with about 20 televised games per year — and few sellouts in recent years — has been front and center in the continuing debate.
So, what are we to make of the four-game Western Athletic Conference-opening series against Fresno State that begins tonight at Les Murakami Stadium sans live television?
With the KFVE cameras and crew in Hilo for the Merrie Monarch Festival (and, no, Jim Leahey and Pal Eldredge will not be calling the kahiko competition), will what should be a string of sellouts be proof positive that TV has held back the crowds?
Or, would it be final acknowledgement that sellouts depend more upon the 'Bows putting an exciting product on the field against quality opposition?
In 21 previous home dates this season, UH baseball has played to one sellout, Southern California (a televised game). It has not had more than three sellouts in any of the previous 14 seasons.
But with UH (16-12) having won four of its last five games and matched against the Bulldogs (17-12), the closest thing it has to a WAC rival, there should be little short of nature's rampaging elements standing in the way of packing the 4,320-seat facility.
History tells us that in some of their heydays of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the 'Bows sold out 50 percent or more of their home games even with frequent TV.
Of course, for the bashing that TV sometimes takes, you could argue that KFVE has done much to help position UH for the sellouts it does get, especially this weekend.
The games televised this season, including Sunday's stirring comeback victory over Gonzaga, have amounted to a string of 3-hour infomercials pitching the excitement and potential of this team while introducing its personalities.
In that, Kolten Wong's game-tying home run Sunday started the drumbeat for the Fresno State series as much as anything.
More likely the overriding truth of the whole TV equation for UH is that it is what the 'Bows' performance makes it.