Sports Czar: Is it Time?


Some things in sports just don’t make sense. Why doesn’t the NHL have a contract with ESPN? Why doesn’t Gus Johnson announce March Madness games anymore? Why does the NFL Pro Bowl still exist? Why does EA Sports’ Madden video game get worse every year? Aside from soccer, why are women’s sports televised?[1] These are some of the underlying mysteries of sports that we may never find out. But there are some major issues too. College football is squandering without a playoff system. The NBA’s parity is in complete disarray. Roger Goodell’s power trip is making a mockery of the NFL. There must be a solution to these problems. In 2008,’s Bill Simmons wrote about the idea of a Sports Czar—an all-powerful, final-say, emperor of the sports world. The commissioner of commissioners. The Czar’s job would be simple: Every time there was any kind of issue he would step in and regulate it. With at least moderate controversy surrounding every major professional sport, now is as good of a time as ever to implement a Sports Czar. I would like to expand on Bill Simmons’ brilliant idea.

How could we possibly deem one single person to be qualified enough to be the Sports Czar? I say we treat it like a presidential election. There must be some sort of qualification to run for office. To eliminate bias, a candidate cannot have worked for or played for a professional sports team in the past.[2] Ideally, they would indirectly have worked in sports—a journalist or radio or TV personality would be optimal in a perfect world. How funny would it be when Rush Limbaugh becomes the Ralph Nader of Sports Czar elections? He would run every year and never win.

Since 1973, the most profound controversy in baseball has been the designated hitter rule. As it stands now, the American League, by having a designated hitter bat in place of their pitcher, has a completely unfair advantage over the National League. Hang with me here. When an AL team plays against an NL team, the AL team has a player under contract whose job it is to hit and only hit. The NL team doesn’t have that, so they are forced to use a bench player as their designated hitter. Those who favor the American League’s rules say “Peyton Manning doesn’t have to kick his own field goals” while those who favor the National League’s respond “Yes, but no one shoots free throws for Shaquille O’Neal.” Next year, with the Houston Astros moving to the American League, each league will have an odd number of teams. This means that there will always be interleague play and the AL could very well dominate the NL until the end of humanity. I say we divide the country into two parties: The American Party (favors the DH rule) and The National Party (opposes the DH rule). This way, when the Sports Czar is elected, we already have one controversy ended: If the American Party candidate wins, the entire MLB adopts the designated hitter rule for the remainder of his time in office. If the candidate representing the National Party wins, the designated hitter rule is dropped.

We can have primaries to find out which representative of each party is best. Then, once we have two leaders of each pack, we hold a Billy-Madison-style sports academic decathlon. A live televised debate on ESPN could possibly be the most watched cable program in history.[3] The debate would start out with speeches from each candidate. They would consist of campaign promises that would later be broken, “I promise to not be bought out by NBA commissioner David Stern and his lackeys…” And then the program would move on to scrutinizing questions asked by the media: “What are you going to do about ESPN’s horrible afternoon lineup?” “How can you ensure that the NBA Draft Lottery is no longer fixed so that the big market teams come away with top draft picks every year?” “What is your stance on cell phone use at baseball games?” “Do NBA players dominate at beer pong?” “How can we eliminate the WNBA from existence without backlash from feminist groups?”[4] That last one might be impossible, but if any candidate can come up with some kind of realistic policy, they would be a shoe-in.[5]

Meanwhile, prior to the debate and up to the election, HBO cameras will be following the candidates around and televising a Sports Czar 24/7 special.

Once elected, the Czar would live in a house that overlooks Madison Square Garden or Yankee Stadium or any historical sports venue of their choice. His kitchen will have hardwood flooring that looks like a basketball court. His living room floor will be made out of AstroTurf and have yard-markers painted on like a football field. And his hallways will be made out of dirt with an authentic chalk-line down the middle, resembling a base path on a baseball field. He would also be required to drive a Bullpen Buggy everywhere he goes. Despite all of this, we will still take him seriously. Any decision he makes will be final, effective immediately.

In Bill Simmons’ campaign to become the first Sports Czar, he came up with some good ideas: A full-length indoor basketball court in the White House, with all games involving Obama televised on NBA TV; no more seat licenses; no NHL ticket can cost more than $75; the NHL will disband eight teams, move a few more to Canada and form 11-team conferences in the United States and Canada; the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Hornets will switch nicknames[6]; NBC's "Football Night in America," will shift to a "Hollywood Squares" format; if you purchase a player's jersey and that player is traded within 12 months, you can return the jersey and buy a new one for half price. And then Simmons came up with some duds: A game of HORSE at the NBA All-Star break (they tried this and it turned into a complete snooze-fest); two rounds of the MLB Home Run Derby (the MLB is still trying to figure out how to make this exciting in the post-steroid era).

The Sports Czar position would hold the utmost responsibility. He would have to be on hand for every major sporting event. Last Friday’s Cardinals/Braves do-or-die wild card playoff game featured a massive amount of controversy. With two runners on base, a Braves batter blooped a fly ball to shallow left field. The Atlanta crowd roared and managed to distract the Cardinals fielder who was trying to catch the ball, which plopped to the ground. Everyone in the world thought it was a base hit until the television announcer broke the news that the umpires had wrongfully called the batter out on an infield fly rule.[7] The Braves’ manager came out to argue while Atlanta fans pelted the field with trash, causing a 20 minute delay in the game. The Braves ended up losing that game, effectively ending their season. Most fans blamed the loss on that specific miscall by the umpires. If there were a Sports Czar, the game would have gone differently. After a delay, the PA announcer would have alerted the crowd, “We have just received word from the Sports Czar (presented by Gieco). The play has been overturned. It is a base hit.” Everyone would be happy and the Braves would have a fair chance at winning. Just like that.

Imagine a world without league lockouts and labor disputes. The 2012-2013 NHL season would become a reality. This year’s NFL referee lockout would have never happened and the NFL wouldn’t have looked like an episode of The Wiggles for the first three weeks of the season. Every time a labor dispute would emerge on the horizon, the Sports Czar would meet with the representatives of the players union and the owners, give each an hour to make their case, and then he would decide which side wins.

The fabric of the Sports Czar isn’t perfected. There are a few outlying factors that need to be addressed. Do we need secret service to follow the Czar and protect him as he flies from stadium to stadium? Is he even assassinate-able? Do we give him any benefits after his term is up? Can he control the Olympics? Can he control sports movies? Imagine if a candidate had everything going his way until he announced at the Billy Madison Sports Academic Decathlon Sports Czar Debate Presented by Gieco[8] that he was pro-Caddyshack remake! The camera would zoom in on Lisa Leslie (or any of the countless C-list athletes sure to be in attendance[9]) burying her face in her hands, mouthing the words “Did he just say he wants a Caddyshack remake?” Talk about a campaign killer.

But most importantly, who pays the Sports Czar’s salary and how much should he get paid? Shouldn’t he be paid more than most if not all athletes? What if we agreed on a base salary of the average of the top 10 athletes’ salaries at the beginning of his term. This deal would have to include incentives: If, under his legislation, the average time it takes to play an MLB game decreases by 30 minutes, he gets an extra $50,000. Popularization of any professional sports league would have to be honored. At some point during his term, government officials would scatter across New York City, interviewing random pedestrians for a select amount of time. If any of the interviewees could name more than three Major League Soccer teams, the Czar would receive $10,000. Bonus points for saving an endangered sport like boxing (convincing Floyd Mayweather to fight Manny Pacquiao would be a hell of a start) or horse racing. Lowering ticket prices and decreasing advertisements for all sports would be expected, almost like the equivalent to a president lowering taxes.

How long would it take before we had a Sports Czar that abused his powers? “Hey, did you hear what happened to Stuart Scott? He compared LeBron to Michael Jordan on SportsCenter again and this time the Sports Czar sentenced him to watch the entire ’96 Bulls season on repeat for the next month.”

            Just about every guy in America has had the discussion with their friends about how to fix a certain sport. What would you do if you were the Sports Czar? “Make soccer full-contact,” one of my roommates suggested. “Island seating in the middle of center field at all baseball stadiums,” another roommate chimed in.[10] But what if there was a king who ruled over the sports world, made every final decision and ended every controversy? As Bill Simmons said, “How could it possibly hurt?”

[1] By the way, is it safe to say the United States women’s national soccer team is more recognizable than the men’s? After a quick Google search, “US Women’s Soccer Team” amounted to 4.38 million results barely edging out 4.36 million results for “US Men's Soccer Team”. That’s good enough for me.
[2] Sorry, Mark Cuban, you’re not buying your way into this
[3] If 13.1 million people watched Lebron’s “The Decision”, a Sports Czar debate would at least break the 20 million mark
[4] And before anyone gets defensive and says women deserve pro sports too, think about this: If you could sit in the first row of any event, would a WNBA game even crack your top 500 choices?
[5] Relax, I’m just kidding. And I’m done ripping the WNBA; I’ve met my quota.
[6] This makes too much sense. The Utah Jazz originated in New Orleans, where jazz is a focal point. They relocated to Utah and for some reason retained the nickname “Jazz” even though the genre has no connection at all to Salt Lake City
[7] Infield fly rule: If there are runners on base with less than two outs, any pop up to the infield is automatically an out. This avoids fielders purposely dropping the ball to turn a guaranteed double play. In this instance, the ball was hit well into the outfield and the call should have never been made by the umpire.
[8] We’re still working on a title
[9] Last one, I swear!
[10] Okay, so nobody actually suggested this to me, but how funny would that be?

The Worst Franchise in Sports is Owned By the Worst Owner in Sports


           The movie Major League is about a woman who inherits ownership of the Cleveland Indians and tries to move them to a bigger market. The movie itself is fictional, but the idea is not all that farfetched. You see, owners in sports are, with very few exceptions, huge assholes. They are greedy, egotistical, impersonal and stale. But mostly greedy. This isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. For as long as sports have existed, there have been owners who leave a scummy aroma wherever they go. Why, you ask? Well, that’s a great question. Your typical franchise owner thinks he is above everyone else because he either 1. Somehow fell backwards into a pile of money, or 2. Inherited a pile of money. Or in the case of Miami Marlins’ owner Jeff Loria, both.

Baseball has been around for so long that every team seems to have had a bad owner at one point, but the Miami Marlins have never had a good owner. In 1993, Wayne Huizenga became the first owner of the Marlins when he purchased the rights to the expansion franchise for $95 million. The wealthy industrialist beat out ownership groups representing Orlando, Florida (who pitched a family-friendly team to go along with their family-first economy) and Tampa Bay (who already had a stadium built) to secure the rights to the “Florida Flamingos” as Huizenga seriously wanted to call them. He won the bid solely because he had more money than the other ownership groups. Huizenga quickly found out that south Florida had been a perfect location for the franchise because it was so close to South America. He began to take advantage of the new wave of Latino baseball players by signing them for two cents on the dollar. Latino players in the 90’s were notorious for two things: Taking steroids and lying about their age.[1] Both of which Huizenga seemed to embrace. In 1997, the Marlins were able to win a World Series under Huizenga’s greedy and cheap philosophy, and in dramatic fashion. The Series was won by a game-winning hit in the bottom of the 11th inning in Game 7 against the equally roided-up powerhouse Cleveland Indians.

Following the World Series, instead of capitalizing on a true underdog story and living out the fame and rewards, Huizenga followed up the championship win by immediately trading virtually every player on the roster. He falsely claimed financial loss and decided to blow up the team. The “financial loss” was so devastating, in fact, that he bought $77 million yacht after leaving Miami. Their next owner, John Henry, didn’t last long. He used the team as a stepping-stone to become the owner of the Boston Red Sox, flipping ownership to our pal Jeff Loria.

Simply put, Loria was in the right place at the right time throughout his life. He grew up in a very wealthy area of Manhattan and attended Yale where he was forced to take an art class. He chose Art History because he thought it would be easy and he eventually got a job working with his Art History professor at an art gallery. Loria took a liking to art and opened his own art dealership while authoring two books. He became successful at selling art, which added to the millions he inherited from his parents.

In 1999, after losing out on the purchase of the Baltimore Orioles, Loria bought 24% share of the Montreal Expos. Lucking out yet again, Loria made some “cash calls” that went unreturned and legally gave himself 94% ownership of the team. For more clarity, I contacted Jonah Keri through Twitter. Keri writes for ESPN’s and is writing a book about the Expos due out in 2014. I asked him how in the world “unreturned cash calls” led to majority ownership for Loria. He responded, “Short answer: Because the minority owners were cheap and had no vision. Long answer: Read my book!”

In bad economic times, Montreal was being forced to close hospitals due to lack of funding. But that didn’t stop Loria from whining to the local government for hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new stadium. He started planning to build a new venue at least six years years before Montreal’s stadium had even been paid off.

Expos fans despised Loria. He threw money at untalented players and fired manager and local hero Felipe Alou, the franchise’s all time wins leader. This, of course, was before Loria failed to acquire a local TV or English speaking radio deal in 2000. In other words, if you were a baseball fan in Montreal, you couldn’t actually watch Expos games on TV or even listen to them on the radio unless you spoke French.

Fan interest was shot, obviously. So bad, in fact, that MLB owners voted almost unanimously to terminate the Expos from existence. Baseball was depleted in Montreal and Loria had to find something to do with his money, so he began looking at other franchises to buy and found a match with the Marlins.

The worst part is this: Loria packed everything from Montreal and took it with him to Florida. All staff and personnel, manager Jeff Torborg, and the entire front office went with Loria. The Expos were left with NOTHING—scouts, equipment, scouting reports, and even computers went to Miami. The depleted Expos team didn’t last much longer in Montreal. Two years later, the Expos moved to Washington DC to become the Washington Nationals.

How is this for a gut punch: After dismantling baseball in Montreal, Loria announced construction of a new stadium in downtown Miami for his new franchise…on Remembrance Day-- the Canadian equivalent to Memorial Day. Canadian baseball writer Richard Griffin had this to say: “It’s ironic that Loria and the Marlins held their celebration in Miami on Remembrance Day because there’s a generation of fans north of the border that will never forget [about the how Loria's actions led to the Expos leaving town].”

Loria never got that new ballpark in Montreal, but under ownership of a new franchise, he saw Miami as another destination for his greed. In his initial years as owner, he refused to budge over an incredibly low player payroll, keeping the Marlins out of contention, in order to save money for construction yet another new stadium. This is ironic because when the Marlins finally did get a new stadium, Loria didn’t spend a penny on it.

How could he possibly screw over the city of Miami and ruin another professional baseball team, you ask? That’s another great question of which can be answered in three easy steps:

First, he forced the city to pay the ballpark he’d long been clamoring for.

Loria had the local government of Miami pay $376 million and the taxpayers of Miami to pay $132.5 million for construction of the new ballpark in Miami. This doesn’t include the $2.25 million in extra taxes per year for stadium maintenance. Loria himself didn’t pay a single penny. Meanwhile, Marlins financial reports, which were leaked on, showed that Loria made a $90 million profit in the three years leading up to the construction. Yet, Loria claimed the team was in debt. The city backlashed at Loria and blamed Mayor Manny Diaz for agreeing to terms, costing him re-election. Loria’s response to the city: “Naysayers... and people who just can't stop shooting their mouths off.”

Second, Loria used his art dealership experience to design the Marlins’ horrendous new logo and stadium.

"The colors did not just come arbitrarily," Loria explained to us little people, "The red-orange is for those incredible sunsets. The yellow is the sunlight that you see during the day. The blue is the water that surrounds the community."

Loria, the visionary that he is, also self-designed the new stadium he had been clamoring for since his years in Montreal. He drew it on a napkin. He gave the napkin to some architects and told them to come back with some “real drawings.”

His arts and crafts didn’t stop there—using more of Miami tax-payers’ money, he built a $2.5 million piece of shit in center field. The piece of shit is a contemporary art structure that lights up when a Marlins player hits a homerun. The structure itself is hideous and utterly pointless to everyone in the world not named Jeff Loria.

"You're going to walk into that ballpark and see it, you're going to say, 'Oh, my goodness'... There are two marlins that spin around. One dives into the water while the other's exiting the water—a great splash of water. Another marlin goes straight up to the top of the sculpture and spins. There are flamingos that flap their wings. There's an L.E.D. light show. There's music. There's a pair of doves that fly in opposite directions. There's—what's the word?—a cacophony of things going on."

Jeff, you are—what’s the word—a jackass?

Third, and worst of all, Loria told Miami fans that a new stadium would bring a championship to the city, but their first season was a colossal, monumental failure.

Loria, frankly, knows virtually nothing about baseball. He makes very few public appearances. He was last seen on an episode of The Franchise, where he was awkwardly speaking to the team before the first game of the season. “I want to wish you good luck,” Loria explained as he looked around the locker room probably for the first time. “The real reason I’m here tonight is not to wish you good luck, it’s to talk to you about what it takes to win a championship and to be a champion.” This must have been about the time Loria realized he’s never actually won a championship in his life because he began to stumble over his words. “And… you guys have got the talent that was given to you and… it means that you have to apply it.” If the blank stares of the players didn’t show how motivational Loria’s speech was, their 2-7 record to start the season certainly did.

Opening Day at the Marlins new ballpark was nationally televised by ESPN. Throwing out the first pitch was Muhammad Ali, the former heavyweight champion of boxing. Ali, who has Parkinson’s Disease and was visibly shaking and trembling, was driven on a golf cart with Loria from centerfield to the pitchers mound in the most awkward two minutes of thirty seconds of in live television history. In that time span, the fans booed Loria, cheered Ali, stopped cheering for Ali, then started cheering again, some the Marlins players were shown looking around with their hands in the air obviously confused about what they were supposed to do…twice, and the PA announcer tried to save the awkwardness by forcing an “ALI…ALI…ALI…” chant only creating more awkwardness. The stunt received awful publicity with papers calling it “shameless” and “sad.”

After a spending spree in the previous offseason on big name free agents Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, and Mark Buehrle, Loria told the mass on June 29th of this year “We're going to play our significant games in August and September, and by that time people will be so in love with us they won't want to go anywhere else!” Less than a month later, Loria traded franchise cornerstone Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers and effectively gave up on the season.

Loria then lashed out to the media about the Marlins’ former manager, Fredi Gonzalez. “He was with us for four or five years and he was a colossal failure,” claimed Loria. Nevermind that Gonzalez was only with the team for three years, I guess art dealers aren’t supposed to know math. But how does Loria define “failure”? Gonzalez started his managing career with the Marlins when they were in last place. Under Gonzalez, the Marlins improved every year from 5th place in this first year to 3rd place in the second year and then to 2nd by his third year. In the midst of his fourth season as Marlins manager, Gonzalez rightfully benched one of the Marlins’ apathetic players for booting a ground ball into left field and then jogging over to it, allowing runners to score. Loria saw the benching as a lapse in judgment and fired Gonzalez. Since being fired, Gonzalez has been managing the Atlanta Braves and made the playoffs in his second season with them.

Loria hired the charismatic Ozzie Guillen to replace Gonzalez. Guillen didn’t last more than a year, with the only noteworthy thing he did was telling the media that he “respects Fidel Castro, the Cuban dictator.” Let me elaborate that at this time, Guillen was managing a team based in Miami which has a huge population of Cubans who have suffered under Castro’s reign and fled the Cuba because of him.

The Marlins finished the season 69-93, good for last place. They even had a worse record than the New York Mets, whose front office had just been virtually depleted after it was found out that their owner had ties to Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme.

After the failure of a season, Loria shocked the world by making a blockbuster trade. He sent all of the big name players he had signed a year earlier to the Toronto Blue Jays for essentially a bag of balls. The Marlins payroll went from $100 million to $16 million overnight.

The fallout was incredible. Other owners were pissed about the trade. Teams who play in the same division as the Blue Jays now have to face a much tougher opponent while Miami’s division rivals get to pick on the scrap heap that is the Marlins. Many owners called the MLB commissioner Bud Selig and asked that the trade be nullified. The Blue Jays suddenly became a powerhouse while the Marlins became a laughing stock. Amateur players who are drafted are not going to want to sign with the Marlins and free agents certainly aren’t either for fear of being traded. For the second time in the Marlins’ very short existence, an owner has traded away the core of its team. A few years from now, we might say that this was the trade that killed baseball in Miami, much like Loria already killed baseball in Montreal.

The fans in Miami were screwed the most. Marlins fans couldn’t have been more livid about the trade. After being taxed hundreds of millions of dollars for construction of a new stadium that no one liked, Loria basically said ‘oh, its okay because we’re committed to bringing a championship to the city’ and then traded away literally every good player on their roster a few months later.

Major League ended with the Indians making the playoffs and keeping the team in Cleveland. Unfortunately, real life doesn’t work like that. The Miami Marlins 2012 season was a monumental failure. In a rare baseball-related interview with Loria after the season, he seemed to struggle with basic baseball knowledge and gave bland, unspecific answers. When asked how he will improve the team, he responded “We’re always looking for pitching…We need…I want this bullpen to be a tough one.” As he wiped stressful sweat off his face in between questions, he started to talk about the “strength” of the lineup. In doing so, he began to name the starting players on the Marlins. “We have Infante… Coghlan… Ramirez… Stanton... Morrison… the catcher, whoever that might be… the third baseman…”

For Marlins fans, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. But there is a $2.5 million L.E.D. flamingo in centerfield.

[1] They were notorious for taking steroids because in Central American leagues, players weren’t tested for steroids like they were and still are in the MLB. Not only this, but their people weren’t educated about steroids. Trainers would approach players and tell them that if they take steroids, they could make a lot of money playing in the MLB. Obviously a lot of poor Latino players would jump on that opportunity. As far as lying about their age goes, Latino players could easily make fake birth certificates to make themselves look younger. For instance, if a player was 25 years old and in the prime of his physical life, he could say that he was only 20, leading teams to believe he was only going to get better. This still happens so often that any player that comes out of the Dominican Republic, Cuba, etc. is usually assumed to be a few years older than they claim.

SportsCenter Anchor Power Rankings 1.0

Welcome to FFF's first ever SportsCenter Anchor Power Rankings.

Who qualifies for these rankings? Only the regulars-- anchors must have some kind of daily schedule, not just the guys who come in whenever they need some extra cash (Berman) or the ones who anchor just once a week. Bob Ley, for instance, was a great anchor, he even had a perfect show back in '89, but he doesn't qualify because he only hosts Sunday morning SportsCenters. He's basically like Tony Hawk retiring from skateboarding but returning every year for the Best Trick Contest at the X-Games.

How are the anchors ranked? I'm glad you asked. The anchors are ranked on a number of different categories (in order of importance):

-Extracurricular Activities (commercials, radio shows, etc.)
-Twitter game
-HAR: Highlights Above Replacement - This number, much like the sabermetric, WAR (Wins Above Replacement), is an all inclusive measurement of the anchor's contribution to the show, on the same scale as WAR. In a single segment, how many highlights can this anchor deliver above what a replacement anchor could deliver?

As for the ratings themselves, its on a grading scale with C of course being average. I thought about going with a 20-80 MLB scouting ranking system, but figured that'd be too unorthodox for some readers. Making these rankings was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be. There really aren't any anchors I dislike, so last place is really the least good anchor instead of the worst. Here it goes.

1. Scott Van Pelt - When Rich Eisen left for the NFL Network and Chris Berman and Stu Scott stopped anchoring as frequently (thank God in Stu's case), I think it was safe to say Van Pelt became the man of the house as far as regulars go. He passes the mom test-- he's possibly the only anchor that my mom could actually recognize if we were ever walking around the streets of Bristol. He has his own radio show on ESPN Radio (airs on ESPN2) and even though I don't know anyone who watches or listens to it, he gets still gets some points for having a show. He has also made appearances in EA Sports Tiger Woods video games. He incorporates humor very well into his highlights and always sets up his co-anchor for good jokes.
Charisma: A+
Experience: B+
Humor: A
Extracurricular Activities: A
Twitter game: A (@notthefakesvp)
HAR: 8.4
Athlete Comparison: Roy Halladay

2. Linda Cohn - Cohn has been a household name on SportsCenter since 1993 (I was born in '91) so as long as  I've been watching, she's been on. She's always in a great mood, always cracking jokes, etc. but what's great about her is that she loves all four major sports (including hockey) which is pretty rare for a SportsCenter anchor. She's got a great voice, her own book, and a fan site. You can tell she's probably the exact same person on camera as she is off. Plus, she'll accept your friend request on Facebook which is a big plus. Her only downside is her horrible New York bias, which she floods your Twitter feed with.
Charisma: A
Experience: A+
Humor: B
Extracurricular Activities: B+
Twitter game: C- (@lindacohn)
HAR: 7.2
Athlete Comparison: Derek Jeter