No Freeloaders Are Gonna Take My Hard-Earned Cash!

— With the Super Bowl just a day away, we have Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti claiming this week — with a straight face — that several NFL teams are facing financial hardship, as if any of the fat cats that can afford to actually own an NFL team really knows what financial problems are all about anyway. Certainly Bisciotti — with his net worth of over $1.2 billion — doesn’t.

Well, we’ll all make sure to break out the hat to start taking up a collection for poor fools souls like yourself, Mr. Bisciotti.  This posturing by the Ravens owner shouldn’t come as any surprise — he was one of the owners who three years ago derided the CBA that the NFL and the Players Association signed then was a “bad deal”.  Yet despite that, Baltimore president Dick Cass admitted that the club is “doing well compared to other teams around the league. But just because we’re still doing well in revenues, that doesn’t mean we’re generating a lot of profit.”

But if you are generating profit of some amount, then where’s the problem?  Since when does owning an NFL team mean that you’re supposed to be guaranteed a “lot of profit” instead of profit period (or any profit at all)?  And let’s not even go into the reality that, in the cases of almost all of the groups that own NFL franchises (or sports franchises in general), that “losses” on the books — sometimes nothing more than manipulated numbers by a team’s accountants — are often creatively written off at the end of the year.  Or better yet, let’s not forget how much the value of professional sports teams increases by on a regular basis.  Bisciotti’s Ravens, for example, were purchased for $600 million in 2000 and have already increased in value to a staggering $960 million, according to Forbes — the team’s not exactly running you into the poor house, is it Mr. Bisciotti?

Bisciotti relaxing in his luxury suite during a Ravens game

I can’t think of too many people who’d have a problem with turning a tidy $360 million profit on their investment in less than 10 years the way Bisciotti has, but let’s face it — the reason someone gets into the business of professional sports has never been to make money.  It’s always been more about ego than anything else, and even if Bisciotti (and other owners of professional sports franchises) manage to only break even in the time they own a particular franchise, none of them are counting on revenue from their teams to live on — and all of them are still going to rake in a mammoth profit when the time comes that they decide to divest themselves of the venture.

None of that seems to matter to the out-of-touch people who populate the ownership ranks of professional sports, however.  These are the same men who have, over the last several decades, weaseled and extorted huge sums of money from the cities and states that their teams play in in the form of aid for the construction of cash-cow stadiums and other kickbacks like tax breaks — usually under the threat of moving their franchise away if their demands aren’t met.

Make no mistake in thinking that the nonsense being spewed by Bisciotti is anything more than propaganda that you’ll here a lot more of in the upcoming months, as the owners begin their campaign to paint themselves as the “good guys” in their upcoming war with the NFL Players Association, a conflict which — as imbecilic as one would imagine, considering the obscene amount of money that everyone in the NFL, players and owners alike, are raking in — is looking inevitable.  A lockout in 2011 is looming — and even though Commissioner Roger Goodell is claiming otherwise, the fact that the NFL will take in $5 billion of television money in that year even if no games are ever played should tell you that — just like we’ve seen from his Wall Street and banking brethren of late — if his lips are moving, he’s probably lying.

With so many average, hard-working Americans watching their livelihoods put at risk by a faltering economy, I’ve got no tolerance for the greedy league stooges and shills like Bisciotti crying financial hardship — and neither should you.  If he NFL ends up shutting down in 2011, I’ll have no sympathy for any of the main participants (owners and players alike).  While the Lombardi Trophy gets awarded tomorrow, I’ll present a Ro-Sham-Bo Award to the Ravens owner today — hopefully, he’s not under the impression that there’s a lot of profit ahead for him in owning it.

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