Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Stephen A. Smith discusses several possible trade scenarios for the Sixers, including possibly reaquiring restricted free agent Larry Hughes, or landing Austin Croshere, who has been saddled to the Pacers bench under the "tutelage" of Isiah Thomas. Smith quotes Sixers GM Billy King as saying "we need to get better" and that "there's no question that we've got to get more athletic, especially on our front line." Smith squashed the rumored deals reported by certain West Coast papers last week that involved the Sixers dealing their 1st round draft pick (16th). It appears that the only possible takers of Mutombo and his large contract are the Trail Blazers and the Knicks. Smith also mentions that Iverson is trying to maintain his "untouchable" status by visiting Larry Brown's office several times thus far this summer (Brown is currently vacationing with his family in Italy). Over the weekend, Smith quoted one unnamed NBA player as saying this regarding the possibility of teaming up with Allen Iverson: "I recently heard A.I. was in Miami with Cuttino Mobley [Rockets], Baron Davis [Hornets] and some other guys, and all he kept saying was, 'I'm a shooter, man. That's what I do. I shoot.' Well, we all know that and he's great to watch, but unless you're a spot-up shooter, someone who doesn't want the ball, or a player with a fat contract, who would want to play in that situation? If you got a hundred dollars, you can pay and watch him shoot in the stands... without sweating." John Smallwood talks about former Temple guard Lynn Greer and St. Joe's Marvin O'Connor, both friends off the court, going at it on the court, during a Sixers workout session earlier this week.

Phil Jasner discusses Aaron McKie's shoulder surgery this week. Rehab is expected to take 3 1/2 to 4 months, which "would appear to call into question whether he will be ready for the start of training camp." Speaking of the Sixers ongoing injury woes, Billy King lamented, "I just wish it would end." Rich Hofmann chimes in on the Shaq vs. Wilt debate, and makes this rather good observation: "In his era, he stood out more than O'Neal does today. Anybody who doubts it has to explain away the fact the NBA changed four rules in an attempt to slow him down." Don't expect Commissioner Stern (whose email must not be functioning these days, but that's another topic) to go changing rules to curtail Shaq's dominance. If you need any more proof of that, ask yourself why Stern can't get Bavetta and the rest of his merry little band of officials to make the calls that are already in the book (oh, like let's say, 3-second violations, both offensive and defensive...offensive fouls when he uses his "boom boom"...crossing the plane of the free throw line on his attempts...shall I go on?)

Yesterday, Tim Panaccio reported the rather surprising news that Bob Clarke does not intend to re-sign Adam Oates. Panaccio comments, "by not re-signing Oates, Clarke mortgaged a large slice of the team's future to rent a player for 14 regular-season games and five playoff games." Remind me again why Bill Barber was the one who got the axe a few months back? Attempting to justify one puzzling move after another, Clarke said, "We had some concern about the age of our centermen." As if Oates aged 10 years in the few months that have passed since they traded for him. In today's Inquirer, Oates laid some of the blame for Clarke's decision on himself. "I feel I let people down. There is no question in my mind that I did not play my best hockey in Philly... . We didn't do well as a team, and some of that was me." Last week, Clarke expressed some concern over Oates' asking price on the free agent market, which he tagged at around $5 million. However, Oates commented about that, "I don't have a figure in my head, but I was not going to try and win the lottery, either." Another classy move by the GM that can do no wrong.

Mitch Lawrence mentions more proof that Larry Brown is going anywhere (old news at this point): He's apparently applied for membership at the Philadelphia Country Club... To address the lopsided dominance of the Western Conference in the NBA, Peter May proposes a rather radical "baseball-like realignment that eliminates the geographical component and has Eastern-based teams and Western-based teams in each conference."

Peter Vecsey slams the "slew of counterfeit information circulating in the Bay Area regarding Jamison being traded to Philly for its first-round pick (No. 16) and Derrick Coleman" and lists several reasons why this can't happen. After completely dismissing this particular trade rumor, Vecsey, in typical tongue-in-cheek fashion, sums up by saying, "other than those minor irregularities, the Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose newspapers appears to have a pretty good grip on the reality of the situation." Phil Mushnick hates everybody.

Scott Burton actually wrote a rather contrite response to Luke Cavanagh, who had blasted him for writing a rather shoddy piece on Boston fans in the latest issues of Sports Illustrated... Jim Baker had this rather amusing quote from NBC's Gary Koch, who was responding to Sergio Garcia's complaints about "hecklers" at this past weekend's U.S. Open: "I'm tired of the polite golf clap.'' Tom Enlund discusses the complications involved with the Houston Rockets attempting to use their #1 pick to draft Yao Ming. "At one point, there were indications that it could take up to 10 signatures on a contract to make it official. That would include Yao, his parents, the Sharks, his Chinese agent, his NBA agent, the city of Shanghai, the Chinese National General Management, the Chinese Basketball Association and his NBA team. It remains unclear how many signatures would be needed." Sheesh, and I thought signing my name on a dozen forms for my new apartment lease this past weekend was complicated.

Finally, this week, invoices went out to Sixers season ticket holders for the 2002-03 season. Accompanying the invoice was a letter from Executive VP Dave Coskey, which stated, "You'll notice that your invoice reflects a very slight cost of living increase." Hmmm, I guess we have to make sure AI doesn't fall behind on his car note for that Bentley, right? Ticket prices for lower bowl seating went up slightly, approximately 2.7%. I know that seems rather small, and perhaps insignificant, but given the state of the economy, and the fact that, for those who were lucky enough to retain employment through our recent recession, many did not get salary raises. I've given up on complaining on having to pay full price for two meaningless pre-season games, also known as "the biggest ripoff of the sports consumer known to man" (before the Sixers recent rise to success, they used to give season ticket holders a complimentary ticket to the single pre-season game that would be played at the First Union Center). "Slight cost of living increase"? More like "additional profit to pad Comcast-Spectacor's balance sheets."

Sunday, June 16, 2002

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)

Mr. Stern,

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.

Signed,
An Extremely Disappointed NBA Fan
(Dave Messier)


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.


Dave,

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.

www.leagueoffans.org

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.

Shawn McCarthy
League of Fans
www.leagueoffans.org


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.

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.

Take care,

Dave Messier


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?