Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cardboard Belt Time

"You know who I used to be? Max Bialystock, king of Broadway. Six shows running at once! Lunch at Delmonico's, two-hundred-dollar suits...Look at me now. Look at me now! I'm wearing a cardboard belt! I used to have thousands of investors begging, pleading to put their money in a Max Bialystock production. Look at my investors now...Hundreds of little old ladies stopping off at Max Bialystock's office to grab a last thrill on the way to the cemetery."--Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) to Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder), The Producers

This was recently posted at RebKell. It is a posting from a Becky Hammon fandom board, for Russian Becky fans. It discusses the financial situation of CSKA Moscow, Becky's current club.

Another article is here. One commenter writes "This is the beginning of the end. Our basketball threatens to collapse. And across the country. "

Rumors are that the club won't make it until the end of the Russian league season. Other clubs might be affected.

Granted, the financial model of the Russian league clubs has always been suspicious. The typical rumor is that at best the clubs are owned-operated by Russian oligarchs flush off oil money or the speculative economy at best, and at worst are operated by outright Russian Mafiosi. Owning a Russian league club has been a real vanity purchase, with Russian club owners throwing the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars at the best American players for their participation in the league, even though the clubs never made that much money back or had that much attendance. The owners absorbed the loss.

Now with the global recession/depression, this might not be the case anymore. Reality is setting in. I suspect some fortunes are collapsing overnight in Russia. Rumor has it that some players in Russia haven't been paid in over a month.

My wonder is how much of the shrinking economy will affect the rest of European basketball as well as the United States. When times get tough, the sports dollar is one of the first "dollars" to take a hit. European leagues might shrink. Some European clubs, usually the ones who keep a (non-competitive) team alive because, well, because the town's had a basketball team for the last thirty years might make the tough decision to move on.

Would such a problem affect the United States? If it affects the WNBA, or NASCAR, or MLS, then the big leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB) better start quaking in their boots. Does the WNBA need to expand? (More on that, later.) Probably not right now - maybe contraction would be a good idea. For those interested in the pulse of women's basketball, any little quiver or quake can cause a whole lot of people to shiver.

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