(11:40 a.m. Updated below with comments from Bob Williams about plans for new scoreboards after the season.)
Hello. With football season about over, our resident mathematician and mocker, Count Von Count, has returned to this cyber-page for periodic appearances. (Periodic is defined as: “Are there enough items this week? Am I hungry? Is there something else to do? What’s on TV? Oh look, the couch.) Anyway, We’re trying to spiff up these page a little bit — note, the Chalkboard borrowed from Weekend Predictions, Inc. — but we’ve been given a limited budget. Everybody is cutting back. Employees. Payroll. Fat grams. The Count hates cutbacks. Mrs. Count keeps trying to get him to switch to low-cholesterol plasma, but, sorry, it just doesn’t taste the same. More cutbacks: The Count has been to a few Hawks games this season and noticed something: Several scoreboards at Philips Arena are turned off. Did somebody pull a plug? Did something break? Was the scoreboard operator sold and moved to Winnipeg? Ready, kids? We count down . . .
10. Hey, how many points does Josh have?
See the picture from The CountCam below? It shows the three ad boards and the two message boards that are hanging at either end of Philips Arena. The message boards usually show statistics during the game. They’re off. I asked a Hawks employee about it and he responded, “No comment.” I asked another employee and he said, “I’m not saying a word.” I asked long-time Hawks vice president of media relations Arthur Triche to help me solve this mystery and he said he would seek an official comment from the management offices of the Atlanta Spirit, LLC (Liar Liar, Catch me if you can). Because see, there is this rumor going around that those scoreboards are kaput — I mean, completely kaput — they can’t be fixed, and they don’t have a buy-one-get-0ne-free coupon, and nobody wants to spend the money for new ones, anyway. Oh, geez . . .
9. “Tell him I’m in South America . . .”
So Triche, truly one of the finest individuals The Count has ever worked with, sought a comment from Tracy White, who is the Hawks’ senior vice president of sales and marketing. White either struggled to come up with a public response or he had his mind on other things, like his next job, which would make sense because word is that this is his last week working for the team. He took another job. So just when it appeared there would be no official response, Arthur phoned me Monday night to say that Hawks and Philips Arena president Bob Williams wanted to comment. Presumably, this would go better than when Bob was asked why an NHL All-Star Game mural was painted over in the arena, seemingly furthering owners’ efforts to erase any signs that a hockey team ever existed here, and he responded: “I don’t deem the subject you inquired about to be newsworthy and therefore don’t feel the need to comment on it.” (That went over real well.) The Count looked forward to talking to Bob. And we still look forward to it. But he hasn’t phoned. It’s like that line from an old country-western song, “If the phone don’t ring, you know it’s me.” So here we are with no comment from Hawks management or ownership as to why four scoreboards are out. Here are the five emailed questions: 1.) Why have the end zone scoreboards not been operating? 2.) Can they be fixed or do they need to be replaced? 3.) Is there some reason they haven’t been fixed or replaced and is there a time frame? 4.) What is the cost of fixing or replacing? 5.) Have they not been fixed or replaced because of cost-cutting measures? Almost finished . . .
8. Public comment: They’re not for sale. Logic: They’re for sale
Hawks part owner Michael Gearon Jr. went to great lengths to assure the masses that ownership is not cheap. Maybe he wasn’t counting scoreboards. It’s let’s-be-real time at the Countdown: The Spirit saw a potential sale of the Hawks and arena fall through two months ago. The team still isn’t drawing well. Owners want you to think that they’re suddenly rejuvenated and nothing is for sale. But the reality is they would love to sell and there aren’t any buyers. Oh, and the last thing they really want to do right now is pay another six- or seven-digit bill for new scoreboards. So the next time you go to Philips Arena, feel free to look up at the broken arena parts. And let’s just hope the roof doesn’t leak.
UPDATE: Williams phoned back. In short, this is their story: The boards began to malfunction during the Atlanta Dream season. The plan was to “re-bulb” them, but manufacturers said doing that would risk burning out the drivers. This, according to Williams, was in September. The plan now is to replace the boards after the season with new high-definition boards that will cost “well into seven figures.”
When I asked Williams why wait until after the season, he responded that the boards take four to six months to design and manufacture, and with other arena events they believed it would be difficult to get the boards operating during the season. “We know we compromised our fans, but this wasn’t unexpected,” he said. “Our plan was to replace them at the end of the season, anyway.” (Sudden thought: Strange how none of this was mentioned until somebody asked and wrote about it. Just saying.)
Williams said the four boards represents the first part of a high-def phase-in project with all of the arena boards. When asked if ownership balked at spending the money for this, Williams responded: “Once the [Alex] Meruelo deal [for the potential sale] fell apart, Bruce [Levenson] and Michael took control again. They had approved to spend last year and were in that transition of phasing it to Meruelo. When that deal terminated, it stayed in our [plans].”
So the boards will remain blank during the season. Might be a good place for “Post No Bills” signs.
7. Want to be neighbors with Bear Bryant in the afterlife? No, seriously
Every once in a while I have to start an item that reads, “I’m not making this up.” And so, I’m not making this up. A classified ad ran in the Birmingham News advertising five cemetery plots for sale (via LostLetterman.com). These plots are going for $2,200 each (or best offer), a steep rate because they’re adjacent to the resting corpse of Paul “Bear” Bryant. Here’s the actual ad:
Cemetery Lots. ELMWOOD- ROLL TIDE!!! Block 30, spend eternity near Bear Bryant! 5 plots in a row $2,200 ea. OBO. Call 205-967-8982. Published in The Birmingham News 1/15. Updated 1/23.
And this is when we must interject: Yes, they are different over there.
6. OK, degenerates: Here you go . . .
The Count has a certain appreciation for leagues that don’t pretend to be something they’re not. I mean, give the Lingerie Football League credit for this: They’re not stepping out of character. Here’s the commercial for Lingerie Bowl 2012. (The game takes place in Las Vegas, probably because it’s easier to recruit strippers for, you know, the skill positions.) The hilarious thing about this ad is it never even mentions a player or a team. After viewing the one-minute commercial, just leave the $1 on the stage.
Now playing at Bada Bing Dome!
5. You too can look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Geek
As you’ve probably noticed, the Falcons haven’t hosted a Super Bowl since 2000. There was an ice storm that week, and as a general rule NFL officials don’t like ice storms for their hoity-toity party. However, if a city wants to build a new stadium and lavish league executives with IOC-level graft, well, then the NFL just loves ice storms. Loves them! That’s why since 2000 we’ve seen Super Bowls awarded to Detroit, Dallas, Indianapolis, New York and Vostok Station, Antartica. Next week, it’s Indy. Projected temps: Highs in the mid-30s, lows in the 20s, definitely NOT Count weather. So it follows that this week’s in the Count’s inbox, there was an email advertising “The Selk’bag.” Selk’bag is Swedish for, “You have no friends, people will mock you and random Chihuahuas will walk up and tinkle on your puffy shoe if you dare to wear this.” Reading directly from the news release: “With the Velcro hand release system, you can hold your coozie-clad beer and throw your cornhole bag, all while staying warm. Endowed with the power to maintain optimum body temperature in any situation, it is rumored that God himself wears one. The bag comes in several team-friendly colors and retails for $99.” God himself wears one?
4. Jose Canseco’s Tweets himself to a new low
Some folks, the Count follows on Twitter for news value. Others, he follows for obvious mocking material. Enter: Jose Canseco. He apparently watched the movie “Moneyball” and it prompted him to go on a Twitter spree Sunday night, during which he asked Oakland general manager Billy Beane for a tryout. He would’ve had better luck if asked NASA. The Tweets: 10:42 p.m. I am going to play this year. 11:07 p.m. Billy beane call me would love to dh for you just give me a tryout that’s all I ask. 11:09 p.m. Billy beane email me Jc7264@yahoo.com. 11:21 p.m. I am hitting at on deck baseball academy in Vegas ask Andy about me. 2:32 a.m. (Monday): Baseball hates bill James but the Boston red sox hired him .that’s from the movie money ball. baseball hates me maybe they can hire me. I think I liked Canseco better when he was losing to wrestlers. Speaking of which, this never gets old:
Canseco gets clocked by Vai Sikahema (via IcePromo.com)
3. Don Waddell is scouting players again
Former Thrashers general manager Don Waddell, who for the last several months has been paid by the Atlanta Spirit to, well, we’re still trying to figure that one out, is employed by an NHL team again. The Pittsburgh Penguins have given Waddell a job as a pro scout. We share this news not because we believe anybody in Atlanta really cares that much, but rather as a warning to any Penguins fans who might be reading this. Pittsburgh could soon see a rise in a 37-goal forwards from the minor leagues who get called up, score two goals with a plus-minus of minus-17 in 28 games and then suffer a groin injury.
2. Free Super Bowl tickets!
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, one of the more entertaining follows on Twitter (@jimirsay), is giving away free Super Bowl tickets. Honest. All you have to do is guess the Colts’ next head coach and, I guess, hope that Irsay picks. Here are some of Irsay’s Tweets over the past several hours. If you wade through, you’ll get to the contest. I already Tweeted my pick to him: Bobby Petrino.
1. And finally . . .
Maybe this is amusing only to me, but a fight broke out at a soccer game in England. Between teammates. Over who would get to take a penalty kick. It’s not like one guy picked up the ball and ran away with it, but . . . well, actually it was like that. Take a look:
By Jeff Schultz