Now that you've decided to fork over this week's paycheck to see the Holmes-Cooney bout--a payment that entitles you to sit among thousands of hyperventilating citizens who try to outshout Howard Cosell--it's time to know what can go wrong at your friendly, neighborhood, closed-circuit TV theater.
Our expert witness is Lou Falcigno of Momentum Enterprises in New York. Falcigno has had a hand in the closed-circuit telecasts of most major fights since Ali-Frazier I in 1971. Tonight, he will handle the closed circuit for some 340 locations with a total of two million seats.
Falcigno says there's no such thing as a Murphy's Law of theater TV. It is against his financial instincts to talk of the sky falling in, but he knows what can go wrong:
* The projector or the phone lines can blow--anytime, anywhere.
Something always fails somewhere, and this breeds great unhappiness inside a theater.
The worst time was Ali-Frazier II, 1974, McNichols Arena in Denver. In Round 3, a fire started inside the projector. It burned through Round 13, when the projector melted, killing the picture. "I was laughing about it on the phone the other night with the guy handling that location," Falcigno says. "He wasn't laughing."
Here's a good rule: if the projector goes out, don't worry, because you still will be able to hear. But if the phone lines die, start worrying, because bad actors in the crowd may soon grow a wee bit disappointed.
Falcigno says, "We send out rules to our exhibitors: 'If there's equipment failure, tell them to remain calm. Tell them you expect to have the picture back momentarily. That will cover you for several rounds . . . If it appears you're not going to get the picture back, turn on the lights, apologize, tell them they're welcome to remain seated, listen to the telecast, and come back tomorrow morning for their refund.' "
* Riots can occur, causing at least a few patrons in any crowd of 10,000 to call it an evening.
Falcigno says the threat of rioting is exaggerated. But riots have occurred at least twice: at the Chicago Stadium and at a mid-sized theater in the Bronx during Ali-Frazier I. If a riot occurs, the cause probably will be loss of picture and sound--not somebody shouting "Fire!"
* You can be nestled in your seat only to have the gate-crashers arrive.
This can be disconcerting, because you've paid for your ticket and the gate-crashers haven't.
"We've run into people breaking down doors with sledgehammers (Westchester County, N.Y., Hearns-Cuevas, 1980). We've run into a guy literally trying to dig under the foundation of the building with a shovel, only he didn't realize the foundation was 30 feet deep (same place, Ali-Frazier III, 1975).
"One of our locations for Leonard-Duran I (1980) was Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx. We had 5,000 people in there with about 300 tanks, cannons, trucks, personnel carriers. Everybody's taking their seats. Suddenly you hear this banging outside. It was a tow truck with a winch trying to tear down the steel gates. At Shea Stadium, people were scaling the outfield walls with ladders trying to get in. It was just like the Alamo."
* Upon arrival at your friendly theater, you may find hideaways behind the popcorn stand or in the bathroom.
This is guaranteed to upset your pleasant sense of expectancy.
"They try to hide in the toilets, under the chairs, in the basement, in the curtains, anywhere they can. We try to flush 'em out at four or five o'clock before we open the doors."
Sometimes the theater will sell your ticket twice. This is especially bad if you're the person who isn't seated.
Last year, just before the Salvador Sanchez-Wilfredo Gomez fight, "I got to a theater late and they said there were 1,000 people inside," Falcigno says. "Damn, I knew there were more than 1,000. It had to be more like 1,800. But it was too late to prove it. The guy at the door would take the tickets, hand the customer an old stub from down in the drop box, and then pass the real ticket back to the box office for resale."
* Counterfeiters or closed-circuit pirates may prey on you.
If this happens, you will feel duped, so don't tell anybody.
Last year, just before Leonard-Duran II, Falcigno says he got a tip that a counterfeit ring would be working a number of his locations in New York. "The guy who tipped us off was one of the guys who got kicked out of the ring. We pointed the counterfeiter out to the police. I used my brother as a (ticket-buying) foil, and we caught three of 'em."
As for piracy, Falcigno and others say new signal-scrambling devices will make this telecast almost safe from brigands with satellite-receiving dishes. That's what everybody said last time, too.
For Leonard-Hearns last September, several bars and nightclubs sold tickets to the fight, but started losing their signal shortly after the first bell sounded. Not all folks got their money back, including those who visited a bar in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., Falcigno recalls.
"He (the owner) got the fight, but it looked like scrambled eggs. The patrons weren't buying scrambled eggs. They were buying the fight. They tore his place apart."
Oh yes, tonight's bout.
I like the projector in seven rounds.