Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Burden to keep the Coyotes in town falls on you, me*

Note: This column appears in the 7/2 issue of The Glendale Star and the 7/3 issue of the Peoria Times

As the Phoenix Coyotes mess moves steadily along, I am reminded of a paradox that has always fascinated me.

Last week U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Redfield T. Baum (that is a name just begging for a daytime judge show) expressed that fans of the Phoenix Coyotes, if they want to keep their team here in Glendale, need to show their support with “their pocketbook and presence.”

Though I doubt the majority of hockey fans carry pocketbooks, this warning seems to place the blame for the Coyotes’ woes and the pressure to retain them squarely on the fans themselves.

And part of me agrees with this. As a little kid growing up in New Jersey, I was (and still am) a Yankees fan. (Sorry.) It may be difficult to remember now, but my formative years of baseball fandom involved rooting unconditionally for a team that was just not very good. Most of the games I watched on TV featured an array of available seats, and on those fantastic occasions that my Dad was able to take me to The Stadium in person, I knew that the tickets weren’t that hard to come by.

Four championships, infinite sellouts, and a new stadium later, I’m still left wondering where everybody came from.

There are people here in the Valley who scoff at the idea that the burden is on them to keep this hockey team around. They will come out and spend their hard-earned money when the franchise puts a quality product out on the ice. And these people, like out-of-the-woodwork Yankees’ fans, have a point, too.

The Coyotes have not had a winning season since the 2001-02 campaign. A decent ticket is about thirty bucks. One trip to the concession stand can cost more than that. Throw in a recession and the team’s almost imminent departure and it’s justifiable to seek something better or to ignore it altogether.

Or is it? Is it not enough to root for the hometown team because they’re the hometown team, or should we demand success as well?

Though I haven’t settled on this issue, I am getting closer to knowing where I stand, and a big part of that involves being a sports fan in general. For me, the joy of your team’s success cannot be fully experienced if you did not endure the hardships as well. The Coyotes have not been around here long enough for fans to feel so jaded by front office missteps and player shortcomings. This team is not yet the Clippers. I imagine that, should this hockey team experience some kind of Disney-movie-like turnaround –- propelled by the sudden burst of support -– any true fan would be proud to say that they had been there from the beginning.

Wherever you stand on this issue, in the case of the Phoenix Coyotes one simple reality remains, and it proves that Judge Redfield T. Baum –- or J-Red, as I like to call him -- is a wise man.

If we do not support the Phoenix Coyotes because, and –- judging from their 2009-10 forecast -- only because they are the hometown team, there can only be one result: no hometown team.

So fellas, grab your purses.


* mostly you. I’m not a big hockey fan.

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