In Sports Commentary

If Milwaukee is indeed a front-runner town, the Bucks could be in trouble here. (PHOTO: David Bernacchi)

Is Milwaukee a town full of front-runners?

It is almost a dirty word. "Front-runners."

You know, the kind of fan that goes to games, paints his face, and is all-in on the local team ... but only when they are good. You know. That guy.

But what if that guy ... is us?

Over the course of the last several months, there have been some well-intentioned journalists and leaders in our community that have pointed out the economic reality that the Bradley Center, by NBA standards, is outdated and in need of replacement in order for the Bucks to remain in town.

"Let 'em leave!" howls one so-called fan.

"I'd rather have a NHL team anyway!" cries another.

"They never win, so what is the point?" gets repeated over and over and over.

Before we really get started, we have to begin today's column with three un-debatable truths.

First of all, the economics of the NBA tell us that the life of the Bradley Center as a viable revenue stream for any franchise is about at the end of its useful life. Forbes Magazine recently valued the Bucks dead-last among all 30 teams in the league. Again. The biggest reason is they now play in the oldest arena in the NBA* with no current plans on the table to upgrade.

Note: The Bradley Center opened in the fall of 1988, as did the Palace of Auburn Hills (Pistons) and Power Balance Pavilion (Kings). The two arenas that opened their doors prior than 1988 are Madison Square Garden (Knicks) and Oracle Arena (Warriors), both of which have undergone a compete refurbishing in the time that the Bradley Center has been open.

Secondly, no NHL team is going to move into a 25-year old arena if the Bucks do leave. I honestly do not know what the thought process among fans is thinking that because the Bradley Center is outdated for the NBA, it's perfectly fine for the NHL. To quote Ron Burgundy, "that doesn't even make sense."

Thirdly, if the Bucks do leave Milwaukee, there will never, ever be another NBA team to come here. Why would they without a suitable arena already in place? Furthermore, if the Bucks do leave, without a NBA team to inhabit the building, there is no way city, county, and state leaders will be progressive enough to build the state-of-the-art facility that the city needs to remain big league. It is unrealistic to think anything else.

Remember (quoting Dave Begel), "Major league is major league. Everything else isn't."

Which brings me to yesterday's column regarding Stephen Jackson.

Predictably, every time the Bucks are discussed in the local media today whether in print or on the radio, the overwhelming reaction is not that of frustration or even disgust. And then, rather than get upset about it, Bucks fans did the worst possible thing a fan can do. Not get angry; not call up local talk shows and rant and rave; not write threatening talkbacks or letters to the editor.

The worst thing any fan can do is not care. After all, the opposite of love isn't hate. The opposite of love is apathy.

Considering the lack of success over the last quarter-century the Bucks have had, one might expect fans to call for heads to roll. After all, during the 1970s and through the mid '80s, Milwaukee really was a basketball town. The Bucks were consistently one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and even Marquette was still one of the best college programs in the country.

And then the losing started. The fan base that had watched Kareem and Oscar; then Marques and Lanier; then Sidney and TC began to erode. Crowds got smaller and smaller at the Bradley Center, save for two magical runs.

In 2001, the Bucks came within one game of the NBA Finals. Then, just two years ago, they shocked the basketball world by finishing 10 games over .500, and lost in the first round in seven games to Atlanta, in no small part because of Andrew Bogut's late season injury.

In neither case, the Bucks were able to sustain or build upon their fleeting success.

It was not that long ago that the Brewers were in the mess the Bucks find themselves in today. In the mid-1990s, County Stadium was in terrible disrepair and needed replacement. The Brewers as a team were horrible and so was attendance at their games. For many that did not favor public dollars building Miller Park, there was apathy about baseball in Milwaukee.

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Talkbacks

Captool73 | Feb. 10, 2012 at 4:33 p.m. (report)

Two points: The BC is not functionally obsolete--but outdated only because of NBA economics. The current agreement between players and owners has not alleviated the problems of small revenue teams like the Bucks. Also, if the Bucks do get contracted or move, people will just spend their $ on Marquette, the Admirals, UWM, local malls, take your pick. PS: For a new BC to even get a shot, Kohl would have to pony up at least half of the cost. After all, he built W a new facility by himself!!

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warharks99 | Feb. 10, 2012 at 2:14 p.m. (report)

I think some of the low numbers also have to do with the smaller population. You pointed out how many games the Bears, Bulls, and Cards still have good attendance at even while the teams are down. But those teams have a much larger fan base, and that means that, for example, if every casual fan goes to 3 or 4 games a season it will have a much larger impact on their total attendance than if a fan here does the same. Also if they have such a large fan base they will sell more season tickets and that will also show in the attendance if they have a higher percentage of seats already sold before the season even begins. If there was a statistic for attendance compared to population ill bet Milwaukee would be around the average, and then off the charts for Brewers and Packers games. But I agree that as a whole the city is front-runners for certain teams and it will take a playoff run, or drastic change in either the team or a new stadium to change that around. Even though I am not a Bucks fan I would hate to lose the team because of something as small as people not wanting to spend some money on a new stadium. The amount it will cost to build is nothing compared to the loss of business if they leave.

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MrChips | Feb. 10, 2012 at 1:18 p.m. (report)

Yeah that is true but that is how the Milwaukee Bucks market their games. If you look in the newspaper or listen on the radio their ads are always highlighting a player from the other team.

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milROCKeeguy | Feb. 10, 2012 at 12:08 p.m. (report)

What bugs me about people going to the Bucks games is that everyone there is cheering for the other teams. It was obvious against the Bulls. I was there for the Heat game, and 98% of the crowd was cheering for the Heat. I had to go outside to make sure I wasn't in Miami. The people showing up for games need to go for the right reasons, our home team.

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