Who's ruining pro baseball and football? The owners!

Ken Rosenthal

September 11, 1992|By Ken Rosenthal

After a week of extraordinary upheaval, now you know who the villains are. Greedy as professional athletes appear, it's the owners who keep ruining our games.

First, we had the palace coup to oust baseball commissioner Fay Vincent, an event that clears the way for the next major-league owners' lockout in either 1993 or 1994.

Now, we have the players' victory in the NFL antitrust trial, an event that will result in football owners postponing expansion until oh, about the 23rd century.

Baseball fans everywhere will suffer when major-league owners giddily engage in their own version of the national pastime: union-busting.

And football fans in potential expansion cities will suffer when NFL owners cite an uncertain economic future as an excuse to delay the addition of two teams.

Shall we start a charity fund for these paupers?

The verdict did not quite ensure "the destruction of the National Football League as we know it," as one NFL lawyer warned. It left room for the league to devise a less restrictive type of free agency.

Still, the pattern is clear.

Three times, independent arbitrators found baseball owners guilty of collusion. Yesterday, an eight-woman jury found football owners violated federal antitrust laws.

The damage award was relatively small, but what are sports owners as a group now, 0-for-45 in court? The record doesn't bother them. Such is their arrogance, they always go for blood.

Apologize? Never!

Appeal? Right away!

The NFL will hem and haw about how it can't possibly expand without a collective bargaining agreement, even though it has done so in the past.

Granted, the owners fear additional lawsuits, lower TV revenues under the next contract, and higher salaries once free agency no longer is a sham.

The suspicion is they'll get by.

Their moral obligation to abandoned cities like Baltimore and St. Louis? Bite your tongue. The owners, we are told, don't like to be reminded of their indecent past.

The 1958 championship game, the world's largest outdoor insane asylum, the Baltimore Colt marching band. . . just strike them from the record.

Bob Irsay? Never heard of him.

Mayflower vans? Never saw them.

With owners, history never stands in the way of business. Otherwise, baseball might still have a commissioner, acting in the "best interests of the game."

The best interests now are whatever major-league owners decide. Vincent, at least, served as their conscience. That is why he could not be tolerated.

A petty dispute might seem insignificant, but with a puppet commissioner, the owners can proceed without interference in their holy war against the players' union.

The lockout is coming, if not next season, then the one after. As always, many fans will blame the players. But make no mistake, it's the owners who will be shutting down the game.

Not that either side is pure.

Think Bush and Clinton are unappealing?

Wait until these guys get going.

It's always a poignant moment when the first millionaire player bursts into tears explaining that he's only trying to protect his family.

Of course, each new labor dispute is just another attempt by the owners to recover what they lost while getting duped for two decades by former union chief Marvin Miller.

The owners were stupid, so now they want the players to be

nice. An interesting solution, considering how unfairly they treated the players for most of this century.

History again.

Sorry to keep bringing it up.

Of course, the fans get no say in any of this. Their only choice is to turn away, but for all the chicanery off the field, the games remain fun. Too expensive, but fun.

That's why the football situation is such a disgrace. The NFL keeps manipulating -- better sell out that exhibition game! -- and in the end it will do whatever it damn pleases.

Maybe the two sides will reach a new collective bargaining agreement quickly. Maybe the whole thing is a ruse. Maybe expansion is still imminent.

Keep dreaming.

The villains just lost another one.

Someone is going to pay.

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