SPORTS w/The Jock 4-21-11

by Tom Weppel
If you were to take a poll of general sports fans around the country, asking them if they would or could have an interest in owning a professional sports team, my general guess is that a majority of fans would probably give a positive, or ‘yes’, answer. The thrill of being a part of a major sports league and team is enticing enough that most fans would think ownership is all fun and games.
That said, the fantasy world of owning a professional sports franchise (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) is something that many of us have absolutely no clue in understanding. I can tell you from a fairly close-up perspective that it absolutely is NOT all its cracked up to be!
While there are plenty of good times and pleasure to take in, associated with games, star athletes, and the perceived high-standing recognition, the other aspects to interpret within the ownership can be simply tantalizing.
For all intents, ‘your’ business is everybody’s business! Indeed…what owners do with, to, and for their teams becomes an issue every single day, if you think about it. Every move…every decision…every hiring…every firing…ALWAYS gets looked-upon by fans, Media, and business associates, in all sorts of ways. No matter what owners do…even if it’s the most positive thing to do for the community, or winning a championship…there will always be someone or somebody coming out with a bone to pick for or against the team.
When you think about it, most of us wouldn’t really be too cool about letting somebody else know what we were up to or doing with our business. Hence the ongoing scrutiny and observation is an area that is very difficult to accept and/or allow.
But the bottom line is people have a right to come out with that scrutiny concerning a pro sports team, especially when those fans are the people that are supporting the team in all sorts of ways, mainly as season ticket-holders.
I bring all this out, because in Los Angeles, we have been finding out a whole lot about the owners of one of the most prestigious baseball franchises in Major League history! The Los Angeles Dodgers are certainly, EASILY one of the top-tier teams in MLB, not only from their location and marketability, but from their overall history of players and titles, from Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider to Steve Garvey. They have won their share of World Series titles, especially from their days with Tommy Lasorda as their Manager.
But that doesn’t mean an owner can come in and simply tear the franchise apart, sucking vast financial amounts of cash out of the coffers for their own personal use, while failing to put funds back in to keep the team running at a high level.
And that is exactly what Frank McCourt has done as owner of the Dodgers franchise. Since taking over ownership in 2004 from the NEWS Corporation, it looks like McCourt has torn the Dodgers ballclub apart in all sorts of ways, especially in consideration of the ongoing nasty legal divorce proceedings between McCourt and his estranged wife, Jamie.
Saddled with over $400 million in debt, the Dodgers have steadily gone downhill in value, and they are struggling to make ends meet, as we speak. Hence the decision by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to take over day-to-day operation of the club.
In the meantime, it will be up to GM Ned Colletti and Manager Don Mattingly to try and keep things rolling on the field. They currently have a decent group to work with, as their 9-10 record shows. They are playing in a tough Division, though, with the Rockies and Giants both off to a solid start.
The bottom line here, though, is this…no matter how great a franchise or ball club an owner has to work with, they simply MUST do the right thing in knowing how to run the operation and put back in to keep it all running well. The O’Malley Family obviously knew what they were doing for 47 years, from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, in operating the Dodgers. Obviously Frank McCourt didn’t know how to follow up on that reputation…