Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Different approaches to ownership

One of these things is not like the other.

Would you rather have the best players on your team, or the most marketable ones?

It sounds like a stupid question, mostly because it is. Any fan worth their water doesn't give a crap what the general public thinks about the players on their team. As long as they are winning, that's all they care about.

It's an interesting question to ask, however, because many owners probably try and balance this in some way. When it all boils down, there are two worlds that sports owners live.

Revenue-driven owners look out solely for the bottom line.

Competition-driven owners want to win over all other things.

Although not mutually exclusive, the thought process for these two worlds is different. Owners like Mark Cuban and George Steinbrenner, despite their pitfalls, ultimately just want to win. It consumes them. They know that if they win, the money will come. And ultimately, they will spend whatever is within their power to get to that point. Losing kills them inside. They can't sleep, their stomachs hurt. Don't get me wrong, they want to make money, but they would never sacrifice the product they put on the field if it means some lost revenue.

Given, all owners would like their teams to win, but when you break it down to pure motives, most owners fall into one category or the other. Given, I have no problem with the revenue-driven owner. After all, it's usually the real reason anyone who has enough money to buy a professional sports team is rich in the first place. You want a return on your investment. And if that is your main prerogative, that's fine. I just think that owners who aren't passionate about their team's on-field or on-court success don't care about or realize that their earning potential is exponentially higher when the team is successful.

Take the Los Angeles Angels for instance. Their owner, Arte Moreno, realizes that spening money on salary and putting the right players on the field will make his team successfull (obviously). He has also taken steps to cater to the fans by renaming the ballpark to a non-corporate name (branding for the Angels), and lowering beer prices. He takes the fans into consideration and watches his bottom line in the process. It's really a brilliant, not-so-crazy concept that somehow doesn't catch on.

Given, team situations are different. But there are teams that have the opportunity to create an atmosphere of winning that fans love to be around. The Angels built themselves up the right way. Many do not.

My point in all of this rambling is that there are owners like Moreno who consider success primary among the concerns of fans, and sprinkling it with some other incentives helps. Then, there are those who are fine with rolling out a mediocre-to-bad product just because they'll continue to make acceptable profits. Instead of producing a winner, they cover the team with unhealthy toppings instead of building the actual product. New York Knicks owner James Dolan is obviously fine with doing this every season. Because of television contracts and the city they play in, the Knicks will probably always sit atop the revenue hill among NBA teams. What Dolan needs to finally acknowledge, is that rebuilding would ultimately earn him even more money in the long term. Owning a sports franchise is about long-term revenue performance, right? Instead, he keeps pulling in players who he feels the city of New York will embrace...Stephon Marbury and Larry Brown's acquisitions being the biggest offenses among them all. Of course, Brown didn't last. But the Knicks still have Marbury, a New York guy who the fans supposedly like having. But, going back to my initial question...which would fans rather like? A well-built team that can compete, or a team with guys they like personally? I'm imagining they choose the former every time.

Reasonably yours,

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Dad said...

Put a winner on the field. I seem to remember being willing to pay ridiculous amounts of money for standing room only tickets to the Astros playoffs. That seems like light years ago now.

Ryan said...

Then you have the Twins and Carl Pohlad.. content on putting a competitive team that's almost there, but not quite ready to spend the extra dollars to put it over the hump.