HAVE FRANCHISE, WILL TRAVEL
The Sacramento Kings’ potential move is deeply-rooted in sports history
With a heavy, metallic clamor like that of a locking prison door, the gate of the moving truck slams shut.
The smell of diesel fumes licks the air as the U-Haul fires up its engine and rattles down the road. Before long it disappears onto one of America’s many clogged arterial highways.
And you’re left standing alone grasping your “we’re No. 1” foam finger, and feeling like No. 2. If only you could change the digit on the novelty hand to better represent your mood.
Your team is gone. They left you behind in their quest to see if the AstroTurf really is greener on the other side.
There are plenty of ugly words in the world of sports, but none that solicit vitriol quite like the term “relocation.”
This is how fans must be feeling these days in Sacramento, where the only word worse than “relocation” is “Maloof” — the surname of the owners who are flirting with plans to sell the “Big Tomato’s” only professional sports franchise to Seattle- or Anaheim-based investors.
Of course, relocation isn’t always a curse word to everyone. For Seattle, landing the NBA’s Kings means redemption for the pain caused by the Sonics, who packed their bags for Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season.
When it comes to relocation, the Kings are no more regal than they are nomadic and have left a path of empty hearts and arenas in their wake since their birth in 1945 in Rochester, N.Y.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that the Kings are one of the heartbreak’s biggest customers. But they’re certainly not the only offenders:
A brief (and a bit tedious) history of franchise relocation among Big Four sports (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL) franchises:
There are 122 teams in 51 cities in the United States and Canada.
Eleven* cities have Big Four teams: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Washington D.C.
*12 if you count the San Jose Sharks as being San Francisco’s hockey team, despite playing 50 miles away
Kansas City has lost more franchises than any other city, having seen the Athletics; Kings (Sacramento); Scouts (New Jersey Devils); and Blues (Minnesota Twins) walk away from the Paris of the Plains.
Baltimore, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul and St. Louis have all lost three teams.
Three Big Four cities have never had a team split town: Detroit, Miami and Phoenix.
Other cities with multiple teams that have never lost a franchise include: Indianapolis, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Toronto.
There have been 30 cities that have lost a team to relocation. That number rises to 32 if you include the San Francisco’s Warriors’ jump across the Bay to Oakland and the Nets move across the Hudson River from New Jersey to Brooklyn.
Of the 122 Big Four teams, 79 (or roughly 65 percent) of them are still playing in their original city.