Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Volume 6, Number 15: Introducing the XBA

OK, let me get this straight about the labor situation in the NBA... you've got greedy owners saying they're losing money, players making ridiculous amounts of money to play a game that's cheaper to play than baseball, football or hockey, and a commish who's been known to talk about expanding his league overseas when there are a dozen TV markets in North America that would be thrilled to have NBA teams.  No wonder more people like college basketball better (never mind for the moment that a lot of its players are "overpaid" in that they get full scholarships to play when their grades suck).

Here's my question: Why hasn't someone tried to create a new league to fill the void?  After all, basketball is a cheaper in terms of expenses (virtually no equipment such as pads, helmets, gloves or sticks; 12-man rosters, smaller than the other 3 "big league" sports; just a wood floor, which is cheaper to maintain than grass or ice; and a couple of hoops).

The fictitious teams listed below represent twelve markets that are larger than Memphis (the 48th largest TV market) but DON'T have NBA teams, and would constitute the equally fictitious XBA (a reference to Vince  McMahon's XFL, a football league that fizzled in 2001; I have sworn up and down that McMahon should have started up the XBA due to the aforementioned lower costs, plus you could have pyrotechnics going off after particularly dazzling dunks, long 3-point shots and game-winning shots).

Cincinnati Scorch - OK, this is one I came up with back in 5th grade for a football league I dreamed up. I like names with alliteration in them (Pittsburgh Penguins, Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Drive, Denver Dynamite, Boston Braves, Miami Marlins, etc.). Cincinnati used to have an NBA team called the Royals; they are now known as the Sacramento Kings.
Pittsburgh Pisces - Named after the fictitious team featured in The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, a 1979 film starring Julius Erving and Stockard Channing. It wouldn't be the first time a pro team named itself after a movie--remember the NHL's Mighty Ducks of Anaheim?
Kansas City Steers - Named for the local cattle ranching industry. Oddly enough, there used to be a professional basketball team in Kansas City in the early 1960s called the Steers.  Another thing, too, KC has a relatively new arena now (the Sprint Center) to lure NBA and NHL teams.
St. Louis Rhinos - St. Louis is home to one pro team named after a horned animal that starts with "R" (the NFL's Rams). Why not another? Besides, this city very nearly got the NBA's Grizzlies from Vancouver: In 1999, Bill Laurie offered to buy that team and move it to St. Louis, but David Stern blocked the sale, citing his desire for the team to succeed in Vancouver. One year later, Stern approved the sale to a Chicago businessman named Michael Heisley, who promised to make every effort to make things work in Vancouver, and in 2001, he moved the team to Memphis. Now, the only difference I saw between Laurie's offer and Heisley's is that Laurie told the truth about what he planned to do with the team, whereas Heisley made a promise he had no intention of keeping.  Way to double-standardize, David Stern.  Bad enough you've stolen players from teams that sorely needed them via your Draft Lottery, but you stole the NBA from St. Louis as well.

Birmingham Maulers - Named after the local steel industry (another steel town, Pittsburgh, once had a USFL team called the Maulers). This city has hosted franchises in the World Football League, Canadian Football League, United States Football League and the XFL.
Jacksonville Jackals - Jacksonville's support for the USFL Bulls (1984-85) was the reason why it beat out St. Louis, Baltimore and Memphis for an NFL expansion franchise in 1995. It's also one of the bigger cities among those listed here. The Jackals nickname comes from the short-lived UPN action/adventure show Deadly Games, whose main villain, Sebastian Jackal, was a video game "big bad" come to life following a freak accident.
Nashville Hee-Haws - Named after the syndicated comedy show. The LA Lakers can keep Jack Nicholson. The Hee-Haws would love to give Reese Witherspoon free mid-court tickets for life.
Tampa Bay Barracudas - I don't know if barracudas are common in Tampa Bay, but they are got to be more common there than in Birmingham (the Canadian Football League once had a team called the Birmingham Barracudas). This team would have to compete with the NHL's Lightning for attention, but it's not like Tampa was ever a hockey hotbed.

Las Vegas High Rollers - A high risk--"Due in part to perceived risks with legal sports betting, no major professional sports league has ever had a team in Las Vegas" according to this Wikipedia article. But it is one of the largest cities in the United States without a major league sports team and it has been a candidate to get a relocated NBA team in the past (for example, the then-owner of the Seattle SuperSonics, Howard Schultz, talked to ownership groups from Las Vegas, St. Louis and Kansas City before deciding to sell to Clay Bennett, who moved the franchise to Oklahoma City).
San Diego Avispas - "Avispa" is Spanish for wasp. Having a Spanish nickname would appeal to basketball fans just south of the border. Hey, it worked for the Padres in Major League Baseball, didn't it?  And no, the home jerseys would NOT say "Los Avispas," just "Avispas".
Seattle Cyberpunks - Hey, Microsoft isn't far from here, and remember, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen helped save the NFL's Seahawks from moving to Los Angeles back in the '90s. I considered naming this team after the local music scene (which brought us Jimi Hendrix in the late '60s and the grunge bands of the early '90s) but "Rock Stars" and "Grunge" just didn't resonate with me. This team could enjoy a Pacific Northwest regional rivalry with the team listed right below it...
Vancouver Beachcombers - Named for those who travel coastlines to track down and salvage logs that have broken away from barges and/or logging booms, as well as a long-running Canadian TV series about two men who did just that.

Well, there you have it... a 12-team league.  Now, I realize this league doesn't have teams in many major TV markets and therefore would have a hard time competing with a healthy, fully operational NBA, but hey, if things keep going the way they've been going, maybe a number of NBA teams would "secede" and join the XBA.  We can dream, can't we?

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