A relocated franchise to get behind

Posted November 14, 2012 at 11:47 am

NOV. 14 “HOME STRETCH” SPORTS COLUMN — PETE TEMPLE, SPORTS EDITOR

The advantage of following college athletics over the pros is that there’s a pretty good chance your favorite college team won’t move to a different city if it doesn’t get the stadium or arena deal it wants.

Relocation is one of the least desirable aspects of pro sports. Because of that, I tend to turn against any team that abandons its former home.

It’s why I couldn’t get excited about the Washington Nationals (formerly the Montreal Expos) and their drive to a division baseball title last season.

It’s why, to this day, I list the NHL’s Dallas Stars my least favorite pro hockey team, even though it’s been nearly 20 years since they bolted from Minnesota.

It’s why I can’t throw my support behind the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, likeable though they may be, since they skipped town on Seattle.

The NBA, by the way, has become the most notorious professional sports league when it comes to franchise moves. You hear a lot about relocation in the NFL – there are threats of a move nearly every season – but the fact is the NFL hasn’t had a team move since the Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Titans in 1997.

The NBA, on the other hand, has had more franchises relocate to a different city in the past 12 years (four) than the NFL has had in the past 20 (three).

You had the Grizzlies move from Vancouver to Memphis in 2001, the Hornets move from Charlotte to New Orleans in 2002, and the Seattle Supersonics become the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008.

The fourth move came in time for this season. But unlike the others, this one doesn’t bother me. If anything, it intrigues me.

The former New Jersey Nets are now the Brooklyn Nets.

The New York City borough of Brooklyn had not had its own professional sports franchise since the Dodgers left there for Los Angeles in 1958.

The New York Giants moved to San Francisco the same year, but neither move really bothered me much. That’s partly because I was quite young at the time (less than a year old) and partly because New York still had a franchise, the Yankees (maybe you’ve heard of them). And a couple years later, the Mets joined the National League as an expansion team.

My thoughts about the West Coast moves changed a bit after I recently read Roger Kahn’s classic baseball book, “The Boys of Summer,” which was about the Brooklyn Dodgers. His accounts of growing up following the team reminded me of my youthful days parading around old Metropolitan Stadium watching the Twins (there’s a big mall there now).

The book gave me a sense of the sadness that must have surrounded the Brooklyn area when their beloved Dodgers left.

So when I learned that Brooklyn was going to get its own team – even though it was snatched away from New Jersey – I climbed on board.

I have written before about having more than one “favorite” team in a sport. I follow Minnesota, Iowa State AND Iowa in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball. In the NFL, the Vikings remain far and away my favorite, but I also care about the exploits of the Baltimore Ravens and Anamosa’s Marshal Yanda. In the NHL, I cheer for both the Minnesota Wild and the Ottawa Senators (with hopes that they might play actual games sometime soon).

I can tack one on in the NBA as well. The Minnesota Timberwolves still occupy the top spot, but I’m also jumping on the bandwagon of the Brooklyn Nets.

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