The Rooney Family Gotta Eat

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Dancin\' Jerry

William Clay Ford.  Mike Brown.  The Crypt Keeper Al Davis.  Daniel Snyder.  Jerry Jones.

What do these men have in common?

If you answered, “They should be locked in a shed because they’re a bunch of tools.” good job.  You win a cookie.   And not just any ordinary cookie.   A Louis Lipps’ Lipp-Smacker cookie.  Of course, I’ve been keeping that box in my Steeler Room since approximately 1988 so you might not want to actually eat it.  I leave the decision up to you.

The other correct answer to my original question is they’re all NFL owners.   And that is what I want to write about this week.  As fun as it is to talk smack about other cities and their pitiful teams, I would be negligent if I didn’t talk about a major situation happening with the Pittsburgh Steelers which reached a turning point last week.

The Rooney family rejected a $550 million dollar offer from New York billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller.  A recent article by Forbes Magazine assessed the value of the franchise at around $1 billion dollars.  Druckenmiller, chairmen of Pittsburgh-based Duquesne Capital Management, is worth around $4.5 billion, give or take a billion depending on how deeply the stock market crashes that day, so he wasn’t trying to be cheap.  For one, those valuations are based on paper and not real-life assets.  And secondly, he was only going to be buying a majority (about 75%) interest in the team, not the entire thing outright.

The Rooney Brothers are idiots.   This was about as perfect an opportunity to sell the team as they’re ever going to get.  The NFL wants the team’s ownership to be concentrated into fewer hands.  As most of the brothers have nothing to do with the football business, this was a chance for them to get out and turn a nice tidy profit at the same time.  Without sounding gloomy, they’re not young men.   Why not take the $140 million dollar pay off and live the rest of your life flying first class to Vegas, staying at the bowling alley penthouse at the Hard Rock, and doing shots off the leathery funbags of bleached-blonde Eagle Cheerleaders strippers?

Not to mention, if you’ve been following the news beyond the sports page, you might of heard that our economy is what financial experts call “sucking the big one.”  Things are not going to get better in the immediate future.   Yes, if the Steelers go up for sale, I’m sure bidders will line up.  But instead of a half dozen suitors, you might only have two.  And then there’s the danger of a Wayne Huzienga scenario.   Huzienga owned both the Miami Dolphins and the Marlins.  He spared no expense in assembling a championship team down in Florida.  Then his primary business, Blockbuster, went boom and the baseball team was basically gutted due to cash flow problems (ie having none).  Beyond that, if they wait until after the election it’s a no-win situation.  If McCain wins, the economy will likely continue its Republican induced slide; if Obama wins, the Democrats love taxing rich bastards.   So waiting until March ‘09 to sell the team might cost them untold millions they’d save by selling now.

I know you’re wondering why I care about this.  I don’t know Stanley Druckenmiller.  I’d like to, but only because anybody who paints his face black-and-gold and owns season tickets is my kind of guy.  If I saw him at a bar, well, I wouldn’t recognize him.  But if I did, I’d send him an Iron.  Or a shot of Cuervo.  Or a glass of Pinot Grigo.   Whatever rich bastards are drinking these days.

The main reason I wanted Druckenmiller to own the Steelers is this quote from him which appeared in the Post-Gazette following his failed bid:

But he said he never changed his bid, and was “disappointed” when it was finally turned down.

“I don’t like being in the press,” Mr. Druckenmiller said. “I really need to disappear again, and I need to start now.”

He doesn’t like publicity.  That is my kind of owner right there.   The absolute worst thing that could happen to the Pittsburgh Steelers is for them to be bought by one of these NFL owners who are nothing more than self-promoting jackasses.  Could you imagine a more terrible nightmare than to wake up and find our beloved team owned by Jerry Jones 2.0?

The Rooney family has long been recognized as not only the class of the NFL but one of the most respected owners in all of professional sports.  Their title is well-earned.  They are involved in the football operations but they don’t interfere with their football people.  They aren’t reactionary.  They don’t have hair-trigger tempers.   They are patient but not too patient.  They want to win and they expect to win and aren’t satisfied with anything but winning.  Putting a quality product out on the field is their primary concern.

This is a sharp contrast to the owners I mentioned above.  You can pretty much divide them into two groups.  The first is the Do-Nothing owners.   Mike Brown and WC Ford fall in this category.  These are the owners who we as Pittsburghers should be familiar with if we follow the Pittsburgh Pirates.  They subscribe to the Steve Miller school of management.  Which is to say, they take the money and run.  These owners, like the pillaging Bob Nutting, are perfectly happy to sit back, take the collective bargaining money the league doles out, and not put any of it into the on-field product.

As painful as it is to admit, the Bengals have had some talent the past few seasons.  Unfortunately, their owner hasn’t shown the slightest bit of interest in acquiring and/or keeping the pieces necessary to take the team to the next level.   And Lions GM Matt Millen must have pictures of Nana Ford fellating a young sheep while smothered in green gelatin to still have his job after compiling a 23-62 record under his “leadership.”

Opposite of the Do-Nothings are the Know-It-Alls.  These guys run their teams like they own a fantasy football franchise instead of a real one.  Guys like Al Davis or Jerry Jones continually stick their noses in the football side of the business, bringing in personnel they want, drafting players they want, or coaching from the owner’s box.  The worst of them all is Lil Danny Snyder, who every year goes out with his checkbook wide open and brings in every “name” he can find and then watches his team stumble to an 8-8 record when his Dr. Evil-esque plans fail.

Snyder’s foolishness reminds of a great Myron Cope story.  The ‘Skins were playing the Steelers back in 2000.  Cope (who was at least 70 at this time) kept referring to the Redskins as the “Wash Redfaces” Apparently, Snyder didn’t like this and sent someone to the Steelers radio booth to tell Cope to knock it off.

Legend has it Myron’s exact reply to said note was, “If the boy billionaire thinks he’s gonna shut me up, he can stick his head in a can of paint.”

If the mental image of a half drunk, chain-smoking, septugenerian Myron Cope pulling the punk card of the bigshot billionaire Daniel Snyder live on the air doesn’t make you smile, turn in your passport to Steeler Nation right now.

This story sums up my point better than I could.  Do we want that kind of owner?  Do we want somebody in the owner’s booth that Myron Cope would rather dunk in a bucket of glossy enamel than work for?   I don’t think Mr. Druckenmiller would’ve been and that’s why I wish he would’ve bought the team.   One things for sure, one day in the near future we’re going to wake up and find the team is in somebody else’s hands.

The Rooneys better know what they’re doing.

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