Wednesday, January 28

Coming to Seattle: Part II

For those wondering just how it feels to be on the receiving end of David Stern’s destructive manipulation, take a look at the above video, which chronicles the June 2007 implosion of the Charlotte Colisseum.

In the ensuing years since the Hornets moved to New Orleans (and Oklahoma City, and then New Orleans once again), Charlotte has gotten themselves a new team, seen that team hire a legend as general manager, then see that legend hire another legend as coach.

All the while, one aspect of being a Bobcat fan has not changed – the team’s about as interesting to watch as a Juwan Howard fast break opportunity. Charlotte’s recent winning skein notwithstanding, the Bobcats continue to live in that no man’s land between playoff contender and lottery regular, a land of Bucks, Clippers, and Kings, a land in which no fan wants to live.

In fact, the Bobcats have received more notoriety for their off-court action (or inaction) than for their on-court play. It’s no secret that owner Robert Johnson is looking to sell, and Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports commented that, “Several NBA executives laughed over Charlotte Bobcats owner Robert Johnson’s insistence … he has no interest in selling his failing franchise. Sources say that there have already been overtures made to prospective buyers in recent months.”

Brett Hainline of Queen City Hoops knows how it looks from the outside, and he knows how it feels to be in Charlotte these days.

“People were angry that taxpayer money was used to build the new arena,” Hainline said. “People were frustrated by Johnson and the horrible television contracts the team played under the first few seasons. People were annoyed when Johnson chastised Charlotte business leaders for not doing enough to support the team last year.”

Hainline is right, the Bobcats’ original television package was probably the NBA’s worst, and kept a huge portion of the population from ever seeing a game. When combined with Johnson’s inability to sell naming rights to the building (only rectified this past spring), horrible attendance figures, and some of the lowest ticket prices, it was no surprise that the franchise was considered to be likely to leave town.

With a somewhat-improved team this season, and an improved TV package, one would think the Bobcats would be starting to see some better numbers in the bank account, but that’s not the case. According to a News Observer story Wednesday, the team’s ticket revenue is off 10 percent from last year, when it was already one of the worst in the league. Further, sponsorship revenue has not increased, which, as is the ticket revenue, is attributable as much to the miserable economy as it is to the team.

As Tom Sorensen’s amusing “Q & No A” with Johnson last October illustrates, the city is less than thrilled with his ownership of the team, and that irritation with Johnson, combined with the economy and Charlotte’s previous, failed, dalliance with the NBA, has created a perfect storm of disinterest.

That disinterest, mind you, is a breeding ground for relocation rumors, as any Sonic fan will attest. While it starts out as mild frustration, it can grow into flat-out hostility, and judging by the comments Bobcat fans make about Johnson, very little growth is needed for that hostility to blossom.

Still, what does that mean for Seattle? Are the Bobcats “in play?” And how does it feel in Charlotte knowing that your team is being bandied about?

“Every time I read an article/post/whatever suggesting that Seattle should just get the Bobcats, it makes me angry,” Hainline said. “This is my team and while some in the region have not fully accepted the team, I (and a growing number of others) have and I do not like the idea of them being taken from us.”

In the short term, it would appear unlikely that the Bobcats would be leaving town, but, hypothetically speaking, what if the team struggles on the court for the next two or three years? At that point, the lease becomes less prohibitive, and the timing would coincide quite nicely with a redeveloped KeyArena.

Just don’t expect Hainline to throw a party for Sonic fans when it happens.

“As for Seattle being ready to poach the Cats – I understand it and I can see how they would think that our losing the team would be less painful, with the shorter history.

“But I would boycott Seattle if it happened.”


jason said...

watching the charlotte coliseum be destructed is sad for me only because it was the site of my first date with my wife. Just another reason to hate David Stern.

Anonymous said...

tax dollars up in smoke

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