Thursday, March 6, 2014

When Worlds Collide

Much has been written about the disconnect that often exists between the real world and the social media world.  Yet, in the world of Wisconsin sports, it only seems to affect the Bucks.  Think of the average Packers fan.  Think of the average Packers fan on Twitter.  Those two people are pretty much the same.  They both love Aaron Rodgers.  They both can't stand Pete Carroll.  They both feel a sense of pride due to the Packers' record of recent success.  Brewers fans, Badgers fans and Warriors fans seem to be similar in both worlds as well.

Bucks fans seem to be worlds apart.  There is a newspaper-reading, ticket-buying base.  There is an online network of bloggers and Tweeters.  It feels like there are few who cross over.

Take the perception of the franchise, for starters.  The real world views it as an organization with poor execution.  They try to win and they fail.  Chris Paul could've been our Aaron Rodgers, but we ended up with Bogut.  Zach Randolph was available for a song in 2009, just as Charles Woodson was in 2006.  It's a pattern that happens over and over.  They drafted Yi instead of Noah in 2008.  Traded for Richard Jefferson instead of Ron Artest in 2009.  Artest won a championship in 2010 and Noah nearly made the finals in 2011.  These are just bad moves.  Mistakes authored by management and underwritten by ticket buyers.

In the online world, the problem is one of strategy rather than execution.  The Bucks aren't willing to bottom out.  They keep trying to sneak in the playoffs.  They impatiently trade away young talent for journeymen.  It is true: the Bucks don't want to bottom out.  It is also true that the annual goal is the playoffs, even as a 8th seed.  Is that so bad?

The 2010 season is the argument against bottoming out.  More precisely, it's an example that there is no such thing.  Prognosticators saw the Bucks as one of the worst teams in the NBA.  They made the playoffs.  It was only a 6th seed and the conference semi-finals proved beyond their reach, but it was a successful season.  What's more, the franchise was on the right track.  2011 attendance jumped 3% and new season ticket sales hit their highest number since the 2001 offseason.

Some online Bucks fans will argue that 2010 gave the franchise false hope.  That despite the fun of the Fear the Deer run, it set the franchise back.  The theory: If the Bucks had played poorly to begin the 2010 season and then traded Bogut, Ridnour and others for future assets, the team could have had a high pick in the 2010 draft.  Throw in another high pick in the 2011 draft after another year of going young, and the Bucks would have a corps of prime talent on the court today.

Real world Bucks fans have another version: the Bucks made the same mistakes that have been made throughout the John Hammond years: misguided signings and bloated rosters.  Gone were Kurt Thomas and Luke Ridnour.  In were Chris Douglas-Roberts and Corey Maggette.  Jennings was asked to lead beyond his capabilities and Bogut was pushed too hard to return.  Those are all poor execution, not poor strategy.  Take a playoff team and improve its deficiencies.  That works.  Memphis and Indiana did it.  Why not the Bucks?

There are other disconnects between Bucks fans at large and the online crew.  Online John Hammond receives little criticism.  In the arena we want him gone.  Online the Greek Freak is a savior.  in Wisconsin Avenue we wonder if he's Magic Johnson or Darius Miles.  Online fans believe the Bucks need a new, government funded arena.  In the real world we wonder why the Bradley Center can't be updated for a fraction of the cost.

The Bucks Twittersphere would get more credit from this blog if they started actually helping the Bucks.  Few of them buy season tickets.  Few of them stay at Turner Hall after games for drinks.  Few of them make a yearly jersey or t-shirt or ballcap purchase in the arena (where the Bucks keep the proceeds instead of splitting them with the League.

In the end it appears that the online crew will get what they want, at least in the short term.  The team has an awful record this season; they will almost certainly pick in the top five of the draft.   Signs point towards the Bucks eschewing any major trade or free agent acquisitions that could boost the team's chances in 2015, so they'll probably be back for another high draft pick.  That would give the team a talented threesome heading into the 2016 season.

Meanwhile us ticket buyers will wish the games were better and wonder why this business deserves a few hundred million dollars in government money.  At least we'll be losing with our favorite team.