Posts Tagged ‘hockey’

American Sports Teams and Geographic Deception

Posted in Sports and Games on July 24th, 2015 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, currently only one game ahead of the Houston Astros for control of the AL West, are visiting town next week in a series that will prove to be tense and interesting. Hopefully the Astros will regain the lead of the division during the series, but regardless of how things turn out, the Astros have one thing to be proud of: they're not geographically deceptive.

See, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are, as the latter half of their name suggests, based in Anaheim, CA. A city, that, for the record, is not even in Los Angeles County. These Orange County wannabes look to their northwest and see love for the Los Angeles Dodgers, based in, believe it or not, Los Angeles. They are understandably envious of the admiration that big city living gives you. And frankly, I can't blame them. When they changed their name from "Anaheim Angels" in 2005, they gave a nod to their beginnings, they created a more easily marketable franchise name, and they began their geographic deception.

After thinking about the Angels, I got interested: are other baseball teams practicing geographic deception of the same caliber? What about teams of other sports?

As it happens, in baseball, they are the only team to lie about their location, and even that's not quite a full lie, as they maintain the "of Anaheim" qualifier. The other twenty-nine MLB teams are accurate about where they are located, although five (Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, and Tampa Bay Rays) are vague enough to facilitate a possible future-though-nearby move.

And it turns out that this geographic deception is actually not very rampant outside of football: the NFL is by far the most egregious pit of lies. Of thirty-tw teams, only twenty-six play where they call home, and six of those (Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, and Minnesota Vikings) are quite vague, hedging where they actually play. That leaves a whopping SIX teams that are geographically deceptive in the NFL: New York Giants (East Rutherford, NJ), New York Jets (East Rutherford, NJ), Dallas Cowboys (Arlington, TX), The Washington Professional Football Team (Landover, MD), Buffalo Bills (Orchard Park, NY), and the San Francisco 49ers (Santa Clara, CA). After all, what's in a name?

The NBA and NHL are much more honest, basically on the same level as baseball. The NBA has only four 'hedgers' (Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, and Minnesota Timberwolves) and only one liar: the Detroit Pistons (Auburn Hills, MI, but can you blame them?) Frankly, the NBA should get bonus points for their aboveboard honesty in the form of the Brooklyn Nets. Where every other NY-centric team in any sport claims just "New York," the Nets are specific enough to name their borough. The NHL, similarly, has six 'hedgers' (Florida Panthers, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, and Minnesota Wild) and only one liar: The Ottawa Senators (Kanata, Ontario – I expected better from you, Canada… shame.)

The conclusion from all this? Minnesota is one big state with no individual cities, at least as far as sports are concerned.

The Wonderful World of Stadium Naming Rights!

Posted in Sports and Games on February 13th, 2015 by Nathan – 1 Comment

When I was a kid, the Astros and Oilers played in the Astrodome, and the Rockets and Aeros played in the Summit. Today, the Oilers are no more, the Aeros are no more, the Astros play in Minute Maid Park, the Rockets play in the Toyota Center, and the Texans play in NRG Stadium.

In between my childhood and now, Houston has been graced by even more names: the Astros went from the Astrodome to the Ballpark at Union Station to Enron Field to MMP. (Those last three being the same location.) The Rockets and Aeros went from the Summit to the Compaq Center to the Toyota center. (Those first two being the same location.) And the Texans began life at Reliant Stadium before NRG Stadium. (Yes, those are also the same location.)

Naming rights are fascinating to me when I consider this: as a child, every stadium I knew was unnamed, an advertisement for sports only, yet today, I see cars, juice, and electricity. And in traveling, I find that there's fewer and fewer unnamed sports complexes. My uncle once took me to see games at both Cowboys Stadium and the Ballpark at Arlington, but those are now gone, and their teams instead play at AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Park in Arlington. Even while in college, I watched as Shea Stadium was replaced by Citi Field. The unnamed building is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

Given this, I decided to do some simple research to answer some questions. What industries are most prevalent in naming rights? Does that differ by sport? What stadiums/arenas/ballparks still don't have paid naming rights and what are they named for? Etc. Here's what I've found:

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Links to full size images: MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, Overall. And the data I used (excel format).

  • Outside of the MLB, there's very few places that haven't sold naming rights. Fully one-third of MLB ballparks have avoided doing so, but the other three sports combine to produce the same number (ten: two in the NBA, six in the NFL, and three in the NHL).
  • Financial institutions hold the most naming rights (twenty-one overall), followed closely by Tech/Communications (fourteen), Insurance (eleven), and Retail/Consumer Goods (eleven).
  • There are two Casinos, one in the NBA and one in the NHL, that have naming rights, yet sports gambling is illegal in most of the country.
  • There's something called a Scotiabank Saddledome.
  • When the Dallas Mavericks played the Miami Heat in the 2011 Finals, American Airlines won. Both teams play at AA-branded arenas.
  • Of the twenty venues without naming rights, six are named for a team owner, six are named for the team itself, three for a place, three as a memorial, and two just as a pleasant flourish (The Palace of Auburn Hills and Arrowhead Stadium, where the Kansas City Chiefs play).
  • There are some interesting choices in the non-Finance/Retail/Insurance sectors. For example, four NBA stadiums/NHL arenas have airline naming rights, yet there are no airlines in any other sport. Similarly, the MLB has five Food/Beverage ballparks (Coors, Minute Maid, Miller, Busch, Tropicana), whereas the other sports combine for three (NBA: Pepsi, NBA/NHL: Smoothie King; NFL: Heinz).
  • And finally, in case you were unsure just how much of a scam for-profit colleges are, in 2006, University of Phoenix (which, it should be noted, has a higher student-loan-default rate than graduation rate) paid $154.5 million for twenty years of naming rights for the Arizona Cardinals' stadium.

Who is the worst sports commissioner?

Posted in Sports and Games on September 26th, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Roger Goodell. Like the other commissioners, it's hard for me to believe they are actually acting in bad faith. Outdated? Serving the wrong interests? Yes. And that's a good reason for term limits.After Monday night's refereeing debacle, some people are calling not just for the return of the regular officials (who, again, I don't think are that much better than these replacements) but also for the head of Roger Goodell, the NFL's commissioner. Most who approach this replacement ref from an economic vantage point out that the NFL has no real incentive to back down in the face of the referees demand: the replacements are an adequate (economic) substitute. This means that as long as people watch, there's no real reason to pay more to get the same result. NFL viewership is relatively inelastic in relation to refereeing. Thus far.

Of course, if things change, you have to expect that the NFL will give in. If viewership drops off precipitously, the regular refs will be back shortly. But in the meantime, those who look at it in a less pure-economics sense have a different point, one equally valid: aren't there more things than money that dictate these decisions? Certainly player safety has to be an issue. And long-term economic viability of football relies on player safety. With replacement refs on the field, an argument could be made that player safety is at risk.

And of course, there's an even better argument that Roger Goodell has done nothing, or very little, to improve player safety over his tenure. He has consistently pushed for an eighteen game season, knowing full well it will increase concussions, while making small strides to punish the players for such hits rather than the greed of the owners for more revenue. He is universally hated by players (who treat his fines as a joke and sometimes even ask to be fined), fans, and now even officials (though probably not the replacements). On the other hand, under his watch, the NFL has grown to greater international recognition and has become the most profitable American sport. He has done good for the league, he has also done bad.

But is he the worst sports commissioner right now? Some would suggest as much but I'm not sure. Let's take a look at the other Big Four commissioners: Gary Bettman, David Stern, and Bud Selig.

Gary Bettman has, during his tenure, massively increased the size and scope of the NHL. He added six new teams and in almost twenty years has nearly octupled league revenue. However, also during that time he has seen three lockouts, including a shortened season, a canceled season, and the ongoing lockout now. Players don't like him and fans routinely boo him, including when he awards the Stanley Cup. Two of his expansion teams have undergone troubles including bankruptcy and relocation. Some suggest he over-expanded, and international exposure suffered because of it.

David Stern has done a lot of good for the NBA. He helped found the WNBA and has done countless wonders for international exposure, arguably more so than any other commissioner of any other sport ever. During his reign, league revenues have improved, and though much of this is directly attributable to international exposure (Yao Ming, for example), a lot of credit goes to Michael Jordan. Since Jordan left, basketball's value has been more stagnant, with several teams failing to be profitable. He's also overseen four player lockouts, including two shortened seasons. He's been accused of tampering with the draft, he has interfered with trades and contracts (including trades with league-owned teams), and he's hated by players and fans, especially fans in Seattle who frequently blame him for being instrumental in the relocation of their team.

Bud Selig reversed the MLB's revenue decline and in two decades has quadrupled revenue. He introduced revenue sharing, made interleague play part of the schedule, and served a crucial part in creating the World Baseball Classic, possibly the only thing that has even attempted to make baseball an internationally-recognized sport. Though he's avoided most possibilities for work stoppages, he canceled the 1994 World Series in response to the player strike, the first canceled World Series in ninety years. He's consistently acted in different, inconsistent manners toward teams, leading many fans and even some owners to question his loyalties. He canceled the Dodgers' media contract during the sale of their team though did not do the same to the Mets. He mishandled Hurricane Ike, sending the streaking Astros to Milwaukee for a "home" series against Chicago (one hour away) when Dallas was available. The resulting losses pushed Milwaukee (Selig previously owned the Brewers) into the playoffs. He forced the hand of Jim Crane to move the same Astros to the American League upon his purchase. And most importantly, he willfully looked the other way (according to the Mitchell report and common sense) as players beefed up during the steroid era. He ignored a serious problem in the integrity of the sport and has only halfway-decently attempted to combat the problem since the MLB took a reputational hit due to steroids.

Is Roger Goodell the worst commissioner of a sport right now? It seems like they're all pretty bad. Having the same job for twenty or so years with no real checks and balances on power will likely make anyone become a bad commissioner. They will act according to their interests or the interests they perceived to be important twenty years prior. They will fail to adapt. They will not do a good job of dealing with stains on their sports. And they will be unfair and hated.

Goodell is bad, and ultimately player safety may end up being the tarnish that paints him as the worst. Right now, I have to believe Selig is worse, but I can't say what we'll know about player safety and Goodell's role in these issues in the future. I can say one thing though: with commissioners this bad, it shocks me that they don't have term limits. Were I to own a team, I would demand such a thing. As a fan, I have to wonder why the owners don't push for such a limit.

The benefits of a lockout

Posted in Sports and Games on August 23rd, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

There is, however, a major potential downside, as seen nearly a decade ago. If the season is canceled, some fans may realize they don't miss the NHL.So the NHL could have a work stoppage next season, if all goes according to the present trajectory. A lockout could occur as early as September 15, and the negotiations have not been going well. Sound familiar? The NHL is basically in the same place that the NFL and NBA were in last year, before lockouts changed both seasons.

Of course, the NFL had the best resolution for the fans, with a full schedule and only minor impact on the quality of the product. Some argue the lockout for the failure of their teams, blaming injuries and lack of cohesion on inadequate practice and workouts while the negotiations were ongoing. I find this argument weak but accept that it may have had some impact, however small.

And the NBA's lockout ended with a shortened season starting after Christmas and finishing with a magnificent NBA Finals unrivaled by any in very recent history. Some players were affected by the lockout, but for the most part, the biggest impact was the shortening of a usually too long and cumbersome schedule.

What will happen to the NHL if there's a lockout? Unclear, but if everything is handled properly, it could actually be good for the sport.

There are benefits to a lockout, as we saw last year. Had the NFL had a shortened season, those benefits would have been diminished, but what ultimately happened was that people wanted to watch preseason football. Last year's ratings were the highest for preseason football, and this year's second-place isn't even close. (8.9 million viewers for the most-watched matchup thus far this year, 11.4 million for the most-watched matchup last preseason). Essentially, the lockout brought eyes to the preseason, because, as I noted last year, we were so scared there might not be football, we grabbed it immediately when it showed up. The lasting effect of people watching preseason NFL when it previously never mattered was a positive benefit to the lockout.

Although a lot of people (including me) felt that the NBA would not benefit from their lockout, the opposite was true. The shortened season was a good thing (and a good suggestion for how the schedule should look after the inevitable contraction one day occurs) and drew more viewers for each game. And the Finals, an event that many feared would suffer after lost momentum caused by the shortened season, pitted two small-market teams against each other and still achieved higher ratings than the year before, and the highest ratings in eight years. The shortened season was responsible for this: very few people were exhausted of basketball when the season wrapped up.

The NHL is coming off of an interesting year, when the LA Kings beat the NJ Devils in the Stanley Cup. The first win for the Kings, and two major market teams, this should have been the highest rated season ever. And yet, it was one of the worst. Though LA watched the Cup Finals intently, almost no one else did, and the series drew the lowest rating in five years. In other words, when the sport should be at its all-time high, it's instead hovering around a new low, with ratings decreasing every year. It needs new life. It needs an electric shock of some form.

It needs a lockout. The lockout gets the sport in the news, it gets it on ESPN, it gets it on radio talk shows, and it gets people caring about the future of a sport they may have not cared to watch before. And when the lockout ends, if it is ended properly, with this viewership in mind, it will end in such a way that the sport will benefit. The NFL lockout ended right before the preseason started, with only one game canceled. The NBA lockout ended in time to start the season on Christmas, the first day in the normal NBA season that anyone starts caring about basketball. The hockey lockout has a chance, if it ends at the right time, to reinvigorate the NHL.

I'll be paying attention. And as someone with no NHL allegiances (Houston doesn't have a team), I'm in an interesting position where I don't care which way it goes. But if the lockout gets interesting, I may start to care. And that would be great for the NHL.

Why I love minor league hockey

Posted in Sports and Games on January 3rd, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

So apparently I've only blogged once before about the Houston Aeros, the local AHL hockey team, when they lost last year's Calder Cup Finals. That seems odd to me, because I am often vocal about minor league hockey, and why it is awesome.

But first, an explanation: Probably you're aware of the NHL, the professional 'major league' hockey organization that boasts the fourth largest following and the fourth greatest revenue of the Big Four North American sports. So yeah, hockey gets a bad rap next to the NFL, MLB, and NBA, and most games are only viewable on White Entertainment Television (Versus, now renamed "NBC Sports Network"). Nonetheless, the NHL does have a lot of fans, and three teams whose names don't end in 's.'

Unfortunately, Houston doesn't have an NHL team. Because of this, it's the second largest city without all four sports. (Once LA gets a football team again, Houston will be the largest.) But no worries: rather than a high-priced NHL franchise, we have the Houston Aeros, the farm team for the Minnesota Wild!

There are many reasons why the AHL is awesome and why it's great to have a minor league hockey team:

  • Cost: Seriously, it's ridiculously cheap to see Aeros games. Last year's Calder Cup finals were thirty dollars. And this year, LivingSocial offered a $100 deal for ten (TEN!) corner ice attack zone tickets. Compare this to the big boys: similar corner ice tickets for the Wild cost $74-104 each. That's ten games for the price of one.
  • Fighting: Admittedly this has changed a bit in the past, but fighting in the AHL is much more often and more intense than in the NHL. It's tolerated a little bit more (less so these days) and it's that much more awesome.
  • Winning: The Houston Aeros have a pretty strong tradition of victory. They've won the Calder Cup once, the Turner Cup (IHL) before that, and three conference championships. In seventeen seasons, they've only missed the playoffs three times. They are good. Compared to the three major league teams in Houston, they are phenomenal.
  • Awesome teams/locations: Houston is the second largest AHL base (Toronto is first), but there are other awesome places that have teams. In Texas, there's also San Antonio (Rampage) and Cedar Park (Stars). Other great places and team names: St. John's IceCaps (This is in Newfoundland & Labrador, the Canadian province with two names), Connecticut Whale (Hartford), and Abbotsford Heat (British Columbia). That last one is awesome because they are the farm team for the Calgary Flames. Heat leads to Flames. That's amazing.

Houston is blessed with victories from insignificant teams. (Aeros, Dynamo, former Comets, etc.) Our professional teams tend not to perform as well, but still, it's better to have a winning minor league hockey team than no winning teams at all. And it helps that it's easy to love minor league hockey.

Sports teams whose names don't end in 's'

Posted in Sports and Games on December 28th, 2011 by Nathan – 7 Comments

Just to get this out there: I love sports teams whose names don't end with the letter 's.'

I love them because of the creativity involved. I love them because of the rarity. I love them because it makes the team a unit rather than a collection. (Specifically, I love teams that are not plural. Collective or singular is preferred.)

There are really very few teams that fit this. Only seven in the Big Four North American sports.

Baseball has none, (some include the White Sox and Red Sox, but I don't think that fits. Yeah, they don't end with an 's,' but they are quite clearly plural and the 'x' is just stylistic.) and only once in MLB's history has there been such a team: the Louisville Eclipse (1882-84).

Football also has none, though in the past had two: The Providence Steam Roller (1916-33) (apparently also known as Steam Rollers, though) and the Tonawanda Kardex (1921), named after an office supply company. They only played one game, and they lost.

Hockey only has three: Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche, and Minnesota Wild.

Basketball has the remaining four, the most of the Big Four: Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Utah Jazz.

When Houston got its very own MLS team, the names proposed for the team were various and interesting: Apollos, Bulls, Eagles, Gatos, Lonestars, Stallions, Toros, Americans, Buffaloes, Generals, 1836, Mustangs, and Stars. Because most of the names suck almost as much as soccer itself, the online voters decisively chose the only good option, and the name for the Houston 1836 was revealed. Unfortunately, the name apparently offended the Hispanic population of the city (1836 was the year Texas achieved independence from Mexico. This would be like if the British population of Philadelphia caused the 76ers to be renamed. Seriously?) and the team was renamed to a slightly less-awesome but still okay name: Houston Dynamo.

I was okay with the change because of the fact that we still ended up with a team whose name didn't end with an 's.' Is Dynamo as good as 1836? No, because I also love numbers in team names. But it's close, because of the lack of an 's.'

And actually, that's pretty much the only area I can think of where soccer wins in terms of sports. By far, MLS has the most non-plural teams. With only nineteen teams in the entire league, a stunning twelve are not plural. Of these, ten are actual nouns (as opposed to "Football Club"): Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew, D.C. United, Houston Dynamo, Montreal Impact, New England Revolution, Philadelphia Union, Sporting Kansas City, LA Galaxy, and Real Salt Lake. The two I didn't count? Toronto FC and FC Dallas.

And on top of that, the MLS past is filled with interesting team names: Tampa Bay Mutiny, Miami Fusion, Dallas Burn, San Jose Clash, and Kansas City Wiz.

Other sports need to step it up. It's embarrassing to lose to soccer in any category, and this needs to be changed. Perhaps if the Astros take my advice and change their name, they can get the ball rolling on this.

Losing the Calder Cup

Posted in Sports and Games on June 8th, 2011 by Nathan – 1 Comment

As I recounted at the game, this logo has been their logo for as long as I can remember, possibly since the beginning of the team. It's an airplane. Ignore that it looks like a flying shark.The Houston Aeros are the minor-league hockey team on the third coast, a team that has been here since the early ‘90s, and to which I have attended many games over the years. As befits the Houston sports curse, since they are a minor league team, they are actually pretty good and win pretty often, in honor of their namesake Aeros of the World Hockey Association from the ‘70s, who had Gordie Howe and therefore two championships.

The Aeros have also won two championships: a Turner Cup in 1999 and a Calder Cup in 2003. This year, after barely making the playoffs, they eventually made it all the way to the Calder Cup finals for the second time. By the time game six rolled around last night, they were behind 3-2.

Tickets were only thirty dollars, as is befitting for the finals of minor-league hockey, so Rebecca and I joined Len to go see the game.

The Aeros were outplayed and outhustled by the Binghamton Senators. They took a lot of shots and took advantage of power plays, until the last one when they needed it most. They lost the game 3-2, after losing a 2-1 lead.

The only consolation is that Aeros is a sick name. Senators is kinda neat in Ottawa (for whom Binghamton is a farm team), but completely ridiculous in Binghamton. There’s no Senate there.