Bill Simmons

Joe Lacob on bloggers and real fans, in his own words

The way news on the internet travels around before quickly fading away, the whole mini-controversy surrounding comments Joe Lacob made about bloggers not being real fans is probably a distant memory for most. After a couple bloggers (Ben Golliver of Blazer’s Edge and the person behind mentioned Lacob’s comments at a Sloan Sports Analytics Conference panel discussion on Twitter, Lacob had some explaining to do when he returned to the Bay Area from Boston.

Lacob sent an email to beat writers, starting with, “My point was that it is especially difficult to receive negative, expletive-ridden e-mails and blogger comments from so-called fans or self-proclaimed long-time season-ticket holders. I do not find it to be a constructive conversation if someone makes a point with viscous profanity.”

Then the next day, Lacob went on with Ralph Barbieri and Tom Tolbert and said:

“What happened was, as I recall … I’ve been trying to get a hold of a tape of this, frankly. There was a question from someone in the audience about ‘how do you deal with all the negative publicity, it’s a public role now vs. a private role, which it is. And you get all these negative comments and this and that.’ And my answer, and maybe I handled it incorrectly. I don’t recall, exactly. And no one else seems to know either. Except for one blogger, or a guy who wrote something – he’s from Portland, believe it or not, this is where this all stems from. He wrote something about this, what I said, this comment that I said, that they’re not season ticket holders or whatever. I don’t believe I actually said it. I don’t know for a fact or for sure but it certainly wasn’t what it was meant to be.”

Well, thanks to Golliver, we got a hold of the tape. And just after the 36-minute mark in a panel discussion with a bunch of owners and Bill Simmons (who around 23 minutes in mentions how happy he is that Lacob’s group bought the Warriors instead of Larry Ellison), Lacob talks about his plan with the Warriors, the pressures they face, and … well, let’s let Lacob’s words speak for themselves, starting with the comment he didn’t recall making:

There’s a lot of pressure from the media to make quick trades, from the internet bloggers, which I’m not sure are the real fans. I check out whether they have season tickets, they don’t usually. So there’s a lot of pressure on that.

But we think we’ve got a good core and we’re going to take our time a little bit and see what we can do with that and add to it and we have a plan for how we’re going to do it. And on the business side, I could have come in and fired everybody day one. There were a lot of media that wanted me to do that, too, because there were certain people that for whatever reason people think need to be changed.  Again, got to take a year, go through the season – like you would with any other business — evaluate what you have, and then at the appropriate time here make some changes if we need to. So I don’t feel any great rush to do it.

One fortunate thing we have is, we have a team that even though has not been winning … I do think you should make the postseason every other year on average in basketball, since 16 teams out of 30 make it. And in our case, once in the last 16 years, that’s pretty pathetic, it’s not good. So I think that we do feel a great pressure to fix that, but we also came in, we have a great fanbase. And we don’t have any tremendous rush on the business side to go and just drastically alter things. So I’m going to take my time, like I would with any other business, evaluate, put a solid plan in place that gets us there.

Lacob’s plan to turn the Warriors into Celtics-West may work to perfection in the next few years, who knows. And regardless of his comments and attempts to cover them up, he’s still light years ahead of Chris Cohan in terms of relating to fans and the media. But here’s what’s troubling:

1. Lacob either has a terrible memory, or he wasn’t completely honest. Nowhere does Lacob mention profanity or emails of any kind at the panel discussion; he spoke about pressure from the media and bloggers. Bloggers are simply easier targets than mainstream media members.

2. Before the 2010-11 season and at times throughout, Lacob mentioned making bold moves. This idea about “taking our time” runs counter to that. It’s fine to get your bearings when taking on a new franchise, especially one with as many difficulties in recent years as the Warriors have faced. However, Lacob either changed his mind after talking about making “bold” moves and making a “big splash,” or those comments might have been made to excite the fans and/or get the fans to trust the new ownership group enough to keep buying tickets, which brings us to…

3. Lacob’s thoughts on the “great fanbase” meaning there was no “tremendous rush on the business side to go and just drastically alter things” shows how Warriors fans’ loyalty could be working against them. If you look at those comments, it would make sense to say that if the opposite were the case — if the fans weren’t buying tickets and in turn were negatively affecting the “business side” of things, then there would be a “tremendous rush” to “drastically alter things.”

Lacob, like most owners, is running his team as a business. If the fans are filling the arena, why not take your time with a core of players interesting enough to lure fans to continue renewing their season tickets? It actually kind of makes sense, especially from a financial perspective. But Warriors fans have long suspected that this team has prioritized profit over playoffs for quite some time, so to hear that the consistently strong crowds at Oracle Arena took away this new ownership group’s sense of urgency is worrisome.

Instead of complaining about profane emails, Lacob is complaining about pressure from writers who aren’t directly affecting the team’s bottom line. Makes one wonder if Lacob would actually pay more attention to profane emails than what the media and bloggers say, as long as the profane emails actually came from season ticket holders.

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