A Professional Sports Team Takes a Dive

In professional sports, the object of the game is to win.

When the season starts, your team is supposed to set out to win as many games as it can.

And when an individual game begins, your team’s goal is to have more points than the other team when the game is over.

Pretty simple, right?

It is – unless you’re the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team.

The 76ers haven’t been a very good team in recent years.  They haven’t been terrible, either, but they’ve never managed to gather the core of quality talent needed to become truly successful.

So they’ve decided they want to start over.

They began by trading their best player for a young man coming out of college who is so badly injured that he will not play this year – at all.

They then decided that a player who was not up to the demands of the position he had long played, and who had been moved to another, more suitable position last year, would return to the position at which he was deemed inadequate.

And they then proceeded to remove from the team almost everyone else with even marginal skill and experience at playing basketball and to replace those players with unproven, less-skilled players who make much less money.

Why?

The prevailing theory in basketball is that the only way teams can truly succeed is to have “superstars” and that the best way to get a superstar is to be so bad that you get your pick of the best players coming out of college.  Then, because professional basketball teams have a limit on how much they can spend on salaries every year, employing very inexpensive players leaves them with more of that limited pool of money with which to try to buy more star players away from other teams.

It definitely makes sense, in a perverse way, that to get really, really good you first need to be really, really bad.

But there’s one problem with that equation.

What about the fans?

So let’s get back to those Philadelphia 76ers.  While they pay lip service to the notion that they’re going to be spending this year learning which of their players can really play and which can’t, and working to develop the skills of those who can, what they’re really planning to do this year is to lose as many games as they possibly can so they can enhance their chances of drafting out of college basketball the very best player available.

But where does that leave the team’s fans?

An individual game ticket ranges in price from $10 to $1575 (not a typo).  Multiply that by forty-one home games and the price of a season ticket ranges from $410 to $64,575.  Presumably, season ticket-holders get some kind of discount, but offsetting that discount are parking fees and, let us say, an occasional beverage.

So the question arises:  why should a fan spend this kind of money, or any kind of money, to watch a team that has made it clear that it is not trying to win games and that is, in fact, hoping to lose as many games as possible to improve its chances of landing a better player around which to build a brighter future?

Why should a fan spend even a single dollar on such a team?

Why should a fan watch the team on television for even one minute?

Why should a fan read even a single newspaper article about the team’s games?

So as a new basketball season begins – a season in which the team is expected to be the worst team in the league – why should a fan invest anything, financial or emotional, in a team that isn’t even trying?

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