Andris Biedrins

Joe Lacob: when keeping it “real” goes wrong

A statistics-based conference at MIT deemed “Dorkapalooza” by Bill Simmons hardly seems like the likeliest of places to produce controversial quotes sure to rile up an already frustrated fanbase. But Joe Lacob made a comment that was possibly made in jest, but nevertheless is burning up the Internet as I write this. Also reported by Blazers Edge, here it is:

Even if Lacob meant this statement, he can’t possibly look forward to returning to the Bay Area and explaining himself to the first reporter/blogger who asks him to clarify a statement that, on its surface, shows the type of elitism that only plays well in country clubs, boardrooms and roped-off VIP areas. Not to mention it doesn’t seem like the best use of his time, when his team isn’t anywhere near the playoffs, to be researching whether the names of people questioning his skills as an owner are found on the list of season ticket holders.

So I guess I’m not a “real fan.” Neither are the vast majority of sports bloggers, media members (some of whom Lacob may very well feel the same about), fans who buy mini plans and/or single game tickets, fans who watch as much of the action they can on television or the poor saps who listen to games on the radio.

Perhaps Lacob was trying to get a rise out of a room full of journalists, both mainstream and blogletariat. If so, there were some people who didn’t get the joke but no crime was committed.

However, with NFL owners getting roasted at every turn, and Lacob himself building a reputation as a big-talk-small-action kind of owner in his first eight months, this is exactly what fans don’t want to hear. What Lacob’s comment portrays is a sense of arrogance that, among millionaire/billionaire types, is being met with more disdain than any time in recent memory. People are coming to the conclusion that billionaire owners aren’t cool dudes to live vicariously through, they’re just Goldman Sachs execs with a public hobby.

Lacob made his comment about bloggers, but he might as well have been talking about all fans. Why? Because in many cases, bloggers are looked at by the fans as representing their interests better than the MSM guys. They’re commonly perceived (not always correctly, mind you) to be more honest and less apt to get involved in behind-the-scenes politics/b.s. Sometimes bloggers are thought of as MSM guys without the access and shiny title (especially bloggers who were laid off from their MSM gigs). Sometimes they’re considered to be everyday fans, the only difference being they have the spare time and passion for writing that most fans don’t have.

Besides rile some people up, Lacob (the Joe Biden of NBA owners) didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, he voiced what we already knew — that the only people owners really answer to are the people lining their pockets. TV money fills wallets too, you say? Maybe so, but the owners consider that money a given. For example, if Lacob really thought that enough people were tired of Bob Fitzgerald that the ratings of Warriors broadcasts were suffering as a result, he’d be gone. But if no fewer people are watching, a vocal minority of Fitz-bashers is less influential with Warriors ownership than Andris Biedrins’ post presence is on the court.

All owners feel this way, but not all owners are in the position where fans are waiting for the owner to convince them of these things:

1. Winning percentage is more important than profit margin.

2. The Warriors have a plan for success other than making predictions in long-form interviews followed by excuses for why they weren’t kept.

3. Ownership isn’t just biding time until they can move the team to San Francisco and double (triple?) ticket prices.

While his words will be considered insensitive or crass by some, Lacob will probably think it’s all just a big misunderstanding. Instead of bashing basement dwellers in mothers’ houses throughout the region who don’t have the means to pay for season tickets, he probably felt like he was complimenting season ticket holders. Part of the marketing of season tickets is to make buying them seem like an achievement to be proud of, not just a huge chunk of disposable income that would otherwise be wasted on things like college funds and yacht maintenance.

Lacob’s also probably tired of getting bashed online. He’s obviously paying attention to what’s going on outside the realm of newspapers and ESPN; otherwise people like me wouldn’t have been invited to “Tweedia Day” or accorded full media access to games. If we’re to take the Warriors at their word, they worked extremely hard to improve their team at the trade deadline and it didn’t work out. That’s got to be frustrating — doubly bothersome when people like me come to less than favorable conclusions without knowing what actually went on behind the scenes.

Owners and fans have an unwritten agreement. Put out the best possible product, and we won’t complain about high prices on tickets, parking and concessions. Just don’t put the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor in our faces. We all know that when it comes to the super rich, the most sheltered, pampered people in the world, how much they care about someone is in most cases directly proportional to how much he or she is worth.

But don’t actually say it. You aren’t just offending a group of low-paid (if at all) writers who, despite how positive or negative the coverage, are helping publicize your product. By not living up to this unwritten agreement, you’re also offending the people who relate to them, people who buy single game tickets and might consider buying season tickets someday.

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