Now that the Baltimore Orioles have their new manager, we can probably put to bed any substantial news surrounding the team before Christmas. You never know what’s going to break, but that’s just an educated guess. So let’s talk above the dugout and the front office in a sense; let’s talk about ownership.
Whenever things go south for the Birds, we’ve always heard fans describe the evils of Peter Angelos and his ownership. I’m not going to argue that the man isn’t perfect. He’s made mistakes that other owners seemingly haven’t made, and in fact many other franchises have benefitted off of his mistakes. However I don’t think he’s the worst owner of all time either.
Obviously while on paper he’s still in charge, we all know that his sons John and Lou are in essence running the team. And so far so good, I might add. However, I do feel that fans of any franchise are too quick to point at the owner and suggest that he’s more about money than winning, or that his greed is running the team into the ground. Can greed really ruin a team or company?
None of us knows what it’s like to run a professional sports franchise. However I think most people would agree that it probably isn’t easy. Each and every one of your customers (fans) thinks he has a stake in every aspect of how the team is run and what they do. And they aren’t shy about saying so.
I would say that greed could ruin any company if the management flat out didn’t care about their customers. As an example, fast food used to be known as such because it was fast (and cheap). But if you go to McDonalds nowadays, you’re paying $7-$9 or so for a burger, fries, and a Coke. And to be honest, it’s not that fast anymore!
When you can go to a regular restaurant and get a better quality burger, fries, and a Coke for $10-$11 or so, is it really worth going to McDonalds? I would submit that it isn’t, and to be honest I back that up by not eating too much fast food in my everyday life. So given that they’ve let their prices creep up, I would argue that McDonalds is losing customers to greed.
How does that translate to sports? I think you have to know your market and the dynamics thereof. Baltimore is a working class blue collar town. People aren’t looking to drop $100 on a ticket, plus food. Most people want a seat somewhere in the grandstand with a reasonable view, and maybe a hot dog and something to drink. Given their ticket prices, I would argue that the Orioles get that, and they price themselves very well in their market.
Look down the pike however at D.C. United, Washington D.C.’s MLS franchise. They have a similar dynamic I suspect in that many of their fans are working class people. So…why does their new stadium sell seats for $80? That seems exorbitant to me, and quite frankly it comes across as pricing out some of your more ardent fans.
There are a million other examples across sports. But if you’re overestimating what your customers are willing to pay your bottom line will eventually suffer. Other than that, owners are in this business to make money. That’s a sordid truth that most fans simply don’t want to understand. It’s easier to paint Peter Angelos as a villain trying to suck money out of your pockets than it is to understand that he’s just trying to provide for his company and his family.
So where’s the line of justice? Tough to say, but I suppose that’s up to the fans.