Robert Sarver owns the Phoenix Suns, and there really isn’t a whole lot that fans can do about it. But that doesn’t mean that the Suns are his alone.
The Phoenix Suns are awful. Terrible. Soft. Garbage.
Their pop corn is stale; their beer is flat; their nacho cheese is cold; their seats are dirty; there is plenty of parking right next to the arena….
At the heart of all the losing over the last eight seasons is one man. One lonely, solitary man. The franchise’s owner, Robert Sarver.
The team that Jerry Colangelo built, Robert Sarver has torn down.
And on November 30, a night when the Suns were blown out by an average Orlando Magic, on Sarver’s way out of the stands towards the bowels of the arena, a single fan called for him to sell the team.
(Author’s Note – The original date on the video was actually from the November 30, 99-85 loss to the Orlando Magic, not the loss on December 4, to the Sacramento Kings. This mistake in date is due to confusion on my part as to the video’s original release date. All references to the Kings have been changed to reference the Orlando Magic.)
For some reason Sarver decided to briefly stop and converse, and when that fan jokingly offered a low ball $100, Sarver didn’t just laugh the guy off and walk away, he instead insulted the man and his own income, not just throwing a single fan of the Phoenix Suns under the bus, but every Suns fan with him.
Robert Sarver does not understand that while he might own the Phoenix Suns – the franchise is not his alone.
Sarver knows that he is hated. He knows that the fans want him to sell. He reads articles; he sees tweets; we probably drove by the billboards this summer a hundred times.
He is well aware that he is the least popular person in the state of Arizona.
But his comments tonight proved that he didn’t care.
When Sarver said that he “felt really sorry” for the fan (who’s ticket was paid for so he could be in attendance – money that on some level went into the owner’s pocket) for only offering a hundred bucks, his flippant response implied a sense of betterment as owner over the lowly individual in the 20th row.
Here’s what Sarver obviously didn’t get in that moment and obviously doesn’t get at all: while his name is on the deed of the franchise now, it won’t always be.
At some point he will sell the Phoenix Suns. Whether it’s in a month or twenty years from now, he will not always own the franchise.
When that happens, a new owner, with even deeper pockets than his own, will take over and it will no longer be Sarver who can sit court side wagging a bright orange foam finger, but someone else.
Yet, no matter how bad the Suns are during Sarver’s tenure in charge, when he finally moves on, there will be another constant that was there before and will carry on through beyond the change: the fans.
Through all of the agony of losing, many thousands of apparently lowly individuals who can only jokingly offer a hundred bucks to buy the team, men and women who bleed purple and orange, who raise their kids to bleed purple and orange and to be loyal to their local franchise, families who spent money on tickets and memorabilia to support a basketball team based in Phoenix, Arizona, the capital and heart of this great state, will still be there.
Regular, average Joe fans, who wish to go to a professional basketball game, to watch the greatest athletes in the world compete for a few hours, putting off the stress of overbearing bosses, hard deadlines, sick relatives, and bills that never end; and even to bond, bond with family and friends as well as with with however many thousands of fans in the stands who are all living each moment the same.
And even, in a distant way, to bond with the players.
In the end, if we didn’t exist; if we didn’t care; if we didn’t pay cable bills, and ticket prices, and parking fees, for over-priced beer, for our kid’s first (expensive) Suns t-shirts; Robert Sarver wouldn’t be the owner of a team.
Robert Sarver would be a nobody.
And therein lies the great conundrum of sports: the fans know that Sarver is a terrible owner. We know that this franchise is one of the worst in North America – regardless of the league. We know that there is a good chance that the Suns will not only never win an NBA title but may not be consistently good again for a very long time.
And yet we’ll be there. We will follow. We will support. We will watch. And even those who are turning off the TV’s and not going to games for now, they’ll be back. They always come back.
Because WE are the Phoenix Suns – not just Robert Sarver.
When Sarver “felt sorry” for a fan for only offering $100 to buy the franchise (honestly, a comeback that I REALLY do not understand), he proved that he is entirely disconnected from what really matters: the fans, an entire community of loyal supporters who in our own ways mourn after every loss, every bad decision, every insult.
He could have ignored the fan, never looking up, entirely focused on what he can do better to start fixing the franchise tomorrow.
He could have chuckled as he walked away, showing a brief moment of understanding and appreciation, even pity for the emotion of the fan, in the end saying nothing as he could not possibly know what words could make anything better.
He could have apologized for what the fan just sat through and for the cost of the ticket and guaranteed that he was doing everything he knew how to do to make the Suns a winner again.
Instead, in an awkward way, he insulted the fan, and by connection, all of us.
Robert Sarver proved that he doesn’t get it. He proved that he doesn’t understand that the Phoenix Suns are not just his alone, but an institution far greater than the sum of one man, worth it’s weight in platinum to the countless fans who have supported the franchise their entire lives.
We cannot force Sarver to sell the Suns. But he could show a greater appreciation for the level of destruction he has wrought upon a formerly great franchise.
And yet after the Orlando Magic game, he didn’t.