View Full Version : Sports Fans and Team Account-"ability"

03-28-2012, 13:25
Ahhhh, that fresh smell of spring is in the air. As usual, it means the Leafs have fallen. That's not really a huge shock to anyone in the sports community anymore. It has become a yearly joke. It's hockey's version of Groundhog Day. It's deja vu all over again. It has been 7 years since they actually played a meaningful game in April. It has also been 46 years since they won a Stanley cup. These are facts every hockey fan knows, and every Leaf's fan knows. Yet every single year, "Leaf's Nation" members flock to the Air Canada Center to buy season tickets, or a package deal, to buy their new sweaters, to spend ridiculous amounts of money on parking, and concession stand foods to watch their beloved team.

Last night, the Leafs were mathematically eliminated from the 2011-2012 season playoffs. Just 6 weeks ago, they were in 6th place in the Eastern Conference, and fans were prepping for post-season play at long last. But yet again, the Leaf's had the predictable, almost inevitable late season meltdown. For Toronto, the 2011-2012 season began with such promise. Their 9-4 record to start things off provided much ammunition for Leafs' fans, confident they were destined for the playoffs for the first time since 2005. However, things quickly became murky, and now there is outrage, disbelief, and bitter disappointment in "Leaf's Nation". Today, Leaf's Nation will commiserate, figure out who is responsible, and dream of what could have been.

But I sense a change of attitude in that spring breeze as well. Not just with the Leaf's fans, but fans across the sports world in general. In a way, I have some sympathy for Leafs' fans. I have stopped any support for my beloved New York Mets. Since 1984 I followed and supported every move they made, because of the treasonous Gary Carter trade from the Expos. I celebrated the 1986 World Series, enjoyed the 1988 playoffs, and suffered through the rest of their horrid years. But Gary died in February, and I don't want to suffer anymore. Their ownership is in a state of flux as they go through bankruptcy proceedings, and a fraud trial. Their top player is already injured, and they are stuck in one of the most competitive divisions in baseball. The year ahead looks bleak, and there is very little hope on the horizon.

I feel it is time for the sports fan's opinion to be represented, and respected in North American sports. In some European sports leagues, players, coaches, and management are contractually obligated to meet with fans. They must endure complaints about how they are playing, suggestions as to what may help the teams, or just listen to how bad they are right now. These players and managers have to sit there and take it. Can you imagine Brian Burke, Ozzie Guillen, or John Tortorella getting grilled by some random guy who just dropped nearly $500.00 to take his family out to see their team lose? It would be carnage at its' best, and almost Pay-Per-View worthy. You would definitely get your money's worth there.

Owners, GM's and fans have to get their stuff together and put an end to this disillusionment with teams and players. For those who don't appreciate or like sports, I understand it's technically a form of entertainment, but it is also a major part of our culture in North America. It also plays a big part in the economy of this continent. It's time we as sports fans take action. We are going through another bad economic period. Fans want to know that their team has a solid plan for the future. Nobody wants a dog and pony show, with bright lights and tasty snacks. We want tangible numbers, names, and a clear vision of how the team is going to succeed.

Basketball is just coming off the most destructive work stoppage they've ever had. The NHL is on the road to a work stoppage at the end of this year. That could possibly destroy any future the sport has in the southern United States. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman can go out twice a year and provide his 'State of the Union" speech saying everything is sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. NBA Commissioner David Stern can do the same thing. But we all know, through that smoke screen, both of their leagues are losing money hand over fist. They need a new strategy and new broadcasting agreements. And they need them in a hurry.

Leagues and teams may soon have to be open to the idea of having a 'fan representative' at the bargaining table, and involved in trade discussions. It would surely add the "ability" for teams to be more accountable towards the fans. While it would lead to one of the most brutal election processes in history, it may be a necessary element to help protect us, the sports fan. The people running for this position would be put under a higher scrutiny than that of any political representative in any country, and would be willing to take daily abuse. We have to know we are getting the best out of our hard earned dollar when we go to a game, and the companies who pay millions to have their ads placed during huge events need to know that their products' image will not be compromised by a players' actions during or after the game.

Baseball could be considered the canary in the coal mine since today is Opening Day. Ticket prices have been dropped and promotions are being launched to gain new fans. In that way, I think the owners and GM's may be actually starting to come around. Why do you think it took so long for Manny Ramirez to get signed last season? Demanding the extravagant salary is one thing. Manny can be Manny on his own time. Stop acting like a greedy, spoiled little child. We all don't have the chance to sign a NINE DIGIT contract. I won't go off on one of those "people are losing their houses and can't afford to feed their families" rants here, but, people are losing their houses and can't afford to feed their families.

Teams have to stop signing these "problem players," even if they are the top talents in their respective leagues. Or, at the very least the leagues should mandate putting in a personal conduct, or morality clause in EVERY player's contract. The player's unions will have a problem with that. However, it is time that the powers that be, the fans who truly pay these guys, take a stand and say, no more. If you are a problem, or we know you will cause one in the future, you are not welcome on my team.

Team's owners must begin to understand they have a responsibility, nay, obligation, to the fans to play well but at the same time employ people who behave as a respectable person is supposed to. It's time for management and the players to start to realize the real world they are living in. We don't want to pay our hard earned money, and spend our valuable free time for an inferior product. Stop being a distraction for the fans. Stop giving the sports you play a bad name, and respect the integrity of your game. It's time the fans can at least know they are cheering for real teams, with known, achievable, set goals. We want good people, who are true role models. We want to be proud to say, "Yes, that is my team." But no longer will we sit idly by and say, "There's always next year." I don't want to endure another year of misery. I want satisfaction, and I want it now.