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Who's Fault is it? (Sports Edition)

March 9, 2020

I saw an article in The 18 Magazine that asked the question "Who's Fault is it for Manchester United's struggles?"

 

I don't know how they made a whole article out of that question.

Here's the answer: The Glazers'. End of story.

 

The Glazers inherited one of the best Managers in Premier League history (Sir Alex Ferguson) and when he retired, United couldn't do anything right. Despite having nearly all of the monetary advantages a team could have in an uncapped Premier League, the team continued to slide down the table. If everything is slanted your way and you can't win, that is the owners fault.

 

In the Premier League, there are six teams that are clearly ahead of the game in revenue: Manchester United

Manchester City

Liverpool

Chelsea

Arsenal

Tottenham Hotspur

 

The Glazers didn't create massive revenue streams, they inherited massive revenue streams. There is an easy equation in sports, if you can spend more money, on better players, you have a better chance to win, pretty much across the board regardless of the sport in question. Manchester United should never be outside of the top 6 in the Premiership. The Glazers had also inherited a great brand name, with their great revenue streams, and a great tradition. 

 

 

That's not the case in all sports.

 

In the NFL there is a salary cap. There's been a salary cap in the NFL for over 25 years. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozell was all about parity, as have been all of his predecessors. If you have a losing record in the NFL for a decade or so, that is clearly the owners' fault.

 

List of NFL teams with the #1 Reason they lose being the owner:

Cleveland Browns: Jimmy Haslam

Washington Redskins: Dan Snyder

Jacksonville Jaguars: Shahid Khan

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Glazers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers record in last 10 years? 59-101. No playoff appearances

 

Maybe you can make an argument for the Ford Family in Detroit, maybe Marc Davis in (now) Las Vegas. Other than that, it is HARD to lose consistently in the NFL. An owner may be part of the problem in multiple cities, but in few places they are THE problem. 

 

Let's use the Browns for example. You could disagree with me and say the Browns lose because they have a terrible General Manager, a terrible Coach, or terrible players.

 

Okay, the Browns have had 8 coaches in the past decade, Mangini, Shurmur, Chudzinski, Pettine, Jackson, Williams, Kitchens, and now Stefanski. At some point you have to blame the guy who fires the coaches.

 

Okay, the Browns have had 6 GMs in the past decade. Heckert, Lombardi, Farmer, Brown, Dorsey, and now Berry. At some point you have to blame the players on the field.

 

Okay, at quarterback, for example, the Browns have had McCoy, Delhomme, Wallace, Weeden, Lewis, Campbell, Hoyer, Manziel, Shaw, McCown, Davis, Kessler, Griffin III, Kizer, Hogan, Taylor, & Mayfield.

 

There is no one still around to blame for the dismal 42-115-1 record except for the owner's wife, I'm not going to speculate on how long she's going to stick around....

In the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings have the worst record in the league, but they are coming off of a recent 25 year playoff streak. Every team has their ups and downs, and every team has to do a scrape and rebuild every decade or so, but what team in the NHL loses strictly because of their owners? Remember, part of the resolution of the NHL's 2004-2005 lockout was to install a salary cap. 

 

List of NHL teams with the #1 Reason they lose being the owner:

Buffalo Sabres: Terry Pegula....

 

Only 2 teams in the NHL had records under .500 this past decade due to ties and the OTL column. The Sabres (310-370-103) and the Oilers (308-382-92). I was ready to type in the Oiler's owner Daryl Katz's name, but then I read the column- Can the health issues of Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz help all of us to better use our powers for good? 

The Oilers have a Hall of Fame GM. They have one of the brightest young stars in the game in Connor McDavid. Katz has invested in Edmonton. Right now in the standings, they are winning and the seeds that were planted in the mid '10s are bearing fruit.

 

So with that being said, the other bad owner is the Ottawa Senators' Eugene Melnyk. Even though the Senators' on ice record isn't terrible, imagine how good the team might have been if their owner gave a rat's ass and wasn't hiding out in Barbados. Senators fans are in a very precarious situation. If the fans stop going to Ottawa games, Melnyk will move the team. If the fans go to the games, Melnyk's not going to be re-investing in the team. Fans have put bounties on the owner's head and called him the Worst Sports Owner in Canada.

 

The Florida Panthers have failed to win a playoff series in over a decade. They should move to Toronto or.... Oh, forget it, we already know that Gary Bettman doesn't do anything that makes sense. I tend to blame Bettman more for the Panthers' issues because he allows two ice hockey teams to exist in Florida.

 

(I will also listen to the argument about the poor ownership of the Toronto Maple Leafs' owner Maple Leaf Sports. But it's hard to focus venom at a faceless real estate conglomerate.) 

In MLB, there is no salary cap, so a bad owner in baseball is slightly different than in other sports

 

 

The Chicago White Sox are in a major market, but their payroll is in the bottom quarter of baseball. So with one of the worst records in the past decade, it is easy to place blame at the feet of Jerry Reinsdorf and he deserves it. He got his championships....in basketball. Is Reinsdorf the worst owner in Baseball? Possibly. 

 

And using the Manchester United model, the Phillies don't win very many games compared to their bloated payroll, so in theory the blame lies at the feet of John Middleton. But Middleton isn't even technically the majority owner, he's the face of an ownership group.

 

The San Diego Padres, on the other hand, are in a small market (#29) and Owner Ron Fowler is handcuffed. I blame MLB and its business model itself more than I blame Ron Fowler.

 

And, in that same vein, the Marlins have had an awful record the past decade, but in 2017 Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter bought the Marlins from Jeffrey Loria, aka "The Worst Owner in All of Sports." It's going to take Sherman and Jeter YEARS to undo the damage done to the Marlins by Jeffrey Loria. I would argue the Marlin's losing ways are still due to Loria's long shadow.

 

Even the Baltimore Orioles owner kind of has an excuse, Peter Angelos was a great owner in the 90's, yet by 2009 he was named one of the worst owners in sports by Sports Illustrated. But Baltimore has the distinct misfortune of being in a division with two other teams (Yankees and Red Sox) with over triple their payroll. So Angelos gets points for, at minimum, keeping the Orioles in Baltimore......

 

So other than aging Jerry Reinsdorf, I blame the structure of Major League Baseball more than I blame any specific owner for losing. So despite some anomalies, win/lose records are generally tied to money. 

 

In the NBA, there is a soft cap. What owners try to do is avoid being one of the 5 teams that has to pay the luxury tax. Not unlike the NFL and NHL, it is actually hard to be bad for a decade straight.

 

There is one owner who is far and away the worst owner in Basketball (now that Donald Sterling is dead) and that's the owner of the New York Knicks, who, since he took full control in 1999, has had 3 winning seasons since 2000. (Donald Sterling is still alive, you say? Not to the NBA, he's not.)

 

The New York Knicks' James Dolan doesn't win and he seemingly TRIES to make the wrong move everytime.

 

Despite being one of the worst owners in all of sports, the Knicks are still worth over $4 Billion.

So even though you boo Dolan, and he is a terrible owner who clearly doesn't know up from down, guess what? He leaves the arena and laughs all the way to the bank. If you only care about money, and you make money hand over fist, is there real shame in being a perennial loser?

 

[While I was working on this article, James Dolan got into a very public feud with the Knicks' most famous fan. Dolan can't even do public relations right.]

 

In Major League Soccer, the worst owner is one that doesn't even have a team playing right now, Anthony Precourt. Back in 1994, the Columbus Crew was one of the charter members of Major League Soccer. By 1999, Columbus had built MLS' first soccer specific stadium. By 2014, the Columbus Crew were an American Soccer Success Story, breaking attendance records, making the playoffs, and possessing the right leadership on the sidelines (with Gregg Berhalter).  

 

Within 5 years of buying the Crew in 2012, Precourt surprised everyone in MLS and announced that the team was moving to Austin, Texas and into a new quarter of a billion dollar stadium. 

 

MLS doesn't have a salary cap as much as it has a salary budget, so most teams are more or less on the same footing when it comes to salary outlay. In Columbus, Precourt was in his own stadium, that was under 20 years old, with a fairly successful soccer team, without the albatross of an outlandish salary outlay. Why did he move? Because he's an asshole.

 

Really. You could argue that Austin offered Precourt the sun and the moon, but as soon as Precourt sold the Crew to Jimmy and Dee Haslam (yes, the same owners as the Cleveland Browns), they announced that they were building the Crew a brand new stadium in Columbus.

 

Columbus LOVES the Haslams and somehow Anthony Precourt made the worst owners in the NFL look good. You think I'm being too hard on Mr. Precourt? He should be glad he doesn't live in Manchester, England.

 

 

Where they chant for the owner's death. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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