I said it was going to happen on ArenaFan late in the season in 2015 – not based on anything I’d heard from sources within the league, not based on any insider information, just based on psychology and how business works.
The San Jose SaberCats’ ownership never had any interest in operating in a league where they weren’t the top dog. Every single season since the reboot, they bought more and more talent* (okay, this is something that many, many people throughout the league have said). Last season they had no PR. They didn’t invest anything in their social media or broadcasting. The team in the heart of Silicon Valley couldn’t even provide an online video stream, something that anyone with a phone and a YouTube account can do, and they didn’t really seem to care to try, as people across the league and the league itself asked and threatened them if they didn’t get their act together.
They had some of the lowest ticket prices in the AFL and by far the highest payroll. The team was still in the lower half of the league, attendance-wise, and was so highly thought of by its own arena that they played their conference title and ArenaBowl championship games in Stockton because the arena had already booked those dates.
All of the money was on the field and it was all about winning that championship and dominating. And hey, they got there. Once they had that, there was zero incentive to do anything the league asked of them.
The SaberCats’ 2015 championship will serve as a reminder that money does overcome all obstacles eventually and that no, team owners don’t care about you or their city. Whether they’re doing it for profit or they’re doing it for their own personal reasons, it’s all about them. The league is better off without the SaberCats because now other teams won’t have to deal with the fact that half the league’s top players play for one team.
*Note: I don’t blame the players one bit. The pay is terrible in the league, a product of the league not making money on its own. If someone offers you way more money to do the same job and play with all the other good players, of course you take it, especially when it means you get to live in San Jose, which is a nice place to be. It’s not like they forced San Jose’s owners to offer them that extra money.