Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Ballpark Buster - AKA Raining on the Parade

The Bandits had a rough weekend. An 18-10 final game slugfest win saved some face against the league leading Perth Heat, but undoubtably the Bandits would've been dissatisfied with a 3-1 series result. Despite this, I don't think this would be their biggest dissapointment this week.

Before we begin, let me rewind the clock. In the inaugural season of the ABL, the Brisbane Bandits crew dreamed up the idea of a "Ballpark Buster". In essence, it was a promotional drive to muster the seasons biggest crowd - complete with the extras that make something an "event" in Queensland, such as a firework display. The idea was commendable, the hype was strong, but in retrospect they really chose the wrong day - the 1st of January. While it may seem good in theory, a lot of Queenslanders on New Years Day are either recovering or spending time with family (or both) - and the crowd of 1,167 people is a balanced reflection of this.

All credit to them, this season the Bandits readjusted their crosshairs and shifted the Ballpark Buster to the 10th of December - a nice spot in the calendar with minimal conflicts. To reinforce the event, they scheduled it as a double-header - with both an afternoon game and an evening game. Furthermore, somebody pulled a few strings and organised players from the Super 15 Rugby Champions the Queensland Reds to appear (completing with signings) - on top of the usual fireworks. All of this was a great idea, and a sign of lessons learned from the first "Buster". Some inside the Bandits were hoping for around 4000 people to show up. Afterall, so much right had been put into place - what could go wrong?

Well, this is Queensland. Which means, in summer especially, the weather plays by its own rules (as we learned by the flood truncated first season). Brisbane was hammered by rain for much of the week - and the forecast for the Ballpark Busting Saturday included multiple showers and possible storms. The Bandits front office did the smart thing by the schedule, and shuffled things around to ensure the greatest probability that all games could be played. This included shifting the Saturday afternoon game to Friday. This foresight proved to be accurate, with all games being completed and with a wet Saturday afternoon - but the Ballpark Buster was effectively distinguished by the rain. Not only was it halved in length, but the weather and shuffling schedule caused confusion and trepidation amongst the fans. News of the rescheduling was conferred around Midday Friday, on the Bandits website, but comments on the Bandits official facebook page reflect the fact that many fans were uncertain as to what was happening on both Friday evening and Saturday - the day of the game.

The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. The concept and planning for the big day were great, but both random (the weather) and controlled (quality of information provided to fans later) effectively busted the buster.

At the end of the day, the (single) game was played on Saturday - The Bandits won in front of a crowd of 1,200. I'm sure Bandits staff were gutted by the turn of events (as was I), but all they can do now is take a deep breath, both accept the unpredictable and learn from mistakes, and soldier on into the future. Brisbane have two big home series ahead - this weekend against Adelaide (Thursday through Saturday) before once again hosting the New Years stretch. Let's hope the weather gives the game a chance (if the last two blistering days are anything to go by, we should be fine) and the Bandits can focus on more important things - such as improving their record!

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