Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Terry Frei Defends Nashville

You know what I like about Terry Frei? Nothing.

In this, his most recent article, he whines about how Nashville is such a great hockey market but they're in danger of losing their franchise. The Predators are a team that I love to hate, and last night made it even easier for me.

NASHVILLE -- The advertising signs are painted onto the sidewalks on Nashville's Broadway, including in the block as you're approaching Jack's Bar-B-Que, several honky-tonks, and the statue of the crooning Elvis outside of the famous Legends Gift Shop.

See? Terry Frei doesn't just stay in Denver. If he hadn't been to Nashville, he wouldn't have known about all of these things.

Nashville defensemen Shea Weber, Dan Hamhuis, and Ryan Suter are pictured, arms crossed and looking appropriately solemn.

And you are told of Predators hockey:

Let's play FireJay's fastest growing quiz sensation - Finish the Tag Line!

(1) Predators Hockey - We Know What It's Like To Wait On Our Sister's Pregnancy Test, Too!
(2) Masturbate in Privacy in our New All Stall Men's Room!
(3) Buy Now, Settle SEC Fraud Charges Later!
(4) Because The Titans Game is Sold Out!

"It Stays With You."

What? It Stays With You? Like bad Chinese food and genital herpes? Or painful losses?

The same sign, in the form of a huge banner, is on the side of the nearby Sommet Center.

The issue, of course, is: "OK … but for how long?"

Right, the hockey team. Here's where we hear the soft SportsCenter piano playing over black and white photos of the players slowly being panned by a camera and spot light. Lay on the guilt trip of this horrible team.

The Predators, now in their 10th NHL season, have been an amazingly resilient operation, playing on -- and remaining surprisingly competitive -- through so much drama, a gifted and hockey-minded songwriter could come up with a CD full of songs about it all.

Nashville has singers! Gaw-haw! It's Music City! Stompin' Tom Connors is the only hockey-minded songwriter that should release a CD.

After managing to make the playoffs last season, despite what essentially was a clearance sale in the 2007 offseason, the Predators are off to a decent start again under coach Barry Trotz, and their 3-2 victory over Colorado on Thursday night got them to 13-10-2.

It's funny how every article Terry writes for ESPN relates to the Avalanche. Not that a lot of mine don't relate to my favorite hockey team, but I'm not paid to be unbiased. This article very easily could have been written without reference to the Avalanche.

Yet, after an official crowd of 12,717 against Colorado, the Predators are averaging 13,716 for their 10 home games, and that's 29th in the 30-team league -- ahead of only the New York Islanders.

Ah, but without the Avalanche, how are we supposed to gauge how poor the attendance figures are? If Nashville can't draw with a team like Colorado in town, how do they draw with somebody like the Red Wings or Sharks in town?

Said Suter, the 23-year-old Madison, Wis., native who is the son of 1980 U.S. Olympian Bob Suter: "Our fans are good fans. They're coming the best they can to support us. It's tough down there because the football team [Tennessee Titans] is doing so good. We're competing with them. We always have our base crowd. Some nights are more than others, but they're loud."

It's always fun to go see the bad team when the good team is very successful. All the really good seats are empty because the rich people that own them are watching the successful team play and win. The stands are filled with people wearing the successful team's jersey and listening to them on the radio or watching them play on the concourse. Cheers erupt at inappropriate times because of the successful team scoring.

I've always been scornful of the hockey media's tendency to make value judgments about consumers' prioritizing, and having double standards -- including the tendency to come up with excuses for falloffs at the box office in traditional markets, yet consider the same fluctuations in the "new" markets to be prima facie cases that they didn't deserve teams in the first place.

I've always been scornful of Terry Frei making no fucking sense. Fans have to prioritize because they can't be in two places at once. I can't think of reading an article where fans are ridiculed for choosing to attend one sporting event over another, regardless of which market they're in. This sounds like Terry wrote about it a few years ago, but recently went to Nashville and fell in love with it, so now he's calling for the heads of those that hate Nashville.

And what often is overlooked is how deflating it can be for ownership to have short pockets and inadvertently lean into the punch that the survival of the team is in question, which creates self-fulfilling prophecies. Why invest emotions and money in an enterprise that has one eye on the door?

How about why invest money in the first place when you're going to lose money? Life must suck so much for these MILLIONAIRES to be asked about their hockey team moving. Nashville's investors knew the situation was dire going in. I'm sure they had a team of advisers telling them not to do it. The question should have been "Why invest money in a failing investment?" I find it very hard to feel bad for any of these people.

But the facts can't be ignored: This is the franchise's 10th season. Hockey 101 should have been off the curriculum long ago, and the fact that many move into Nashville from other "traditional" hockey areas also added to the potential fan base, anyway.

Oh really, Terry? Transplant fans? Don't you hate transplant fans, you fucking hypocrite?

In this economy and these times, it's not shocking that other franchises -- including Colorado, where the 487-game sellout streak is in the nostalgia-drenched past -- are having problems at the gate, too.

There are other teams in the league than Colorado, I assure you. Yuppies would rather spend money on season lift tickets than watch a team not win their division. I wouldn't be surprised if that dog wearing a cape left for a better gig with the Rockies chasing Dinger around on the field.

So, no, the Predators are far from alone, but in so many ways, the savvy management of the franchise has been amazing. General manager David Poile and Trotz have been like golfers trying to putt with the gallery screaming, given all the potential distractions and disadvantages. But instead of throwing a golfer's fit, they just putt out and plow on.

Nashville has an attendance problem. So does Colorado. So Nashville, your team isn't moving anywhere, because with a sample size of two, all teams are having problems. Terry could have pointed to the Red Wings cutting ticket prices as a sign of bad things around the league. Canadian teams are halving ticket prices. Terry would rather stick to Colorado, because that's enough for his argument.

At some point, it's not a matter of a value judgment or placing blame, but an issue of wondering about whether it's going to work. No finger-pointing. No name-calling. No distasteful portraying of NHL patronage, or any sports patronage, as some sort of litmus test for the moral fiber of a market.

It either works or it doesn't.

The local ownership, albeit with Del Biaggio's 27 percent as an asterisk, has given the Predators a chance to prove their viability in Nashville. Or, more accurately, Nashville to prove its viability as a hockey market.

Terry already pointed out that Nashville has had 10 years. It should already have been proven if Nashville can prove they are a hockey market. What he hasn't done is shown us how to keep them in Nashville. That would be a very hard undertaking and would take millions of man hours and - - what's that? It's already been done on Puck Daddy? And every point has evidence? Well son of bitch, then how does Terry Frei still have a job?


dan-bob said...

I'm pretty sure that a large portion of posts on this blog merits the "what a self serving post on my part" label.

That said, on to the discussion of hockey!

Bengoodfella said...

Jarrett, what do you have against Nashville? They have us country music, the Music City Miracle...uh.......and...

Angelo said...

nashville's actually a surprisingly sweet city (not the 15th biggest in the country or anything, but still sweet)

Jarrett said...

dan-bob - It was that or YAY ME! but blogger doesn't like labels in all caps.

bengoodfella - Nashville also has a good burger chain and a pretty relentless homeless population.

Angelo - You weren't there long enough.

Bengoodfella said...

Could the answer to the attendance problem be that hockey is not as popular as other sports and the shitty teams with non established fan bases are going to have a hard time drawing fans in a poor economy for a sport that really has no fan base?

I don't know anything but this could be it. I love hockey posts...

pnoles said...

This guy has some serious Mariotti-like flip-flopping tendencies......