Welcome Dave Zirin, Edge of Sports, and Host Brad Reed, AlterNet

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love

Brad Reed, Host:

As both a liberal and a sports fanatic, I jumped at the chance to host today’s salon with Dave Zirin to talk about his new book “Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love.” Dave’s book is a very smart, witty and hard-hitting look at how jerkbag sports owners have transformed their stadiums from blue-collar and middle-class entertainment venues into massive profit-making behemoths tailored more toward corporate America than Joe Six Pack. Average families have found themselves priced out of going to games, since owners have cordoned off entire sections of ballparks for luxury boxes and club seats. And to make matters worse, these same owners have grown ever-more-fond of shaking down taxpayers for cash to build their multiplexes despite the fact that many of these taxpayers will never be able to afford to attend a game. This heinous practice is particularly glaring in Washington, DC where the city forked over hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new ballpark for the perpetually terrible Washington Nationals, despite the fact that the city at the time was planning to shut down a whopping 24 public schools.

Today we’ll chat with Dave about how greed and political corruption have hurt sports in the United States, how the business of sports has hurt both fans and players and finally what the average fan can do to take their teams back and make sports a cornerstone of our communities again. Welcome, Dave!

135 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Dave Zirin, Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love”

BevW December 18th, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Dave, Welcome back to the Lake.

Brad, Welcome to the Lake and thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

egregious December 18th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Welcome to Firedoglake – glad you could join us today!

dakine01 December 18th, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Good afternoon Dave and Brad and welcome to FDL this afternoon

Dave I have not had an opportunity to read your book but do have a couple of comments.
1) It isn’t just the pro team owners as many college sports programs do an almost blackmail of their local pols on how much they need the new stadium/arena

2) and the good pols in Massachusetts managed to mostly avoid the problem – caving only to fund infrastructure (roads and access mainly) for both the Gillette stadium o Foxboro and the whatever they call it now Garden in Boston (as well as refusing to build a new baseball stadium for the Red Sox)

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Thanks, Bev! I’m happy to be hosting! Dave, whenever you’re ready, here’s my first question:

You place the primary blame for the state of modern sports squarely on teams’ owners. What exactly has changed among owners over the past few decades that has led to such a comparatively shoddy product for the average fan?

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Hi! Dave Zirin here!

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Welcome aboard Dave!

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:07 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 3

1 – The similarities of college and pro sports are manifest with regard to public funding and stadiums. You’re absolutely right. And yes, it is blackmail. “give us money or we’ll move the team.” While collegs can’t “move”, they can exert other kinds of political pressures, certainly.

2 – I wouldn’t be so quick to hold up the Massachusetts miracle. We are still talking about a process that socializes the debt of these projects while privatizing the profits. This is the fundamental voodoo economics of pro sports.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:09 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 4

Great question, Brad. It’s not that owners in the past were sweet old men who rescued kitty cats from trees. It’s that the very fundamental economics of sports ownership has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. Now, it’s all about public expenditures, sweetheart cable deals, and luxury boxes. We’ve gone from a country where most anyone could afford a ticket to a game to where WE pay for the stadiums but if WE aren’t wealthy or don’t have the right cable package, we can’t even watch the damn games.

dakine01 December 18th, 2010 at 2:10 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 7

Well at least publicly the MA lege only funded (guesstimating from memory) $175M for the infrastructure improvements around Gillette rather than the total $750M or so spent.

Like I say, a small victory comparatively

BevW December 18th, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Dave, I liked your chapter titles.

Intro: Diogenes in High Tops
1) When Domes Attack
2) Business, Never Personal
3) The Keyser Soze Principle
4) The Boss: George Steinbrenner as Throwback and Role Model
5) Clay Bennett, the Seattle SuperSonics, and the Question of Ownership
6) Money Laundering for the Lord: Charlie Monfort and Dick DeVos Keep the Faith
7) Peter Angelos and the Shredding of the Oriole Way
8) Dan Snyder: When Costanza Got Hair
9) Donald Sterling: Slumlord Billionaire
10) The Wal-Mart Way: David Glass and the Kansas City Royals
11) James Dolan: Serpent in Eden
12) The NHL: Skating on Slush?
13) The Unholy Gall of the Paulsons
14) For a Few Steroids More
15) “What’s a Scouser?” Tom Hicks Goes European
Outro: Looking Toward Green Bay

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Hey Dave, to follow up: You do a great job in the book of outlining all the new revenue streams that teams can generate today, from luxury boxes, TV deals, merchandise, etc. that we’re available in the 1950s. You would think that this would make a better deal for a lot of fans since if teams are making all this money they wouldn’t have to charge fans so much for tickets. And yet as we’ve seen that’s simply not the case. Can you talk a bit about why?

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:15 pm
In response to BevW @ 10

Well thanks Bev. Honestly, I have a six year old daughter and she always gets very psyched when we are reading a book together and there are cool chapter titles so I gave them some thought. My favorite is the Dan Snyder: “When Costanza Got Hair”, because it’s just something I’ve thought for a long time. It works, if you’re familiar with Snyder and his style, on numerous levels.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:16 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 11

Sure. Actually, in some sports, particularly baseball, they took during the first months of the 2009 season, to having promotions like dollar ticket night, or “messin with the recession night” because they were fearful about how embarrassing it would look to play before empty stadiums. Fans really have become scenery at this point. But we haven’t seen other sports do that because – honestly – I think they hold working class fans in contempt.

dakine01 December 18th, 2010 at 2:17 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 12

“When Domes Attack” does seem to be especially pertinent this past week…

BevW December 18th, 2010 at 2:18 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 12

Mine is #7 – I’ve watched the Orioles die every year since 1997.
7) Peter Angelos and the Shredding of the Oriole Way

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:19 pm

I think owners are so so very caught up in a mindset that seeks short term profits, they have disregarded the long term interests and health of their sports. I talk to a lot of young people, and they are just not getting hooked on sports like their parents. We can say that this might be a positive, but I think sports at its best can play an incredible role in developing community cohesion and a sense of shared-self. We’re losing that.

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 2:19 pm

You have a chapter about how George Steinbrenner, for better or (mostly) worse, became the model for modern owners in sports. What was it that made Steinbrenner the forerunner for today’s greedheads besides his overbearing personality?

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:20 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 14

I wrote a column this week actually called “When Domes Collapse.” http://edgeofsports.com/2010-12-16-590/index.html

This is shock doctrine 101: a dramatic event precedes a push for priorities that people would otherwise reject aka building Zygi Wilf a new home.

dakine01 December 18th, 2010 at 2:20 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 16

I was one of those who connected with both baseball and basketball through the magic of the radio.

Waite Hoyt and Ed Kennedy calling the games for the Cincinnati Reds (Let’s get moody with Hude!)

Cawood Ledford calling the Kentucky Wildcats

masaccio December 18th, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Hi, Dave. Can you tell us if there are any studies that test if stadiums produce more revenues for cities than they cost?

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:22 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 17

Steinbrenner really patented something that’s been replicated across the sports world and that’s the power of the threat: in the late 1970s, he threatened to move the Yankees to Conn., to Tampa, to Jersey, unles he got public money. It ended up being over $170 million which in 1970s money was quite the haul. Team as neoliberal Trojan Horse: we can thank Steinbrenner.

dakine01 December 18th, 2010 at 2:22 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 17

As a tech note, there’s a “Reply” button in the lwoer right hand of each comment. Pressing the “Reply” will pre-fill the comment number and commenter name when replying to a specific comment and makes it easier to follow the “conversation”

Note: some browsers don’t like ot let the Reply work properly if it is pressed before a page completes loading after a refresh.

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 2:24 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 21

The shocking thing about the book is really how much owners have gotten taxpayers to foot bills for stadiums with absolutely no accountability to the public or even their fans. How has this racket been so successful even when voters vote down referendums on public dollars for stadiums?

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:24 pm
In response to masaccio @ 20

Hi. The data is actually pretty overwhelming at this point – from the Brookings Institute to the Cato institute, to non-partisan academic studies, that show – even in the best case scenarios, they take out more than they give back. The reasons for this are actually pretty obvious. If you are spending a billion dollars on a public works project that is only open to the public 8 days a year (football) or 81 days a year (baseball), save a few rock concerts thrown in, it’s just not going to provide the kind of annual benefit that almost anything else would provide.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:26 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 23

Brad – it’s a great question. Some of it, as I detail in the book, is just good old fashioned graft. If you grease the right hands, the money will flow. Other times it’s political cowardice. No one wants to be the mayor that “loses the team.” But more than anything, it’s because we the fans, don’t reframe the debate well enough and say, “IF you want public money, then we demand a measure of public ownership.”

masaccio December 18th, 2010 at 2:28 pm

I’m from Nashville, and the city assured us that the Titans and their stadium would be profitable. I don’t recall seeing any coverage of any of the studies saying we would lose money, which we have.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:29 pm
In response to masaccio @ 26

Many of these studies have just come out in the last several years. I recommend fieldofschemes.com as a fantastic resource.

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 2:30 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 25

This framing seems to be very sensible. You mention the Green Bay Packers as a model for how a community can literally own shares of a team and keep it running smoothly and efficiently. How did that system develop and what can fans of other teams do to replicate it?

Peterr December 18th, 2010 at 2:32 pm

I don’t have the data to back it up, but I suspect that WalMart sales are down in KC thanks to what David Glass’ efforts on behalf of the Royals.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:33 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 28

The Packers became community owned almost 80 years ago. That was well before the NFL was the big business it was today. The by-laws now state explicitly that no other team can be community/fan owned or owned by a non-profit. My response to that is, “Who cares? They’re the NFL by-laws, not the Ten Commandments!”

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:34 pm
In response to Peterr @ 29

LOL! I would certainly hope so! The chapter on Glass and the Royals was BY FAR the one that the more I read, the more I researched, the more shocked I was.

BevW December 18th, 2010 at 2:35 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 31

Dave, could you give our readers some background on this?

Peterr December 18th, 2010 at 2:36 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 27

Here in KC, the Royals and the Chiefs just got a lot of public funds for refurbishing their stadiums, and with the economy, there are rumbles that some of the funds that are supposed to be set aside each year by the county government for the Royals may be delayed which in theory would allow for the team to move. A couple sports radio hosts are starting to talk as much politics as sports, as they are realizing that politics is as much as part of the game as economics.

dakine01 December 18th, 2010 at 2:37 pm
In response to masaccio @ 26

It also seems like so many owners are pushing for new stadiums/arenas every 30 years or so, so watch out for that – and the colleges as well

Peterr December 18th, 2010 at 2:37 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 31

Given the chapter titles, that’s saying a lot.

I haven’t yet read the book — any tidbit you’d like to share that REALLY stood out?

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:38 pm
In response to BevW @ 32

Background on the Royals and Glass? Well Glass replaced Sam Walton as the head of WalMart and has chosen to run the team and treat the city the same way he treats the workers at WalMart. It aint pretty.

masaccio December 18th, 2010 at 2:39 pm
In response to Peterr @ 33

I wonder what communities are left that would be suckered into paying to get one of them? Maybe we have reached the point where people will tell owners to build their own stadiums.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:40 pm
In response to Peterr @ 35

The one tidbit I’d share is that Dan Snyder and the Redskins sell beer in the bathrooms. That breaks every health code violation since Hammurabi.

diosnomeama December 18th, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Hello, Mr. Zirin. I was curious how much the increasingly obscene salaries pro athletes are getting nowadays have to do with increased ticket prices, ridiculous amounts of corporate sponsorship, etc.

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 2:42 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 36

Dave, one of the more amusing parts of your book was detailing the various depravities and incompetence of various owners (Steinbrenner, Snider and Snyder, etc.). As a fun thought experiment, if you had to pick four poorly-run teams that had to be put into public receivership for the good of their suffering fans, which would they be (my personal picks: Royals, Pirates, Redskins and Clippers).

Peterr December 18th, 2010 at 2:42 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 36

IIRC, the sports radio talk show hosts noted that as far as they could tell, the Royals had been counting ticket-takers and ushers as “facility maintenance staff” (or something like that) for accounting purposes, which under the agreement with the city and county, made the county responsible for their wages (ie, the landlord’s workers for upkeep of the building) rather than the team.

You see, the ticket-takers and ushers wipe down the seats before and after the games . . .

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:44 pm
In response to diosnomeama @ 39

Less than you’d think. The ticket prices are based on what the market will bear. If salaries were lower, you wouldn’t see a drop in ticket prices.

perris December 18th, 2010 at 2:45 pm

should be a great read, don’t have too much time to chat but would like to make one point about player’s salary and ticket prices;

the cost to run a ball club has nothing to do with ticket prices

if a club can get 100 dollars for a seat without losing good will and for a positive return, (seats sold vs prices) they will not charge 10 dollars

if they can’t get people in the park for more then ten dollars a seat they do not price the seat at 100

they price the seat according to best return regardless of expenses.

so when people complaign about salaries raising prices they are simply repeating rediculous propaganda

now there are mitigating factors of course, the more a team pays for a player, usually the more the team can charge for said ticket, but it’s not because expenses are higher that the ticket price goes up, it’s because demands goes up

as demand rises so will ticket prices, as demand falls, the same for ticket prices, NOT based on salaries

see all later

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:45 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 40

Those are great picks. I think you have to start with the Clippers. The Pirates and Royal…. and the Buffalo Bills!

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:45 pm
In response to perris @ 43

Exactly.

wimpy December 18th, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Dave—

I’m an old guy (70) that grew up in the 50s loving all sports. There is no comparison of present day pro and COLLEGE sports to the sports I followed from the 1950s- to maybe the early 90s. I’m looking forward to reading your book as I thought I was the only one out there that sees what you see.

I no longer have much interest in professional and “big-time” college sports. My interest has moved on to Junior College and NAIA athletics and attend both on a regular basis. My attendance at both is appreciated and it’s not just about money.

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 2:48 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 44

I wanted to get back to the Green Bay model briefly. You outlined how it worked but was wondering if you had any ideas for how fans could organize to, if not replicate that model, at least inject some form of public accountability onto local sports teams?

Tammany Tiger December 18th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Hi, Dave. I read your book a couple of months ago, and really enjoyed it.

I’ve got a question about religion and sports.

I’m old enough to remember a story on “Sportianity” in Sports Illustrated during the 1970s. Are there more born-again Christians among today’s athletes than there were a generation ago and if so, what’s the reason for the increase in their numbers?

By the way, I run a beer festival calendar, and I noticed that a minor-league team (in Pennsylvania, I believe) had a Faith Night and a Beer Festival Night the same weekend. Not the same evening, of course.

dakine01 December 18th, 2010 at 2:49 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 40

While saying this as someone who pretty much detests many NY sports teams, I would replace the Redskins with the Knicks – or make it a top ten and add the Knicks to your list along with the Hornets (now “owned” by the NBA itself), Mets, Orioles, Jax Jags, and Bengals

(though this can be a floating list as a few years ago the Reds would have been prime candidates)

diosnomeama December 18th, 2010 at 2:49 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 44

Speaking of The Clippers, why is Donald Sterling still in charge of anything requiring critical thinking? And thanks for clearing up the salary/ticket price thing.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:49 pm
In response to wimpy @ 46

Wimpy – a lot of folks, particularly the 3,000 fans I interviewed for the book, started from that exact point. Loving sports, but hating what they have become.

badgerexpat December 18th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I am only a football fan, so I can’t speak to your arguments as they apply to other sports. But doesn’t the fact that NFL games regularly (nearly always) sell out undercut your argument that fans are being “priced out of going to games?” Especially since the majority of seats at all stadiums are not box or club seats?

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:51 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 47

There is a great organization called The Sports Fans Coalition thesportsfanscoalition.com that I highly recommend. Otherwise it starts really with being politically active and making demands.

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 2:51 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 49

The Knicks seem to have gotten their shit together this year, to be fair. Not an elite team yet but very competitive and could be REALLY good if they acquire ‘Melo.

Tammany Tiger December 18th, 2010 at 2:51 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 44

I’d add the Detroit Lions to that list. They’ve been in rebuilding mode for the past 30 years. Executives, coaches, and players have come and gone, but one thing has remained the same: owner William Clay Ford.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:53 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 48

Thank you Tammy Tiger! Yes, by every account I have seen there is a greater influence of Born Again Christians than a generation ago. The influence of organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Athletes in Action has made real inroads… not to mention creating structures of peer pressure in the locker room where “pray or don’t play” becomes the way of the land.

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 2:53 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 55

Very true, although didn’t Ford pay for most of the new Lions stadium at least? Or am I mistaken?

dakine01 December 18th, 2010 at 2:54 pm
In response to badgerexpat @ 52

Can’t speak for the guest but in the current down times in Florida, the Buccaneers I don’t think have sold out a game all year, even though they have been a surprise and have a winning record – and having a losing record makes it even harder to get people to come out for the games.)

My 2¢

jo6pac December 18th, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Hi Dave
What you saying so right, I watch NFL game when there’s time and I’m a F1 racing fan and same thing has happened to this sport. F1 is coming to Amerika in 2012 but I don’t have the type of money for a ticket just like I can’t afford MLB or NFL.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:55 pm
In response to badgerexpat @ 52

Two points:
1 – Football is in many ways the exception, with its popularly growing as opposed to receding.

2 – But even with that, the NFL has seen attendance drop, and the archaic “blackout rule” be enacted far more this year than in years past.

Tammany Tiger December 18th, 2010 at 2:56 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 57

According to NFLVenueInfo.com, the Lions paid 49 percent of the $430 million to build Ford Field, the city of Detroit paid the remaining 51 percent:

http://www.nflvenueinfo.com/ford_field.htm

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:56 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 54

And nothing could make me happier. But David Stern has done everything but put the team in receivership. The hire of Donnie Walsh as GM came straight from Stern, not from Isiah Thomas’s number 1 fan, James Dolan.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:56 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 61

You beat me to it, Tammany.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:57 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 58

VERY true.

dakine01 December 18th, 2010 at 2:57 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 54

I have faith that Dolan will manage to screw things up again – most likely by bringing Isiah back as GM (and to get ‘Melo, they’ll have to give up a lot I would think)

gordonot December 18th, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Hey Dave, Loved your HuffPo piece on the Amy Hagopian story.

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 2:58 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 60

One of the best lines in your book was the quote from Art Moddell (I think?) where he said NFL owners are Republicans who vote socialist. I think the reason that the NFL has been such a success is because, unlike baseball especially, it has adopted a model where teams from small markets (Green Bay, Pittsburgh, New Orleans) can have successful teams if they draft and coach competently. Why don’t more sports follow this model of minimum and maximum salary cap space? And are there trade offs in this model between parity between teams and poor labor agreements for players?

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 2:59 pm
In response to gordonot @ 66

Thanks. Amy Hagopian deserves so much better than to be attacked by O’Reilly. I hope she sues him for harassment. She won’t be the first….

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:00 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 65

Even if it means giving up Gallinari, getting Melo is worth it.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:02 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 67

The NFL might be getting away from this because of the greed of Dan Snyder, Jerry Jones, and other owners….. The others don’t because the incentives are either to benefit from the big market, or get “revenue sharing” from the others!

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Btw, everyone, feel free to pipe in with questions. I’m going to be taking up less space here and opening it up to the rest of y’all :-)

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:04 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 71

Brad! Don’t leave me!

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 3:07 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 72

Still here don’t worry :-)

OK, here’s something I’m curious about — one of my guilty pleasures in life is listening to sports talk radio, even though most of them are jock-sniffing right-wing blowhards. When you go to talk about this sort of thing in that sort of media environment, how are your points received? Do they call you a commie or do they see things from your point of view on these issues?

Peterr December 18th, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Dave, did Bill Bidwell make it into your book? I was a football Cardinals fan years ago when I lived in St. Louis and watched him drive the team into the ground before he drove it out of town to Arizona.

On the other hand, the baseball Cardinals claimed that Bidwell drove up attendance at their games, since people fed up with Bidwell decided to spend their sports money on baseball tickets rather than football tickets.

dakine01 December 18th, 2010 at 3:07 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 72

Have faith Dave – the local folks at FDL cover most all topics.

Do you cover the Al Davis role in pretty much inventing the “Personal Seat License” scam (for those unaware, that’s where the team forces fans to pay a multi thousand dollar fee to get a chance to buy a season ticket – non-refundable of course, just money to the pocket of the owner)

gordonot December 18th, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Have you noticed NPR is covering a lot more sports since war coverage has gotten so old. What do you think of their coverage?

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:08 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 73

Honestly, some of the best political discussions I get in on talk radio is in the world of sports radio. I think it’s because the people who call in are from all political stripes and people are willing to be for things in sports that they might be against when it’s health care, for example (like socializing a team).

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:09 pm
In response to Peterr @ 74

I wanted to write about Bidwell very badly, but we had to make choices and I was writing in the aftermath of the Cardinals trip to the Super Bowl so it didn’t quite work. I regret it.

mafr December 18th, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Dave do you think kids attending university on athletic scholarships should be paid? ( do).

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:10 pm
In response to gordonot @ 76

Generally very good! I’ve been on Talk of the Nation with Neil Conant. He really knows his stuff.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:11 pm
In response to mafr @ 79

Absolutely, positively and without question.

Tammany Tiger December 18th, 2010 at 3:11 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 62

Reminds me of another New York team–namely, the Giants, whose owners were in the midst of a family feud in the late 1970s. The commissioner stepped in to mediate, and ultimately recommended that the team hire George Young as general manager.

A recent NYT story about the Mets’ hiring of Sandy Alderson mentioned the Giants and Young: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/15/sports/baseball/15mets.html

Sharkbabe December 18th, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Hi Dave Zirin. Can you elaborate a bit here on the loathesomeness of Dan Snyder? To me he’s the poster child of self-defeating sports greed (aside from his spectacular record of failure in actual team-running)

Snyder really killed it for me and the Skins, who I’ve watched and loved since I was a kid. I knew Jack Kent Cooke was a rich fuck, but he didn’t go out of his way to actually spit on me.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:12 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 82

That’s a perfect parallel. Actually, the Maras were quite the soap opera. They’re damn lucky it was the 1970s, before deadspin, the blogosphere, and the 24 hour sports media.

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 3:13 pm
In response to Sharkbabe @ 83

How did I know we were going to get a lot of Snyder questions? My personal bet is that by Week 17, Albert Haynesworth will be named the new starting QB.

Peterr December 18th, 2010 at 3:13 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 77

Two years ago, as the presidential election was heading toward the finish, there was a new sports radio show here in KC. The two hosts were introducing themselves and the new show to the audience. As I noted at the time here at FDL, it went something like this:

The first guy said,”I do all kinds of sports stuff around the station, but I absolutely love baseball. I mean, I have to do other sports, I have to do NASCAR, but I’m about as qualified to talk about NASCAR as Sarah Palin is to talk about Uzbekistan. But baseball? That’s my game. . .” The other guy chuckled, and went into his intro piece.

It didn’t need a set up. It didn’t need an explanation. It wasn’t Saturday Night Live or The Daily Show or Countdown. It wasn’t the main point, but the image to make the point about something else. It was a simple metaphor on a sports station for a guy giving his own background, or rather, the lack thereof.

And it was great.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:15 pm
In response to Sharkbabe @ 83

You just said it very well. Snyder is a victim of his own profound insecurity and unearned arrogance…. an awful combination as we saw in the White House from 2000-2008. He has a great skill at building the Redskins brand, at winning the off season and holding up a shiny bauble of a player or coach every off-season to get our attention. And no question, he spends money. But his contempt for the fans – not to mention his employees at Redskins park, not to mention his inability to even consider changing the team’s name….. makes him someone I reserve special scorn for.

Peterr December 18th, 2010 at 3:15 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 78

Sounds like a good reason to write a sequel . . .

Any particular stories that didn’t make it into the book that you’d like to share?

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:15 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 85

No way. It will be Kyle Shanahan.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:17 pm
In response to Peterr @ 88

Not if I don’t want to be sued. My section on Mikhail Prokhorov was deemed too hot to handle….

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 3:18 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 89

Are there any owners out there that you find… well, not admirable… let’s say that you find at least show respect for their fans and want to give the average Joe and Jane a good product at a reasonable price? Snider of the Flyers was the only owner to talk with you but he’s an obnoxious Randroid himself so not a good model…

mafr December 18th, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Dave, the life expectancy of NFL players is something like twenty years less than that of the general population.

I continue to watch games, but am sometimes sickened by the violence.

Do you have a point at which you will stop watching the games, and what can be done to make the game safer?

Tammany Tiger December 18th, 2010 at 3:18 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 85

Albert Haynesworth will be named the new starting QB.

Either that or he’ll be a beer vendor in one of the gents’ rooms at FedExField.

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 3:20 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 93

That would be the most useful thing he’s done since leaving Tennessee.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:22 pm
In response to mafr @ 92

Getting there. The more I meet retired players, the closer I get. As Scott Fujita said to me, it’s the only job with a 100% injury rate.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:22 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 91

I always say, it’s the 112,000 owners of the Green Bay Packers.

dakine01 December 18th, 2010 at 3:22 pm
In response to mafr @ 92

I was honored to host an FDL Movie Night last year on the movie Blood Equity on the topic of NFL players after retirement

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 3:25 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 95

Do you think the NFL has taken steps in the right direction to protect players more? They seem to be (somewhat) more aware of the long-term impact of concussions now for instance. Five years ago, I have to believe Aaron Rodgers would be strapping it on vs. my Patriots tomorrow night. Instead he’s been ruled out.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:26 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 97

Terrific movie. I also talk about it a lot in a documentary I just put out with the Media Education Foundation called Not Just A Game. http://www.mediaed.org/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?preadd=action&key=151

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:27 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 98

I think they have taken steps to avoid a massive class action law suit.

dakine01 December 18th, 2010 at 3:28 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 99

As I said in my intro to that Movie Night, the tipping point for me was seeing a HoF ceremony when former players a year or two older than I was were barely moving and obviously crippled.

mafr December 18th, 2010 at 3:29 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 97

thanks will see if I can get it.

Thanks Dave, I have read several of your books, your a fine author.

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 3:29 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 100

At the risk of sounding like one of those awful National Review articles about the 50 best conservative rock songs, I think it’d be cool to see a list of progressive sports stars. Off the top of my head I can think of Muhammad Ali and the Red Sox’ Bill “Spaceman” Lee. Any others that come to mind?

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:29 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 101

The tragedy is that for years the NFL was like Big Tobacco talking about lung cancer. No definitive evidence that playing football leads to brain damage!

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:30 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 103

Can we change the name of the National Review to “the Awful National Review”?

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 3:31 pm

(FWIW I suggested Michael Whitney try to recruit Tim Lincecum as a spokesman for Prop 19. Imagine a billboard of Timmy, World Series trophy in one hand, bong in the other with the caption, “Hey, kids — winners DO use drugs!”)

Jane Hamsher December 18th, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Thanks so much for hosting today, Brad, and good to have you here again Dave.

And to make matters worse, these same owners have grown ever-more-fond of shaking down taxpayers for cash to build their multiplexes despite the fact that many of these taxpayers will never be able to afford to attend a game.

That’s how George W. Bush made his money, wasn’t it? Shaking down taxpayers to build a baseball stadium, that was then given to the Rangers, and basically the value of the team when they were sold (and Bush cashed out)?

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:32 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 103

Also Steve Nash. Arthur Ashe. Bill Russell. Billie Jean King. Martina. Etan Thomas… the list is long.

dakine01 December 18th, 2010 at 3:33 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 103

the late Curt Flood
Jim Brown
Bill Russell
Bill Walton

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:35 pm
In response to Jane Hamsher @ 107

Yup! I have a whole section on it in the book. for a 300,000 investment (borrowed) George W. Bush got to call himself an owner and walked away with 15 million bucks. Nice work if you can get it. And thank you, Jane, for your invaluable work.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:35 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 109

Scott Fujita, Josh Howard, Adalius Thomas,

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 3:36 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 109

Let’s say some owner with a conscience reads your book at sees the light. He comes to you and says, “Dave, what is the one most important thing I can do as an owner to make sports better for our fans?” What would you tell him (besides the most obvious answer of “DON’T SHAKE TAXPAYERS DOWN FOR A NEW STADIUM!”)

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:37 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 112

I would say, make tickets cheaper, make beer cheaper, make parking cheaper, and yes PAY FOR YOUR OWN DAMN STADIUM.

dakine01 December 18th, 2010 at 3:37 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 111

John Amaechi, Bill Bradley, Tom McMillan

badgerexpat December 18th, 2010 at 3:37 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 60

My perspective may be skewed by the fact that I grew up in Wisconsin. Packers tickets are still extremely hard to come by. But I guess the plural of anecdote isn’t data etc. . .

Peterr December 18th, 2010 at 3:38 pm

The negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players in the NFL seem . . . testy. Given your look at owners in this book, what do you think the odds are of a lockout and/or protracted mess?

Tammany Tiger December 18th, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Stan Musial belongs on the list.

Franco Harris, too; he was part of Pennsylvania’s slate of Democratic electors in 2008.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:40 pm
In response to Peterr @ 116

DeMaurice Smith who heads the NFLPA says that on a scale of 1-10, it’s a 14. That sounds about right. The owners said that they would cancel the health benefits of players once the lockout starts. Not a way to calm tensions.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:41 pm
In response to badgerexpat @ 115

It’s true. They are hard to come by. That’s because they are loved.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:42 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 117

Lest we forget: John Carlos and Tommie Smith. And Wyomia Tyus.

dakine01 December 18th, 2010 at 3:43 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 118

It looks like the NBA may be going down the same road as the NFL with a probable lockout – apparently because they can

badgerexpat December 18th, 2010 at 3:43 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 119

Of course, I guess the Packers are kind of outside the scope of your book, since they don’t have an owner. I probably should have thought of that before commenting.

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 3:44 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 119

Another irony is that while football players are so much more prone to getting life-threatening injuries than baseball players, it’s the baseball players who get guaranteed contracts, better pensions and higher average salaries. This is despite the fact that football is much more profitable than baseball. Do you think this is because the NFL players’ union is so weak or because solidarity among owners is so strong?

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:45 pm
In response to badgerexpat @ 122

The whole last chapter is on the Packers. That team is in many ways the hero of the book.

badgerexpat December 18th, 2010 at 3:47 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 124

Even thought they had a tax-payer funded remodel of Lambeau, that included lots of club seats?

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:49 pm
In response to Brad Reed @ 123

More than anything, the NFL owners have decided that in a sport with high injury rates, that guaranteed contracts would be financial suicide. But solidarity is the only way to change the calculus on what is a true historic injustice.

dakine01 December 18th, 2010 at 3:50 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 126

I think solidarity from the NFL players perspective is tough as many of them seem to have the “I’m invincible and it won’t happen to me” syndrome

BevW December 18th, 2010 at 3:53 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon,

Dave, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and sports.

Brad, Thank you very much for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:
Dave’s website, book
Brad’s website

Thanks all,
Happy Holidays!!

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:53 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 127

The solidarity on display before the first game of the year when the Saints and Vikings speaks to another trend. Both teams raised a number 1 in the air to symbolize that they were in fact one team. Awesome.

Dave Zirin December 18th, 2010 at 3:54 pm

I want to thank Brad and Bev. Especially Brad for keeping it hoppin’.
In struggle and sports
Dave Z

Peterr December 18th, 2010 at 3:55 pm
In response to Dave Zirin @ 126

Which owners do you think drive the negotiating posture?

Brad Reed December 18th, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Thanks everyone! This was great! Here’s the Amazon link to Dave’s book again!

Tammany Tiger December 18th, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Thanks, Dave and Brad, for a great discussion!

TheLurkingMod December 18th, 2010 at 4:02 pm
alank December 18th, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Bread and circuses. Goes back a ways. America didn’t invent it.

Meanwhile, not a word about the NHL. I tell you, though, that so-called football in America has become a whole heap of bullshit. There’s no mistake about that. I expect it is on a steady decline regardless of what I think of it. What is known as football (a game that involves the foot and a ball) in the rest of the world may be ascendant here, but I won’t hold my breath. There are just too many dimwits and cretins.

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