Wieber: Why I hate commissioners
Why is it that we as fans seem to inherently hate major sports’ commissioners? Any time a commissioner shows up to address fans at an event, they are greeted with a shower of boos.
Is it because we feel they aren’t doing an adequate job? Is it defiance of authority? Do we only remember the blemishes of their tenure? Stepping back and looking at the commissioners of each of the four major professional sports, it is easy to find reasons to curse their names.
David Stern: Stern has done some incredible things for the game of basketball. When he became commissioner of the NBA in 1984, the NBA was far from popular. NBA Finals’ games ran on tape delay. His marketing plan for the league was brilliant, and now, regular season games are shown all over the world. There are athletes from 35 different countries currently playing in the NBA. David Stern has made the NBA a global icon, and it is more popular now than ever.
He is also incredibly unlikable. He comes off greedy and smug. He refuses to disband the WNBA, which as a whole has lost money every year since its inception in 1997. The NBA has to subsidize the WNBA so that they can stay in existence.
In James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales’ book, “These Guys Have All The Fun: Inside the World of ESPN,” ESPN executive Mark Shapiro recounted a TV contract negotiation from 2002: “I told (David Stern) the WNBA stinks, it doesn’t rate and I didn’t want it. Men don’t watch it. Women don’t watch it!”
Yet, Stern refuses to admit failure. He was also a big part of moving the SuperSonics from Seattle, where they had a loyal and dedicated fan base, to Oklahoma.
Oh, and he mixes up his hurricanes.
Bud Selig: Bud Selig looks great right about now, even though Major League Baseball is the only of the major four that is declining in popularity.
Last year, both the NBA and the NFL had lockouts with their labor disputes. With the NFL, training camp was shortened, which led to high injury rates. The NBA lockout dipped into the season, and games were canceled as a result. However, the MLB renegotiated the collective bargaining agreement last year after the season so quietly and with such ease that it hardly made news.
The gripe many fans have with Selig is purely that he is old and out of touch. He has repeatedly refused to integrate instant replay, something that is borderline absurd in this day and age. His argument is that pausing the game to review tape would slow down an already seemingly endless game, yet he allows batters to step out of the box and adjust their gloves with each pitch.
Gary Bettman: Gary Bettman took over NHL in ’93, and since then, it has grown in popularity, with revenue is up from $400 million to $3 billion.
But, he seems hell-bent on self-sabotage. Bettman is synonymous with lockouts. Going into what would have been the 2004-05 season, the NHL was at its pinnacle as far as popularity goes, but a lockout ended canceled the entire season.
Eight years later, the NHL has finally recovered. However, Bettman again got greedy and wanted to play hardball in collective bargaining negotiations. Now, the NHL is experiencing another lockout, which is the third labor stoppage that has occurred under his reign as commissioner.
Aside from the arrogance he shows in labor negotiations, he has overseen many franchise moves from the northern United States and Canada to southern U.S. cities where hockey is not popular. Hockey is a great game, and part of the fun with hockey is the passionate fan base. These fans are loyal and supporting their hockey team is tradition — something they learned from their fathers. That sort of allegiance for the NHL is not found in the south.
Roger Goodell: In my opinion, Goodell is the absolute worst. Football is by far the most popular sport in the country, with last year’s National Football League revenue being estimated at $9.5 billion. No other sport can come close to competing with football as far as fan bases and revenue streams are concerned.
On Oct. 7, the Yankees — maybe the most iconic sports franchise of all time — played a playoff game with the Orioles at the same time as an early season game between the Chargers and Saints, which had four combined wins. The playoff baseball game posted a 3.3 TV rating, while the football game had an 11.7.
Recently, Goodell has been masquerading behind a player safety campaign, while at the same time pushing for extending the season by two games and forcing Thursday night games to provide relevance to his TV network. Cutting three days in between games is detrimental to player safety, especially for the road team who is sometimes traveling to different time zones.
In sum, commissioners pump sporting events into our living rooms every night, and for that, we are thankful. But looking at it overall, our love affair with hating them is reasonable. For the most part, they are money- and ego-driven men on power trips that place money over fans.
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