PR 101: The Astros Could Learn a Lot From Other Houston Team Owners
Fame has a fifteen minute half-life, infamy lasts a little longer. - The Insider
Photo by Groovehouse Les Alexander (center) flanked by the former players who helped keep him from being completely hated by fans.
Owners of sports franchises never have it easy. From Charlie Thomas to Les Alexander, John McMullen to Drayton McLane, Bud Adams to, yes, even Bob McNair, fans are ruthless and we're talking Houston, not Philadelphia or New York, where fans boo Santa Claus and throw batteries at players on the field. Losing often makes owners an easy target and our teams have lost a lot.
But when it comes to endearing yourself to the fans, the biggest problems are rarely created by on-the-field (or court) moves. Sure, the local professional teams have made more than their fair share of gaffes, but they have had successes as well. The Rockets won two titles. The Astros went to a World Series. Even the Oilers won AFL championships and made the AFC title game twice during the Luv Ya Blue era.
Still, previous local owners are nearly as famous for their off-field blunders as their bad draft picks, poor coaching or general manager hires and ridiculous trades. Now Jim Crane is having his moment and it's ugly. From the shake up in the front office to the changes in the broadcast booth to Crane's own idiotic comments in the media, and now the mess with the Houston Area Women's Center and Astros Wives Organization, the Astros owner is finding out the hard way what others before him have realized: It takes more than a winning team on the field to make the fans happy.
(Of course, the Astros suck on the field as well, but that's another matter.)
Bud Adams is one of the most hated Houstonians of all time. He took the Oilers to Nashville after he failed to rally support for his "Bud Dome" downtown retractible roof stadium (sound familiar?). He was even willing to split the $250 million price tag with the city (for the record, Reliant Stadium cost closer to double that and the county paid for nearly all of it). But before the dreaded phrase "exclusive negotiating period" was even in our local vocabulary, there was scoreboard-gate.
The Astrodome was the world's first indoor stadium and the legacy of Judge Roy Hofheinz. Adams threatened a move long before Nashville and the county balked, agreeing to pay almost $100 million to renovate the Dome to add more seats and some additional luxury suites. The county is still to this day paying off that debt.
But, in making the renovations, it was determined the famous scoreboard with the lights and bull snorting and cowboy shooting his guns would have to go. Fans who grew up with that old-school scoreboard were livid. Many never forgave him and it certainly played a role in his inability to get a stadium deal in Houston. When he did finally move, even if he did bring football to Houston, his fate was sealed.