Look whos bashing baseball
Last week at a 'power breakfast,' The Business Journal played host to Trail Blazer President Steve Patterson and Lance Lopes, the vice president of corporate partnerships and legal affairs for the Seattle Seahawks.
Bringing major league baseball to Portland.
Isn't that like bringing in Ronald McDonald and asking him whether Burger King should be allowed to come to town?
To top it all off, The Business Journal published a story Feb. 19 headlined 'Sports execs: Portland can't support pro baseball.' Since it's a business paper, I'll overlook the fact that they weren't talking about 'pro' baseball Ñ we've had that in Portland for about 100 years. They were talking about major-league baseball.
What I can't overlook, though, is that the writer of the piece didn't point out that Lopes and Patterson, who both work for Paul Allen, may have a monumental conflict of interest when it comes to talking about another big-league franchise coming to Portland.
If they have any sense at all, the Blazers are frightened silly about baseball. It could do their franchise more harm than Rasheed Wallace. So you can't blame them when they get a little silly about the subject. They've got a monopoly right now, and they want desperately to keep it.
'We lost $100 million last year,' Patterson said at the breakfast. 'The only reason we are still in Portland is because Paul Allen has agreed to subsidize it. To have the public sector go out and recruit competition is terribly unfair.'
I don't even know where to begin. First, the Blazers have only themselves to blame for losing $100 million last year. Their payroll was the highest in the league, they were bounced in the first round of the playoffs again, and they trampled on their own integrity in this town for so long, nobody wanted to buy a ticket or a sponsorship. And I see nothing 'unfair' about a little competition Ñ in any area of the economy.
Patterson reportedly also said his team's lease is 'the most onerous of any stadium in the NBA.'
I can't even figure out that statement. The Blazer lease is with Oregon Arena Corp., which is owned by Allen. And it was a decent enough lease that until a couple of years ago, the Rose Garden was a very profitable building. And by the way, the lease isn't that bad Ñ the team keeps all revenue from suites, club seats and concessions.
Lopes works for one of the few teams in the NFL that has trouble selling tickets. Maybe that's because he's a baseball expert.
'Baseball's economic model is so broken, to put a team in a town this size, it would have to be greatly subsidized to compete,' he said. 'Portland wouldn't be able to support that level of ticket sales, and until baseball gets its house in order, I don't think we could compete.'
It's far from perfect, but baseball's economic model has improved a lot over the last few years. Yes, the Yankees and Red Sox still spend wildly. But how many World Series have they won in the last three years?
Zero between the two of them, one fewer than poor little Florida.
A big-league team in Portland could certainly be as competitive as the Blazers have been for the last few seasons. Or the Seahawks have been for their entire lifetime.
Certainly, you have to expect something like this from the Blazers and Seahawks. This is the party line, coming out of Allen's organization. But you would hope their statements wouldn't go totally unchallenged. Stuff like this, from the Journal story: 'When multiple professional sports teams are forced to compete for limited resources, all the teams lose, both speakers said.'
Bottom line: The only people frightened by competition are the ones who can't compete. Moreover, if there had been a little more competition for the sports dollar in this town, I don't think the Blazers would have ever gotten so far down the path to self-destruction.