Kansas City might be too good to have NBA, NHL franchise

23 03 2010

Kansas City is the ultimate leverage piece for any sports franchise negotiation. When Nashville and Pittsburgh were entangled in fierce battles with their city and state governments attempting to renew leases or build new arenas, Kansas City was the pawn used to achieve their goals.

Ownership groups never really intended to relocate their franchises to Kansas City, they just teased the sports fans and civic governments threatening to move to Kansas City if their demands were not met. The results; both Pittsburgh and Nashville hockey franchises brokered new deals and new venues out of the negotiations.

And Kansas City was left feeling insecure and dumbfounded. Again.

So why is Kansas City not a realistic option for these teams, but worthy of serving as a bargaining chip? The demand for an NBA or NHL franchise is significant enough to serve as a serious threat. But not enough to seal the deal. Why?

Kansas City is virtually in the center of the circle of the closest hockey teams: Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars. Sports fans have clamored for the return of NHL hockey to Kansas City since the KC Scouts (now known as the New Jersey Devils) left in the late 1970s. Since then, several lesser professional leagues have attempted to land teams in Kansas City, with limited success. Currently, the Missouri Mavericks (of the Central Hockey League) call Kansas City home.

The numerous failed attempts at hockey franchises does not help the city’s bids for attracting a major hockey franchise, but the desire and capabilities are there. And the Sprint Center is in serious need of a permanent resident. The multi-million dollar facility has been good leverage for professional teams, but has yet to take any permanent takers.

The Sprint Center would also serve as the perfect home for an NBA franchise, there is one major problem, Kansas is the home to one of the meccas of basketball, the University of Kansas. Kansas City doesn’t need professional basketball. Fans follow the Jayhawks, once coached by the father of basketball James Naismith, the Kansas State Wildcats (currently in the Sweet 16) and the Missouri Tigers. All three schools were in the NCAA tournament and won their opening round games.

The NBA has not been in Kansas City since the Cincinnati Royals made a three-year layover on their way West, eventually landing in Sacramento in 1975. The Kings changed their name from the Royals to the Kings because Kansas City already had a team called the Royals. Preseason exhibition games do not count.

People love their basketball in Kansas City, but there is only so much hoops love to go around. Regardless of the team – because no serious basketball franchises would consider relocating to Kansas City – it would never rank higher than second on the basketball depth chart (behind the Jayhawks). So there really is no incentive to move to Kansas City. The risk would be too great.

And since neither league is seriously considering expansion anytime soon because both leagues are debatably over-extended with too many teams, the likelihood of an NBA or NHL franchise moving to Kansas City are pretty much Zero.

And with the recent (lack of) success of both the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, complete with nearly empty stadiums, there is not a lot the city can hang its hat on to promote itself as a prime candidate for another major sports franchise.

Mr Pressbox Out!!

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NASCAR change: assign drivers permanent numbers

21 02 2010

Even more dizzying than watching 43 cars do 250 laps at nearly 200 mph is trying to keep up with the off-season number changes in NASCAR.

There sure is a lot of movement within the NASCAR ranks during the 3-month off-season, considering there are only about 40 legitimate players each year. And you thought Major League Baseball recycled players past their prime instead of bringing in fresh talent to give them a shot. The same bad drivers just move from one low budget team to another. Give a hot young gun a chance instead of the same old tired names showing up in the bottom third of the field every week.

How do some of these guys still have a job? Joe Nemechek? Michael Waltrip? Elliott Sadler?  But that’s a conversation for a different day.

For a sport that prides itself on “driver loyalty,” NASCAR sure is showing its green underbelly lately. NASCAR is more about sponsors and revenue, and less about driving and the only people that truly keep it in business – the fans. And NASCAR is no less greedy than any other sport.

Ever wonder why some teams change their jerseys every season or so? It’s so the fans will buy new jerseys every few years to keep the revenue flow steady. NASCAR is just the same.

But NASCAR also wants to continue to draw new fans to the sport, while at the same time bringing in new talent like Joey Lagano and Danica Patrick. But how can you keep new fans interested in the sport  by confusing them each year by shuffling the field like a deck of cards? Just when you get used to Martin Truex Jr in the #1 Bass Pro Shops car, he switches to the #56 NAPA car and Jamie McMurray is in the #1 Bass Pro Shops car, and Boris Said was in McMurray’s old #26 car. And what the hell is AJ Allemdinger doing in the #43 car?

Next you’re going to tell me some no-name punk prospect is going to running around the Sprint Cup circuit in a #3 black Chevrolet.

I get the whole marketing and team ownership thing, so we’ll just skip the Economics 101 lesson. So let’s skip to a reasonable compromise.

When a driver is promoted to a full-time NASCAR ride for the first time, he is assigned a number. There are 100 numbers to choose from, for Pete’s sake. It’s not rocket science. There are enough to go around. And the number stays with the driver until he retires or is otherwise out of the sport for at least three years. And if the number is not retired, like #3 and #43 should be, then it is eligible for reassignment.

This allows the drivers to maintain a certain identity for the entirety of their careers, because we know colors, sponsors or even car makes are not etched in stone. Hell, Tony Stewart changed his number, sponsors and color schemes, as well as from Chevy to Toyota all in one single move. I promise you that didn’t sit well with all the Tony Stewart fans with closets full of #20 Tony Stewart Home Depot gear, who were all scratching their heads asking themselves about this 18-year-old Lagano kid. So now, every Tony Stewart fan has to go buy new #14 Old Spice or Office Depot gear. I’m sure Tony’s pocket book didn’t object, but I am sure the hard-working middle class fans’ pocket books did. I’m not even going to touch the Dale Jr switch from the red Bud #8 to the green/white Amp Energy #88. Mind boggling.

The owners still have the sponsors and branding schemes to claim for their cars, but the numbers should be sacred to the drivers. What would happen if Brett Favre wore another number other than 4? Everyone laughed when Michael Jordan wore 45. Hell, Lebron James – King Lebron James – offered to forfeit his 23 jersey in order to have the NBA retire 23 league-wide. The NBA (unfortunately) passed, but it proves the number is just as linked to the player as any other identifying color or emblem.

Let the drivers keep their numbers no matter what team or sponsor they drive for. Keep it simple, keep it logical. NASCAR is a simple sport; pedal to the floor, turn left, keep it full of gas and avoid the other cars. Why is trying to figure out the lineup card each week more complicated than the sport itself? Give the fans a break. Make it more fan-friendly … before I have to watch Jeff Gordon riding in a #69 Prolixis car when he retires.

Mr Pressbox Out!!

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Not even the players care about NFL All-Pro game

23 01 2010

The Major League Baseball All-Star game, featuring the Home Derby, is the pinnacle of All-Star games.

Even the National Basketball Association All-Star game, with the Slam Dunk contest, is a major part of the NBA season.

But no one really cares about the National Football League All-Pro game. Not even the players.

The NFL attempted to generate more interest – for both fans and players – by moving the All-Pro game back to the states from Hawaii, as well as moving it to the week prior to the Super Bowl instead of the week after. It hasn’t worked.

Every year it seems more and more NFL players bail on the All-Pro game due to “injuries.” Not to question anyone’s integrity (ok maybe a little bit – yes, I’m talking to you Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers and Larry Fitzgerald) but you almost never see a baseball or basketball player backing out of the all-star game for injury reasons – unless they are truly injured. With the exception of Wes Welker, most of the guys who have backed out would still be starting and playing this weekend and in the Super Bowl, if their teams were still playing.

The list of “All-Pros” get so much bigger every year, it really starts to diminish the meaning of the term. It’s a joke. By the time the game is played, half the league has had their names on the list at one point or another.  If the title “All-Pro” only applied to the guys voted in, that would be one thing, but any guy who puts on the jersey next weekend will be knighted as an “All-Pro” whether they truly deserved it or not.

Hell, Matt Cassell and Jamarcus Russell are sitting on the edge of their couches waiting for a few other guys to back out so they get their call to the All-Pro game.

Then, they can order some new business cards from VistaPrint that say “NFL All-Pro” on them.

And if the NFL allows itself to make a mockery of its all-star process, then how can they expect any of the fans to care about the game?

Just save us all the trouble and misery of watching a sub-par All-Pro game and just select and All-Pro team at the end of the season and just cancel the game. No one will really care. Trust me.

Mr Pressbox Out!!

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