Thursday, December 15, 2005

Vermont Frost Heaves | UPDATE

Oh, this could be a lot of fun.

Starting next November, Vermont is going to have a professional minor-league basketball team called the Vermont Frost Heaves. The team will play in a division of the reincarnated American Basketball Association with Montreal, Boston, Newark and Harlem.

The team's 18 home games will be split between the Barre Municipal Auditorium where the high school state championships are held every year and Memorial Auditorium in Burlington where I saw Wilco last year. I remember Jeff Tweedy joking about the antique gym saying something like "I feel like I'm playing at a prom. Has anyone snuck any MadDog under the bleachers yet?" Both places look they came straight out of central casting for a "Hoosier-style Gym".

The team will be owned by long-time Sports Illustrated writer and Cornwall, Vt resident Alexander Wolff. SI isn't investing in the team (the franchise cost less than 3-year-old Subaru) but they are asking Wolff to write articles about starting and running the franchise. However, the uniqueness of this franchise doesn't stop there. Wolff said that the team is going to be part town hall meeting where fans will be able to vote on the team's transactions. And to satisfy the fans concerned about the environment, the team will purchase renewable energy credits to offset the "emissions" the team produces when traveling to away games. Along the same lines, all of the concessions will be from local growers and producers (hopefully, they'll stock Pop Soda). Plus, if that wasn't enough to get people talking about the team, Wolff eventually wants to sell shares in the franchise to the fans a la the Green Bay Packers to prevent it from ever leaving the area.

You can read Wolff's inaugural article on the team here. Seven Days also has an article on the team.

As for the ABA, the league seems to have captured it's 1970's predecessor's loosey-goosey traits. There are a boatload of teams and each year some of the teams go under just like the old ABA. However, the old ABA had a sparkle of mischeviousness to it that stuck a shiv in the uptight ass of the NBA. With it's three-point line, red, white and blue balls and maverick players, the ABA was a fun league to follow. This version of the ABA seems to have captured some of that fun. The league's rules state that if a team generates a turnover in the backcourt, any ensuing buckets that are scored are worth an extra point. Hence, there is a big incentive for teams to press for the full court which makes for a run-and-gun style of basketball.

The other amusing league rule is the 11th man rule. Teams are allowed to dress and play a local amateur player every game. This rule has great potential. It can be used for anything from giving a shot to a local playground hot shot to rewarding a local hero to raising money for a local charity. Regardless, it keeps the team connected to the community.

If you are unfamiliar with the old ABA, I'd strongly suggest the great book Loose Balls. It's probably my favorite sports book ever. A detailed account of the hilarious highlights and lowlights of the ABA as told by the players, coaches, administrators and broadcasters. Bob Costas can be a smarmy little dork but his stories in this book about announcing games for The Spirit of St. Louis are fantastic.

Well, between the Mountaineers in the summer and now the Heaves in the winter (which dopey local sportswriter is going to be the first person to refer to them as the Dry Heaves when they lose a few games in a row?), we are going to have a lot of fun around here.

UPDATE: I got a nice email from Alexander Wolff and he pointed out two things that I had missed:

1) Regarding K's comment about the Heaves ever playing the Bellingham Slam:

Just fyi, we COULD play the Bellingham Slam if we were to make the playoffs from our division, and they from theirs, and we made it all the way (in an NCAAs-style, single-elimination bracket) to a final or semifinal.
2) Regarding the fans voting and keeping abreast of everything going on with the team:

If you're interested in keeping right up to date with every post I make on the Heaves' birth and life, sign up for our Bump in the Road Club and you'll get the dispatches directly.
The link to sign up for the Bump in the Road Club is here.


Nico said...

That's an interesting team name.

The best ever minor league team name was the hockey team in Macon, Georgia:

Macon Whoopee

scully said...

Did you notice that the Vermont Expos changed their name to the Lake Monsters? I love that name.

K. said...

My college town team should give the Heaves a run for their money....don't sleep on The Bellingham Slam...oh wait they probably won't play each other.

Flatlander said...

The name is a bit silly but I think it's a good way to signal to the fans that they aren't going to be taking themsleves too seriously.

Nico, by the way, if you've never dealt with frost heaves, they are a hassle. Every Spring when the ground starts to thaw, the roads start to buckle with these frost heaves. They last only for a few weeks but during the time, you can completely bottom out your car if you aren't driving carefully.

Macon Whoopee is a great name. I once heard a story about when the Astros bought the Kissimmee FL minor league team, they changed it to the Oceala County Astros because they thought people would mispronounce Kissimmee and think the team name was the Kiss-Me-Ass-tros. I don't know if it was true but still kind of funny.

Scully, I did hear they had changed their name. I guess their other option was to use the name for the lake monsters and call them the Vermont Champs but anyone outside of VT would not have understood the name and thought it was rather braggadocious. So, Lake Monsters works just fine. I still prefer Mountaineers though.

K, could the Bellingham Slam meet the Frost Heaves in the championship? I don't know how the playoffs work but it would seem that they could someday play each other.

jds said...

As soon as I saw the name I couldn't help but think of a future writter talking about the "Dry Heaves bumpy road." Are there any positive things that can said out of that name?

My favorite ABA teams are the Memphis Houn'Dawgs that only played one season (Horn'Dawgs anyone?), the Oklahoma City Ballhawgs who folded after ONE GAME(!), and "ABA's new premier team" the Charlotte Krunk (seriously).

Bunch of us in the office were trying to pick names for the defunct Vermont Expos. We really wanted Rainbows. Guess Lake Monsters is a bit more acceptable.

Great write-up Flatlander.

jds said...

Saw that update. I guess "bumpy road" has already been used. Didn't think it would take long.

That linked site mentions "reality media?" So is that non-scripted media? Real time media events? Someone please explain to me what that means.

nico said...

I've never had to deal with a frost heave. If it has to do with cold white stuff that falls from the sky, then I'm largely ignorant of it as I've lived in Florida for the past 18 months and grew up in a place it might snow 1 or 2 inches every year or two.

Kissimmee is just south of Orlando, I'll have to look into the Osceola thing. It wouldn't surprise me if they changed it, that's a pretty conservative area down there.