I’m pretty sure I would. I wouldn’t go full Jerry Jones and anoint myself the czar of all personnel decisions, but I would tell my general manager: “Hey, before you make any major-league free agent signings or significant trades, hop on the phone with me and be prepared to justify it.”
A question my friend and I were bantering around the other day: if you were the CEO of a startup, and somebody like Google offered you $2 billion for the company before it had really taken off, would you take it? I said no. For me, I don’t really know what the lifestyle difference is between having $10 million and $2 billion, and I can’t imagine if you had developed this startup that was presently worth $2 billion your net worth would ever fall below the totally arbitrary value of $10 million. Meanwhile, there is a very good chance your business appreciates in value to at least $4 billion. And that’s when you comfortably have enough money to buy a Big 4 sports team, which is something I would absolutely do if by some impossible circumstances I ever came into that much scratch. Buying a sports franchise is both awesome and just about the best way you can invest your money.
I’d buy a team and, if the stadium situation was iffy, I’d finance a brand spanking new one by myself. At that point, well, you’re not really beholden to anyone.
As fans, because we fall in love with certain sports and certain teams at such a young age, we’re often prone to forgetting that sports franchises are not community enterprises. They’re private businesses insulated by the most monopoly-friendly circumstances in the world.
When we demand that owners like the Pegulas in my market (Buffalo) expand the Sabres scouting staff, well, why should they care, especially if they finance every aspect of the team? They’re trying to make money by reducing operating expenses. And while the city of Arlington, Texas put up $325 million for the new AT&T Stadium, Jerry Jones covered the last $1 billion. So we’re fighting a losing battle trying to pressure him to put a “real” football mind in the general manager’s seat. The Cowboys are his team, his brilliant investment in 1989, and he’s having fun (probably too much fun).
So, back to Jerry and how I would run a pro sports team if I was the sole owner. I wouldn’t make myself the GM, because having the public on your side is important and I don’t want the stands filled with “Shanahan Sell the Team” signs. But hey, maybe I would veto a trade if my general manager wanted to make a move that signaled an oncoming rebuild and I was positive we could squeeze one more good year out of the team. I’d certainly want semi-frequent meetings with the GM and head coach, if only to have a pulse on the day-to-day happenings of the team.
For many owners, buying a sports team is marrying blissful, childlike fun with a near-certainty that you’re going to make another yachtload of money. The commendable ones are dutifully hands-off and just let the qualified people do their jobs. But that wouldn’t be me.
I hate that I wrote this entry. I hate the tone of it. But it reminds me that I am dumb for being a sports fan.