'Job Night,' 'Home School Night' & Other Offbeat NBA Promotions

Getty Images
Getty Images

Fans going to an NBA game may be treated to some of the world's best basketball, but that's not always enough to lure people into the seats. Thus, NBA teams are forced to entice potential spectators with carefully created giveaways and theme nights. (Average fan: "Gah, I want a Luis Scola wig so badly!" Houston Rockets: "Come to our December 16 game!") There's been a lot of speculation that the weak economy will translate into fewer fans willing to plunk down their diminished disposable income to see a game, so what are NBA teams doing to prop up attendance this year? Here are a few of our favorite offbeat promotions for the 2008-2009 season:

1. Job Night

The New Jersey Nets announced yesterday that they know the economy is putting a pinch on their fans, and they want to help. They're not just going to lower ticket prices, though; the team wants to find the fans jobs. Unemployed fans can submit their resumes to the team, which will provide them with four free tickets to a game and access to a November 22 job fair at the Izod Center. The team is hoping that fans they help find new jobs will return the favor and become ticket buyers when the economy turns around. Anyone can go on Monster to try to find a new job, but the Nets might have a leg up. After all, if they could con the Mavericks into taking on an aging Jason Kidd's albatross contract last year, they might be able to work miracles with less handsomely paid positions.

2. Singles Night

Finding that special someone is already tough enough, but it becomes far more challenging when you add the caveat "Must love the NBA" to your list of potential dealbreakers. You can approach dozens of women in bars before you find one who Darius Songaila is, and even she might not have an appreciation for his rugged defensive work. Luckily, the Washington Wizards feel your pain and will host Singles Night three times this season. For just $55, prospective lovebirds get to come to mixers both before and after the game with music, drinks, and food in addition to lower-level seats. Nothing says "romance" quite like being able to tell someone, "Baby, I thought I was the only one who wanted DeShawn Stevenson to bring back his beard"¦" And if things go really well, fans might want to follow Wizards star Gilbert Arenas' steps for getting engaged.

3. Home School Night

Just because students don't leave their houses to go to school doesn't mean they can't be rabid NBA fans! Or at least that's what the Orlando Magic think. This season, the team will be hosting two Home School Days that will give home-schooled kids a chance to get into the game. The days begin with an afternoon basketball clinic that includes a visit from former Magic guard Nick Anderson, who will undoubtedly teach the children that just because you don't go to regular schools, it doesn't mean that you can't clank four consecutive free throws with an NBA Finals game on the line. The first Home School Day has already passed, but the second one is coming up on February 2nd, which is also listed as the Magic's celebration of Black History Month.

4. Bridal Expo

It's a bit of a cliché that guys don't like participating in wedding planning, but some brides would like their future spouse to take a more active role in nuptial preparations. That's where the New Orleans Hornets step in. On February 2, 2009, the team will host its second Guys and Dolls Bridal Expo before a game against the Portland Trailblazers. The event, which is co-hosted by Weddings Noir magazine, bills itself as the perfect way to get a guy interested in the wedding process in an environment in which he can meet caterers, florists, and wedding planners before watching some hoops. Tickets are only $15, so even those fans who haven't popped the question might want to sneak in to get a look at Greg Oden and the resurgent Blazers.

5. Elvis Night

The Memphis Grizzlies may not have even been born when Elvis still lived at Graceland, but that doesn't stop the Grizz from celebrating the King on January 6. The theme night, which falls close to Elvis' birthday on January 8th, is an annual event that sounds pretty raucous. Last year's festivities included an Elvis special playing on the arena's exterior LCD screen and a meet-and-greet with the winner of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest winner, who then performed at halftime with the Grizzlies dancers. One slight hitch, though: if rumors of the King's demise really were greatly exaggerated, would he want to spend his golden years watching a bottom-dwelling franchise? Unless O.J. Mayo's hot start to his rookie year had Presley all shook up, probably not. [Image courtesy of Suffering The Benz.]

6 Times the Olympics Have Been Postponed or Canceled

Sander van Ginkel, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0
Sander van Ginkel, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have been officially postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan agreed to push the start date back to 2021 after Canada, Australia, and other countries announced they would not send athletes to the Summer Games this July.

The Summer Olympics is the biggest sporting event in the world, typically bringing more than 10,000 athletes from dozens of countries together every four years, The New York Times reports.

It's extremely rare for the Summer or Winter Olympics to be postponed or canceled. Since 1896, when the modern Olympic Games began, it has happened only six times—and it usually requires a war.

The Olympic Games were canceled during World War I and World War II. The 1940 Summer Games, scheduled to take place in Tokyo, were postponed due to war and moved to Helsinki, Finland, where they were later canceled altogether. The current coronavirus pandemic marks the first time the competition has ever been temporarily postponed for a reason other than war. Here's the full list.

  1. 1916 Summer Olympics // Berlin, Germany
  1. 1940 Summer Olympics // Tokyo, Japan and Helsinki, Finland
  1. 1940 Winter Olympics // Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  1. 1944 Summer Olympics // London, United Kingdom
  1. 1944 Winter Olympics // Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
  1. 2020 Summer Olympics // Tokyo, Japan

6 Surprising Ways Baseball Actually Favors Lefties

Left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers during game five of the National League Division Series in 2019.
Left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers during game five of the National League Division Series in 2019.
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

If you grew up playing baseball, tee-ball, softball, or any other derivative of America’s favorite pastime, you might be familiar with certain positions left-handed people are unofficially prohibited from playing—you’ll hardly ever see a left-handed shortstop or third baseman, for example, because they’d be facing the wrong direction for any throws to the right side of the field. However, there are plenty of other parts of the game that are equally important as efficiently making outs at first or second base, and some of them can even favor lefties. Read on to find out how left-handed batters, pitchers, and more have an edge against their right-handed competitors below.

1. Left-handed pitchers have a better view of first base.

Since a left-handed pitcher faces first base when he’s gearing up to pitch, he can easily see if a first base runner is leading off (i.e. taking a few steps off the bag, with the intention to steal second base). This makes for some pretty spectacular fake-outs where a pitcher will feign throwing a pitch and instead flip it to the first baseman, who can tag the runner out before he can get a foot (or finger) back on the bag.

2. Left-handed batters are closer to first base.

Left-handed batters are simply standing a little closer to first base than right-handed batters. As former MLB player Doug Bernier explained for Pro Baseball Insider, an extra step or so can be the difference between getting thrown out at first base or making it safely there, especially if it’s an infield hit. That said, not everyone agrees the slightly shorter distance to first base is enough to give left-handed batters an advantage on infield hits in general. In a 2007 article for The Hardball Times, John Walsh argued that since lefties hit more ground balls into the right half of the infield—giving first and second basemen a shorter distance to cover to make the out at first—their one-step head start isn’t statistically significant overall.

3. Left-handed batters’ momentum is already carrying them in the direction of first base.

Even if a shorter distance to first base isn’t enough to give a left-handed batter the edge on every occasion, he also has the laws of physics on his side. When a lefty swings, the momentum of the bat is moving to the right—i.e. toward first base—so he gets to run in the same direction he’s already moving. Righties, on the other hand, swing toward third base and have to break the momentum to sprint in the opposite direction. Dr. David A. Peters, a professor of engineering at Washington University in St. Louis (and baseball aficionado), calculated that lefties’ momentum means they’re able to travel to first base about one-sixth of a second faster than righties.

4. Left-handed first basemen are facing the right direction to throw the ball to another infielder.

If the ball is hit to a left-handed first baseman, he’s already in the ideal position—with his right foot closest to his target—to throw it just about anywhere else in the infield. This is especially helpful when there’s an opportunity to make an out at second or third base, which he’d usually prioritize over the first base out. A right-handed first baseman, on the other hand, might have to pivot as much as 180 degrees to get his left foot where it needs to be to throw it to another infielder.

5. Left-handed batters perform better against right-handed pitchers, which are more abundant.

In baseball, it’s generally agreed that batters fare better when hitting against opposite-handed (OH) pitchers, so much so that coaches sometimes stack their batting lineups with lefties when they know a righty will be pitching, and vice versa. “With the dominance of right-handed pitchers in the game,” Dan Peterson writes for gameSense Sports, “the left-handed hitter comes to the plate with a built-in advantage.” The advantage itself has to do with the direction of the pitches.

“With a right-handed release to a right-handed batter, the ball seems to be coming right at him,” Peterson explains. “The same pitch coming from the opposite side provides a better view across the body.”

6. Right field is shorter than left field in some parks.

detroit tigers comerica park aerial view
An aerial view of the Detroit Tigers' Comerica Park.
NASA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

When professional baseball stadiums first started cropping up in the late 19th century, there wasn’t a league-wide set of dimensions to standardize their size and shape (in fact, for the most part, there still isn’t). Since the majority of batters were right-handed—and, as such, more likely to hit the ball into left field—some stadiums featured left fields that were significantly deeper than their right fields. Take Philadelphia’s Columbia Park II, which opened in 1901 with a 340-foot left field and a 280-foot right field. Those short right fields meant left-handed batters would have an easier time hitting home runs. While most modern stadiums have quite literally evened the playing field with more symmetrical dimensions, some of them still have discrepancies; the right field foul pole at the Detroit Tigers’ Comerica Park, for example, is a whole 15 feet closer to home plate than its left field foul pole.

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