Where does the idea come from that the City of Portland, as an administrative unit, has some special responsibility to Triple A baseball and the Portland Beavers? Monday was blame-game day in John Canzano's sports column in The Oregonian, which is hardly news since his column enjoys pointing (not to mention wagging or giving) its finger more than just about anything. The object of his contempt was Mayor Sam Adams and the rest of City Council (except for Randy Leonard), who somehow let slip the opportunity to give a large public subsidy to the owner of Portland Beavers, Merritt Paulson, in the form of a brand new baseball stadium. Which is why I'm asking: Where does the idea of a special responsibility to the Beavers come from?
After the invective (Adams is apparently, sputter, sputter, an "empty suit') and the red herrings (Beau Breedlove in a cameo appearance, the aerial tram and our "silly bike lanes"), Canzano's strange argument is that somehow we need Triple A baseball to "raise the city's profile." Um, right. We will now plunge below Tacoma and Reno and Fresno, in the category of "profile." And our hot battle for profile supremacy with Nashville, Memphis, Omaha and New Orleans is now lost for good. Those are some of the other cities in the Pacific Coast League, which also included the Portland Beavers. We use the past tense because the team won't play here next year or anytime in the definite future, for those who haven't been paying a bit of attention to this sideshow.
Canzano argued that Adams and the "visionless" city council didn't "think big." Really? That's it? Triple A baseball is thinking big? In Portland the Beavers have been an afterthought since the mid-'80s. If they'd been central to summer sports life here, then Canzano himself and the assembled media, The Oregonian included, would have covered the team far more religiously than they did. If the metro area, which 2.2 million strong, had generated more than a bare few thousand fans a game, no one would have had to "think big," because the owner would have made sure they survived here somehow.
That also happened to be both the free market and democracy at work (sometimes it works out that way). The people voted with their attendance, with their attention, and it wasn't directed at the Beavers. Now, why would a city council and its mayor overturn the will of the people? Only if they were in the pocket of a special interest of some sort, I suspect, or pursuing some crazy field of dreams inside their own heads.
Canzano wanted city council to force you to spend your money on the Portland Beavers when you'd decided of your own volition not to do so. And his only reason for doing so is this misguided notion that Triple A baseball raises our profile somehow? Uh no. That's not convincing, its not reasonable and in the end, it's not democratic.
I write this as a baseball fan. If the Mariner's Triple A affiliate was in Portland instead of Tacoma, I would have gone to lots of games this season, because I follow the dismal fortunes of Seattle's allegedly major league team. But my interest does not mean that city council should pay for my pleasure.
The only part of Canzano's column that made any sense to me at all was the first sentence: "I would love to write about Satchel Paige today." That's the problem. The Beavers are in the deep past tense. They may kindle the nostalgic reveries of old baseball fans, but they aren't part of a dynamic present tense, and an expensive new baseball stadium wouldn't have helped.
Bottom line? It would have been a dereliction of duty by city council if they had allowed my nostalgia -- or Canzano's -- to dictate public policy or to base a decision on so scant a claim as Canzano makes about how our profile is connected to Triple A baseball.
Brian Libby explains the false choice that Randy Leonard and Canzano were trying to force -- a new Beaver stadium or Memorial Coliseum.
The Portland Mercury weighs in, scathingly.