Without a hitch

More than 5,800 basketball fans turned out to cheer on their respective teams in the 131 Showdown as the Grand Valley State University and Ferris State University men’s and women’s basketball teams squared off in the Van Andel Arena Saturday. The 5,863 fan total filled more than half of the Van Andel’s 10,834 capacity and was the highest attendance total of any GVSU basketball game ever.

And with two down-to-the-wire rivalry match ups (including one heart-breaking overtime thriller for GVSU), each of those who attended got their money’s worth.

GVSU took full advantage of the Van Andel’s capabilities in making the athletes feel like they were performing on the big stage. John Mason, the announcer who works each of the Detroit Pistons’ home games, did the arena announcing for both the men’s and women’s games, which included spotlight introductions for GVSU’s starting lineups and post-shot name announcements. The games also featured free throw chimes and dead ball replays on the Van Andel’s jumbotron, extra ameneties that aren’t available at GVSU’s Fieldhouse Arena.

And what successful basketball game is complete without a halftime half-court shot challenge? At halftime of the men’s game, GVSU senior Mike Parker went up against a Ferris State student, each having three chances to sink a half-court shot in the Amway-sponsored challenge. Parker hit the shot all-net on his first attempt, winning a year’s supply of Amway Nutrilite, artistry makeup and home cleaning products in the process.

Without a question, GVSU should make the 131 Showdown an annual event, but why stop there? GVSU should look into what it would take to house some playoff games there, maybe even the entire GLIAC tournament. Some would argue that doing such would give GVSU an advantage, but at Saturday’s game there was a strong presence of “FSU” chants for every “GV-SU” chant.

The 131 Showdown was a wonderful idea, and as an event it couldn’t have gone any better for everyone involved, but when it comes down to it, it is still just a regular season game. In moving forward, GVSU should explore all of the possibilities and untapped potential it has in hosting more important games downtown where it can reach a broader audience of basketball fans.