Hit The Road, Frank
Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt provided a public glimpse into the hypocrisy of recession-era America.
To hear Stefan Fatsis, Josh Levin, and Mike Pesca discuss Frank McCourt and the Dodgers on Slate's sports podcast, "Hang Up and Listen," click the arrow on the audio player below and fast-forward to the 21:30 mark:
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Life was good in the elite rows of the field level. McCourt redid the bathrooms, making them almost pleasant, and installed a Canter's Delicatessen outlet, meaning a pastrami-induced heart attack was never more than a half-inning away. The concourses felt bright, open, and welcoming, a different country, almost, than the LAX-sub-basement-like causeways that McCourt forced the outfield and upper Deck hoi polloi to use. McCourt promised to renovate the rest of the park, but somehow never got around to the task. In classic recession-era 21st-century executive style, the rich lived richer and told the middle class to stop complaining and eat their gummy, overpriced malt cups. If, at the ballpark, some families were more comfortable and better cared for than others, well, that was American, too.
Even though we rightly sensed that the owner was a creep, fans let it slide because, honestly, the team did pretty well on the field. Only in the second half of last season, as the McCourts' heated divorce proceedings started to drain the accounts and a marginally competent general manager made an epically bad series of "go for it" trades, did the fans find the courage to stay away in numbers big enough to matter. After Opening Day this year, when a group of all-too-typical Dodgers fans beat a Giants fan into a coma and McCourt replied stupidly and defensively, refusing to take real responsibility for the incident that we'd all seen coming, attendance finally dropped to levels not seen in decades. The fans had had enough.
I'd like to think that the $30 million personal loan that McCourt got recently in order to make payroll was at least partially due to our stand against his pandering arrogance, moronic sloganeering, and ludicrous parking fees. Unlike, say, the executives at Bank of America or AIG, this was one corporate jerk who we might have the power to stop. We could actually control, or feel like we were controlling, a small corner of the recession.
The day Bud Selig seized control of the Dodgers last week, saying he had "deep concerns" regarding their "finances and operations," my friends called, saying they had four front-row seats for that night's game. We were out of town and couldn't make it, but what a joy it would have been. McCourt is already whining to the press and making noise about a potential lawsuit. But he's going to lose and Bud is going to make him sell.
The bills have come due for McCourt, and there's no personal bailout forthcoming. As one of baseball's storied franchises, the Dodgers may be too big to fail, but McCourt is not. I've heard reports that he's still showing up at games and still signing baseballs. Oh, how I want to see his smug, broke face up close. How badly I want to say to him, Party's over, Frank. Tough shit. You don't own us anymore.