Hornets Addendum: The National Media Thinks They Should Leave New Orleans
A couple of days ago, I wrote that article discussing the indifference surrounding the Hornets, both in New Orleans and across the nation. Since I wrote the article, the team officially announced that it would return to Oklahoma City for most of the 06-07 season. I mentioned that the national media, which largely backed New Orleans in the Saints fight, is taking Oklahoma City's side.
Since the announcement was made, I've noticed that it's just gotten worse. To me, it's beginning to sound like the national media has made up their minds--in favor of Oklahoma City.
Here's an excerpt from an article I read from ESPN.com's Dan Shanoff:
You could attribute the stunning 15-game turnaround to runaway Rookie of the Year Chris Paul (25 pts, 13 ast last night), but I'm going back to the Oklahoma City Factor.
They won their home opener in front of a frenzied OK City crowd and haven't looked back. They aren't exactly the '86 Celtics, but they are 6th in the West in home record. Last season, they were the worst home team in the West by 7 games.
Then, I read this from SI.com's Richard Deitsch:
There are roughly 300 days to go before Sports Illustrated names its 2006 Sportsman of the Year. I'm not waiting. I'm nominating an entire city: Oklahoma City.
One of the best stories in sports has emerged from one of worst disasters we've ever seen. In the aftermath of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the NBA's New Orleans franchise was temporarily placed more than 700 miles away to Oklahoma City, a city not unfamiliar to tragedy with the 1995 bombing of a federal office building. Kansas City, Las Vegas and San Diego were among the other cities interested in the franchise but the NBA opted to send the Hornets to Oklahoma City, which paid for the Hornets' housing and office-space costs and offered the team a guaranteed cash payout if the team's revenues fell short of projections.
These days, the only projection Hornets fans are thinking about is who they'll play in the playoffs. Last year, the team finished with an 18-64 record. If the playoffs started today, the Hornets would be the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The team is 22-22 overall and 13-7 in Oklahoma, including a win over the Kings in January at the University of Oklahoma's Lloyd Noble Center. The Ford Center's upper bowl has been dubbed Loud City. They should call themselves Proud City. The Hornets have played 19 games at the Ford Center and have averaged 18,546 fans --- including 10 sellouts. The in-game atmosphere rivals Midnight Madness. Fans arrive early for games and scream throughout. So much for Oklahoma being a pigskin state.
The NBA is the first major sports league to place a team in Oklahoma City and the league is clearly impressed. They announced yesterday that the Hornets will play 35 games in Oklahoma City and six in New Orleans in 2006-07. The plan is for the team to return fulltime to New Orleans for the 2007-08 season. That's the right thing to do. But Oklahoma City has set itself up as the top choice for relocation if a franchise moves, or if the league expands beyond its current 30 teams.
For years, Oklahoma City has craved a reputation as a first-class, major-league city. Welcome to the club, cowboy.
So it sounds pretty compelling. Oklahoma City: GOOD. New Orleans: BAD. But when these "journalists" recite the "facts" that help state Oklahoma City's case (sellout crowds, winning home records, etc.), they ignore a few other facts. So I thought I'd take a minute address them:
1. As I mentioned in the previous post, there is an EXTREMELY NOTICEABLE difference in ticket prices in Oklahoma City and New Orleans. The tickets in Oklahoma are much cheaper. Look it up. And yet, as someone else already mentioned, New Orleans has still sold out at least one of the games to be played in New Orleans already.
2. Comparing last year's Hornets team to this year's Hornets team is like comparing Larry Bird or Bill Russell's Celtics to the modern-day Celtics. Last year's team was HORRIBLE. Jamal Mashburn never played and was later traded to dump his contract. Baron Davis faked injury after injury, refused to play, held the team hostage, and was eventually traded. The team had Dan Dickau, not Chris Paul, playing point guard. Think about it. Can you really blame fans for not wanting to come out and support that trainwreck of a team? I could understand the argument if the Hornets were a playoff team last year and still had the second-lowest attendance numbers.
3. The novelty of the whole situation. I suspect OK City fans could be like Jacksonville Jaguar fans. In the Jacksonville situation, the city had to prove that was a "pro city," so it supported the team early. Through good fortune, the team was never bad, so the good times kept coming, and games kept selling out. But the first minute the team got bad, everybody jumped off the bandwagon. Now, the city can't sell out games without covering significant portions of the upper deck and lowering stadium capacity. Now, the team has been discussed as a potential candidate to relocate. What's gonna happen to Oklahoma City the first time the team goes 18-64? I think New Orleans has proved (through our pitiful Saints) that it will support a team, no matter how bad it is. It deserves a second chance.
4. The fact that George Shinn and Oklahoma City are trying to cash in on a NATURAL DISASTER should be enough to provide some opposition. I've heard some people mention that Oklahoma City should have more compassion for New Orleans, considering what it went through 10 years ago. But I guess business is business.
Maybe George Shinn, Oklahoma City, and the NBA are telling the truth. Maybe this is only a temporary thing. Maybe the Hornets are going to come back in two years. But right now, it really doesn't feel like it. And the longer the team stays away, coupled with the longer the team stays over there, the less likely it becomes that we will have any attachment to the team. Oklahoma City will claim the Hornets as "their" team, and things will just run their natural course.
We can't let that happen. Unless, of course, too many people just don't care. Which I suspect is the case.