Huge HD TV screens have changed the stadium experience. Many fans who paid big bucks for a ticket to the game will still be watching it on TV.
Huge HD TV screens have changed the stadium experience. Many fans who paid big bucks for a ticket to the game will still be watching it on TV. Tony Gutierrez/AP
Millions of people will be glued to TV screens Monday watching the NCAA men's college basketball championship — and some of those viewers will actually be in the stands.
Monday's Connecticut vs. Kentucky game will be played at AT&T Stadium, home to the Dallas Cowboys, where an enormous Mitsubishi screen hangs from the roof. It's the length of four coach buses by 72 feet high. And while the screen is ridiculously huge, the picture quality of the LED 1080 high definition is amazing.
For Wisconsin fans Michael and Monica Niezgoda, it meant they stopped watching the game on the floor on Saturday night when their team played Kentucky and began watching the screen pretty much right away.
"Right after tipoff," Michael says.
Florida Gator fan Robert Dent did the same during Saturday's game against Connecticut. "I'd say the only time I watched the game on the floor is when they were doing rewinds on the TV and I was missing the game," Dent says.
But does watching a giant TV instead of the action on the court cause guilt given all the money spent for tickets, airfare, hotels and meals?
"No guilt at all," Dent says. "The TV is a little better than the one in my living room."
There is a gender component to this reaction. Men tend to be completely fine watching the screen. But it's not too hard to find a woman who feels a little guilty about it.
"When you first see it, it's kind of like, what is this? It's too big. It seemed a little overwhelming," says Kansas fan Sandy Dalton. "But when you're sitting up there, and you're watching it, you can look down and see the court but watch the Jumbotron, but you also have all of the live experience going on around you." (No, Kansas isn't in the Final Four, but the Daltons bought their tickets hoping it would be.)
Dalton says watching the game here is an entirely new experience. Not everyone is watching the court together, but it's OK because fans can see the game so well. Dalton was ideologically against it at first, but as time went by, the experience began to grow on her.
The giant screens serve to make the Final Four experience a little more democratic. No matter what you've paid, you still can see everything perfectly. But what about those who've actually paid not hundreds but thousands of dollars a ticket? What are they watching?
"Actually it was kind of about half and half, and I was down low, too," says Kentucky fan Don Jacobs. He could see the action on the court perfectly, but his eyes nevertheless were pulled skyward, too.
"The clarity is just fantastic," Jacobs says. "We were low enough where we couldn't decide if we wanted to watch the floor or the middle screen or the big screen, but I think the big screen is pretty fabulous."
You're probably thinking there is no way you would pay thousands of dollars to come see a sporting event and watch it on some darned TV. Right? Well, there's still time to see whether you can stick by your guns. Next year, college football is holding its first-ever national championship playoff competition. It's going to be huge, momentous, historic — and guess where it's going to be?