Basketball fans may find this difficult to comprehend, but there are people in Washington who don't know much about the Bullets and care less.
S.T.C. of Morningside phoned me the day I wrote about the conflict between circus dates and basketball playoff dates at Capital Centre. "Thank you for warning me," he said. "I have no interest in basketball, never read about it, and would not have known that our circus Party in Jeopardy."
Jeanne Oberlander of Oxon Hill went through the cancellation syndrome a couple of years ago, and is still angry about it. She, too, is no great basketball fan didn't realize she was wasting her time going to the arena that night.
"I rushed to get dinner on the table and then to get my son ready," she writes. "We left in plenty of time, but there was tremendous traffic jam on the Beltway hear the exit for the Capital Centre. Naturally, there was a line waiting to get off, but there are always slobs who whiz along in the next lane until they get to the head of the line and then cut in, delaying the exit line.
While I was waiting patiently in the nonmoving line, some idiot cut in behind my car and didn't stop fast enough, bumping into the rear of my car. I thought that was the last straw, but after we finally got to the Centre, parked and hurried to the entrance to catch what was left of the circus, we were told at the gate that our tickets were no good. The circus had been canceled for a basketball game.
"I was outraged to have gone through all that for nothing. I don't know how many other people got caught the same way, but I can tell you it didn't make a Bullet fan of me. I haven't been back since."
W.C.S. of Hyattsville wrote on May 17, "I have tickets for May 25. I am hoping they won't be canceled because I was fortunate enough to get seats in Row A and doubt that I would be able to duplicate them.
"I carefully scanned the latest circus ad (Sunday the 14th) for any notice of possible cancellation but could not find none. I called the Capital Centre and was told they were mailing out a cancellation notice with the tickets, but I didn't buy my tickets by mail.
"Note that person has already purchased his tickets when he is notified. Not being a pro basketball fan, I was not aware they would pull a stunt like this.
"When they sell me a ticket knowing that it might not be honored, this is less than honorable behavior. Maybe the FTC should require more truth in advertising."
I can undertand the ire of people who buy tickets and make plans in good faith, and in some cases even make a long journey to the arena, and then discover that somebody has pulled the rug out from under them. In fact I was the fellow who tried to persuade our sports department to publish a warning to circus fans who don't follow basketball. But my colleagues scoffed at the need for such a warning and told me that "everybody in America" knows that when a local team gets into a championship series, other events booked for its arena or stadium must be canceled to accomodate the playoffs.
A lawyer might call such a switch a breach of contract, but let's be practical. If the Redskins had transferred a playoff game to Baltimore because RFK Stadium had been rented to a circus, or if the Senators had won a penant and were forced to play all their World Series games in New York because Griffith Stadium was host to a circus, heads would have rolled.
Given the choice between the one-shot circus and the season-long tenancy of the Bullets, Capital Centre had no alternative. It had to give priority to its regulat tenants.
However, three things can be legitimately critized. 1) The Centre should not have sold its first circus tocket without a public warning that some dates might have to be canceled if the Bullets got into the playoffs. 2) Circus ads should have warned of possible cancellations. 3) People in the news media should remember that the public is interested in many things that specific newsmen may find boring. Our criterion for publication should not be, "Am I interested in this?" It ought to be, "Will a substanial number of our readers be interested in this?"
Some circus fans are uninterested in basketball and therefore may not see a story published in the sports section. Some basketball fans are uninterested in basketbaltion. Some basketball fans are uninterested in the circus and therefore may not see a story published in the entertainment section. Our job is to serve both consitutiencies by publishing things they want to know in places where they're likely to be read.