Ray Ratto

Kings' divorce from Sacramento is inevitable

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Kings' divorce from Sacramento is inevitable

The news that the Dancing Maloofs seem finally to have found a relocation partner in Virginia Beach, VA, came neither as surprise nor outrage back in Sacramento. It seems that the town that housed the Kings has come to grips with the fact that the team wasn't really a member of the family after all, but just an upstairs tenant.This is a mature realization most fans never grasp -- the notion that your favorite team really isn't yours at all, but just something you get to have for awhile.It is also the fatigue talking. The Maloof family, having blown up most of its outside fortune, tried to squeeze more juice from the lemon of the basketball team and the town in which it resided than there was juice to have, and the town finally gave up rather than in. It has decided to redefine the term "big league city," and the money it saved by not giving in to the Maloofs' need for a tow line will determine what kind of city Sacramento is in the future.RELATED: Report -- Virginia Beach-Kings arena details worked out
That, though, is the future. The here and now is that the Kings are performing a slow-motion funeral in a city that gave it renewed life after the wilderness years in Kansas City and Omaha, and the most-moved team in the history of North American professional sports (don't forget Rochester and Cincinnati, after all) will be moved again this time potentially to a state that has had only one other pro franchise ever, the late and largely unnoted Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association.Which, hilariously enough, began as the Oakland Oaks. Northern California -- Gateway To The Chesapeake. But we digress from today's civics lesson. As Sacramento learns to divorce itself slowly from the basketball team that helped define it, Virginia Beach has just gotten a gift from the sky sort of. It had no great professional sports aspirations, but it had a population, and then it had plans for an arena (which might be built in part by Comcast Spectacor's Global Spectrum, its venue management division, it must be noted), and then it had a team.This is all contingent, apparently, on the state of Virginia throwing 150 million to help finish the project, and as we know, that kind of money tends to make fiscal conservatives sit up, take notice and make noises. In short, this isn't actually close to being done, because state-sponsored welfare for sports teams is less popular than it used to be.But the marriage between Sacramento and the Kings is now pretty much one in name only. Those who care about the Kings have watched their personal needles move from the purple of loving the team to the red of hating the Maloofs more. They know that even if Virginia Beach doesn't happen, Seattle is heating up in the bullpen ready to make its play. And they know the Maloofs are down to the strings in their pockets, and would happily sell the team to Nova Scotia interests to get out of their ever-worsening financial jam.There are lessons here for everyone, of course. There always are. No matter what the event, there is some ethereal pinched schoolmarm standing off in the fog holding an iPad and standing in front of a whiteboard with some hellish lecture to deliver. That's one of the sucky things about moments like this -- someone is always there to tell you what it means, when you already know what it means.In Sacramento, though, it means the end. The end of a nearly 30-year relationship that started so well, became contentious and even ugly, and is now just worn out.Virginia Beach may happen, or it may collapse under the weight of local politics and legal bribery. Deals aren't deals until everyone has been dealt with.But the failure of this deal would only mean a new one down the road, and more of the scab-picking that has already wrecked Sacramento's links to the Kings. The city seems done with the entire process, and even those who still believe in some deus ex machina to save the team must know that it is just one more band-aid. They have learned that their team really isn't theirs after all, and there is no repairing that feeling once it is lost.

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Matt Joyce said the word, he did the apology, he’ll do the time, and then we’ll see if he’ll get the forgiveness he asks.
 
Joyce’s two-game suspension by Major League Baseball for using a gay slur at a fan during Friday’s Athletics-Angels game in Anaheim is well within industry norms (though it might have been more tactically impressive if the club itself had issued the suspension), and his apology did not deflect blame or contain the always-insincere caveat “if I offended anyone.” He did offend people and he knew it, so he didn’t couch it in the phraseology of “I don’t think what I said was improper, but I’ll do the perp walk just to get this over with.”
 
He even offered to do work with PFLAG, the support group that supports the LGBTQ community, thereby putting his time (which is more meaningful than money) where his mouth was.
 
In other words, he seems to have taken his transgression properly to heart, which is all you can really hope for, and now we’ll see if he is granted the absolution he seeks.
 
You see, we’re a funny old country in that we talk forgiveness all the time but grant it only sparingly, and only after a full mental vetting of important things like “Do we like this guy?” and “Is he playing for my favorite team?” and “Do I feel like letting him up at all?”
 
In other words, forgiveness is very conditional indeed.
 
Joyce said what he said, but his apology seemed to be given freely and unreservedly rather than crafted to meet a minimal standard of corporate knee-taking/arse-covering. If he follows through on his offer to do face-to-face work with PFLAG or an associated group and absorbs the lesson of not using other people as a weapon for his own frustration, then he ought to be acknowledged for doing so. That’s what forgiveness is.
 
But if the principle you adhere to is “once guilty, forever doomed,” then you’ve succeeded at giving in to the mode of the day, which is jumping to a conclusion and never jumping back because it’s just easier and more convenient to do so.
 
It’s up to him. But it’s also up to you.

Promotion and relegation would be a great idea in all sports

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AP

Promotion and relegation would be a great idea in all sports

There is no inherent reason why you should care about Miami FC or Kingston Stockade FC, two lower level professional soccer leagues in the lower right quadrant of the nation.

But when they joined together to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the international governing body for any sport not run by Americans for Americans, to demand that all American teams submit to the concept of promotion and relegation, from MLS to, presumably, your kid’s under-8 team, they became interesting.

And the best part about soccer, except for Neymar being worth twice as much as all other humans in the history of the sport, is promotion and relegation.

In fact, it would be a great idea in all sports – although the idea of the Giants and A’s in the Pacific Coast League might scare the bejeezus out of Larry Baer and John Fisher.

Now we are not optimistic that the CAS will see this Kingston and Miami’s way. Americans like their sports top-heavy, where only a few megaclubs get most of the money and attention while the rest sort of muddle along, safe but unremarkable. And to be frank, promotion and relegation is most a fun media construct for making fun of bad teams – say, like the A’s and Giants.

But we can agree, I think, that having Jed York pay Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch to keep his football team out of the Canadian Football League, or better still, the Mountain West Conference, would add to healthy dose of spice to what promises otherwise to be a pretty humdrum year.

And promotion/relegation would certainly reduce all that troublesome tanking in the NBA people endlessly whinge about.

So here’s to Kingston Stockade and Miami FC. Your cause is just. Persevere. After all, in this rancid period for American sporting culture, someone's got to stand for the quixotic yet indisputably correct thing.

And when it fails, and it probably will, just know you sleep with the angels -- if that’s what passes for fun at your house.