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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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Monthly Archives: December 2001
A whole bunch of stuff, all over the place. Mostly because I’ve been off
backing christmas things (ahh! my divinity failed!) and relaxing (well,
playing Heroes of Might and Magic III) and not writing…
On Saturday, a game of “good oldtime hockey” breaks out between anaheim and
calgary. It’s garbage time, the game is done, and craig berube roughts up
Duck goalie J.S. Guguiere a bit — chumpy, but nothing serious. He got the
penalties he deserved. Then all hell breaks loose. Duck cementhead Sawyer
runs Vernon in a blatant retaliation, and then there are multiple sets of
dances, when everyone except the trainers choose partners. When it’s done,
NHL records for penalty minutes are broken, which given some of what went on
in the 70′s, I find amazing.
Let me be clear here: I don’t have any real problem with Berube’s original
hit. It’s part fo the game. It was in a meaningless part of the game, and I
really, really don’t like this “we’ve lose, so we need to send messages”
crap that’s snuck into the game, but heck, intimidation is a part of the
game, it happens.
Where I start getting pissed is after, when anaheim decides to do the
broadway remake of Slap Shot, staring the Rockettes. And once Anaheim
escalated it, Calgary responded, and frankly, both teams should be sent to
bed without dessert. The original hit is the least of my issues, it’s the
rest I want to slap people silly over. And that includes Berube’s attempted
mugging of Friesen. That’s not BERUBE’s fault, since the coach so blatantly
ordered it, but Berube gets a suspension for doing it, and I think the coach
gets fined and suspended for ordering it, too. And I’d give Dave Lowry a
game off, because I think he’s a really classy guy, and as Captain, and as
the guy who made sure they could get the faceoff that let Berube come out
and pull the stunt, I’m horribly disappointed in him, so suspend his butt
for a game, too, for not being classy enough to tell his coach to cool it. I
expected better, if not from Berube, from Lowry. Friesen isn’t a fighter,
and the universe knows that. Might as well chase down Kariya, or Brett Hull,
or Pavel Bure. Worse, once Friesen made it clear he wanted out of the
building, Berube took him on anyway. Iginla dug in, and frankly, as bad a
fighter as Lambert is (heart of gold, fists of playdough — I’ve been
following his career since he played as a Gull in San Diego of the IHL;
great guy, great heart, rotten fighter), I’d expect the linesmen to protect
Lambert first, but at least Lambert went after a guy with a clue about how
to drop his gloves. Friesen was too busy peeing in his pants (giggle), and
honestly, I’m not ripping Friesen by saying that. I’d do it, too, if I had
Craig Berube chasing me at that point…
It’s the rest that has me pissed. But, well, what can you say about a group
of guys who are paid for their testosterone, not their IQ. But I’m not
accepting or justifying it, even athletes can be taught to behave if you hit
them enough times with a newspaper.
==== another injury in montreal… What a surprise.
I was going to rip Donald Audette for his attitude — until the curse of
Montreal kicked in and took care of it for me. Audette, for those that
haven’t been paying attention, signed a free agent deal with the Stars in
the off-season, and then whined his way into a trade to Montreal so the
Stars could be rid of him. After the trade, Audette griped to the press (and
this is a paraphrase): “they knew what kind of player I am. They tried to
change my game!”
Well, Donald — did you ever stop to think that Hitchcock’s coaching style
and the Stars aren’t exactly cyphers, either? Where do you get off thinking
the Stars have to change for you, and not the other way around? What were
you thinking? That somehow the world changes for you? Why did you sign a
contract with that team, knowing exactly what kind of team Hitchcock
coaches? Get real. Brett Hull figured it out — and he’s a much better
player (with, if possible, a bigger ego) than you have. What a whiner.
But the ghosts of the Forum dealt with him for me. When the skate went over
his arm, pretty much every tendon was cut. Ugh — and it’s ANOTHER injury in
montreal. Take a look at their injury problem since moving to the new
building (and not JUST injuries: Saku Koivu, too). If that’s not a case of
pissing off the karma gods, I don’t know what is. They don’t need a team
doctor, they need an exorcist.
And here’s hoping Audette’s arm is okay and he comes back to play more
hockey, so I can go back to ripping him for his attitude. But for now, my
main worry is that he gets better, since I hate seeing anyone injured.
Especially like that. If you haven’t seen it, it’s one of the ugliest
injuries I’ve seen since Clint Malarchuk.
==== Sports Business News
Some baseball financial news. Commish Selig goes to congress to whine about
baseball finances, and what’s he do? Open the books, sort of, to announce
that baseball as an industry had income of $3.5 billion, with operating
losses of $250 million or so.
Put this in perspective: $3.5 billion is about the size of the cat food
industry in the US (and thanks to the NY Times for that comparison). If
major league baseball collapses and goes under completely, it’s not going to
cause a recession, folks. And frankly, a company that size losing $250
million? In a recession? That’s not bad. The airlines have lost $700 million
or so since 9/11. Apple, one quarter, lost a billion dollars (to quote then
CEO Gil Amelio: “that’s a lot of zeros!”, and we’re doing okay now.
So what’s the problem? According to Selig, some of his teams are financially
irresponsible, and screwing up things for the others. And, evidently, he
can’t stop them.
Consider baseball as a single umbrella company with 30 independent
subsidiaries. That is, effectively, what they are. In most companies like
that, the president of the umbrella firm would track down the general
manager of those subsidiaries and shoot them.
But this is baseball. It’s — different. Of course. It’s 30 independent
companies, not subsidiaries, and the umbrella organization (major league
baseball) isn’t a controlling corporation, but more or less a ‘trade
organization’ — they can’t control or demand where the owners don’t agree
to cooperate, and the owners, classically, have seen this as a “I win, up
yours” business, not a “cooperate and we’ll all make lots of money” thing.
And it gets worse, given the few times they have cooperated, it’s been to
screw the union — which gave us Collusion I, Collusion II, and collusion
III, hundreds of millinos of dollars in fines, and enough ammo to make sure
that the a sneezing owner can’t get a hankerchief from another owner without
the union winning a collusion fight.
Baseball has really dug itself one hell of a hole here. They’ve set it up so
it’s almost impossible to cooperate to keep salaries down, but even better,
don’t want to; at least the ones making money don’t want to.
But looking at those numbers, my initial response was… Well, gee, that’s
the worst you can come up with?
The numbers baseball show don’t shot a company (or industry) in crisis. It
shows a company/industry in a recession, that needs to get its act together
and fix its internal problems. Small market teams can, and are, making money
and succeeding on the field. Look at the San Francisco Giants (a small
profit, if you exclude the money they put into the fund to support marginal
teams), Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners. And the Giants are doing it in a
privately funded stadium that costs them $20mil a year that other teams
could put to salaries, the A’s aren’t profitable, but are in an old, frankly
not-baseball-friendly stadium with limited stadium revenue issues (thank
you, Al Davis), and the mariners were dead in the water in the Kingdome just
a few years ago, remember? With a new stadium and ownership with a clue,
they’re now quite successful — 14 mil profit on 202 mil in revenues, and 84
million in salaries. The new stadium is a huge part of that: it basically
doubled their revenue from 1998, but also increased their costs. What all
three of those teams have in common are good management that field good,
Does all this justify contraction? Well, a company with financial issues
where revenue and income don’t match — layoffs and closing ‘plants’ are
fairly standard operations. Invariably, unions hate it, too.
Does it in this case? IMHO, yes — and no.
Personally, I think baseball got greedy and over-expanded, and I have no
problem with them cutting two teams (I’d consider cutting four) to get the
quality of talent up, and to not spread the money so many ways.
But that’s not the solution to baseball’s crisis. And the over-expansion
isn’t the reason they’re in this crisis, either. This is a case of seeing
that the roof is leaking, and going and trying to waterseal the basement.
Contraction is (IMHO) a good idea, no matter how unhappy it makes the people
in Minnesota (Montreal will find it a relief to be done with it), but once
they’re done, it’llb e baseball with a smaller league and the same basic
The REAL answer is that baseball needs to get its internal act together.
That means owners cooperating to give everyone a fair shot at winning, if
they have good management to build good teams. Today, many teams can have
the best management in the world, and are eliminated from the playoffs
opening day. 25 of 30 teams lost money (although, I admit, baseball is
infamous for funky accounting practices, so take that number with a grain of
salt). That’s now how it should be. How it should be is that any team with a
good scouting/drafting/development system ought to be able to put together a
team that can take it to a championship, and a franchise iwthout good
management should fail on the field (i.e., it can’t buy it’s way out of
mistakes, as the yankees do) and not be guaranteed a profit.
Nobody should be GUARANTEED a profit, but right now, many teams are
guaranteed they’ll lose money. Where’s the incentive?
The problem is that baseball has owners who see it as “me first”, without
realizing that they all have to live together, too. The divergence of
revenue is the real problem, in an industry where a dead team hurts ALL
So the focus shouldn’t be on getting revenue back in line (revenue sharing).
Not contraction, not salary caps, but making sure that teams are on somewhat
of a even footing, but at the same time, you don’t want to encourage
mediocrity, so good teams should benefit from being well-run.
My idea is simple: no matter how successful a team is, if it doesn’t have an
opponent, it can’t play. Baseball’s way of dealing with the away team, like
most sports, sucks. So I suggest this:
All national revenues go into a pot.
Each team gets to keep 60% of all gate revenues and local media revenues
(TV/radio/cable). The other 40% goes into the pot to pay the visiting team
for travelling to the home team to play.
That pot is split evenly among all of the teams.
The end result: is teams that can generate more revenue benefit from it, but
there’s a shared piece. Teams that are bad at generating revenues make less
money than teams that are good at generating revenue, but had enough revenue
So, instead of a team’s chances at the world series being defined by how
well a lawyer negotiates a cable deal, a team’s success is defined by its GM
and manager. And bad management will make a team struggle, while good
management will make it easier to succeed.
Gee, it seems so simple. But — the teams who have the money don’t want to
give it up. I suggest, frankly, they think about how much money they’ll make
if the other teams go away or refuse to play with them….
To those who say “owners should just say no” — it doesn’t work that way.
With limited talent pools, one owner overpaying can screw the market for
everyone else, especially the way the union contract is set up, and
especially the way arbitration is defined. The yankees can overpay someone
because their pockets are leaking money, and someone in Montreal can use
that number in an arbitration case and index their salary off of it, because
arbitration assumes all teams are the same. So even if you “do say no”, you
can have an outrageous (for your market) salary force on you in arbitrarion.
What that means, then, is that you stop goin to arbitration, or risking
arbitartion. And that means you start losing players to free agency before
they fully mature, which means you never have your top talent in their prime
years, which means all you become is a farm club for all of the other teams.
Just ask Montreal — who despite all that managed to stay — okay — for a
long time, before giving into the futility of it all. Or Kansas city. Or
Minnesota, except for the most recent abberation, which won’t last, even if
the team survives.
Under the current labor system, owners “can’t say no”. Or more correctly,
many do: Montreal, for one, but the way things are set up, salary inflation
creeps into your expenses no matter what you do, and your best players leave
sooner or later. More often, sooner. If you’re a have-not, you can’t win,
literally. All you can do is try to compete, and hope you get lucky. That’s
no way to build a wining tradition.
Baseball is seriously screwed up. Contraction is the answer to one of
baseball’s problems. Contraction isn’t, however, the answer to the core
problem — lack of reasonable revenue sharing among teams. Until that’s
solved, baseball’s going to remain screwed up. And frankly, it just goes to
show that baseball still have no clue — it’s fixing the problem it thinks
it can fix, or perhaps using this as a club against the union in the
upcoming labor fight (which baseball will lose, because it always loses,
because they’re idiots about business who don’t know how to fight together
for common causes, unlike the players). Eithe way, it’s wrong. And even if
they succeed, when they’re odne, baseball will still be screwed up, until it
gets real revenue sharing. Which the rich owners hate, so you’ll see
baseball again try to force a solution on the players, who really aren’t the
The problem is the massive difference in revenues between rich teams and
poor teams. There are other problems, like arbitration, guaranteed
contracts, the truly ugly labor deal that favors players in almost all ways,
messed up free agency restrictions, declining viewership and TV revenues,
declining interest in the sport among players, and talent dilution due to
excessive expansion — exacerbated by the fact that the expansion came
during an unprecedented economic boom in the states, and nobody seems to
have stopped to think “what happens if we hit a recession?” — which, any
accountant with a brain will tell you, was going to happens ooner or later.
How’s this relate to hockey? There are some parallels. First, hockey’s free
agency is too restrictive. More free agencts are better (I happen to believe
that Charlie Finley was right: everyone sign a 1 year deal, everone’s a free
agent every offseason. Earn your next contract, or go away). Hockey’s put
some positive rstrictions on arbitration, but it’s still too player
I’d do away with arbitration completely. Instead, I’d set things up so that
when a player hits an arbitration-eligible age, a team should have three
choices: sign them to a long-term (3 years or longer), after which he’s an
unrestricted free agent; they can sign him for a 10% raise for one year,
after which he’s a unrestricted, or a 2 year deal for 25% (average 10/15%),
after which he’s unrestricted. Or, of course, not sign him, and let him go
free. This gives a player a chance to develop and a team to decide they want
to keep him — and if so, they have ways to do so with known costs, but lose
the rights to him sooner. Or they can sign him for longer periods and commit
to keep him.
I also think hockey needs to rethink the revenue sharing issue. They’re
trying to help the canadian teams, but it’s not enough. I like my “40% in
the pot” alternative above in hockey, too, because the games played in
canada will ratchet down dollars, while when canadian teams come to the
states, they’ll start getting their 40% of the gate in US dollars. It sill
won’t close the gap, but it’ll narrow it in ways that are better than what
Fortunately, hockey and the union don’t have the bad relationship baseball
has. They CAN, actually, sit down and talk reasonably and get things done.
It won’t always be easy or polite, but they can (and do) work together.
Baseball and the union look more like Israel and palestine, or perhaps the
federation and the stormtroopers (with Selig as Darth Vader, since
baseball’s stormtroops haven’t hit a target in 20 years…).
The big worry I have in all pro sports is this: the TV-media golden goose is
tapped out. There won’t be more money coming from “the media” any time soon
in any sport, and most sports are likely to see less. Internet and “new
media” stuff is years away from being significant revenue sources. Hockey
is, if anything, lucky it never got too addicted to the glass teat, unlike
football or baseball. Being gate-revenue tied ain’t fun, but at least the
NHL won’t have to figure out how to do without money it never had. The NFL
wishes it had that problem…
All in all, pro sports has had a couple of decades of unprecedented growth.
And now, that’s over — the new buildings are built, the TV revenues are at
max, things are about as saturated as they’re gonna get. Some sports (like
NASCAR) are taking away interest and revenue that used to go to the big four
of baseball, football, hockey and basketball, and all four sports are going
to see weakening of interest and revenues.
Baseball is just the first sport to get hit by all this, but that’s because
it’s been seriously screwed up for years, and badly managed from top to
bottom, but all sports are going to be affected in some way.
All in all, though, hockey’s owners ought to watch baseball’s ongoing soap
opera very carefully — beause whatever Selig and the owners of baseball do,
hockey should do just the opposite.
when the word hit the newswires, I have to admit that my first response was
“Bure? Keenan? Let’s sell tickets!”
But on further review, I come not to bury Keenan, but to praise him. Sort
I was surprised to see Keenan back in the NHL, at least for a few minutes.
But on reflection, it’s not surprising seeing him back. he’s experienced,
he’s successful. If you’re trying to jumpstart an organization, you tend to
go with the ‘safer’ choice, which makes the experienced ex-coach lower-risk
than hiring in someone new and hoping they can do what you think. this is
even more expected when the people you’d expect to know how to hire a coach
– the GM — is also fired.
But the question is, will Keenan make Florida better?
good question. His recent history hasn’t been good. His stay in Vancouver
was rather infamous, and he’s still not on many christmas card lists in that
But when I sat down to write about Keenan, a funny thing happened. I’m not a
fan of Mike Keenan, I’ve never been a fan of Mike Keenan, and I never
expected to be a fan of Mike Keenan. But I suddenly realized that there were
positive things to say about him as well as the negative.
Keenan is a complex person who tends to polarize those around him. You like
him, you don’t. Very few people who’ve heard of him don’t have a strong
opinion of him, one way or the other. And people who polarize people also
tend to get demonized by those that don’t like him — not necessarily
without justification, but it means you tend to forget about the good parts.
Keenan did help the Rangers win a cup after 53 years. Keenan has won pretty
much everywhere. I thought, frankly, that Keenan deserved to keep the job in
Boston, where he did some good things (and Joe Thorton has publically
credited him for helping him take the next step in his play), but Keenan was
evidently too strong a personality for the Bruins management. Keenan is, if
you talk to people around the league, a pretty good coach.
He does, however, carry some baggage. Keenan is not, doesn’t want to be, and
probably never will be, a “player’s coach”. He’s your coach, not your
friend. Sometimes, that goes over the edge. Keenan wants to win,
desperately. He has little patience for those that don’t, and less patience
for those that put other priorities ahead of winning. And when he gets
frustrated, it can leak out in less than teambuilding ways. Which puts him
on edge with the players.
And over time, players tend to tune that out, and his effectiveness wanes.
Scotty Bowman has learned the art of “reinventing himself”, so that the
players don’t tune him out. Keenan hasn’t. That may be the key difference
between the two — but it’s a huge difference.
His strategy on goaltenders is to terrorize them, and use them as pawns to
manipulate the skaters. this doesn’t make him freinds with many goalies (and
there’s history in his life that, I think, explains thnis. Read the keenan
book listed at the end for more info on it).
As a coach, Mike keenan is a specialist — he can take an underperforming
team, and kick it up a notch. Make them play to expectations, or a little
more. For a while.
Keenan’s major failures — St. Louis, for one, and Vancouver — were where
he got involved in more than coaching, and tried to also be the GM. In St.
Louis it was close to an unmitigated disaster, although to be honest, his
Shanahan for Pronger trade was unpopular, but it worked. Would St. Louis
have been as strong with Shanahan instead? I don’t think so — but even that
wasn’t enough to get the job done.
In vancouver? he’s been ripped for dumping some long-term fan favorites:
Kirk McLean, Trevor Linden, Gino Odjick. The way he did it was atrocious and
insensitive, but the more I think about it, the more I realize he had to do
something. The Canucks, when he came on board, were a team not only mired in
mediocrity, but comfortable with being that way. Whether they realized it or
not, that franchise, and its players, had gotten comfortable with being
“okay”. It had to be shaken up, and Linden, as the leader, had to be shaken
up (and shipped out) to do that. They’d hit, as a team, a comfort point that
there weren’t going to move out of without major surgery. Keenan committed
that surgery — and yes, the team tanked without a trace, but when you take
things down to the foundation, that happens.
I have issues with how he was rebuilding it, but Keenan had the courage to
do what nobody else in Vancouver was willing to admit was needed: to blow it
up and start over. It was, frankly, long overdue. And now, the Canucks are
turning into a winning team, not just a “fun to watch” team. And credit for
some of that goes to Keenan.
I have two significant criticism of Mike Keenan:
First, he’s never figured out that “I am not your friend” doesn’t have to
mean “I am your enemy”. An example is Darryl Sutter, who isn’t a player’s
coach, who can be quite, well, clear adn distinct on his feelings about a
player, without falling down into abuse of the player. You don’t hear
players around the league complaining about Sutter’s behavior, like you do
Keenan (usually under their breath, off the record, in case Keenan is hired
to coach their team again). There’s tough-but-fair, and there’s tough.
Sutter is tough-but-fair.
Second, if you study Keenan’s stays with teams, a theme appears. Keenan
invariably restructures a team (or tries to) to fit him image of what a
hockey team is. Whcih is a grinding, defense-first, heavy-forecheck,
physical team. he demands hard work, but he demands hard work his way.
Players that don’t buy in — they’re gone.
And that, to me, is the essential problem of Keenan as coach. Many in the
league say he’s a great coach; I disagree — because a great coach learns to
make the most of the players he has. Keenan invariably tries to replace
players with guys he wants in his system, he doesn’t adapt his systme to his
players. That is the other key difference between Keenan and Scotty Bowman.
Bowman is flexible, and adapts his coaching to his talent. Keenan isn’t, and
adapts his talent to his coaching — with a hammer and chisel, if necessary.
No wonder some players hate him.
And that’s why his stays at teams have tended to be shorter, and less
successful. Players have changed and aren’t as tolerant of screamer coaches,
in part because players have contracts and options to force trades or move
around as free agents. What worked 20 years ago to motivate players doesn’t
work now, the players won’t tolerate it. And the players, frankly, have
found ways to submarine Keenan and get him fired when he starts crossing the
line. All it takes is for players to tune him out and stop playing, because
they know either they’ll be traded, or Keenan will be. Keenan doesn’t seem
to realize this, or can’t help himself, so when the frustration hits, Keenan
goes over the line, and the players shut down and wait for the new coach.
That, and his inability to succeed with what he’s given — insisting on
changing out teams to his vision, rather than maximizing what he has, makes
me wonder how successful he’ll be in Florida.
Here’s how to make Keenan successful: hire him as coach. make sure he knows
player personnel issues are off the table, if you want his opinion, you’ll
ask him. Otherwise, shut up and coach. Give him a good, physical team that
is underperforming and needs a kick in the butt. And give him a three year
contract, but plan on firing him after two: if he hasn’t made the team peak
in two seasons, he won’t.
Keenan is not a player’s guy, but he’s also not someone who can build a
team, and his ability to develop talent is fairly weak. his ability to spot
talent is pretty good. His ability to motivate talent is interesting: if
you’re a player that is compatible with his style, it can be quite
effective. If you aren’t, he’ll make your life hell. Guys like Mark Messier,
who aren’t afraid to threaten to pulp his face, tend to do best, and I think
he needs a guy like that on the team to help keep him from destroying the
team; a player who’s willing to take him aside and yell him into submission.
Moose can do that, Linden can’t.
Is he a good match for Florida?
I’m not sure. But — I think maybe. I think about Vancouver, and I see
florida as a similar team. It’s gotten comfortable losing. It’s full of
players with personal agendas, and there’s very little team ethic. And
everyone seems to have fallen into that comfort spot of “well, we suck, we
aren’t going to get better, why bother”.
Keenan is a perfect guy to kick a few butts that need kicking here. Starting
with, well, Pavel, who may be the most overpaid player in the league when it
comes to how much better his team is with him skating than without, and has
been for years (what good are personal numbers if the team doesn’t win
because of them?).
Can Keenan fix this team? Probably not. But he can break the complacency and
get peopel working their butts off again, and then the Panthers can see if
they want to give him a chance to take the next step, or not. Given his time
in Boston, maybe he’s finally figuring that part out.
But now that I think about it, well, it’s not suprising that Keenan ended up
with teh Panthers. he won’t kick them in the butt until they win a Cup like
he did in New york, but he will kick them in the butt until the complacency
stops, and that’s the first step in breaking that team out of the morass
it’s been in.
But it’s not going to be fun for the players, but, you know? If they were
getting the job done, he wouldn’t be there. So they shouldn’t complain as
much. They, by the actions, really asked for a guy like Keenan to come in.
I’ll bet it won’t be long before they miss Sutter as coach, that’s for
Useful research: Keenan, the high times and misadventures of hockey’s most
controversial coach, by Jeff Gordon (beat writer for the St. Louis paper).
(originally posted on 11/26. I’m just catching up with my post-vacation e-mail deluge..)
This is mostly off-topic, but I’m bringing it up because we’ve had
discussions about business issues before, especially things like the Arena
lease and other aspects of the business side of sports, and while this isn’t
hockey-related, I think it brings some hard data into the arguments over the
business of sports, and public funding for buildings and the like.
Over in baseball-land, the fight over contraction continues. The Minnesota
government is currently in the not-fun position of simultaneously having to
1) the Twins are a private concern, and therefore, no public funding for any
2) the Twins are a major economic and civic resource, and therefore, the
owner of the Twins (Carl Pohlad) isn’t to be allowed to shut them down.
Doesn’t this sound a bit like talking both sides of the fence? If the Twins
are a private concern, why does the government have the right to tell the
owner he can’t do what he wants? If they’re important to the area, why won’t
the government invest some money into making sure the team is economically
viable? (FWIW, goverments have no trouble investing in other industries,
whether it’s dairy subsidies or tax breaks….)
Jesse Ventura (Da Guv) campaigned on a “no money, no how” platform on the
stadium. He’s now waffling, having moved to a “well, maybe, if it doesn’t
affect the budget” position. If there are user fees or “things that don’t
affect the general fund” that can be taxed, he’s willing to consider it. The
problem: most of those things are already taxed, and those taxes already go
into the general fund. He hasn’t commented on being willing to redirect any
Evidently someone clued him into the numbers. Here are some:
Payroll taxes on the Twins players paid just under a million dollars into
the general fund.
Payroll taxes on visiting players (who are taxed by most cities on the money
earned while playing in the local city) added another $2.2 million.
Sales tax on concessions was worth $800K, based on an average purchase of $7
There is also a sales tax on ticket sales.
This means the Minnesota Twins directly adds $4-5million a season into the
general fund. If the Twins go away, that number goes to zero. And this
doesn’t include a lot of things: lease payments to the stadium, payroll
taxes for non-player staffers, jobs created at the stadium or indirectly,
moneys spent by the twins in the community or by the visiting teams (hotels,
meals, etc), moneys spent by fans in the area, etc, etc, etc.
If you just look at the taxes generated by the twins, it’s about $5 mil a
year. How many companies in Minnesota generate that much directly into the
I’m not going to take a hard position on all of this, but I’m curious what
I think a government has every right to refuse to build a stadium. But I
also think that if they don’t, the owner has every right to go somewhere
that will. Many governments want it both ways: no investment, but wanting to
define how things are done. If you don’t buy into the program, stand on the
sidelines and shut up.
My position has been, and continues to be, that a sports franchise isn’t
“just a private business” — the area and fans have an emotional investment
and commitment in a team (except in Montreal), in a way you don’t with a
dairy farm or a chip-fab facility. But emotional investments don’t pay the
bills. There has to be a financial commitment as well.
Cities that blindly built stadiums and paid the bills to “save the team” are
just as stupid as cities that blindly refuse to get involved at all. I’m not
saying “build it” — I believe that the involved governments should invest
only to the point that it makes economic sense to get involved, and no more.
How much is that $5 mil in tax revenues worth to Minnesota? How much would
it be worth to double that (which wouldn’t be unreasonable in a new stadium
with new revenues, an increased payroll and improved attendance).
One problem, of course, is that both sides of this fight politically come up
with their own definitions of ‘worth’. The anti-stadium people define most
revenues as “not really attached to the team”, while the pro-stadium side
tend to toss in money that is trivially attached (at best). There is rarely
an attempt to come up with a rational economic value to a team, the two
sides are too busy demonizing each other.
That’s why I find the Twins numbers fascinating. You can ignore the
intrinsics: just look at the $4-5 million of general fund money a year, and
ask yourself what it’s worth to save that money.
If the Twins leave, or shut down, that goes to zero. You lose it. If you
shift that money into paying off bonds that partially fund a new stadium, it
STILL goes to zero, but the Twins stay, and you keep getting all of that
indirect revenue, civic pride, etc. Eventually the building is paid off and
that money starts flowing back to the general fund again.
Turn this back to the Sharks a bit: the Sharks probably generate $2mil in
direct taxes on a local or state basis a year, on top of the indirect
economic revenues. If the Sharks went to the city and said “we need $10
million to fund improvements to the arena” with the inevitably implied “or
else”, just how involved should the city get?
The answer, of course, is “it depends”, depending on many features. But
knowing that there are tax revenues that will disappear if you don’t, I
think you have to look and see what makes sense. The problem is how to
de-demonize the argument and make a good deal that’s financially reasonable
to all sides.
If you look back in history, prior to the 1950s, cities didn’t build
stadiums, people did. But teams moved around and folded a lot, too. It was
the move of the Dodgers and Giants that really changed this, convincing
cities that they had to invest in a team to keep it. And that’s led, in most
cases, to decades of relatively stable franchises, where movement has been
rare and folding (thanks mostly to the teat of mamma-TV) pretty much
non-existant. Of course, as cycles go, some cities were stupid and built
financial white-elephants, and those abuses have caused things to start
San Francisco is a rare case, where they ended up with their cake and eating
it too — but we shouldn’t think that’s a reasonable model in most cities,
either. Don’t forget they REALLY WERE the Tampa Bay Giants for a while, and
if not for some serious backroom politics and Peter Magowan, they’d still
The future of all this has to be the partnership model. Minnesota is finding
this out the hard way, and hopefully everyone on both sides (government AND
ownership) will notice. Sports teams DO generate economic benefits to a
city. They also generate ‘non-revenue’ benefits, too (and defining a value
to those is a b-tch, which is more or less how this whole morass got this
I guess the question I have is this: what do you consider reasonable to
consider as part of that “economic benefit” when it comes to defining the
value of a franchise to an area? And what does that translate to into having
the affected governments invest in guaranteeing those benefits? Does a
governemnt “go into the red” to protect those non-revenue benefits? If so,
Montreal, I think, did it pretty much the right way — they looked at it,
decided the Expos just weren’t that important, and now they’re moving on
into whatever comes next. Sometimes, it DOESN’T work (anyone else miss the
Vancouver Grizzlies?), or maybe it could work but isn’t worth the fight.
Minnesota tried to have it both ways — no investment, but all the benefits.
They’re now finding out the hard way what that means.
I think the real road, is down the middle somewhere: everyone gets involved,
to the level it makes sense. If you don’t get involved, you don’t get a say.
Seems pretty simple, no? But the fun is in the details. When millions and
millions of dollars are involved, nothing’s simple. (but, I note for the
record that while the city of SF was doing the “not a penny” schitck against
the Giants, millions of dollars of subsidies and building-improvement money
was stuffed into the SF Symphony and Davies Hall; it wasn’t okay to invest
in keeping the Giants, who now draw 3+mil fans a year, but it was okay to
heavily subsidize the symphony. So much for consistency…)
What do you think?
(posted to sharks on the 20th of november, but due to our vacation, I’m just now catching up…)
The first quarter of the season it over, so it’s time to take a look at
where things stand around the league. What better foil than to look at my
pre-season predictions, and see how they’re shaping up?
>detroit: Everyone who thought last year was bowman’s last run, raise
> your hand. I sure did. But — he felt the wings had a bit left in
> them, with some minor tweaking. that tweaking was: god help us,
> Dominik Hasek.
Um, duh. Al Strachan could have called this one. He probably did, too.
>dallas: Of the teams in the west, Dallas is most screwed by bowman and
> the Leafs. Another aging diva of a team, I honestly expected them to
> start the rebuilding, and half-expected Belfour to be dumped off on
> the Blues (see below). Instead, they reloaded for another shot. I
> don’t see them getting past the Wings, I think they’re more
> susceptible to injury problems, and I think despite that, they’re
> the best team in the west not based in detroit.
How the mighty doth fall. The Stars simply look old. The Stars look like
they miss Brett Hull. The stars look like they wish Coach Hitchcock would
fall off a bridge; Hitch, however, is too smart to walk on bridges.
Right now, this team looks ugly-bad, in 8th in the west. Way below what this
team ought to be. But also be aware that the Stars have done this “bad
chemistry we hate our coach he sucks” dance before, and when playoff time
comes, they’re in the hunt. So don’t’ read too much into it — yet. But
enjoy it. I am.
>san jose: I’ve got issues with rating San jose this high; but I have
> issues not doing it, too. a number of sharks have to prove
> themselves this year; the defensive depth could be a problem, but I
> look at the teams, and I just don’t see a team that deserves a
> higher ranking. Defensive injuries could decimate this team, nabokov
> could turn into a pumpkin, and a key injury to Selanne or Nolan (or
> another long suspension) could hurt this team. I just don’t think it
> will. time for the sharks to take the next step up from a building
> team to a contender.
The “selanne chemistry” issue is a factor. Defensive depth is a factor.
Nabokov didn’t turn into a pumkin. The team is playing pretty good, overall,
and Jillson is a great find. Fifth in the west isn’t bad; and this team
should improve as the team goes along. They have a legitimate chance to end
up third seed in ranking, not just third based on divisions.
>colorado: I would have ranked them third, until forsberg went on
> vacation. That hurt. But don’t pretend this team’s in trouble.
Okay, go ahead and pretend the team’s in trouble. As of today, Colorado’s
out of the playoffs. This team is showing depth problems up front; without
forsberg, they no longer have two legitimate scoring lines, and teams simply
gang up on them. Beyond that, they just aren’t playing good hockey much fo
>St. Louis: The blues were pretty close to a top-caliber team.
> Unfortunately, the one missing piece was goaltending.
> Um, well, Brent Johnson. Is he really the answer? I don’t know.
He seems to be at least half the answer — but once again, out of seemingly
nowhere, Freddie Brathwaite is stepping in and shoving a team up on his
shoulders. He and Johnson are splitting time, and both are carrying this
team as far as they can. (why is it nobody, including me, believe in
Brathwaite, despite his ability to keep doing this?)
Goaltending is the least of the Blue’s problems right now, mired in 7th in
the west and basically not playing well. Doug weight isn’t the answer, yet.
But like Dallas, it’s a long season, and if/when this team pulls it
together, they could make life interesting come playoff time. Then again,
haven’t we heard the comment “a team that has Keith Tkachuk on it has
chemistry problems” before?
>At the other end of the spectrum, you have – the guys who know they’re
>out of the playoffs, and they’re still in training camp.
>minnesota: the second year of an expansion team is rarely pretty.
They’re not doing badly — compared to expectation. Given their record is
almost as good as Colorado’s, they ought to be thrilled. Colorado ought to
be ashamed. They actually have a chance at the playoffs, now. But don’t
expect that to continue.
>columbus: and columbus.
>chicago: at least the expansion teams have an excuse to suck. Chicago
> fans took one look at this roster and declared the season over
Well, lookie here. Chicago is making a statement. Whod’a thought? Not me.
My opinion, though, is pretty simple: if they’re still doing this in
january, I’ll still believe it. Right now, I think this is just a nefarious
plan by the hawks to really piss off their fans by showing signs of
not-sucking for a while before sinking. I don’t think the Hawks will sustain
this. If they prove me wrong, great. I wouldn’t put money on it.
>anaheim: Steve Shields upgrades the goaltending, and the Ducks
Still really suck. And — gee, well Steve couldn’t keep the starting job,
either. Guigere took it away. The Ducks suck. The only thing saving them
from complete mediocrity is the fact that they aren’t the worst team in
southern california. Barely.
>calgary: the smallest of the canadian teams, it tries, it struggles, it
> falls short.
My, oh my. Never question whether miracles happen. The Flames don’t suck.
Seriously don’t suck. Really don’t suck. And unlike the Hawks, it ain’t
smoke and mirrors. Roman Turek got out of St. Louis, found his confidence
and turned into a goaltender (will he fail in the playoffs again? Who knows?
It won’t matter for a while, and that’s good for all involved — turek’s in
a perfect position here). And with good goaltending behind them, the Flames
have turned it up and started burning people.
This team looks for real to me, folks. I don’t think they’ll fade.
>So you have five teams in the playoffs, and five playing because the schedule
tells them to. that leaves: the other five.
>los angeles: I think LA is the best of the rest
Oops. Oh, my. What happens when your goaltender turns into a pumpkin? You
turn into this year’s Kings. Potvin was run out of Vancouver for being
unable to stop pucks, ended up in LA and played his heart out. And this
year, well, he’s Felix Potvin again. Time for the “old yeller” treatment
here, folks, but be gentle.
Oh, wait. The alternative in LA is Jamie Storr. Um, never mind, we’ll keep
broken Felix for a while, thanks.
The rest of the team looks pretty mediocre, unfortunately. But with
goaltending this bad, it’s hard to tell how much is bad hockey and how much
is “we know we’re going to lose, so why bother?” hockey…,
>vancouver: I like what the canucks are doing — except for goaltending.
Two things have turned the Canucks into a real contender.
Andy Moog is their goaltending consultant. And Dan Cloutier is a goaltender
waiting for the right time, the right place, and the right voice to listen
to. Moog has fixed many of Cloutier’s technical weaknesses, and right now,
he looks like a real goalie. More important, a confident one. It may not
last, but as long as it does, the Canucks will win a fair number of hockey
Second, Trevor’s back. Beyond the ‘intrinsics’ of bringing Linden home, he
centers a solid checking line that can now reliably shut down the other
team’s top line, wins oodles of faceoffs, and works his butt off.
Suddenly, the Canucks look for real. Keep an eye on them, they should move
up the standings.
>phoenix: phoenix finally cleaned house, starting (literally) at the top.
> About bloody time, too.
About where I expected them to be, doing what I expected. 7th in the west,
not great, not terrible, not a real threat, but they don’t suck.
>edmonton: another canadian team struggling to hang on. They lost Doug
> Weight this year because they couldn’t afford to keep him.
And gee,fourth in the west. A bunch of guys (most visibly Mike Comrie) have
stepped up big time, tommy salo is proving himself to be an elite goalie
(finally — another goalie the Islanders seriously screwed up that another
team took and fixed, laughing), and the ryan smith injury hurts, no
question, but this team believes.
>nashville: I find myself feeling really, well, bored by nashville.
Nashville seems pretty bord with nashville, too. 10th in the west, not
really sucky, but always within shouting distance of it.
Right now, the division winners look like:
And other playoff teams, in more or less seeding order:
>Off in the east, here’s how things look:
>new jersey: still the team to beat.
And boy, are they being beaten. Like a drum. Like a horse. Like a dog. 8th
in the east — barely. It’s not goaltending, ti’s not talent, it seems to be
(gasp) chemistry, unheard of problems in New Jersey before now.
Still, I won’t rule them figuring it out and going on a roll. They’re not
dead, by a long shot. Just sitting in a corner puking…
>Philadelphia: plans on arguing with New jersey over the east.
They’re ahead of Jersey, but don’t get sized up for rings yet, guys. 5th in
the east isn’t bragging rights.
>Ottawa: How about ottawa? I keep rooting for them, and they don’t quite
> get over the hump. Maybe this year. I’ll root for it. But something
> tells me it won’t happen. darn.
They’re ahead of both Philly and New Jersey, but I’m still not convinced.
>Washington: how about the Caps? Sure, why not? well, for one reason, my
> gut tells me it won’t happen. but they now have jagr — but is it
> the happy, score-logs jagr? or the whiny, pouting one?
Or the missing, hurt, not-performing, bad-chemistry whiny pouting one?
Four words: someone open a window.
>toronto: I’d love to root for toronto, too, but
Oh, hell. I’ll go ahead and root for Toronto. Not only are they tops in the
east, they seem to deserve it….
>Pittsburgh: they have mario back. they don’t have jagr. I like both
At least until mario notices he’s old and creaky. Sigh. Whoops. That wasn’t
in the business plan…
>buffalo: no hasek. no peca. is the team better? I sure don’t think so.
And the sabres agree.
>carolina: they’ve got their act together enough to be decent.
And, at 6th, they’re decent.
>boston: every time this team starts stepping it up, Harry Sinden goes
> and worries about his budget. A franchise that will — guaranteed –
> always find a way to keep from getting good, and tries to not suck.
> Must be the proximity to Fenway.
Sixth in the east, playing decently, good goaltending, they don’t suck. Not
to worry, folks, they have plenty of time to screw it up.
>NY Islanders: you add peca, yashin and osgood. hey, they might not suck.
Hey! they don’t suck! amazing what good goaltending and leadership (Peca)
does for you. And what I said about Turek goes for Osgood, too.
>florida: can we bring back the rats? Just to make it interesting?
Sorry, even rats won’t make this interesting.
>NY Rangers: Okay, you tell me. Theo fleury coming back from rehab. eric
> lindros coming back from injury. Mike richter has finished getting
> old, and starting to grow barnacles. I’d call Messier old, but if he
> read it, he’s track me down and hurt me.
Okay, never mind. I’ll call Messier old, because the way he’s skating this
year, he couldn’t catch me. But Lindros is coming around (and staying
healthy), fleury is coming along (and staying straight)), and the
reclamation projects are working — better than Richter’s knees are. But
Blackburn is okay.
However, this is still a house of cards. If they pull it off, it’s a
miracle. I wouldn’t bet on it, but I might (quietly) root for some of these
guys. Especially Theo.
>montreal: sigh. I’m hopeful montreal is on the right track. I’m not
> ready to expect it.
Montreal — what little of the team we actually see skating — is definitely
on the right track. Too bad they can’t keep anyone healthy. The arena
announcer just went on the IR when he sneezed and broke his nose on the
microphone during a power play. They don’t need goaltending, they need an
>Atlanta: expansion team. see columbus.
>tampa bay: and finally — will tampa or chicago finish lower in the
Hey, cut them some slack. Tampa’s ahead of buffalo. Would I bet that to be
true in March? Nope. But it’s safe to bet that tampa will finish below
chicago. Even when chicago’s plummet hits, it won’t be THAT bad.