Dear Sports Czars: Take Your Ball And Go Home | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Dear Sports Czars: Take Your Ball And Go Home

Czars.

It was fun to call American sports commissioners czars, but once players started to have unions, a commissioner really became more like a majority leader in a legislature, trying to keep his party — the owners — together in their financial battles against the minority opposition, the athletes.

Curiously, commissioners have all been in the news lately, if in different ways. David Stern announced that he'll retire in 2014 after 30 years running the NBA. Stern has been the most accomplished commissioner ever because he took the NBA from off-Broadway onto the Great White Way. Yes, it sure helped that Larry and Magic took off, then followed by Michael. You see, precisely: marquee first-name stars who just happened to have teams attached to them. But Stern knew how to milk that celebrity-first angle and, also, he knows when to leave the party.

Are you listening, Bud Selig? Stop being coy. Give us your sell-by date. So many sports bosses — czars, owners and coaches; Pete Rozelle, Al Davis, Bobby Bowden — have tarnished their achievements by overstaying their welcome; but in fact, Selig might have done his best work most recently.

Still, he's always been better at boardroom machinations than polishing the diamond. Buddy didn't see the steroids pumping up the pastime, and now he doesn't see that there are too many strikeouts sucking the action from the game. Excuse me, but a swing and a miss is just not appointment viewing.

Gary Bettman is front and center, locking out his skaters once again. The NHL commissioner, like his baseball and basketball counterparts, always has to deal with the big market/small market franchise divide, and hockey has the additional problem of its sport being indigenously beloved up north, but just an alien hard sell down south.

So Bettman has the hardest job. But he's got a good memory. The last time there was a lockout the NHL lost a whole season, but hockey fans are so famously loyal, they still came back like sheep. That's why there's no hockey now, because Bettman and the owners remembered that hockey fans are dependable suckers.

It's a good lesson for fans of all sports. If they take your game away, take your time coming back to the games.

Now, the NFL has no major financial concerns. Good grief, its dopiest small franchise, Jacksonville, sold for three-quarters of a billion dollars.

No, Roger Goodell's problem is simply that his sport has been revealed as a brain buster for his fungible gladiators. In 25 percent of Sunday's games, a quarterback was knocked out with a concussion. He talks about safety, but then Goodell ballyhoos Thursday night games for the walking wounded and he wants an extended 18-game schedule.

Ultimately, Goodell is a proprietor of a blood-and-guts show, so he has the trickiest act as commissioner. Because balance sheets are one thing, but balancing employee safety with box office is another.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Colorado Tries Hard To Convince Teens That Pot's Bad For You

Do you want to be a lab rat? That's what teenagers are doing when they smoke marijuana, the state of Colorado says. But since hard evidence of marijuana's harms is scanty, it may be a tough sell.
NPR

Mistura Food Fest Gives Peruvian Cuisine A Chance To Shine

Every September, top chefs from around the world gather to celebrate the diversity of Peruvian cuisine. But not everyone is convinced the food boom is the answer to the country's historic challenges.
NPR

House Poised To Vote On Arming, Training Syrian Rebels

The expected vote on whether to authorize the Obama administration's plan to arm and train moderate fighters comes as the president meets with military officials at U.S. Central Command.
NPR

When The Power's Out, Solar Panels May Not Keep The Lights On

With the price of solar panels falling, more municipalities and homeowners are installing them. But having solar panels doesn't mean you won't lose power in a blackout — at least not yet.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.