Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Thoughts on the potential Tulsa Shock relocation to Dallas

1.  The first thing that Tulsa Shock fans should realize - nothing is done yet.  Forget about the announcements on the Tulsa Shock website.  Forget about Bill Cameron and forget about the Tulsa World.  Until the moving vans are headed out of Tulsa, nothing is a done deal yet.  There are very few "hard and fast" rules in the universe and the (potential) relocation of a basketball team isn't physics.  We're just in the negotiations stage.

2.  Tulsa has already lost the 66ers, the D-league affiliate of the Oklahoma City Thunder.  According to John Klein - that guy at the Tulsa World that never wrote about the Shock except to say "good riddance" - the BOK Center wasn't an option for the Thunder because they only averaged 2,020 ticket sold during the 2013-14 season.  Losing the Shock will be the last tie of any sort between Tulsa and professional basketball.  Arena football moved out of Tulsa in 2012 and the replacement team shut down in 2014.

3.  Many Tulsans on the internet talk about Tulsa being a bad sports town, but the examples are hard to find.  Maybe the perception is more important than the reality.

4.  The Shock still have half a season to play at the BOK Center.  Perhaps the plan is for Bill Cameron and David Box to take a tax write-off.  The news that the team is moving certainly won't help the team move any tickets.

Really, Cameron/Box win either way.  If there's a fan resurgence, they pocket the increase in ticket sales.  If the fans turn their backs on the shock and it shows at the turnstile, it becomes, "See?  Told you we had to move."

5.  John Klein writes that it will be hard for the Shock to command the attention in the Dallas media market than they could in Tulsa.  However, he fails to write two numbers:

Tulsa population:  400,000
Dallas population:  1,300,000

By sheer numbers, it will be easier to draw fans in Dallas than Tulsa.  Interested Dallasites are already planning their season ticket purchases.  If Cameron/Box rent out the American Airlines Center, that could mean synergy with the Mavericks. 

6.  These numbers might be the most important ones to look at:

2012 Election Results

in Tulsa:  Romney 64 percent, Obama 36 percent
in Dallas:  Obama 57 percent, Romney 42 percent

The WNBA fanbase in probably the most liberal fanbase in any professional sport.  And Tulsa simply isn't a liberal city. It's a majority-white red city in a very red state.  Dallas is a minority-white blue city.  A WNBA team is simply more likely to find an audience in Dallas than it is in Tulsa.

When the Detroit Shock moved to Tulsa, four players decided not to travel with the team. Liz Cambage played a while in Tulsa, and then decided to stay in Australia.  I doubt the same will happen if Tulsa moves to Dallas.

7.  If Tulsa wants to save their team, the time is now and Tulsa will have to play hardball to do it.  Klein in his article in the Tulsa World mentioned that Tulsa could at least offer the WNBA civic pride and stability.  Having Tulsa be the Green Bay Packers of the WNBA is not out of the question.

If the city really wants WNBA basketball, it will have to show it.  The fans will have to make the effort because no one else is going to make it.  This will involve getting the #saveourshock hashtag in social media, this will involve networking the patrons of the arts and business in Tulsa, this will involve the city government, this will have to involve everyone, including John Klein and the Tulsa World.  

This should involve, at the very least:

a) a 2016 season ticket drive, so that Shock fans can show some hard numbers to the WNBA, and
b) a new owner to step up, one that has deep enough pockets so that the team can succeed there.

8. Unfortunately, Cameron and Box still own the team.  They can move it wherever they want.  Does Tulsa really want a replacement team, one that is guaranteed to be awful for another four years, one without the media drawing power of a Skylar Diggins?  That's a tough question with no easy answer.

9.  I wonder how much the staph infections that hit the team in 2010 and 2012 had to do with this move.

10.  Just remember:  hope isn't over.  The Dream have gone through not one, but two changes of franchise ownership.  And like I said, the team isn't moved until the moving vans head out.  As we learned with the Sparks, a month in basketball can be an eternity.

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