The past couple months have been the best months for Sonics fans since the team left. Finally there was hope that the city would once again house NBA basketball. Their potential future neighbors to the north may not be as interested in seeing their former Seattle professional sports brethren return as the fans of that team though, as it appears the Mariners are taking steps to stop the investment group headed by Bay Area hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and his mystery investors from bringing the Sonics back to Seattle.
And no matter how legitimate Howard Lincoln’s concerns may be about the Mariners, or how little he wanted this to reach the public eye or awareness, this is an absolute PR disaster for a team that had already done plenty to alienate its casual fan. The Mariners haven’t been good, and they’ve cut payroll each of the past couple of years despite struggling to win games.
They’ve also altered their ticket prices to make more appealing games more expensive, and less appealing games less expensive. That will probably make the once-split crowd at Yankees and Red Sox games even more in favor of the away team.
And for fans who have noted that the teams have had only a few overlapping dates per regular season such resistance may seem even more perplexing. Both the basketball and hockey regular seasons end in mid-April, or at the very beginning of baseball season, and once those seasons are over baseball has an uncontested shot at the sports fan’s attention until football season starts. Of course, if the Sonics or prospective NHL team make the playoffs their games may last much further into the baseball season. And if they are in the playoffs their games will likely take precedent in the casual fan’s heart than some mid-May baseball game.
That’s a really ugly argument for the Mariners to make though, as the team barely drew any fans last year, their 10th straight year missing the postseason and averaged attendance that rivals much smaller NBA arenas. They had less than two million fans for the first time since the strike-shortened 1995 season. Fans are already telling the Mariners they don’t want to watch their product. It’s hard for the Mariners to come out of this looking much different than that asshole kid you grew up with that would only play Ninja Turtles if he could be Leonardo. Every time. Fuck that guy. Fuck you Howard Lincoln. Take your half shell and get the hell out of my yard!
(Just kidding, you can’t alienate me)
There is an alternate effect that having additional sports teams could have on the Mariners, though. I remember taking a class in college about marketing, and the teacher referenced when 100.7 The Wolf came into Seattle, and the effect it had on KMPS, the flagship country station in Seattle. What was expected was that listeners of The Wolf would come directly from a pool of KMPS listeners and ultimately dilute the pool to a point that one of the stations would end up going out of business. What happened instead was that competition created something of a vacuum, and KMPS had only a slight decrease in their ratings while The Wolf experienced very similar success to what KMPS was having. Competition created increased interest, and ultimately new fans of the genre.
The thing is that there is a probably a legitimate reason for the Mariners to be concerned. The traffic infrastructure through a very heavily industry-driven area south of downtown has wide-sweeping implications if it hurts logistics, and adding obstacles could be extremely harmful. As sports fans and citizens of this region though, we believe that the overall effect on the region will be a net gain, but if it adds some 82 or more dates (with the NHL and NBA) of gridlock through the vital south downtown region, it’s not totally crazy to take a step back and look at the implications it may have on the city’s overall economic health.
But as sports fans and citizens of this region we’re growing pretty fucking tired of what Howard Lincoln has to say about anything.
I think that many of us would be fine with the return of the Sonics even if it ultimately meant a net loss for the city in terms of commerce. We aren’t unbiased. We don’t necessarily have the city’s best interest at heart. We have our and our sports-loving peers’ best interest at heart. Howard Lincoln has his, what he believes to be the Mariners, and what he believes to be the ownership group’s best interest at heart.
Maybe the Mariners are setting up to be sold, as has been occasionally speculated on this offseason. Maybe they are worth more money if they aren’t subject to as much competition.
No matter what’s going on, if the Mariners simply want further review of the arena process or are actually trying to block the Sonics from coming back to town, we know one thing is true: Howard Lincoln is the wrong asshole to deliver the message.