Frank McCourt: From the Parking Lot to Paradise and Back
July 3, 2011 1 Comment
Dodgers fans, you have a lot to be mad about, if you didn’t notice. A lot of people to blame, too. The sad part, as it almost always is, is that the fans didn’t deserve any of this. Fans didn’t ask to become divorce kids in the most damaging-to-baseball marriage split-up in the history of the game (if you come to me with some 1890s nonsense, just save it, it doesn’t matter.) You can be mad at Bud Selig for allowing a guy who owned a parking lot, and (here’s the kicker) not nearly enough capital to acquire the Dodgers, to do so. You can be mad at Frank (and Jamie) McCourt, for going ahead and doing so. You can be mad at anybody who had anything to do with letting this catastrophe happen. This whole thing is like Bud Selig looked at two trains headed directly for each other and said that they wouldn’t collide, because one of the trains just got new wheels. There was no reason to believe that Frank McCourt was going to be a good owner for the Dodgers, he was just a dude with a valuable parking lot. I don’t know if I can hammer this home enough– all Frank McCourt had on you, or me, was a parking lot. We would all fall into the pool of “not having enough money to buy the Dodgers” he just happened to have that parking lot. In case you were wondering, the lot was valued at approximately $200 million, when it was flipped by NewsCorp (who acquired the lot when McCourt bought the Dodgers from them) to Morgan Stanley. Obviously, $200 million isn’t enough to buy the Dodgers. But guess what! Frank McCourt still got to buy the Dodgers, through a deal financed largely on debt. This actually happened; this was actually allowed by a professional sports league to be done to one of its landmark franchises.
Now what? Bud Selig just blocked a $3 billion deal that would have given Fox Sports Network the rights to broadcast Dodgers games, and allowed Frank McCourt to meet his payroll, and everything would have been wonderful in paradise. I don’t blame Bud Selig for blocking the deal. For one, it was quite possibly undervalued. Two, allowing a team that is currently being fought over in divorce court to add 3 billion problems (cue Jay-Z) to the situation, is another patently idiotic decision. Thus, Frank McCourt had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order for payroll to be met, and all kinds of other fun financial jargon that Dodgers fans rightfully don’t, and shouldn’t have to, care about.At the end of the day, when this divorce is over, neither Frank nor Jamie McCourt will own the Dodgers, and the fans will be left with a team that is stuck in professional sports purgatory for the foreseeable future. Some married couples try to stay together for the kids– Frank and Jamie couldn’t stay together for the millions of Dodgers fans out there. What does that tell you?
Let’s look at the landscape of professional sports right now.
NFL- If this league was a movie character, it’d be Gordon Gekko. It has become quite obvious with these guys that the motto is “greed is good.” They’re currently in the middle of a labor dispute about nothing (maybe they’d be Seinfeld if they were a show.) All they’re fighting over is who gets the bigger piece of the $9 billion cookie cake. Lovely. A problem that all of us Americans slogging through a historically crappish economy can relate to. Remind me to feel sorry for the financial plight of any of these guys as soon as the cow jumps over the moon.
NBA- Locked out as well. This one is because the “savvy businessmen” who own these teams couldn’t put together a business model that would allow for them to make money. That’s right, dudes who made enough money to buy basketball teams didn’t have enough in the think tank to figure out a way to make those teams profitable. They could start by not handing out guaranteed contracts that paid the players receiving said contracts 5000 cents on the dollar when it comes to their actual value. Remind yourself to be shocked that the owners in this league are losing money.
MLB- Two of the league’s marquee franchises are currently in a major state of limbo. The Dodgers, as I mentioned above, and the Mets have had their well-documented financial strife as well. Don’t look now, but the group who bought the Astros took on a considerable amount of debt to do so. What’s that quote about those who don’t pay attention to history being doomed to repeat it? Oh, wait…
NHL- They’ve actually been doing pretty well since the 04-05 lockout. They just signed the biggest television contract in the history of their league this year, which will put more games on TV than ever before, and their financial pie has been growing each year. Unfortunately, America is too lazy to look for Versus on their cable guide. That’s not the NHL’s fault. They have the most captivating in-person product of the 4 major sports, and TV just doesn’t do it justice– and if you didn’t know already, getting people to the arena is harder than getting them to find your product on TV. So the NHL is at a competitive disadvantage, but they’re actually not doing too badly right now. Kudos to them. Their free agency frenzy is happening at the best possible time.
People ask us why we care so much about sports. These owners, whether it be Frank McCourt, the NFL owners, the NBA owners, or anybody, don’t seem to be doing us much justice right now. All we want, really, is not to feel like an ass for rooting for the team we root for. And right now, these professional sports leagues are seemingly kicking that notion to the curb. They don’t really care how stupid we feel for supporting their product, as long as we continue to finance their product. I apologize if this post is taking on the same tone as some of my previous posts, but it’s because there’s an overwhelming trend that seems to be more evident than it ever has before. The people in charge of the games we love just straight up don’t give a damn about what we think, or how we feel. I’m sorry Dodgers fans, if I could promise you that things would get better, I would. But, unfortunately, as it always is with sports, you’re just going to have to buck up and get through it.
Steve Sabato is a contributing writer for Home Field Advantage