What’s up, little brother?! Our birthdays are coming up. (Calispeaks is my “little brother” because we were born one day apart in the same year — 1992, ahem.)
I’m getting my news from a distance, but from everything I hear, Vivek Ranadive, the new owner of the Kings, has been incredible. I love the dude’s creativity and enthusiasm. And I was pleasantly surprised to read Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, David and Goliath, which spends the first chapter focusing on how Vivek found what works to his advantage to find success (not with the Kings, FYI) against the odds. I’m very thankful for Vivek Ranadive, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, and NBA Commissioner David Stern — they not only saved the Kings, but they saved the city of Sacramento.
From what I’ve heard of the arena plan, I’m excited. I really hope it revitalizes downtown, which has so much potential and has been such a disappointment for so long. I’m getting local, but it’s surprising that the sites that have always been rumored for a new arena — the railyards and Cal Expo — were passed over for Downtown Plaza. But it makes a lot of sense because it could turn K Street into something really special and Old Sacramento could be reborn. (By the way, I always thought the former McClellan Air Force Base was the perfect spot for an arena. Cleanup of the site would be tough, but it would be the best place in the city when it comes to traffic on gameday from every direction.)
I don’t know when I’m coming back! I need to visit. I miss everybody and I miss my city. I miss walking around Capitol Park, grabbing some food at the Esquire Grill, or sitting in the lobby of the Sheraton Grand and drinking like a gentleman. Honestly, I’d love to see another game in ARCO Arena (I’m not calling it by its new name) before it closes. I’ll miss that place, especially since we (me and you) had the run of it so many times when the Monarchs were playing! Are there plans to bring the Monarchs back? Little known fact: everyone’s favorite Tumblr Presidential historian (that’s me, I hope) was a huge fan of the WNBA when the Sacramento Monarchs were in the league and rarely missed a game.
I miss you, Cali! The state and my friend. We’ll catch up on the phone sometime soon.
Sacramento has two out of the five longest sellout streaks in NBA history — the Kings have sold out all 41 home games in Sacramento for 19 out of their 28 seasons in California. And many of those seasons were when the Kings were absolutely dreadful — the Mitch Richmond, Lionel Simmons, Wayman Tisdale, Olden Polynice era.
Since 2008, the attendance has dropped mostly because the Maloofs turned into the worst owners in the NBA and actively seemed to be destroying basketball in Sacramento. Plus, Sacramento was in the midst of an economic crisis that was even worsw than the national crisis. The unemployment average and home foreclosure rates in Sacramento were significantly higher than the average throughout the nation. And during that time, not only did the Kings have really bad teams and no star player to market, but the Maloofs continued raising ticket prices. When ticket prices were lowered, the fans started filling ARCO Arena again.
And I hate to pick on Seattle because I truly do believe they deserve an NBA team, but during the 23 seasons that there were NBA teams in Sacramento and Seattle (1985-2008), the Kings averaged better attendance than the Sonics in 20 of the seasons, even though the Sonics usually had far better teams. During that time, the Kings sold out every game for 19 seasons; the Sonics sold out every game in just 6 seasons. It’s also worth pointing out that throughout the 3-year-long saga that has seen the Maloofs doing everything they can to get the Kings out of Sacramento, fans continued coming to games and showing their love for the team. During the Sonics last two seasons in Key Arena (basketball capacity: 17,072) fans in Seattle didn’t exactly show up in droves to express their support. In 2006-2007, the Sonics averaged 15,955 each home game. In their final season in Seattle, 2007-2008, the Sonics averaged 13,355 fans per game — leaving nearly 4,000 empty seats every single night. I know that Seattle fans were pissed about having a lame-duck team that was packed for Oklahoma City, but I’m just saying: that wouldn’t have happened in Sacramento. Hell, it didn’t happen in Sacramento — and the Kings looked like a lame-duck team in 2011 AND 2013.
The last time I was in Sacramento was when I moved, so it’s been since June 2010.
There are definitely some things that I miss. I love living where I am now where it’s rural and quiet and calm. I don’t ever miss hearing helicopters and sirens like I did every night for the first 30 years of my life. That was the most surprising thing that I noticed when I moved to Austin. I thought those were just the noises that you hear in every large city, but then I moved to Austin and it was quiet and I realized that what I was used to in Sacramento was not normal. (Other than the LBJ Library, I don’t miss a single thing from my one miserable year in Austin, by the way)
Maybe I should just answer your question and get back to what I do miss about Sacramento.
Of course, I miss the weather. The weather here in Missouri is exponentially better than it was in Austin, but there’s nothing better than those summer nights in Sacramento where the temperature drops down to 65 degrees even though it was 105 during the day and that beautiful Delta breeze comes off of the river. Once I moved out of Sacramento (and California overall, really), I realized that I took the great weather for granted since I had lived there all my life.
I miss Capitol Park. I loved taking a book and just chilling somewhere in Capitol Park under one of the scores of various species of trees planted in the park because so many trees from around the world can thrive in Sacramento’s climate. Or just walked around Capitol Park after catching dinner somewhere downtown. I really miss getting a nice cigar from Rodney’s or the tobacco shop on Front Street in Old Sac, and enjoying it while walking and talking with a friend along the palm-lined sidewalks surrounding the Capitol. Or strolling through Capitol Park with a girl, looking at the monuments and the orange trees, and showing her where, if you stand just right, you can peek into the Governor’s first-floor corner office and sometimes see the Governor sitting at his desk.
I miss Round Table Pizza and Pizza Guys. There’s a 40% chance that I’ll move back to Sacramento just because I can’t live much longer without having Round Table or, if I don’t want to spend as much money, Pizza Guys. I can’t believe Round Table isn’t a national chain. The rest of this country is missing out. If everyone had Round Table Pizza, we would all be happy and prosperous and there would be peace in the Middle East.
I miss having a nice, stiff drink and lounging around like a gentleman in the bar in the lobby of the Sheraton Grand. Or having a pricey, tasty margarita in the bar of the Delta King. Or having a lot of cheap, tasty margaritas at Chevy’s on the River.
I miss Time Tested Books on 21st Street in Midtown and the piles of used books at the Book Nook on Madison Avenue where I found some real treasures over the years.
I miss going to Sacramento Kings games and lunch at the Esquire Grill. I miss being so close to San Francisco and the coast as well as Reno, Tahoe, and the Sierra.
I miss living within walking distance of a Trader Joe’s. I miss Temple Coffee House on 9th Street, and I’m pissed because they waited until I moved and then opened a new location in my old neighborhood!
There are probably some more things, but those are what I think about from time-to-time. Except for both Round Table Pizza and Pizza Guys, which I usually think about for an average of no less than three hours each day. Despite the things that I miss, I’m still very happy to be where I am and doing what I am doing. The only time I consider moving back to Sacramento is when I want pizza, so I think that’s a good sign.
Shit, now I’m hungry.
How can I ban you? I don’t care how often you support my stuff, you’re getting banned for that Lakers comment.
It was the 2002 Western Conference Finals, and what I’m bitter about is the officiating that ROBBED the Sacramento Kings of their championship! Yes, it still hurts!
If you recall, the officiating was so bad during that series, former Presidential candidate Ralph Nader (SEE…I tied this in with the Presidents), wrote this letter to NBA Commissioner David Stern:
June 4, 2002
Commissioner David J. Stern
National Basketball Association
Olympic Tower, 656 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Dear Mr. Stern,
At a time when the public’s confidence is shaken by headlines reporting the breach of trust by corporate executives, it is important, during the public’s relaxation time, for there to be maintained a sense of impartiality and professionalism in commercial sports performances. That sense was severely shaken in the now notorious officiating during Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings.
Calls by referees in the NBA are likely to be more subjective than in professional baseball or football. But as the judicious and balanced Washington Post sports columnist Michael Wilbon wrote this Sunday, too many of the calls in the fourth quarter (when the Lakers received 27 foul shots) were “stunningly incorrect,” all against Sacramento. After noting that the three referees in Game 6 “are three of the best in the game,” he wrote: “I have never seen officiating in a game of consequence as bad as that in Game 6….When Pollard, on his sixth and final foul, didn’t as much as touch Shaq. Didn’t touch any part of him. You could see it on TV, see it at courtside. It wasn’t a foul in any league in the world. And Divac, on his fifth foul, didn’t foul Shaq. They weren’t subjective or borderline or debatable. And these fouls not only resulted in free throws, they helped disqualify Sacramento’s two low-post defenders.” And one might add, in a 106-102 Lakers’ victory, this officiating took away what would have been a Sacramento series victory in 6 games.
This was not all. The Kobe Bryant elbow in the nose of Mike Bibby, who after lying on the floor groggy, went to the sideline bleeding, was in full view of the referee, who did nothing, prompted many fans to start wondering about what was motivating these officials.
Wilbon discounted any conspiracy theories about the NBA-NBC desire for a Game 7 etc., but unless the NBA orders a review of this game’s officiating, perceptions and suspicions, however presently absent any evidence, will abound and lead to more distrust and distaste for the games in general. When the distinguished basketball writer for the USA Today, David DuPree, can say: “I’ve been covering the NBA for 30 years, and it’s the poorest officiating in an important game I’ve ever seen,” when Wilbon writes that “The Kings and Lakers didn’t decide this series would be extended until Sunday; three referees did…” when many thousands of fans, not just those in Sacramento, felt that merit lost to bad refereeing, you need to take notice beyond the usual and widespread grumbling by fans and columnists about referees ignoring the rule book and giving advantages to home teams and superstars.
Your problem in addressing the pivotal Game 6 situation is that you have too much power. Where else can decision-makers (the referees) escape all responsibility to admit serious and egregious error and have their bosses (you) fine those wronged (the players and coaches) who dare to speak out critically?
In a February interview with David DuPree of USA Today, he asked you “Why aren’t coaches and players allowed to criticize the referees?” You said, “…we don’t want people questioning the integrity of officials. …It just doesn’t pay for us to do anything other than focus people on the game itself rather than the officiating.” “Integrity” which we take you to mean “professionalism” of the referees has to be earned and when it is not, it has to be questioned. You and your league have a large and growing credibility problem. Referees are human and make mistakes, but there comes a point that goes beyond any random display of poor performance. That point was reached in Game 6 which took away the Sacramento Kings Western Conference victory.
It seems that you have a choice. You can continue to exercise your absolute power to do nothing. Or you can initiate a review and if all these observers and fans turn out to be right, issue, together with the referees, an apology to the Sacramento Kings and forthrightly admit decisive incompetence during Game 6, especially in the crucial fourth quarter.
You should know, however, that absolute power, if you choose the former course of inaction, invites the time when it is challenged and changed ý whether by more withdrawal of fans or by more formal legal or legislative action. No government in our country can lawfully stifle free speech and fine those who exercise it; the NBA under present circumstances can both stifle and fine players and coaches who speak up. There is no guarantee that this tyrannical status quo will remain stable over time, should you refuse to bend to reason and the reality of what occurred. A review that satisfies the fans’ sense of fairness and deters future recurrences would be a salutary contribution to the public trust that the NBA badly needs.
We look forward to your considered response.
P.O. Box 19312
Washington, DC 20036
League of Fans
P.O. Box 19367
Washington, DC 20036
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to encourage social & civic responsibility in sports industry & culture.
This is really local to Northern California and totally non-Presidential, so people are going to hate that I answer it, but too bad. It’s a subject that interests me as someone who lived in Northern California for the first 30 years of my life.
Now, I did move to Austin last summer, so I may be a bit out of touch on some of the latest news and issues.
With the Kings, I definitely think that the land swap deal at Cal Expo (site of the California State Fair) was far too complex. If anybody here knows anything about Sacramento, too, an arena at Cal Expo would be a traffic nightmare. The State Fair is a nightmare for traffic on the Cap City Freeway and that’s only two weeks per year. Forty-one Kings games each year would really cause some trouble over there. I didn’t like the idea of an arena at Cal Expo.
Ideally, they would build an arena downtown at the railyards, but that’s been beaten into the ground so much over the years that I can’t see how it can ever actually get done now. The people of Sacramento screwed themselves with the Kings by voting down the ballot initiative for the arena in 2008. That was a chance to step up and show that we were serious about keeping the Kings and it was defeated handily. That whole initiative campaign was badly ran, too. I don’t think most people understood it very well.
Like I said, I’ve been out of Sacramento since last year, so I don’t know what the discussion is now. I would assume downtown because that’s where the City has always pushed for a new arena and I don’t think the Maloofs wanted anything in Natomas again. I never had a problem with a new arena in Natomas, but I don’t own the team and I’m not the Mayor of the city. I also wondered why they never looked into building an arena at the former McClellan Air Force Base. That seems like a perfect place for an arena — easily accessible, plenty of land, and I would assume that the chemicals have been largely cleaned up since the AFB has been closed for years now.
As for the other Northern California teams, I was surprised when the Giants got Pac Bell, too, because it’s stunning that the 49ers haven’t been able to get themselves a new stadium. I thought that the A’s had a good deal with the proposed Fremont ballpark, but I would not be surprised to see them in San Jose.
I can’t see the Raiders and 49ers ever sharing a stadium. The Raiders won’t get anything from local governments unless Al Davis puts down the stakes and commits to the Bay Area. You never know when the Raiders are going to pack up and move back to L.A. I know the Warriors play in the NBA’s oldest arena, but didn’t they renovate the Oracle Arena pretty nicely a few years back. That’s a great place to catch a basketball game. I’d hate to see them move across the Bay because the atmosphere in that arena is pretty special when the Warriors fans get into it.
Swinging back to the Kings and Sacramento, this is their chance to save the team and, really, save the city. Sacramento has always been on the edge of being a major league city. It has the population — it’s a far bigger city than most people realize, but the Kings give them that identification as a “major league” city. If the Kings moved, Sacramento isn’t going to get another major league sports team. This is its one chance. We know that the city can support the team — they did it through some really terrible years, and they did it during the Webber/Divac/Peja glory years. But building a new arena is a must. And not just for the Kings, either. ARCO Arena (I refuse to call it by its new name ) is the site of some great memories for me, but it is outdated and a downtown arena would certainly revitalize what could be a really cool downtown area if it actually stayed open past 5 PM on weekdays. Mayor Johnson — who I didn’t think much of during his campaign or throughout the first part of his term — really stepped up, so this will be his legacy, too. I don’t know — I actually feel pretty confident about it, though. I think Sacramento will come through. If not, it’s not the Maloofs; Sacramento will have only itself to blame.
It has everything to do with the fact that the Maloofs are broke, the team wants to see if Sacramento’s Mayor Kevin Johnson can come through on a promised plan for a new arena, and the NBA wants to be sure that the Maloofs aren’t simply moving a financial problem to another city because that other city (Anaheim) has promised to pump some money into the team at the outset. I also think that there was more of a resistance behind-the-scenes from the other Southern California teams to a third team moving into the market.
Either way, I’m happy that the Kings are staying (for at least one more year). I hope that Sacramento can put together some sort of new arena plan that entices the team to stay longer. I’d like to see the Maloofs sell the team to someone committed to keeping the Kings in Sacramento and perhaps helping the city to build a new arena. I can’t see how the City of Sacramento would be able to afford to construct a new arena without major help in the economic condition that the city has been in for the past few years.
I thought for a few minutes that they might be the Lakers in overtime in the last game in Sacramento. Thank you, Kings. I’ll never forget many of my favorite nights in ARCO.