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Davis Journal

Ryan Smith’s passion a smart investment

Sep 15, 2023 10:09AM ● By Bryan Gray

If you asked folks in Davis County to name their favorite Utahn, I suspect a sizable number would answer with a religious figure or Gov. Cox. But for a significant portion of residents, another name – if they thought about it – would bubble up in the pot.

Ryan Smith. You know, the young guy wearing his baseball cap backwards in hipster style. One of the richest men in the Rocky Mountain West. And, most important, the majority owner of the Utah Jazz.

Or, to put it bluntly, the man who bucked the sports establishment and is offering Jazz games for free on KJAZZ TV.

Some of you will scoff. You don’t care about sports and you sneer at the multi-million dollar salaries demanded by athletes. To you, Ryan Smith may just be a rich bloke with a toy. But a professional sports team is more than a collection of athletically talented humans. See the lines outside the Delta Center…Listen to the debate on sports talk radio…Read the obituaries where 88-year-old women profess their love for “their Utah Jazz.”

A pro team is a community resource and some of its players become icons. There is a statue in downtown Salt Lake for John Stockton and Karl Malone. There is no statue for long-serving elected officials like Sen. Jake Garn or Bob Bennett. I personally admire Sen. Mitt Romney, but he didn’t hit a jump shot from the key propelling the Jazz to the NBA Finals.

The problem with cheering “our team” and “feeling good about ourselves the morning after our team wins” is that attending games is expensive. As sports columnist Gordon Monson noted, it’s not uncommon to pay $200 for a single seat for one regular-season game or $450 for a pair of seats and parking. Then the father/mother/son coughs up another $50 for a plate of nachos and a cold beverage.

So the common masses have to get their Jazz fix on their television. That has ratcheted up in price as most team owners have taken away free options in lieu of cable subscriptions or streaming fees.

In making television broadcasts free, Smith is endearing himself to the community – and also making a shrewd bet. If you can’t see the games due to cost, the community tie evaporates. Travel to New England: Grandpa was a Red Sox fan, passed on to Dad, then to his sons and daughters. It’s a generational obsession. Don’t wear a Yankee T-shirt into a Boston sports bar unless you have a generous health insurance plan.

Watching Lauri Markkanon and the wily Jordan Clarkson on free broadcasts will lead to dad and mom buying a ticket or two. It might be in the upper balcony cheap seats, but they will pinch and save to occasionally be part of “the show.” Free television keeps the Jazz top-of-the-mind making Ryan Smith’s passion a smart investment.

Thanks to Ryan Smith, we won’t need a Brinks truck stopping by our house before we can watch the Jazz. If it makes Smith popular, it also makes him a visionary business owner.

Bryan Gray, a longtime Davis County resident, is a former school teacher and has been a columnist for more than 26 years in newspapers along the Wasatch Front.