Lacob makes an oops

I guess this marks the end of the honeymoon.

We may be a few months away from Northern California being a one-horse NBA territory, that horse being the Golden State Warriors. That makes it the perfect time for the W’s owner to open his mouth and insert a foot, no? The internets are abuzz with a quote Joe Lacob made during a panel at the annual Sloan Sports Conference back east. Asked whether bloggers (such as those at Warriors World and Athletics Nation) are fans, Lacob replied:

“They are not real fans, because they don’t have season tickets.”


This led to the expected evisceration of Lacob by those aforementioned bloggers and commenters pretty much everywhere, including this excellent post by Bay Area Sports Guy. Is this Lacob’s real opinion of fans, or did he simply not think his response through? We’ll find out in a day or two.

It’s strange that Lacob could show such disdain for fans. Many people who participate online are incapable of being season ticket holders for any number of reasons:

  • Familial responsibilities
  • Distance
  • Work schedules
  • Economic means and status

Many fans, due to circumstance, can only take in a game here or there or buy a miniplan of some sort. The Warriors’ season ticket base may have eroded thanks to the mismanagement of Chris Cohan, but overall ticket sales are still strong, as evidenced by this season’s 18,651 average attendance. The W’s are one of two teams in the top 10 in the NBA to have an under-.500 record. The other team, Cleveland, presold tickets last season with the idea that they would retain LeBron James. That didn’t work out so well.

While NBA tickets are generally thought of as expensive, in the W’s case they’re actually quite reasonable. Team Marketing Report has the team’s average ticket price (PDF) at $34.13, the lowest of all four California teams. Tickets in the ends of the lower bowl can be had for $35 a game as part of a season ticket package, which is a fabulous deal when considering the proximity of those sections to the court in Oracle Arena’s basketball-friendly layout.

At the heart of Lacob’s quote and the subsequent outcry is the question of what a “real fan” is. We’ve talked plenty about how much corporate interests mean when it comes to allowing a team to thrive or even survive on an annual basis. When it comes to classifying fans, though, that’s really dangerous territory and it’s something we’ve tried to avoid here. Fanhood can’t be quantified. Consider the following examples:

  • The college student who grew up loving the W’s and can’t afford season tickets yet.
  • The professional firm who buys four club seat full season plans mainly to hand them out to clients.
  • The former season ticket holder who is now married, has three kids, and is too busy to see more than 3-4 games per season in person.
  • A couple who moved to the East Coast for work and follows the W’s on NBA League Pass (TV and online) and gets tickets whenever the W’s come to their city.
  • A night security guard who listens to KNBR constantly, reads WW and GSOM, and whose best chance to attend games is the rare day game.
  • A poor teenager who idolizes Monta Ellis or Stephen Curry and whose single mother works two jobs and doesn’t have the time to take the kid to a game.

Which of the above seems the least like a real fan?

Lacob’s gonna have a lot of explaining to do in the coming days. Perhaps he should take some pointers from Andy Dolich’s Virtual Season Ticket concept, which could use some fleshing out for the NBA model but has potential. It’s incredibly obtuse to rule out huge demographics who contribute to the W’s bottom line – indirectly yet significantly. Whatever he does, he probably won’t be so dismissive the next time around. Then again, there’s one sure fire way for W’s to get new season ticket buyers: win more games. Just a thought.

P.S. On the venue front, Lacob mentioned that the team’s lease runs through the 2016-17 season, which we’ve discussed here when the possibility of moving to San Francisco has come up. Makes me wonder if he’s already mentally checked out of Oakland.

P.P.S. Tim Kawakami has a clarification from Lacob, in which he was referring more to profanity-laced emailers than bloggers per se:

“The last thing I’d want to do is denigrate the online community,” Lacob said. ”I think I’ve demonstrated an openness to media, the fans, everybody, to answer every question, take it head on. And I’m willing to listen.”

Let’s hug it out, bitches.

10 thoughts on “Lacob makes an oops

  1. You forgot another reason for not having season tickets. Robert Rowell didn’t like your opinion about the former ownership and made you give up your season tickets despite the fact that you had paid over 10K per year for courtside tickets. Or maybe you are just a strong enough human being to not want to give money to an ownership group that doesn’t care about winning? I guess if you love the team so much that you are not willing to pay money to clowns that have no idea how to run a franchise you are not a “real fan”

  2. Jeez, looks like another crappy, clueless bay area sports ownership, ala Wolff/Fisher. This area can’t get a break!

  3. Example #3 is exactly what happened to me with my A’s tickets. Living 95 miles from the Coliseum hasn’t helped either.

  4. I’ve got the toe jam , whose got the peanut butter?

  5. Did anybody here stand in line to buy single-game tickets when they went on sale at the Coliseum on a chilly Saturday morning this January? The skies were grey, the line was slow and the scene was rather depressing – especially if you remembered that it used to be called FanFest and was a whole bunch of fun.

    These days the A’s provide no amenities, entertainment or distraction whatsoever, save for a fellow who wandered up and down the line plugging season ticket packages. There was one TV crew who wandered by and quickly departed; there was nothing to report, so it never made the news. Nobody from the A’s front office, no players, no merchandise to purchase, nothing. Wolfe has never made a statement similar to Lacob’s, but as an Oakland Athletics fan purchasing non-season tickets, standing patiently with my peers, my customer experience led me to feel the same way.

    I was jealous of all the coverage the Giants got with their FanFest when their single-game tickets went on sale. Is it imperative that the A’s build a new stadium before we can share that fun again?

  6. @Freddy – Absolutely not. There’s no good reason why FanFest has been downgraded to a small event a few days before opening day.

  7. RE: Lacob mentally checking out of Oakland

    It certainly seems that way, and it’s tough to understand. With the A’s and Raiders there are obvious reasons to consider; venue and attendance being the main two. The Warriors draw well, and look to be the only Bay Area team that actually succeeds in being a regional team, whether it’s because of the more generic/inclusive name or anything else. With the Kings moving, you’d think Oakland would be the perfect place to be long term: preserves the status quo, and you’re close enough to be a reasonable option for spurned Kings fans. Not to mention there’s a decent shot they’ll be the only game in town within 10 years.

  8. Freddy, I agree it’s pretty disgraceful how the A’s treat their season ticket holders compared to other teams. I’ve actually been able to compare directly how two season ticket bases are treated this year since my folks still have their long time season tickets in section 117 at the Coliseum (right behind the plate). I meanwhile moved to San Diego a couple of years ago and have taken to watching the Padres locally (as my NL team) and decided to get seasons at Petco Park for the first time. So I went over and picked up a modest 21 game pack way out in the outfield. The difference between how we’ve both been treated by the respective clubs has been night and day.

    To select their seats my folks just had to do it off a map by experience having been to the Coliseum (and this is after having been 20+ year season ticket patrons. The Padres on the other hand invited me out to PETCO to take a private tour of the ballpark including the field, field level, batting cages and press box while getting to sample several different viewing angles of real time available seat locations (essentially test driving the seats).

    To date my folks have been invited to no special events other than “fanfest” by the A’s, which as we know from above isn’t so much a fanfest, but a joke. In San Diego meanwhile I have been invited to 3 separate team events already. Fanfest, which is not unlike how A’s fanfest used to be (and is open to everyone not just season ticket holders). Padres state of the team address, which was a town hall style meeting with Padres management discussing the past year and the direction of the team with the likes of Jed Hoyer, etc… And just this past weekend I was invited to “Movie Day” at the park where they invited season ticket holders to come out to the park, play catch on the field, explore the dugouts, and lay back on the grass and watch “The Sandlot” on the Friarvision (free popcorn was handed out to all attendees, along with a free novelty ball, and heavily discounted merchandise. The kicker however was they let every attendee take home a piece of Petco Park’s field. They cut 5×5 sections out of the outfield and just handed them to people that wanted them).

  9. @Dan–interesting on your SD season tix experience , and so typical of your A’s tix lack of experience.

  10. My A’s tix lack of experience?

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