To: Ken Babby
New owner, Akron Aeros
Date: Oct. 18, 2012
From: Your new best friend
Thanks for buying our 16-year-old team. We’ve been hoping for a new owner for, oh, about 16 years.
I understand that you’re a former newspaper guy, which means two things:
• You can’t be all bad.
• You had enough sense to get while the gettin’ was good.
So I like you already, sight unseen.
This might be a bit presumptuous of me, seeing as how we have never met, but a story in my favorite newspaper said you’re asking for input from the community. With that in mind, I have a favor to ask:
Please give this team a new name.
And while you’re at it, give us a new logo, a new mascot and new colors (that Baltimore Ravens purple has to go).
In case you haven’t heard, choosing the team name was quite an issue back in October 1996.
Right off the bat, previous owner Mike Agganis made one of the most boneheaded PR moves in the history of Northeast Ohio sports ownership.
Which covers a lot of territory.
I’m sure you know the name Art Modell. But have you ever heard of Ted Stepien?
You’re a young guy (only 32), so you might not have. Google him. His tenure as owner of the Cavaliers is absolutely hilarious.
At least in retrospect.
But even Terrible Ted never did anything as stupid as Agganis did on the eve of his first season in Akron.
As the excitement was peaking over a sparkling new $31 million ballpark, he announced he was naming his team the “Akron Blast” to “honor” Akron’s contributions to the U.S. space program.
Never mind that Greater Akron’s most famous space person, Judy Resnik, a mission specialist on the space shuttle Challenger, died in a horrific explosion broadcast live on national television and replayed a trillion times.
The Akron Blast?
Could anyone really be that insensitive?
It got even worse. Agganis wanted to name the team mascot “Kaboom.”
When the complaints reached a crescendo, which took about 10 minutes, Agganis said he didn’t understand what all the commotion was about. Why, he was just trying to honor our space heritage.
He said his ultimate goal was to have orbiting astronauts look down and ask how the Akron Blast were doing.
Honest. He said that.
It was the stuff of late-night monologues. People came from far and wide for a peek at the freak show, including a reporter from a Columbus television station who interviewed Yours Truly.
Lorin Schultz, from the city’s NBC affiliate, had no trouble selling her bosses on the story even though Akron is well outside the Columbus viewing area.
“When I took it to the news meetings, everyone said, ‘They named it what?’ ” Schultz noted. “Our executive producer said, ‘This is sick!’ ”
After three long weeks of this, Agganis finally put two and two together and asked the public to nominate new names. Only then did the Blast morph into the Aeros and Kaboom become Orbit. The logo didn’t change because he didn’t want to pay for a new one.
But Agganis wasn’t finished jerking Akron’s chain.
In addition to being a cheapskate, he wasn’t particularly eager to pay his bills. Only a couple of months into the inaugural season, the city filed a lawsuit to throw him out of the ballpark because more than $684,000 of the $1.1 million he owed was past due.
The sides settled in September, shortly before the court date. As part of the agreement, Agganis was forced to do things any rational owner already would have been doing. To name just two:
• Change his ridiculous policy of refusing to sell bleacher seats until every grandstand seat was sold. (Agganis got $2 less for a bleacher seat.)
• Leave the lights on for at least 15 minutes after the game. (To save money, he had been shutting them off a millisecond after the final out.)
No wonder the Akron community never warmed to Agganis or his son, Greg, who became the face of ownership as the years passed.
You, Ken, seem like the polar opposite: engaged, enthusiastic and reaching out for suggestions.
Please consider mine.
Cut the cord. Start fresh. Aeros be gone.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.