This blog began in 2010 with two posts bemoaning Bud Selig and Gary Bettman. Well, here we are, nearly three years later, and if things have changed at all, they’ve gotten worse. The four major sports commissioners who were in power then remain in power now. And while Selig and David Stern both threaten looming retirements, it’s become increasingly clear that, like Supreme Court justices, death is the only way to rid ourselves of these scoundrels.
Like the four noble truths, the four commissioners go a long way toward explaining our suffering. They seem to be continuously competing to see who can make us the most miserable, and who can inflict the greatest amount of damage on the sports they’re supposedly charged with protecting.
The least we can do is help them out by trying to keep score and figuring out which one of them is actually winning, right now, in December 2012.
The Ginger Hammer has the easiest job of the big four commissioners, at least if you consider their jobs to be promoting their respective sports instead of destroying them. The NFL is a cash machine that basically runs itself. Americans will never tire of violence and gambling, and so the NFL will always have a home here. All Goodell has to do is sit back, put his feet up on the desk, and find new offshore bank accounts for all his cash. But he’s finding new and ingenious ways of late to fuck things up.
-When Jovan Belcher murdered the mother of his child and then shot himself in front of the Chiefs’ coach and GM, Goodell allowed the Kansas City game to take place the very next day as scheduled. Yes, it would have been entirely appropriate to postpone the game in the face of such a traumatic event, but think of the logistics! The money lost! The CBS executives’ ire!
-It has become increasingly apparent that Goodell and the NFL have long been talking out of both sides of their mouths about the concussion/head injury issue. Goodell pays lip service to the idea that the NFL cares about its players, yet has actively tried to suppress evidence that football damages the brain and has actively lobbied to extend the NFL season. The Rog only cares about player health and safety as far as the demands of public relations require him too. He will always do the bare minimum required to appease the media and fans so that the league doesn’t lose any actual revenue.
-Goodell clearly botched the handling of the Saints’ bounty case. He saw Bountygate as a chance for him to flex his muscles and show the rest of the league that they needed to fall into line with his militaristic sense of discipline. But his ham-fisted, power-mad approach to doling out suspensions and fines turned an entire NFL city against him, gave the players involved legal grounds for appeal, and made the league look like a bunch of Keystone Kops.
-Remember the replacement refs?
-And oh yeah, a ridiculous lockout in 2011 that gave us more insight than ever before into just how rich, greedy and spoiled NFL owners are, and how few fucks they give about players or fans.
Goodell’s Grade as Commissioner in the PCHA Era: F
Are you fucking kidding me, David Stern? The reigning NBA commish has always been drunk with power and stricken with a Napoleonic need to overcompensate for whatever his shortcomings may be. His latest tantrum, though, may be his most embarrassing. Stern’s bizarre vendetta against the San Antonio Spurs reared its creepy head again in surprising fashion when the commish fined the Apurs $250,000 for resting its starters in a game against Miami.
That’s right: Stern stomped his feet and raged against the heavens and actually issued disciplinary sanctions against a franchise for its coach’s strategic decision-making. I’m excited for other commissioners to follow his lead, so Bud Selig fines Buck Showalter for making a pitching change he disagrees with, and Roger Goodell suspends Lovie Smith a game for throwing an ill-considered challenge flag. The Spurs were playing their fourth game in five nights, and Greg Popovich decided that if he was going to rest a couple of his players, he might as well rest them and all. It’s essentially the same strategy fantasy football players use when they draft a bunch of players with the same bye week, electing to take the hit with one sure loss and be at full strength the rest of the season.
Laughably, Stern hid behind “the best interests of the game,” claiming that the Spurs “did a disservice to the league and our fans.” This from the guy who has ruled during multiple significant work stoppages, who vetoed a trade because the cabal of owners he serves didn’t like the results, and who has waged a racially tinged war against his own players.
I only wish Stern had tried this shit with Mark Cuban. Which, incidentally, is the reason Cuban hasn’t been allowed to buy a Major League Baseball team yet.
Stern’s Grade as Commissioner in the PCHA Era: F
As we always do when we discuss Selig and his insidious legacy, we must first point out that THIS MAN PRESIDED OVER THE CANCELLATION OF THE WORLD SERIES.
More recently, Selig has allowed the Marlins’ franchise to disgrace itself for a third time on his watch, sitting idly by while the Marlins committed fraud on its handful of fans and Florida taxpayers. He’s also pushed through an imbecilic new playoff structure that lessens the chances that the best teams will meet in the World Series. And he’s instituted a stupid new alignment with Houston moving to the American League, ensuring that interleague play happens throughout the season and loses whatever novelty and importance it had left.
Selig’s Grade as Commissioner in the PCHA Era: F
Here we go.
The 2004-2005 NHL season was cancelled due to a lockout. Gary Bettman was in charge of the league at that time. The 1994 baseball season, as mentioned above, was cancelled due to a lockout. Donald Fehr was in charge of the players’ union at that time.
Now, Bettman and Fehr are going head-to-head in a race for mutually assured destruction as the league has once again locked out its players, and once again sits in jeopardy of a cancelled season.
Here’s the key difference, though: Fehr’s only job is to get the best possible deal he can for the players he represents. That’s why he carries far less blame for the 1994 lockout that Selig. Bettman and Selig, though, purportedly have some responsibility to the league itself and to its fans. The commissioner’s role isn’t intended to be as the head of Team Owner in every labor dispute, though that’s what it has evolved into.
This lockout, like all major sports work stoppages, is about disagreement between owners, not a divide between owners and players. But when a commissioner is too weak to get owners in line, the owners turn their animosity to the players because they have to take it out on someone and they wouldn’t dare start a dispute with fellow billionaires. Small-market NHL owners and large-market NHL owners can’t figure out how to divide the pie, so they lash out at the players like a fighting couple transferring their rage to their children.
With each day that passes with no hockey, it becomes increasingly difficult to argue that anyone but Bettman is the worst sports commissioner of all time. His greed, weakness and ineptitude define him and it’s becoming apparent that there’s only one solution:
Let the NHL die.
Let it burn and bathe in its own rotting flesh.
Let these selfish, vile owners lose their investments down to the penny, let Bettman go down in history as one of sport’s great villains, and let something better rise from the ashes. The NHL worked much better as a semi-regional league, one that didn’t attempt to compete with the likes of the NFL and Major league Baseball. Bettman is so obsessed with getting people in Miami and Phoenix to watch hockey that he has neglected the league’s overall health.
Once the NHL as we know it is dust, a new league should emerge: 16 teams, focusing on Canada and the Northeast. There’s no shortage of hockey fans to make the new enterprise a success, and imagine the quality of play with the current NHL talent condensed to half the number of teams.
Bettman and his owners deserve this. They deserve to lose everything and then to stand aside and watch while anyone with a modicum of competence manages to make the new league a success.
Bettman’s Grade as Commissioner in the PCHA Era: F
So there you have it: four commissioners, four egomaniacal, dunderheaded failures. We can’t even rank them at this point, although Bettman is pretty clearly in last place. The end is nigh, and we are all witnesses.