Carle’s blurb on the economics of sports teams and how they routinely shake down municipal and state governments to pay for new digs (complete with a Richard Florida column) tells only half the story, and as a fan of the former Montreal Expos, I don’t need a Google search to know that fans of the Marlins’ owner, Jeffry Loria, are few and far between.
In addition to fleecing the Miami taxpayers of more than two-thirds the cost of the Miami Marlins’ new baseball park, he also gutted the team after one season of relatively (for him) high spending on players. When the Marlins’ 2012 season down the tubes (in more ways than one — they finished last in their division), he gutted the team by trading the best, and not coincidentally highest-priced players, for draft picks, players to be named later, ham-and-eggers, and, presumably, some magic beans. Even if Loria died tomorrow and was magically replaced by someone with some baseball acumen, it would take five or six years for the Marlins to recover from this off-season.
Maybe that’s why, in a city filled with people who fled Cuba after the 1959 revolution, Loria is barely more popular than Fidel Castro.
Is there a lesson for Rider fans in this? Oh yeah. Maybe it’s just me being an old geezer, but I can still remember a time when the Riders were pleading poverty. From about 1994 to the 1999 season, under Al Ford as general manager, the Roughriders pretty much gave up trying to field a competitive team, abandoning scouting, signing only the most washed-up free agents, and fielding a team that was so devoid of quality that it looked as though the last 42 people in the Lazy Owl at last call on half-price draft night were poured into Rider uniforms instead.
Ford did this because the Riders board of directors wouldn’t give him the money to field a good team, he wouldn’t know where to look for players if he did have the money, and Saskatchewan football fans would lay down enough money to watch the team to cover most of the expenses even if the team stank. In many ways, the Riders once operated on the Jeffry Loria philosophy.
And that’s what scares the most about the city and province’s deal for the new stadium. In Winnipeg the Blue Bombers are on the financial hook for $85 million for their new $200 million stadium (which, as a Roughrider fan, I will hereinafter refer to as the University of Manitoba Institute For Mosquito-Breeding Studies), while the Roughriders will pay only $20 million towards the cost of a new stadium that’s supposed to cost $280 million. Why the extra $80 million for a stadium that will seat roughly the same number of fans? Why did the Riders get such a sweetheart deal, in comparison to the Blue Bombers?
The very least the city and province could have extracted from the Roughriders was a ban on home blackouts during Rider games during the 30-year life of the deal to build and fund the facility. After all, if everybody in Saskatchewan — whether they follow the Riders, other teams in the CFL, would rather watch the NFL on Game Day, or have no interest in football — are helping to pay for the new stadium, they should have the right to see what their tax dollars have bought them. But much like what happened in Miami and Cincinnati (with the Bengals new stadium), governments become jock sniffers when pro sports want a taxpayer-funded handout.