Justice Is Served

February 13, 2010 5:59 PM

Charge fans for H2O? Cavs blame H1N1 for it


Call me a skeptic. OK, maybe even call me a loon. Go ahead. Maybe I deserve these unflattering titles. That's cool, 'cause I'll admit I might have this Cavs thing all wrong.

But I never, not for a New York minute, believed the Cavaliers took out the water fountains inside Quicken Loans Arena because of concern people might catch the flu.

True enough, H1N1 frightens the hell out of most of us. And the spread of this flu germ isn't a thing for a man to trifle with. Yet were the team's fears so real that removing the water fountains - germ magnets that water fountains are - was the lone remedy?

Thirsty fans at The Q need not worry; the fountains are returning, although perhaps not because fans expressed their outrage. Apparently, the decision to remove the water fountains in the first place needed a city permit, which the Cavaliers never bothered to get.

Even if they had gotten the city permit, they would have faced another hurdle, one too large to jump over: State building codes, according to various reports, require one water fountain for every 1,000 occupants, and with 20,000-plus packing the joint for each Cavs game, that means the arena had to have at least 20 water fountains, unless my math skills betray me.

Now, I never saw the removal as a high crime, not like, oh, the jacked-up prices that downtown parking lots charge people on nights the Cavs, Indians or Browns play at home. I would, however, put this water-fountain caper in the category of petty larceny, because absent those water fountains, the Cavaliers have been stealing money.

Have you tried to buy a bottle of water lately at an arena anywhere in America? You might as well buy a giant cup of Coke or Pepsi instead; pop isn't that much more than the bottled water.

Charging for water is a bonanza for sports teams -- and also a clever marketing strategy for companies that have convinced Americans that Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, Fuji, Perrier, Crystal Geyser, Ice Mountain, Poland Spring and all the other bottled brands are better than tap water. I know, as circus P.T. Barnum put it, a sucker's born every day, but suckers must be more plentiful than even Barnum imagined if distributor can put a bloated price tag on a product that, essentially, is free.

And people do pay handsomely for bottled water inside The Q, which translates into profit margin that surely must be higher than what a team earns from selling hot dogs, pizzas and buttered popcorn.

Worried about H1N1 - the Cavaliers? Not one bit. The team officials saw giant dollar signs in front of them, and they wanted to rake in as much of the fans' cash as they could. The Cavs can argue to the contrary until Detroit re-elects Kwame Kilpatrick mayor (check that, Detroit might do that in its next election.)

No matter, the point remains. I don't believe taking out the water fountains was as innocent as the team led fans to believe. Someone in its corporate offices had an eureka moment, and he tried to talk others into signing off on his bozo idea.

They did.

So out with the water fountains; in came the trucks with case after case of overpriced bottled water to unload.

Thank goodness wise legislation was in place to rescue fans from this naked greed. Now, they must wait to see how long it takes before the water fountains return.

The talk is the fountains will be back in The Q before month's end. We'll see. They weren't back for the most recent home game there, and I don't see speed as being a No. 1 priority with this.

There goes the skepticism in me.

I mean, officials in the corporate offices know they have the hottest team in pro sports and the most bankable star in basketball. They figured all along why give away what they could sell. Who'd complain, right?

Not the suckers.

Yet suckers do have our limits, and paying for bottled water was something even they were unwilling to stomach without kicking up a fuss.

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