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Elder Wisdom

Defunct Is Still Undefeated

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 02: The shadow of a cemetery worker is cast on reclaimed gravestones in London City Cemetery on March 2, 2009 in London, England. The cemetery is piloting a scheme whereby graves over 75 years old become eligible for reclamation. New interments will be placed into the existing graves, the headstones will be turned around and re-used, carving the names of the newly deceased. Once a grave has been earmarked by English heritage the cemetery must wait one year to see if family members claim the existing grave. By conserving as many memorials as possible the City of London hopes to maintain the historic cemetery landscape and sustain buriel provisions for the future. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

As we have typed before, defunct sports teams are the best teams of all because the dead can't hurt us any longer, while the living are all just vicious bastards hunting new victims at extortionate prices.

Thus, it is with deeply mixed feelings that the increasingly detested Oakland Athletics are expected to soon become the Sacramento Athletics as a way station toward their eventual goal of playing on the second runway at Harry Reid International Airport because Las Vegas won't have them downtown. From the moment the team announces its move to the minor-league park in West Sac as a response to their failed negotiations for a lease extension in Oakland, anyone who attends an A's game either in Oakland or the state capital is actively aiding and abetting a moron (last night's 800 fans disguised as 5,112, we're looking into your soulless eyes), and there will be no explanation in mitigation that satisfies. Sacramento will get to dance with the dunce who teased them on the way through town and deserves every mouthful of Elks club ashtray it gets.

In other words, the A's as we know them are about to reach the stage where they cannot harm us any longer because they will be as dead to us as the Kansas City Athletics or the Philadelphia Athletics before them or the other Philadelphia Athletics before that. They will be officially defunct like so many of their room-temperature pals over the centuries, mulch for some new failed incarnation in another town and as such can commit no more sins against baseball as we know it. There's about to be a whole new set of shameful failings to be compiled because a new city can't fix lazy, greedy, or stupid, and the A's have been operating at those hands for nearly two decades.

If the galactic pixies have a sense of humor, it'll be Sacramento because the town's athletic legacy needs an utter failure to replace the now-sprightly Kings, and the best team they ever had, the WNBA’s Monarchs, got croaked in 2009 not because of artistic merit but because of Fisheresque-level ownership incompetence. But that's the beauty of defunct: it doesn't care about the sharpness of the ax, only about the aim and the cleanup.

The A's are not the only corpse on the slab today. There are also the Newfoundland Growlers of the ECHL, whose moderate success on the ice did nothing to prevent their parent company, Deacon Sports And Entertainment, from failing to make league payments for either them or fellow ECHL team the Trois-Rivieres Lions. Deacon may have managed to sell off the two-year-old Lions and their cool logo, but not the Growlers and their even cooler logo. Thus, the Growlers were cacked on Tuesday, leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs without a second farm team to go with the Marlies, and Newfoundland with a fourth failed franchise.

As you know from your reading, Newfoundland has a special and delightfully odd place in the heart because, well, it's Newfoundland for fuck's sake. It takes forever and lunch to get from anywhere to Prince Edward Island, and then you're still eight hours away by boat, so yeah, it's a schlep with oak leaf clusters to get to anywhere from anywhere. Its remoteness did not prevent the NHL's Department Of Colonization from trying to put AHL teams there in 1991 (the Leafs moved them to become the Marlies in 2011), 2011 (replacing the Manitoba Moose as a Winnipeg affiliate), and then 2015 (when the Moose were relocated back to Winnipeg and replaced by the Canadiens' top affiliate in Hamilton before it was relocated to Laval three years later).

That's minor-league sports for you. Only a few teams are daft enough to put their farm teams so far away from the parent club (the Edmonton Oilers' farm teams are in Fort Wayne and Bakersfield, evidently because someone in the front office is a harlot for airline miles), so St. John's has always lived on the edge of abandonment.

This swift and sure dose of ignominy came with an extra knee in the nethers—the remaining Growler games were just canceled and the standings rejiggered to go from points accrued to point percentage, and most of the players were either declared ineligible or free agents. Thus, the town has now been abandoned again, this time just because the owners went toes in the snow, the fate John Fisher deserves but will never know because his father did a much better job of safeguarding the money. Deacon is still trying to close the deal for the Trois-Rivieres franchise, which is being allowed to finish its season but might get moved to Hamilton over the summer. None that helps the Growlers, though, who were noble, proud, a tough out in the postseason, and had some dandy merch.

At least the team will be fondly remembered, anyway; the franchise’s actual history was a bit more checkered, as it hired the ECHL'S first female assistant coach in Hall of Famer Danielle Goyette but lost a season to COVID and was evicted from the arena in St. John's because of unspecified complaints of "disrespectful workplace conduct" toward arena employees. After an investigation, the team played its first six games of the 2021–22 season in a thousand-seat municipal rink in nearby Conception Bay South. Even Growler the Dog couldn't win enough local sentiment to become the team's official mascot; that honor was reserved for a seven-foot inhabited costume of Buddy The Puffin, who served as the mascot for every team that plowed through town until he—the guy inside the suit, not the suit itself—died in 2022. Why they didn't ever call them the Puffins remains a mystery to this day.

Anyway, the Growlers are defunct, as is Buddy, as soon will be the Oakland A’s. And in an unrelated but tangentially linked development, so is Local Dog, who last week finally achieved his years-long goal of Uncle Billy's Farm after a long run as a collector of maladies so spectacularly varied that his vet said a year ago, "I've looked at his chart and frankly I'm surprised he's here at all." It sure beats how the other Growler got it, all things considered—at least Local Dog got stickers you can buy. Everyone deserved better, but defunct doesn't acknowledge the details. It just files the paperwork and moves on to the next gig.

The late Local Dog, in a getup described by Ray as "Sister Mary Indolence."

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