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Schmilblick Patrol: David Stern

Edvard: Hello! Hi everyone! Thank you! Settle down! Thank you, thank you! Okay, seriously, stop making noise, everyone. Good. Hi! Welcome to GoobNet’s Adventures of the Schmilblick Patrol, where you could win some tidy prizes for naming the hidden secret that our participant brings to us each week. Well, our guest this week is a repeat offender, you might say. He’s a New York attorney who’s been involved with the NBA for forty years. He’s been in charge since 1984, so let’s bring him right out. With us today, making his second appearance on this programme, please welcome the commissioner of the NBA, David Stern!

David: Hi Edvard.

Edvard: Hello David. Welcome back to the programme.

David: Thanks Edvard. I’m excited to be back.

Edvard: Good. We’re excited to have you back. How are things at the NBA?

David: We’re very happy with the way things are going. We just had a great Finals series between two of our storied franchises. We’ve got some exciting players coming into the league next year, and we’ve got another city returning to our family.

Edvard: That’s great. Do you want to meet today’s patrollers?

David: That will be fun.

Edvard: It sure will. From Des Moines, WA, USA, here’s Tracy.

Tracy: Hi.

Edvard: We have Johnny from Beaver, WA, USA.

Johnny: Hello.

Edvard: And Molly from Seattle, WA, USA.

Molly: Hi!

David: Uh oh.

Edvard: What?

David: You’re not making it easy on me, are you, Edvard? Three people from Washington?

Edvard: Yes, this one may be a bit of a tough one for you. Would you care to tell us your Schmilblick?

David: All right. My Schmilblick is: Why having a team move to Oklahoma City is a good move for the NBA.

Edvard: Why a team moving to Oklahoma City, OK, USA is good for the NBA. Just to be clear, the team in question is the Seattle SuperSonics.

David: Yes.

Edvard: So basically, you’re saying that your Schmilblick is why the NBA would rather be in Oklahoma City than Seattle.

David: We prefer not to think of it in those terms.

Edvard: Of course you don’t. Well, if you can guess David’s Schmilblick, patrollers, you’ll each win season tickets to the new Seattle team, if and when there should be one. And to hold you over until then, you’ll each win season tickets to the Seattle Storm. But if you can’t guess David’s Schmilblick in eighteen queries, David will win season tickets to Johnny’s professional rowing league, if and when there should be one. And to hold you over until then, you’ll win season tickets to the University of Washington’s rowing team. So, patrollers, are you ready?

Johnny: Yeah!

Tracy: I’m ready.

Molly: Let’s go!

Edvard: How about you, David?

David: I’m ready.

Edvard: Then let’s go on patrol. Tracy, you’ll start us off.

Tracy: Hi David.

David: Hi Tracy.

Tracy: David, has there been any cause for concern about fan support from Seattle in recent years?

David: I’m not sure what you mean by that.

Tracy: Was there anything that would make you think that we in Seattle aren’t getting behind our team?

David: Yes, there was.

Edvard: What would that be?

David: Edvard, I’ve been on this show before. You know I’m not going to give anything up that easily.

Edvard: Yes, I do know that. So that’s one down and seventeen to go. Johnny, let’s go to you.

Johnny: Thanks. Hi David.

David: Hi Johnny.

Johnny: David, you say there is something that makes you think Seattle isn’t supporting the team. Would that be attendance?

David: Yes, it would.

Edvard: In fact, the Sonics’ average attendance has been in the bottom ten of the league for several years now, has it not?

David: That’s right.

Edvard: Okay. So that’s two down and sixteen to go. But before we get another question, let’s take this opportunity to get to know our patrollers a little bit better. Molly, hi.

Molly: Hi Edvard.

Edvard: All of our patrollers live near the Puget Sound area, but you’re the only one who actually lives in Seattle.

Molly: Yes.

Edvard: And what do you do there in Seattle?

Molly: I print T-shirts.

Edvard: Really?

Molly: Yes. It’s a business where you can send us a graphic, and we’ll screen it onto a shirt.

Edvard: Is that popular?

Molly: Yes, it is. Especially when groups of students at UW go to LA for The Price is Right.

Edvard: But I notice that you didn’t wear a custom shirt for us here.

Molly: I wanted to look classy for this show.

Edvard: At least someone does. No, I’m only teasing. Molly, let’s get your first question.

Molly: My first question for you, David, is, What the fuck? No, seriously. David, do other NBA markets have a slump in attendance when their team sucks?

David: Yes, they do.

Edvard: Well, that’s not a surprise. That’s three down and fifteen to go. Tracy, hi.

Tracy: Hi Edvard.

Edvard: You live in Des Moines, WA, USA.

Tracy: Right.

Edvard: I didn’t know that you guys have your own Des Moines in Washington.

Tracy: We do. It’s not far from SeaTac.

Edvard: Great. And what do you do in Des Moines?

Tracy: Well, I actually work at SeaTac. I drive pushback tugs.

Edvard: Those are the things that push the planes back from the gates when they depart?

Tracy: Yes.

Edvard: Those must be fun to drive.

Tracy: Engines with wheels, we call them.

Edvard: So when I’m flying out of Seattle and the plane pushes back from the gate, that’s you?

Tracy: That’s me.

Edvard: Terrific. Let’s have your next question.

Tracy: David, were there other causes for concern besides attendance?

David: Yes, there were.

Edvard: Okay. So that’s four down, fourteen to go. Johnny, hi.

Johnny: Hi Edvard.

Edvard: So we’ve got three patrollers whose names all end in Y. That’s fun. Johnny, you’re from Beaver, WA, USA.

Johnny: Originally. I go to the UW now.

Edvard: The University of Washington.

Johnny: Yes.

Edvard: Studying what?

Johnny: Sociology.

Edvard: And you come from a town named Beaver.

Johnny: Yes.

Edvard: Where can I find Beaver?

Johnny: Well, if you don’t know...

[Much laughter.]

Edvard: No! Stop that! Bad!

Johnny: No, no. It’s located on the northwestern corner of Olympia National Forest.

Edvard: Okay. And I understand you and your friends have a name for your group.

Johnny: Yes. We are, um, we are the Kings of Beaver.

[Great laughter.]

Edvard: We’ll see about that. Okay, let’s have your next question for David.

Johnny: David, does the NBA expect more from teams than good attendance?

David: Yes, we do.

Edvard: What else does the league want out of teams?

David: Edvard, I told you, that’s not going to work.

Edvard: All right. Well, that’s five down and thirteen to go. Molly?

Molly: David, have the Sonics been losing money recently?

Edvard: We’re getting to the heart of the issue now. David, have the Sonics been losing money?

David: Yes, they have.

Edvard: According to my figures, the team lost more than US$27,000,000 this past season.

David: I believe that’s accurate, Edvard.

Edvard: Okay. Six down, twelve to go. Back around to you, Tracy.

Tracy: David, you said earlier that you were concerned about Seattle’s ability to support the Sonics.

David: Actually, that’s not exactly what I said.

Edvard: It pretty much is.

David: No, the earlier question was whether there were any causes for concern. There are, but I wouldn’t say that we’re actually concerned.

Edvard: You’re splitting hairs. Tracy, please continue.

Tracy: Thank you. You had a cause for concern relating to our attendance. Well, according to the figures I reviewed before I came here, the Sonics’ attendance was consistently above 90% of arena capacity up until this past season. So my question to you, David, is this: Is 90% of capacity insufficient?

David: We don’t really have any particular numeric target in mind.

Edvard: I’ll need a yes or no answer, David.

David: No, we don’t demand a particular percentage of capacity.

Edvard: Okay. So we are now at seven down and eleven to go. Johnny, you can now ask your next question.

Johnny: David, should other teams that are only selling 90% of available tickets also be concerned that they may move?

David: No, they should not.

Edvard: Eight down and ten to go now. Molly.

Molly: David, if the Seattle or Washington legislatures had provided funding to upgrade KeyArena or build a new arena, would the Sonics not have moved?

David: I can’t speak to Clay Bennett’s intentions. I don’t know what he would have done.

Molly: Let me rephrase. If the money to upgrade or rebuild had been provided, would the NBA have approved a move to Oklahoma City?

David: I can’t speak to what the Board of Governors would have done, either, but I would say that approval for the move would have been substantially less likely.

Edvard: Okay. Nine down, nine to go. We are now halfway through this game, and we have so far learned a few interesting things. But we have not yet learned David Stern’s Schmilblick, which today is why the NBA believes it’s good for the league to have a team in Oklahoma City. Tracy, we now go back over to you.

Tracy: David, you said there was an additional cause for concern. Is that the fact that the city and the state would not release funding for a new arena?

David: Yes, that was a cause for concern.

Edvard: Interesting. That is ten down and eight to go. Johnny, what will you ask now?

Johnny: David, does the NBA demand public funding for all new arenas?

David: We don’t demand anything about the source of funding, but we do believe that when the community provides public funding, it represents a commitment to the team’s success.

Edvard: So your answer would be no, the NBA does not demand public funding.

David: We don’t demand it, no.

Edvard: Very well. Eleven down and seven to go. Molly, we go back over to you.

Molly: David, getting back to the larger issue here, is the NBA really served by not having a team in the US’s 14th biggest media market?

David: Yes, we feel that the size of the media market is not really the important factor.

Edvard: Size doesn’t matter, you’re saying.

David: Yes, I suppose you could put it that way.

Edvard: That’s right, folks. Size doesn’t matter. Especially if you’re a King of Beaver. All right, all right. There are now twelve down and only six to go. Two more questions for each patroller. Tracy, we come back to you.

Tracy: All right. David, did the NBA feel at all that Clay Bennett’s proposal for a US$530,000,000 arena was excessive?

Edvard: This another critical question, it seems. So did the NBA think that Bennett’s arena proposal was excessive?

David: No, we didn’t. The proposal was for not only the arena, but for a surrounding complex as well.

Edvard: Okay. So that makes it thirteen down and five to go. Johnny?

Johnny: David, did the NBA really expect the state of Washington and the Seattle area to put up even more public funds to re-rebuild an arena that was just rebuilt less than fifteen years ago, all less than ten years after we ponied up hundreds of millions to build new baseball and football stadiums?

David: Well, other cities have done the same kind of thing. Houston, for instance, as well as Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Washington, DC.

Edvard: The question was specifically about the Seattle community.

David: Yes, we did think that Seattle would want to invest this money to ensure their team’s future, and we were disappointed when the people of Seattle decided otherwise.

Edvard: So that’s fourteen down and four to go. Molly, we go to you.

Molly: David, is the NBA doing anything to counter its image of being an immense international conglomeration that exists merely to suck its customers dry and extort hundreds of millions of dollars of public money that could be spent on more pressing matters like education and rebuilding our decaying infrastructure?

David: Sorry, but I have to take issue with that. You see, the NBA is in fact very concerned about the communities that we serve.

Edvard: And Seattle is no longer on that list, apparently.

David: We’re hoping to be back in the Seattle community very soon.

Edvard: That’s very nice, but at this point I must warn the patrollers that we have reached fifteen down and three to go. One more question from each of you. Tracy, we go to you now.

Tracy: David, would the NBA rather be in Oklahoma City than Seattle because people there went to Hornets games and therefore took advantage of a community that was still reeling from one of the worst natural disasters in American history?

David: I’m sorry, I must take exception to that too. We made a promise to the people of New Orleans that they would have their team back as soon as possible, and we made good on that promise. In the meantime, the people of Oklahoma City supported that team, and I think it’s only fair to take that support into account.

Edvard: That makes it sixteen down and two to go. Johnny?

Johnny: David, does the NBA want a team in Oklahoma City instead of Seattle because of the weather?

David: No, we don’t.

Edvard: So that’s seventeen down and one to go. Molly, this is the patrollers’ last chance. Can you determine David Stern’s Schmilblick?

Molly: David, does the NBA want to play in Oklahoma City instead of Seattle because the coffee is cheaper?

David: No, that’s not why we’re going there.

Edvard: Really? Well, that’s eighteen down, zero to go. Congratulations, David. You stumped our patrollers. They couldn’t guess your Schmilblick. What was it?

David: My Schmilblick was: The free gifts.

Edvard: The free gifts.

David: Yes. Clay Bennett gave all the other NBA team owners free gifts.

Edvard: What sort of free gifts?

David: Well, he gave Larry Miller a book by James Garner. He gave Herb Kohl a set of pursestrings. He gave Jerry Buss a patch that Shannon Lucid had flown in space.

Edvard: Fascinating. Well, it looks like David Stern has earned his season tickets to the Huskies crew, and to Johnny’s rowing league whenever it should begin to exist. He may also have earned himself a Salt Lake-style scandal. Congratulations, David, and we hope to see all of you right back here next time on GoobNet’s Adventures of the Schmilblick Patrol. Until then, I’m Edvard van de Kamp, wishing you good tidings and better Schmilblicks. Good night, everyone!