Thursday, September 18, 2008

Minor League Sports Can Have Major League Fans

I have watched recently while some of my favorite minor league sports teams endure many changes. The Charlotte Checkers finally get a radio deal and when I interviewed Jason Shaya, he hinted that he also thought a television deal could be forthcoming. The Kannapolis Intimidators finished the season a few games short of making the playoffs and we can't wait until April to see them again and what new team is on the field then. But the biggest news makers seem to be in the Syracuse area where the Chiefs and Crunch are facing huge changes like who the Major League Team that will be affiliated with the Chiefs and why the Syracuse area government is willing to risk a new scoreboard on the future of the Crunch staying in the area. I have read quite a bit on these topics so why not share my insight on these things, especially since it's my site and I can do that I guess(my wife says I can as long as I don't mind stopping to take the dog out from time to time).

Let's start with the Syracuse Chiefs situation since they have been mulling over just who will be the major league talent supplier. Many speculate that the Chiefs ended their relationship with the Blue Jays due to a lack of supplying a winning team and I have to agree. I have family who are season ticket holders up there and I think occasionally the frustration kicks in watching your team lose(ask Syracuse Orange football fans). So who do they select now? It looks now as though the Mets are going to go with Buffalo but the Nationals have visited and the Marlins plan to visit soon to pitch why the Chiefs should take a chance with their farm team (thank you to the crew at for the top notch news they have provided on this situation). I would offer this advice though I am sure the answer from the Chiefs management will be "DUH" but I would go with the team who you think has a great farm system in general and is willing to help invest in their team, not the one who likes to trade prospects often for name players because this will allow you to have top players playing at AAA level and the only time you will see good players are during rehab stints for a couple games before they get back with the major league team. I do think that the Chiefs offer a lot to their fans and if partnered up with a good system, you will see attendance rise with a new team. My pick if I had to, I would select the Washington Nationals and let me briefly explain why as well. I will admit, I don't know much about their farm system and they may not contend as much in the NL East as say the Florida Marlins but Florida scares me as far as selling prospects when their owner gets desperate for a championship. I also like that Washington has been aggressive in wanting to be with the Chiefs and if they offered some top notch incentives, take the ball and run to the bank with the announcement. The grass turf is finally set and the local government is dealing with the scoreboard issue and maybe we can get the Nationals to step up and help with this as well since they actually want to be here.

Speaking of scoreboards and the local government's persistence to prove that politicians love to piss off sports fans, the Syracuse Crunch are in desperate need of a new one and seem to have a problem getting it, despite the fact that it's actually in their lease. To me, this makes them more like a slumlord who even though he has it in writing he will make improvements on your apartment, he basically says, "Make me". Owner Howard Dolgon is understandably like you would be if you were a tenant and getting to the point where he is considering finding another landlord who will be more grateful for their presence. I have heard him on Axe's On The Block radio show discussing this issue and it infuriates me that a guy who is giving the local fans a great product and doing everything to help can't get something contractually obligated to him. I don't think the local politicians there think enough fans will care what they do, even if it means the ownership moves elsewhere. To me, I would write the local officials and tell them why this team is so important to the area and you fans. I would even reach out to Syracuse University and say, I know you are starting ice hockey at your school and what can we do together to maybe provide a top notch facility for both teams and let the government officials find out the hard way that their band aid approach to repairing the arena is disgraceful. I am the first one to complain when I see major league franchises bullying cities into paying millions or billions on new stadiums but in this case, I find it sad that a new scoreboard which could help sell other events as well, is the selling point that could cost the Syracuse area a team. As I mentioned, I live in Charlotte and like to get down there to see the Charlotte Checkers ECHL level games when I can and am enjoying them just now getting radio and possibly TV but guess what, they play in a top notch NBA arena with the Charlotte Bobcats and I can tell you first hand that it helps the experience more then most would expect. Make some improvements now and heck, get Syracuse University on board to host some of their college games there as well as concerts and so forth and I promise you that the investment you make today will not only keep the team in Syracuse but secure the future of the area. The economy is hurting and I understand being cautious but there are ways to keep Mr. Dolgon happy while meeting his lease requirements, the area resident happy without raising their taxes excessively and also give them a better place for sports and other events. Why is it that a simple blogger like me can see the problems this will cause if they leave all the way from Charlotte, North Carolina but yet locals will wait until it's too late to do anything? By the way, those who think it's not my money so I just don't care should know I have a lot of family in that area and I don't want to see their taxes raised either, especially my lovely grandmother who could use more breaks then additions. There are answers in front of you but you have to stop playing politics and party line BS and think about what truly is best for the community and that is to not only score the goal by getting that scoreboard issue taken care of but provide a better facility in general.

Look, I know in many people's eyes if it's not major league or affecting their gas prices, they don't care but many do. I also think you need to remember the number of area people dependent on jobs with these teams in the area(the jobs may not be all high paying but even the lower ones are wages that make a difference in their lifes and the life of their families). I simply ask you to research top notch programs and see what you think is in the best interest whether your a Chief or Crunch person. Syracuse is a great city and many times I miss it more then I could mention here but then I see issues like some of these and wonder what the future will hold for the younger generation of sports fans and residents in general. In contrast, Jerry Jones is build a 1 BILLION dollar stadium in Texas so it could be a lot worse. I know the economy and jobs in that area need a big boost to help but there are options in that city to help. Syracuse fans show your support for both teams and show them you care. Don't just buy the t-shirt (I do need more of those myself) but write your local politicians and newspapers to vent your opinions and even email the teams to let them know what you think about the current state of their programs. And to those who think it's just minor league team and who cares, I ask that you go out there and experience it for yourself and I bet the majority of you if you are open minded will enjoy it and become a fan. You may not see the names on ESPN right now but some of them you will in the future and you can say you saw them before they got their break and in the meantime enjoy some great games and promotions which minor league is known to occasionally sponsor great ones. Please, support it now before it's too late and it's either gone or you feel ripped off by the choices made because there is nothing worse then wishing you had.

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