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Blogcat's take 4/18


The Bobcats season ended with a whimper on Wednesday—a literal whimper, that is, as owner Bob Johnson complained about a lack of “support” (or in other words, “money”) from Charlotte businesses.  As always, Johnson’s timing was perfect…ly bizarre.  Just a few days earlier, Johnson had publicly praised the “commitment of the community.”  All of a sudden, however, Johnson was “absolutely concerned,” about the local corporations’ lack of “commitment to be a part of the Bobcats.”  Jeez, talk about a flip-flop!  We might be dealing with multiple personalities here—can somebody get Herschel Walker on the line? 
Johnson also claims to have lost “significant money” on the team so far.  (Note: I’m assuming that at some point in the interview, he eventually expressed disappointment about his team still being lousy after four years and then followed it up with a public pledge to get better on the court, but I didn’t actually see anything about that).  There are a staggering number of questions/interpretations that spring from the “significant money” remark.  Off the top of my head: 
1) What’s a “significant amount” of money for a billionaire?
2)  How is losing a significant amount of money possible when your arena was built for free?
3)  How is it possible after you’ve raised ticket prices for two straight years?
4)  How is it possible when you’re one of just a handful of teams who don’t exceed the salary cap?
5)  How is it possible when you compete in a league with built-in cost controls and revenue sharing?
6)  How is it possible when you just sold the naming rights to your arena?  We don’t know how much money was exchanged in the Time-Warner deal, but the average annual price for naming rights is $3 million.*
But the most interesting question of all is: how would Johnson wish the public to react to these complaints?  The way I see it, there are only two choices: sympathetically (which is sort of unrealistic, considering—forgive me if I’m having a little trouble getting past this particular point—he’s a billionaire) or scornfully (as in, “How incompetent can one be to fail in the impossible-to-fail industry of sports-team ownership?”).  If you’re Johnson, neither of these reactions seems desirable (I guess he’d rather be viewed sympathetically, but that’s not very manly of him, is it?), so what’s his motive?  He’s practically turning himself into a real-life configuration of the pro wrestler-heel, who actively tries to get the crowd to hate him and complains to the refs when they don’t rule in his favor.  But unless he’s about to announce he’s wrestling Mark Cuban in a “Loser-Leaves-the-NBA” Cage Match at SummerSlam, none of this makes sense.
Maybe he’s just bitter.  You know, you go to some of these small town owners in the NBA, and like a lot of small town owners in other leagues, treating their teams as tax write-offs has been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced it.  Instead, the paying fans actually want you to care about the team and make it competitive.  So it's not surprising then that these owners get bitter, they cling to fan indifference or lack of corporate sponsorships as a way to explain their frustrations.   
Anyway, I’m no billionaire businessman who rules his sports team from afar and is almost never seen in public except to exploit the fan base, but my advice to Johnson would be to get in on the new Foreclosure Prevention Act that’s currently kicking around in Congress and the Senate.  True, his problems don’t have much to do with housing foreclosures, but then again neither do GM’s, Ford’s, or the domestic airlines—yet they’re all lined up for some sweet tax breaks and refunds that will be part of the bill.  Oh wait, Johnson doesn’t actually have to pay any taxes on his arena.  That’s right, not only was it built for him, he pays no property taxes on it.  Is it possible to get breaks or refunds on taxes you don’t pay in the first place?  I’m not even sure if Halliburton can answer that one.  
Hmmm.  Where to go when you’ve already received every possible hand-out?  There’s got to be some sort of loophole out there—right?  Otherwise, the only alternative would be to (shudder) put a better team on the court.  I know, I know, that’s some serious outside-the-box thinking.  But it’s just crazy enough to actually work.      
*Ask.com





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