Sportingnews clarifies some Yi issues
My dark theories have been confirmed. In an article on sportingnews.com, NBA expert Sean Deveney basically solidified all of my conspiratorial notions about the whole Bucks/Yi draft controversy, and added some more of his own. To wit:
1. Deveney agrees Yi is a puppet. I've been saying for weeks I didn't think Yi was calling the shots, and that the Senator was being naive by thinking that personal appeals to Yi about Wisconsin would sway the matter in the Bucks direction. Deveney agrees, and he goes further. Deveney says his sources told him Yi did not even have a say in who his agent would be. That's incredible.
2. Deveney thinks the "Milwaukee is not Chinese enough" argument is bunk. I said early on I thought the whole Chinese population issue was a big red herring. Deveney agrees. As I've been asking people around town who bought into that canard: Why would Yi care how big the Chinese population is in Milwaukee? Is he coming here to network, or play basketball? And what, was he planning on joining the Milwaukee Chinese-American Society and volunteering at their Pancake and Porky Breakfasts? Come on. And why would his handlers just assume that these American citizens who happen to be of Chinese descent would relate to or like Yi any more or less than anyone else in Milwaukee of any other descent would relate to him? The whole thing was so stupid and contrived right from the beginning.
3. Deveney thinks the Bucks will ultimately prevail. Deveney agrees with me that the Milwaukee Bucks will prevail in this standoff if they take a hardline approach and stick to it. He echoes what I stated early on in this matter, that in order to get out from under the Bucks exclusive rights Yi will have to sacrifice a year of his professional career. He will effectively have to go into mothballs, losing the millions he would get in NBA salary and severely damaging his marketability in the process. I, and Deveney, cannot fathom how Yi's handlers would find this option palatable. Deveney adds another point in the Bucks favor that I did not consider: If Yi sits out a year now, he will be stale going into the 2008 Olympics, something the Chinese obviously would not want.
4. Deveney thinks Fegan has boxed himself in. I heard Deveney on a local radio program yesterday say that he thinks what is happening is that Yi's American agent, Dan Fegan, made certain promises to Yi's team regarding where Yi would end up, and that he is now in danger of not delivering on those promises. Deveney believes that, in order to land the Yi account, Fegan promised Yi's Chinese handlers that he would deliver Yi to a large market, and now he's in a contractual bind because he didn't make it happen.
If this is true, its unbelievable. How could Fegan, who I assume has a legal background, promise something that he did not have the power to deliver? That's a violation of basic contract law principles. Moreover, if the promise was made in an effort to maximize Yi's marketing revenue potential, as it surely must have been, then it shows that Fegan and the Chinese officials are clinging to an incredibly outdated understanding of how contemporary sports marketing works in this country.
In the age of ESPN and the Internet, marketability is no longer contingent on where a player plays. If a player has the "It Factor", national exposure and marketing dollars will find him, whether he plays in New York City or Fairbanks, Alaska. Sure, back in the day location mattered to an athlete because you generally never saw him play unless you lived in his television market, so the larger the team's television market, the more marketable he became. But that paradigm simply no longer holds.