Evan Weiner: Ranchers, Cattle and Sports

Sep 25, 2012

Posted with the express consent of Evan Weiner:

THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS
.
BY EVAN WEINER
COMMENTARY

Ranchers, cattle and sports

By Evan Weiner
September 25, 2012
.

.
Jimmy Devellano has worked in the National Hockey League in various capacities for 45 years so presumably he can speak with authority on most subjects National Hockey league and by extension sports. Devellano got into hot water when discussing the present National Hockey League owners’ lockout of the players when he uttered what is an unspoken truth.
.
Devellano acknowledged publicly what anyone connected in sports knows, players are just meat on the hoof and disposable at any time.
.
“It’s very complicated and way too much for the average Joe to understand, but having said that, I will tell you this: The owners can basically be viewed as the Ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle. The owners own the Ranch and allow the players to eat there. That’s the way its always been and that’s the way it will be forever. And the owners simply aren’t going to let a union push them around. It’s not going to happen.”
.
Devellano happened to just tell that to Scott Harrigan of Island Sports News in Victoria, British Columbia. For his “misdeed” of talking during an owner’s pledge of solidarity and “breaking” a code of silence, Devellano and his employer, Michael Ilitch’s Detroit Red Wings are supposed to pay some sort of penitence in terms of some monetary figure.
.
The cattle reference may have been uttered by Texas E. Schramm, the president of the Dallas Cowboys and architect of the NFL’s 1987 scab, rather replacement players’, solution to the NFL labor problems. Schramm allegedly called players cattle during the 1982 NFL players’ association strike.
.
Football players have understood they are cattle and take whatever abuse comes there way. In 1987, New York Giants defensive tackle Jim Burt walked into the New Jersey Meadowlands when word came down that the National Football League Players Association had folded when the group’s strike against the owners for better wages (and it was always better wages for the NFLPA not retirement and health benefits for retirees) ended because too many players crossed the picket lines including Lawrence Taylor and Joe Montana with a smile on his face.
.
Burt was happy he was going back to work but he also said something rather remarkable. He acknowledged the players had lost but said that was okay because “football players are used to being beaten over the head.” That too was an unspoken truth that accidentally came out but was played down by a grateful media who could look forward to watching games again without being interrupted by a labor action.
.
Sports is just a business.
.
While the National Hockey League has shut down the 30 factories around North America, one factory owner is unhappy with his building and wants a new plant for his business. So Darryl Katz ventured from his home base in Edmonton and flew across the 49th parallel to check out the Seattle market after that burg’s city council approved partial funding of a new arena in town.
.
Katz wants Edmonton to basically subsidize his hockey business, a practice that was never much of a Canadian ritual unlike cities south of the 49th parallel in the United States. If Katz shows that Seattle or other cities want his business, he can use that as leverage in his talks to get the entire subsidy he wants from Edmonton or Alberta elected officials. Katz has a business, the NHL franchise known as the Oilers that has many consumers and is beloved by sports fans. He knows that by going to Seattle that will raise hackles in Edmonton among political types who are in office or want to be in office and will set off a frenzy because a certain segment of voters will be upset to lose their entertainment or in some cases a love of life—Katz’s Oilers.
.
Sports in many ways has become a religious experience for some people. The National Football League has somehow captured the attention of people in the late summer, all fall and into the winter who view either a stadium or a big screen television as a 21st century cathedral. The games are at the center of a Sunday life with television pre-game shows starting at 11 in the morning in the eastern United States, 10 in the central time zone, 9 in the mountain time zone and 8 in the Pacific time zone. The experience lasts about 13 hours with a small break between what is called the late afternoon game and the Sunday Night game.
.
There is communal bonding, drinking of an equivalent of wine and much discussion about the events.
.
There are also special cathedral days on Monday and Thursday when services or games are held. There is much talk during the week about what was important from the Sunday, Monday or Thursday offerings. When college and high school football seasons are done, there is an additional Saturday offering as well.
.
But while all of this is going on, the money changers are on the lookout for new cathedrals. Phil Anschutz’s AEG has proposed Los Angeles meat on the hoof factory may get green lighted soon by local politicians. Ed Roski is still looking for an NFL partner in the City of Industry. San Diego and Oakland are no closer to new facilities; the Spanos family’s Chargers have been waiting for San Diego to bestow a new facility for them since 2000.
.
The National Hockey League lockout is all about money. As the late George Young used to say when he was the general manager of the New York Giants (he built the 1986 and 1990 Super Bowl inning squads). “You show me a player who says they would play for nothing; I will show you a liar.” The National Football League lockout of officials is all about money also.
.
The owners don’t feel the officials should get a pension or raises any more.
.
Sports is a business to the owners and players and other employees and just fluff entertainment to fans. There are never any questions raised by games being a bona fide competition. The Washington Nationals shut down one of their better pitchers Stephen Strasburg because the team felt that if he pitched too much that would ruin his arm in future seasons. Yet the team and Major League Baseball is not discounting any ticket prices for Nationals games in the playoffs even though the team does not have a full roster of talented players who give them the best chance to win with a shut down Strasburg.
.
Devellano said what people in the sports industry know. It will be forgotten eventually when the players return to the ice. But Katz will go on his unique Oilers power play, the Glendale, Arizona situation will go on, Quebec City and Hamilton and some other area in the Toronto metropolitan area will bid for an NHL team, Calgary Flames ownership will push for a new building if Katz gets one in Edmonton with similar terms of subsidies.
.
Cities will compete for teams despite dire consequences for municipal bottom lines as evidenced with stadium/arena fiscal fiascos in Hamilton County (Cincinnati), Ohio, Harrison, New Jersey, Chester, Pennsylvania, Stockton, California and other places.
.
That’s the price of being a big league city or even a minor league city. But there is no sacred about sports, about games, about uniforms. Unfortunately the diehards who love sports don’t understand that. To them it’s more than a game but for the “ranchers”, it is just business, nothing personal.
.

Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy’s 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on “The Politics of Sports Business.” His book, “The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition” is available at www.bickley.com or amazonkindle. He can be reached at evanjweiner@yahoo.com
.
.

6 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. RobertinSeattle
    September 25th, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    RobertinSeattle

    EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve uploaded a copy of the NFL’s official ruling from today on the Seahawks / Packers game to Scribd for easy viewing and to make it downloadable for printing. You can also click the Enlarge icon in the lower right corner of the menu at the bottom of the viewing screen to go Full Screen for easier reading (just hit the ESC key to close):
    NFL Statement on Final Play of Monday Night

  2. George Visger
    September 26th, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    George Visger

    Evan,

    You are much too cynical. Professional sports teams and their owners are like family. All you have to do is look at how well they’ve taken care of me through my 9 NFL-caused emergency VP Shunt brain surgeries.

    OK, OK – so I had to sue the 49ers for WORKERS COMP just to get my 2nd and 3rd brain surgeries paid for. But think about it: They occurred 10 hours apart, just 4 months after we had won Super Bowl XVI and everyone was still excited about the big win. Why, anyone would have been distracted! Alright, so maybe it was only 9 months after my first brain surgery but doggone it, think how preoccupied they must have been booking their speaking engagements and ordering our Super Bowl rings!

    I am also completely confident they were looking out for my best interest when they diagnosed me with high blood pressure for 2-1/2 weeks while my brain was actually hemorrhaging. Gee – at 22, I could have had a stroke if they hadn’t stepped in with all those diuretics.

    And the 2+ months I worked on a knee that they drained 65 – 70 cc’s of blood from every few weeks when it would blow out, any team doctor could have easily mistaken torn cartilage and a torn ACL for a sprain. Shoot, even I thought it was just a bruise!

    I am sure that Little Eddie’s Get Well card to me is just lost in the mail somewhere. After all, we’re family. Damn Postal Service!

    George Visger
    SF 49ers 80 & 81
    Still waiting for my earned benefits

    Wildlife Biologist/TBI Consultant
    The Visger Group
    Sacramento, CA

  3. Rick Jones
    September 26th, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    Rick Jones

    Someone once said that if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for nothing.

    Well, Dave, we thank you for standing for something!

    Rick Jones
    Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts
    1977 – 1983

  4. Larry Kaminski
    September 26th, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    Larry Kaminski

    Dave:

    Yes, we are cattle. Ten of us former Denver Bronco players have filed a Workers Comp suit in California against the owners: Bowlen Family Sports. I just received a brief probably 3 inches thick asking for more time from our NFLPA group for an extension. The Bowlens are using every trick in the book to deny any payment for legitimate claims.

    I recently saw the Forbes article on equity and profit for the great franchises in the NFL… Billions not millions! Like the industrialists of the early day: Wealth is more important to the elites than humanity and proper decency.

    It’s a shame but as we have seen in the referee situation, they control the market through a government-protected monopoly.

    Larry Kaminski
    Denver Broncos
    1966 – 1973

  5. Larry Kaminski
    September 30th, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    Larry Kaminski

    Dave and Fellow Retirees:

    Is there any light at the end of the tunnel when dealing with Workers Comp issues?

    I just received a note from my attorney that the Broncos may have had a carrier in 1973. My attorney will have a formal meeting with the Bronco legal team in front of a judge in a few weeks.

    The soap opera of denial by the elite owners continues…

    Best to all
    Pre-Bowlen throwaway player,
    Larry Kaminski
    Denver Broncos
    1966-1973

  6. Larry Kaminski
    October 8th, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    Larry Kaminski

    Independent Players -

    This morning, I read the comments made about RGIII’s head hit with interest. It seems it was considered a “mild” concussion.

    OK gents… How many of you from the early days still remember when it was called a ding after a head slap or double head slap from Dan Birdwell? Or a hit on the wedge, or just a big hit on a blocking assignment which was one-on-one and not zone.

    Yes, we all had mild concussions during the course of the season and careers but as the NFL’s Dr. NO Casson said, “Brain injuries were not part of the game.”

    This NFL is quite interesting in how their tune keeps changing.

    Larry K
    Denver Broncos
    1966 – 1973