Friday, November 20, 2009

Talks of Minnesota to LA Highlights the Biggest Issue in Sports

One of the biggest things I enjoy is when we justify another person's actions because they are older, or they have a lot of money, or better yet they have a prestigious position.

This is always apparent when discussing professional teams moving in sports. Always at the core of a certain team moving is an owner who's dubious actions are justified because he's a seasoned veteran who knows how things work. Or better yet we justify them because, 'hey he's just trying to make some money!"

See that's the problem. Leagues are made when we, the fans, admire our favorite teams. (Why do you think the MLS is struggling so much to make it in the US? The fan support is not there.) We cheer for them for countless years and we always stay true to them. Sure bad times come, but at the end of the day we still hang close.

Given the right circumstances all that devotion and dedication is forgotten in the eyes of an professional sports team owner. Take for instance the Minnesota Vikings and owner Zygi Wilf. The team wants a new stadium and because they are not getting what they want the franchise is starting to consider moving to Los Angeles. This sort of Vikings-to-LA talk has been going on for the last decade.

This situation has nothing to do with whether or not you are a Minnesota Vikings fan. This has to do with what's right and wrong. Why should some owner with lots of money be given the choice to move a franchise and years of history because he or she feels inclined to? How can one position have so much power? And better yet the thing that always intrigues me about these owners is the fact they tend to be people who never played football. There's of course the foreign owner (Wilf)- he's the prototypical man who steps in the NFL spotlight with tons of money, yet such little expertise or understanding about football. To put it bluntly, he's all about the Benjamins. Then there's the old relic whose rein as an owner has been pathetic, but he is bailed out of humiliation by some fortunate events. Tom Benson of the New Orleans Saints and Bill Bidwill of the Arizona Cardinals fall into this category.(Because of the recent success of head coach Sean Payton and Drew Brees, for once, Sith Benson does not have to hang his head. And as for Bidwill his son has taken over a lot of duties, which is a huge reason for the Cardinals' rise.)

There are many of them, but they are all the same. When times are good, things are fine, but at the end of the day nothing will stop an owner from making more money. Not even the loyalty of fans. Take for instance Art Modell. He lied to the city of Cleveland and stabbed them in the back. Always a classy move, yet wipe it under the rug because, well, it's business.

(Think owner Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots is the best one out there? He's been terrific lately, but in 1999 the Pats were awfully close to moving to Hartford, Connecticut. Can you imagine that? The Hartford Patriots - eek!)

I guess the reason I am so upset about this Minnesota-to-LA story is because I know how this feels. I remember in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina smashed into New Orleans. The city was devastated to say the least. I remember my dad telling me that he thought the Saints would never play in New Orleans again. I remained hopeful as did so many fans. It was a nightmare, but it only grew thanks to the efforts of Tom Benson. While New Orleans was recovering and dealing with the aftermath of the worst hurricane to hit the US, talks began to emerge that Benson wanted to move the team to San Antonio. There were fridges on the side of the road in New Orleans that said "Tom Benson's head inside." Imagine if you are walking on the sidewalk, tripped and fell on your face. This is what Katrina did to New Orleans. Now imagine while laying down on the sidewalk a man kicks you in the face. That's what Tom Benson did to New Orleans.

It's crippling to say the least. Your team, the one you root for every chance you get, could be gone because of one man's motives. All the memories and good times would be sweep under a rug when your team donned a new logo, name, and city. I felt helpless when this all took place and most of all infuriated at Tom Benson. I see the same thing with the Vikings. The history with that franchise is a lot more vast than the Saints, but again that is irrelevant. It means nothing to an owner.

I think for once everyone can agree (even Viking fans) that the best way to have a team is how the Green Bay Packers do it. No one person owns the Packers. In short stockholders own the Packers - 111,921 of them. Never will a hot-shot foreigner step in and make the statement the Packers should think about moving.

There needs to be a better way of handling this sort of issue. There needs to be a better solution.

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