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I’m Sure A-Rod is Somehow Responsible

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Is there no end to the perfidy of Justin Verlander?

Selling to the low bidder reduces the overall valuation of the franchise by about $35 million, which seems to be against the interests of owners league-wide. And Seattle is a much larger metropolitan area than Sacramento, so the leaue as a whole is missing out on an opportunity to grow its fanbase and increase national television revenue.

So why do this?

Well, it seems to all go back to the arena. You see, in addition to offering $365 million for the team, the Seattle bidders were offering to build a brand new arena for the Kings. By contrast, the Sacramento bidders managed to persuade the city of Sacramento to build a brand new arena for the Kings. The Seattle bid, in other words, would have set a good precedent for the future of American public policy. And the owners didn’t want that. The owners want to be able to make this move over and over again. “Give us a new publicly financed stadium or we’ll move to Seattle” is a threat that works as well in Portland or Milwaukee or Minneapolis or Salt Lake City or Memphis or New Orleans or Phoenix as it does in Sacramento. And the major American sports leagues are organized as a cartel for a reason. An individual owner just wants to sell to the highest bidder. But the league approval process means the owners as a whole can think of the interests of the overall cartel, and those interests very much include a strong interest in maintaining the ability to get cities to pony up subsidies.

If your resolution to this problem is “Lebron James should get paid less money,” then congratulations; a sportswriting gig at Slate awaits you…

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  • ploeg

    One thing that I have come to appreciate about association football as it is practiced overseas is the concept of relegation.

    • Anon21

      I’m not sure how that could even work in the U.S. The NFL and NBA have no professional competition. MLB has some, but the best indy league (and minor league, if you want to count them) teams would probably win no more than 15-20 games per season in MLB competition.

      • FlipYrWhig

        You’d have to gravitate towards something more like a club team structure — which would also replace the NCAA. Then the Tuscaloosa Crimson Tide Football Club would be able to decide whether to keep its squad intact to make a play for the premier league/majors/NFL, or to sell their players’ rights to richer clubs.

        • Nick

          I think the NCAA is the place that could best accommodate relegation, especially since (until very recent changes, that is) the conferences are regional. You could establish a promotion/relegation system between the WAC and the PAC-Whatever, for instance.

          • FlipYrWhig

            Ooh, good idea. Except that the NCAA itself is such a racket and IMHO the whole thing should really be a network of for-pay athletic leagues, separate from any educational pretext.

            • John

              The NCAA is a racket and all that, but I don’t see how you’re ever going to get a just development system for players without wrapping it in the colors of the existing college system. Nobody’s going to root for the “Tuscaloosa Crimson Tide” – they have to continue to represent the University of Alabama in some way or you’re killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

              • FlipYrWhig

                I think it’s too late to fix it now, but I don’t see any reason why people wouldn’t have rooted for Tuscaloosa Crimson Tide FC, waved the banners, worn the colors, wanted to stomp all over the Athens Bulldogs and the Baton Rouge Tigers and the Columbia Gamecocks, and have the whole thing have nothing to do with the local university. People care passionately about these teams without going to the schools: it shows local pride and (albeit to a lesser degree than it used to be) the superiority of the local boys. If anything, I’d think that the prospect of keeping an intact team of ‘Bama footballers or Tar Heels hoopsters or whatever, instead of having them get promoted into the NFL or NBA, would be _more_ fun for fans.

      • howard

        you could make it work for baseball, although it would require untying minor league teams from their major league owners, but the baseball equivalent of what goes on in soccer and the 3 teams with the worst records would be kicked downward to aaa ball, and the 3 teams with the best records in aaa ball would ascend to the majors (and so on down the line, and i suppose you’d end up with 3 a level teams being relegated and 3 semi-pro teams advancing, and no, i don’t know how that would work either).

        since the revenue loss is enormous, avoiding relegation does focus the mind in a way that doesn’t happen in american sports with pretty much guaranteed profitability.

        • Anon21

          Yeah, I can see how it would work in theory, but AAA clubs are really terrible in comparison to Major League teams. Just not competitive at all. I probably undershot it when I said even the best minor-league would win no more than 15-20 games (though the best indy teams would probably be that bad), but even so, we’re talking 2003 Tigers levels of futility–for three teams, every year. Who wants to watch that?

          • FlipYrWhig

            It would take a long time, but imagine it as David Wright and Justin and BJ Upton playing on the same Virginia baseball team from the time they were 17 or 18. Build a team around them: no draft, no farm system, more like the way college sports recruiting works now… only you can make money (over the table) from the beginning. The majors/minors distinction would become much fuzzier. Probably in a good way.

          • howard

            and the truth is, when you watch the system at play in european soccer (i follow the premier league most closely) you see a cluster of teams on a yo-yo: they dominate what’s called the “championship league” and are promoted, then get the stuffing kicked out of them by the big boys in the premier league and get relegated.

            so what you end up with are the teams who are always in the premier league, and the teams who will never advance that far, and then there are 6-8 teams in a kind of yo-yo position.

            and at this point, yes, it’s hard to imagine how this would be put into effect in american sports, and yes, you do get situations where premier league big boys play teams with quite modestly scaled grounds and supply-demand for tickets is completely out of whack….

            • FlipYrWhig

              The only way it would be possible is if it absorbed the current NCAA, because at least for big-time football and basketball NCAA facilities are somewhat comparable to major league ones.

              • socraticsilence

                Actually, major conference Football stadiums are almost always larger than their NFL counterparts– only 3 NFL stadiums hold 80,000 or more only one holds 100,000+ the SEC alone has 8 stadiums with 80,000+ and 2 over 100,000.

      • TribalistMeathead

        And then there’s the NHL. Same issues with untying the AHL/ECHL/etc. teams from their parent organizations as you have in MLB, but then you avoid the massive discrepancy in seating capacity you’d have in the MLB (what happens when the Yankees come to play your AAA team in a park that seats 5K at best?)

        • Scott Lemieux

          Really? You seriously think that Manchester NH and Binghamton and Albany etc. etc. have NHL-caliber facilities?

          • rw970

            Manchester and Albany have nice-ish facilities capable of 10,000 people or more. In a league where Winnipeg and the Isles average under 15,000, that’s not so crazy.

            • Scott Lemieux

              Winnipeg represents the very lowest viable range of an NHL team. There’s a huge difference between 10,000 and 15,000; the latter is barely NHL caliber (and the Islanders are moving because Nassau Coliseum isn’t an NHL-caliber facility), a rink with 10,000 isn’t close. The NHL the most attendance-dependent of the major leagues.

              • Richard

                LA Kings sold out every home game this year in an arena that fits 19,000. Playing in a 10,000 seat arena means a 50% drop in gate revenues. Which, of course, would change the entire economic structure of the game.

              • rw970

                The Islanders are moving to Barclays, which is even smaller than Nassau Veterans, and is not really well configured for hockey. I think that for some of the minor hockey/KHL games that were played there, I heard they actually set up the seating in a U-shape configuration because the arena is too short on one side. Barclay’s is, however, a much nicer and newer building, and more conveniently located.

                I think the point is that there’s a pretty small spread between minor hockey and professional hockey arena sizes. There are no 30,000 or 50,000 seat hockey arenas. The biggest hover around 20,000. A difference of 5-10,000 would not be such a dealbreaker for the odd Albany or Manchester that snuck in.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  A difference of 5-10,000 would not be such a dealbreaker for the odd Albany or Manchester that snuck in.

                  I completely disagree. Barclay’s is at the absolute low end of what would be viable for an NHL team, and it will have many more luxury boxes and be able to charge much higher mean ticket prices than a comparable AHL market.

                • rw970

                  I completely disagree. Barclay’s is at the absolute low end of what would be viable for an NHL team, and it will have many more luxury boxes and be able to charge much higher mean ticket prices than a comparable AHL market

                  Yes, which is why the New York Islanders, owned by a billionaire and playing in a posh new arena in Brooklyn on top of a giant NYC subway junction will be playing with an advantage over the independent Manchester Monarchs from New Hampshire, whose games you can get to by Greyhound Bus. Just like Manchester is advantaged over Blackpool.

              • rw970

                I rush to say that instituting a system of relegation by itself is no cure for anything, and yes, would be problematic for many reasons, including arena size. It would have to be coupled with a whole bunch of other reforms to make it viable. If you compare it to European soccer leagues, relatively small towns support profitable professional teams. The end goal would involve not just an independent professional hockey team for the Albanys and Hamiltons, but also, at lower levels, for the Rouyn-Norandas and Kelownas.

                • FlipYrWhig

                  That’s why I think the best comparison is to the current (and already big-time) NCAA structure for football and basketball, rather than to the current minor leagues.

    • wengler

      Yep, and that is a thing that you can only put in at the beginning or else it will never happen. Those teams for the most part lose money hand over fist, while the major league sports here suck up as much money as they can while using their cartel status to bully cities into giving them hundreds of millions of dollars of free money.

      The US had a lot of leagues in the late 19th century competing against each other. Instead of organizing them into a rational system, two of them joined into an agreement to destroy the rest. Thus the Democrats and Rep…ahem, thus the American and National League was born.

    • Scott Lemieux

      I guess relegation is kinda neat, but the way people bring it up as a solution to completely unrelated problems in North American pro sports even though the concept is transparently unworkable in that context is really strange.

      • FlipYrWhig

        It’s an interesting potential solution to the corrosive influence of the NCAA, IMHO.

      • rw970

        Tyler Dellow had a nice long piece about relegation being a better system than the current franchise system for North American professional sports, written during the last NHL lockout.

        http://www.mc79hockey.com/?p=5004

        “In short (uh…) the European system provides more meaningful games, more opportunities for meaningful teams to exist (imagine the Leafs playing a team centered in Scarborough or, even more improbably, Hamilton), teams that are more relevant in the communities that they’re part of and more opportunities for people who aren’t pulling down six figures to attend games on a regular basis.”

        • Scott Lemieux

          Maybe I’ll do a separate article about this, but while this is an excellent argument against the farm system structure, it’s not really about relegation per se.

          • rw970

            Yeah, for sure. Take from it what you will. I think it highlights that there are a lot of differences between the organization of NA sports and Euro sports leagues besides just the possibility of punishing consistently underperforming teams from Florida with relegation.

          • rea

            At least in baseball, the farm system is largely a mechanism for training players who are not yet ready for the major leagues. How a relegation system could be reconciled with the very real need for a farm system is not clear.

            • FlipYrWhig

              The European soccer model would be that players would be trained by club teams, who could then sell their contracts to a richer “major league” team or keep them on hand to make the club team “major” in its own right. For instance, Bryce Harper could at age 17 start playing for Las Vegas Baseball Club, which could then decide if it wanted to sign other players to slot around Harper OR alternatively to sell Harper at a premium to Washington Baseball Club, Los Angeles Baseball Club, etc.

              That seems screwy compared to what we have now, but it’s not that different from how NCAA teams get players fresh out of high school. The difference would be that there wouldn’t have to be a major “professional” league higher than that. They’d all be professionals.

              It’s too late to change now — too much money has been sunk into big-time sports as they are. But it could have worked, if not for the weirdness with which sports got mixed up with colleges in this country.

              • I like this system but as someone upthread pointed out, this really would have to be instituted from the get-go in a new league (or one really struggling to compete. Perhaps the MLS could consider it.)

                But here’s an alternate thought: what if, instead of relegation, the schedules were adjusted to make individual games more competitive by weighing the teams based on last year’s record and unbalancing the ridiculous geographic assignations?

                In other words, Houston this year would be playing in a “division” with Colorado, Chicago Cubs, and the Twins. They’d have their chance to play out of that “relegation” and into the next tier: (say, Cleveland, Miami, and Boston) by having the best record in that division.

                The playoffs would have a “League Cup” feel by inviting the top two teams from each division, plus (if you really insist) wild card teams. Now, teams that previously never stood a chance of making the playoffs (and the additional revenue) would have something to play for in September, and you’d still get the top few teams in each year anyway.

                It’s a completely half-baked and spontaneous idea that I just pulled out of my ass, but there are some attractions to it. I’m sure there’s plenty of downside I’m missing, but I’m not seeing a dealbreaker other than implementation.

                • FlipYrWhig

                  The regional aspect is where a lot of the passion for college sports comes from, so it should work — or would have worked, but we may be too far gone now.

  • howard

    i am not legally sophisticated enough to know this, but by joining the nba, did the maloofs really surrender their right to sell their franchise to the highest bidder?

    • Warren Terra

      I don’t know the facts of the matter either, but a couple of things occur to me: (1) there’s revenue sharing and NBA-wide revenue, and so restricting the ability of the owners to cash in individually in ways that hurt the profit potential of the whole league (which profits they’ve previously benefited from) makes some sense; and (2) they might not own the team, they might own the NBA franchise for Sacramento, a distinction that could make a big difference (though a smaller one when you recall that they can’t sell the Sacramento franchise to anyone they want to, either).

      • howard

        and i know enough to know that the league has to approve the buyer, so clearly there is some franchiser/franchisee thing going on, but as i say, i really don’t have a grasp of the legal framework here.

        i do, however, have a grasp on the fact that public funding for stadiums and arenas is inexcusable….

    • catclub

      Yep. Socialism is okay for football franchises, too.

      • Warren Terra

        I can think of terms for systems under which state finances are being funneled to a small number of elite leaders of society and industry, but “socialism” isn’t one of them.

        • catclub

          Corporate welfare might be the term you are looking for?

          For the football teams, ‘share the wealthism’ is more accurate. Which hobgoblin does that correspond to?
          Communism? Early Christian Commune-ism?

          • Bill Murray

            cartelism

        • Cody

          Well, it’s certainly an odd construct. But can’t you have “socialism” among only a group?

          So the owners are okay with “socialism” between other super-wealthy people, but Lord have mercy if you’re not rich and you get stuff for free.

          I guess privilege is a more clear term…

          • Anonymous

            I don’t think it is an “odd” contract. Football does the same thing. One of the reasons LA doesn’t have a franchise right now, even though there are private funds available, is because the NFL has not been able to blackmail LA to kick in enough public funds.

        • Cody

          Shorter Republicans: Things are going great for the Rich, it’s all those laborer’s faults for taking all their money!

    • Trollhattan

      The owners control both team sales and relocation–rules in place when the Maloofs bought controlling interest back in 1999. So they knew the rules coming in.

      They’re probably exibit the oneth that today one needs to be a billionaire to own a pro sports team. Being douches is optional, but helpful. And don’t go bringing up those commies in Green Bay.

      • howard

        it’s one thing to know the rules coming in and it’s another if the rules don’t have a legal foundation that would stand up in court: the kinds of people rich enough to buy sports franchises think rules are for the 99 percenters….

        • Trollhattan

          In this day and age it’s hard for me to believe they wouldn’t stand up in court. But since the Maloofs get all kinds of steamed when they don’t get their way (this would be the fourth time in a row they’ve been smacked down) they’re free to use their resources to sue.

          • Lego My Eggo

            I don’t believe the NBA has an antitrust exemption, so they may well have a case. But I could be wrong.

    • Richard

      Yes. Since the league has to approve all sales, the Maloofs dont have the right to sell the franchise to the highest bidder because the league can consider other factors other than price

      • so richard, let’s take this one step further, because it’s really the legal underpinnings here i’m curious about.

        the maloofs have approached you to consider filing a suit against the league: do you tell them suck it up and live with it or do you say “well, it’s a long shot, but here’s the case you’d have to prove?”

        and if it’s the latter, what’s the case?

        • Sherm

          Would have to see the franchise agreement to offer an opinion, but I doubt there would be much of case. There’s also a possible antitrust claim, which would be expensive and time-consuming.

          • Richard

            I agree with Sherm. I would tell the Maloofs that you signed the agreement, your’e a sophisticated business and your’e stuck with the terms.

            As far as anti-trust claims go, I’m no expert but my general thought is that parties to an agreement are the worst possible parties to bring claims of anti-trust. As I vaguely recall, the Oakland Raiders joined a lawsuit brought by the LA Coliseum Commission agaisnt the NFL on antitrust ground but its just a very hard argument to make that the agreement you signed which basically made you part of a trust somehow violates the antitrust rules.

        • howard

          thank you both.

    • Steve S.

      Lawyers can fix anything, just ask Al Davis. That said, Davis was an unusual case, a rich guy who was willing to pursue his own narrow self-interest at the expense of his cartel’s class interest. I don’t know much about Chris Hansen other than that he has a shitload of money and is probably smart enough to see that he’s being played in the way Yglesias describes. So maybe he can do something to boost hiring in the legal profession.

  • mpowell

    This is still a really odd result and I really have to question the league’s decision making process. Why does the NBA care if the Seattle bidders are willing to pay for the arena on their own if they are willing to also pay more for the team? All that means is that the difference between putting a team in Seattle versus Sacremento is worth more than the stadium deal Sacremento was offering, and I’m hardly surprised. It just doesn’t make sense from the league’s perspective because the interests of the new owners are irrelevant pre-purchase. The NBA is just screwing the Maloofs and probably lowering the value of the Kings franchise by keeping them in Sacremento. Is this an attempt to reward Sacremento? To keep punishing Seattle for refusing to build the Sonics a new stadium? It’s one thing to establish the precedent that a team will move if it’s host city refuses to pay for a new stadium, but this is along the lines of invading Iraq just to prove that we’re crazy enough to do something stupid like invade Iraq.

    • stickler

      Um, I think this:

      To keep punishing Seattle for refusing to build the Sonics a new stadium?

      … says all that needs to be said. Professional sports team owners have become accustomed to having the taxpayer foot the bill for their facilities. Seattle setting a worrying precedent to the contrary would challenge that. Not good for the plutocrats who own the teams.

    • catclub

      It is like when Juan Antonio Samaranch talks about the sanctity of the game. He (and the NBA) are referring to the game of screwing the rubes.

      • nixnutz

        Politicians transferring vast amounts of taxpayer money to real estate developers under cover of sports fandom, it’s pretty much the perfect scam. It’s like the military industrial complex minus the jobs.

    • Warren Terra

      I don’t know if it’s real or just bitterness expressed in argument, but I’ve heard the claim made that the NBA is using Seattle as an object lesson: don’t give us everything we want and we’ll ship your team off to the 50th largest media in the country, and we’ll prevent you from getting ahold of another one even if you’ve got buyers with the cash and the intention to build a brand new stadium. The other side of the same coin is that the NBA can always threaten any other city with shipping their team off to Seattle …

      • Mike Schilling

        I hate to say anything good about Bud Selig, but he used his influence to keep the Giants in a city that wouldn’t build them a stadium and has done nothing to screw them for building their own.

    • Anonymous

      At the current bid price, the Sacramento Kings have the highest valuation of any franchise sale ever. The absurdity of that fact tells you everything you need to know.

      • Anonymous

        Just to pile on, there is no “league’s best interest.” As owners, their 1 concern is improving the valuation of THEIR teams, which is why Saaramento won.

        It ain’t the fans: Sacramento is last in the NBA in attendance, and has been at or near the bottom for years.

        It ain’t the media market: Sacramento is easily the smallest city with an NBA team. Seattle is larger by a wide margin.

        It ain’t the TV rights: see above., and factor in that the Kings have no star players, and have been lousy for years.

        But by raising the franchise’s valuation to an absurd height ($525M), the Sacramento group did the most to increas the valuation of every other franchise. That’s their only concern, and it’s the only reason the team is staying in Sactown.

        • To be fair, attendence at Kings games is down because the team sucks donkey balls and has for years. This has been a deliberate strategy by the Maloofs, who don’t have to actually put money into the team while at the same time pointing fingers at the fans for not showing up to watch their team lose again.

          • sparks

            Mr. Michelle Rhee is quite the negotiator, giving away the people’s money for his self-aggrandizement. I saw the desperation in the papers and on TV, and as usual the citizens take the hindmost. The Maloofs share greatly in the blame to be spread.

            IOW, I would have been mighty glad to see the back of that franchise as they left town. It’s bad enough that my retired and disabled mother is saddled with utility fees, transit and parking/traffic ticket costs that are higher than many legitimately major cities, but this giveaway is the frozen limit.

            • Utility costs? Is she in Sac proper? The one reason I’m not entirely thrilled with the possibility of moving to West Sac is because we’ll have to switch from SMUD to PG&E and pay higher rates for electricity.

              • sparks

                SMUD is the outlier. They are great, the Rancho Seco debacle aside. The garbage/sewer/water/etc. is awful. It rises about as frequently as a Comcast cable bill. And they’re going to meter water as well, though thankfully she lives in a very old neighborhood which will be one of the last to get the meters. There was a scandal about the water meters, too.

        • Trollhattan

          It ain’t the media market: Sacramento is easily the smallest city with an NBA team. Seattle is larger by a wide margin.

          Ahem:

          1. Memphis, Tennessee (658,250)
          2. New Orleans, Louisiana (675,760)
          3. San Antonio, Texas (748,950)
          4. Salt Lake City, Utah (800,000)
          5. Milwaukee, Wisconsin (886,770)
          6. Charlotte, North Carolina (1,004,440)
          7. Indianapolis, Indiana (1,053,020)
          8. Portland, Oregon (1,086,900)
          9. Orlando, Florida (1,303,150)
          10. Sacramento, California (1,315,030)

          It ain’t the fans: Sacramento is last in the NBA in attendance, and has been at or near the bottom for years.

          Ahem, the second:

          Seattle Supersonics:

          2007-08 547,556 13,355
          2006-07 654,163 15,955
          2005-06 664,157 16,198
          2004-05 675,490 16,475
          2003-04 631,349 15,399
          2002-03 637,194 15,541
          2001-02 633,516 15,452
          2000-01 640,847 15,630

          Sacramento Kings (same years)

          2007-08 580,181 14,150
          2006-07 709,817 17,312
          2005-06 709,997 17,317
          2004-05 709,997 17,317
          2003-04 709,997 17,317
          2002-03 709,997 17,317
          2001-02 709,997 17,317
          2000-01 709,997 17,317

          Media market rankings are close (20th and 17th IIRC) and while Seattle has MLB and NFL and Pac12 football, Sac has only the Kings.

          So, basically wrong on all counts.

          • Mike Schilling

            That’s Sacramento metropolitan area? The city itself has less than 500K.

            • Trollhattan

              Metro area television households. The SMSA population number is higher for all the cities listed, and the ranking shifts slightly. IIRC city of Seattle is about 100k larger than the city of Sacramento, but sprawl kinda makes those irrelevant.

              • Mike Schilling

                I wonder where the border between Sac and the Bay Area is. And even on the Sac side of it, you’re going to find a lot of Warriors fans. None of those others has a competitor 90 minutes away.

          • sparks

            Ahem, those sellouts in later years for Sacramento were padded to make them appear so, though they weren’t.

            If the Kings paid their own way and built up a worthwhile franchise I wouldn’t be so critical, but they haven’t and they didn’t.

        • Jordan

          Well, you were wrong about everything else (as pointed out above), but here is the kicker. You say

          “But by raising the franchise’s valuation to an absurd height ($525M), the Sacramento group did the most to increas the valuation of every other franchise. That’s their only concern, and it’s the only reason the team is staying in Sactown.”

          Which, of course, is the exact opposite of the truth. The higher valuation came from Seattle.

    • Maybe to prevent what I described here in a previous thread on stadiums. In short, to prevent a team from being cash-poor over something it’s assumed should be covered by the taxpayers.

      • mpowell

        Well, you only have to look as far as the McCourt/Dodgers to see the potential problems with dodgy owners buying a team using a lot of debt, so I can see why the league would object to that. But it doesn’t seem like that was the problem here.

  • Bitter Scribe

    This is a tangential issue, but I’m curious…what did most Sonics fans do when the team decamped for OKC? Continue rooting for the now-Thunder, switch to the Blazers, or just say “Fuck the NBA”?

    Or maybe it’s not so tangential. The attitude of burned Sonics fans may account for reluctance to put public money behind a new stadium.

    • Warren Terra

      Given that the proposed new owners were planning to build a new stadium “without public money” (I suspect there was public money for roads and utilities in there someplace), surely “continuing reluctance to put public money behind a new stadium” doesn’t enter into it? I mean, even the NBA isn’t going to publicly admit that stadiums must be publicly funded gifts to their teams, that privately funded stadiums aren’t acceptable.

      • Alan in SF

        MLB has never forgiven the San Francisco Giants for building AT&T Park, the best stadium in baseball, with private financing. It is the line that must not be crossed, even if it means road games in Sacramento instead of Seattle, and sponsorship from Mary’s Pizza House instead of Amazon.

        • Mike Schilling

          How has MLB punished the Giants?

          • tucker

            By not letting them win a World Series…. oh never mind.

    • TribalistMeathead

      Probably #3. #1 doesn’t happens that frequently with any pro sports franchise.

      • wengler

        #4 Hate the moved team with a passion and hope they lose at every occasion.

        • Spokane Moderate

          That’s been my approach. Thuck the Funder.

      • catclub

        There may be some SF Giants and LA Dodgers fans who came the the NY environs. Those may be irrelevant relative to this dicussion. I think Robert Irsay is unpopular in at least one city. ( I Get mixed up between the Baltimore Colts decampment and some Cleveland? team decampment.)

        • Bitter Scribe

          It’s very simple. In chronological order (I don’t feel like looking up the years):

          1) The Colts moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis and stayed Colts.
          2) The Browns moved from Cleveland to Baltimore and became the Ravens.
          3) The NFL started an “expansion team” in Cleveland that just happened to be called the Browns and use identical colors.

          It’s simple, if not exactly logical.

          • John

            Actually, no. Officially, the Ravens are the expansion team. They were just an expansion team that happened to have the same ownership, coaching staff, and players as the Cleveland Browns. The Browns franchise, meanwhile, fell into abeyance for three years before resuming with entirely new ownership, players, and staff. But, supposedly, the current Browns team is the same franchise as the original Browns team. So Jim Brown still holds rushing records for the Browns, and not the Ravens, for instance.

        • Joshua

          The first round of Mets fans was basically lost Dodger and Giants fans.

          Will Leitch says he roots for the Arizona Cardinals even after they moved, and claims that’s what fans should do. It’s not the usual though.

          I think what hurts the most is just the loss of prestige, people like that their local area is worthy enough to be represented by a pro franchise. So rooting for whatever the team becomes is not an option.

          • TribalistMeathead

            “The first round of Mets fans was basically lost Dodger and Giants fans.”

            Yes, it’s why they share team colors with the Dodgers and the Giants.

          • redrob64

            “Hey, how about that regional sports franchise game last night?”

    • djw

      Continue rooting for the now-Thunder, switch to the Blazers, or just say “Fuck the NBA”?

      I’d say the ratio there is about 0/10/90. I was at a bar in Seattle where a Lakers/OKC game was on, and the sentiment was clearly for the odious, hated Lakers over the team now known in Washington as the “zombie Sonics.”

      • mpowell

        To be fair, the move to OkC was one of the most cynical I’ve seen recently in pro sports. Most moves are not that bad.

      • Breadbaker

        I proudly own a “Thanks, Miami” shirt from last year, with the bottom of the Heat basketball logo turned into a Sonics logo. I get high fives whenever I wear it (even in Sydney, Australia).

  • wengler

    That slate article was truly horrible. Not only did the reserve clause steal money from players that went straight into the owners’ pockets, but revenues have risen as fast, if not faster, than salaries.

    I guess the solution is to not make eight and nine figure deals with cable systems to air every game, or at least make sure that none of that money ends up with the professional athletes that are ruining their bodies for sport. Also, it appears there were more than 100 million less people in this country in 1972. So a product has a potential 50 percent more consumers needs to definitely keep those players’ salaries at a steady lower level.

  • Phil Hartman dramatic slowclap dot gif

  • As a Sacramento resident, I’m scratching my head a bit here, because every time a stadium funding measure gets on the ballot, it’s voted down. I don’t understand how the Sac ownership group convinced the NBA that this time would be different.

  • No matter what the rationale, this has to be considered good news for the American sports fan. If a league is willing to accept less money in exchange for keeping teams in the same locale, thereby halting the franchise free agency that sucks the tradition out of sports, then good for them. Seattle hoops fans, like LA football fans, just need to wait for expansion.

    • rw970

      But that’s not what’s happening. They’re preserving franchise free agency. If Seattle was willing to publicly fund the new arena, the Kings would be on their way there.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        If Seattle were willing to public fund a new arena, the Sonics wouldn’t have moved in the first place (though I suspect Clay Bennett would still have tried to move them).

        • Angry former fan

          To be precise, if Seattle had been willing to build the Sonics a new half-billion dollar arena at public expense with completely private benefit less than fifteen years removed from renovating Key Arena, the Sonics may not have moved in the first place. It was never a serious offer.

    • Warren Terra

      Absolutely: the lesson to take from Seattle’s history with the NBA is that the league strives mightily to keep teams in the same locale.

      • FlipYrWhig

        Thereby preserving… the Sacramento Kings, who used to be the Kansas City Kings, before that the Cincinnati Royals, and before that the Rochester Royals. Continuity!

        • Jonas

          You left out the Kansas City-Omaha Kings.

          • FlipYrWhig

            Touche. Do the owners of the defunct St. Louis franchise still get paid?

            • Bill Murray

              The Silan Brothers, owners of the Spirits, do at least through 2015. Monetarily, there decision to get a 1/7 share to not bring there team into the NBA has got them more than $250 million

              • FlipYrWhig

                Unreal.

                • arguingwithsignposts

                  +1 I wish I could get that kind of deal.

              • Bill Murray

                They are actually the Silna brothers, and they get 1/7 of the TV money, either from each franchise or each new franchise. the league tried to buy them out in the early 80s were willing to pay $5 million over 8 years and wouldn’t pay $8 million over 5 years

  • rea

    Verlander accepted a smaller contract than he might have been able to command as a free agent because he wanted to stay with the Tigers.

  • jake the snake

    Just another reason to loathe professional sports.
    Also, a brilliant idea to replace an intolerable system
    in the US with an incomprehensible one.

    Lebron James’ excessive salary is an entirely separate issue.

    I understand the issues with college sports as they currently exist. Philosophically I have no problem with paying the players.
    I just don’t see any way it could be organized that would allow me
    to continue being a sports fan.

    I can’t attach more loyalty to any professional sports franchise than I could to any other profit seeking corporation.
    We might as well have start a fantasy business league and determine standings based on ROI and stock prices.

    • Joshua

      Lebron James’ salary is not excessive.. If anything, he is vastly underpaid. Without a salary cap, I could easily see a team like the Lakers or Knicks paying him $50 million a year…he’s making around a third of that right now.

      Why shouldn’t he make that? He has the skills and talent, he brings a ton of money to the franchise, he is judged every night on his performance. You want to talk about excessive, talk about the rentiers that pay these players. James Dolan is richer than any Knick largely because of his daddy. James has done more to earn his wealth than Dolan.

      • jake the snake

        I think a lot of people are overpaid. CEOs, big name entertainers, prominent media figures, big name athletes, big time coaches. Compared to other entertainers, James is not overpaid. Compared to the general labor market he is.
        I thought we had a bunch of leftists commenting here, not a bunch of free market fetishists.

        • Joshua

          James is earning a salary for his labor. A collectively bargained salary at that.

          The reason why he gets paid so much is because so many people like to watch sports and are willing to pay for it. I really doesn’t see how this fetishizes the free market. Somebody will earn that money. It might as well be the players.

    • Richard

      Lebron isn’t overpaid, he’s underpaid. If you calculate the economic worth he brings to the Heat, he should get $60 million to $70 million a year.

    • efgoldman

      Howkum nobody complains about the money top movie stars are paid (least of all the ticket-buying and DVD-buying public)?
      Howkum nobody except us pinko commies complains about bankster salaries? That one kind of blew over since 2010, didn’t it?
      Bill James said, in one of the 1980s Baseball Abstracts (paraphrasing because I’m at work and the book’s at home) if Americans really cared about schools and cancer cures as much as we say we do, then teachers and cancer researchers would get the really big bucks.

      • Pooh

        Counterpoint (not sure I buy it, just an argument that has at least surface validity) – they DO get big bucks, there are just so many more of them that they have to split it much more finely.

  • dan

    Also, “if you don’t give me money I’m moving to Seattle” is a threat. “Give me money or I’m moving to Sacramento” is, for those of us who spent significant time there, something that sounds more like a bad bluff than a threat.

    I would say no offense to the Sacramento, but actually, I do mean to offend that hideous, awful, horrible city.

    • I moved from Boston to Sacramento 9 years ago. I haven’t regretted a minute of it.

      The summers can be a bit rough, and things do close down a bit early for my tastes and schedule (though that’s changing). But my primary non-internet-related recreational activity is going out to eat, and there’s no shortage of excellent places to do that.Yes, it’s not San Francisco, but I can’t afford to rent in San Francisco, let alone be thinking of buying.

      Admittedly, part of the reason I like it here is that I can go into [insert public venue here] and not be the only black person in the room, so other people’s mileage may vary. My wife teases me about how excited I was when I first got here and discovered that I could find hair care products in the aisle at the local Safeway.

      • dan

        Everyone’s mileage will vary. I will say this: at least Sacramento doesn’t have Dallas / Fort Worth as its closest airport.

    • Trollhattan

      Having lived nearly half my life in each city, I don’t find the comparison to be quite as dramatic as you suggest.

  • Manju

    Can a federal law banning the States or other government entities from subsidizing sports teams pass constitutional muster?

    I mean, that falls under “interstate commerce” too, right?

    Or at least we could require them to get justice department clearance…a la voting rights.

    • I don’t know about that, but there have been proposals to eliminate the federal tax deduction for municipal bonds issued to finance sports arenas.

      I doubt it would ever pass and there would be issues as to how this might be determined, but it certainly passes constitutional muster.

  • FMguru

    Seattle will never have another NBA franchise for the same reason that Los Angeles will never have an NFL team: an “empty” city is too valuable to the league as a relocation threat to get other cities to pony up for new arenas and stadiums. For the next ten (hell, twenty) years, NBA teams will be doing the “build us a new state-of-the-art arena for free or we’re moving to Seattle” dance.

    Better get used to getting strung along, Seattle.

    • bobbyp

      Somehow a relocation threat to a city that the league has pretty much blackballed (because they won’t front public dough to sociopath billionaires) strikes me as rather hollow.

    • efgoldman

      …for the same reason that Los Angeles will never have an NFL team…

      Funny how the NFL is making all those billions o’bux without a team in LA, isn’t it? Their TV ratings in the market are holding up just fine.
      Here in greater Boston, both the Patriots (Gillette) and the Bruins (New Boston Garden, now TD Garden) did just fine building privately-financed facilities (with a little state help for infrastructure.) Remember when the Pats were gonna’ move to Providence, or Hartford, or Birmingham, if they didn’t get a new, publicly-financed stadium.
      Both operations are wildly profitable, so much so that the Jacobs family could afford to miss 17 home hockey dates during the lockout.
      Any town/county/state that falls for an arena scam deserves it.

      • rw970

        Problem is, all you need is one other stupid city council to hold your city hostage. Sure, the Edmonton Oilers are perfectly profitable without public funding, but how does that help me, on the Edmonton City Council? So long as some other city is willing to put up funding for a new arena, they’re a legitimate threat to move. I don’t want to be the guy who lost the Oilers.

        • efgoldman

          I don’t want to be the guy who lost the Oilers.

          Did any politician in Quebec City suffer when Les Nordiques moved to Denver?
          Anyone in Montreal when the Expos moved to DC?
          Anyone in Calgary when the Flames left and came back again?
          In Buffalo when the Braves went to San Diego?
          St. Louis when the Browns moved to Baltimore?
          Oakland when the Raiders left, and LA when they went back?

          I really don’t know the answer, but I expect its pretty universally “no”.

          • Mike Schilling

            I don’t even think any Oakland politicians suffered when the Raiders came back from LA, even though that deal was a complete clusterfuck.

          • rw970

            I don’t really know either. But my working hypothesis would be that if negotiations between a beloved local team and a city council broke down, and resulted in the team leaving for another city, then there would be residual bad feelings.

            When did the Flames leave Calgary?

            • efgoldman

              When did the Flames leave Calgary?

              My mistake. I misremembered that they started in Calgary, moved to Atlanta, and came back. They didn’t.
              I’m absolutely positive that no politician in Atlanta suffered when they left.

          • Jordan

            Well, I can think of at least one. The “mayor” of miami-dad county was recalled over the marlins’ stadium fiasco.

            Oh wait, that was over being TOO favorable to a disgusting owner.

          • Breadbaker

            Greg Nickels, the mayor who made the crappy deal instead of risking the judge’s ruling in the Sonics’ case, finished fourth in the primary for his reelection. The guys who finished first and second had name recognition lower than their vote. Yes, he had also given the city a “B” on snow removal when apparently all they had done was remove the snow on his route to work, but the City Attorney also lost his job in the same election and he had nothing to do with snow removal and a lot to do with caving to Bennett and not even getting as good a deal as the Browns got (i.e., the Thunder have the Sonics’ records, just not the banners).

        • PSP

          When the Patriots threatened to move to Hartford, the Mass Senate sent out one of the Senators from Springfield to comment. He said (more or less) “That’s great. Games will be closer and the traffic will be less. Let Connecticut pick up the tab.” The Patriots found a way to wiggle out of their freshly inked deal with Connecticut really fast.

          • efgoldman

            When the Patriots threatened to move to Hartford….

            They were such a hideous organization, and team, before Orthwein bought them and hired Parcells, that there was a lot of “I’ll help them pack” sentiment in MA. Nobody thought anybody could be worse owners than the Sullivans until Kiam, the Remington razor guy, bought the team. They weren’t even good enough to be a laughing stock. Mostly they were pathetic and pitiable. Think the Matt Millen Lions, then go downhill from there.

        • Rhino

          Lose the oilers, please!

          (Calgarian here. Also boycotting the NHL until at least next year)

    • Richard

      Nonsense. LA will have another NFL team in five years. Care to bet?

      • efgoldman

        LA will have another NFL team in five years.

        Didn’t I hear someone say that when the Raiders and Rams left?
        Actually, they’re supposed to have two pro teams now, but neither UCLA nor USC has hired the right coach in years. :::rimshot:::

      • bobbyp

        You’rs so sure, you must be laying odds. Make it 4 to 1 and put me down for a Franklin.

  • bobbyp

    St. Louis when the Browns moved to Baltimore?

    Pushed out of town by the Busch beer barony, may the ghosts of Sisler, Veeck, and Gaedel spit on them nonetheless.

    • efgoldman

      Hey, I was nine when the Braves left Boston. When I was an undergraduate at BU in the 60s, the old Braves Field left field wall was still part of the BU football stadium.

    • Mike Schilling

      Veeck was ready to push the Cards out of St. Louis (the Browns owned the stadium they shared) when Gussie Busch bought the team, and Veeck knew he couldn’t compete with that kind of money, so he gave up and sold the stadium to the Cards and the team to Baltimore interests. Busch wasn’t the bad guy.

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