Sunday, 23 September 2012

Grazing at The Pleasure of the Owners

In the early days of the NHL's third lockout of its players in the last 18 years, Jimmy Devellano - a Senior VP and Alternate Governor of the Detroit Red Wings - managed to set back owner-player relations a couple decades when he opened his mouth and spewed the following this past week:

"It's very complicated and way too much for the average Joe to understand, but having said that, I will tell you this: The owners can basically be viewed as the Ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle. The owners own the Ranch and allow the players to eat there. That's the way its always been and that's the way it will be forever. And the owners simply aren't going to let a union push them around. It's not going to happen."

Well Jimmy, that certainly simplifies the situation for us "average Joe(s)".  The players are "CATTLE" on the Ranch and the Owners "ALLOW THE PLAYERS TO EAT THERE"!

Sadly, Devellano wasn't trying to be funny.  He (and likely some other paleolithic management types) actually thinks of players this way.

What an insult to all the Detroit Red Wing players, past and present, and all NHL Players generally. NHL Players toil for years to become the best 720 people in the World at performing their craft.  They have short working careers.  They have wives and children.  They play hurt more often than not.  They do community service and make charitable appearances at their Club's request.  They often end up with debilitating injuries for their entire post-career lives based on the physical sacrifices they make on the ice for their teams. 

In putting forth his views publicly, Devellano might have ultimately prolonged the Lockout and undermined the Owners' bargaining position.  His statements may act to galvanize the Players' resolve to get a fair deal.  Can the Owners any longer proclaim with a straight face that their relationship with the players is one of "partnership"?  Remember, "partnership" was the mantra for the dawn of the new age of Owner/Player relations in the new CBA coming out of the year long Lockout that saw the entire 2004/2005 season cancelled.

At the very least, Devellano's comments are a gift to the NHLPA leadership.  His comments provide bulletin board material to prove what union leaders have been telling players for years - that some people in ownership (maybe more than one realizes) don't regard the players as much more than animals, grazing on the spoils of the game at the Owners' pleasure.  

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Business of Sports

Every day, the business side of sports gets "curios-er and curios-er".  The aim of this Blog is to raise issues of interest in the business of the "Big 4" North American pro sports leagues - the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL - and to provoke discussion about those issues.

To start things off, today saw a new and interesting story about Pete Rose, the all time Hits leader in MLB.  Unless you just crawled out from under a rock, as a sports fan you know that since Rose's retirement from pro baseball, there has been a lot more discussion about what he has done off the field than his incredible achievements on the field.  Most notably, the fact that Rose bet on baseball games while managing the Cincinnati Reds.  Those actions (prior to an actual admission by Rose) led to Rose being placed on the "ineligible list" by MLB, resulting in Rose being banned from any involvement with the game of baseball and precluding him from eligibility for election to Baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

The Pete Rose story "du jour" concerns the fact that a New Jersey based auction house has obtained from Rose for auction one of the two original copies of a 5 page document detailing Rose's banishment from baseball, signed by each of Rose, then Commissioner Bart Giamatti and former Deputy Commissioner Fay Vincent.  Early speculation suggests that the document could fetch more than $1 million at auction.  This in turn has provoked Fay Vincent to comment about the irony of such a document, which details actions that were a blight on the game, ending up being a potential source of "cash for the miscreant".

What may be more ironic is how MLB continues to sit on its high horse when it comes to Rose but itself has enjoyed the massive economic renaissance of MLB triggered by the juiced home run races that took place last decade.  Even though Rose did nothing improper while excelling as a player on the field, he is on the outside looking in, unable to make a living working in the game.  At the same time, admitted performance enhancing drug users such as Mark McGwire have jobs as coaches with MLB clubs, continue to be eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame, and - most applallingly (at least to this blogger) in the case of McGwire - are sitting in the dugout during the MLB All-Star Game.

Perhaps the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the fans of MLB (or any other major pro sports fans for that matter) were those home run chases.  Who can forget our local sports channels breaking away from our regular home team's games to switch over to St. Louis Cardinal telecasts to catch each and every one of McGwire's at bats as he approached the all time home run record.  I certainly can't, because I also remember watching the live telecast of Henry Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all time HR record in 1974 - a time when a weekday baseball telecast was a rarity and really something mystical.

Poet Alexander Pope once said, "to err is human; to forgive, divine."  Maybe it's time for MLB to forgive Rose and to show some consistency, at least when it comes to Rose's eligibility for election into the Hall.  His achievements on the field were beyond memorable and his Hits record may never be broken.  Let the voters decide, just like you do with the McGwire(s) of the game.