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Sports Teams Flunk Simple Fan Free-Agent Test: Scott Soshnick
By Scott Soshnick
Aug. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Most sports fans don't choose their allegiances.
From an early age we're taught to cheer for the hometown team, whether that club deserves such unwavering love and loyalty or not.
If you live in, let's say, Cleveland, the chances are better than good that you'll back the Indians, Browns and Cavaliers. After all, your father was a Browns fan. His father was a Browns fan. And so on. It's the same all over.
Your rooting fate, in essence, was predetermined. Your teams were chosen for you, a byproduct of a zip code. You didn't have the luxury of picking.
Consider this, though: What if you started anew? What if, like athletes, fans declared free agency and exercised a figurative opt-out clause in their love affair? For which team would you root and why? And, more importantly, to what lengths would professional sports teams go to gain your support?
All teams say they value fans. Not all teams back up that assertion. Determining which do and which don't is easy enough.
A simple letter is all it took.
Here's the how-to guide:
Send the same memo to every team in the four major U.S. sports leagues: The NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and NHL. In it, declare your free agency as a fan. Tell them you're theirs for the taking. Offer a lifetime of allegiance. Offer your heart. Your soul.
I did just that.
Passing on Soshnick
Of the 122 teams that make up the four major U.S. leagues, guess how many even took the time to answer?
A hundred? Nope. Seventy-five, perhaps. Try again.
How about nine.
That's a measly 7 percent. How sad.
Ninety-three percent of teams that claim to value the paying customer couldn't be bothered to pen a note, bang out an e-mail or pick up the phone and make a sales pitch.
Remember, every team claims to value fans. Given the chance to prove it, though, a depressing number of them failed miserably.
Let's recognize the teams that did respond: the Atlanta Hawks and Thrashers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, San Diego Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors and San Jose Sharks.
``Being a fan means having an emotional commitment to a team. You can't bribe or convince someone of that,'' Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wrote in an e-mail. ``They have to find it themselves.''
That's the purpose of the letter -- to ascertain which team is the best fit for what you care about. Maybe winning is paramount. Maybe it's players who don't misbehave. Once armed with the facts a decision can be made.
The Sharks, get this, actually have a director of fan development, Rob Jaynes, who sent a six-page e-mail detailing who the Sharks are, what they do and what it is they care about, on and off the ice.
``The lifeblood of any team is the fan,'' he wrote. ``Period. End of story.''
The Chargers and Bengals sent some promotional items, including rosters and stickers. Same for the Bears, who included a hat and T-shirt, too. The Jaguars sent a letter, highlighting their accomplishments on the field and in the community.
Making a case for the Hawks and Thrashers was co-owner Bruce Levenson, whose five-page e-mail included an invitation to enjoy his front-row seats. He also offered to introduce me and my family to the players. If you think that courtesy was extended because I'm a sports columnist think again. He does that a lot.
``I love watching the expression on a kid's (or adult's) face when I hand them a size 18 shoe in our locker room or have their favorite player sign their jersey,'' he wrote.
Speaking of jerseys, the Warriors sent me one. It had No. 1 and my last name on the back. That was the least of their pitch.
The Warriors also 1) called to say they wanted me and asked for a photo, 2) had 28 employees from various departments send e-mails, 3) had fellow New Yorker and General Manager Chris Mullin call to make the team's case, 4) sent me a ``We Believe'' slogan T-shirt with my face on it 5) put together a mock press release announcing a new fan acquisition, 6) included a highlight DVD with rookies wearing my jersey, 7) sent me a $1, lifetime contract, signed by Mullin, that begins on Sept. 1 (the dollar was taped to the contract). The deal includes financial incentives, too, such as $10 for appearing at all National Basketball Association Finals games in which the Warriors play.
One hundred and thirteen teams couldn't be bothered. Nine showed that caring for the customer is more than just a slogan. And one, the Warriors, went above and beyond.
We Believe, Warriors fans say.
Now you know why.
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Don't know if this is true because it seems so far fetched, especially the Warriors hierachy going ahead and doing so much. It definately is intriguing how these incredibly rich organisations value the people that make them rich, the average person. If the Warriors do go to such lengths, even just acknowledge an average person's interest in them, they deserve credit and support. I for one am prepared to give a small donation to the Warriors franchise if it is ever at risk of going bust