This blog started out as a collection of scripts for an online radio show of the same name. It riffed off of my 2004 book, Musings from the Christian Left, now republished as The Conscience of a Catholic Radical.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Pro Sports Ownership

Congratualtions to the New England Patriots on their third Super Bowl victory in four years! Welcome to the Washington Nationals! Condolences to my fellow hockey fans. To the players in each of these sports, as well as all the rest, I invite you to consider how a new system of ownership will improve your sport.

What does a Super Bowl victory have to do with the Nats or the NHL? Simply put, I believe that you the players and those who have retired would do a better job owning the team than the current regime. Let me give you two for instances - the current regime is geographically challenged, for it considers Baltimore to be in the North, Indianapolis the South and Dallas the East. I know the owners were trying to preserve rivalries, but I think you can schedule an annual game between Washington and Dallas without having them be in the same division. (Maybe Condi Rice will be able to convince them of this after she finishes her stint at State). It would have been much for interesting for Phili to have played Carolina twice and Atlanta to have played Dallas twice. I don't think this would have changed the ultimate result, but a truer geographic distribution would be better for the fans. Imagine a Cincinnati-Indianapolis rivalry and you get my point. Let me illustrate:

American North: Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh
American East: New England, Buffalo, New York, Baltimore
American South: Tennessee, Miami, Jacksonville, Houston
American West: Denver, Kansas City, San Diego, Oakland
National North: Green Bay, Detroit, Chicago, Minnesota
National East: New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Carolina
National South: Atlanta, New Orleans, Dallas, Tampa Bay
National West: Seattle, San Francisco, Arizona, St. Louis

If Indianapolis played outside more, what might have happened in the Indy - Pittsburgh game? Hmm. Of course, with this lineup Indy would have been a wild card, likely playing whoever would have won the American Conference South. Other than that, the playoff picture would not have been much different.

The other place where the NFL gets it wrong is championship rankings. Current championship standings put a premium on the record rather than the number of championships, while ignoring Conference Championships, which to me seem as important as titles in the old AFL and NFL. After last night, here are the current rankings (with win-loss as the tie breaker for teams with the same number of titles):

Rank Team Wins-Losses
1 Green Bay 13-5
2 Dallas 13-11
3 Washington, San Francisco (tie) 10-7
5 Pittsburgh 9-8 (losing AFC cost them nothing in rank)
6 New England 8-3 (up from #12, if they win next year they will be #3)
7 Chicago, Denver (tie) 8-5
9 Oakland 8-11
10 NY Giants 8-12
11 Miami 7-5
12 Buffalo 6-6
13 St. Louis 6-11
14 Indianapolis 5-5
15 Philadelphia 5-6 (up from #17 by winning the NFC, down to #15 by losing to N.E.)
16 Kansas City, Detroit (tie) 4-2
18 Minnesota 4-8
19 Cleveland 4-10
20 Tennessee 3-7
21 Baltimore 2-0 (in reality, they are 6-10)
22 Tampa Bay, NY Jets, Cincinnati (tie) 2-2
25 San Diego 2-7
26 Arizona 1-1
27 Carolina, Atlanta (tie) 1-2 (by losing last night they drop down one)
29 Seattle 0-1
30 Jacksonville 0-2

Why do I think this has any more chance of being put in under a player-retiree owned regime? Because more eyes and more voices make for more truth. When only 31 owners and a community owned CEO make the decisions, the temptation to go along to get along is stronger.

The same is also true with the Nats and the Commissioners battle with DC Council Chair Linda Cropp over the stadium. A better solution would be for the District and players to own the team. Of course, in that case there would be no team movement from Montreal, just as the Senators would never have vacated twice if the District Government had a piece of the action. The Minnesota Twins would still be here - and there would have been an expansion team in the Twin Cities and in Dallas instead.

The movement of the Nationals to DC might be fortuitous if the ownership group were to include the District, who is still ultimately responsible for the financing of the stadium, private investment aside.

As for the NHL, if the players owned the team, there would be no strike and the salary demands would have been taken care of by esprit de corps (it is harder to justify a huge salary to your teammates than it is to an owner). The league would no longer lose money, play would improve as team cohesion increases and the venues would be packed.

I have a modest suggestion for the players - start your own league - at least in the interim. You may have to work to find rinks. In DC, since Abe Pollin owns the ice rink another venue is necessary. Where there is a municipal venue, use it. Pick new mascots, hire refs and start a replacement league. It will surely can't draw less people than the current scheme and it will improve your bargaining position with the owners, who will have to cut you in to get you to come back to work. You may have to cut back on the stratospheric salaries, but if you follow the suggestions I set out on my web page, you will have a more secure retirement (there are many former multi-millionaire retired stars who are now in dire straits - long term ownership is your best bet).

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Anyone out there? If so, leave a comment.