So how’s that new-arena honeymoon working out, Sacramento?
On the one hand, Golden 1 Center has performed very well, winning raves from architecture nerds and people who stand in food lines alike. Time will tell if it becomes a full-fledged downtown hub, of course, but 17,608 times 11 is still 193,688 used tickets and zero unused.
In that way, the building wins.
On the other, there is today’s news that starting center DeMarcus Cousins, who plays DeMarcus Cousins more than he plays any other position, has just been fined a substantial amount for a much-publicized snarlfest at Sacramento Bee columnist Andy Furillo, and threatened with sterner action if/when this warning doesn’t take.
And before that, there is Matt Barnes, who was involved in a brawl in a New York City club in which he is accused of striking a woman (he has been sued by the woman he allegedly choked and elbowed and the man whom he punched, and he claims he did not precipitate the fight).
And before that, there is the general dissatisfaction that comes with being a 10-17 team en route to an 11th consecutive losing season.
In short, these Kings are in the middle of an experiment to see how much bad news it takes to negate the honeymoon of a new building . . . or whether in fact there is anything that can do it.
Now before this goes further, let us explain that Kings fans are innocent victims in this, at least to the extent that their experience with their team has been a gigantic weirdball sandwich – 13 losing seasons, the Adelman Era, 11 losing seasons, and the last few putting the “diss” and the “funk” in “dysfunction,” leaving the one thing fans can do when they get fed up with being fed up.
But you can’t do that with a new building that not all the citizens have seen yet. You can’t do that until all the kinks have been worked out yet and the building’s been given time to properly age and develop.
In other words, the rest of this year is free, but at this rate, that’s about all that will be.
That’s the thing about new places – they don’t stay new forever, and they start to take on the image of their prime tenants. The 49ers, for example, dovetailed the opening of their new stadium with their current cratering, with the result that fans hate the team, the stadium and the guy who wanted to get credit for providing it. It is largely featureless (“better than Candlestick” is not a standard), traffic is a bear, lines are long, half the stadium is illuminated by a sun that acts as an interrogation light, the grass took three years to settle in, and the team is 9-14 inside it.
On the other hand, the Giants lucked into their new ballpark by starting to win before they moved in, winning more when they got there, and by the time the first honeymoon ended, they’d gotten five years in, and the down times that ensued only lasted three before a new wave of fans came to enjoy the second act of the franchise’s renaissance. It’s a good yard, to be sure, but winning 57 percent of your games beats winning 39 percent of your games.
Sacramento has had only 11 chances to re-win the city’s love, so the 5-6 record isn’t terribly relevant. What is relevant is the team’s continued ability to seek out and advance the absurdity of Kings Life – where unpleasantness meets silliness and turns magically into 27 wins and 11th place and yearly demands to tear up the organization and start from scratch.
And taking that as the franchise baseline, how much that behavior undercuts the duration of the arena as lure.
It may be too late to ask for the Kings to become a “normal” franchise this year – while the face of the franchise is Boogie Cousins, it’s probably an absurd suggestion.
But the city and team threw a lot of money into Golden 1 to have its honeymoon barely make it to April. Sacramento fans are loyal enough, but they stopped being a team that regularly sells out in 2007, the year after Rick Adelman was fired for putting together eight winning seasons – the only winning seasons Sacramento has ever had.
In other words, Golden 1 is a nice place – a very nice place, by all reports – but it is up against the corrosive power of the franchise that it houses. Barring new and far more pleasing evidence from the team, I’d bet that the arena can’t hang.