What is a few hundred million to keep spitting from your grave?
A’s owner John Fisher, like any other owner ever, wants the public to bear the costs of building a new stadium complex. He sought government support estimated at $855 million to build the Howard Terminal site in Oakland. In April, when the team said it had agreed to buy land in Las Vegas, the first dollar figure to be dumped was $500 million. Now, three weeks later, the A’s are said to be moving into a different land purchase in Vegas, Pursuit $395 million in subsidies.
People in the first category can try to justify the use of taxpayer money with myriad arguments: Since state and city governments covered certain costs in previous stadium deals, they have to again here. (Because, you know, everything set as a precedent in the world of government and sports is right and just.) And they could try to defend the move by pointing to a protracted and so far fruitless set of negotiations in Oakland.
But in a strange way, none of these arguments really matter. When a sports team threatens to move, logic is often pushed to the curb. At the end of the game, state and city governments sometimes resort to the simplest arithmetic: they pay, or the team disappears.
It doesn’t matter that the franchisee may be disingenuous in the end, or may accept less subsidies than required. Nor is it often relevant, at this point, whether the subsidies will really generate an adequate return on investment for the taxpayer.
Paying money becomes a decision of the heart. On the one hand, this can be sad, because stadium support are resources that can be allocated in different ways. And from another angle, it almost looks great, because even if it’s overpaying, keeping the team in town makes a lot of people happy.
But the point is: rationality is not the only thing. Which is what makes Fisher’s impending casting so remarkable. Because he, too, is staring at two different outcomes.
If Fisher moves the team to Las Vegas, he’s destroying his legacy in Oakland. He will be reviled, literally for generations, long after he’s gone. People are still talking about Walter O’Malley (and Robert Moses) decades later, and the Dodgers’ move to Los Angeles is now 65 years old.
And what will Fisher make of this feud – what will be his reward and winnings? A stadium costs him less money. So let’s say in terms of some supposed 30-year period or so that the stadium will be funded for – while the value of the franchise and his other properties will increase anyway – he’ll have a few hundred million more to add to his net worth.
ok f? What does that amount of money do for Fisher, who is worth an estimated $2.2 billion, per… ForbesHeir to the Gap fortune? It’s not life-altering money, at least not in any way obvious. After 30 years, he will be over 90 years old. Is he trying to store dough to lead Elon Musk to Mars?
Now, having generic dollars will probably give him respect among his peers in team ownership, a feeling that won’t set a precedent for stopping their gravy train when stadium owners try to get financial support in the future. Keep it quiet in the club. He may also need a certain level of dollars to feel like he’s being treated fairly, however he sets that out.
But what would Fisher have bought with the money from public support? What benefit does a person in his station and station actually get from those dollars? Do the loads of kids at a landlord’s meeting equal the thousands upon thousands of people cursing your name over breakfast in Oakland?
It is very difficult to buy back your reputation in any field. Ask fellow owners Steve Cohen and Jim Crane, whose company outside of baseball faced federal obscenity charges before they entered baseball. Ironically, the opportunity to cleanse one’s public perception, often by spending huge sums of money, is what sometimes attracts sports owners in the first place.
Meanwhile, you have Fisher saying, screw it up: Protecting my memory isn’t worth a few hundred million. I can do better with this money.
The title, if his Las Vegas team gets a title, will create some new love that Fisher never had before. But he would not eradicate the hatred he had aroused at home, a hatred which could be replaced by adulation if he were to raise more money.
Some people honestly He may not care how they are viewed. Maybe Fisher is one of those people. Some people may just want to accumulate wealth and achieve fulfillment from it. But that wouldn’t quite make sense, would it?
There’s no guarantee that the $395 million in public funding Fisher is seeking for its newest Las Vegas location will be available. In either case, the payoff for contempt continues to decline. Makes you wonder if it was worth it.
How little is your reputation, John Fisher?
(Top photo: Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
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