King Kaufman's Sports Daily

The New Orleans-Oklahoma City Hornets: Like the sound of that? How about this: OKC might not get screwed in this deal. Plus: Salon vs. Top Ramen.

Published September 22, 2005 7:00PM (EDT)

When the New Orleans Hornets announced Wednesday that they'd play 35 of their 41 home games in Oklahoma City this season, I went over to, the Web site of the city's daily newspaper, the Oklahoman.

The Hornets were the big story, of course. The main photo showed owner George Shinn and coach Byron Scott at a news conference.

Over to one side of the Web page was a section called "Top Headlines." The top headline there read, "City police find pot in car."

Oh, Oklahoma City! Stand by for culture shock. The NBA is coming to town.

The Hornets will play their other six home games at LSU, to keep a presence in their home state, one that had barely noticed the team's 2002 move from North Carolina even before Hurricane Katrina came along.

I love that the team will officially be known as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, a throwback kind of name that immediately made me think of the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, who had a history every bit as glorious as that of the New Orleans Hornets so far. If I were an older person it might make me think of the New York-Arcola Original Celtics.

It's all so retro. Maybe the NBA can help the mood by figuring out a way to keep from paying the N.O./Okla. City Hornets players their pensions when they get old.

Where the Hornets' jerseys used to say "New Orleans" they'll now say "Hornets." The only acknowledgment of the team's temporary home will be an "OKC" patch on the sleeve. If New Orleans and its arena are ready by March, the Hornets say, they might move the three games scheduled for Baton Rouge back home that month.

On the other hand, there's a team option for the Hornets to spend a second year in Oklahoma City if moving back to New Orleans is still not an option. And of course the Hornets may discover that OKC is a more hospitable place than New Orleans, hurricane damage or no.

Shinn moved the team south because Charlotte called his bluff rather than building him a new arena. It wasn't because New Orleans was such an attractive market, as the Saints, not to mention the Utah Jazz, could explain.

One nice feature of the Oklahoma City deal is that while taxpayers are taking on some risk, they'll also be rewarded if the enterprise ends up making money. Usually the way deals between cities and sports teams work is the city gets the risk of loss while the team takes any profits.

The city, the state and a group of private investors have guaranteed the Hornets up to $10 million if the team fails to earn 5 percent more in local revenue than it made last year in New Orleans. On the other hand, if revenues exceed last year's by 5 percent, the city would get 80 percent of the proceeds until its expenses were covered, then half of the profits.

City manager Jim Couch said the team would have to average more than 10,000 fans a game in the 19,675-seat Ford Center for the city to make money. That's a tiny average by NBA standards. The Hornets trailed the league in attendance last year in New Orleans with an average of 14,221 per game.

The Associated Press reported that the Hornets took commitments for 2,000 tickets on Wednesday, the first day they were available.

Once upon a time the Kansas City Kings, no longer splitting time in Omaha, moved to Sacramento. That seemed strange at the time, like the NBA was moving into a minor league town. Of course, it turned out quite nicely.

This move seems even stranger. Oklahoma City? Where the big teams are a Triple-A baseball club and a minor-league arena football team called the Yard Dawgz?

No, not that. What I mean is: Could it really be that the locals might not get screwed?

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Ego surfing [PERMALINK]

Writing on a blog called Editoriale, Dr. Klaus von Hayes mentions Gary Kamiya's review of Anthony Shadid's book "Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War" in Salon. Then von Hayes turns to Salon itself:

"Anyone else subscribe to I did for years at something like $3/month ... nothing really, but when the bill came the other day for $35/year, it no longer seemed so crucial.

"A trick I learned in my days at the University of Geneva was to put things in terms of cheap food -- is a year of worth 250 packs of Top Ramen? Four hundred cans of Select soda? All the sudden King Kaufman's sports column doesn't seem as valuable."

Putting aside false modesty, this column is more valuable than 400 cans of Select soda. But if you have to choose between King Kaufman's Sports Daily and some Top Ramen, take the ramen.

And while you're eating it, I'll try to figure out how $3 a month seems OK but $35 a year is too much.

Also: When did the phrase "all of a sudden" become "all the sudden"? The wife says that too.

Previous column: Michelle Wie

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