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NBA in St. Louis?

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Posted: Tuesday, July 6, 2010 2:12 pm

As we roll into the heart of the summer, it is that time of the year when you wonder about your baseball team, you're relieved that the World Cup is over, while anticipating the upcoming football training camp.

But wait.

There is another matter at hand. The "What if...?", "Do you think...?", "How good was..." come into play in sports conversation these days. One item that always seems to come up in St. Louis, especially after the NBA Finals, is "Do you think St. Louis could support an NBA team?" If you listen to most people around here, you would think the survivability of the NBA has as much chance as shrimp in the Gulf these days. However, the numbers don't lie.

Recently, media critic Dan Caesar of the Post-Dispatch printed a story that showed the ratings of the NBA playoffs and the Stanley Cup playoffs. It was not even close. The NBA dominated the ratings by a wide margin. Now, the first thing you may say is, "What about the St. Louis market?" That was the St. Louis market. Now, that we have determined that people actually do watch the NBA, let's move onto some of the real issues at hand.

It's a broad question so let's look at what is real. The first element would be who is going to buy tickets? Some would think that if you do not have Cardinal tickets, there is something wrong with you. Others would intimate that if you are not a Blues fan, you are not with it. If you are a Rams fan, others would show pity. The automatic notion by the uninformed and socially limited would suggest that only black people would go to an NBA game.

Therein lies the problem. The insecure and ancient thinking of those who think that this is a legitimate reason is why St. Louis is lacking socially and racially. At last check, white people like the game too. They also like winners. The first rows of a Lakers' game still has plenty of white faces. Here is a notion, though, and you see other sports use it. The key is to sell as many season tickets as possible.

Most cannot afford a full season, but four people can split up a season's worth of tickets. The Cardinals have shown that to be true here. Those green seat ticket holders are not the same ones at all 81 games. They divide the tickets among friends, and they go when they can.

To target the African American fans in that same manner would work. Believe it or not, there is that sort of money floating around St. Louis, so there are black fans to go along with the white fans who like the game. It would also tap into new marketing streams that have been ignored by teams or felt that their product would not reach them. In this case it would be a win-win.

Now comes the hard part. The negative, misinformed and in some cases flat-out racist views set forth by the insecure and even flat-out moronic crowd that calls themselves sports fans, members of the media and those with nothing to do other than hate has a voice. It's a voice that has no real validity, but the sheep of St. Louis seem to take their word as gospel.

The NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics drew television ratings in the St. Louis market, easily outdistancing the Stanley Cup Finals of hockey.

I never understood that one, but there are a lot of things about St. Louis that are hard to figure. If you peel off the layer that is the NBA, they are as proactive of a league in their community involvement as any league in the U.S. To stay with the pace that our local teams have set in their community involvement would be interesting considering that the Cardinals, Blues and Rams have been exemplary when it comes to this matter.

Finally, the biggest question that would come into play would be where are you going to get a team from? The NBA has no interest in expanding in the U.S. Many teams are in fairly new arenas with all the luxury boxes and amenities they would ever want, so that would make it tough for teams to move. To buy one from an existing owner would be challenging, considering building leases and all of the other logistical challenges that would exist.

Finally, you have to have someone be the point person in bringing a team to St. Louis. Before you start to talk about Dave Checketts, think about this. This is the same guy who thought it was a good idea to have Rush Limbaugh involved in buying the Rams. A Rams team that he wanted to buy when he is having a hard time finding someone locally to invest 100 million dollars in keeping his St. Louis Blues afloat, so let's move on fromm that name.

While the answer to the question of could St. Louis support an NBA team would be yes, there are bigger questions at hand that would preclude any move on that front in the foreseeable future.

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