The Fairly Detached Observers
The Brewers had found a way to avoid sweeping the Braves, but were fixin’ to sweep the ‘Stros, when the Observers found their way to a local establishment for a couple of cold ones on a sunny May 30.
Frank: Hey, Artie,
did you notice the nice subtle message the NBA commissioner just delivered to
Milwaukee? Look at this headline: “NBA’s Stern says Bradley Center has some
seasons left.” A mighty positive spin, I’d say. But he’s really giving the city
a warning: “Good citizens of Milwaukee, the clock is ticking. Pony up the money
for a new arena or start planning for life without the Bucks.”
Artie: The groundwork is being laid for the team to get shifted and our town to get shafted. And where would they go? Las Vegas. And why? Because they’d be the Las Vegas Bucks. Talk about marketing, ain’a?
Artie: And I’ll bet a buck two-eighty the commish will find a way to empty Lake Michigan and move the water to Vegas, to boot. But didn’t I hear that the owners who’ll be taking their team from Seattle to Oklahoma City have offered to leave the name “Sonics” behind?
Frank: What generous
guys. They may have to play in Seattle for another two years because of a little
thing called a lease.
There’s a trial starting soon. But whether it’s now or in 2010, it’s adios after, what, more than 40 years in the league? Stern is playing the same “or else” card with Milwaukee. I’m sure he’d like Sen. Kohl and the Bucks to live happily ever after—but only with a new building. Otherwise, if and when Kohl decides to sell the team, it’ll be Seattle all over again.
Artie: I’m thinking Stern would be perfectly happy if a new basketball arena didn’t get done here, because he really wants the “Las Vegas Bucks.” No more Bango Buck, team mascot. Hey, it’s Bingo Buck— some knob in a green-felt suit with a big poker chip for a head.
Frank: Excellent. I don’t think Stern ever planned to push real hard to keep that franchise in Seattle once it was sold to the guys from Oklahoma.
Artie: And Seattle has shown they can support a team; they have the history, the tradition. And Oklahoma City? For the first two or three seasons they’ll rake in the dough, but what kind of a market is it really? Is this just a quick-buck thing and if it doesn’t work, well, we’ll just move ‘em someplace else. Beijing?
Frank: New Orleans
got lucky. With Chris Paul and other good moves, they now have a good team. But
when the hurricane forced them into a foster home in Oklahoma City a couple of years ago, I don’t think anyone
thought they’d be back in New Orleans for long.
Artie: So instead, Oklahoma City gets the “what used to be Sonics.”
Frank: How about
this phrase Stern used? The Bradley Center “is not the revenue producing
arena... that will enable the Bucks to compete in the future NBA.”
Artie: Instead of a better arena, how ‘bout better players?
Frank: And how about this elegant phrase: “the need to squeeze additional dollars out of this facility.” I mean, how much money do you have to wring out of Joe Schmoe when he comes Downtown with the kids for a game? You’ve gotta have him buy an overpriced meal in the arena restaurant? You’ve gotta have him buy all sorts of junk in the arena T-shirt store?
Artie: I think
they’re long past worrying, or even the facade of worrying, about the average
fan. Because there aren’t any average fans anymore; they can’t afford to go.
Companies, corporate, they buy up all the seats.
Frank: That’s gotta be true for the lower portion of the Bradley Center. Stern is right when he says the configuration isn’t ideal for basketball. But nobody was going to turn down a gift building because the Pettits had a dream of an NHL team. So the sightlines aren’t perfect. That means we’ve gotta fork over several hundred million dollars in public money for a new place? I suppose the senator could always spring for it himself, but I doubt that’s what his buddy Dave has in mind.
Artie: It’s the end of innocence, again, my friend.
Frank: Speaking of that, I have a baseball example of the cold, hard facts of sports life, as learned by our favorite shortstop/center fielder/third baseman, Bill Hall.
Artie: Soon to be Mr. Utility?
Frank: The guy has
been hitting terribly against right-handers, and they’re most often the guys
you’ll be facing.
Artie: As opposed to Rickie Weeks, who’s hitting terribly against any kind of hander, ain’a?
Frank: And anyone who might throw it up there with both.
Artie: Like a Rick Barry foul shot, underhand between the legs. A bi-hander, would that be?
Frank: So Bill Hall
was told—actually, he claims he wasn’t told in advance by Yost, which doesn’t
sound like Ned’s style—that he’ll only start against lefties for the foreseeable
future. First of all, I think we’ll agree that Russell Branyan, based on past
performance, is not the answer.
Artie: Well, he strikes out a lot, but on the plus side, doesn’t that make the games shorter?
Frank: I do think
Billy has a legitimate beef. In ‘06 he played more than 120 games at shortstop.
In ‘07 he gets a big contract, but they move him to center field. This year they
move him yet again so Braun can go to left. And now they say you’re a
He must be thinking, “I did everything they asked, and where’s the loyalty in return?” But it’s a new Brewers world, Billy. I think this really shows how the atmosphere has changed. I don’t want to use the word “desperation,” but there’s a sense of urgency.
The time for building and nurturing has passed. It’s win or else—I think that’s certainly true for Ned.
Artie: You bet. No playoffs, come next year Ned will be elsewhere, and so will the fans. But Frank, about the length of these ballgames…
Frank: Well, my
friend, that definitely is a topic for next time.
Frank Clines labored almost 20 years in the sports department at the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and covered the Brewers part-time for most of those years. Art Kumbalek is a candidate for the presidency of the United States.