How to Sidestep Ballot-Box Stuffing
And more on Tulsa’s decline.
by Clay Kallam
It’s really not that difficult.
All the whining about stuffing the All-Star ballot box, in whatever sport, can be solved in a simple, straightforward manner that’s right in the pocket of the grand tradition of American democracy.
No, no, I’m not talking about bribery, corruption and vote-buying – I’m talking about applying the concept behind the electoral college to All-Star voting.
Why do we need the change? Well, I like Jayne Appel, and I’ve known her for a while since she grew up a few miles away, but no one averaging 2.6 points a game, and who has missed one-third of the schedule with injuries, should be on an All-Star team. But the San Antonio fans voted early and often (another great democratic tradition, especially in Chicago) and Appel will play against the US National Team Saturday at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
But what if we gave each WNBA city one vote? And the same for the media, the coaches, the players and on-line voters?
It would work like this: San Antonio, say, would count all the ballots turned in at the arena. The players who got the most votes would be on the overall San Antonio ballot, which would be turned in to the league.
Each city would do the same, for a total of 12 separate ballots. A player who was named on five of the ballots would have five votes – and even if each city voted for its own starting five, there would still be an easy way to break the tie.
That would be the on-line voters, the players, the coaches and the media, all of whom would have one overall vote each. This way, everyone in the league is involved in the process and everyone has a vote. Yes, it would be unfair in the sense that 100,000 votes in San Antonio would count as much as 10,000 votes in Tulsa, or as much as 100 player ballots, but it would still be a lot more fair than the way it is now.
Overall, there would be 16 voters (one for each city, plus players, coaches, media and on-line), and of course it’s possible there would be one or more ties given the small sample size. At that point, Donna Orender has to earn her money by breaking any ties with a vote of her own.
The virtue here is simplicity. Nothing needs to be changed, every vote counts and yet the chances of gross injustice being perpetrated are significantly reduced.
No problem – you can thank me later.
* * * * *
I have been a consistent critic of the league’s decision to put a team in Atlanta, but it just may work out. If Kathy Betty is indeed as committed as she appears to be, and the team continues to play well, a long-term investment could pay off.
But that said, it’s not going to happen quickly, as there are no good arenas in Atlanta (Phillips is too big, etc.). A slow but steady growth could get average attendance around 6,500 or so, which would most likely work financially if the arena deal is re-worked. Even so, that’s several years down the road, and the Dream must be consistent contenders during that span … but it appears WNBA success in Atlanta has entered the realm of the possible.
Tulsa, on the other hand, is a steady deepening whirlpool of failure. Nolan Richardson has proved inadequate for the task at hand, and has traded and/or cut serviceable WNBA players while Marion Jones still takes up a roster spot.
Richardson and Jones just go to show the futility of name recognition when it comes to selling tickets. The strongest correlation with attendance is a winning team – that doesn’t always work, but hiring celebrity coaches, or local players, never works.
Yes, that’s “never” as in “no chance at all.” The examples range from Dave Cowens in Chicago to Stephanie White in Indiana, and whatever slim chance Tulsa might have had to succeed in the WNBA was erased when the owners opted to go with Richardson and Jones instead of putting together the best basketball team they could assemble.
Which means maybe the new Bay Area franchise (we hope there is one, at least) will avoid the temptation to stock the roster with the Paris twins, Alexis Gray-Lawson and Devenai Hampton, and just go with the most talented players available. Of course, if that quartet is part of the best 11 options, even better; but if they’re not, the lessons learned over the course of the history of the league show that local ties, and big-name coaches, mean absolutely nothing when it comes to building a successful franchise.