Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Evil Empires

Baseball is always said to be "as American as apple pie". But it looks like the national pastime is swindling taxpayers.* This wasn't always a secret - in a year when New York state is delaying tax returns because it can barely pay its employees, the state and city chipped in $400 million toward new stadiums for the New York Yankees and Mets. You know, those impoverished teams who could benefit so much by ditching New York and moving to Hartford!

New York elected officials aren't the only ones seduced by the big lights and exciting athletes, the free tickets, and the threat of being demoted from the status of "major league city". In many cities, billionaires beg for handouts from the state because of the unprofitability of their sports team (which they bought for a hobby the way I play fantasy football). Does it not occur to the cities that these owners typically have bigger annual surpluses than the cities themselves? Or that a sports franchise leaving reflects poorly on the franchise - not on the city?

But the latest act of public malfeasance committed by a filthy rich owner of an "unprofitable" team was downright dishonesty. Jeff Passan outlines the dishonesty of the Florida Marlins, who claimed that they barely broke even, when in fact they were secretly pocketing $25 million a year from revenue-sharing. Deadspin got a hold of leaked documents, and the Marlins owners are calling the leak a crime. The real crimes were their lying to public officials and the public officials taking the Marlins' word without concrete documentation.

Miami fans: boycott your team, vote out your incumbents, and throw stones at Jeffrey Loria's limousine until he repays the city every cent of its $500 million "investment" in the Marlins' huckster scheme. The Marlins have started construction and are on the hook - they can't afford to ditch the under-construction stadium. You break it, you own it.

* this sentence can, and should, be read two ways.

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