Monday, June 25, 2012

So You Wanna Buy the San Diego Padres. . .

From the look of things, it appears that the San Diego Padres will finally have an owner who actually wants to own the team.  For those of you who don't follow sports, here's a quick rundown:

The Padres are currently owned by John Moores, who purchased the San Diego Padres back in 1994 from the then awful ownership of Tom Werner.  Moores loved owning the team, and the team went to the playoffs on several occasions and had their best team ever in 1998 (and would have won the World Series, IMHO, had they not run into the 1998 Yankees, who were one of the best teams ever).  Moores' efforts lead to the building of Petco Park, the current home of the Padres (which was held up by four years by litigation).  In 2008, John Moores and his wife divorced, and with the team being community property and all, Moores was hurt financially.  So he tried to sell the team to Jeff Moorad, a former player agent who made enough enemies during his tenure as an agent that Major League Baseball refused to allow him to buy the Padres.  So, Moores had to go back to the drawing board to sell the team. On the plus side, the $2 Billion Dollar Purchase of the Dodgers increased the Padres' value somewhat.

So, with the team up for sale, and the team with its expected purchase price to be upwards of $800 million ($600 million for the team, and $200 million for the team's stake in a regional sports network), I figured I'd give a few pieces of advice to the new ownership.  Mind you, I am not a baseball person, but I am something of a rare breed - a San Diego native.  If you want to gain the affection of San Diego, pay attention to what I have to say.

1) Get Fox Sports San Diego on Every TV in San Diego, Riverside, Imperial County and Mexico:  Okay, this is kind of a no-brainer.  If no one can see the Padres on a regular basis, no one will think about the Padres on a regular basis.  So, the fact that only half the City of San Diego can see Padres games is just dumb.  But more importantly, there are over 5 million people south of the border who don't get Padres games, and another 1-2 million people in Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial Counties who don't see Padres games. That's just stupid.  Get the games on TV and compete for the parts of Southern California referred to as "Rivertucky" (*Note: DO NOT CALL THESE AREAS RIVERTUCKY).  

2) Beer, Beer, Beer: While San Diego is an ever-changing landscape and population, there are certain things that once introduced, stick permanently in the San Diego.  For instance, when I saw Nirvana back in 1994, Kurt Cobain mocked our mosh pit because instead of moshing (general violence) we were slamdancing in a circle - a relic of the early punk era.  The thing is, San Diegans never moshed, and always slamdanced.  Anyway, this is a long way of saying, that once we get into something, we San Diegans don't let it go.  Beer, especially craft beer, is a great example.  In the past 15 years San Diego has built and supported over forty breweries.  And that number will, most likely, continue to grow. 

So make sure that the beer at Petco reflects the beer outside of Petco.  Get the local breweries to produce beer for Petco.  Better yet (and I've given this advice before), get the breweries to produce a beer just for Petco - as in, the beer is only sold at Padres games.  Trust me, they'll do it and the results will be awesome.  Then, we the drinkers of local craft beer have even more reason to go to the games.  Heck, I paid $15 once to get a half-pint of Pliny the Younger (just google it), at an event this year.  If there's some rare and delicious beer that I can only get at the ballpark, I'm going to pay for the ticket.

3) Go South Young Man: As you probably are already aware, there are almost 5 million people living in Northern Baja. 5 million people who are different from other Mexicans due to their close proximity to the Border.  If you want to increase your market share, that's where you go.  Yes, right now, baseball is a minor sport in Mexico - probably about as popular as lacrosse here - but you don't have to change the minds of Mexicans everywhere, just Mexicans in Baja.  And that's totally doable because in places with large Mexican-American populations, such as LA and Chicago, there are large numbers of Mexican-American baseball fans.  Hire a guy like Enrique Morones (who used to work for the Padres and was successful in the Mexico outreach back in then 1990's).  Even if you don't get more Mexican fans into Petco, the key is the TV market.  Since you will own part of the local Fox Sports network, you can grow your audience.  This is a good thing.

4) Hire Local Talent: Right now there are 5-10 active and operating Padres blogs, run by Padres fans. In comparison, there are 2-3 Chargers blogs in San Diego.  These blog writers - and especially former blog writers like Geoff of Ducksnorts - do some very good analysis of Padres players.  Go out and hire one of these guys.  Also, get a local legend - Tony Gywnn, Randy Jones, etc. - to sell the team to the diehards.  

5) Don't Get Discouraged: Even if you reach down to Mexico, have the local breweries produce beer just for you, hire local talent, and plaster your games all over, you may not get the kind of return you hope for.  Be patient.  The thing you have to remember is that Padres fans have had a long, painful history with the team.  You will be the fifth owner of the team, and since Joan Kroc sold the team, each new ownership has come in with high expectations, and then conducted firesales.  So, we're a bit gunshy at first.  But if you keep trying, and the team wins, we'll be there for you.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Future of Proposition 8 and Same-Sex Marriage in California

So the news today is that the 9th Circuit won't rehear the Proposition 8 case en banc.  For you non-lawyers out there, here's a bit of background: there are three levels of appeals when you lose in federal court.  The first level of appeal is the mandatory appeal wherein a three judge panel has to hear what you have to say.  That's the level of the most recent Prop. 8 decision. If you don't like what the three-judge panel has to say, you can ask for an 11-judge panel to rehear the case en banc.  This tends to happen when the judges don't like how the decision was written, or the outcome of the case.  Either way, the appellate court doesn't have to rehear the case.  The last level of appeal is to the Supreme Court, which is also discretionary.  Typically, the Supreme Court takes maybe 0.1% of the cases where people ask for review.  Most people think that the question of Prop. 8 now goes to the Supreme Court.

But I do not.  Given that the decision overturning Prop. 8, and allowing same-sex marriage in California is so narrow, and so well-supported by the facts, I can well see the Supremes deciding to leave well enough alone.  And here's why - every decision by the Supreme Court affects not just its decision-making in the future, but also whether it gets inundated by other cases in the future.  In the 1950's and 1960's, Justice Potter Stewart said that he knew which pornography was obscene when he saw it.  So, the Supreme Court had to go through reams of pornography to decide what was obscene, and what was not.  By watching it.  With people they work with.  And Justice Thurgood Marshall would crack jokes (mostly mocking the conservatives for making everyone do this).

Similarly, if the Supreme Court were to overturn the 9th Circuit and Judge Walker's decision, it would invite a similar disaster because Judge Walker and the 9th Circuit were ridiculously thorough, and Judge Walker made evidentiary rulings based on live testimony, and based his decision on the lowest possible civil rights standard.  Now, the Supreme Court could rule that the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause (which is the basis of the Judge Walker's decision) is meaningless, but doing so would overturn hundreds of previously decided cases.  Or, the Court could determine that the 14th Amendment doesn't apply to gay people, also overturning cases - including cases written by Justice Kennedy (the lone swing vote).  Or, the Supremes could decide that they need to hear witness testimony.  Either way, overturning the 9th Circuit would create more work for the Supremes.

Now, the Supremes actually vote on whether or not they're going to hear a case.  For the conservative Justices (Alito, Scalia, Thomas, Roberts), taking the case means that Justice Kennedy will end up writing the opinion, and he might write a more expansive opinion than the 9th Circuit.  That's bad.  If you are a moderate/liberal (Breyer, Ginsberg, Kagan, and Sotomayor), you know that Justice Kennedy might overturn the 9th Circuit, and knocking civil rights back 100 years.  So, both the conservatives and the liberals see some serious downsides in taking the case.

Plus, as I said before, the Prop. 8 ruling is incredibly narrow - limited to California, and to the circumstances of the trial.  Not taking the case means that same-sex couples get married in California but doesn't affect same-sex marriage bans anywhere else (at least until DOMA is overturned). So, my bet is that the Supremes don't touch this case.