Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Who wants to piss away some money and a hockey team?

I owe Bris Isaak $25. Let me explain.

Last week the Thunder were put up for sale. Casual fans freaked out because they thought there was a chance the Thunder could move. They're wrong. But of course being wrong never stopped a sports fan before, why start now?

We consider ourselves something resembling experts in these situations because, as Kings fans, we've had to deal with the prospect of our team leaving us like gypsies in the middle of the night for seemingly forever. Which brings me to my debt. When this news broke early last week, my Hebrew homie and I ran down the different possible scenarios that could play out and the resulting media coverage. Because if there's one thing you can count on with the Record, it's that they'll at least cover the minor league hockey team. One scenario was "How long do you think it'll be before some hack suggests the community buys the team Packers-style?" We even narrowed it down to either Bob Highfill or Fitzy. Bris gave it a week, I had more faith in them than that. Why? I'll never know.

Yes, a week to the fucking day since Mike Reinsdorf announced the team was up for sale, Mike Fitzgerald decided he was that hack and suggested that we, the increasingly poor people of Stockton, buy the team. We specifically use the word "hack" because of just how poorly written this column is. We usually don't assail Fitzy's writing ability because our problem is more with his opinions and subject matter, he's usually stylistically-sound. But this time he appears to have gotten an e-mail suggesting an idea that comes up every time any team ever is up for sale, and then did absolutely no research beyond calling Ren Nosky and asking "This is possible in theory, right?" It's a horribly flawed column. So much so that we're going to FJM it. We have a lot of work to do with this one so go refill your coffee real quick. Don't worry, I can wait.

Ready? Ok, good.

"In 2007, in England, 20,000 fans paid about $40 each to purchase a majority share of the Ebbsfleet United Football club, with an option to own the entire team outright," Sherman writes.

Oh, so if a British soccer team can do it, we can. The level of passion Brits have for soccer is exactly the same level Stockton has for hockey. When you're citing soccer as an example, you know you're in for a bumpy ride.

Sherman goes on with this intriguing idea: "Here is the neat part, I think: Each transaction a team makes, all of the owners get to vote on. Coach stinks? Vote him out. Need a center? Vote to pick up a new one! The team has been very successful in England."

Intriguing? When did the definition of intriguing change to "giant clusterfuck"?

They don't micromanage the coach. But they could. Here's a sample Web ballot on fielding the week's team:

» "I want to give the coaches the responsibility of picking the team."

» "I want to pick the team and allow the coaches flexibility."

» "I want to pick the team but not allow the coaches flexibility."

» "I abstain."

They don't micromanage the coach, but here's a ballot where they're micromanaging the coach. Makes total fucking sense. The only result of that could be chaos.

This may sound like a recipe for chaos. It's not. Ebbsfleet won a major trophy last year; it's debt-free; and its Web presence brought in owner-fans from 122 countries.

So wait, polling 20,000 people about lineups and playing time wouldn't result in chaos because they won "a major trophy"? Not the title, just a fucking trophy? What is this? Little league? Have you listened to talk radio lately Fitz? Those are the sports fans you want to give the reins of the team to. The only result is chaos. The second the Thunder have a bad loss, someone will call for the coach's head, we'll have a vote, and because we're owned by a bunch of uninformed fucktards (the very next sentence after the quoted passage notes that some of Ebbsfleet's owners don't even know soccer and just own a share for novelty's sake), the coach could be fired for shit probably wasn't even responsible for. Not to mention who the fuck would want to play for a team where your playing time is dependant on the drunk asshole who yelled at you for fucking up his fantasy hockey league when your knee blew out last season when you were in the pros? (Full disclousre: I may have played the part of "drunk asshole" in this scenario before)

Of course, right now I'm ignoring the fact that this model for team ownership is contradicted in a quote further down in the same story! But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's move on.

Offhand, I can think of several good reasons for Thunder fans to buy the team:

Translation: "Here's some unresearched justification for my stupid idea." This should be fucking gold.

We'd be Gods.


Was this written by Fitzy or a bunch of frat dudes headed to Spring Break with a pound of mary jane, a 6-foot beer bong, and 6 kegs of Icehouse in the trunk? ("We're gonna be fucking Gods man!")

Let me get this straight. Owning a minor league hockey team makes us Gods? It's that easy? What does that make the recently deceased Bill Davidson? He owned the Detroit Pistons, the Tampa Bay Lightening, and the Detroit Shock. Three professional teams (well, as professional as the WNBA can be). Does that make him like Ghanddahommed Christ (a combination of Ghandi, Budda, Muhommed, and Jesus)? Although team ownership equaling Godliness would explain how Al Davis has stayed alive for so long.

We could invite Alex Spanos to our sky box, with the bowing and scraping waitress serving cocktails and munchies.

Ummm, ok? Am I missing some sort of inside joke here? Is this some sort of backwards way to try and score some cheap Chargers tickets? An attempt to sell the naming rights to the Arena to him because if there's anybody who'll put his name on anything and everything it's Alex Spanos? And who still fantasizes about bowing and scraping waitresses? They're people too. The only people who make wait staff do that shit are dicks. And munchies? Are we schmoozing Spanos or getting him stoned? I could get behind that idea.

Nobody could move the Thunder.

Even though the only people talking about a move are misinformed fans. Oh and technically we could move the Thunder. Or, you know, if someone from out of town bought enough shares of the team from various fan-owners to gain a majority of the voting shares and voted to move the team to their city. If you think a Stocktonian hard up for cash wouldn't sell their stake to the first decent bidder then you're a dumbass.

Another point in favor of this deal - though I feel guilty saying this - involves the sweet deal the city gave the Thunder.

Quick note: this is coming from the same guy who said this a week ago.

And prepare yourselves, because this is the part where the wheels really come off the bus.

But if we owned the team, this politically and financially intolerable situation would go from "problemo" to "no problemo." We'd benefit from the sweet deal.

This is ignoring the fact that owners don't pocket the money from that deal, it goes directly back into the team. So, you know, the situation actually stays the same. The city will still be struggling to make ends meet. The benefit is spending less out of pocket on operating costs. Which is another flaw we'll get to in a second. First, let's allow Fitzy to explain his backwards logic.

The pressure would be off the politicians to worm out of the contract; the people's faith in City Hall would be restored; local democracy would be refreshed.

So if I'm reading this correctly, our faith in local government would be restored because we banded together and solved one of their contract problems for them. How exactly does that restore our faith in City Hall? He never says, it just does. Was he drunk when he wrote this? He's using drunk guy logic.

There's no legal obstacle, City Attorney Ren Nosky opined.

Nosky then proceeds to list 2 legal obstacles off the top of his head.

"As long as the new owners met the financial criteria" - that means as long as we pay the rent - "and showed a base knowledge of running a sports franchise - and I assume the people would retain somebody with that knowledge - there wouldn't be any impediment," Nosky said.

So we should all be able to vote online on things like lineup changes, but also would need someone to make those decisions for us. So we'd need money (again, something not many Stocktonians have lying around), and a puppet who would assure the ECHL that somebody competent was running the franchise, but would bend to every whim of Joe Sportsfan voter. Makes total sense.

But hey, about that money thing...

Reinsdorf has declined to state the price. Let's play with some math. If the team sells for $5 million - and I have no idea if that's anywhere near the right cost - and if 50,000 people chip in, that would be $100 a piece.

50,000 people, in a warm weather city, paying $100, for hockey. But no, really, this is totally workable. Because the cost of running a sports franchise doesn't fluctuate at all.

Look, the major problem with this entire situation is the same problem owners of teams across the country are dealing with. Revenue streams will eventually go down. Eventually everybody who wants a t-shirt will own a t-shirt. The honeymoon will wear off and the team will post a horrendous record out of the gate and ticket sales will plummet. That sweetheart deal with the city will eventually expire. Then what? That's why millionaires own teams. When the shit starts coming in, they can make it through the storm because they have the spare cash to throw into the team when the team isn't generating that revenue by itself. What happens if that happens to us?

Well, we have two choices, tax the city or sell off our shares at a probable lower price and watch the team move away. That's the most retarded thing about Fitzy's column, the result would actually put us in more danger of losing the team in the future. Sports franchises are rarely good business decisions. Nobody makes money through sports, they do it because they love it. You can only make a profit off a team if you're a nationally recognized brand like the Packers, Yankees, or Celtics. Plus, out of the top 5 sports (Football, baseball, basketball, Nascar, and hockey), hockey is the 5th most popular. Especially without a parking structure to generate revenue, I kind of doubt that merchandising is going to result in enough cash to cover whatever budgetary gap we'd eventually face.

Investing in a minor league hockey team is a guaranteed way to throw away money. While it looks like a good idea in the short term it would only harm the team and actually do no amount of good for the city and could/probably would result in higher taxes. In short, horrible idea, presented by a horrible columnist. And I'll leave you with one more quote that kind of sums up this whole column.

We need detail people.

No shit Sherlock.

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