This Is It
One last moment of reflection before a new era begins.
With the lease amendments kicking in July 1, 2012 (tomorrow), it’s as good a time as any to grab a cold drink and think about what’s been going on, what is going on, and what will be going on.
This Is It: The Past
What a long, strange trip it’s been. Those words were made famous by the Grateful Dead in their tune “Truckin’” and were borrowed by me in my dissertation acknowledgements. Such simple words, but so applicable to so many things in life. It sounds negative, but, really, don’t we want life to be both long and extraordinary?
The Hornets history in New Orleans has lasted ten years . . . sort of . . . remember the “strange” thing? It’s not ten on the nose, but allow some license, please.
This time has been well-chronicled, but in short we got them, the city was struck with Katrina-triggered man-made flooding after three years, the team moved to Oklahoma City for two seasons, then returned home. During that time, they lost one star guard and drafted another.
During the next five years, we had a championship quality team that we watched disintegrate as ownership rotted and fiddled. As new ownership failed to materialize, the team essentially went into foreclosure by the NBA. Immediately, a battle to keep the team ensured, weighing on the hearts, minds, and wallets of New Orleanians and others in the area,
All of that is over.
The shoddy ownership . . . gone.
The disgruntled superstar . . . out.
The CBA that fueled these two . . . replaced.
Limited game exposure . . . removed.
Attendance benchmarks . . . neutered
Handouts . . . ended.
Constant fear of relocation or contraction . . . drowned.
Those benchmarks . . . NEVER ONCE were not met. NOT ONCE. This, of course was not widely reported. Why would our success rate words just because our tragedies do? Why would a fan base measuring up, literally, be news when so many others never sidle up to the scale? Make no mistake about it, that’s what those benchmarks were in practice: fanbasometers.
Vile, contemptuous creations.
We are passed the days of dropping trou before the world so they can see if we pass some ridiculous test.
There are hundreds of things that could be listed here in terms of on-the-count and off-the-court, but each of you knows what they are.
All of the changes in the past several months have made all of these indignities things of an age that has ended.
This Is It: The Present
It’s so exciting to be a Hornets fan these days. We’ve gone from the most interesting team to the most exciting. What’s going to happen next? What isn’t possible?
Remember when those same questions had a sense of dread instead of elation?
New Hornets fans are being created and rejoining the party, rather than the opposite. Soon, all of those fans will be replaced by any of a possibly-long list of rebrand names. Hornets games are going to be in more homes on our very own Fox Sports New Orleans that will develop and grow in the next decade. That seems quite the big move for such a small market (52nd in the US, smallest in the NBA, second-smallest in the NFL, ahead of Green Bay, and the smallest two-sport market, considering the 4 major US sports organized by locale).
The new CBA has already had effects on the NBA’s player market and our ownership, with this offseason and next bringing even more information about the changes to light.
Our draft picks, free agent signings, improvements on the court, GM, and Coach (sign them) are all sources of pride, ever-increasing, rather than things wriggling beneath a pile of excuses and pixie dust.
Our Arena, even a source of undue persecution despite being deemed acceptable by the NBA three times in the last 10 years, something other cities that do and do not have teams couldn’t get said about their one in that same timeframe, is getting some major improvements to the tune of at least $50m.
One of the last great discriminators between us and another team is being removed: The construction of a dedicated practice facility. This is all but official.
Increased and improved sponsorships, along with a looming naming rights deal, bring up the prestige of the team and ensure cash flow that is not directly from the pockets of fans into ownership’s coffers. This, my friends, was the issue with the Jazz and, frankly, with the Hornets, despite publicity saying otherwise. The I’m In campaign didn’t just reach into fans’ homes, but reached out to professionals and business owners to try to get them to see how this team can help them. Engaging these segments of the market keeps the burden off the fans to a degree and further entrenches the team into the community and culture.
Some fans are even rumbling about adding a D-League team, possibly in the area. This is a growing trend in the NBA (thank goodness), and it would be great to have one in the area. I’ll go one step further and suggest a WNBA team at some point, as well.
With each passing day, being a Hornets fan will not be a sin to be confessed, penance paid at the bar or face-down into a pillow at night, but a proclamation.
Fans all over the city, the region, and the world will continue the ongoing tomfoolery by our most dedicated Saints and Hornets fans until it is a spectacle on its own, as our Saints game days are, as Halloween and Mardi Gras are, and so on, and so on . . .
This is what we’ve all been waiting for: Pride.
This Is It: The Future
All of the great things going on with these are but a brief reminder of why we fight. They do not signal the end of the constant battle with the rest of the world.
We will always be the smallest market in the NBA. We will never be top ten in attendance. We will always be tossed out by lazy reporters and poor analysts as having some smudge on our collective face, despite being a source of basketball greatness.
Their ignorance aside, it will always be uphill for us, as it always is. For local fans, they know exactly what I’m talking about, enduring constant stereotypes about American southerners, dwellers in a `sinful’ city, all of the Katrina-ignorance out there, and decades of sports ineptitude highlighted by an ignominious nomadic tale of which effective foreclosure on the franchise by the NBA was not the low-point.
After the relocation of the Jazz and all the hoopla of the recent years, this is the last chance. If we or someone else screws this up, there will be no reasonable chance of an NBA franchise in New Orleans for the foreseeable future.
As such, it is paramount that we, as fans, become the most dedicated and most educated fans in the NBA. This is not just about sports or entertainment or branding our city as attractive, but about civic duty. It’s about proving that we deserve everything we have.
The Saints returning after Katrina told the world “We are here.” The Hornets becoming permanent should tell the world “Here we come.” We are just here under some tarp, we’re growing, at least in some fashion, during the most severe economic peril in nearly a century.
Again, this is not over. Rather, we have just been given the opportunity to fight, to get hit in the face over and over and over by the same old fists, all for the glory of our city and our team.
Watch the games, go to the arena, patronize the sponsors, buy merchandise, spread the love.
No matter what.
Complain, hold them accountable, all that. Just support the team.
I’m not preaching.
This Is It: Me
I’ve spent a great deal of time over the past couple of years following these issues and writing about them and more. First with the news, then the CBA and ownership. Over that time, many things have changed with me, the site, and the team.
I’m not leaving, so don’t pop the top on the champagne yet, but things are changing. Time will tell what those changes are.
I just wanted to say:
“Thanks for reading, and sorry for the inconvenience.”
Awesome post. I remember when it was kind of strange talking Hornets basketball with my friends during the Baron Davis years, and even the Chris Paul years. When the Hornets first moved to Nola, I couldn't believe the apathy. I was blown away, because it's the NBA, and New Orleans finally had a team! My brother was the biggest Michael Jordan fan around, and when we got the Hornets, he simply didn't care. I'm sure many people have similar stories. But I can see here, and also on the other site, that passion for the Hornets is definitely growing, and will continue to do so exponentially over the next several years, as the Hornets become a definite and prominent New Orleans institution. I for one am stoked about it.
"As such, it is paramount that we, as fans, become the most dedicated and most educated fans in the NBA. This is not just about sports or entertainment or branding our city as attractive, but about civic duty. It’s about proving that we deserve everything we have." Consider it done my friend!
if only our local newspaper had writers as good as you, Jason, maybe they wouldn't have had to change to three-times-a-week. Fantastic article. You touched the core of what it means to be a sports fan in New Orleans. (Not meant to be in any way disrespectful of all the non-local Hornets and Saints fans.)
Such drama (this is not meant to be an insult) and such emotion in your article. Never been a true blooded New Orleans person, and yet I still loved it. Would love to see the city for itself. .
Great article, to your point of the uneducated national media types I watched the draft recap show on NBAtv and I watched David Alridge question Benson's finances. He said Benson won't spend with Hornets based on the fact that he has yet to pay Drew Brees yet. The fact that he would say something so dumb and incorrect was frustrating. NFL players salaries are paid by the NFL TV deal itself and the issue is more about Loomis being smart about salary cap and keeping a competitive team rather than the actual money involved. Benson has historically been in the top 5 in owners in spending since Loomis took over. That has never been a question in NFL circles so hearing Alridge say that honestly pissed me off. NOLA will be a free agent destination especially once that practice facility is built near the Saints top flight facility.
Great article. I'm in full agreement! All I'm asking for is a little respect...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0XAI-PFQcA And it's about damn time!
Fantastic post! Jason, I really enjoyed it and think you're spot on. The past: We are coming off an era of many mistakes--bad contracts and personnel decisions. The present: It almost feels like the Hornets are an expansion team that has been given a stacked deck to work with. The future: The area seems excited about the future of the team and our roster will have some good young pieces, and we now have committed local ownership in Benson and strong leadership in Dell and Monty. This sounds like a real microcosm for the city of New Orleans. Despite still battling our share of problems, things seem like they're going pretty well, and people are generally excited to see what the next 3-7 years has in store. Maybe that includes an NBA Championship!