Commissioner Stern, You Just Lost Yourself A Customer

Posted in Basketball, Free Expression, The Marketplace at 12:41 am by

(keep smiling, Mr. Commissioner, this letter gets better as it goes on)

“I’m 51 years old now, and I have been a dedicated NBA fan for longer than you’ve been commissioner, and longer than the Sonics were a team. I have not been a corporate box  customer, or a multi-season ticket holder, but I have been a valuable customer that your marketing people might refer to as an advocate or evangelist.”  Thus states hoops afficiando David Betz, who eloquently addresses NBA Commissioner David Stern with what could well be the first letter of resignation from a (former) NBA fan. To the jump!

To: NBA Commissioner David Stern
RE: NBA Fan Resignation Letter     24 October, 2008

Dear Commissioner Stern:
In the off chance that this gets past your œdisgruntled Seattle Supersonics fan mail  dumpster, I™d like to take a minute of your time to present you with my NBA Fan Resignation Letter.

I was a thirteen year old kid growing up in Ohio, wearing Chuck Taylor Converse when I talked my dad into taking me to my first live NBA game in Cleveland Arena, a hockey venue that was then home to the Cleveland Cavaliers.  I remember seeing Bob
œButterbean Love walk in through the front door and fan turnstiles with his Chicago Bulls gym bag.  This was two NBA Commissioners before you.  This was pre-headbands (the first time around), pre-tag lines, pre-shoe deals, pre-Nike, pre-ESPN, pre-baggy shorts, pre-tattoos, pre-cable, pre-internet. It was old school.

I’m 51 years old now, and I have been a dedicated NBA fan for longer than you’ve been commissioner, and longer than the Sonics were a team. I have not been a corporate box customer, or a multi-season ticket holder, but I have been a valuable customer that your marketing people might refer to as an advocate or evangelist.  To complete that marketing demographic: I have a graduate degree, discretionary income, cable and high-speed internet connections. I™ve converted passive NBA fans to active NBA fans. I™ve
watched thousands of games both in-person and on TV. I™ve seen 44 of your œTop 50 players of all-time play the game.  I watched Jerry West play before he became the logo for your league.

I was the beneficiary of league expansion, embracing the Cleveland Cavaliers as my then home team thirty-eight years ago. I was thrilled when the ABA merger brought Dr. J, Moses Malone, George Gervin, and Artis Gilmore (not to mention the slam-dunk contest and the 3-point shot) to the NBA. I™ve experienced the growth of the league from 18 to 30 teams and go from a sleepy niche sport to a global brand.

I also witnessed the migration of teams like the Jazz, Kings, Hornets, and Braves, and Grizzlies.  In almost every case, these were younger franchises moving towards expanding markets, reflecting America™s population migration. (Which also brought me
west to Seattle 15 years ago).

In all of my years, I cannot recall a backwards franchise erasure or a league equity mistake like the one you just perpetrated with the Seattle Supersonics.  You remember the story; the new ownership wanted the team to remain in Seattle, but just could not find a satisfactory venue.  They had no choice but to take the team back to their home in Oklahoma.  Who could blame them?

Mr. Stern, I don™t for one second believe that ours was a venue or a market problem here in Seattle.  The real problems were a dysfunctional product and leadership, a blatant disregard for the truth, and complete betrayal of the public trust.

Since this is my exit interview, I™d like to give you some feedback on what constitutes a  satisfactory venue for this fan. Over the past five decades, I have attended NBA games in New York, New Jersey, Charlotte, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Golden State, and Seattle. I™ve experienced NBA games from club seats, corporate boxes, courtside, nosebleed, and every other seat in between.

Here is what I need from an NBA venue when I go to a game with a friend or family

 1. Easy access to tickets and transit to the game
2. Friendly and helpful staff
3. Affordable snacks and a beer
4. Enough concessions and restrooms so I don’t have to miss the game in a queue
5. Easy site lines for the court, replays, game score, and current statistics
6. To feel safe outside the arena after the game 

The last time I was at Key arena”in fact every time I was at Key Arena”all of those needs were met. (As an aside, I DON’T require a dance team, a pyrotechnic player introduction, an indoor blimp, or concourse credit-card solicitations, all of which have
become emblematic of league predictability and conformity.)

One final critical point extends beyond a venue experience, and usually goes without saying; as a fan, I also want an honest ownership, working intelligently with the front office, coaching staff and the league, to put together the best team possible.  THIS is where the deal breaker occurred in Seattle, not because of our venue.

In my life as an NBA fan, I™ve defended the game in conversation at innumerable stadiums, sports bars, golf courses, and tennis courts. The basic perspective of my colleagues, who consider themselves sports fans, just not NBA fans”is that the NBA is
simply a bunch of selfish millionaires getting over on each other.  They had no interest in watching a game, believing that the only time that matters is the last two minutes, which they would argue, could last for an hour.  I would counter with observations about the amazing athleticism, the fierce competition, the unique styles of play, the community building connection, and the transcendent beauty of a team-game well played.

Based on my experience in Seattle this past year, I now have to side with my colleagues.  The NBA IS ABSOLUTELY a bunch of selfish millionaires trying to get over on each other, and in Seattle™s case, their fans, city, and community as well.

When the inappropriate behavior of a few individuals undermines the game, the league, or the Brand, that is usually when the Commissioner™s office steps in.  I saw Michael Jordan solve your post-Bird/Magic void, when you were struggling with an attendant thug and drug perception problem.  I experienced first hand when your predecessor stepped in to create the “Ted Stepien Rule” to prevent any incompetent owner from driving a franchise into the ground with unconscionable trades.

That is why it™s been amazingly disappointing for me to witness your decisions and your demeanor throughout the Seattle franchise sale, dismantling and move. What happened here makes you complicit in just the sort of hegemony, short sightedness, and thugery that your office was created to police.

Commissioner, you failed me, my team, my city, and the league.  I quit.

This is a shout out to any NBA fan in any other NBA city. If you think this can’t happen to you and your city, or if you think ownership can be trusted with the public welfare, or if you think a new sports venue and lots of season ticket buyers means franchise security”think again.  If you believe your team belongs to your city and that your team™s heritage would never be violated, you are mistaken.  It’s not about the venue, the product, or the heritage.

If the money is there and the egos align, as they did in Seattle, any and all NBA teams are for sale.

I am here to tell you that 41 years of blood, sweat, tears, and a championship banner mean NOTHING to this commissioner or his league.

With that I am hereby resigning my life-long fan seat to the NBA.

Game over, Commissioner.

David Betz,
Former NBA fan
Seattle, Washington, October 24, 2008

7 responses to “Commissioner Stern, You Just Lost Yourself A Customer”

  1. Aaron Ranna says:

    Hey Gerrry (Gerard is the most pompous name on the planet, and that is why you go by it, even if you won’t admit it).

    I’m so fucked up right now, I can’t even remember what hypocrisy I was going to call you on!

    Anyway, fuck off, for the first time in my life, someone like you really gives a shit about me (I have no clue why…are you that lonely?) But I know that you’ll post my shit, and if you don’t I guess I’ll just change my IP address.

    Anyway, let’s keep this going, I’m a truth teller, you’re a closet racist who likes to hide his real feelings, you gotta admit, it’s kinda fun!

    I bet if John Rocker pitched for the Seattle Mariners instead of the Braves, he would have gotten no attention from you…Care to comment?

  2. Tommy Hoops says:

    I would be willing to send the Knicks to Seattle if it will help this guy out.


  3. David Roth says:

    I think speaking the NBA’s marketing language is an amazingly savvy move from this dude. I’ve tried to communicate the same problems in different things I”ve written about the NBA — albeit not in emails to David Stern — but I can’t quite speak that business dialect of English I suspect is the language of choice at NBA hq. Also, most of my exit interviews were also entrance interviews, and my demo profile isn’t quite as appealing. This is an impressive letter, and I would bet it has no small number of willing co-signers not just in Seattle, but in my home state of New Jersey as well.

  4. GC says:

    A –

    I have this funny habit of using my name because that’s the one I was given. But if it strikes you as pretentious, by all means, start calling me Fred if that’s easier.

    “I bet if John Rocker pitched for the Seattle Mariners instead of the Braves, he would have gotten no attention from you.”

    I’ve asked our favorite correspondent to cite precisely which “racists you don’t like” and which “racists you do like” given his by-now-routine claim of racism (closeted or otherwise). The best he can come up with is John Rocker. And its a hell of an example — my tendency to shine a light on Rocker’s retarded comments over the years were after all, motivated by extreme personal bias.

    I just hate those Long Island Ducks!

  5. Brian McPherson says:

    Nicely put. I’d be gutted if the Lakers skipped town. But I have to defend good ol’ “”Trader” Ted Stepien. Anyone would have moved that worthless future first round pick for Don Ford. All the Lakers got in return was James Worthy . . .

  6. L. Martin says:

    To Commisionor Stern,
    I think that the vile and disgusting actions of the BUlls player (Gordon) should be fined and suspended for grabbing and fondling his crotch during a game against the Celtics yesterday, and in full view of millions of fans including very young fans.
    This terrible and self serving action is typical of pro athletes especially BLACK athletes who continue to embarras the and degrade the game and the sport as well, and should not be tolerated or left unpunished.


  7. GC says:

    A little bit of sexual expression never hurt anyone, L. I’d encourage you to try a bit of your own, except I’m not eager to see racist clowns reproduce.

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