If you take nothing else away from this article
remember: If you live in a major league city – football, basketball,
hockey or baseball – and you’re a property owner you might as well be a
sports fan because even if you never buy a ticket you will pay for your
teams sooner … or later.
Cooking the books, screaming poverty, threatening to
move and soaking the taxpayers has become the favorite game of
billionaire sports owners. Even Jerry Jones is seeking to join in.
all thought he had a perfectly adequate little stadium. Okay, it
was a little bald around the center, skyboxes didn’t have the highest
tech, but a good arena never-the-less.
You can even imagine him at the Arenas R Us store
kicking the tires on a new stadium when the salesman walks up:
“Whaddya think, Mr. Jones? It’s a beaut, ain’t she?
Look at this – heated seats, retractable field with dual surfaces,
moving sidewalks to the ladies’ rooms, Daktronics scoreboards with
instant replay and we’ve got a great CYA program called (wink, wink) “The City Helps You Finance It.”
Jerry Jones looks it over, scrunches up his
surgically tightened face and says “But you will take a nice little
stadium in trade, won’t you? Used only on Sundays by very sedate
tea-sipping fans. Very little wear. We always kept it painted. No rust.
All the skyboxes are leased. They
don’t build them like they used to.”
Art Modell moved the
Browns, which had sellout
crowds of 70,000 for fifty years in Cleveland, to Baltimore because
Baltimore offered a new $ 200 Million stadium rent free, financed by
taxes on all Maryland residents. Simple corporate welfare capitalism –
if someone offers you a new $ 200 Mil plant – for free – you move.
Never mind you had fans so loyal they dressed up like dogs and ate
puppy chow. Never mind they were willing to tax their own beers and
smokes to finance their own $ 200 Mil stadium. Never mind they braved
the coldest winters and made barking sounds and pumped their arms like
hyper Arsenio Halls. Never mind tax breaks given to many new stadiums
is money lost to city schools which will eventually work it’s way down
to drive away future fans needed the fill the stadiums. That’s looking
too far ahead.
All that matters to the owners is they need the
newest and the best. And if they don’t get it…. Well, just look at
Rome. Here, you had a state-of-the-art facility, a fancy Coliseum, but
there wasn’t enough ventilation in the vomitoriums, the locker rooms
were cramped (well, the Lions’ wasn’t so bad, but you should have seen
the Christians’) and if your name wasn’t Nero, good luck on getting a
skybox. They tried to float a heavy Toga Tax, which failed, and then
threatened to move to Naples.
And this is where the owners keep pointing. If only
the fans had gone along with the Caesar’s needs all would be right. But
they didn’t, people like Bud Selig, Steinbrenner and the Maloofs say,
so look at it NOW. Look at the Coliseum NOW!!
If you move to a major league city, just remember
when you’re signing your papers and you wonder what the little cloth
arrows they give you are – they’re for attaching to your clothes to
show the politicians and the ball team owners exactly where you keep