My accidental post to this blog made me remember that I should probably re-iterate the fact that this blog is no longer updated (except by boneheaded error).
My accidental post to this blog made me remember that I should probably re-iterate the fact that this blog is no longer updated (except by boneheaded error).
Edit: I posted this to the wrong blog – there are some confused Rainmen fans out there (in part confused about why this thing got updated).
The link to the politics blog (and the appropriate place to comment or to link to) is here:
Head over there to read the post and/or express your displeasure.
I’ve moved my writing over to a more wide ranging blog. Lots of stuff about culture and (mostly) politics. I wrote something about the Rainmen today, though.
I am away from my computer so I can’t update this in full, but I have received some thinly veiled twitter wrath for pointing out that the Rainmen (a team I like, follow and buy tickets to watch) have received government funding from the municipality which I think makes little sense since they’re a for profit entity and because I am not convinced that they met the criteria for the level of funding they got.
Here’s the text of a column from the Herald that clarifies what I was talking about:
Special-event funding pours on Rainmen
By CHRIS COCHRANE Sports Columnist
Wed. Jun 2 – 4:53 AM
Why does Halifax city council so willingly spend taxpayers’ dollars to help the Halifax Rainmen whenever the team hosts a special event?
In early May, council authorized a $50,000 special events grant to help the Rainmen in hosting costs for the 2010 Premier Basketball League all-star weekend. The special events fund builds through a specific hotel tax.
There’s no denying Rainmen owner Andre Levingston is a big Halifax booster. He speaks glowingly about his adopted city. Also, the Rainmen do considerable work in the community and are generous with free tickets for kids to attend PBL games.
But, if council members checked, they might find that most of the high-profile amateur sports teams here do much the same work in the community as the professional Rainmen.
At the same meeting, council approved a $15,000 grant to help Dartmouth Moosehead Dry host the 2010 Canadian senior baseball championship, which will be played in Dartmouth and Halifax in August. Now this is amateur sport at its highest level. The players on the host Dartmouth team are local, they aren’t paid, they do much of their own fundraising and the team isn’t a business. They’ve represented their community well over the past two decades, medalling several times at the nationals across Canada.
Why did the Rainmen get $50,000 for an all-star weekend that drew two modest crowds when the 2010 baseball nationals group gets only $15,000 toward hosting an event that has a $180,000 budget, lasts for four or five days, will draw more fans overall and be a much greater windfall for local hotels?
Baseball tournament officials already know they’ll need hotel rooms for a minimum of 200 players and coaches. They expect many more hotel rooms to be filled with loyal fans who take summer vacations and follow their favourite teams.
The best reason I can find about why the team received $50,000 is that the event better met the city’s qualifying criteria for special event funding. Officials with the baseball nationals committee concede that they really haven’t done their homework on trying to meet the specifics necessary to get more funding help.
Maybe I could accept the much greater generosity shown the Rainmen if the team hadn’t already been feeding at the public trough in a much larger way in 2008. That December, council gave the team a $125,000 grant to host its four-day Holiday Classic tournament at Saint Mary’s University.
According to a Chronicle Herald story, “city staff recommended that the grant, originally pegged at $100,000, come from special events funding. But the special events advisory committee reviewed the application before it went to council and upped it to $125,000.”
Wow! Now that’s generous.
But did that event add so much to the local economy — apparently a major reason why the city helps with funding — that it was worth such a large investment? I can’t see how. The games involving the Rainmen and teams from Chicago and Georgia drew modest crowds, and I would guess those who did attend were mostly from Halifax. I doubt that the event significantly pumped up the holiday hotel market.
Decisions like these give weight to complaints that council doesn’t really appreciate what’s happening in local sports. And they add validity to the call for a focal point in the vast city bureaucracy where local sport matters are dealt with by people who have an understanding of local sports concerns.
Under the present system, maybe city council would be better off to simply buy a chunk of the Rainmen franchise. It might be cheaper for us taxpayers if we owned the team.
The Times & Transcript, Moncton’s daily newspaper (circulation of around 40k) recently published this article on the awesomely named Jazzmar Ferguson. It’s a pretty standard fluff piece giving some background on a new signing, but boy-howdy did the reporter fail to do even the most basic research and chose to just try to hype up Jazzmar. The poor research surfaces in this paragraph:
Ferguson helped Indiana University Southeast capture the conference title and advance to the March Madness national championship tournament in each of his four seasons there. This tournament, which expanded from 64 to 68 teams in 2011, is one of America’s highest profile sporting events.
During his time there, his school lost in the first round of the tournament twice, advanced to the final 16 teams once and made it to the final eight survivors once.
Ferguson, 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, led the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in three-point shots made per game last season. Now, he’s is ready for a new adventure.
So what’s wrong here? The obvious problem is that March Madness is the name of the 68 team NCAA Division 1 championship tournament, and as the author accidentally points out IU-Southeast plays in the NAIA, not any division of the NCAA. It might seem like splitting hairs but while division 1 of the NCAA is inarguably the premier amateur basketball circuit in the league in terms of both talent and exposure and March Madness is one of the most watched sporting tournaments in North America the NAIA is not nearly as competitive nor as popular.
The NAIA’s first division is a strange mix players but is generally about on par with the NCAA second division. No one watches their championship tournament unless they know someone playing in it or go to a small mid-western college participating in it. It is definitely not “one of America’s highest profile sporting events.” The NAIA tournament is also only a 32 team tournament, not a 68 team one. So pointing out that Ferguson helped IU-Southeast advance to the final 16 is a lot less impressive when you realize that they won just one tournament game to get there. I get that it’s “just basketball” but it’s also sloppy reporting, particularly in an age where these things are just a google search away. Fans expect and deserve accurate reporting and I almost don’t blame the author: he likely had too many other stories to write and is not a basketball writer. I blame a chain of newspapers owned by the the family of New Brunswick Robber Barons who have broke unions, shipped personal wealth over seas, intimidated reporters at other papers and basically bought up the entire province. If simple mistakes like this are being made in the sports section how much can you trust the paper to critically report on the hard news in Moncton, particularly those involving their basses?
Jazzmar Ferguson might be a great player (there have been some good NAIA players in the minors) but the profile of him in today’s Times & Transcript doesn’t accurately describe his achievements, and that’s dishonest, lazy and unfair to Ferguson, The Miracles and their fans.
Yesterday marked the signing of Halifax’s first four players so it’s probably a good time to reflect on the current and potential roster.
Just to get it out of the way: I have absolutely no idea where the Dennis Rodman rumour came from, but I got a few hundred hits yesterday from people who seemed to have believed it. Rodman’s playing days, even in the minors, are long over. Last season he managed to convince the owner of the now defunct Elmira Bull Dogs of the EBL to fork over $80k for the privilege of having him coach two games mid-season. The publicity stunt bankrupted the upper NY state team. (The owner, James Schutz, once owned the Corning Bulldogs in the ABA, a team which no showed on Halifax after folding mid-ABA season just like so many other teams. Schutz now owns and runs the ACPBL, a fourth rate American regional minor league) The Rodman rumour seemed to have come from some clueless internet folk making shit up and everyone believing them.
So now that we’ve established who Halifax didn’t sign, it might be worth mentioning who they did sign.
Andre had hyped these signings up and I had no illusions that we were going to see an NBA starter show up in Halifax, but I imagined a player along the lines of Morris Peterson (a former business partner of Andre’s) might be a viable option, so when the announcement was Eddie Robinson and Rodney Buford I was a bit underwhelmed. It’s a good example of over selling and under delivering. Had Andre just held the press conference without any hype then the media likely would have been excited about two NBA journeymen joining the team and fans would have followed suit. It also would have helped reduce the chances of fan disappointment when at least one of these guys (probably Robinson) turns out to be a huge bust.
I actually think that Buford could potentially contribute here. Yes he’s had at least six separate substance abuse related disciplinary issues, but they’ve all only involved marijuana for the most part so I think he’s more of a “problematic character guy” than “a head case” or “dangerous criminal.” He’s also played at a very high level since leaving the NBA and has the size and tools to be an elite scorer at this level. I think he will produce, but I am unsure if he’ll produce enough to justify the huge salary he will no doubt be drawing. Given the fact that he will likely take up much more cap space, I am not sure he’s a totally justifiable upgrade over a guy like Mike Mercer. I am also curious to see if they decide to try to play him at the off-guard spot or move him over to small forward.
Eddie Robinson will likely not stick around. The guy hasn’t even been playing pro-ball on a regular basis since bouncing from the bulls and is now a 35 year old. Time is never kind to wing players who rely entirely on athleticism and that’s exactly what Robinson was. His stats for the 2006-07 D-league season with Idaho aren’t terrible: 15.6 ppg, 3.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals a game. But keep two things in mind: first, that was when the D-league was still a disorganized mess of a league with a low level of talent. Second, that was five years ago and it was the last time Robinson played any level of pro-ball. Maybe he’ll surprise me, but I doubt it.
Largely overlooked has been the re-signing of two players from last year’s team. Taliek Brown was last year’s starting PG and is in many ways a player with a much better pedigree than either of the former NBAers announced yesterday. He’s a former NCAA champion with UConn, and he wasn’t a bench player on that team. He was the starting point guard. I thought he was one of the best guards in the PBL last year and he is a legitimate high level professional floor general. He can run a team, get to the rim and play D against most point guards (although he did struggle staying in front of very quick guards last season his experience and strength let him push a lot of smaller guys around). His major flaw is that he has absolutely no jump shot, but the reality is that if a player that good could also shoot the ball he would never be available to play in the NBL. Of the four players signed yesterday he is far and away the safest bet to be a contributor to the team this season.
Finally,t he team announced that DeAndre Thomas will be joining the team for a third time. He’s a giant ball of basketball talent who was notorious for eating big macs as a pre-game meal during his brief sting with the University of Indiana. He’s 6’7″ish but throws his considerable weight around well. He has incredible hands and amazing footwork but he has been a constant headcase everywhere he’s gone (including Halifax) and is incredibly foul prone and lazy on the defensive end of the floor. (or rather, he’s so lazy he often doesn’t bother to go to the defensive end of the floor). He’s another guy who likely won’t last to the playoffs, if he even gets out of training camp.
On the whole I feel like there were two signings today that are likely to be good moves (Brown and Buford) and two that I don’t think will pan out (Robinson and Thomas). If two of Halifax’s starting five are a former NCAA Champion and a former NBA player then I think the team is positioned well.
The problem is that with camp opening the first week of October the team’s signed, drafted and otherwise likely list of players is short. As of now it looks like this:
PG: Taliek Brown (signed), Jerrell Thomson (sort of drafted, unsigned), Christian Upshaw (unsigned camp invite)
SG: Pappa Oppong (drafted, unsigned), Rodney Buford (signed)
SF: Eddie Robinson (signed)
PF: Eric Crookshank (unsigned but likely to return), Danny Friend (drafted, unsigned), DeAndre Thomas (signed)
So basically they have no one locked at the centre and powerforward spots except for DeAndre Thomas and a glut of old guys and unproven, undersized guards. I know it is early but they need to get some proven minor league vets into camp and try to bring in some athletic wing players. I expect yet another season of musical chairs at the centre spot while Andre hunts for the non-existent affordable, versatile and athletic minor league centre.
There were a few tiny technical errors with the broadcast (mostly involving sound levels) but overall what we saw broadcast last night was head and shoulders above anything else the minor leagues have done with a draft, and I included the NBA-DL in that category.
But how did the Rainmen actualy fare when it comes to using their three picks effectively?
Anyone who has followed the US minor league circuit knows that it’s still too early to make any firm judgements about players for one simple reason: between signing/being drafted and opening day there’s a good chance players will get bigger offers overseas, have passport problems, decide to pursue a more lucrative career doing something else, choose not to leave their families or decide not to report to the team for any variety of reasons. However, waiting until November to toss out opinions is no fun, so let’s talk draft grades:
Round 1 (6th overall pick) Grade: B
Danny Friend is an unknown property. Unheralded out of a small DII school (Limestone college) with no video online, no previous pro-experience but he seems like a sweet kid and his mom was with him and was absolutely stoked that her kid got drafted. From the video they showed on the broadcast he looks like he’s long with really good size and they don’t need a ton out of that position since they will at least have Crookshank there playing 28+ minutes a game. You can’t fault a team at this level for taking size and length but it is surprising that the team took a pass on Tristan Martin who was probably the Canadian with the biggest reputation in the draft and who fell to the Quebec Kebs at 8th overall. I’d say this is a solid pick that may or may not pan out. At the very least it looks like they got a kid who wants to play for Halifax and who is a legit basketball player. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
Round 2 (13th overall) Grade: A-
Papa Oppong! Mavs Gillis is going to lose his goddamn mind doing play-by-play everytime Big Papa shoots the basketball. Papa has swagger. Papa went to Eastern Commerce where Andre Levingston was once an assistant coach. Papa is a Canadian. Papa played DI ball for Eastern Kentucky where he knocked down 45% of his three point shots. Papa is going to make the team and give quality minutes as a shooting guard with decent size and a sweet stroke. Papa is young and is going to become a legit pro. I for one am stoked on the Papa Oppong era in Halifax.
Round 3 (20th overall) Grade: F
Dude isn’t even a Canadian? Wasted pick. Jerell Thompson is tabbed to play a backup role and he played DI ball, although it was in a weak conference (NEC). He’ll be in camp, but he could have been a camp invite without being drafted. Boooooo.
Overall grade: C
I really like the pick of Oppong. I don’t know much about Friend but the fact that he doesn’t jump out as being awful which is actually a plus. The third pick was a messy screw up. I just can’t get excited about a three round draft for Halifax when they only emerge with two players and only one canuck. They’re behind the rest of the league when it comes to finding a quality second Canadian and the team has generally struggled to sign top Canadian talent in the past. I’d expect the Rainmen to either pursue another Toronto guy with some connection to Andre or an AUS player like Simon Farine. In terms of needs I think Papa gives them a potential bench scorer and you can never have too many shooters, Friend has size and a good attitude on his side and they got one of two required Canadians. A solid “meh” draft deserves a solid C level grade.
So how do you think Halifax did? Would you have picked someone else instead? Did they mess up passing on Tristan Martin? Who are you hoping gets a camp invite?
Also: I am now “tweeting” or “twittering” or whatever the kids call it these days. “Follow” me at http://www.twitter.com/section23nbl
And after a 2 year hiatus Section23 is back. Short version is that I am moving back to Halifax in a couple of weeks and no one started a blog about the team in my absence. So here it goes: five questions I, and I am sure lots of other Rainmen fans, are asking themselves and each other in the lead up to tonight’s NBL draft. I haven’t re-built my base of contacts in Halifax yet so this is conjecture, semi-educated guesses and extrapolation.
#1 Is this draft for real?
Mercifully, Yes. If you didn’t follow the PBL you might wonder why anyone would even need to ask this question. The Premier Basketball League, the former home of the Rainmen, Millrats and Kebs, held two drafts which were nothing but a PR move (and a poorly executed one at that), with teams selecting players they had already signed prior to the draft and almost none coming out of the combines. Of course that would be annoying but not awful if it didn’t end up becoming clear that some other competitive elements of the league were equally staged.
The disappointment that Levingston, Bernier and McCarthy felt with the PBL draft are reflected in the rules they set out for this year’s NBL draft: players at the combine only, neutral team running the combine, no parachuted in players or guys already under contract, etc. As of now there’s reason to believe it will all be above board.
# 2 Does anyone outside of minor league nerd circles care about this draft?
Surprisingly I am going to say yes. The league and their interim PR director Jillian Blackman have done an insane job of getting local and national media attention for the draft. The broadcast crew is Sherman Hamilton, Paul Jones and Eric Smith – i.e. legit broadcasters with deep roots in the Canadian sports media. I expect all the media in local markets to pick it up and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see articles in the Post and the Globe. The real question is whether or not it will hit the highlight packages on the sports networks or garner a mention on CBC’s news loop – I won’t hazard a guess but I think that may largely be dependent on the quality of the broadcast and how slow a sports day it is.
#3 What’s the talent level in the draft?
A bit lower than I expected. I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of stars or even starters coming out of the draft. There will no doubt be a few diamonds in the rough from unheralded college programs who are going to impress, but there are very few recognizable minor leaguers on the combine list and more worrisome almost no big name CIS players. It’s the first year so I suspect lots of agents were waiting to see how the combine, draft and league fare in their first year so I’m not worried but it’s surprising to see so few names from the big CIS schools like UBC and Carlton and few players from the big NAIA programs that often produce high quality minor league players (to say nothing of the lack of players from major NCAA schools). There is a surprising amount of height in the draft though, and I would expect that the big men at Seneca got a good, hard look this weekend.
#4 Who will Halifax take with their three picks?
No idea. A new coach, a new league and a real, live draft make things a bit complicated to predict but we know a few things that can help narrow things down a bit:
- There are 3 players who played university ball in Halifax at the combine: STFX’s Will Silver and Charlie Spurr and Achuil Lual of Acadia. Halifax has long looked for a local player who can actually play at this level swinging and missing wildly with high schooler turned bench warmer Derico Wigginton and then Dalhousie bench warmer turned Rainmen bench warmer Devon Norris so I would expect them to give all three players a serious look. Lual was in camp with Halifax last year but was cut by his former Acadia coach, Les Berry. Silver was part of a three headed beast of a backcourt at X over the last few years but I think the big question mark will be about his size and strength, but being the only Halifax native in the draft I would not at all be shocked to see him drafted in the third round. He’s definitely not a starting PG at this level, but he might be able to run the second unit.
- Andre likes to be involved in personnel decisions and he goes through some intense phases where he obsesses over a certain type of player (first it was slashing guards, then big and athletic wing players and then strong centres). I don’t know how he’s feeling this weekend, but rest assured that he will look to make some sort of splash with the draft and has always placed single skill players (i.e. deadly shooters like Silverhorn) and athletic players at the top of his list when it comes time to build a team.
- Halifax have five players under protection: Eric Crookshank (PF), Josh Dollard (SF/PF), Trayvon Lathan (SF/PG), Taliek Brown (PG) and DeAndre Thomas (PF/C) and that may play into their decision making but I don’t think it’s going to be the major factor. Crookshank looks like the only lock to stay in Halifax and if there is an elite big man available at any point when the Rainmen are on the clock I’d expect them to take the best available player, not pick by position.
#5 Will the rest of the teams know what they’re doing?
Definitely. Halifax do have an advantage in being an established franchise, but the Kebs and the Millrats are experienced, too. Moncton’s ownership are serious businessmen with serious basketball connections so I expect them to be well staffed. London have hired former NBA All-star and minor league coaching legend Michael Ray Richardson. I just don’t see Halifax facing off against a bunch of rubes tonight.
This is likely the final post I will make on this blog. After a year and a half of spending far too much time writing about and researching a small slice of minor league hoops I am deciding to move on.
On November 15 my friend Duncan and I attended the first ever Rainmen home game. Duncan went to the MetroCentre the day single tickets went on sale to go get the closest possible seats to the visiting bench and we ended up in Section 23. We showed up and relentlessly rode the Boston Blizzard for the whole game and enjoyed it enough that the next day we went down to the Rainmen offices and bought season tickets. Duncan even ended up being interviewed for CBC radio. We went to that first game with the intention of heckling and being total jerks (I think we succeeded) and I tried to do a bit of internet research on the Blizzard so I could walk in with some ammo, but after an hour of playing the role of Google Detective I hadn’t turned up much. I figured that if it was this hard to find information online about minor league basketball then I should probably share it and save some other people some time, so this blog was born.
The other reason I started the blog was because I, like many sports fans my age, really consider blogs, message boards and other online content to be integral to the experience of being a fan. I wanted to be able to talk about the team, disagree with people, read cool links other people found and participate in something resembling a community. Thanks to everyone who reads this, I think it’s at least somewhat succeeded on that front. I went from being absolutely stoked if I had 10 hits a day in the first month to receiving 1000+ daily hits during the Eric Crookshank suspension fiasco and the not-quite-run-to-the-playoffs. A lot of the people who have posted comments on here are far more knowledgeable about basketball than I ever will be and even those who I think were total idiots have definitely contributed to what has always been open and entertaining conversations in the comments section of the blog.
I am giving this up because in five days I will be moving to small town Ontario to pursue my master’s degree in modern US history. I had considered trying to keep this blog up and updating sporadically but a combination of the demands that graduate school place on one’s time and the fact that the vast majority of my “insights” were gleamed from watching games from up close (I really can’t emphasize enough how much more you see in person than on TV/webcasts) have made me realize that it’s simply not feasible for me to continue updating this blog in a way that even remotely resembles what I have done for the past two seasons.
I do want to make sure I thank three groups of people in particular for putting up with me:
I also had the opportunity to meet a ton of people who read and comment on the blog and the folks in sections 22 and 23 at the Metro Centre (including our current premier) made being a Rainmen fan a unique and communal experience that is often difficult to find in Late Capitalism. The visiting fans from Vermont and all the non-Haligonians who post and read this blog have contributed to the experience in a similar way. My father will be picking up my Rainmen season tickets so if I am in town I will catch some games.
If you’re looking for other sources of sports reading I have two recomendations. First, the OurSportsCentral message board is a gathering place of a variety of PBL fans and detractors and I’ll probably still post over there from time to time. There are a lot of people who have been around minor league hoops for decades who post there, and the discussions are always heated. More generally I would also suggest that reading Dave Zirin (and listening to his weekly podcast). He’s a Washington, DC based sports writer who is often witty and always insightful, particularly when it comes to the intersection of sports and politics, a topic I have mentioned from time to time but have rarely been able to fully explore. If anyone feels the need to create their own Rainmen blog or message board feel free to post the URL and I will link to it from here.
Anyway, it’s been fun. Thanks for reading and commenting.
The League sent out a press release today:
PBL Announces Halifax Rainmen Owner as Director of Business Development in CanadaJuly 29, 2009 – Premier Basketball League (PBL)
Chicago, IL…The Premier Basketball League announced today that President and CEO of the Halifax Rainmen, Andre Levingston has been appointed Director of Business Development for the league in Canada, effective immediately.
Levingston will head up the franchise expansion and team development north of the border. “Andre knows what it takes to get a team going in Canada, his experience and knowledge gained from the Rainmen’s success makes him a natural for this position,” said Tom Doyle CEO of the PBL. “Andre’s professionalism will lend well with growing our league through-out Canada.”
Plans to expand the league in Canada will become more active now that Levingston is heading up the effort.
“I’m extremely excited the league has appointed me to this position,” said Levingston. “This gives me the opportunity to assist in growing the PBL brand in Canada while giving other cities an opportunity to have professional basketball. This also gives our college athletes the opportunity to further develop their skills after college,” added Levingston.
I am curious about whether Andre or the Rainmen will receive any financial compensation for the owner’s time, but more to the point, I think it’s a good sign that the PBL is redoubling efforts to find new franchises in Canada. Hopefully my long standing claim that an ownership group in Moncton needs to be found for the well being of the Rainmen has not fallen on deaf ears.
Levingston is a natural salesman and his experience putting a team together from scratch makes him the ideal candidate for this kind of position, but I have to wonder how many legitimate markets there really are for minor league hoops in Canada.
So as it stands I’d have to say that a Toronto suburb, Moncton and Ottawa are probably the best targets, but even then I think we’re three or more years away from seeing any real movement on this.