Friday, August 30, 2002

They didn't strike (told you so; see Wednesday's post), and now the pundits are mopping up. And it's ugly. We see quickly that it's simply not possible for sportswriters to accept a happy outcome. They spent the last several weeks wondering how the two sides could be so foolish as to allow another work stoppage and now that a deal has been reached without interrupting the season, they can't bring themselves to parcel out credit. Oh, no. They're onto their other pet screed—lecturing fans for being dupes.

Take a look at Tim Keown's column on It's condescending—as is most punditry these days, be it political or sports—and in its insistence in being smarter than you, runs aground on the shoals of illogic and stupidity.

First, Keown's assertion that the players "didn't want more" is absurd. Everybody knows that the status quo would practically have guaranteed the players huge raises over the next several years. Fans understood this, that's why they felt the owners were right in demanding a revised playing field.

Second, Keown wants you to know that revenue doubled in the past six years. So? In business, one side of the ledger is only important relative to the other side. A lot of dot-coms that shouted about their five consecutive quarterly 125 percent revenue increases in 1999 and 2000, and are out of business in 2002, can tell you about that.

Third, to say that Minnesota and Oakland are "aberrations" (I think the actual term Selig used was "anomalies") is hardly belittlement. In fact Selig's insistence that the system barely allows for competitive success in smaller markets casts the Oakland and Minnesota stories in an even more impressive light. In the Selig line of thinking, those two franchises did the nearly impossible. In the Keown line of the thinking, it's no big deal for a small market team to succeed.

Fourth, no, Tom Hicks won't get any of George Steinbrenner's money. What Keown doesn't tell you is that everybody will contribute an equal proportion of local revenues, and everybody will receive an equal share. Because it has fairly large local revenues itself (because of the A-Rod deal!), Texas will be a net loser in revenue sharing. Plus, it will be subject to the luxury tax. Montreal, meanwhile, will be a big winner under the rev-sharing plan, as will Minnesota and Oakland (which should help them keep their fine young teams together, something fans, I'm sure, will be happy about).

Fifth, Keown and the others who think they're smarter than fans like to say that greater financial parity won't make dumb owners and general managers smarter. This is a classic straw-man argument. Nobody has said that greater income redistribution would make dumb owners and general managers smarter. Quite the contrary: Dumb management will still be penalized; and now, smart management has a better chance of being rewarded. Furthermore, smart organizations will have a better chance of keeping their teams together, which is a major concern of fans.

Finally, Keown is outrageously disingenuous in his late, brief show of gratitude that a deal was struck. "So it's done. Great news. No games were canceled. The damage was minimized, and after today that's all that really matters." He writes this in the last paragraph of his column, after spending hundreds and hundreds of words ripping the people who run the game and the fans who support it. If he really was happy about the outcome, that sentiment would have been the gist of his column. But Keown, in the typical fashion of the embittered sportswriter, didn't give a shit if the games went on or not Which is fine, as long as he doesn't expect us to think he did.