The announcement Tuesday by Golden State Warriors owners to move the Oakland franchise across the bay hits very close to home, and not only in proximity. With the well-known Sacramento struggles to finalize agreement on a new downtown arena, as well as public outrage toward Sacramento Kings ownership, Sacramento fans may be witnessing the inevitable from their Northern California neighbors.
It shows that many times in professional sports, money matters most.
The move to San Francisco and a new waterfront, privately financed $500-million arena on the Embarcadero has been labeled by co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber as a way to help them establish a winning basketball team.
But I’m sure as Monte Poole from the Mercury News put it, the sight of dollar signs and a "superficial image" at a "sexier address" probably weren’t a hindrance.
Similarities abound between Sacramento and Golden State.
One, the Warriors yearn for a new arena to get out of the 46-year old Oracle Arena, despite it being renovated 15 years ago.
Additionally, there has been notable tension between fans and co-owner Joe Lacob of late, who seems to have the same PR-centric characteristics as the Maloofs. After he dished beloved Monta Ellis in March, the fans torrentially booed him during Chris Mullin’s jersey retirement ceremony, an event that served as public embarrassment for Lacob.
And it doesn’t help that the team has been struggling for years now.
There is a distinct difference though, and this is where I must side with Golden State fans. They have shown their loyalty to their team through down years.
The Sacramento fans have not.
Yes, I’m sure that the resentment and anger towards the Maloofs and inclination to feel they are disloyal toward Sacramento has played a part.
But my question is, how can you try to get revved up when the town appears to be filled with fair-weather fans?
While we claim to be such a loyal city to our team and cry out for help to save our "beloved" franchise, we haven’t shown much support for years.
The Oakland fan base has made a viable case for itself to feel backstabbed by ownership’s decision to move to San Francisco. In the past five seasons, the Warriors have had a dismal .348 winning percentage, and while the product on the floor may have hurt to watch, the fans still came to Oracle in droves.
One case study comes from the 2010-2011 season, the Warriors worst season in the last five years. They only had 400 more fans show up for their home opener against the Houston Rockets than they did on their January 28th contest against the lowly Charlotte Bobcats.
Through those five years, Oakland has never ranked below 11th in the league and has always been in the 90th percentile in attendance.
The Kings have treaded the same course of ineptitude over that five-year span with a .378 winning percentage. During that time, they ranked no higher than 27th in attendance and finished last in 2008-2009. Less than 80% of the arena has been filled in two of those seasons and has been in the low 80’s the other three.
During this lockout shortened season, I went to three Kings and three Warriors games. As a longtime Kings fan and supporter who has seen Arco Arena at its best, I was amazed at the difference in atmosphere between the two venues.
In Oakland, it was invigorating to see an arena of diehard fans who would give anything for a win to take home to mom.
In Sacramento, the sound of drooling opposing fans often drowned out cheers from the home crowd.
What happened to the familiar sounds of cowbell? What happened to a packed house of purple?
Sacramento, we can cry all we want. But in the end, if we are to lose our beloved Kings, we should leave it all on the table just as Warriors fans did.