|Pam Oliver's Forehead
||10-08-2012 12:11 AM
An important message from the netherworld.
The Dark Hamas Rises:
In 92 days, Deshi Basara
Clark Hunt, for all his purported business acumen, needs a lesson on investment. It is obvious from the laissez-faire nature of the ownership and the infrequent trips to the stadium that Clark Hunt does not live and die with this team the way many other sports owners, both good and bad, have and do. Although it is understandable for some figures to have a more reserved public presence than others, the fans of the Kansas City Chiefs now perceive a disconnect, whether real or imagined (and I believe it to be real) more than at any point in my lifetime.
Sports teams are a business, but they are businesses with special exemptions. They hold largely protected monopolies that allow them to treat their paying customers with contempt and neglect that no other organization could and still survive. I feel that this is partially due to the importance of television contracts, which make up the largest single chunk of revenue for each team. Since NFL teams have their bread buttered by the networks and their associated advertisers, their needs come first. But for all their financial commitments, the investment of the networks pales in comparison to the fans.
The most important things you can give are, in order, love, time, and money. Fans are the only ones who give the NFL all three. Imagine a season ticket holder. Assuming they attend only the regular season home games, they make the minimum investment: eight Sundays per year, at least seven hours each Sunday, and no less than 50 dollars a person. In all honesty, it often extends far over $100 per week, but we’ll be generous. That doesn’t take into account the other eight Sundays or the time spent following the team between games and between seasons. Furthermore, fans do not attend football games as an idle exercise. They care. They rejoice. And more often than not over the last forty years in Kansas City, they hurt.
Rooting for a team isn’t just rooting for laundry. That may be the end result, but the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts. Sports teams make up a fundamental aspect of our identity. When a team a fan roots for succeeds, they don’t analyze it dispassionately, they rejoice. When they fail a fan doesn’t have a placid, flat affect, they lament. The Kansas City Chiefs aren’t just a disembodied football team; to their fans, the success of the Chiefs represents a pride in the city, the region, and a broader community.
Clark Hunt hasn’t shown that the Chiefs are any more than a line item on an expense report to him. Similarly, his middle managers treat his paying customers with seething contempt. Telling fans to “get over it” and that they “don’t have a clue” and to “pick another team”, aside from being completely moronic from a PR perspective, completely misunderstands what it is to be a fan. We are fans tautologically. We root for the Chiefs because we root for the Chiefs. We grew up in Kansas City, or grew up watching them, or felt an attachment to the team and style of football in a way that transcended bangwagonning. If it were as simple as picking another team we all would have done it years if not decades ago.
All of this is important to understand regarding the last week in Kansas City. The banner that flew over Arrowhead Stadium wasn’t the work of a few deranged lunatics, it was an effort of paying, loyal, and yes, loving, customers to show the proprietor that they feel the product is embarrassing, opportunistic, tone deaf, not to mention pathetically inept. When Chiefs fans cheered Matt Cassel crumpling to the turf then staggering around like Trevor Berbick in the aftermath, they weren’t doing so because they enjoy watching others suffer, they did so because of what Cassel represents.
In the literal sense, Matt Cassel is a terrible NFL quarterback with no pocket presence, leadership abilities, arm strength, or accuracy. But to Chiefs fans he’s not just an accumulation of his not-talents, he represents the wishes of a general manager who won’t and hasn’t considered the possibility that he made a monumental mistake on the most important position in pro sports. Consequently, Scott Pioli wasted four years of time, players’ primes, and millions of dollars in the pursuit of a puerile attempt to demonstrate that Matt Cassel has the ability to play in the NFL. He doesn’t. Yet at no point has any attempt been made to rectify this situation. At no point has the personnel director of this team admitted that the quarterback needs to play better, and at no point has Pioli opened the position up to anything that could even approach a legitimate competition for the job.
Imagine an electronics company whose televisions cannot accurately display images. After two months, everything on the screen turns to a garbled mess of the scrambled analog cable premium channels of 20 years past. When informed of this problem, the company tells its customers to get a clue, that they have no idea what electronics fabrication entails, and if they are so bent out of shape, they can go buy a Samsung instead. How long would that company last? How many class action lawsuits would they be subject to? What kind of rating would they get from the BBB?
Why is that business behavior considered universally unacceptable, but such atrocious management of a sports team is given a pass? Why are fans continually subjected to ticket price increases despite a continued escalation in television contract money? How many businesses could stay afloat by charging more for a product that becomes more and more inferior as time passes?
Clark Hunt should realize the incredibly fortunate position he is in with the Chiefs. Had this been any other type of business, his reign of CEO would be more lambasted and reviled than that of Dick Fuld. If the Chiefs were a soft drink New Coke would laugh at their ineptitude. Yet in spite of all this malfeasance, fans still continue to show up. That level of time, financial commitment, and unconditional love should not go unrewarded. And that is why Clark Hunt must invest in the fans who invest so much of themselves in his product.
He can do that by firing Scott Pioli.