Here is a link to my Thursday column. The full text runs below:
Winning is underrated.
Sure, it’s nice when a team wins, great when teams like the Warriors and Giants win championships, and there’s the parade and fan happiness and franchise glory. All that is great, but it’s limited. And, frankly, there’s more.
Remember this. Big-time pro sports aren’t only about winning. They are about growing a business. And then growing it more. For today’s column, I compare every major pro sports franchise in the Bay Area to the Oakland A’s. I don’t include the Sharks. No slight intended. It’s just that I don’t cover them, can’t speak with authority.
Start with the Giants, the best franchise in the Bay Area — with the Warriors challenging the Giants’ lead. The Giants used to play in the dump Candlestick Park, RIP. Their ownership dumped the dump, built AT&T Park, made a ton of money and became champs. The Giants built their new yard on the successes of Dusty Baker’s Giants. Don’t forget that. This was not some loser team begging hat in hand for a place to play. The Giants created the best ballpark in the majors — well, that place in Pittsburgh overlooking the river and those beautiful bridges is pretty nice, too. But you get the idea.
Now, the Giants are moving toward Step 2, converting Parking Lot A (the media lot, woe is me) to apartment buildings and office buildings. Which means the Giants not only run a ballclub, but they also are real-estate moguls.
And they can do all this expansion because they win. Even when they don’t win it all, they contend. Success story.
Major axiom of this column: If a team wants a new stadium, it helps to win. Winning gets more people on board — people of the rich, heavy-hitter variety. Winning gets cities on board. Winning gets everyone on board.
The 49ers are a case in point. They got their new stadium because of Jim Harbaugh’s broad shoulders and sweat. Me, I wish their new stadium were in San Francisco. But that’s another argument. The 49ers leveraged Harbaugh’s success into a state-of-the-art stadium that will host the next Super Bowl. This is a major coup for the Niners, who can’t get even a minor coup on the field. And their new venue came from winning winning winning.
You see where this is going, right? If not, hang in there.
The Warriors are amazing winners. Such a pleasure to watch. A team fans can be proud of in every way. And ownership made the Warriors preeminent and did it fast.
The Warriors are planning a San Francisco basketball palace. Me, I wish they would stay in Oakland. But that’s another argument. And the total package surrounding this basketball palace includes office and retail space just like the Giants. See the Warriors build buildings. See the Warriors be real-estate moguls. See the Warriors succeed.
Repeat after me: The Warriors are building their empire on winning.
That brings us to the Raiders. We often think of them as the “schleppers” of Bay Area sports. (Schlepper is an inept, stupid person.) Not so. The Raiders are beginning to win and they are negotiating for two stadium sites — one in Oakland, one in Carson.
I have no idea if they will succeed, but news came out Wednesday that the chairman of Disney Corp. is getting involved with the Raiders and Chargers’ proposed stadium project in Carson. The Raiders are more attractive — not yet a beauty — than they used to be. Why? Because they are winning. Actually, they are not losing at the furious rate we associate with them. Their record is 4-4 and they are respectable.
Winning — or in their case not losing — helps.
And that brings us to the Oakland A’s, a very foolish franchise, the true schleppers of the Bay Area. Lots of people think Lew Wolff, Billy Beane and their compatriots are wise because they put a crummy team on the field, will put a crummy team on the field for years to come, always spend peanuts on their players and still earn a pile of dough every year. That’s because of revenue sharing. The Giants’ Larry Baer should just drive across the Bay Bridge and hand-deliver a check to Wolff, although I imagine it doesn’t work that way.
But all this quick cash the A’s make gets in their way. If the A’s actually spent on a team, actually won a championship or even sniffed winning a championship, they might — almost certainly would — be closer to getting a new ballpark. If Wolff were the business genius he’s supposed to be, he’d understand spending and winning would make the A’s attractive and, more important, propel him to his goal of a new ballyard. If he were the business genius he’s supposed to be, he’d build near Jack London Square and become part of Oakland’s renaissance. But he’s holding onto the site at Hegenberger Road when so many forward-thinking baseball clubs build downtown.
For now, the A’s languish in baseball purgatory. They may get their new ballpark sometime soon, and then again they may not. Expect them to play in the place they hate, the place where the toilets back up, for years to come.
I’m telling you winning is underrated.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.