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Warriors Error Isn’t In Leaving, But Lacking Compassion for Die-Hard Oakland Fans

My wife is always on me about this. When I know I’m right, I’m so concerned about expressing my rightness that I forget a critical element — how I say it.

After a day of digesting the Warriors’ pending move to San Francisco, after listening to Oaklanders and East Bay die-hards lament their team’s departure, after witnessing the Warriors and supporters of the new arena justify the decision to leave while dismissing the ensuing outrage, I couldn’t help but think of my wife’s reminder.

It’s how you said it.

That’s where the Warriors went wrong. But before I offer my explanation of the negative reaction to the Warriors’ announcement Tuesday, I need to get a few qualifiers out of the way:

1. Joe Lacob and Peter Guber committed $450 million to buy the Warriors’ franchise. They’re committing to at least $500 million for a new arena. They can build wherever they want. It’s a right for which they’ve paid.

2. It’s just basketball. I know, jobs are being lost and a blow to the economy is expected. But I can’t be mad that working class people in San Francisco will get jobs. And I believe, even after the Warriors leave, Oakland will still exist and maybe thrive, albeit in a new way. Basketball teams are made by cities, not the other way around. The NBA may have had a special place in Oakland, but it doesn’t define Oakland, and there is plenty of more important work to be done than keeping a sports team.

3. It’s a smart move. It was an inevitable move. And seeing the vision for the arena, perched on waterfront with a backdrop that would make Ansel Adams switch to color, even Oaklanders understand the move.

With that said, this thing could have been executed much better. The proper respect wasn’t paid to a segment of the fan base that kept the franchise relevant and viable despite itself.

The Warriors displayed Mitt Romney-esque sensitivity as they choreographed their departure, and it began the day Lacob and Guber bought the franchise. Blinded by millionaire dreams, it seems they didn’t spend much time pondering the proper tip o’ the cap to the thousandaires they’re hurting.

It should come as no surprise that a big business doesn’t get it. And the Warriors clearly didn’t. That was painfully obvious to lovers of Oakland as they used business logic to explain an emotional matter.

To the die-hards who fill out Club 200, who are most responsible for the Warriors’ impressive attendance, it’s patronizing to hear you suggest it’s not that much further. To the bus driver who spends a day’s salary taking his two kids to the game. it’s insulting when your rebuttal is that 50 percent of your season-ticket holders are from San Francisco.

I’m not saying they should stay. My contention is not that they sacrifice their vision and plans for the sake of others’ nostalgia. However, there was a way to say goodbye, and it isn’t “We had a great time with you, but this new girl who wants me is smoking hot.”

If I may, I’ll explain what I mean using this word I examined during Bible study: meekness. Simply, without preaching and getting all into Greek definitions, meekness is strength brought under control for the benefit of others. It’s being in the right but making sure not to use it to make others feel bad. It’s having power, but being concerned enough about those beneath you to alter your behavior for their sake. It’s being cognizant of how your superiority, your upper hand, your favor impacts those not in such a position.

The Warriors could’ve used a little meekness.

I believe they knew when they bought the team San Francisco was the destination. At the very least, they knew that was the most likely scenario. Understanding that, knowing the Warriors’ days on this side of the water were numbered, why not have your ritzy press conferences in the East Bay as a way of thanking those communities?

Why not just lay it all out on the table from the beginning, when they bought this team, instead of the “we’re looking into all options” baloney. Say you just spent $450 million and you need this franchise to be worth $800 million some day, and doing that means moving across the water and pricing out many hard-core fans. Say, if it was true, Oakland has a shot of keeping the Warriors, but it’s going to take a lightweight miracle.

Oakland can handle the truth and would’ve respected real talk. This city has digested its fair share of tragedy and heartache. This city is used to losing out to the sparkling metropolis across the pond. It’s how Oakland gets its character, its resolve, its loyalty. The Warriors could’ve been straight up from the beginning and likely would’ve gotten a collective dap from the city.

But the boos, the feeling disrespected, is a product of the Warriors’ acting. Acting as if Oakland had a shot of keeping the team. Acting as if the history and memories meant as much to the new owners as they do to the fans who’ve proudly endured ridicule for wearing your colors. Acting as if calling them the best fans in the world means you understand them, you’re with them.

A little meekness, and this all would’ve played out differently. Would there have been angry fans anyway? Of course. It’s an emotional, heart-rending experience to have your favorite team bounce. Just ask Seattle natives like Jamal Crawford who are still smarting about their Sonics’ discontinuance. But some of the blow could have been mitigated with more compassion.

Some of the disdain is because Golden State’s methods thumped Oakland’s funny bone. This city is hypersensitive about being deemed inferior, especially to San Francisco, and the Warriors all but shouted that from the rooftops on Tuesday.

No doubt, a new arena in Oakland would make for an awesome setting. It wouldn’t be Staples, instead more like what Oklahoma City, Utah, Indiana and San Antonio boast. Still, it would’ve rivaled any fan base in the country with its fancy new digs but grassroots, small-market passion.

Of course, that takes a certain kind of ownership, one passionate about the area and comfortable with sufficiency and sustainability. But people know Lacob and Guber are not East Bay guys. They knew the lure of the grandiose across the water would overpower the niche the Warriors’ had in Oakland. And that is OK.

But in their pursuit of the extravagant, they missed an opportunity to appreciate the simple and pure, to give much-earned props.

An example came at the announcement. Mayor Ed Lee, Joe Lacob, Peter Guber – they all failed to pay respects to Al Attles and Nate Thurmond. You don’t get more Oakland than those guys. It took David Stern and Jerry West to give proper due. (Wouldn’t have hurt to have a few longtime season-ticket holders from Oakland there, pay homage to the jilted segment of the fan base through them.)

I don’t even live an Oakland anymore. But I worship at the Church of Christ on 34th and San Pablo Avenue, where people have been known to ask me about Stephen Curry’s ankle in between songs. I can’t walk into DreamCutz barbershop on Dutton Avenue and not hear a few Warriors fans defending their loyalty to the inevitable Lakers fan in the debate. I’ve seen the abounding joy on the faces of East Oakland Youth Development Center students who, despite it being a school night, got to take a field trip to a Warriors game.

Again, there is nothing wrong with Lacob and Guber moving the franchise to San Francisco. Even if it means jobs lost, a treasured staple in the city hijacked, another defeat to the favored sibling.  They have every right to place their potentially breath-taking arena in whichever greener pastures they desire.

The problem was in the how.

 

Marcus Thompson

  • RMH

    I live in the East Bay and can’t wait til the Dubs play in SF. The Coliseum is a pit…a non-descript complex stuck in the middle of an equally non-descript industrial area.

    Stop whining about how the W’s turned their back on Oakland.

    Get over it. They Warriors aren’t leaving the bay area. They’re moving about 12 miles away…to a more scenic, cultural hub. So get in your car, take BART, take the ferry or swim across the bay.

    I couldn’t be happier. Finally, the promise of a world-class venue…one that’ll probably be the envy of the rest of the league (and hopefully of the 2015-17 crop of free agents, too).

    I can’t believe anyone wouldn’t be overjoyed at the prospect of having a new home on the banks of SF Bay. Quit raining on Lacouber’s parade…they’re sowing the seeds of change.

    Let’s just hope they finally get rid of that ridiculous Golden State moniker, too. We’re not California’s team, we’re a bay area team. So change the name to the San Francisco Bay Warriors. Once they move to SF, drop the “bay” if you wish.

    Stop the whining and complaining. It’s time to rejoice!!

  • rui

    the day they leave Oakland is the day I find a new team to support.

  • John

    This discussion shows why this nation is not in as bad shape as the pols tell us. Please, this is important? It reminds me of a recent New Yorker cartoon where god is sitting in heaven with an angel standing at his side holding a list. God says, “Please don’t bother me with pestilence, poverty, disease, war, and malnutrition, I’m too busy helping a baseball player hit a home run to win a game.”

  • Stan

    I know one thing,If Lacob follows up..its going to make John Fisher and Lew Wolff look like liars. I mean,on much less personal wealth..Lacob would have a team and a stadium. The important difference?..Lacob wouldn’t have held the bay area hostage with no team improvement. And I admit that’s tentative until Bogut takes us to a west title..or playoffs. But its how I size it up for now.

    Best of all-build Coloseum city revitalize Oakland..and through a financial domino effect lift Oakland,lessen crime,and leave the bay waters unmolested. I guess my hoping for some social responsibility and sacrifice by the super wealthy is to them..a joke.

  • Dom

    Well a valid comparison ArmChair, after all we should all be able to sympathize with your wife & basketball team analogy. Supporting a loved one and a sports franchise have so much on common? I don’t know you, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be OK. If not we can get you a support group. Again if your struggling with this you should seriously consider getting some professional help. Sports teams come and go, relax my friend it really will be ok.

  • http://joelacobsucks.blogspot.com/ Joe Lacob

    Kiss my a$$, Oakland.

  • ArmChair GM

    Dom Says:
    May 26th, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Supporting a loved one and a sports franchise have so much in common?…Sports teams come and go, relax my friend it really will be ok.
    _______________________________________________________

    And this post here by Dom is exactly why the Warriors need to stay in Oakland. To San Franciscans and their suburban neighbors, Sports teams just “come and go.”

    If the Warriors had been in SF all this time, there is no way the Warriors are in the top 10 in league wide attendance. There is no way ‘We Believe’ 07 happens with the type of fan support that was the envy of the entire NBA.

    Why should anyone care? After all, “sports teams just come and go.”

    How pathetic. Thanks for proving my point Dum, er I mean Dom.

  • Steve

    The announcement that the Golden State Warriors will build a basketball arena on Piers 30-32 in San Francisco by 2017 raised plenty of questions – and we’re not just talking about whether the team can actually score a winning season by then.

    Come on, people, we’re not psychic.

    But here are some answers to your burning questions about the deal – serious and not-so-serious alike.

    Q: How can those decrepit piers support a massive arena?

    A: Piers 30-32 may have pretty views, but the slabs of concrete themselves are downright wretched. Built to 1940s specifications, they’re crumbling into the bay, and the port says they’ll be condemned in 10 years without a dramatic overhaul. Building a basketball arena on them sounds about as smart as spending $450 million, a league record, on the lackluster Golden State Warriors themselves.

    Oh, wait.

    Owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber have studied the site in depth and say they’re confident the piers can be sufficiently rehabbed. And they’re spending $100 million to do it.

    Nathan Ballard, spokesman for the project, said they’re essentially building a brand-new pier to today’s strict seismic and construction standards.

    The current pier is strong enough to hold the construction equipment needed for the project. Workers will drill 306 pillars down 130 to 180 feet beneath the water’s surface to connect the underbelly of the pier to the bedrock beneath it.

    Those pillars, each measuring 72 inches across, will be filled with cement, and a 3-foot-thick slab of concrete will be placed on the pier.

    “We’re building a new pier that will be strong enough to hold the Taj Mahal,” Ballard said.

    City officials are equally confident and say they hope the Warriors add their corporate headquarters and practice facilities to the piers, too.

    Q: What do the San Francisco Giants have to say about all this?

    A: Tuesday’s press conference featured a who’s-who of city officials and sporting greats, but curiously absent were the Warriors’ soon-to-be-neighbors, the San Francisco Giants. They didn’t even bring a basket of muffins as a welcome-to-the-neighborhood gift.

    Team CEO Larry Baer may be hesitant to publicly welcome the Warriors from Oakland after fighting the Oakland Athletics’ desired move to San Jose. The Giants could also have legitimate concerns about even worse traffic in the area and potentially losing concerts and sponsors to the basketball arena.

    Also, the Giants and Warriors had previously been discussing the possibility of the basketball team building an arena adjacent to AT&T Park.

    Giants spokeswoman Staci Slaughter said only, “We’re looking forward to hearing the particulars of their proposal, but until we do, we can’t really comment.”

    We hear there’s been some private grumbling about the Warriors’ move from the baseball team, but Lacob and Guber (a Dodgers owner – boo!) are pals of Baer’s and say they’ve talked to him in recent days and all is well.

    “We look forward to a productive partnership with the Giants,” Ballard said. “The addition of the arena right down the block will create an entertainment, sports and restaurant zone like never before in San Francisco

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/05/26/BA401OMGPT.DTL#ixzz1w2oQvlJy

  • Steve

    From Matier & Ross:

    The big sell: The Golden State Warriors did some pretty extensive polling to lay the groundwork for their big rollout pitch for a waterfront arena – and the best talking points were found to be no public money, no new taxes and the promise of construction jobs.

    Ironically, the lowest-scoring argument for building the arena was that it would mean a return of the Warriors to San Francisco.

    As for East Bay blowback over leaving Oakland, 66 percent of the 606 voters surveyed in Alameda and Contra Costa counties said they supported the idea of an arena in San Francisco.

  • Steve

    “If the Warriors had been in SF all this time, there is no way the Warriors are in the top 10 in league wide attendance. There is no way ‘We Believe’ 07 happens with the type of fan support that was the envy of the entire NBA.”

    The fans who have filled Oracle over the many years have come from all over the greater Bay Area and NoCal. And those very same fans have filled AT&T Park in SF since it opened for business some 12 years ago.

    In case you haven’t noticed the Giants are currently working on a sellout streak that has now reached over 100 games. And compared to the Warriors we’re talking apples and oranges given the fact the Giants play twice as many home games per season than do the Warriors, not to mention having to sit and watch those games in the “chill” of SF weather vs nice and comfy indoors at The Oracle.

    You want “loud”? AT&T is plenty “loud” (electric), and when the Giants have reached the postseason we’re talking over-the-top “loud”.

    Again, these same fans that fill AT&T aren’t just from SF, they’re from all points north, south and east, which mirrors the situation in Oakland for Warriors’ games.

    The Bay Area has the absolute best fans ANYWHERE. That fact is on display year-round at both AT&T Park and Oracle Arena. Forget about the zip codes, they’re absolutely meaningless if we’re talking local fan support.

  • Blake

    Very well said, Marcus. Oakland fans deserve better. But I lay much of this on Oakland’s leadership. Coliseum City was a tired, boring, lame attempt at keeping the Warriors. Any mayor with a pulse would’ve realized a downtown, Jack London Square Arena, on the water, only blocks from the Warriors’ training facility, as an anchor to downtown’s renaissance with the Fox Theater, Uptown, The Paramount and Lake Merritt, that was the only plan that had any chance against a waterfront proposal from San Francisco. Come on Jean Quan, get real!!!!

  • ArmChair GM

    http://www.insidebayarea.com/top-stories/ci_20720510/sports-economics-hinder-oakland

    Above is an article in today’s paper about how teams are preferring Downtown stadium sights and that this may be why the Coliseum City project may not be getting as much support.

    For those of us that are from Oakland, just go back a decade and remember what took place.

    This is actually all former Oakland mayor and current Governor Jerry Browns fault. It all started in 2003 with the Oakland A’s being the first team of the 3 Oakland teams looking for a new stadium. Oakland City officials had a site right Downtown in the heart of the Uptown that was already approved and ready to go.

    Jerry Brown vetoed it and actually fired the City Manager, Robert Bobb who was an ardent supporter of keeping the A’s and building the new stadium Downtown. Jerry Brown wanted to build condos and townhouses instead because the developer was his crony and personal friend. Jerry Brown is now notorious for being anti sports and having absolutely no interest in it.

    The A’s would have had a sparkling, brand new stadium right downtown which would no doubt have led to further development in the downtown area and most likely extending to Jack London Square. Mind you this was all long BEFORE the economic collapse of 2008.

    Oakland is now scrambling to keep its teams, but this could have all been avoided if Jerry Brown hadn’t sabotaged our city for his own personal interests.

  • deano

    MT: You miss the point entirely. We are faithful and sell out the games because we love the Warriors. It has never been about Oakland; nor will we suddenly ramp up our commitment to this team because it moves to San Francisco. We are fans of the Warriors, specifically the players. Each season, there are 15 of them. They are the objects of our affection, not buildings or cities. So “Oakland,” do not feel rejected. You were never embraced in the first place.

  • KW

    I have a theory that alot of the negative publicity Oakland gets on KTVU and shows like “Oakland Gang Wars” are gentrification and are attempts purposely to devalue Oakland stock. Justify moves like this out of Oakland, and then these same people come back in and buy everything for pennies on the dollar. They need to respect Oakland more but Oakland has to respect itself first and invest in it’s people, infrastructure and communities education and development and they will have no choice but to respect Oakland.

  • SP

    What everyone is saying: The Warriors fanbase is not only from Oakland! They’re all over the bay area! It’s not Oakland’s team!

    Then they say:
    Lacob is moving the team to SF after being booed in Oakland!

    Apparently now the entire fanbase is from Oakland!

    So which one is it people? Make up your damn minds.

  • ArmChair GM

    Thank you for hitting the nail on the head SP.

    These same clowns also say stuff like, “The Warriors aren’t Oakland’s team, they are the ENTIRE BAY AREA’s TEAM.”

    Then in the next breath they say,

    “I’m so happy the Warriors are coming HOME to San Francisco, and then they can change their name to the San Francisco Warriors.”

    The hypocrisy is sickening…

  • Stan

    Lacob should have waited until the ground was broke-and construction equipment was started. Otherwise it just looks like more promises-right?

  • ArmChair GM

    Steve Says:
    May 26th, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    “As for East Bay blowback over leaving Oakland, 66 percent of the 606 voters surveyed in Alameda and Contra Costa counties said they supported the idea of an arena in San Francisco.”
    _______________________________________________________

    Steve the current Oakland Tribune online poll on this issue has Oakland/East Bay fans AGAINST the move by a margin of 60% to 40%. So what’s your point?

    Just like the saying made popular by Mark Twain…

    “There’s Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

    Anyone can use skewed or slanted statistics to bolster all kinds of weak arguments. Try again Steve.