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Dan Le Batard on selfish owners

10/24/2011

The Decision certainly does seem to hang over the labor impasse, with the guy who lost LeBron James (Dan Gilbert) and the guy who got him (Micky Arison) at opposite ends of the owner spectrum. Dan Le Batard in the Miami Herald:

It is a fight between selfish owners and selfish owners. The players, all of them, want to play. The owners? Not so much. The players were fine with the way the system was but have already given back hundreds of millions of dollars in concessions -- something baseball’s union would never, ever do -- for the overall health of the league, negotiating in good faith. But there are a few owners who would lose more money by opening their arena doors than by not, and those owners literally can afford to wait until players start getting restless and customers get furious.

If you think the hawkish Gilbert wouldn’t try to throw away an entire season out of pure spite for James, you didn’t read his crazy-crayon letter in a rare moment of raw, rabid public honesty from an owner -- a temper tantrum unlike any in the history of an American sports ownership that includes George Steinbrenner. And you didn’t notice how small he could behave by having his Fathead company price the James poster at $17.41 -- the year of Benedict Arnold’s birth. And you don’t know how petty rich people can be when playing this kind of negotiating game of ego and power, emotion trampling logic just like when a divorcing wealthy couple spends $100,000 in attorney fees arguing over a thousand dollars in china.

Think about all the ego and money in the room when those owners meet. Think about how accustomed these men with yachts are to getting their way in every walk of life. That kind of wealth isn’t usually accrued by sharing and compromise; these men tend to be rich because cutthroat is what wins in business. Given that there are so many different interests in that room, and given that these owners aren’t really in it for the money, why would Gilbert want to help Arison with urgency, exactly? Even if he is not motivated by spite, what exactly is Gilbert’s impetus to settle quickly? You think he’s in a big hurry to go 19-63 again? Better for him to lose the season, break the union, fix the system and win that way than to fight the Timberwolves for worst record again. Trying to beat the players in a negotiation is more fun than that. Letting Dwyane Wade age another year next to James without playing would be a happy bonus for Gilbert, even if it isn’t his outright goal.