In a pair of articles this week, Tom Ziller of SBNation.com elucidated the conditions of fandom in Sacramento as the Kings’ season approaches. What could be the last Kings season in Sacramento. To catch you up….(big breath):
The Maloofs were great owners and then the economy tanked and they became bad owners and then they started making noise about wanting a new arena and then threatened to leave and then they actually started having talks with Anaheim and thought they were home free but the NBA was like “Woah” and then Mayor Kevin Johnson presented to the NBA and knocked their socks off while the Maloofs basically presented a slide of “But we want to!” and the NBA was like “No way” and then they figured out a solution and it was awesome and a new arena would be built and then the Maloofs bailed on the agreement because of stuff people think is really piddly that should in no way hold up a deal and the league is in an impossible position and the Maloofs held an aggressive, spikey press conference and the city’s holding firm and it looks like the Kings are going to file for relocation in the spring.
So Ziller presents the case for why this season is an absolute no-win for Sacramento and its fans.
And now, we’re supposed to buy tickets, get our gear and root for the Kings. It’s a bizarre situation.
No one knows if fans will show up this season. The team claims that 80 percent of season ticket holders have renewed, but that doesn’t mean much: the season ticket levels seem to be fairly low, and as all keen NBA observers know, a substantial portion of season tickets go unused, especially for bad teams. Some fans have instituted one-man boycotts. Others are vowing to go as cheaply as possible. (SB Nation’s Kings blog is holding FTM Night, a sarcastic rendition of Maloof Appreciation Night. Our decision to ask fans to attend as cheaply as possible has gotten our credentials revoked, probably fairly.) We all saw what happened to Seattle, and how the shell-shocked fans largely avoided KeyArena when it was clear that the Sonics were gone. We don’t want to follow that same path … but who wants to line the pockets of traitors? Who wants to toss cash at the moving van driver?
A developer who lost all but 2 percent of the family’s ownership in The Palms. A developer whose mistakes forced the family to sell their patriarch’s cornerstone business, the New Mexico beer and spirits distributorship. “Trust me, I’m a developer.” When I look at George Maloof’s face, trust is the last thing I want to offer. (By a country mile.) He preceded to tell Sacramento that the Maloofs are committed to staying here. To renovating ARCO. (They have not moved an inch on that idea, according to reports.) Committed to Sacramento. So committed that it’s ridiculous to ask them to actually commit on paper. So committed that you might as well stop asking if they’re committed, because dammit they have said they are committed. Trust them.
I don’t trust that because I remember what the Maloofs didn’t do on April 13, 2011, and I don’t trust that because I remember what the Maloofs did do on April 13, 2012. I don’t believe a word George said about the Sacramento market — we know what he said about Sacramento is wrong. Not a word he said about the arena plan, because if he felt how he did about the arena’s viability all along, he never would have shook hands on the blueprint. The trust I had in the Maloof family and its intentions cracked for good when they forgot about their customers on April 13, 2011, and it shattered forever when they tore down their customers on April 13, 2012.
If you were a Sacramento fan, being treated this way, why would you want to put a single dollar in the Maloofs’ pockets? Why would you want a single opportunity to give them financial relief? Fans are always more attached to teams than owners, owners come and go, something they never talk about when they talk about their rights as owners. And generally, that relationship should remain as such. It’s nasty business to try linking your favorite team to the guy who pays the bills. Or even the athletes who wear the jerseys, a lot of the time. But this has become personal.
Sacramento has a personal relationship with the Maloofs. More than Heisley and Memphis, Bennett and OKC, even Holt and San Antonio. There’s a personal relationship between the Maloofs and the city of Sacramento, and it not a good one. It is bitter and personal and filled with resentment and anger. The Maloofs have openly pushed stories about how they’re being treated by Sacramento, as if they randomly were being bombarded. This is not to justify the abuse they’ve suffered, which is going to be extreme in some cases, because, let’s be honest, some people are terrible. And there’s no excuse for that. None. It doesn’t change the fact that this relationship was poisoned from both sides.
And the worst part is that the more they do to poison the relationship, the more it helps them. The league will not consider what the Maloofs have done to poison the well for ticket sales or revenue this season. They expect the fans to support them, no matter what. That’s their strength as a sports league. They can demand unreasonable things in exchange for the game they provide. And while David Stern in particular needs serious commendation for his protection of Sacramento in this instance, there’s only so far he can go.
So the more the Maloofs do to prove they should not own an NBA franchise, the more they will gain support of the league and its owners. Because very little in sports business makes sense.
That’s really the incredible part of this story. There’s nothing the fans, the citizens can do at this point. If the Maloofs decide to keep the team there, it will be of their own initiative. If they decide to file, nothing will change their mind. The fans can show up in droves and carry the team to the playoffs, and it likely won’t generate enough revenue to change the Maloofs mind, because the arena dictates so much of that. They can pressure the mayor’s office to cave and the city may simply not be able to afford it. They can not go and validate the Maloofs talk of the support.
The Maloofs have a right to protect their interests as businessmen. They’re not legally obligated to take care of Sacramento. Morally is another question, but as always that matters little in business.
If you were a Kings fan, would you want to go games? To buy jerseys, coozies, stickers? Would you want to support the team that’s yours?