Here I am happily ensconced on the West Coast for a week of my wife's workcation, and I decided to take a look at WNBA news. Imagine my surprise that the Sacramento Monarchs have just folded.
Folded. No more to bounce the little oatmeal-and-orange ball across the court. No more purple and black, no more most-interesting-logo-in-the-WNBA.
It isn't the hard times that surprise me. Every company in the United States (except the banks) is facing hard times. What surprises me is the timing of this announcement which, barring a miracle, will leave the WNBA with just 12 teams going into the 2010 season. The announcement gives President Donna Orender virtually no time to sell or relocate the Monarchs franchise before the 2010 schedules are finalized.
It was a torpedo right into the heart of the WNBA's stern. All of the good press from Kathy Betty purchasing the Atlanta Dream, the rescue of the Detroit Shock through the relocation to Tulsa - all undone by the Monarchs collapse. Because if there is any rule that determines the stability of a league, it is this one:
Thou shalt never fold franchises. Thou shalt sell them. Thou shalt relocate them if necessary. But thou shalt never fold them.
The reason for this rule is that it throws into doubt the financial management of the WNBA. Either the WNBA never saw it was coming, which means that they don't know anything about their owners, or the WNBA did know it was coming and Orender is a big fat liar. It implies to an outsider that the WNBA can't vet it owners correctly and that the W can't take corrective measures.
The Maloofs, in leaving the WNBA, plunge the dagger into the WNBA's back as they walk out the door. Good riddance.
How bad is a franchise folding on my list? Pretty bad. It's a step just below players complaining of not being paid. It implies that the franchises themselves have minimum value if no one steps up to buy them. In terms of the WNBA's health, the league has developed a nasty cough.
The sliver of goodness that comes out of the news is that the league has lost one more NBA owner, and thank goodness. The minute any NBA franchise bumps into trouble, the WNBA franchise is thrown off the sled to the wolves behind.
But that sliver of good fortune is overwhelmed by sadness. As Rebecca said, "It's not supposed to end this way." When a franchise dies, it should be surrounded by friends and family attending to its every need as life blissfully fades away. It should not be taken behind the barn and shot with a sudden bullet to the back of the head.
Poor Sacramento fans. Why must you suffer the WNBA's sins?