Pro/Con: Expansion teams good for sports? |

Pro/Con: Expansion teams good for sports?

Vail Daily Editorial Board
Vail CO, Colorado

Some baseball purists say the Colorado Rockies aren’t a “real” baseball team.

The same batch of old curmudgeons says Colorado’s fans are less authentic because they’ve endured only a dozen years or so ” rather than decades ” of losing seasons and humiliation.

But the Florida Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks in baseball, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Anaheim Ducks in hockey, and the Miami Heat in basketball have proven that teams need not trace their legacies back to the days of segregated leagues and post-game lynch mobs to be champions.

Expansion teams aren’t really expansion teams anymore. In the old days, a brand new franchise stunk for at least the first several years of its existence because they could only fill their lineups with untested college and high schools prospects. But the greed of professional athletes, who always seem to seek the highest paycheck, have allowed new teams to stock their rosters with all-pros and all-stars.

The expansion teams, despite lacking tradition and legends, can compete no matter how angry it makes some sportswriters and fans of old-line, tradition-drenched teams like the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Pirates or Green Bay Packers.

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(Come to think of it, pro sports in the U.S. are only 100-150 years old. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not much more than infancy. The Greeks, for instance, were throwing the javelin before Christ was born.)

And as cheesy as it sounds, isn’t the United States the world’s most successful expansion team? At first, we relied on the cast-offs and disillusioned of other nations and by the 20th Century, the world’s greatest scientists came to New Mexico, of all places, to build us an atomic bomb.

And it’s very American to root for the underdog, to hope the newcomer makes the big time, to turn homesick immigrants into ardent patriots.

Much of America has embraced a diverse field of Democratic White House candidates ” a slate of genders and racers not seen before on the presidential scene. So it’s just silly that the stodgy cranks of the sports world are so worked up about teams like the Rockies intruding on their fabled pastime.

” Matt Zalaznick for the Editorial Board

To measure the success of an expansion franchise, you shouldn’t look at the win and loss columns or even the inaugural championship trophy. You should look in the stands, on the streets and the little-league stadiums of that city and the state.

And the more you look, the more expansion failures you’ll find.

In baseball, hockey and basketball, there are just too many teams. The talent pool becomes diluted, but more importantly, nobody ends up watching these teams. As the teams begin to pile up in the leagues, the rivalry games decrease and travel increases. And with more players, the expansion teams can often become nothing more than great feeders for the top-tier teams and devoid of any long-term superstars.

There are cases that support expansion ” if the fans and city get behind the team on permanent basis.

Teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks and Carolina Hurricanes have won titles, but often have plenty of empty seats (the Diamondbacks didn’t sell out their series against the Cubs or Rockies). The Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Lightning have been swimming in sub-mediocrity for a long time, although you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who cares. Expansion may make sense if there’s a proven demand. But just because there isn’t a team in a region doesn’t mean we should put one there.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have free parking ” free parking! ” hoping to lure people to watch. The Nashville Predators had thousands of empty seats on opening night and play 20th fiddle to anything else that’s going on in the city.

When the Rockies arrived in Denver, ticket sales were strong and even broke records, but things have tailed off significantly. There were three-games series’ this summer when about 20,000 people attended ” total. Only when people ” not fans ” saw that they had a chance to win did they start buying hats and shirts and filling the stadium. Chicago Cubs fans have been miserable for a century, but at least they show and support their woeful franchise year-in, year out.

The Rockies aren’t intruding on the national pastime ” they are only leaving a blip on the game’s history ” and preparing for a few more years of hibernation.

” Ian Cropp for the Editorial Board

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