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« Fact for the Day | Main | Janwillem Van de Wetering, R.I.P. »

July 10, 2008

Major League and Not Needing It

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

They're gone. And I'm inclined to call it Good Riddance.

Of course I'm speaking of the late and not universally lamented Seattle SuperSonics of the National Basketball Association who next season will become the Oklahoma City SomethingOrOthers.

True, I was a big Sonics fan in 1979 when they won the NBA championship. That was almost 30 years ago and the team became increasingly disappointing since then. Plus, I got bored with basketball.

There are people, my very own son included, who will argue that a city cannot be major league unless it has major league sports teams.

To this I answer a decisive "Yes and no." Here are some thoughts, probably none of which is original.

For a city to become "major league," whatever that might mean to the general public, it probably helps to have more than one major sports team in town. I say "more then one" because just one team usually doesn't provide the needed public relations heft. Green Bay, Wisconsin, Portland, Oregon and Salt Lake City, Utah each have a single major professional sports team. None of those cities, as best I can tell, is considered a major city despite the team and other nice attributes of the place.

Los Angeles, on the other hand, is without doubt a major city (or metropolitan region, which for our purposes can be considered the same thing). Yet LA does not have a national Football League team and hasn't had one in years.

Perhaps getting the Sonics team in 1966 helped Seattle to become major. And the Mariners baseball and Seahawks football teams a decade or so later also probably helped its image. (I'll ignore the short-lived Seattle Pilots baseball club.) But now that Seattle is truly big-time, the loss of a franchise does little damage, as LA's loss of the Chargers, Rams and Raiders football teams proved.

Later,

Donald

posted by Donald at July 10, 2008




Comments

Add to your complaints that fact that the NBA is unwatchable until the last two rounds of the playoffs. The NBA features an interminable season that accomplishes nothing except to eliminate half the teams from the playoffs.

The style of play is utter crap. It's no wonder that the U.S. gets its clock cleaned routinely in international play. U.S. players serve one year in college, then its off to the NBA. So, they don't even know how to play basketball. The game was much better when kids had to play four years in college. (I understand the legal issues that now make this impossible.)

Seattle is a small town. For that matter, so is Portland. It's silly for either of those towns to try to support a major league team in any sport. Both Seattle and Portland are college type towns. In fact, the hipster atmosphere that prevails in both towns is reminiscent of one of those college towns that the graduates refuse to leave. College sports are more fun and more enjoyable to watch than pro sports anyway.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on July 10, 2008 10:57 AM



They may not be NFL, but LA does have a professional football team...the USC Trojans. The last time the NFL sent a delegation to LA to talk about bringing a team back to the city, the mayor (Villaraigosa, a UCLA alumnus) took them to talk to Pete Carroll and Mike Garret about how to have a successful program.

Posted by: c.o. jones on July 10, 2008 11:28 AM



There's actually a chance - though a slim chance - that Seattle might get the Sonics back, if Schultz wins his lawsuit against Bennett and has the sale set aside. I'm not sure when the case will come to trial, if it does at all, and Bennett certainly would appeal an adverse verdict, so even under a best-case scenario Seattle's likely to be without a team for at least the next couple of seasons. It might be possible to induce the Kings or Grizzlies to relocate before then.

Posted by: Peter on July 10, 2008 12:04 PM



ST-Seattle and Portland are "small" "college towns"? Compared to where?

I live in what is probably the foremost college town in the country. Let's compare size (in a non-locker room manner) courtesy of Wiki:

Seattle-592,800
Portland-568,380
Boston-589,141

Three cities fairly close in population, though Boston is losing people due to the housing and tax bite (Massachusetts and New York were the only states with negative population growth in the last Census). Portland and Seattle in no way have anything approaching the influence of Boston in the arts, business, sports, education, culture, etc. If the Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots and Bruins picked up and left tomorrow, would that change Boston's place in the cultural firmament? Is the addition of the orphaned Supersonics going to increase the cultural relevance of Oklahoma City?

Donald, kind of specious bringing up LA. They don't have an NFL franchise because, rightly, the city officials refuse to prostitute themselves out to the league and indulge in rich guy welfare by granting concessions to build a stadium. They DO, on the other hand, have 2 MLB franchises, 2 NHL franchises and 2 NBA franchises.

And that's the rub. When you've got strictly second-tier burgs ponying up tax breaks for deep-pocketed franchise owners (along with the league's wish to expand into an "untapped" markets), real cities like LA will be the losers. It leads to attitudes like that of hedge fund billionaire John Henry, owner of the Red Sox, asking the city and state for tax breaks and infrastructure inprovements while he sits on his 160-foot yacht in Boston Harbor!

Posted by: Brutus on July 10, 2008 3:48 PM



Memphis has a lousy pro-basketball team (or so I'm told--I wouldn't support even a good one); we spent a lot of money to build them a new facility, which we'll be paying for forever.

I'd gladly see them gone.

Narr

Posted by: Narr on July 10, 2008 3:53 PM



The bizarre way the NBA works, Seattle will probably be getting an expansion franchise within the next couple of years anyway.

Posted by: Alex on July 10, 2008 5:34 PM



NYC would be much better off without the Knicks.

Any town would be better off without the Knicks.

Posted by: ricpic on July 10, 2008 6:29 PM



I suspect OKC will soon regret its self-imposed transition to the "big leagues."

Posted by: Facefree on July 10, 2008 7:24 PM



I'm betting the Grizzlies end up in Seattle, thereby completing the irregular polygon. (It's certainly no circle.)

And one thing we don't do in Oklahoma City (population 545,274) is regrets. At least, not lately.

Posted by: CGHill on July 13, 2008 11:17 AM



How can anyone root for NBA players? There are three types of NBA players: thugs, Eurotrash, and Yao Ming.

Posted by: Mark on July 15, 2008 10:35 PM






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