The 4 Teams Scribe Wants To See From The Owner's Box

Netflix has a treasure trove of instantly-streaming sports documentaries that can help a fan compliment their game viewing during the lighter schedule that the summer provides. Recently, this Scribe took advantage of the bounty by watching the 2011 soccer doc The Four Year Plan.

The Four Year Plan centered on the nearly-bankrupt Queens Park Rangers after new owners bought the team in 2007. Since being relegated from the Premier League after 1996, the new stewards spoke of a four year plan to pull QPR out of the Championship and gain a hefty return on their investments (and maybe win some titles in the process).  Our own Alex Wong wrote about the film on Steven Lebron last summer, so instead of repeating the same details, feel free to read his words.

When watching the documentary, I often wondered if any teams here in North America would be willing to give the same access. Now, before you think that we already have such programs like HBO’s Hard Knocks or The Association from NBA TV, the truth is that we don’t always see the full picture of the teams featured. While we see cuts, additions and some comedy, we don’t have someone like Flavio Briatore on camera berating coaches he hired or Amit Bhatia trying to cut flowers out of the team’s budget. We don’t get the full picture of how the owners see their teams because of how conscious they are of their images or aversion to the media.

So for the heck of it, here are four teams I’d like to see film their own Four Year Plan. Three of the four aren’t what we’d call “sexy” teams and they are listed mainly because choosing teams like the New York Yankees or Dallas Cowboys would be fairly predictable. Yet, the fourth gets quite a bit of attention because they stand as the current model of success in its league.

Milwaukee Brewers

Back in 2004 when Mark Attanasio bought the team, he immediately infused spirit back to a fan base that was disillusioned under the stewardship of Wendy Selig-Prieb (who ran the franchise in place of father Bud, the Commissioner of MLB). It took a few seasons for the Brewers to figure themselves out but with a productive farm system that produced Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Richie Weeks, Corey Hart and others, Milwaukee pushed themselves into being a dark horse playoff contender in the late 2000s. It was the trade for CC Sabathia in 2008 that catapulted the Brewers into the playoffs for the first time since winning the AL pennant in 1982 and they were at the doorsteps of a return to the World Series just two years ago.

The intrigue for me is that the Brewers are the poster children of small market pro sports. There’s always the question of how teams in not-so-large metropolises can compete with the big boys if their cities are not considered a primary destination for free agents. Never mind that save for the laugh-a-minute Chicago Cubs that all of the NL Central is packed with smaller city franchises. Plus, it’s a very competitive division with the Cardinals, Reds and now, Pirates battling for supremacy. It’s said that the Brewers don’t have a top-flight farm system because of the moves made in 2008 and 2011, but the cupboard may not be as bare as perceived. With a possible suspension of Braun looming and the team closer to the floor than the ceiling with or without him, how Attanasio responds to it all over the next season-plus or longer can say a lot about his leadership, the Brewers’ future and Major League Baseball away from the coasts.
Mark Davis

Oakland Raiders

There’s no question that the death of Al Davis looms large over the franchise and it’s been well documented that the team struggled in his final years. There have been concerns that son Mark and widow/mom Carol are interested in selling the team they may not be as invested as Al was. That alone makes the Raiders the pick here, but the idea of being a fly in the wall stems from knowing what this proud franchise still means to the NFL (the bad ass branding appeal still endures, even if winning has not).

The Raiders defined dysfunction in the eleven years since Barret Robbins went AWOL the day before Super Bowl XXXVII. Whether it’s been bad signings and drafts, coaching changes, flirtations of returning to Los Angeles or the passing of its iconic owner, the Silver and Black can share most of the same plotlines as QPR did in the film. It’s been close to two years since Al Davis’ death and starting anew has been difficult on the field and in the corporate offices. The uncertainty and the infamous culture of paranoia could last for much longer than an 88-minute documentary.

Phoenix/Arizona/Wherever Gary Bettman Can Put ‘Em Coyotes

The Glendale debacle is the NHL’s biggest boondoggle. A team where the hometown isn’t sure if it really it wants to keep it. Shaky finances. A very stubborn commissioner trying to prove critics wrong about hockey’s viability in the Desert.

In the unique situation of being owned by the league, what would be intriguing to see is how Bettman & Co. try to make the original Winnipeg Jets sellable. Since they’re committed to Glendale for at least five more years, I’m curious to see how does the NHL make the team an attractive commodity to an owner that would want to keep it in the Phoenix area as opposed to relocate it to Seattle, Kansas City or even back to Canada. Even more, how does the league keep it competitive in the standings without taking on too much salary? For some, the Coyotes seem to be a Harvard Business School case study in sports mismanagement. For someone like me, it’s almost like another sports version of Flip This House, except with better uniforms.
riley and arison

Miami Heat

Here’s what you’re here to see. Yes, off the heels of the third championship in its history and the second in the LeBron James era, you would think that we’ve had enough of a Heat Index from mass media. Yet, as mentioned in a previous article, Pat Riley is a compelling figure in NBA history and any opportunity to find out where the proverbial bodies are buried should be considered strongly. Owner Micky Arison empowered Riley when bringing him over from New York in 1995, and unlike most patriarchs in sports, trusted him fully through the good and bad over nearly two decades.

So why the Heat when the other three teams were middling to bad franchises? Because for the moment, Miami has the model other teams are trying to duplicate in the NBA. For at least another two years in the Big Three era, the biggest question for Arison and Riley will be how to reload the team on the relative cheap for more title runs. Between having to pay luxury taxes next season, needing to muscle up with emerging contenders and the non-stop haranguing about legacies of their stars, ownership has a lot to answer for year after year. The current CBA is no longer friendly to teams like the Heat, even though this current offseason is showing us that things haven’t changed so much.

And on the fun side for much of the TSFJ crew, partying with the Heat seems entertaining as hell.

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