This Is A Stick-Up

January16/ 2000

OK, $150,000 is chump change in the fantasy world of pro sports … an NBAer’s monthly bling bling allowance. ..That’s what Hurricanes’ owner Peter Karmanos is asking the Wake County taxpayers to fork over so his team can host the upcoming NHL Draft. ..I think it’s cool that Rolly has a major league sports franchise. ..It will leave someday … I won’t. ..just another “gotcha” in the silly scam known as “being a world class city”.

   Back in the late 70, yours truly, BL Swagger had a masterful, yea verily an epic, letter published in the San Antonio Light. The subject was how San Antonio was about to get screwed by their USFL team – The San Antonio Gunslingers.  The owner was some “Big Hat, Few Cattle, No Oil” clown with a forked tongue and a harumphing bluster … Clinton Manges. Their QB was none other than our old buddy Rick Neuheisal … YeeHaa!

    So anyway … I write this kick butt letter chronicling the sleazy yahoos that bubble up in the septic tank of pro sports.  I nailed Ted Stepien, Robert Irsay, and a dozen others.  Note, this was waaay before Little Georgie Shinn did his Devil Dance at Trade & Tryon.  I predicted what Manges was up to and, of course, he followed my script to the letter.  The team HQ was a trailer.  When the Behar County sheriff came acalling with a stack of rubber checks, Ol’ Clint, Slick Rick and company had skedaddled.  That WILL NOT happen with Mr Karmanos and his Hurricanes.

    The science of franchise flimflamming has advanced considerably since then … in some ways.

    Alas … the old Chautauqua wagon with Professor Bamboozle’s Magic Elixir is still making the rounds and folks are still lining up with their egg money to purchase “the cure”.  What never changes is the local yokels eternal dream (wish?) that that sugar water “elixir” really will cure their rheumatism and kick-start the local economy. The folks in the previous town tarred and feathered “The Perfesser” but it was all “a great misunderstanding” … oh yeah!

    Repeating … the $150,000 that Karmanos’ emissary is expecting from the good citizens of Rolly is chump change.  Jim Goodmon or Smedes York or Steve Stroud or any of a dozen other deep-pocket locals can ante that up licketty split … and likely will.  And maybe even the next time and the next time and the next time … cause as sure as Bobby Orr had bad knees … the bail out has begun.

    I never predicted that hockey would not make it in Rolly.  I leave that flatulent forecasting to the know-it-alls on the message boards.  I knew it was a marginal “major market” at best.  I knew there was a major college sports saturation here unlike any comparable market in America.  I knew it would be sticker shock to the locals.  I also knew that all the pharmaceutical sales guys in RTP needed somewhere to take their rich doctor clients after a big dinner at The Angus Barn.  Where there enough drug sales guys and bored docs to fill the RBC?  Apparently not.

     If you had told me on Day One that the franchise would have a Willie Wonka “Golden Ticket” handed to them called Stanley Cup Finals in their early years … I mighta said “it might make it after all”; but that Stanley Cup Finals thingie will never happen.  It did … and then it didn’t.

    The magical Stanley Cup run DID happen; then it just all fizzled like a litre of Coke left opened on the back porch … I’m still not sure exactly why that happened; but it reminded me of The Dallas Blackhawks. Gather ‘round kiddies … Mr Swagger has yet another “he was there” yarn.

    Dallas Texas 1981 … the height of JR Ewing frenzy … a time of flash and dazzle in Big D.  Mary Kay’s boy, Donald Carter was getting ready to buy the city an NBA franchise.  Tex Schramm and Tom Landry were Kings of Irving.  Bob Short or some other yahoo was playing around in Arlington with David Clyde … and “The Blackhawks” were at The State Fair Arena.  

    The Dallas Blackhawks were a minor league hockey team (think Slapshot!).  The beleaguered franchise had more “lives” than Rasputin.  It could not turn a profit or even close to it if they had discovered Spindletop at mid-ice.  6,000 die-hard fans would turn out game after game but they needed 8,000 – 10,000 fans.  You know the formula … lose $10,000 EVERY game but figure you will make it up in volume?

     Each off-season the gritty little ownership group would announce it was shutting down … and 6,000 die-hard fans would write letters saying “please don’t … we love our Blackhawks” … wow! … 6,000 hand written letters … that’s got to represent AT LEAST 30-50,000 hockey fans in the area … let’s try one more season … maybe we will strike oil with one more drilling.  Sure enough … next season comes along and (taa da!) … those same 6,000 die hard letter writing fans showed up again.  At that point in time there were 6,000 people in the Metroplex that gave a rip about hockey and every single one of the sumbitchs was already showing up.

    The team finally folded and 6,000 hockeyless hockey fans moved on to Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth or to the Mesquite Rodeo. OK, it’s a bizarre story but you saw where I was taking you and you enjoyed the ride … absolutely true story.

    The NHL is in a world of hurt even by the goofy rules that govern pro sports.  A bunch of Slovak guys named Serge and Pavel are making more $$$ per shift than the GNP of Transylvania (not counting the Dracula souvenirs).  

    I went to five Hurricane games this past season.  My tickets were comp thanks to a dear friend.  I went with a bunch of good buddies, we had a great time.  If we had gone to Dorton Arena to watch Lyle Wildgoose and The IceCaps I would have had just as good a time … and the hot dogs would have been cheaper.

    All the Canes’ guys I’ve met have been fine fellows.  Most of those guys are long gone in the several “dump salaries” purges that have become commonplace in recent seasons.  My enjoyment of a night at a Canes game is 100% unrelated to whether the team wins or loses BUT … remember … I am the ONLY Tar Heel fan who had a great time at this past year’s Duke FB game … I was with Lydia, Boots, Dr Jimmy and saw “The General”, Mrs The General, Redundant Dick, Big Lee, and Mayor Matt.  I don’t live vicariously by wins and losses. I live by enjoying being with my friends. 

    Karmanos may try to get Capitol Broadcasting’s Jim Goodmon to share his ownership burden.  Jim Goodmon might do it because Jim Goodmon is Rolly’s single most benevolent city father.  I hope Jim does not.  Jim Goodmon has done well with his Durham Bulls and absolutely knows this market.  Jim Goodmon is also waaaay too much of an honest straight-arrow guy to sit down in a poker game with the likes of Peter Karmanos and his ilk.

  “Day-O Day-O daylight she comes and me wanna go home …” aka The Banana Boat Song was Beetlejuice’s curse on the dinner party.  I was surprised how many got this one … thought it was a tough one.

 Today’s Stumper

 “Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling” was the theme song for ______.

 Big Doin’s just around the corner … gonna be BIG! … about to bust wanting to tell ya but gotta wait.

Comments or Questions ???

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