Sports’ very existence relies solely on appeal to emotion. So it’s hard to be too critical of the passionate Coyotes fan who tore into elected officials as the city council voted to cancel the Yotes’ arena deal. But it really was a terrible argument on her part.
Ronda Pearson, a 40-year-old nurse from Phoenix, blasted Glendale mayor Jerry Weiers and other government officials for voiding the contract, a legally questionable move that puts the Coyotes’ future up in the air. She decided to make it about financial support, which was precisely the wrong tack to take:
“I’m curious because I go to all Coyotes games because I’ve been a season-ticket holder for several years now — full season — not a half season, not a partial season — full season. I’ve seen you at games, so many games, a number of times sporting a jersey that looks just like this one with ‘Mayor’ on the back and ‘Number 1’ on the back.
“How much did you pay for your jersey? How much did you pay for your tickets for those games? Because I know I paid a hell of a lot more than you did. I support this team. You don’t. You don’t show up to games and pay for your tickets! None of you do.
“What you’re doing is childish and it’s pathetic and it’s disrespectful to the citizens who voted you in office. And for all of us who spent so much time and energy supporting this team when you never did.”
Pearson gave an interview to Sportsnet, in which she hit the same points: the city isn’t supporting the franchise. She couldn’t be more wrong. Glendale—or more specifically, Glendale taxpayers, which Pearson, as a resident of Phoenix, is not—are supporting the Coyotes to the tune of $15 million a year. The city has lost more than $14 million over the first two years of the deal.
It is frustratingly backward that Pearson is being cast as some sort of populist hero, when it’s really the politicians of Glendale who are attempting to fight back against the public-funding blackmail that sports leagues and teams have perpetrated almost unopposed across the nation over the last few decades. It says something depressing about America that we take it as a matter of course that tax dollars should go to providing real estate to the ultra-rich so they can become even richer.
It says even more about fandom. And that’s what Pearson is, after all: a fan. She doesn’t want her hockey team to leave town. That’s a sympathetic position, and I do actually feel for her. But fandom blinds. The only honest argument she could have made would go along these lines: I want the Coyotes in Arizona, and I do not care about the real and opportunity costs required to keep them here. Even if she were a Glendale resident and shouldered her share of the tax burden required to fund arena management and pay off the owners’ debt, she necessarily would have to ignore the majority of residents who couldn’t care less about having pro sports in town, but received no say in the matter when it came time to raise their taxes and divert their city’s budget away from things like infrastructure and public services.
It’s this sort of fandom which gives leagues and owners the leverage to pry billions out of our pockets. And if Glendale is shadily reneging on a contract it signed, well, franchises do that all the time when they think they can get a better deal. The stadium-financing game is unfair, and it’s stacked against us. The only way to win is to fight dirty. Ronda Pearson may speak for some Coyotes fans, but fans, by definition, do not speak for anyone but themselves.