Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the views of my own and not necessarily the views of my teammates on Peachtree Hoops or SBNation.
For years and years I've been asked why attendance was lower than average at Hawks games. They include the franchise itself, the AJC, co-workers, friends, other writers from other cities. It is, without question, the top question folks want to know about the city of Atlanta. Why isn't the place packed out? What drives attendance?
The answers have always been the following; That the city is an event-driven, star-powered town and the money will be spent when your franchise is the place to be or has the biggest star. Winning is critical, but not the only thing, as Hawks fans have witnessed with two different playoff runs with solid, all-star caliber players but without a superstar.
Nowhere in there is the fear and ignorance that was the bloodline of the email from Levenson in trying to define the attendance issues at Philips Arena. If you read his email and were nodding your head, I have words for you.
Want to know why folks show up late for games? Because they work all over the city, don't necessarily knock off in time to make it home, change clothes and pick up the kids and head back down in the arena. It's why 7:30 p.m. games were always better attended at tip-off than 7pm games. Downtown isn't the only place people work in Atlanta and I think people have heard about the traffic.
Think the music is wrong? Then you better tell the NBA, because Sir Foster, the awesomely awesome in house organist for the Atlanta Hawks, was chosen by the NBA to do the same gig at the premiere event for the league, the NBA All-Star game when it was held this past year in New Orleans. Guess they were intentionally missing their demographic there, huh? Not likely.
Tickets are expensive for NBA games and the Hawks have competition for corporate dollars from the Braves, who play all year it seems and the Falcons, in a city and region where football rules.
Completely anecdotal and isolated to people who have contacted me, but when people have told me why they stopped going to Hawks games it was because the team was awful, then boring, the team couldn't attract any stars, the prices were too high, they felt ownership was lost and out of touch and a large part of the fan base is still heartbroken and unforgiving about trading Dominique Wilkins, the last true Hawks superstar.
Ownership being out of touch has been a huge issue. The divorce the city had when Wilkins was traded has never been ironed out through the Time Warner and Atlanta Spirit Group ownership groups. Though there were some people with some major civic interest like the Gearons and Stan Kasten who were involved, the city never had an Arthur Blank figure to rally around or believe in.
When Danny Ferry signed onto be GM, they moved Ferry into the face of the franchise from a basketball standpoint and it has helped. Bringing Steve Koonin on as CEO was another excellent stroke and the ensuing Pac is Back initiative, something the city has longed to see return, was a goosebump "oh my they have have actually figured it out" moment for those of us who have been fans, or more than that even, over a large amount of years.
And now there is this. Levenson may have written that in 2012 as Ferry was coming onboard but the fact that we're newly exposed to this in 2014 threatens to disconnect the city from the franchise once more. There is a group of people deeply harmed by his blanket assessment of the city and community. That group of people are called Atlanta Hawks fans and it doesn't matter a damn what our backgrounds are or our financial state or what music we listen to or anything else like that.
Reading a BS line of reasoning that drips with ignorance and deep-seeded cultural discriminations all over the place hurts people. I'm deeply saddened that this kind of logic was passed around even a small part of the Atlanta Hawks organization. It's an affront to everybody who has walked into the arena, bought season tickets, watched the team on TV, ushered someone to their seats with a smile, played in house music to entertain everyone, or does a world class job as the PA Announcer.
It's my hope Steve Koonin and the franchise can set itself apart from this. I love this franchise, I love the team and I have deeply appreciated everyone I've come in contact with during my lifetime as a Hawks fan and media member. It's a real good community who are longing for something good to happen to the team. We are longing for something to cheer together for, to hug each other for and to high-five each other silly with all of the goodness.
Instead, we've been punched in the stomach enough to have a permanent intestinal crater. Here's hoping that the team acts purposefully to get us re-connected. Here's hoping that we can get that vibe, that feeling, that excitement that we were feeling before Game 6 when The Pac was Back. We're close, so close.
Hope is not a strategy, I know, but it's all I have. It's all I've ever had as a Hawks fan. And I am not alone. I am not alone. I know this. Hopefully Levenson knows this now, too, and anyone else who might be feeling this way.
We are not alone. We are Hawks fans. We are all and one. Proud.