Sunday, July 13, 2008

July 11th, 2008

Sometimes it's easy to think sports is about good stuff--the lyricism of a Michael Jordan on the basketball court, the grace of Roger Federer playing tennis, the power of the Vince Lombardi Packers, the power and grace of the DiMaggio Yankees. Unh unh. All wrong.

Sports is about making money for the folks who own the teams.

I am reminded of that by a story in today's Washington Post reporting that the owners of the Washington Nationals baseball team are refusing to pay $3.5 million in rent for their new stadium, alleging that it is incomplete. The team is also demanding, the Post says, $100,000 a day in damages. I'm not quite sure what for.

I've been to the new park couple of times, and it looks fine to me. The scoreboard works; the seats flip up and down; there's an infield and an outfield; you can buy a dog and a beer. No players have complained about conditions, as far as I know.

In fact, the fans might be the ones to complain--about the team. There was a saying about the old Washington Senators: "Washington--first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League." For the new Nationals you'd have to change the ending to "last in the National League Central Division." That's where they are, all right. And sure they've had some bad luck--injuries, and so on. But last is, as they say, last. And while the team thinks the city owes it some kind of damages, it has not offered rebates to fans who had hoped for a winner.

The city paid for the new stadium. Taxpayers' money, some of it mine. The city spent more than $611 million in public money to build the stadium. And the team won't pay up? I'd tear down the park and give them twenty-four hours to get out of town. And I'm a fan; I like the game.

I think in Owners' School they must screen that Michael Douglas movie all the time. You know, the one where the line you remember is when he says, "Greed is good."

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