If you checked out BDL over the weekend, you probably saw Dan Devine's dispatches from the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT. If not, please read them, because he did an excellent job of balancing the point of view of an informed layman with solid reportage of the analytical advancements on display at the conference.
However, not every panelist at SSAC displayed the kind of forward-thinking approach to involvement in sports as you'd hope to see from a conference of this stature. Take, for instance, the comments on bloggers from new Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob. From Matt Steinmetz on CSNBayArea.com:
Lacob was asked a question at the conference about bloggers. He responded ... "They are not real fans, because they don't have season tickets."
What most Warriors fans took from that statement -- at least interpreting many of the comments on Twitter afterwards -- was that only season-ticket holders are real fans.
Wow, that is certainly a terrible thing to say about a group of fans that's supported the team through nearly two decades of futility. Plus, bloggers are typically the fans most committed to watching every game. The only reason we don't have season tickets is because most of us can't afford to buy adult pants and move out of our parents' basements. We would if we could!
To Lacob's credit, he realized he'd gaffed and attempted to walk back his comments the next day. From the same article:
"I totally embrace the on-line community," Lacob said in an e-mail. "Why would I respond to all of their e-mails and have webcasts and take calls on radio shows if I didn't care?" Lacob also dismissed the notion that what he said was a slap in the face of Warriors fans who aren't season-ticket holders.
Lacob said that when he gets a particularly nasty or profanity-laced e-mail, he sometimes does ask his ticket people to find out if the person is a season-ticket holder or mini-plan owner. The intent, he said, is to "rectify that."
To clarify, Joe Lacob loves the online community, yet finds that many people who complain to him over the Internet are inveterate liars who don't actually support the team with their hard-earned dollars. I'm not sure how that answer fits a question about bloggers, but Lacob makes more money than me, so, according to the Worthington Law, he's probably right.
I'm willing to give Lacob the benefit of the doubt here -- in the larger picture, making some poorly informed comments at a sports analytics conference is a much more tolerable offense than being a cheapskate with no interest in long-term success like Chris Cohan, his predecessor. However, as noted by Tim Kawakami in Monday's San Jose Mercury News, the honeymoon is officially over for Lacob. From now on, he won't solely play off the goodwill of a fanbase desperate for anyone other than Chris Cohan. His decisions matter, and they'll be judged on their own merits.
I'm a Warriors fan and as such support Lacob as the hopeful savior of a franchise in desperate need of a steady presence in the owner's box -- or any presence at all, for that matter. But comments like these and Lacob's irrational, endless love for David Lee(notes) (a perfectly good player who will make way too much money for way too many years) serve as a useful reminder that the only alternative to Cohan isn't assured success. Like all owners, Lacob is going to make mistakes. Fans should be prepared for it.
Owning an NBA team is a tough business, and there are growing pains even for those who find success relatively quickly. Lacob is finding that out right now, and fans need to adjust their expectations for his tenure accordingly. He's not perfect, because no one is. We can only hope that he's better than most.