Late in the third quarter of October’s Broncos-Cowboys game, Peyton Manning underthrew Eric Decker on a midrange pass, leaving the ball hanging in the air for an easy interception. With 20 touchdowns and no picks to that point, Manning had seemed infallible, but now he had somehow faltered. While viewers waited to get another look, CBS cut from the Cowboys defensive backs celebrating, to Manning looking incredulous, back to the defensive backs, and then to—ugh—Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, pumping his fists. Could there be a more banal conclusion to this incredible turn of events? Why do we have to see the man who cuts the checks whenever something exciting happens on the field?
The TV networks show Jones more than most owners. He’s made a name for himself by being awful, and broadcasters think this means we want to see him constantly. He’s also the team’s general manager, meaning he could potentially cut a guy right after the game if he missed a key tackle. So he’s important, but that doesn’t make him interesting; you certainly didn’t need to see him six times during that Dallas-Denver contest. NFL.com even put him in the highlight package. And it’s not just the Cowboys honcho who gets a lot of screen time. Robert Kraft, Jeffrey Lurie, Arthur Blank, Jim Irsay—if you’re a football fan, you know their names and faces. And that’s a shame.
No one needs another boss in his life, nor another intrusion of the market. It’s bad enough that sports are cluttered up with a relentless accretion of commercials and logos, but at least there’s a clear purpose behind those things. Shots of the owners don’t contribute to anyone’s bank account. So why am I watching some suit in a luxury box gently fist-bump some other suit before looking up at a screen so he can catch himself in seven-second-delayed action? There is no one in that stadium whose reaction I am less interested in seeing. Or at least no one outside of that booth because, oh God, I’m pretty sure that’s Rush Limbaugh sitting next to Bob Kraft.
Show me any player, any assistant strength coach, any sideline neurologist. Much better, show me any fan, somebody who made the dubious decision to fork over a lot of cash to be in the stands and is now being rewarded with his team’s success and feeling giddy over it. Just as good: showing that same fan as his team makes a mockery of his faith.
The fact that Jones and company are wearing suits at a football game tells us they aren’t part of our community. When I jump off my couch in excitement at home, it is for a completely selfless and silly reason: The Bears just did good, and this is important to me because of an unthinking commitment I made to them decades ago. The average fan has invested only time and sympathy. Well, perhaps he has money riding on it, but even that’s not the same sort of financial relationship as an owner, since owners don’t really have much at stake with these games. If they didn’t inherit the team, they entered the fray as rich men looking for a rich hobby. Seeing them celebrate is like watching someone gloat over their fantasy team. Yes, it’s that bad. That touchdown is a private benefit and yet not a particular one. These just happen to be the players they were able to acquire. They might well own different ones another season.
It’s even worse when the announcers feel compelled to glorify them. After CBS showed a Kraft high-five and then a replay of that high-five during a Patriots game earlier this year, John Lynch delivered a version of the speech you hear about Kraft pretty much every week: “I gotta tell ya, this is one of the class people in football, and there’s an old saying: It starts at the top. And I truly believe that, here in New England, it’s not a coincidence that their success has really taken off since Robert Kraft and the Kraft family have taken it over. Tremendous business minds that know how to win. They’re great for the community and great people, on top of it.” That’s a good piece of fawnin’ right there!