Russell agreed to the challenge, but Jordan never publicly acknowledged it. As the big day approached, Andersen hyped up the potential match, saying he'd been in contact with Jordan's people, who left open the possibility that MJ might actually appear at the last minute.
But as the day arrived with no indication that Jordan would be in attendance, the Flash launched their backup plan: using a Jordan look-alike, complete with a staged viral video of "Jordan" eating at a local restaurant in Orem, UT that morning.
Unfortunately for Andersen, the stunt did not go over well. Spencer Hall at Salt City Hoops described the scene at halftime:
Needless to say, it hasn't been a great week for Andersen, who apologized to any fans that were offended after the game on his blog. But Andersen isn't the type to go quietly. He's known as one of the most proactive owners in the D-League and has effectively built a strong brand in a small market -- though it remains to be seen if the fans' reaction on Monday damaged the success he's had.They brought out a [Michael Jordan] look alike. Wow, the crowd is furious. Had MJ showed up, it would have been one of the greatest moments ever. Instead, the crowd is booing and throwing back free shirts. Wow, this place went from electric to catatonic faster than an MJ free throw line jumper in the Delta Center.
FanHouse contacted Andersen earlier this week to discuss the events of Monday night's "entertainment," the challenges posed by marketing a minor league team and where the Flash will go from here. The results of the email conversation appear below.
Brandt Andersen: In hindsight there are many things we would have done differently, but like I have said all along, we were trying to have fun and unfortunately some of the fans didn't see it that way.
FH: You've reiterated on your blog that you had planned and were hoping for MJ to show last night, that the look-alike was a backup plan. What was the reaction you were expecting?
Brandt Andersen: We thought having Bryon Russell call out MJ for not showing up would be fun and that having him making fun of the fake MJ would get people laughing. Unfortunately, what we didn't realize is how emotionally tied people were to the idea of MJ being there, and when he didn't come out people were upset.
FH: In the comments on your blog and others, there have been some very emotional comments from people who feel like they were scammed or lied to, specifically people with families. Do you feel like you misled people with the staged viral video that was released?
Brandt Andersen: The viral video was done to create excitement over the event, but was not intended to mislead or trick people into buying tickets. At the time the video was leaked we had already sold 95% of the tickets for the game. The video had little effect on sales and was financially insignificant. In fact, we only sold a few hundred tickets between when the video hit the Internet to when the game started. Plus, it was made clear to those that purchased tickets through the Flash offices that MJ was not guaranteed to show up.
FH: The Flash have offered free tickets to another Flash game to those that have attended, is that correct? If so, are you concerned about how it may appear like this was one attempt to drum up a crowd that is being recompensed with another?
Brandt Andersen: We are offering people free tickets to another game or a refund. But we are not trying to build another crowd for another game because they can choose any game they want. Plus, one thing that has not been reported in the media is the fact we routinely distribute free tickets to local school kids, and opening night was no exception. In fact, we distributed thousands of free tickets the week leading up to the game.
When it all the numbers shake out, we had 7,500 people in attendance. 3,000 came from free tickets, 3,000 more came from season ticket holders and groups that had purchased tickets throughout the summer. So when it boils down to it there were not that many additional tickets sold based on the potential B Russ MJ match.
FH: It's a shame that this event has garnered so much attention, since the team is performing so well. Have you been pleased with the effort so far by the team?
Brandt Andersen: The team is playing great. We are 5-1, which is a tremendous start especially given that our first 5 games opened on the road. Monday's game was a great come from behind win for us against a very good team. If we stay healthy and don't start losing guys I think we have a really good shot at contending for a title.
FH: What do you think Dontell Jefferson's chances are of being called up?
Brandt Andersen: Dontell is a great player and his chances of a call up are exceptional. If he keeps playing the way he has he will make an NBA team. He is a great guy and one of the hardest workers you will ever find. He deserves a shot and will do well in the NBA.
FH: The Flash have such a great relationship with the Jazz, I was curious on your thoughts as to if we'll see Kosta Koufos spend some time in Orem this year.
Brandt Andersen: If the Jazz can get healthy I would think there is a good chance Kosta will be playing with us this year. I believe that for his development the best possible thing that could happen to him is an assignment to the Flash. It did great things for Kyrlo Fesenko and others who have approached it with the right attitude.
FH: There may be a perception after last night's events that you're somehow acting "cheap" or "bush league" promoting the team. Given the investment you've made in the community and to the team with the new facilities and everything else, is that frustrating?
Brandt Andersen: Obviously, we do not want the team to be viewed as "bush league." However, we are a minor league team and we are going to do fun and crazy things to promote our games. This latest promotion didn't go as we had hoped, but we won't stop promoting. Our mascot lived on a billboard for 7 days this summer and we are trying to give everyone in Utah County a T Shirt. This was poorly executed and I am sorry to the fans that were offended. We will be more careful next time.
FH: You've talked a lot about how this economy has made it hard on minor league franchises like the Flash. Can you talk a little bit about what it's like trying to vie for the precious consumer dollars during this turbulent period, and if that aspect drove the plans for last night?
Brandt Andersen: This is a tough time for sports. Both minor and major league sports have taken a hit. We are trying to keep people entertained by having fun. This one failed. Others will work. I believe the key to getting people to keep coming back is not just great basketball but entertainment. We are an entertainment company. If people are entertained and can step away from the everyday cares they will come out to the games. If not, they will go elsewhere.
FH: It's been suggested by some in the media that the $100,000 you offered for a match between Russell and Jordan be donated to charity anyway as a sign of good faith. What are your feelings on that?
Brandt Andersen: I committed to pay the money to the winner's charity of choice, and I was ready and willing to do that. The Flash Family Foundation is the foundation started by my wife and I to help families in our area. The foundation carries no overhead and is run by us. We work with other charities and all money that comes into the foundation, the majority of which comes from my wife and I, goes directly to kids who are in need. We are passionate about the work and feel it is one of the best parts of owning the Flash.