I planned on talking about the NFL in this post but I started thinking about some of the awful positions other cities are in ownership-wise. So on this Sunday afternoon I want to remind everyone how lucky we are to have three great owners (sorry, Jeremy Jacobs).
After watching high school football on Thanksgiving, I hope you went out and did the same, I came back to see the Lions already down 21-3 to the Titans. The most pathetic franchise in football (yes, even more pathetic than the Raiders) was on its way to 0-12 with no real solution to its misery in sight.
As I was sitting there with my Sam Adams Holiday Porter (delicious, by the way) in one hand and pumpkin bread in the other, I tried to remember what it was like having bad ownership and even worse management around here. [Side note: To all Red Sox/Patriots/Celtics bandwagon jumpers, what I'm about to reference may not ring a bell to you since it was pre-2003. I'm not bitter...right?]
I think as Sox fans, we should be eternally grateful that John Harrington is currently working with the Yawkey Foundation and is no longer the CEO of our beloved home town team. He teamed with Dan Duquette to form a reasonably successful team in the mid-to-late '90s. The problem was he and Duquette took this business personally. The Clemens fiasco was the tip of the iceberg. His replacement, Steve Avery, didn't pan out as they had hoped and in 1998 they tried telling Jimy Williams to not start him late in the season so they wouldn't have to pay him his innings bonus. While that was a cheap thing to do, the reason I bring it up is it showed other teams how Sox players were treated at that point. There's a reason Manny was the first major free agent signing the team had since Bill Cambell in the '70s, and that was because they gave him the $160 million he was seeking. The cases can go on...you could reference the end to the Mo Vaugn era if you wish to but the point is this ownership team didn't have what it took to get past being a wild card team that hopes to make it to the ALCS.
These days, we rarely question Theo and The Trio (sans a few bad free agent signings). They are affable and, more importantly, have put an annual, legitimate championship contender on the field. When the Sox lost the '99 ALCS, in our heart of hearts we knew there wouldn't be greener pastures in 2000. After losing to the Rays a month and a half ago, we knew this team will be loaded for the 2009 season.
The Patriots have had the good fortune of having Bob Kraft as their owner since 1994 after he bought the team from James Orthwein. One of Kraft's only poor decisions was letting Bobby Grier and not Bill Parcells "shop for the groceries". The six draft picks the Pats received for Curtis Martin and the four from Bill Parcells from the Jets were all less than memorable. Out of all those picks, the lone Grier hit was on Robert Edwards but we all know what happened to him. Do you remember how great Tony Simmons and Chris Floyd were? Yeah...me niether.
Wyc Grousbeck and Stephen Pagliuca replacing Paul Gaston in 2003 was comparable to Kraft saving the Pats from oblivion. They put Danny Ainge in charge and let him handle basketball duties. Most importantly, they took all personnel decision making away from Chris Wallace. The acquisitions of the likes of Tony Battie and Kenny Anderson were examples of poor decision-making. The three draft picks they had in 2001 (Joe Johnson, Joe Forte and Kedrick Brown) had no impact on the team. In fact, the one they got right (Joe Johnson) was traded for Rodney Rodgers and Tony Delk during their Eastern Conference Finals run in 2001-2002. Again, we should all be thankful Wallace is in Memphis. After reaching a low point in the 2006-2007 season with 24 wins and an apathetic fan base, they realized that any money lost due to luxury tax money would be offset by the revenue gained by bringing the "Big Three" together. Grousbeck and Pagliuca haven't been flawless in decision making but they were smart enough to realize they had an opportunity to make basketball relevant in Boston again. Their part in the Celts' title shouldn't be underestimated.
So as you watch the Pats and Celts continue to be successful, remember that the owners in this town have greatly contributed to the culture change around here.