Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Why People Hate Politicians

Today the LA Times reported that Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D) Santa Ana, was planning to introduce a little piece of legislation called the "Truth in Sports Advertising Act" in Sacramento. The gist of this bill is to force Angels owner Arte Moreno, who according to Umberg is "misleading fans when he calls his team the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim", into disclosing the fact that they identify themselves under one geographical name but actually play their home games in another. Apparently the good Assemblyman has, once again, completely underestimated the intelligence of not only his constituents in Santa Ana (which I should point out is neither in Anaheim nor Los Angeles) but the entire state of California whom he frets will show up one day at a game in Anaheim, scratch their collective heads and in a thick southern drawl proclaim "shoot, this ain't no Los Ang-o-leese!"

The City Council of Anaheim can not waste enough of that city's money making court motions that they know full well will not be reversed so now a member of the Assembly has decided to waste some State money and time because, gee whiz, this issue just is not getting enough press. Strangely, Angel Stadium apparently resides in Umberg's district (gotta love gerrymandering) so Umberg apparently feels compelled to ratchet up the rhetoric that the Angels are Anaheim's team, even if they don't want to be. This is just the type of non-issue that will get lots of ink and make people (like, I don't know, an unknown blogger in Arizona for example) write a piece about an obscure political lightweight trying to take on a ruthless out-of-state billionaire. What a transparent maneuver by Umberg to increase his own visibility on an issue with no advantage to the people of Santa Ana but because of a fluky district boundary he gets to count Angel Stadium as part of his turf. Now, my wife use to work in Santa Ana Mr. Umberg, so I can tell you first hand that you have bigger issues to worry about.

If politicians would put in half the effort that Moreno did in focus group studies to find out what the good people of Santa Ana (and a sliver of Anaheim) care about, I would venture to guess that what the Angels call themselves would be around 384th on the list between "more frequent garbage pick-ups" and "the color of Santa Ana city busses". Given the large Latino population in his district, Mr. Umberg would be wise to watch his step trying to take down the most visible Hispanic sports owner in the country.

Clearly this bill is a slap at the Angels even though it does not mention them by name. The Times article illustrates that point by saying

In order to accommodate Anaheim's concerns that the NFL might bypass the city if forbidden from playing there under the Los Angeles name, Umberg's bill would allow a host city to exempt a team from the disclosure requirements.

So Anaheim will lure an NFL team, offering millions of dollars in stadium funds, tax rebates and other city financed improvements and that team can call itself the Los Angeles Whatevers. But the Angels must bow to Mayor Curt Pringle and be called Anaheim Angels because why? Oh yeah, they signed a deal to include “Anaheim” somewhere in their name. And not at the end either!

The funny thing is, Arte Moreno does not like the deal Disney made with the City and the City does not like the deal anymore because they were not thorough enough to specify the name had to be “Anaheim Angels” and not “Los Angeles Angels” with “of Anaheim” slapped on the end like so much fine print. Perhaps the Angels and city of Anaheim could come together to find a jointly beneficial solution. A financially successful and winning ball club would ultimately benefit both parties no matter the semantics of the name. Likewise, the Angels would benefit from the city of Anaheim being promoted as a tourist destination and a place to do business. Until this squabble is settled, they will not be able to move forward together to assemble a plan of attack to further the ambitions of both the Angels and the city of Anaheim.

By keeping the lawsuit alive and now trying to pass legislation making it more difficult for the Angels to do business, the city of Anaheim is making the Angels point by saying, hey we need our name on your team or no one will know who we are! Of course, according to AIMS testing most high school seniors probably don’t know where Los Angeles is either.


Blogger Josh said...

I agree with you about putting a law like that into the legislative code. However, I don't think the guy is necessarily trying to make a big name for himself as he is trying to guarantee his re-election for years to come.

I do, however, support the Anaheim lawsuit because they feel that the name change is of financial interest to them and there is a contract with language that could be read that Anaheim should be the most prominent city name (i.e. if sports news starts calling the Angels the LA Angels and just drops "of Anaheim" off, then that could be argued against the spirit of the contract). And if cities cannot sue people over broken contracts (which seems to be what you are implying), then anyone could break any contract with a city with no repercussions.

Also, I agree that Anaheim and Moreno should have hashed out some sort of an agreement, but it is apparent that Moreno had no interest in that. If Moreno wanted to avoid this whole thing, he could have attempted to buy out the lease or discuss with Anaheim officials what course of action should be taken. My feeling is he brought this crap on himself.

6:50 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

I absolutely support the city's right to sue if they feel wronged. However, they have been turned down for an injunction and are now appealing that decision which they admit is a very long-shot. That is a waste of time and money. If their attorneys have convinced them that they have a good chance to continue the case then that's fine but I have not read a legal opinion (outside of the City of Anaheim's) that they do have a good case.

Having negotiated several contracts I can tell you that there is a reason for specific language within them: so that these sticky wickets do not pop-up. Perhaps Disney had it in the back of their minds that to someday sell the club they could not say, concretely, that the team would always be the "Anaheim Angels". Then again, maybe is was just a collossal oversight on Anaheim's part not to say that the name would be "Anaheim Angels". I think Disney lawyers are shrewd and kept the wording that way for a reason. In other words, the "spirit" that Disney had and the "spirit" the city of Anaheim had could have been completely at odds. That is why there was a contract -- to spell things out exactly. If something is left vague it is usually because one party wants some wiggle room on an issue. You can bet that this contract was studied by Moreno as part of his due diligence before buying the team. He did not wake up in December and suddenly decide to change the name. This was planned BEFORE he purchased the team and had he thought the team's name could not be changed he might not have purchased them. This is speculation on my part.

Your advocation of the city's right to sue is not dissimilar from my advocation of Moreno's right to call his business whatever he wants. This is not a public utility, it is a private business that he wholly owns. Period. As a businessman he does have the responibility not to hurt his or the team's credibility by doing something stupid (many would say the name change falls into that category) but he has used solid business logic in going forward with it.

As far at the legislation, I abhor any government regulation in business that does not have a very good reason for it. The idea that people are so stupid that they can not figure out that Anaheim is not in Los Angeles is beyond rediculous. But then again, the government thinks we're too stupid to invest part of our own Social Secuity too.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Uncle Al said...

We should have had this law YEARS ago!!!

In the not too distant past:



And for us old timers:





Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

What a wonderful planet we live on!

10:03 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

I agree it is not a public business, but Anaheim holds some control over that business. They do this because there was a contract signed in which the owner of the Angels would remain in Anaheim for a certain number of years, among other things. In business, the owner of the building you operate in holds sway...they can kick you out or force you to change your practices if you break the lease. The name issue was in this particular lease, although vague, and so Moreno DOES NOT have the right to call his business whatever he wants. I am not saying that he cannot have it as LA of Anaheim (that is an issue for the courts to decide), but he can't just willy-nilly change the name without realizing there could be repercussions. Tony Tavares, who may be the worst person in baseball besides Donald Fehr and Scott Boras, stated that the intent was for Anaheim to be featured prominently in the name. As I said before, if sports news shortens the name to LA Angels (which is likely), then Anaheim has a real case.

10:55 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

I think you just named the unholy trinity of baseball's evil overlords in Fehr, Boras and (though admittedly he is more inept than evil) Tavares.

Lets go a step further and ask the question exactly how has the city been harmed. In court they will have the burden of proof to show the contract was breached and how such breach has caused them harm.

The Angels case is that they have been marketed as the "Angels". On their website, uniforms, etc they are marketed without a geographical designation. So what exactly is the city missing out on? A scoreboard in Minnesota will say "LA" instead of "ANA"? Local coverage in Southern California rarely utilized the qualifier "Anaheim" because it was not needed. National or international coverage that did use Anaheim probably had those not already in the know scrambling for an atlas. By using "LA" or "Los Angeles" people who do not know So Cal geography will have a quick reference as to where the team plays its home games. Does this somehow diminish Anaheim?

My point is that Anaheim signed a very loose agreement that did not call for specifics on how and where "Anaheim" would be used. They did not insist on the city name being on uniforms or publicity guides. In short, they made a very weak agreement. As far as the $20 million goes, its chump change compared to the revenue that the Angels bring to the city and far less than other cities have had to pay to attract or retain big league teams. Anaheim needs to quit whining and work to build a relationship with the Angels that is both positive and mutually beneficial. These politicians have been exposed as having entered into a very bad agreement and Moreno has embarassed them. Time to suck it up and move on guys. That or in 2016 the Angels will have a right to move and I'm sure Carson, Las Vegas, Riverside or some other city will have offers ready if Anaheim does not shake themselves.

8:43 AM  
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