Archive Page 2

29
Nov
11

Populism in America and The idiocy of “Occupy Wall Street”

About two years ago I wrote a blog about what Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts might mean for the Unites States. At the time a lot of my good conservative friends were jazzed about the fact that a Republican won Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat and that with his win it would usher in a tidal wave of conservatism, akin to what the Reagan election in 1980 or the Gingrich revolution in 1994 meant for the conservative cause. But I said “not so fast.” What Scott Brown’s election meant to me, and what the Tea Party movements are all about and what a lot of dissidence in this country right now is all about is the growing movement of populism, which after nearly a century of decay has sprung forth yet again, bringing with it all the evils it always brings forth. Populism is not and has never been an exact political movement, but it is largely responsible for the elections of Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson (who succeeded Lincoln but was embraced by party establishment), Grover Cleveland and both Roosevelts in America.

Populism basically states that the good of the people should outweigh the rule of the elite. When times are good economically people don’t usually turn to populism. As long as everyone is making money no one cares who is making the most money, but when times are bad people really concern themselves with how much other people are making and it is human nature to blame the elites for their own misfortune. There is also a false principal amongst populists (and leftists) that wealth represents a giant pie that can only be cut so many ways. In other words “If rich people have too much of the pie there isn’t enough left for the rest of us.” This concept is, of course, utterly false. Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook and has about 25 billion dollars right now. Guess what? That money didn’t exist until Facebook existed. It wasn’t stolen from anybody else, it was created by people’s desire for a new product (more on Zuckerberg later).

So wealth is created, not shifted around, a concept that populist don’t get, which brings me to the lovely people living the bum life on Wall Street right now (those that haven’t left or been kicked out yet anyway). The people of “Occupy Wall Street” have an agenda (what exactly it is they won’t say) but it is basically an agenda that attacks the wealthiest individuals and seeks to rid out “corporatism” in America. I have tried to find a more specific agenda but numerous google searches have yielded no results. Here’s the best definition of  “Occupy Wall Street’s” goal, taken from their own website “OccupyWallStreet.org” “This could be the beginning of a whole new social dynamic in America, a step beyond the Tea Party movement, where, instead of being caught helpless by the current power structure, we the people start getting what we want whether it be the dismantling of half the 1,000 military bases America has around the world to the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act or a three strikes and you’re out law for corporate criminals. Beginning from one simple demand – a presidential commission to separate money from politics – we start setting the agenda for a new America.” The “seperate money from politics” is basically the gist of it, but in other words, take people’s money.

What Occupy Wall Street fails to understand is that Wall Street has no money and really doesn’t influence government. Wall Street manages and regulates stock, usually with the federal government watching every move they make. Traders do set prices on certain commodities but they don’t determine what get’s bought or sold, only you the consumer does. The stocks traded on Wall Street are all public companies, meaning anybody can buy them. In fact stocks are the most democratic of all financial institutions. A bank can keep certain customers out, the federal reserve sets it’s own interest rates, and bond prices, but anyone who has the money can buy stocks. The people that work on Wall Street and invest on Wall Street are a big reason why America isn’t as bad off as the rest of the world. Money made from Microsoft and Apple stock can be used by consumers and investors to pay down their own mortgage or start their own company. Stocks put the control of the company directly in the hands of the consumers! It is by far the most fair system for all americans.

But another problem with the people of Occupy Wall Street is that they target groups that they think have undue influence while leaving out people that truly do have influence. What if I told you there was an american billionaire whose company has sparked protests around the world, resulting in thousands of lives being lost, whose company targets young consumers and tells them what products to buy, whose company monitors and records your every move socially, politically, economically, and philosophically in order to sell you exactly what you want? That company is Facebook, and it is owned by Mark Zuckerberg, a democrat and one of the ten wealthiest people in America. In fact among the ten wealthiest Americans are people like Warren Buffet, the late Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Oprah Winfrey, and Steven Spielberg. All have tremendous political and media influence, all seek to regulate social behaviors, and all are liberal. They have far more power and influence than the working stiffs on wall street, and yet no one is protesting them. Strange, huh?

Sadly the people of Occupy Wall Street and the people of the Tea Party movement have more in common than they like to admit. Both groups are angered at the way the country is right now and seek to divide and blame people so that they might feel better about themselves. Both movements are rooted in populism, a common movement during times of economic distress. The Tea Partiers blame government for what is wrong, and the Occupiers blame the rich, but both targets are monolithic structures that have very little to do with what really determines our lives. It is time we grow up as a country and take charge of our own actions. The Occupiers don’t have a great agenda. They are not protesting an unjust war, or trying to fight social injustice against minorities, they are simply bored or pissed off kids blaming others for their debts and stations in life. People like this and the movements of populism never produce greatness or success but only divide a fragile nation even further.

If I could talk to the occupiers I would tell them that their efforts are misguided. There are inequities in all life, but that doesn’t mean the system is rigged or that it can’t be fixed. If you are really concerned about economic inequities go visit a homeless shelter and volunteer, or perhaps open up your own wallet and give this holiday season. If not don’t blame the rich for the way things are. They’re no more guilty than you or me.

Sincerely,

Jack B.

06
Oct
11

The Hank Williams Firing and the “Social” protection of Freedom of Speech.

For those of you who still watch Monday Night Football you won’t be seeing Hank Williams Jr. and all his rowdy friends anymore. Just this morning ESPN announced it has parted ways with the long time country singer whose song ‘Are you Ready for Some Football” was borderline iconic in identifying the opening of each Monday Night football game for the past 25 years. In case you haven’t heard Hank Williams Jr. compared President Obama to Hitler last week in an interview with Fox News, or did he? To be fair to Hank what he really said was that supporting Obama would be like President Netanyau (the prime minister of Israel) supporting Hitler because, well, Obama and Biden are the enemy. Although the comments were stupid Williams was really trying to make an analogy of his dislike of Obama and the dislike someone like Netanyau (the leader of the Jewish State) would have for someone like Hitler (who as you know killed Jews.) The analogy, however dumb it may have been, didn’t really call President Obama Hitler. More importantly Williams was on Fox News trying to be edgy with a conservative audience. One doubts that Williams really cares much about the President one way or another. In any event I think the firing of Williams was dissapointing for a number of reasons.

First off please don’t anyone send me anything saying that this is not a “Freedom of Speech” case because “Freedom of Speech” doesn’t protect you from getting fired, “Freedom of Speech” doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences to your actions, etc. Yes, I am aware of that, and yes, I realize that ESPN has the right to fire Hank. I have used the same argument myself in other cases so I don’t need to be reminded of it. But whether or not someone has the right to fire you for what they say and whether or not that is a good decision is a key point in this blog. In addition to government regulation of speech we should be aware of social regulation of speech. How we handle what people do and say in the public eye is as equally important as what government allows us to say because frankly government takes its cue from the people.

In an excellent essay titled “How to Read a Society” by Theodore Dalrymple he makes the case that Communism would have spread in Russia no matter what because Russian society was pre-disposed to it. Before the Bolsheviks took over the Russian people had an unusual public display of respect and admiration for the czar’s and royal family that controlled the country. In the market or in public places anyone that questioned or criticized the government was frowned upon by the populace and local’s would make money by informing on people to the police. Privately, in one-on-one discussions, the Russians would voice their concerns with the government but it was considered treasonous to voice those concerns openly. Such a climate was ripe for Communist control, and Bolshevicks had no problem silencing dissent once they were in power.

I don’t wish to make too big a deal of Williams firing but it is one in a long string of voices that have been silenced because of rude/inappropriate comments. Just to name a few examples; John Rocker, a relief pitcher for the Braves, traded and eventually drummed out of baseball for criticizng the diversity of New Yorkers; Rush Limbaugh, fired from ESPN for saying Donovan McNabb was propped up by the media because they wanted a black quarterback to succeed; Don Imus, fired from his radio show for calling the Rutgers basketball team a “bunch of nappy-headed ho’s”; Michael Richards, shunned from society, and stand-up for using the “N” word on stage; now Williams, for using a Hitler analogy. All of these examples and probably a half-dozen more I could list if I really wanted to are cases of people in the public eye that were wiped out due to poor choices of words. At what point do we stop this! At what point do we learn to chill out a little bit?

I was at the bar the other night and while there a man next to me kept making some insensitive comments about the woman working at the bar. He was joking about her body and wanting to have sex with her and was clearly drunk. At first I said nothing because I didn’t want to make a scene, but eventually I asked him to calm it down a little. He said he was joking. I said that was fine but the girl is just doing her job, and enough already. To my surprise he stopped making the comments and went back to drinking his beer. I could have fought the guy, the bar could have kicked him out but none of that was necessary. Just leaning over and reminding him that this was a public place and his comments weren’t appreciated was enough. Wouldn’t we all be better off if we handled things like this?

The next time someone uses the “N” word around you or calls a woman a bad name you can simply lean over and say I would rather you not do that, and most of the time that will work. And the next time someone in the public eye says something dumb we could as a society just say publicly,”hey, knock it off man.” We don’t have to get up in arms and send in a thousand hate letters just because we disagree with someone. We could learn to chill the fuck out once in a while. What Hank Williams said was dumb but it wasn’t that offensive and I’m not sure he should have lost his job of 25 years just because of it. ESPN could have had Williams issue an apology (which he did), suspended him for a week, and then moved on. No doubt some people who have nothing better to do with their lives would have still been upset, but eventually all would be forgiven and forgotten.

It is important to remember that the 1st amendment protects our speech from the government, but it is we the people that protect speech for ourselves. The next time you say something dumb or politically incorrect what kind of society do you want to live in? One that values different attitudes and opinions or one like Communist Russia? You decide.

Sincerely,

Jack B.

11
Sep
11

“America’s Team” and 9/11

It’s important to remember that sports is a part of our lives, in some cases an important part of our life, but not everything. Sports are not more important than your marriage, sports aren’t more important than your values, your hopes and aspirations. Sports are simply sports, and although at times certain games, and certain moments take on meaning and significance, sports will never replace or alter our perceptions about what is truly memorable to us.

Tonight the Dallas Cowboys will play the New York Jets to help kick off the NFL season, and it is no coincidence that the NFL scheduled these two teams, one called “America’s Team” and the other, a team that plays in the tri-state area, to play in the high profile night game for NBC. If you recall the NFL wisely cancelled games immediately following 9/11 in order for the nation to come together and to grieve. But the NFL also wisely chose to come back a week later because people need to move on, and in many ways football, america’s past time did let us move on. The first games back were very patriotic, with each team’s captains coming out with flags, and taps being played at the games. That year, in an unusual coincidence, the Patriots won the Superbowl, beating the heavily favored Rams. The Patriots wear red, white, and blue, and their mascot resembles the american revolutionaries.

Since 9/11, and at times and for other reasons, some people would like to see another team carry the monikor of “America’s Team.” People didn’t necessarily like the name when it was first given to the Cowboys in 1978. At the time Bob Ryan, who worked for NFL films, was looking for a nickname for the team, and since he saw so many Cowboy’s fans at other teams stadiums he dubbed them “Anerica’s Team.” Tex Schramm, the shrewd marketer and GM for the Cowboys loved the name and immediately used it in advertiesments, and at the stadium. For whatever reason the name stuck, and it has been the unofficial name for the Cowboys ever since.

Over the years other teams have either derided Dallas for their name, or tried to coin the name for themselves. The Atlanta Braves used to call themselves “America’s Team 2” because they were in the playoffs so many years in a row. Some people think the Yankees should be “America’s Team” because of their rich history and success, and other’s think the teams with the most Superbowls or championships should be “America’s Team” so you will hear some people say the Packers are the “real” America’s Team, or the Steelers are “truly” America’s Team. One is reminded of the Seinfeld episode where George tried to give himself a cool nickname “T-Bone” but no one would use it because, well, you can’t give yourself a nickname, they just happen. That’s what’s cool about them.

But among the more disturbing trends in this artificial redistribution of “America’s Team” is when fans or the media have co-opted it because of national tragedy. So after 9/11 we saw that the Patriots became “America’s Team” and the Giants, Jets, and Bills were America’s Team because they played in New York, and at least one sports writer dubbed the Saints “this year’s America’s Team” because of the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. I understand this desire to use the name in a meaningful context, but to be honest it just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because there is no truth to it. If you’re a Giants fan of course you would like to be called America’s Team, but that doesn’t mean you are. And while Hurricane Kartrina was devastating, and sad for the people of New Orleans, and while I have no doubt that the Saints helped some people get over what happened to them, that doesn’t mean football fans are obligated to root for the Saints or call them America’s Team because again, they jsut aren’t.

There is no set of attributes that go hand-in-hand with the monikor of “America’s Team.” At one time you could say the name stuck because the Cowboys were successful. In the seventies they went to five Superbowls, and won two. They were also in the playoffs a record 20 straight years, so if America is always on top, you could say that about the Cowboys as well. Except America isn’t always on top. We have our success and failures like all nations. We had dark years after Vietnman, but eventually we pulled out of them. We have survived great depressions, and great recessions. We have fought in some amazing, and brutal wars that have redefined this country, and the world, but we aren’t always on top. Most importantly though, we are always trying to get better. We always aspire to greatness.

Likewise the Dallas Cowboys haven’t always been on top. In the eighties they bottomed out, going 1-15 in 1989 a year after Jerry Jones fired the only man who had ever coached the Cowboys. It looked really bleak for Dallas then, but they quickly turned it around and three years later were in the Superbowl, beginning a run of unprecedented success. But after 96 the Cowboys would bottom out again, going 12 straight years without a playoff win. They finally broke through in 2009 beating the Eagles. And if Dallas ever wins another Superbowl we won’t be surprised because this team like America always seems to bounce back. In fact if anything Dallas is a great representative of the spirit of America, because while the Cowboys aren’t always good people always think they will be. More importantly, people always want them to be.

I feel uncomfortable drawing comparisons of 9/11 to football. That tragic day should stand alone, in its own context. But the term “America’s Team” is not simply appropriate when Dallas does well. If you like the Cowboys you can’t simply root for them when they are doing well. They don’t cease to be “America’s Team” when they are down in the dumps. I believe in the Dallas Cowboys, and I hope they will do better. But more importantly I believe in America and I know we will do better. If you love the Cowboys don’t be afraid to say it. This is America’s Team and always will be. On this day of rememberance go out and root for whatever team you truly love, and never forget that the term “America’s Team” is just a name. You can root for whatever team you want as long as we all root for the same country. That’s what is truly important.

Sincerely,

Jack B.

05
Sep
11

The Downfall of the Big 12

I’m not going to begin to describe the exact reasons why the Big 12 is going the way of the Dodo in this blog. If you’re interested there is a pretty good column by Gil Lebreton in the Star Telegram, (here’s the link: http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/09/04/3337192/after-a-dizzying-weekend-big-12.html  and last week USA Today covered it pretty well, but suffice it to say that the Big 12 is disintegrating before our very eyes due to a series of bad decisions by conference commissioner Dan Beebee, Texas AD DeLoss Dodds, and A&M President R. Bowen Loften, as well as unmitigated greed by all sides.

By all accounts the major unravaling of the Big 12 came two years ago when Texas announced it was partnering with ESPN to form the Longhorn Network, and reportedly will pocket 300 million dollars in the deal. Much like spoiled five year olds whose parents don’t buy them an ice cream cone, schools like Nebraska, Colorado, and Texas A&M had their little feelings hurt, and either bailed from the conference immediately (Colorado to the Pac 10, Nebraska to the Big 10) or made plans to do so as soon as possible (A&M, possibly Oklahoma, Oklahoma State). This is not to say that other schools liked Texas’ contract with ESPN, but only a handful chose to throw a public temper-tantrum over the ordeal. What miffs these schools is that Texas has opened up its own form of revenue that they do not have to share with other schools. The Big 12, unlike some other conferences, does not evenly split its revenues, and Texas, which gets about three nationally televised games a year, along with Oklahoma, already makes a lot more money than most of the Big 12. Schools like Nebraska and A&M won’t say it publicly, but they are also resentful of Texas’ on-the-field success over the last decade. Nebraska and A&M have historically been much greater schools than Texas with more championships, but since the Big 12’s inception they have been choking on Orange Dust, looking in the Longhorns rear-view mirror.

There is no adequate way to spread the blame around, and determine who is most responsible for the Big 12’s impending doom. Texas did offer A&M a 40% split of their TV deal, but the Aggies turned them down, which could point to this being either schools fault, depending on how you view that decision. To be certain Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebee should get the Lion’s share of the blame for not growing this conference at least two years ago and not trying to work out some new deal with A&M in the off-season, but even he doesn’t deserve all the blame. Other conferences, most notably the Pac 10 have been sending love letters to schools in the Big 12 for years now, and the love has been resiprocal. Texas schools do well in TV ratings, but they don’t get the market share ( 0r media attention) that schools on the West Coast and East Coast get (Oklahoma playing Stanford would draw a much better rating than Oklahoma vs. Kansas). And on the other side, schools in California need to recruit players from the state of Texas, and it is hard to do that if kids don’t see your games. None of this is of course about football, or what is best for the kids playing these games, but it is about money, always about money. Being a capitalist I hate to take away from schools trying to make a little extra cash, but jeez guys! How much fuckin dough do you need! This is a game played by college players, right? Tjis is supposed to be about tradition and the university, right? Silly me for thinking that.

Let’s go back to why we have conferences to begin with. The idea was to allow schools in various reasons to play each other throughout the year. The same way football has division, college has always had conferences. In the old days, when schools didn’t have $100 million dollar TV contracts, most kids played each other by way of bus, or their parents drove them out to the game. Not only that but you knew players at the other school, because the lived in the same areas, and over time certain schools developed a rivalry. The Red River shootout didn’t happen overnight. It developed because Oklahoma and Texas were both very good in the fifties and sixties, and people drove for miles to watch them play. Eventually someone got the bright idea to put the teams at a neutral site (the Cotton Bowl) and history was made.

But Nebraska playing Michigan has no historical or even regional importance. A&M playing LSU might sell a few tickets when both schools are good, but there is no true rivalry there. And does anybody really want to see Oklahoma, and Texas, these two great rivals of the southwest loaded into a Pac 12 with Oregon, and Stanford, and Cal Tech? Who the hell cares? Even worse though, is what this realighnment will do to all the little sports at each school. When your football and you play one game a week and you make tons of money maybe you can afford to travel halfway across the country, but how fair is that to baseball players, basketball players, women’s volleyball players? Should some girl that’s studying to be a doctor at A&M have to travel to Oregon ( a six hour flight) to get in a women’s basketball game? How fair is that? What a lousy thing to do to some kids. At what point does someone in college football put an end to this travesty?

Okay, it was good to get that off my chest, but now onto the important question: what happens next to the Big 12? Believe it or not the Big 12 might not be dead yet. Probably dead, yes, but not completely dead. Schools like Baylor, Kansas and Iowa won’t be very attractive to any of the major conferences, and so they could either stay in a newly formed, smaller Big 12 or try to break off and join smaller confernces ( a school like Kansas, because of basketball, could join the ACC). If some schools stay, others could be added to form a new conference. Two years ago I touted Houston, SMU, and TCU as possible contenders, but you can throw TCU out now since they joined the BIg East, and there appears to be no interest in Houston. SMU, and BYU are possible contenders. Much of this is predicated on what Texas does. Texas could leave with Oklahoma to join the Pac 12 but Texas has enough money, and fans that they could go independant (much like Notre Dame) or stay in the Big 12, where they would have an easier time going undefeated. Regardless the Big12 will either cease to exist or be completely reformed. Being a solutions oriented guy I have come up with a new concept. Instead of the Big 12 how about an all Texas conference? The Lone Star Conference perhaps? I could see taking Texas Tech, Baylor, Houston, SMU, UTEP, RICE, UNT, and three other schools and forming a new, smaller conference that would compete for the Texas Bowl each year. No national champions here, but regionally I think it would be a big hit, and Fox Sports Southwest could air it. Just an idea.

Anyway, that is it for now, but hopefully one day soon this Big 12 mess will be ironed out. And just one last thing… Shame on A&M and Oklahoma for making public comments about their departure while the college football season is underway. They could have waited quietly to annouce these moves in the offseason, but instead they have taken away from the games and the fans with their public posturing.

Sincerely,

Jack B.

11
Jul
11

Why the NBA can and will have two leagues

If you read the sports news you know a lot of talk over the last few months has centered on lockouts, the one going on right now in the NFL, which should be resolved soon, and the one that just began in the NBA which most experts agree will take a very long time to resolve. The consensus opinion is that most if not all of next years NBA season will be cancelled, and the more I look at this thing I am starting to agree. Although it is great that my Dallas Mavericks won the NBA championship, what is happening in basketball right now is not great for the NBA or its fans. Make no mistake. This league is in serious trouble.

According to the NBA owners 22 of 30 teams lost money last year, and there are reports that the league revenues are down by as much as $300 million over the last few years. To be fair, nobody knows exactly how much money the league has made or lost because they don’t open their books to the public, and their are discrepancies in accounting practices. But one look at the games, and the teams suggests that they are losing money, how much we can’t be sure. The Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks are two teams that come to mind that never sell out games and are usually at half capacity or less. The NBA does make money from t.v. contracts but not the kind of crazy money thrown at the NFL, and with the recession both tickets sales and merchandising revenue are down significantly. In short, the NBA is losing money and wants to drasticly cut salaries to offset this.

Right now the NBA salary cap is set at $58 million, but because it is a soft cap with long term contracts and luxury tax penalties, most teams salaries run revenues in the 60 to 70 million range, so league salaries reach approximately 1.7 billion, and players are currently guaranteed 57% of all league revenues. The NBA owners would like to reduce that number to less than 50% and cut salaries to approximately 750 million. Whatever the numbers end up being there is no question that the owners and the players are way far apart.

Ordinarily in these situations I side with the owners because, frankly, it is there money. Yes, they make money from fans, but they are the ones charged with spending it and putting together teams. If your boss thought you were paid too much he would have every right to ask you to take a pay cut, or fire you. And in essence, there is no difference to me when it comes to pro sports leagues. Owners have few options if they are losing money. They can cut players salaries or raise ticket, and merchandise prices, and in a down economy that last one isn’t going to fly. But the problem is the NBA isn’t like the NFL. In the NBA the product really is the players. It wouldn’t bother me if the Cowboys found new players, I would still watch them. But there is no other Dirk Nowitzki out there if you’re a Mavs fan. If you like the Lakers you can’t just go out and find another Kobe. The NBA is a star-driven league and without the stars people don’t watch. If you want proof just look at what happened right after Michael Jordan retired. The league was in the toilet for five years. The NBA also does the best job of keeping its players together on the same team (the Miami Heat fiasco not withstanding). The Lakers, Spurs, Mavs, and Celtics, the teams that have combined to win the last five NBA Championships all have three or more players that have been on the roster for at least four years, and until Phil Jackson’s retirement coaches that have been there at least three years. You don’t see a ton of guys move around in the NBA which is why fans have a closer relationship with the players on the teams they watch.

The NBA players also have one more advantage in these negotiations that they have not had in years past. There are now other countries that are willing to pay significant money to attract NBA players to come over and play in their leagues. Rumor has it top guys can make up to ten million a year to play in China and Europe, not counting endorsements. Deron Williams, the point guard for the Nets has already agreed to a deal to play in Turkey next season if there is a lockout. Kobe Bryant is in high demand in China and play over there in an exhibition league this season. And this isn’t the leagues of twenty years ago. There are good players in Europe and China now, multi-million dollar stadiums and a huge fan base. If the players don’t get a good deal, the very top guys can leave and make comparable money. You don’t think Dirk couldn’t play in Germany, Tony Parker in France, Steve Nash in Canada? You get the idea.

So if the NBA players have an advantage in these negotiations, and I believe they do, and the NBA owners are adament about reducing players salaries, and they certainly are, how can we expect that these two sides will come together? The answer is simple. One day, sooner or later, the NBA will have to divide itself into two leagues. Typically in pro sports this works the other way around. You will see two leagues come together in order to grow the game. This was the case with the famous AFL/NFL merger in the 1960’s. But we have seen in recent years, with both the MLB and the NHL the idea of contraction coming into play. Bad teams (like the Expos) are either folded or moved to another market. By my estimation the NBA should contract at least four franchises (Hawks, Bucks, Raptors, Timberwolves). Of the four only the Bucks have any real history, and that is only because Kareem passed through there, and all four have apathetic fan bases, and draw almost no crowds, or make any money. There are other franchises like the Clippers and Nets that are down right now, but that is mostly because of the way they are run. Both are in good markets, and could turn it around. In any case there is no way to make some of these franchises profitable without dratic reduction in players salaries, and so the NBA may be forced to contract, or move these teams.

On the other hand the NBA is one of the few professional sports leagues that has no true minor league, and the game is huge overseas. The NFL once tried to grow its game by creating NFL Europe, and it was mostly a disaster, but that was because of the sport, not the market. People overseas don’t know american football real well, but they do know the NBA. They play it and watch it all the time now. A developmental league that played some of its games overseas would be a great advetisement for the league. The league could play six to eight teams on a shortened season (during the summer would be idea) and it would allow the NBA to stockpile young talent and scout European and Chinese players. More importantly, by shifting some of the NBA into a cheaper league, you could remove unprofitable teams and reduce the current NBA to say, 24 teams. The popular teams would stay, and because you have no bad teams drawing revenue, there would be more of a piece of the pie for players to split up.

This move is not just a way to save money. In the next ten years it may be the only way for the NBA to survive. If the game grows in China at the rate it currently is, young superstars may start playing over there anyway, and the NBA will lose out on future prospects. This is already happening in baseball where good players frequently head to Japan if the deal is right. The NBA could be forward thinking, and remodel its league to reflect a more global approach. If they don’t do it, someone will beat them to it.

Even more scary is that the NBA players could break away and start their own leagues. Some of these guys, like Jordan, Shaq, Lebron make enough money to buy their own teams anyway. They are not bound to the NBA. My guess is that their will be basketball sometime next year (probably January) because the two sides both have too much to lose right now. But it is doubtful that any new CBA will adress all of the current problems that basketball has, and in a few years both sides will be in a labor dispute again.

The NBA has to dramatically change the way in which it does business. Without change they are doomed to fail.  A new global NBA, divided into an American and World League seems radical right now, but it is the way to go. Some day it may be more than an idea, but the only viable option left.

Sincerely,

Jack B,

23
Jun
11

Why the Miami Heat are a Classic case of Collusion

(the following story is lifted from an article that I wrote for the Examiner.com. This story generated so much traffic and hate that the Examiner took it down without my permission. There was one minor factual error from the original deleted in this version. But otherwise this version is exactly intact. Bear in mind I wrote this over a month ago, before the NBA Finals even started. Enjoy

 If it doesn’t matter locally, it doesn’t matter, as far as I’m concerned. But sometimes a story transcends local, and or national headlines and deserves more extensive coverage. The up-coming NBA Finals between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat are just such a story. To be fair Dallas and Miami, the two teams that met in the NBA Finals five years ago have no guarantee of getting back there this year. It is entirely possible that OKC, or the Grizzlies beat Dallas in the West, and that Chicago, the top seed in the playoffs beats Miami. But the overwhelming odds and the eyeball test point to these two teams meeting in the Finals. If the Miami Heat get to the Finals, they will bring with them a unique set of superstars headed by the indestructible Dwayne Wade, the best overall player in basketball, Lebron James, and the highly unique forward Chris Bosh, once a perrenial All-Star in Toronto.

But three years ago Miami was not just an average team, they were one of the worst teams in basketball, in fact, statisically the worst team in the NBA, earning the second pick in the 2009 NBA draft. So how did the Heat get so good so quickly? In my opinion the Heat’s turnaround was a classic case of collusion, a point I intend to emphasize in this article. To begin with, what is collusion? In the dictionary Collusion is defined as “a secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose.” But to be more exact collusion usually involves the manipulations of markets through two or more companies secret agreements. For example a few years ago Mrs. Bairds Bread and Wonder-Bread got together to set price controls on loaves of bread, artificially driving up prices. When consumers are deprived of a fair and even balance in available goods, this is collusion in a classic sense. Make no mistake, collusion is not just unethical, it is highly illegal and regulated fiercely by the FTC, amongst other trade unions. What the Heat did last year, in acquiring LeBron James and Chris Bosh is definatively collusion.

In the NBA teams have what is called a “soft cap” on players salaries. The “cap” is aproximately 80 million dollars (give or take) and means that no team can sign a player beyond what is available in their cap. In theory this means if a team wants to sign a player that costs 15 million a year that team needs to have 15 million available on their roster (give or take), so if the cap was 80 million, the teams salary would have to be 65 million. You see how that works? But hold on a minute. The NBA has what is called a “soft cap” which means that teams can go over the cap limit so long as they follow certain rules. One of them is that all trades have to be within 20% of players salaries, meaning if you trade Dirk ( assuming your the Mavs and you want to) and he makes 15 million a season, a player you trade him for should make aproximately 12 to 17 million. If that player is on the high side, you could go over the cap. More commonly though teams go over the cap when signing their own players. After five years with one team, players have what is called “Larry Bird rights” in honor of the former Celtic Larry Bird, which means those players can sign with their own team no matter what, and for any cost. The rule is designed to keep players in the same city they started out in. So even if you are right at 80 million, the Cavaliers could still pay LeBron 20, 25, even 30 million a year with no penalty to their cap. This is why players typically stay where they are in the NBA. So, getting back to collusion. In order for a team to sign a big-time player to a non-exclusive contract (one where he didn’t start with the team) a team would have to purposefully have significant cap space available. For example if you knew LeBron would cost you 15 million a year and you are not the Cavs, you would have to purposefully pay 15 million under your cap space hoping that LeBron would sign with you, and not somebody else. But, lets be honest, how many teams are willing to do that? Most teams not only operate at the salary cap level, they are way above it. In fact many teams are looking to dump long-term contracts every year, so the odds of any NBA team having more than ten million in cap space available are very slim. And yet, somehow, the Miami Heat not only had the cap space to sign LeBron, but also Chris Bosh, two salaries that total close to 25 million a year. If you are wondering how many other teams had that much cap space available last year, the answer is just three. 

The truth is that about three years ago, the Miami Heat (at then, the worst team in the NBA) began dumping cap space in record volume. They dropped Shawn Marion, Shaquille O’Neal, and restructured Dwayne Wade’s long-term contract amongst other deals, all of which got them 25 million under the salary cap. As it worked out, this was perfect for them, because two of the best players available in free agency (Lebron and Chris Bosh) were able to team up with them during the 2010/11 season and set them on a course prepared for a championship. A great story to be sure, so what’s the problem? The problem is that in my opinion the Heat didn’t luck into theit good fortune, rather it was planned out right from the start. Some may not remember this, but LeBron, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh all played on the same Olympic team that won the Gold medal for the U.S. in 2008, and by all intentions the three men have been friends in the off-season for many years. It is illlegal in the NBA for a coach or a G.M. to contact a player until the trade deadline is near, but players are exempt from this rule. Would it be improbable that Heat guard Dwayne Wade had a conversation with Heat G.M. Pat Riley about the aquisition of certain stars over the years? Not hardly, by all acounts Riley and Wade are good friends, and if Riley made it known to Wade that the organization was interested in Lebron and Chris Bosh, it would be very easy for Wade to have passed this onto his future team-mates. The truth is we do not know what happened, but we are left with one of two possibilties. One: D-Wade conspired with Pat Riley (and/or Heat management) to acquire James and Bosh, or two the Heat just happened to have the right amount of cap space available to sign two of the three biggest free agents at that time ( Joe Johnson, also rumored to go to Miami, stuck with Atlanta). I hate to be a realist, but let’s get real here! All signs point to a secret agreement between James, Bosh, and Wade for the three to opt out of their contracts and re-sign in Miami. Remember that players are after the most money so they would not have left their home teams if they weren’t sure a good deal was in place somewhere else. If in deed this did happed, as I think it did, this is collusion for several reasons. Number one, it circumvented other owners from making proposals that would have acquired these free agents. Number two: It deprived LeBron and Bosh of seeing the full market value for themselves ( there are rumors LeBron would have scored big in New York, and Bosh was heavily coveted in Dallas) but most importantly it deprived fans of seeing an equitable balance in the NBA. The NBA is not like the NFL or any other sport. In the NBA one player can make a huge difference. Just as it would have been unfair to put Michael Jordan and Hakeem Alijuwon together, or Magic Johnson and Larry Bird together, it is unfair to put D-Wade and LeBron together. Fans will never see them for their uniqueness, and teams that would have had one of them are deprived at either. The NBA has set up rules designed to make the league fair in its distribution of superstars. One team controlling two or more superstars is unfair to the rest of the league. I think it is telling that LeBron and Wade said their move was designed to beat Boston, after they aquired their own big-3 (Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett). This means LeBron and Wade were thinking about this back in 08, the year the Celtics came together. The NBA doesn’t want players creating their own super teams, but guess what, it has happened? Is anyone going to do anything about it? I highly doubt it. But don’t think for a moment this isn’t collusion, or that it itsn’t illegal. The sooner everyone realizes this, the sooner a wrong can be wrighted. Sincerely, Jack B. (P.S., the Mavs will play the winner of OKC, and Memphis on Tueaday, and the Bulls will play the Heat on Sunday or Monday. The Mavs and Heat should play in the Finals sometime in late May. ……. Continue reading on Examiner.com: Why the Miami Heat are a classic case of Collusion (from a Dallas P.OV.) – Houston Nonpartisan | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/nonpartisan-in-houston/why-the-miami-heat-are-a-classic-case-of-collusion-from-a-dallas-p-ov#ixzz1MabvBhEA

22
Jun
11

Defining “Sports Hate”

 Joe Posnanski of SI.com did a great piece on the hatred of LeBron James, and in general the hatred or love we feel about certain players or teams (here’s the link, if you want to check it out  http://joeposnanski.si.com/2011/06/15/the-case-for-rooting-against-lebron/. So I don’t feel I have to add a whole lot to what he says, but the piece did get me to thinking a lot about the teams that I hate, and why I root for or against certain teams. Sports hatred is not easy to define, and yet we all do it. My cousin hates Dirk Nowitzki, but when I asked him why he just sort of shrugged and says he gets a lot of foul calls. Which is true, but it is also true of Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and about a million other superstars. But I understand why he couldn’t give me a straight answer. It’s the same reason I can’t tell you exactly why I hate the Steelers, or the Spurs or a number of other teams. Sports hate is not easy to define, at least it wasn’t until now…

I have created the ultimate guide to explaining and defining sports hatred (keep in mind sports hate is not like real hate, it just applies to sports, and is meant to be in good fun). The Sports Hate Index for Teams, or S.H.I.T. list  can help you determine exactly why you hate whatever team you hate. Here it is, hope this answers some questions.

1) Hatred because of Jealousy

In truth, most sports hate is really because of jealousy. We don’t like to admit it, but we all wish our baseball team was the Yankees, our basketball team was the Lakers, our football team was the Steelers, and our hockey team was the Red Wings. We wish we were from Boston, so we could celebrate seven championships in ten years, but we can’t, unless your one of those annoying people that follows the trendy team at a given moment (like most Heat fans this year). Bottom line is, we are jealous of other teams success, this is multiplied when out own teams do not have success. If you are a Rangers fan, and you had never got out of the first round until last year, how are you not jealous of the Yankees 27 titles?

It makes perfect sense for Cleveland to have a lot of hate because they have not won anything in over fifty years. This is why LeBron leaving them was so hard to take. They didn’t win with him, and now they are years away from winning anything else, without him. The teams with the most success, regardless of how they are run, are hated the most. We hate them because we are jealous, whether we want to admit it or not.

2) Hatred because of Rivalries

Rivalries exist in sports, in part due to tradition, in part due to geographical location, and teams placement in divisions, but most importantly because true rivals keep your team from reaching its goal. The best rivalries from my perspective were the 49ers in the 90’s and the San Antonio Spurs in the 2000’s. Both won championships, but more importantly both had the power to keep my teams (the Cowboys, and Mavs) from reaching our goals. From 92 to 95 the winner of the 49ers/Cowboys NFC Championship game would win the Superbowl every time. The NFC Championship back then was the Superbowl! The Mavericks have not been as successful as the Spurs (Although this year we were!) but you always knew as a Dallas fan that to advance in the playoffs you had to face that team. Since 2001 The Mavs and Spurs have met in the playoffs five times, with Dallas winning two series and the Spurs winning one. They are a true rival, both geographically, and competitively.

True rivals are great for sports, but there are not a ton of them. The Yankees/Red Sox is a true rivalry, The Texas Longhorns, and Oklahoma Sooners are one, Lakers/Celtics is one, but there aren’t many. True rivals have a few things in common. One is geographic or divisional location, usually both. The Red Sox and Yankees both play in the AL East, and they are the two major cities on the East Coast. The Sooners and Longhorns both play in the Big 12 and they are seperated by the Red River. Teams don’t have to be geographically simmilar. The Lakers and Celtics are over a thousand miles apart, and the 49ers and Cowboys were seperated by three states, but in those cases the two teams usually play in the same conference, or happen to meet a lot in big games. The Celtics and Lakers have played each other in nine championship series.

The other thing that makes a true rival is competitive success (meaning you have to have both teams beating the other one on some regular basis) and usually but not always championship success. It matters more that the Red Sox and Yankees have both won World Series Trophies in this decade, same for the Lakers and Celtics. This is why as a Cowboys fan I don’t consider the Eagles a true rival because they have never won a Superbowl, and have never got in the way of us winning one. The Giants and Redskins on the other hand are true rivals because they have won multiple titles, sometimes at the expense of Dallas.

It is okay to hate a rival team, hell it is expected. This is the most legitimate form of sports hatred.

3) Dislike of key players

This one is tricky, because as Jerry Seinfeld once said we are often left rooting for laundry when it comes to pro sports. When A-Rod left the Mariners to come to Texas, I cheered him, when he left Texas to go to the Yankees I booed him. The Red Sox cheered Johnny Damon until he went to the Yankees, and yes I hated T.O. until he traded his Eagle green jersey in and brought his popcorn to North Texas.

So some of this hatred of players is fluid, but sometimes it does stick. I will never like LeBron after his decision, the way he announced it and the way he left Cleveland holding the bag so he could partner up with Wade and Bosh and party on south beach. Maybe you are okay with his decision, that is fine, but it is easy to understand why so many people dislike him. But because he plays for the Heat, I will also hate the Heat, even if I might have otherwise liked him. For the same reason I will always hate the Yankees because they have two of our ex-players on their roster, the egomaniacal Tex and A-Rod.

Sometimes the hatred gets a little more personal. Like if you hate the Eagles because you hate what Michael Vick did, or you hate the Steelers because you dislike what Ben Roethlisberger did. For me personally, I don’t get too bothered by this stuff. About the only players I truly despise on a personal level are Pete Rose (because he lied for decades when all he had to do was tell the truth) and O.J. because, well… Because he killed two people! But in both cases these players were long retired before I disliked them. I don’t even dislike Barry Bonds that much even though I know he cheated. Still, some people have strong principals when it comes to this stuff, and who am I to tell them who to root for. If you don’t like the Lakers because you think Kobe cheated on his wife, you are entitled to your opinion (even though I think its a dumb opinion).

In any event, hatred of certain key players is a good reason to hate a team, but not as much as the last one on the list.

4) Hatred of Cheaters

Alright, perhaps cheaters is a strong word, although not in all cases. Sometimes teams have legitimately cheated to win. USC, The Sooners under Barry Switzer, The Patriots, etc. But othertimes teams haven’t so much cheated as gamed the system or took advantage of loopholes, or competitive disadvantages to win. The Yankees are a great example of this. Yes, it is technically playing by the rules for the Yankees to go out and buy whatever player they want, but lets be honest. How many teams can truly afford a $200 million dollar payroll? Four, five maybe. Most teams can’t simply add an A-Rod, then add a Teixera, then add a Nick Swisher, then add a C.C. Sabathia, the re-sign Jeter, then…You get the idea. Most teams have to make a decision. I can keep this guy, or this guy. The Yankees don’t have to make that choice, they can keep everybody. This gives them an unfair advantage over the vast majority of teams. Yes, what they do is legal under Baseball’s CBA (the dumbest one in sports) but you can understand why so many fans of other teams hate them for this.

Another great example of this is the Miami Heat’s acquisition of their Big 3. As of yet we do not know for certain if this a case of collusion (although I firmly believe it is) but it is easy to see that both LeBron James and Chris Bosh got together with Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley and conspired to send their talents to south beach while spurning all other potential suitors. Whether or not they played by the rules, it is a cheap, and manipulative way to get together to win a championship, especially in a sport that has designed rules to try and prevent superstars from teaming up, because basketball is so dominated by just a handful of players. There are plenty of NBA fans who don’t care a lick about Cleveland or Miami that were put off by the way this thing went down. At worst they cheated to build this team, at best they worked the system to build their own superteam. A million dollars says in the new CBA being hammered out this summer, their will be very restrictive rules put in place on player movement. You will never see a sham deal like this again.

In other cases like the Patriots taping film sessions, or baseball teams stealing signs, the cheating may or may not directly lead to success, but it is still seen as a douchey thing to do, and meritous of sports hate. Hating the Giants, or Yankees, or Rangers, or other teams because of steroid use would also fall into this category. In short, any time a team or players cheat or game the system to get ahead, and have an unfair advantage because of it, you are entitled to real hatred there.

So okay, that wraps up the index, now you can use this in a very scientific way to see who you truly hate. For each category rank the team you hate on a scale of one to ten. You may discover that a team you hate doesn’t really score that badly, and is therfore not deserving of hatred. On the other hand teams like the Heat manage to score high in every single category. Using this list, and scoring them one to forty I have compiled my personal S.H.I.T. list for the teams I hate the most. Here they are

1) The Miami Heat: Score of 38

Hate this team. I have true jealousy because they will probably win two or three titles at least. I hate their players (Wade because of 06, LeBron for the decision), I believe they have an unfair advantage, brought about through collusion, and they are now a real rival, having played the Mavs in the Finals two of the last five seasons. I only gave them an eight on the rival scale because we did beat them, but overall they are as close to a total package of hate as you can get.

2) The New York Yankees: Score of 36

All of the reasons for the Heat, but I only scored them a six on the jealousy meter, because frankly I don’t think their that good anymore, and I think the Rangers have a better team. I don’t fear this club like I once did.

3) The Steelers: Score of 28

This is a great rival historically of the Cowboys and I am jealous out the ass. But I can’t say the Steelers have cheated in any way to earn their success, and I only hate a few of their players

4) The Patriots: Score of 26

The Patriots scored high in every category except one. They are not really a natural rivalry in any way to the Cowboys, although you could consider them a rival when comparing dynasties. Still, there is something about this team I really hate.

5) The Spurs: Score of 22

This one would be a lot higher a few years ago when they still had Bruce Bowen, and when they were a better team, but I am still jealous of their success, they are a true rival to the Mavericks, and I still hate Manu Ginobili a lot.

Okay that is it. Who do you hate in sports? Maybe this list can help you out.

Sincerely,

Jack B.