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ESPN commentator blasts baseball stadium in Porltand

This one's for the good people of Portland, Oregon -- the people who think
it would be a great idea to commit $350 million in a new baseball stadium
for the Portland Expos.
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

By Ray Ratto
Special to ESPN.com

This one's for the good people of Portland, Oregon -- the people who think
it would be a great idea to commit $350 million in a new baseball stadium
for the Portland Expos.

And please, take this in the spirit it is given.

What are you, whack jobs? Too much money in your wallets? Haven't been made
to look stupid in so long that you forget what it feels like? Do you never
pay attention to anything?

OK. We feel much better now.

But the point remains the same. Portland has that acquisitive smell in its
civic hooter, one that only a big league ball team with Vladimir Guerrero
and Javier Vazquez can satisfy. And they are ready to commit an immense
amount of money to satisfy that smell.

Just in time, we hope, to remind you of what happens when desires outstrip
the ability to meet those desires.

The Oakland Raiders just won a $34 million judgment from the Oakland
Coliseum Commission, a local lawyer and the numbers-crackers at Arthur
Andersen, because they convinced a jury that the people who ran Oakland in
the mid-'90s were both dim and devious.

Now it could have been worse. The Raiders were asking for $1.1 billion, so
those 34 scoots represent a mere 1/32nd of what it could have been.

But a jury of nine women and three men in Sacramento were convinced that Al
Davis was unfairly bamboozled by the Oaktown Gang into believing that the
Coliseum would be filled each and every time with ticket-buying, beer
drinking, curse-word-conjugating fans.

And you know that it takes a heap of bamboozlement to get Al Davis.

Why this affects you, oh Portlanders, is because while Al may be the
sharpest knife in the litigation drawer, he isn't the only one.

Your duly elected cheeseburgers are throwing money at a blind future, and
needing the cheerful connivance of Major League Baseball to make it happen.

And here's a safe bet: When it comes to money and the smell thereof,
baseball people have as educated a beezer as football people.

They have the supply (the team). They have manufactured the demand (Portland
is fighting with Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia for the Bad Vlads).
And they can yank cash out of your pocket so fast that you'll be grateful
they left the lint.

This is why you must beware. If you want to escape this with your pants
north of your ankles, you must promise them nothing beyond what you're
already on the hook for -- that stadium.

No sellout guarantees. No promises that the luxury boxes you don't need will
be bought by people who don't really want them. No lease givebacks. No
convoluted side deals that insure that the team goes tax and rent free.

Not a penny spent that you can't afford to lose, capisce? Because if you do,
you will be destroyed, skinned, gutted and eaten before you know that your
shoes have been removed.

These people are pros. You're not. Be very, very careful from this moment
on.

Now we are not here to dispute the findings of a jury. They listened to
enough stultifying testimony to pull off their own heads, and they concluded
that the Oakland smart guys fibbed to the Raiders about sellouts, and gave
the Raiders the equivalent of Nick Van Exel's contract to compensate.

And we are not inclined to listen to those elected officials explain how the
jury got it wrong, how they didn't understand the issues, or how their
underwear was starting to ride up so much that they came to some half-assed
verdict just to go home. They had this coming from the moment they thought
they could out-Al Al. They deserved to be embarrassed, and if they could be,
they would have long before this.

But the truth remains the truth. Al doesn't deal with people from a position
of weakness. He knows his opponent years before the opponent knows he is
going to be the opponent. If you want what he has, he has you, pure and
simple.

The same lesson can be applied here, dear na´ve, trusting Oregonians. When
you say you have $350 million to spend, people come to see if they can't get
that money from you. Smart people see how much more you have. Professional
sports people already know how much more you have, and have thought of ways
to get it, knowing that as an eager buyer, you'll eventually do anything to
be given permission to buy.

And then you'll like the yahoos in Oakland, wondering why people laugh at
them.

Do you want this? Can you afford this?

Or have we come to late to save you from yourselves?

Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle is a frequent contributor to
ESPN.com

Krazy Katz n' Jammers 29.Aug.2003 11:02

small balls

It's gonna feel nice when Katz n' Krew jam this 350 Million dollar bat up our collective arses, que no?

Who wants them? 29.Aug.2003 12:36

Not us

Which Oregonians want this cursed team anyway? It is not the people, is it? I don't know anyone that thinks it's a good idea. I just see Vera and other politicians doing their best to convince the legislature.

Watch Your Kids Play Ball 29.Aug.2003 14:25

Jade12

I'd love to go to a major leage ballpark once before I die, but it looks like it will be too expensive during my lifetime. I lived in Northern Virginia, and it would have been easy to go to see the Washington Redskins, but I couldn't afford a ticket there either. What I have been able to do is watch young people playing ball in my own neighboorhood. I have to admit, this is probably more satisfying than major league ball for several reasons.

1. I support the youth of America in a teamwork enterprise. It builds their character and mine.
2. It is free to watch.
3. I can walk to the local ball park and it is ecologically sound to do so.
4. It is more exciting and fun to watch people you know play ball. It is a thrill to watch your own kids revel in a success. It is important to be there for them when they struggle through a harmless defeat and learn how to handle it.
5. I don't spend time thinking about how Cal Ripkin is making $50,000 a second when people in this country are hungry.
6. I don't have to worry about my taxes going up when the Stadium financing plan goes bust.
7. I put my money in candybars and car washes to help the local team buy uniforms and supplies.

I'm sure this list goes on and on. Why on earth do we value these sports franchizes so much when the best experience is right under our noses?

ballin 29.Aug.2003 14:52

Miss Vision

Comparing the Oaktown Raiders to Portland's situation is akin to comparing year old lettuce to a fresh green salad.
Ratto's condescending words seem like they were bought by Paul Allen who enjoys his monopoly on the city of Roses.
The history of Oakland and Al Davis is over 40 years of back biting, name calling, tit for tat maneuvering. Those two parties in No. Cal. truly deserve each other.

Oregon politicians are making an attempt to keep up with Portland's exploding population with visionary thinking. The baseball bill made it out of the house only on conditions that no public monies will be used now or 100 years from now.
By the way, a majority of Portlanders will support this baseball team. Look at the near constant sellouts of the Blazers even when they stink personally and professionally.
Sorry Luddites, maybe you could move to Ashland and partay with Lon Hannon.

Ms. Vision 29.Aug.2003 16:13

ranger

While I have learned to become more understanding of the anti-baseball crowd's feelings, many of the arguments don't hold water. The taxpayers will NOT be footing the bill for this, so it has no bearing on the state of the schools. It's two separate budgets. Notice who's against baseball, Paul Allen who doesn't want any competetion. I say, if you hate baseball, just admit it, but don't use those feelings to deny that pleasure to others. Personally, I liked the idea of siting an Indian Gaming Casino in Portland. They were willing to give some of the profits to the schools, but our governor turned down that suggestion. He didn't want gambling in PDX, so instead, we have those hole in the wall joints behind bars, full of smoke, and working stiffs blowing their money and schools get none of this money. Portland needs some other venues to stimulate jobs. Okay, so baseball is not the most creative idea to come up, but I think there are far worse things going on right now.

Miss Vision needs corrective lenses 29.Aug.2003 19:31

Jeff

"By the way, a majority of Portlanders will support this baseball team. Look at the near constant sellouts of the Blazers even when they stink personally and professionally."

Nearly twenty thousand people attending a basketball game (from a region of nearly 1.5 million) constitutes the "majority of Portlanders?!" Please get a grip, that's farcical. I doubt that the majority of Portlanders support this, and I can guarantee you that the overwhelming majority of people in the Portland Metro area will not attend a single game of the Expos if they come to town. The baseball fanatics and hopelessly bored are too small of a percentage of the local population to support a team.

Mark my words: Ted Kulongoski's career is over after he signs the stadium bill. If he attempts to run for Governor again in 2006, he will be held accountable for this, and he'll be crucified. A large percentage of his "liberal" base will turn against him and vote for a third party, probably the Greens (and yes, they will be running a candidate - that's too good of an opportunity to miss!)

Let Them Eat Hotdogs! 29.Aug.2003 21:29

Marie Antoinette Katz

Hey, no money for schools, teachers, or medicine for sick people? No problem, just give 350 million dollars to fucking Major League Bullshit...er Baseball. Baseball is the national past-time, donchaknow? Baseball, Apple PIe, and Chevrolet!

skewed myopia 30.Aug.2003 12:21

Miss Vision

"Nearly twenty thousand people attending a basketball game (from a region of nearly 1.5 million) constitutes the "majority of Portlanders?!" Please get a grip, that's farcical. I doubt that the majority of Portlanders support this, and I can guarantee you that the overwhelming majority of people in the Portland Metro area will not attend a single game of the Expos if they come to town. The baseball fanatics and hopelessly bored are too small of a percentage of the local population to support a team."

Hmmmm... ... ... ..Actually the fan base for Major league Baseball here would be much stronger than for Basketball. Being a summer game allows more fans to attend because of vacation time, better weather. It would draw people throughout the region( southern Oregon , the coast, ect... ..) not just the Portland metro area. Ticket prices will be cheaper, allowing more working class/blue collar people to attend, something you don't see at a Blazer game. If stumptown gets the Expos, (still not a done deal) they will attract a strong following from the area's burgeoning Latino population via the Latin players on the Expos. I really don't understand your anger, but I do know you don't speak the majority opinion.

OK, I remember Denver getting baseball... 01.Sep.2003 01:19

Portland Ponderer

Provided that the assertions that taxpayers will not be held hostage financially to locate the Expos here, I have to say I want a team here.

I am a sports fan, despite the fact that the financial aspsects of Major League anything boggles the mind. I do remember this much from living in Denver:

Nuggets Tix (Basketball - NBA's most perennially pathetic team) - The cops offered to trade guns for tickets - no questions. They still had tickets at the end of the day, and a few rusty, non-functioning antiques to show for it, along with a few mysteriously missing serial numbers. I nearly choked on my dinner laughing at the news report, making it sound like such a wonderful public service.

# Nuggets games attended - none

Avalanche Tix (Hockey - NHL)- 1999 - $44 a seat for nosebleed seats in "Big Mac" arena, second row from the top. They did sell out alot though.

# Avalanche games attended - one - purchased ticket myself.

Broncos (Football - NFL) - People leave season ticket rights in their wills - good luck EVER buying a single ticket to a game. Finally saw em play in Seattle - got good seats near the endzone for $55 each.

# Broncos games attended - one - purchased ticket myself.

Rockies - (Baseball - MLB) - "Rockpile" seats were $1 - $5 each, with some awesome seat closer to the action for $17 each. Thanks to the sheer number of games and tickets even in Denver one could usually score a few free tickets to games each year through friends or corporate tickets.

#Rockies games attended - 15-18 (cannot recall exactly, but saw each NL team at least once) - purchased one ticket for $14, got the rest for free.


So what is my point? Baseball is one of the more fan friendly sports. Easy to follow for younger sports fans, and tickets are more accessible to the average person because of price and the number of events. Baseball may be boring on tv, but really is pretty fun in person. Think about it - another marketing venue for local microbrews - maybe helping them get more bang for their advertising buck?

Think about it - Oregon has one of the highest income tax rates in the nation. Baseball players get some of the highest salaries in the nation. Sports players pay income tax for games played in Oregon, since the income is earned here, to the best of my knowledge. This would mean we would get tax revenue for ANY MLB player who plays in Oregon! On a 7 figure annual salary, 9% of per game earnings adds up quickly.

If this is so, and taxpayers do not get stuck with a bailout bill from MLB or the Expos, Oregon does have a chance to really earn national recognition (potentially increasing companies willing to relocate here, IE adding to the job base) and maybe just maybe, get some cheap entertainment compared to Basketball (Jailblazers).

PS - forgot to mention... 01.Sep.2003 01:24

Portland Ponderer

...the construction jobs created, and the influx of tourism that Baseball can bring. While a large convention would bring in more pople, and possibly more money, there are those who follow sports rabidly - and travel round the world to see their team play. Add to that family of players, and the purchases they make here, we have more potential income for Oregon.

...Now, if only we could lower income taxes in favor of a 4%-6% sales tax, we could REALLY capitolize on tourism...