Simmons, Stern, and Bettman

by Ryan

In the interview I mentioned yesterday we talked about Bill Simmons’ propensity to go podcast only over the past few weeks. Simmons has had some issues with how ESPN is handling his material, so I suspected that’s why he hasn’t been writing. He also has an NBA book coming out, which would take up some time as well.

Of course, Friday he wrote a great column about the NBA’s financial state. I’m not saying it was just to prove Tedd and I wrong, but you never know. It’s just as likely he cares what we have to say that he hacked our email accounts and wrote a 6,000 word missive just to spite us.

Simmons clearly loves basketball, which is why the piece is so interesting: he genuinely cares for the state of the game and is worried about the league’s finances. His Celtics have very little to worry about, yet things like the SuperSonics debacle and the threat of teams shuffling around does concern him. To be honest, that’s quite refreshing. This isn’t about a news peg or a good column topic, this is something he actually cares about; which in turn makes the product better.

However, of course he drops this beauty in there about the NHL:

Looking at the big picture, the league won’t struggle even 1/10th as much as the NHL in years to come — of all the wildest predictions I heard in Phoenix, the craziest came from a connected executive who predicted that fifteen NHL teams would go under within the next two years (and was dead serious) — and Major League Baseball is about to get creamed beyond belief.

Emphasis his.

Simmons used a lot of crazy stats in the piece, most of which were believable. This one is not. I truly doubt Bettman will let something like that happen, and he has stated countless times that the league is in good shape.

However, the prospect of David Stern blinking before Gary Bettman does is very interesting, especially when the issue is finances. Bettman has been consistently against moving teams out of troubled areas or smaller markets, while Stern has been more than willing to ship a franchise out of town if venues aren’t getting built. The two leagues have a distinctly different philosophy when it comes to handling franchises, and in a time like this we will see the strengths and weaknesses of both strategies.

Another topic of interest is the demand for assistance itself. We all know the Coyotes are getting help from Glendale, but who knows if overall demand for assistance is similar to the NBA’s level of aid. Many teams in the league operate at a loss for the year, and while attendance figures are a tough statistic to use effectively (way too easy to fudge), the majority of league revenue is gate-driven.

The problem we face is that there just isn’t much material out there. I can’t remember seeing anything written about the NHL’s financial state as comprehensive as the Simmons’ piece, and that makes it hard to judge the validity of what he says about the league. Whether the reason be availability of information or desire, the fact of the matter is that we just don’t know as much as we’d like about how sound the league’s finances are. When Bettman says the league is going to be fine, we almost have to take his word on that.

For some people, that just isn’t good enough.