Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Tom Gores betrayal and poppycock

So the Pistons are moving back to Detroit. Somewhere, their late former owner Bill Davidson is likely rolling over in his grave. More on that later.

Current owner Tom Gores cited three reasons for the move. To wit:  "Why? One, it's great for the Pistons. It is the right call for our fans, our players, how we can impact the community. Two, the arena. Three, the Ilitch partnership". 

All of this is a betrayal and poppycock of the highest order. Let us examine it a bit further. 

First, it is not the right call for the fans, nor players. The public has dutifully attended games in their current residence, The Palace, in Auburn Hills for almost 30 years. They have packed the house at exorbitant prices when the product was good, and shied away when the team stunk -- as they rightly should. 

Second, how does Gores figure this is good for the players? Those guys don't live in Detroit, but rather the affluent suburbs, notably to the north. They'll have further to travel to their own home games and practices.

He's impacting the community alright, by taking money away from Auburn Hills and giving it to Detroit. Which of the two do you think would be more prudent -- see honest and transparent --in their financial dealings given such a windfall? Which has had a recent history of corruption, former leaders going to prison, and crashed into bankruptcy?

Two, the arena. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Palace. It remains a world class facility. Once upon a time, the above mentioned Bill Davidson built it out of money from his own rather deep pockets. It's location was such that hundreds of residents and small business owners weren't coerced off their land to make room for such a privately owned project, much less suffer the ultimate insult of also being forced to cough up their tax-paying dollars to finance it. Mr. Davidson did it the right way, truly a rarity in the world of billionaire team owners. 

Further, let's speak a little of the arena even the Detroit Red Wings are abandoning -- Joe Louis. As we know, Joe Louis was a boxer and held the heavyweight championship for over a decade. Impressive stuff, back in the day. Yet he wasn't from Detroit, but rather an Alabama native. Louis was illiterate, and wound up punch drunk and totally broke before he finally died. This is the sort of person a professional Detroit sports franchise named an arena after?  Especially a HOCKEY team? Wouldn't that be a little bit like naming a football stadium after a tennis player? It made no sense whatsoever. Only in Detroit could they come up with such twisted logic.

So now, the brand new boondoggle will be named Little Caesar's Arena. Well, of course it will. This is the pizza outfit that made Mike Ilitch, owner of the Red Wings, rich in the first place. You can bet your last piece of pepperoni that his accountants will figure out a way to find a loophole big enough to drive Chris Christie through, because naming the arena after his company is advertisement -- hence deductible. Subtle, but very clever. 

Three, the Ilitch partnership. Another thing the average citizen can count on, to the same degree as death and taxes, is that when two billionaires get together and collaborate on a business venture, the commoners are going to get screwed somehow. Sure enough, the poor slobs in Detroit, still pretty much a broke city, are already on the hook for over $34 million in future tax dollars. That number is likely to rise due to cost overruns -- which always happen in these sort of projects. That's not even to mention how many folks will be forced out of the homes they've lived in for generations to make room for the shiny new -- and quite unnecessary -- sports venue. 

Current Detroit mayor Mike Duggan rants that the city is the only one that will feature all four major professional sports teams in the downtown area. Well then. First, a lot of cities don't even HAVE teams in all four sports. And second, any owner that cares about his fan base will take his product to them -- mostly in the burbs -- rather than expect them to fight their way downtown hoping they don't get mugged coming or going in mostly a crime-ridden armpit city such as Detroit. 

As if it matters, even former Piston Greg Kelser chipped in his two cents. Never much of an NBA player, Kelser, from the Detroit area, is "all in" with the move. Well duh. He's also a current commentator for the team. If he wants to keep that job, it doesn't take a genius to figure out Kelser will spout the "party line", whether it makes sense or not.

In the end, the Pistons will be headed back to Detroit. As a resident of the northern suburbs, yours truly went to lots of games at the Palace and spent thousands of dollars there. When they move back to Detroit, I'm done with them. Enjoy your new digs but you'll never get another penny out of me. 

And what is to become of the Palace? Will it just waste away like the Pontiac Silverdome did after the Detroit Lions left? All that effort and money that Bill Davidson put into creating such a fantastic facility just gets kicked to the curb? 

One added little bit of hypocrisy is Tom Gores is a Flint native himself. Yet the company HE got rich with, Platinum Equity, is based in Los Angeles. And this is the same man talking about making a positive impact on a community?  For Detroit -- the tail that continues to wag the dog of the entire state of Michigan? THAT guy? Maybe he should go into politics. 

Yet perhaps we should have expected it. This is what can happen when a couple uber-rich guys get together on a project. Combine Gores's hair and Ilitch's pizzas and what do you get?

I don't know either, but you can bet it's going to be mighty greasy in more ways than one. 

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