When Toronto Raptors big man Ed Davis sunk a basket with seconds remaining in Monday’s game against the Orlando Magic, the crowd of 16,429 at the Air Canada Centre roared.
It wasn’t because it was a pivotal moment in the game. Nor did Davis break some sort of record or set a personal best in a statistical category. There were just 2.1 seconds remaining and the result was well out of hand.
It did, however, put the Raptors over the 100-point mark, thus awarding free pizza to the fans in attendance as part of a promotion at the Air Canada Centre.
Yes, the prospect of pepperoni and anchovies is all Raptors fans had to cheer about in a 117-101 blowout loss.
The Raptors have an ongoing promotion that gives away a free slice of pizza to anyone with a ticket stub from a home game where the team scores at least 100 points.
When Magic coach Stan Van Gundy learned the reason why the crowd was cheering, he was a bit disappointed by how the fans reacted and offered up his thoughts, with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
“The whole place went nuts like they won the championship or something,” Van Gundy said sarcastically after the game. “That was a big basket by Ed Davis. (The Raptors) got to put that on their highlight film at the end of the year.
“I was surprised. I was like ‘wow what happened?’ I thought he had an 18-point play and tied the game or something.”
Video: Free pizza in Toronto!
Some might argue that the crowd’s reaction was over-the-top and inappropriate at that stage of a blowout loss, but unfortunately for Raptors fans, there hasn’t been much else to cheer about during the 2011-12 campaign.
A Raptors loss is no big deal in Toronto. As long as there’s free pizza, everyone is happy. #WeAreMagic
— Dan Savage (@Dan_Savage) March 27, 2012
The Raptors have hit the 100-point mark in five home games this season and Monday’s game cost approximately $18,000 in pizza charges. Now that’s a lot of dough (pun very much intended).
But the bigger issue has to be how such a reaction reflects on the Toronto sports crowd and a Raptors franchise that has given those long-suffering fans so little to cheer about — only one playoff series victory in its 17-year existence.
Ironically, the game against the Magic came on a night when Toronto Blue Jays World Series hero Joe Carter was in attendance and given a jersey by the team’s mascot. Also, Magic forward and former Raptors outcast Hedo Turkoglu could have been booed mercilessly. But, as Van Gundy pointed out, the cheer for pizza was “the loudest the crowd was all night.”
It should be noted that the Raptors aren’t the only club to have this type of promotion. In Cleveland and Portland, Cavaliers and Trail Blazers fans have been given free Chalupas for their teams scoring 100-or-more points, even resulting in ‘Cha-lu-pas’ chants from the crowd.
Does this type of promotion make a franchise, its players and its fans look bad?