Don’t go away mad. Just go away.
We'll leave if you don't build us a new arena. We'll go to a city that appreciates us, because we can't afford to stay here any longer.
If this sounds familiar to Sacramento, that's because folks there have heard it before, less than five years ago from the Maloof brothers. At that time, the owners of the city's NBA franchise were headed to Las Vegas, where the brothers already own a casino. City leaders wouldn't agree to pay for a new arena, though they did put a plan before Sacramento voters that involved a relatively paltry $300 million from the Maloofs. Even after the referendum went down in flames, the Maloofs stayed.
Now they're threatening again. We could go to Anaheim, they hint. It's not clear what the Maloofs want from Sacramento this time - city officials have told the Sacramento Bee that they haven't talked to the Maloofs in four weeks. Chances are, though, they'll want the same thing they wanted five years ago.
That's kind of awkward for the Maloofs, who have done nothing to improve since they dumped their WNBA Monarchs so they could "concentrate on the Kings." The Monarchs, by the way, won the WNBA championship in 2005. The Kings haven't made the playoffs since 2006. I'm not sure if it's the basketball equivalent of the Babe Ruth curse because of the treatment of the Monarchs or karma for threatening to leave Sacramento. Or it could be just bad management.
The five years of what we'll charitably call uninspiring play have left the Kings struggling financially. According to an analysis by Forbes magazine, the team's operating income was -$3 million in 2009 and -$9.8 million in 2010. Proposals to build a new arena have been bogged down for years, and there's no real solution on the table at the moment.
If the Maloofs leave, though, they'll still owe Sacramento $67 million plus an interest penalty, payable the moment the moving vans roll. The Maloofs have enough assets that they wouldn't exactly have to eat Top Ramen to come up with the sum, and perhaps in their heads paying the amount is preferable to continuing to lose money every year, though they dispute the Forbes account that the franchise has been in the red.
Still, can they really be so tin-earred that they don't realize the economic struggles Sacramento is going through? Do they not know that the housing crash crashed harder there and that the city set unemployment records a year ago and continues to be well above the national figure? If they looked around the Central Valley, much of which supported the Kings when the team was winning and they could afford $56 tickets, they're realize that the region's financial downturn dovetails with their own.
Do they not know that Southern California already has two NBA teams, including one very, very bad one? How much sub-500 ball can even greater Los Angeles support?
Do they not realize that LA thrives after decades without an NFL team and that Seattle remains on the map even though its NBA franchise left two seasons ago?
It makes you long for the good old days, when franchise owners snuck out of town in the dead of night. At least fans then were spared years of trauma, drama and histrionics.
The Maloofs should Stop Wasting America's Time - and Sacramento's, too - and just do what they're going to do. The "little boy who cried wolf" act is played out.
Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.