Friday, April 18, 2008

Don't Hire the Movers Just Yet

The fellas over at Hardwood Paroxysm were good enough to send me the link to this post from Jon Burkett of Passion and Pride, a fine Philadelphia 76ers blog. I enjoy most of Jon's writing, but he made a huge error by continuing to espouse the theory popularized by's Bill Simmons that the Memphis Grizzlies should be the team that is moving, rather than the Seattle SuperSonics. *Sigh* I try and I try, but at this point, I just cannot be nice about it anymore. The video sums up my feelings on the subject quite succinctly.

You tell 'em Howard Beale!

Here's why the Memphis Grizzlies won't be moving to Seattle anytime soon (once again for the hard of hearing and absent-minded):

1. Iron-clad lease with the city of Memphis for the next decade. Really, this is reason enough, but I'll give you a few more.
2. Strong corporate support, despite lukewarm fan support.
3. New, state-of-the-art arena already in place, rather than still needing one to be built with taxpayers' dollars.
4. Unlike David Stern's apparent apathy towards the fine citizens of Seattle (or is that a reflection of their own apathy???), he is committed to the NBA remaining in Memphis. He wasn't nearly as definitive about the NBA in New Orleans, though.

In fact, let's talk about the New Orleans Hornets a little, shall we? If we're going to bring up a team that Clay Bennett should buy and move to Oklahoma City, why aren't the Hornets -- who have already spent time in OKC -- being mentioned as that team? Why not let Bennett and George Shinn switch franchises, move the Hornets to OKC and keep the Sonics in Seattle? Let's be honest -- the population of New Orleans has dwindled to the point where it is obvious that they cannot support two professional franchises. That's not a judgment of them -- just a cold, hard look at the facts. There are not enough people with disposable income to support two teams. I'm not trying to "rob" the Crescent City of their fantastic team -- as Burkett, Simmons and others are trying to do to Memphians -- just illustrating that there are other, more obvious teams to use as examples when seeking to "fill the void" that the departing Sonics will leave.

That brings up another interesting point. I have yet to visit Seattle, but everyone I know of that has been there has absolutely raved about it. So, I'm quite sure that it is a great city. I do find it curious that over the past 15 years, all three of their major sports franchises have threatened to move, with the Sonics apparently being the first to actually do so. I remember that playoff series between the Mariners and Yankees that "saved" Major League Baseball in the Pacific Northwest. I have seen the stands sway as the raucous crowd cheered on the Super Bowl bound Seahawks. I've seen the Sonics go deep into the playoffs on the backs of Payton, Kemp, Allen and Lewis. If the fans in Seattle really, truly wanted to keep their team, they would have made sure that they did what was necessary to make that a happen -- namely, funded a new arena. I've also seen the attendance numbers for the Sonics over the last few seasons.

That's why Memphis gets thrown in there at the whim of every writer with something to say, you know -- attendance. The Houston Chronicle's Zachary Levine had some interesting things to say about 3 of the 6 teams at the bottom of the attendance rankings:

Competition hurts some NBA teams.

Of the six teams at the bottom of the NBA pecking order, three play in some of the best college basketball markets in America — an issue the NHL doesn't have to deal with in nearly the same magnitude.

The Pacers average a league-worst 12,179 at an arena within 90 minutes of Indiana University (16,699 per game) and of West Lafayette, Ind., where Purdue draws more than 11,000 per game.

The 76ers compete with five Division I schools within the city limits of Philadelphia and also with suburban Villanova, which sells out every game at a 6,500-seat on-campus facility and averaged 19,928 in its first two games at the Wachovia Center.

And then there are the Memphis Grizzlies, who share a building with the No. 1 Tigers and come up 4,000 short at the turnstiles. And the way they're going this year, maybe that's not the only way they would lose to their co-tenants.
That's right Mr. Burkett, he brings up your own Sixers team among those at the bottom of the attendance numbers with competing high-level college teams in close proximity, drawing fans away. How about you worry about the team in your own backyard before you come down South looking to meddle with mine? The Memphis Grizzlies are here to stay.

BallHype: hype it up!


Anonymous said...

So instead of stealing the Grizz they should steal the Hornets. Way to watch out for your own. New Orleans seems quite capable to support the Hornets.

Why should any team move? Wouldn't an expansion team for OKC be fine?

I'd say above anything else that Seattle, New Orleans, and Memphis are all real pro markets. The same cannot be said of OKC.

Cedar Street Kid said...

I am sick of professional teams leaving on a whim and a whine becasue they don't get their way.
I hope you keep your team, and as a Seattle fan, i hope we keep ours.
I also hope that Seattle fries Bennett in court, and that the NBA,especially Stern,get exposed for what they are.

Spartacus said...

Cedar Street Kid, I would absolutely love to see that happen. I think that Seattle should get to keep the Sonics and that the league should force Bennett to sell them back to Schulz or to a local ownership group. I can't understand why David Stern would want more owners like George Shinn and Donald Sterling, when they have caused him so many headaches to this point. Sorry if it seemed like I wanted the Sonics to leave. I'm just tired of uninformed writers trying to steal our team and ship them to parts unknown all the time -- especially Bill Simmons.

Anonymous said...

The Sixers finished just under .500 and have been selling out the second half of the season. What possible reason is there for including them in an article with . . . the Grizzlies?

Anonymous said...

I think Simmons has a hard on for Chris Wallace.

Cedar Street Kid said...

Thanks,Spartacus. I am not saying that the city of Seattle does not share the blame. We could have done a lot more than we did.However,my anger is towards the constant threat of leaving unless a new stadium,arena,ball park, etc is built.If a new facility is such a money maker, than why don't the owners of a team build them? Then they can have all of the profits,no lease payments,food and beverage rights, and parking.

Great blog by the way. Glad I found it.

SI said...

Seattle is still paying off Key renovation in the 90's, constructions of Safeco and Qwest after that. The Safeco Field situation was something of a PR disaster, as the voters shot down a tax increase to pay for the stadium, and the state legislature went ahead and passed it anyway.

With this in the background, it's hard for fans to outvote non-fans, who also have a point about the team being mostly non-competitive for the past decade. It's even harder when the arena the team plans to build is more expensive than just about any other arena in the league, and taxes are to cover the huge bulk of the cost.

By the way, attendance "numbers" are grossly misleading in the case of KeyArena because it is one of the smallest arenas in the league. If you look at the attendance compared to capacity (85% full, 90% full, etc.), then you'll see that Seattle has been in the top half of the league until this year, when it became clear Bennett was trying to move the team as soon as possible.

What I'm trying to say is that Seattle fans are not to blame for the situation. Seattle and Washington politicians have been sadly lacking in leadership to get things done, and the fans are suffering for it.

Nick said...

SI, what does having a small arena have anything to do with attendance numbers? If you were selling out KeyArena, I would cut you some slack but as long as you are not, then you don't have a leg to stand on for low attendance numbers.

SI said...

First of all, I do live in Seattle, but I'm a Grizzlies fan. I did say that on an earlier comment, but I failed to clarify here.

Let me try to make my point about attendance with kind of a thought experiment: Suppose the Washington Wizards had the KeyArena. Their actual arena has a capacity of 20173, compared to 17089 for the Key. (I'm just taking a team with a larger arena that didn't sell out every game)

In the real world, the Wizards drew an average of 17960 fans this season, which puts them at 15th out of 30.

There were 27 games (including the 22 sellouts) when they had more than 17098 people in there. If they had the Key, they can only put 17098 people in those games, even if 20000 people wanted to get in.

So what we want to find out is, what would their average attendance be, if we use 17098 as their attendance number for these 27 games?

The numbers are public, and you can look them up (I looked at the Washington Post). The answer is that their average would've been 16219, which is 95% of capacity, and would put them in 20th place.

In 2005-06, when the Sonics didn't make the playoffs, they drew 16198 people per game. So the numbers are comparable when the Wizards made the playoffs and the Sonics didn't.

My point is that when the average attendance is, say, 95%, that doesn't mean every game is 95% full. It means that a lot of games are sold out, and there are other games sell badly. And if you have a small arena, your average attendance suffers because you can't go up to 20000 on those sellouts.

Attendance at the Key did drop slightly last season, and plunged this season. But I don't know how you can blame the fans for that. If you know the owner wants to move the team, would you want to give them any money?

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