At the outset, I would like to wish a very special Father's Day to my dad. Over the past couple of years, and despite living 300 miles apart, we have been able to enjoy some special moments relating to the sports world. For instance, we were at both Game 7's at the First Union Center last year, and we were there during the NBA Finals as well. This year, because he picked up a pair of C's tickets for the playoffs, I was able to see every game of the Celtics-Sixers series in person. Those are the kind of memories you don't forget. And I wouldn't change a thing (except for, perhaps, the outcome of that Game 5!) Thanks dad!
As promised, below I have published the letter that I sent to David Stern a week ago today. I still have not gotten any response from either Mr. Stern or from Mr. Coskey. Sometimes, silence speaks louder than words.
To: David Stern
Cc: Dave Coskey (76ers VP); Shawn McCarthy (League of Fans)
I have been a fan of your league since growing up on Larry Bird's Celtics and Magic Johnson's Lakers in the 80s. Upon relocating to the Philly area in the 90s, I decided to become a season ticket holder of the Sixers after they drafted Allen Iverson, the same season they opened the First Union (then CoreStates) Center, the 1996-97 season. During the past 5 years, I have spent over $**** of my hard-earned money on season tickets, playoff tickets, and, this past year, All-Star tickets. If you add the approximate $**** I have also spent on parking, I have spent the considerable sum of $**** to be entertained by your product.
I am writing you because, as a fan with grave concerns about the quality of your product, I am no longer entertained.
A few months ago, I started an "amateur fan's web site" (http://davessportingnews.blogspot.com) to "cover" sports from the perspective of your average fan. After watching the egregious officiating in the now-infamous "Game 6" of the Western Conference Finals, I was moved to post an "article" on my website, which was circulated by one reader, and, ironically enough, was forwarded back to me. The contents of that article appear below, if you are interested in reading about some of my specific complaints.
I will admit that some of my comments were made in anger. Some of these opinions may appear to be just the bias and "sour grapes" of a fan from a team that lost. Keep in mind, though, that the team I support lost in the first round, and that I was watching the Western Conference Finals as a "fan of the game," and what I saw was the most pathetic display of officiating in a very long time. This opinion is not just held my me, as a review of many NBA professional columnists will testify (see, for instance, Stephen A. Smith, David Aldridge, Jack McCallum, Michael Wilbon, and even the LA Times' T.J. Simers; links to all of their articles appear on my website).
Do I believe in "conspiracy theories"? Honestly, no. However, when ESPN's Darren Rovell notes that 22 of the last 23 NBA Finals have showcased a team from one of the nation's four largest markets (the lone exception being the '90 Pistons-Blazers series), it certainly adds fuel to the argument.
What I am most displeased about is horrible officiating. I would be the first to admit that is probably the hardest job in your entire organization. Instant replay will help, but I believe, in the end, it will not address the majority of the grievances I am speaking about. Until there is better accountability when the refs do an obviously poor job, and one that the fans (including the paying public, the season ticket holders who fill your arenas) can visibly see changes as a result of, I refuse to pay another $1 on your product.
An Extremely Disappointed NBA Fan
As I said, I have received no response from the commissioner, or from the man currently in charge of the organization to which I have paid a considerably amount of money over the past several years. To date, I have only received a reply from Shawn McCarthy. His email is copied below, with permission.
Just wanted to thank you for the support you've shown to Ralph Nader and the League of Fans regarding the letter to NBA Commissioner Stern.
Unfortunately, some have felt this an unworthy cause with which to waste our time. And while we will freely acknowledge that there are more pressing issues in the world, Ralph has very capable and persistent individuals addressing those needs and fighting the powers that be to affect change.
A virtually unchecked area of corporate domination is the sports industry. As a consumer advocate and sports fan, Ralph couldn't stand by any longer while problems in and around the industry were destroying so much of what is great about sports.
So Nader founded the League of Fans as a sports industry watchdog to focus on a wide range of concerns within the sports industry including sports fan mistreatment, media complacency, taxpayer exploitation, over-commercialization, and broad social issues.
Until the letter to Commissioner Stern, most of our new project's focus has been in working to stem the flood of taxpayer-financed stadiums and arenas for the benefit of wealthy owners. These owners use threats to leave town as leverage for extracting tax money from cities and states where the needs far exceed the supply. Many of these franchise owners waste no time in selling their team after a new profit-generating stadium or arena is built on the backs of taxpayers and the value of the franchise is increased substantially.
We've been working on long-term plans for a website launch with thorough information about the many issues with which the League of Fans will be involved. However, because of the overwhelming responses from people like you, we decided to put up a simple (for now) website where people can read the letter to Commissioner Stern and get contact information for him, the NBA Player's Association, all team owners and player's representatives in case you'd like to let them know how you feel.
In the coming days, weeks and months, we'll build and improve on the website. You'll be able to give your opinion on certain issues and make suggestions for other topics that concern you. We'll also establish an email list so we can let everybody whose interested in on what we're up to.
Again, thanks for the support.
League of Fans
One of the technical journals I try and read on a weekly basis is InformationWeek
. The editor-in-chief, Bob Evans
, wrote an article that mentioned Ralph Nader last week, which got my attention. I was moved to email Mr. Evans.
I am a long-time reader of your magazine (well, 5 years is a long time for me). Anyway, I found your comments about Mr. Nader quite amusing. I agree that we probably don't want the likes of him 'having a say in discussions about national security, computer security, and the Microsoft case.'
However, I did not take his comments about NBA officiating as lightly. Whatever his ulterior motives might have been (and you do quite a good job of listing what many of those are), he made what I believe to be valid points. As an IT professional, who also happens (or "happened", past tense, as you'll soon see) to be a season ticket holder for the local Philadelphia 76ers, I was appalled at the horrible officiating that took place in the "now infamous Game 6." Not sure if you're a Lakers fan, or even a casual observer of the NBA, but what I saw that night ruined the NBA for me for awhile. In fact, it was only after hearing of Mr. Nader's letter to David Stern (who promptly brushed him off on a national TV appearance shortly afterward), that I made the decision to cancel my season tickets
indefinitely. I emailed Mr. Stern and told him I refused to pay another dollar on his product until there were measures put in place to prevent such iniquities from occurring again.
As IT professionals, we, and our companies, are constantly being evaluated, as to whether we are satisfying the customer. Similarly, I felt the need to express my dissatisfaction with Mr. Stern, thanks to the initial publicity generated by a non-paying customer such as Mr. Nader. I just thought I'd share that with you, as your article caught my eye as soon as I got this week's issue.
Bob was so kind as to reply to my email:
dave----thanks for the letter. no, i am most certainly not a lakers fan----i've always disliked them a great deal. i would agree that it appeared at times that the refs were missing some calls in that game, but i don't see the leap from there to the quite extraordinary induction that the refs are cheating. on the other hand, you're an actualy season ticket holder and a fan of a team not even involved in the game, and you voted with your actions----that's worth a lot more than my hot air. also, two thoughts on mr. stern: i'm glad he brushed off ralph nader, but more important, i hope he takes your letter very much to heart and responds to you. and didn't i see today that the commish plans to use instant replay next year to help refs make the right calls on last-second shots? see, dave, you're getting results already!
thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with informationweek.
Well, I'd like to think I'm getting results already Bob, but as I mentioned in my original letter to the commissioner, instant replay is going to help only so much in combatting what I believe is a serious decline of the quality of officiating in the NBA. And if a paying customer can't even elicit so much as a return email on the subject, what does that say about their view of the customer?