Let’s Not Get Caught on the Rebound
I purposely avoided writing about the Richmond Braves last week to see if people still cared about the topic. Turns out, the hurt and anger still linger, and fingers are still being pointed.
It’s so easy to blame the city and the mayor for the Braves leaving town. Anyone with a platform can use anecdotes to stir negative emotions aimed at our leaders.
But what if it’s our fault? What if we’re truly the ones to blame, and the local leaders reacted based on our action the past few years?
It’s OK to admit we’re hurt by the team’s pending departure. Somehow, the Braves leaving makes us feel like we failed. Could we have shown more affection? Could we have paid more attention? Could we have expressed more pride?
But we didn’t. And now they’re leaving.
It started out as a great relationship. We adored each other. Remember 1993, when more than 540,000 of us visited The Diamond? Now that’s love. That was the start of an eight-year run of more than half a million fans at the old ballpark each season. Those were the best of times. Jermaine Dye. Chipper Jones. Even John Rocker.
But something happened in 2001. We started to drift apart. What came between us? Were we having too many problems at home? What was the reason for a drop-off of nearly 80,000 fans from the previous season?
Whatever the difficulties, they persisted because we didn’t spend nearly enough time together. Only 321,696 showed up in 2006, with a slight improvement to 356,028 in 2007. Richmond’s decline in attendance occurs at a time when minor-league baseball is seeing unprecedented attendance numbers elsewhere.
Minor-league baseball drew 900,000 more fans in 2007, setting a record for the fourth consecutive year. That figure was compiled based on numbers supplied by 12 leagues.
So why would we want another team when we’ve proven we don’t want to support the one we have now?
It’s been reported that organizations are lining up to come to Richmond. Some suggest that we should move forward with our stadium plans. Bring in another team, people say, and everything will be better.
It’s natural when there’s a breakup to seek the nearest quick fix. But rarely does that heal the wounds.
The best course of action is to think for a minute and consider if we really want another relationship so soon.
I think it would be unwise to move too fast.
Why? Because Richmond is not a professional sports town — not in the slightest.
Take Fort Wayne, Ind., for example. There’s no interstate flowing through the Hoosier state’s second-largest city, which has a population of roughly 252,000. There are no companies like Circuit City or LandAmerica Financial or Genworth Financial or MeadWestvaco with headquarters there.
But there are professional sports teams — six of them, including the Mad Ants of the NBA Developmental League and the Wizards of the Class A Midwest League.
The folks in Fort Wayne love their teams so much that they supported a plan to build a new 5,000-seat downtown stadium for an estimated cost of $30 million, to be completed before the 2009 season. And that’s for a Class A team.
The company that owns the team, Hardball Capital, pledged $5 million toward the project. The city will borrow $16 million, with the debt being paid with tax money collected by special downtown taxing districts.
The Wizards’ old haunt, 6,300-seat Memorial Stadium, was dedicated on April 18, 1993.
What would be the reaction of Richmonders and those who live in the surrounding counties if such a deal was proposed?
I’ll give you one guess.
Let’s consider all our options before dropping millions on another team that might one day leave because we won’t support them.
Perhaps the answer to the situation was written previously on this blog. One person suggested we build a football stadium.
The new facility would give the emerging University of Richmond program a competitive edge in recruiting. It also might encourage Virginia Commonwealth University and the school’s president, Eugene Trani, to field a team.
Can you imagine a Spiders vs. Rams game on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in a stadium that’s unique to Richmond?
If that ever happened, all of this angst over the Braves might be forgotten, and forgiven.
OUT AT HOME: Super Bowl Prediction: Giants 35, Patriots 24. Yeah right.
VIDEO OF THE WEEK: OK, I would switch places with Tom Brady. He’s No. 2 on the smooth list behind George Clooney.