Big O Tires

Jazz finally explain how a team and city should co-exist, but rarely do

Jazz finally explain how a team and city should co-exist, but rarely do

Despite the planetary systems of evidence to the contrary, sometimes a sports owner understands the duties and responsibilities of the job and foolishly (read: admirably) acts in accordance with them.
 
In other words, there are more than a hundred owners across North America looking at Gail Miller and wondering if she is (a) nuts, (b) dangerous, (c) evil, or (d) all the above, with oak leaf clusters.
 
Gail Miller owns the Utah Jazz, having taken the basketball team over upon the death of her husband Larry in 2009, and will do so until she turns it over to a legacy trust of family members who will be required by contract to reinvest any and all profits generated by the NBA franchise back into the care and upkeep of the team (h/t Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune).
 
That is, as opposed to turning the profits into a bank for the family, or a way to get rich before selling the franchise to someone who moves it to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland or Zagreb.
 
In other words, she has set up a system by which the team will almost surely stay in Salt Lake City for decades to come, as opposed to playing arena blackmail, city blackmail or other kinds of popular ownerly games. No whining, no sniveling, no milking the citizens without their consent – why, by modern ownership standards, this is a scandal.
 
All because of an antiquated notion she clings to despite all rationality – the right thing to do.
 
Compare and contrast the events in our own local burgs, and shake your head in admiration.
 
In fairness, there are tax advantages for her and her family in doing this, and the bar for decency is so low that getting tax breaks for not doing something despicable seems like an entirely equitable deal.
 
Nevertheless, her decision to keep the team (a) in the family and (b) in the city where they reside is such a stunning development that it took more than a year of fevered negotiations with the NBA to make sure that what she chose to do would meet with the league’s approval.
 
“We worked with the NBA for probably more than 12 months trying to put together a package that satisfied the NBA's needs for financial covenants, eventual opportunities for participation in management and the governance,” team president Dennis Haslam said. “It took a long time, but we got there.”
 
Larry and Gail Miller bought the Jazz for  $22 million 30 years ago, which are currently valued at a hair beneath $900 million. In other words, the family has done reasonably well by the city, and the city by the family. And the annual profits are more than sufficient to keep everyone living in spectacular comfort.

But what she has done is introduce a foreign concept to modern wealth. Enough money for everyone.

“The Jazz are not our family's team,” son Steve Miller kind of fibbed, because it remains the family’s team. “They are a community asset. They are the Utah Jazz.”
 
Even allowing for the discordant nickname that has endured for those 30 years, again despite all logic, the Jazz have finally explained what the relationship between a team and its town ought to be, and almost never is. Owners long ago decided that their teams were theirs and only theirs, and the fans to whom they pay lip service in exchange for all the money their fans pay them have come to know that love unrequited is just a scam with free T-shirts.
 
The people of St. Louis, San Diego, Oakland and whoever is next in the discard bin have discovered that loving a team is typically an act of misplaced faith.
 
But Salt Lake City got the right owner, one who knows what the true debt really is, and how best to repay it. Gail Miller is not a hero, but she is someone who gets how sports is supposed to work, which is frankly a much rarer thing than mere heroism.
 
If she drinks, she’s earned one – even if all she did was momentarily shame her financial compatriots by showing the kind of loyalty that usually ends up only going the other way.

49ers, Raiders fans ready to accept Tom Brady as best QB ever?

49ers, Raiders fans ready to accept Tom Brady as best QB ever?

The Super Bowl is designed ostensibly to be a massive trade show with a football game stuck on the end of it, with the idea that the teams and their fan bases who don’t have a dog in the Sunday fight can still amuse themselves by making their own news – as long as it’s very low level and doesn’t steal thunder away from the real reason for the season.

The accumulation of money.

So it is that we must find reasons to care about a game between a team 2,473 miles away and a team 3,099 miles away. After all, what else is a Super Bowl party for?

Well, let’s ignore the obvious Bay Area topics like “Any news on the Raiders moving?” or “What will Kyle Shanahan say about the soul-eviscerating task he is about to undertake?” Instead, let’s ask a third.

Is the Bay Area’s football base ready to face the very real possibility that Tom Brady could become the area’s best-ever quarterback? Yes, better than Joe Montana and his four rings, and yes, better than Ken Stabler and his willingness to fight the power, and yes, better than Aaron Rodgers and Jim Plunkett and . . . well, fill in your favorite blank.

This one is hard for many folks to swallow because, other than the Switzerland of San Mateo (starting at Serra High School and radiating out to Highways 82, 101, 280 and Crystal Springs Road), Brady doesn't resonate here the way a normal favorite son would. He would have been a perfect Raider or 49er. He also would have been a perfect Cardinal or Golden Bear. He would have been part of something that was, for lack of a better term, ours.

Instead, he did his work for geographically evil empires far to the east, and did it obnoxiously well. He went where he was wanted (Michigan) and where he was drafted (New England), grafted onto a coach (Bill Belichick) who could find the best outlets for his gifts as Montana and Stabler and Plunkett and Rodgers did, and has helped construct a ring factory to rival Montana’s and Terry Bradshaw's and dwarf everyone else’s.

And if he can guide these Patriots to a victory in 13 days over the Atlanta Falcons, he will have more rings than any other quarterback ever, and will almost surely reduce the best-ever debate to ash.

Argue all you want, you amateur Spicers, but facts sometimes beat sentiment, prejudice or child-based idolatry, and there is no objective argument a person can make to claim that Brady is merely equal, let alone inferior, to any of the others we have mentioned.

That is, if you’re trying to stack his baggage as a fort against the data.

His detractors will link him to the evils of the Patriot empire (commanding technology, skullduggery and the very air we use to breathe to circumvent the natural order of fair play, honor and dignity, or some equivalent nonsense), or dismiss him, Montana-style, as merely the product of the greatest coach of the age (well, name a great quarterback who didn’t have a great coach, or vice versa). You could even hold his choice of wives against him (which seems even pettier than normal fandom) or his choice of candidates against him (so far, it’s hard to see a countervailing argument here, though it’s only been four days out of an expected 1,461).

But the numbers and jewelry and the raw football data argue more convincingly for Brady than for anyone else – if you’re interested in settling rather than prolonging an argument.

That last part is the key, though, because once engaged, arguments are hard to kill. The development of the alternative-facts movement renders data and logic less important than the depressingly more fashionable “Well I say it’s this instead of that, I’m not changing my mind no matter what you say and I’d rather remain ignorant than consider another idea. Ya wanna fight?”

Now all this becomes moot if Atlanta wins, mostly because nobody is going to advance the idea that Matt Ryan is the best quarterback of all time. Then the arguments remain sprightly and energetic and “my facts v. your facts,” and everyone goes home drunk and satisfied that you didn't annoy the hell out of the other patrons.

But if Brady wins, the argument becomes sullen and angry and unpleasant and “Well I say it’s this instead of that, I’m not changing my mind no matter what you say and I’d rather remain ignorant than consider another idea. Ya wanna fight?” Just to name one.

And frankly, we're already getting a gutload of that as it is.

Five events that could derail the Raiders' move to Las Vegas

Five events that could derail the Raiders' move to Las Vegas

Finally, we are at the end game for the Oakland Raiders – a billionaires’ vote. Game to 24.

The Raiders filed the paperwork to move to Las Vegas Thursday, which was utterly no surprise to anyone. The City of Oakland pretended to be hurt but hopeful, which was no surprise. The NFL sat stolid and grumpy, which is its standard pose when it comes to the Raiders specifically and California in general.

In other words, the kabuki is done, and now we wait to see the sausage getting made. Or at the very least, watching it ground.

All the reporting and conjecture of the past few weeks is that Mark Davis has convinced the three-quarters majority that he has done more than enough to quell any concerns about Vegas’ smaller market or its stadium financing. The problem with that is, a lot of the same people thought that Davis and Dean Spanos would have been sharing the Los Angeles market by now, having been approved to move as a tandem last January.

That was 373 days ago, and as you all know, a lot has happened since then. The Rams moved from St. Louis instead, had a season so repellent that Los Angeles went from the league’s crown jewel to a serious problem area. The Chargers lost a stadium vote in San Diego by a lot more than Spanos hoped, and he went to L.A. to double the size of the hot mess. The Raiders turned a defeat into a new deal that first did include Las Vegas kingpin Sheldon Adelson and now may not include him. They even got $750 million in state money to help build their idealized new stadium, which is currently listed at $1.9 billion but may in fact end up costing significantly less.

Now there is only the matter of votes.

Jerry Jones (Dallas) has claimed to be in favor, and he was a chief whip in the Rams-to-L.A. deal. Bob McNair (Houston) is happy Davis isn’t again casting a phony eye towards San Antonio. Bob Kraft (New England) has been pro-Vegas through most of the hunt. Clarke Hunt (Kansas City) worried about competitive balance when the Raiders and Chargers were angling toward L.A. but seems less concerned now. And Jed York will have access to the Bay Area’s disposable income to himself.

The only apparent opponents could be Spanos and Stan Kroenke (Los Angeles), though Kroenke is pleased that the Raiders won’t be his co-tenants, Mike Bidwill (Arizona, for geographical reasons), John Mara (New York Giants) because of old-line gambling and market size jitters and maybe Paul Allen (Seattle) for . . . well, because he helped derail the Raiders a year ago and might have liked the way it felt.

But the NFL has been in Vegas for some time examining the territory, ever since it became clear that Oakland wasn’t going to play traditional civic ball (giving the local owner and the league everything it wants and then having the rest stolen from it). Mayor Libby Schaaf opted to agree with the Fortress group to handle the land and stadium issues, which sat very poorly with the NFL and made the option of keeping Davis in Oakland against his will even less palatable.

So what could derail the plan now? In descending order of likelihood:

* There could be eight of the remaining 31 owners (not counting Davis) who band together to vote en bloc against him, since he is not connected enough to fight back.

* There could be demands made of Davis in exchange for those votes that Davis finds too onerous (think divestiture, either at once or over time).

* Adelson could play nasty again, although now that most people believe that Davis can do the deal without him, that is less worrisome a scenario.

* The economy could crater (hey, laugh at your peril).

* The state could decide to renege on its contribution for fiscal reasons (politics are funny that way).

In short, today’s announcement was a sheer formality that makes the Las Vegas Raiders seem like a fait accompli, but the votes people think are in place are not actually in place until they’ve been cast.

And nobody knows that better than Mark Davis. He still has the muddy year-old prints from his “colleagues’” boots imprinted on his right buttock from the Carson vote.