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Rules to live by if you think you have a 'home' team

by | CBSSports.com Columnist

The Phoenix Coyotes to Winnipeg. The Sacramento Kings to Anaheim. And what are you to do about it?

Nothing, save one bit of senseless semantic violence.

Next time you're at a game and the public address announcer/yell wrangler wants to introduce "Your Sioux City Fighting Hell Puppies," boo the hell out of him. And them. There's no reason to open the night's festivities with what is clearly an unconscionable lie.

There's no such thing as "your" team unless you own a share of the Green Bay Packers. But you knew that, at least intellectually.

It never quite hits home, though, until "your" team becomes "someone else's." It just lets you know that, given your devotion, you've been played for a sap, had your wallet lifted time and again, and been given a finger in the eye up to the second knuckle.

And sure, you can moan and whine and form protest groups and be interviewed by media clots about your devotion and desolation, if that cultures your yogurt. But there's only one lesson here. You don't have a team, except in the sense that you have a car -- except you can lose it even if you keep up your payments, because someone else might not be.

In fact, the lessons here are even more profound if you think about it hard enough.

You now must acknowledge that the no-shows knew what they were doing when they didn't show, because fan support isn't the reason teams leave. It's because they didn't get the right amount of real estate, or they're leveraged up to the eyelids, or they're just stupid, or just lousy.

You must see finally that a publicly built arena or stadium is a dreadful idea if the guy you're giving it to can leave anyway while you're still paying for it. A building isn't just a new dress to keep the boyfriend interested. It's a statement of commitment, which is something owners never want if it's going to be legally and economically binding.

You must finally conclude that it isn't you they love, but your credit card. If you walk away, they won't know or care as long as you can be replaced with another card. And that's all it was ever about.

In the case of the Kings, this is entirely about the Maloof empire collapsing. There may be a case for a new downtown arena to replace old, redoubtable Arco, which isn't even called Arco any more, but this is mostly about the owners going broke.

But in Phoenix, they've got an arena, and a damned nice one too, but the team was financed so absurdly and so many times that it was doomed a dozen times before it finally (apparently) met its doom. The Goldwater Institute people may be ruining Coyotes fans' fun, and that's a king-hell drag to be sure, but they have a point too.

Either way, the fans in Sacramento and Phoenix are left to hope for some sort of deus ex machine to detangle this plot in their favor. In Sacramento, it's supposed to be billionaire Ron Burkle. In Phoenix, it's Michael Hulsizer.

But dei ex machinae (yeah, I took Latin, but I can't say I ever mastered it except for times like this) don't come cheap. They want their piece of the action beyond their investments, and if they get wanderlust or a bad quarterly report, you're back in the same stewpot.

And as long as the professional leagues don't allow civic ownership of teams to prevent all this jumping about, it shall always be the same. Fans who would want to save the team by buying it aren't allowed to, unless there are only a few of them, and they're all investors rather than nickel-and-dime true believers.

In short, you all need to rewire your brains to some fundamental notions that may well change your ideas about your place in the sporting universe:

1. It's not your team. Never was. Never will be.

2. You are no better a fan for being there every night than your next-door neighbor is for never going. Fandom is not measured by ability to pay, and smugness in the face of no-shows is both unseemly and misguided.

3. No-shows are actually good, because they keep the home team hustling, keep the arrogance down and remind one and all that it is not your job to support them, but their job to entertain you. Every no-show says, "You have to do at least one customer better than you are right now."

4. You're all one bad owner away from being in the same boat as Phoenix and Sacramento. Yes, even you, Dallas Cowboys fans. Jerry Jones could blow all his family's money and have to get out, and the next buyer might decide the Cowboys would look just as good in Qatar.

5. The owner's stadium problem isn't yours unless you and enough of your fellow voters want to make it so. Not many people want to do that in these difficult economic days, and you're just going to live with that reality.

6. The PA guy is a liar, and if he's telling you the truth and it really is your team, you shouldn't be afraid to ask for your check. I mean, if it's yours, you should be seeing your end, right? Unless, that is, you like being a sucker for some stranger to whom you gave your Visa number.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNetBayArea.com.


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