Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Snyder predated Sports' Regional Trend

Braves owner Paul Snyder was many things to many people -- team founder, consummate businessman, a guy who had little patience with players or coaches, a major reason why the team eventually left town. But he was certainly a visionary when it came to the regionalization of sports.

Early in his tenure, he wanted his Braves empire to extend from Toronto around the west end of Lake Ontario to Syracuse. Today, many sports teams are regional phenomenon. The Atlanta Braves are the team of the Southeast. The Dallas Cowboys are America's team, with a devout audience in Texas and Oklahoma. And when it comes to pro sports in Buffalo, things have come full circle.

Efforts are under way for the Toronto Raptors to play an exhibition game or two in Buffalo. Of course, the Bills are already slated to play games in Toronto and many predict that the NFL team will head north of the border for good when owner Ralph Wilson dies.

It's too bad that the Braves couldn't have hung on a few more seasons, or at least protected their territorial rights better. It wasn't that long ago that Snyder contended that Toronto fell under the shadow of his Braves empire. Such posturing fell apart when the Braves left town after the 1978 season and Buffalo city fathers didn't contest the move in court.

The irony of ironies is that the guys who grew up to own the Raptors attended Braves games back in the mid-1970s at the old Maple Leaf Gardens. Reportedly, that's where they first got the idea for an NBA team in Toronto.