by Ryan Meehan
Thursday the new issue of Sports Illustrated arrived, and I was appalled to learn that the magazine has now taken the angle of many other entertainment publications. If you haven’t seen it, this week’s issue is SI’s inaugural offering of “The Power Issue”, an analysis of the 50 most powerful individuals in the world of sports that are not players themselves. These are the executives, business owners, activists, and commissioners that (according to SI) make the sporting world go round.
The cover alone is enough to make Dubs sick to his stomach, and for those of you who aren’t aware, that’s an awful lot of sickness. It’s an illustration of NFL commissioner Roger Goddell with a sword staring snarkily through the artist he probably tricked into drawing him. The article is not about the athletes themselves, but instead the people who make the business deals that allows the athletes to become folk heroes. The beginning of the article is chock full of a bunch of “Game of Thrones” references that compare the current power struggles in modern day sports to the transfers of power between leaders of the world over the years. If you felt guilty about logging out of World of Warcraft when you just read that, now would be a great time to leave this website…
And for the record, although it’s a great angle to take, it’s also incredibly stupid when you consider how very few lives are at stake here. But nonetheless, it’s a topic that will likely be debated in the coming weeks, so I figured that I would take a few minutes to point out where the list goes horribly wrong by giving a few examples. Let’s just start from the top…
1. NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell
Why he should be on the list: Even with all of the horrible things we’ve said about Roger Goddell over the years on this site and countless others, I can understand why he’s number one on the list. As crazy as it sounds, I want the commissioner of the NFL to be the most powerful man in sports. The NFL takes in the largest revenue share out of all of the American sports, and it’s by far the most popular. So perhaps it’s not so much Goddell himself that should be at number one, but whoever happens to be running the NFL at any given point in time.
Why he shouldn’t be on the list: If I sat here and listed all of the reasons that Roger Goddell doesn’t deserve to be the most powerful man in sports, I would die with my head on this keyboard. (Actually that’s not true, I slouch when I type so I would likely fall back in my chair…) Sweeping the concussion thing under the rug is what makes me the most mad, because he clearly had a plan for damage control once the shit hit the fan but his plan for preventing future concussions is to simply say that he has plans in place to prevent future concussions. He’s like the Ross Perot of sports. He’s got a million good ideas, you just aren’t allowed to hear any of them because shut up and eat your dinner.
Then there’s the commissioner’s desire to want to play games in England, which we’ve also already addressed. Not only is it a stupid idea, it’s also completely unreasonable and suggests his desire for expansion. In the history of all of competitive sports, there has never been a worse time to expand any professional league. We have four divisions of four teams in two perfectly organized conferences, and we all of a sudden just want to put a team in London? And Los Angeles, where it’s already failed on two separate occasions?
You can pretty much Google either myself or Dubs’ name and any of the Anti-Goddell pieces that we’ve done over the past few years and see plenty of other reasons why Goddell himself shouldn’t be number one.
2. NBA Commissioner David Stern
Why he should be on the list: Here again, Stern should be on this list because basketball is making a comeback under the highly skilled play of Lebron James and Kobe on Jordan’s heels in several different categories. It may never return to the glory days, but it’s garnering a lot of interest again and like it or not that’s happened on Stern’s watch.
Why he shouldn’t be on the list: David Stern has to be the least hip guy that has ever been in charge of a group of dudes that thrive off of being hip. Basketball players are the most street-smart and trend savvy athletes of them all, and they are led by the least hip, whitest douche nozzle to ever bark orders. Let’s be clear here – David Stern got really lucky. He rose to his current power status during the success of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson. Sure he was able to market it well, but all of those players marketed themselves. Stern didn’t do anything to ensure that they would be marketed well because he didn’t need to. That might not be his fault, but he should hardly get credit for it. And his handling of the Tim Donaghy scandal (as well as his classification of it as a rogue incident) is a pretty obvious example the guy has no problem with lying. There were plenty of refs in on more than just game 6 of the 2002 Lakers-Kings series and Uncle Dave knew it.
10. Hedge Fund Dude
Why he should be on the list: As stated in the eleventh spot of the SI article, this is the Mark Walter thing. For those who don’t know, Mark Walter is the head of the business partnership that purchased the Dodgers for just north of $2.1 billion dollars.
Why he shouldn’t be on the list: I was under the impression that there is no such thing as a hedge fund that’s healthy for the economy. It’s always seemed like a pyramid scheme to me, and this is the way that SI has this space described:
“A few fat years under the 2/20 structure – taking 2% of assets under management and 20% of profits – and you become dizzyingly wealthy. And is there a cooler rich-guy plaything than a pro team? (They even appreciate in value!)”
Right, because that doesn’t sound shady or anything. This is easily one of the most disturbing things I have read in the past year, and weren’t hedge funds one of the main reasons Wall Street suffered such a huge collapse just a few years back?
19. Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones
Why he should be on the list: Like it or not, Jones has the most available resources of any other owner in the NFL which is sports’ biggest
Why he shouldn’t be on the list: Jerry Jones oversold the Super Bowl. The year that he got the Super Bowl to come to his city and made public all of his hopes that his team would be playing there, they had an awful year and Jones sold a bunch of Super Bowl tickets to a gaggle of fans that paid all that money to watch the game on a computer screen while standing on a concrete platform.
Another reason that Jones shouldn’t be on the list is that he is the perfect example of American excess and waste. He took a stadium that was one of the nicer, more modern stadiums in the world of sports and built what was essentially the same stadium with updates as if it was built 35 years later. I still stand behind my belief that there was absolutely no reason for that new stadium to be built whatsoever. The old one was fine and Jones was just waving his wallet in front of every poor person in the South that will never be able to afford to attend a game there.
25. PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem
Why he should be on the list: He made the PGA into a monster during the success of Tiger Woods over the past 15 years.
Why he shouldn’t be on the list: That’s pretty much the only reason he was able to do it.
26. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany
Why he should be on the list: The Big Ten Network has changed the way that college sports will be broadcasted forever. They are going to make a ton of money off of their current setup.
Why he shouldn’t be on the list: With all of the current realignments that have taken place in college athletics over the past several years, the most important thing to remember here is that in ten years every major collegiate athletic conference could look completely different. He may be killing it at the moment but if they have to restructure all of those deals a decade from now, all of the changes that would need to be made are enough to make every computer you’ve ever touched in your life stop working until the end of time.
27. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman
Why he should be on the list: Yeah, right.
Why he shouldn’t be on the list: Consider this: The least successful American sport out of the top four almost found itself locked out, and suffered a shortened season due to this man’s incompetence. While Selig, Goddell, and Stern aren’t exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer, at least they have more of a safety net than Bettman does because they aren’t affiliated with the NHL. Bettman had no wiggle room and was coming off of a year where LA won the championship, and he STILL managing to screw it up.
44. President Barack Obama
Why he should be on the list: Love him or hate him, he’s the leader of the free world. He gets points for that, and as we have been made well aware he’s a huge basketball fan.
Why he shouldn’t be on the list: At the moment, “the free world” has a shit ton of problems that don’t have anything to do with sports. The President’s mind should be so far away from influencing anything that has to do with sports right now. You think steroids in baseball are a big deal? Have you not seen these stories about the drones yet? Unemployment numbers are getting so bad that even homeless people are updating their resumes at Kinko’s every couple of months just so they can get an extra five bucks per HJ behind the dumpster of their local Safeway. People are broke, and this country is falling apart. I do realize that the guy needs to have interests and hobbies, but his job doesn’t have anything to do with how sports should be handled.
45. UFC President Dana White
Why he should be on the list: Dana White purchased the UFC with the Fertittas in 2001 for 2 million dollars, and now it’s worth 2 billion. End of discussion.
Why he shouldn’t be on the list: The second there is a death in a major televised MMA event, it’s all over. And with that goes White’s power.
50. Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan
Why he should be on the list: Michael Jordan is at the bottom of this list, which tells me that he almost didn’t make it. And that’s precisely why he made it. Let me explain: Michael Jordan has been able to carry his own hype and legend status all the way to where he finds himself today. He’s almost a billionaire, and he’s the only person that I can think of in any line of work whose silhouette is recognizable in almost every country in the world.
Why he shouldn’t be on the list: I’m probably going to get a lot of shit for this, but Michael Jordan’s magic is wearing off with every passing years the Bobcats continue to be the laughingstock of the NBA. The Bobcats can’t buy their way into anything, and don’t forget Michael Jordan drafted Adam Morrison. Jordan still has a lot of power from a marketing perspective, but as far as being an owner he isn’t going to be able to buy himself an NBA championship with all of that money he has which is pretty crazy when you think about it. NBA legends still have a long way to go when it comes to assembling good franchises, and just because Jordan is Jordan doesn’t make him any exception. Summary:
To be fair, this list is full of people who deserve to be on it. Robert Kraft, Mark Lazarus, Mark Cuban (although he is a very low number 48) NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, ESPN President John Skipper, Scott Boras, and plenty of others. And while guys like Phil Knight may be making their millions off of the back of bruised Malaysian kids, sadly those are the types of people who have power in any country. Even guys like Hugo Chavez (who I do admit has had a bad couple of weeks) that do horrible, horrible things to anybody who questions their motives are the types of people who rule in this sick, sad world. Everybody has their dirt that they’ve done, it’s just a matter of degree.
Sports is no exception. Regardless of the millions of dollars of philanthropic work done by some of these men and women, their primary objective is to make money, and why not? Sports (like anything else) is a business and the goal of business is to make money. I would hardly trust Sports Illustrated to compile a list of stuff like this, seeing as how they’ve always been known to sell their soul for a back page story. It almost makes me wonder how nobody from the magazine is mentioned here. You could argue that it’s to avoid bias…but it’s Sports Illustrated. It’s not like they’ve had a problem with doing that before.
One notable omission is superagent Drew Rosenhaus. While at one time Rosenhaus was one of the most powerful men in sports (and likely a decade ago would have been in the top ten of this list) in 2013 he is nowhere to be found. And the last thing we remember about him is his dry humping of Plaxico Burress after Plax was released from prison after shooting himself so maybe it’s for the best we don’t hear from him much anymore.
If one thing is for sure, money and power will always go hand in hand. It’s those who do it without being a dick that are going to be remembered centuries from now.