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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Manchester United, the New York Yankees and You

You might have seen the article today that Malcolm Glazer has completed his purchase of Manchester United, the perennial power in the English Premiership and, quite frankly, in the football (yes, football) world.

So what, you say?

Well, if you're an American, you probably don't care. After all, you call football soccer, might have played it as a kid, your kids might play it now, but you wouldn't pay to see it played, at least not when in competition with American football, baseball, basketball, college football, college basketball and a whole host of other events. You might glimpse at the World Cup every four years, might have thought it was neat that the American women who played soccer did it so well for a while, but that's about it. As for the world football scene, you wouldn't know John Henry, the owner of the Red Sox, from Thierry Henry, the star forward for Arsenal, another perennial power in the Premiership. To you, it's a boring game, and you just don't understand how the rest of the world is so enamored of it.

So you're still not sure why you should care?

It may well be that you shouldn't care, but this branch of globalization could take root in the United States too. What's to say that after George Steinbrenner passes away, in order to pay estate taxes, his family won't have to sell the New York Yankees and his related media empire. And what's to say that the estate doesn't sell to the highest bidder, perhaps by having an investment bank run the auction. And what's to say that a Chinese business magnate, a Russian oligarch or an Indian entrepeneur don't end up owning the Yankees?

Does it matter?

Most likely not. The Glazers are competitive people, so they didn't buy Man. U. for any other reason than to try to establish hegemony over the football world (where, incidentally, there's a much larger consumer market than, say, for their Tampa Bay Buccaneers). That Russian oligarch who owns Chelsea, which right now is leading the English Premiership, didn't buy that football squad for any other reason than to have a totem to brag about (and, as it turned out, to create a top-notch team). After all, when you get right down to it, Chelsea is his team. Which would mean that the Yankees, the Patriots and the Lakers all could end up having owners who live in Beijing, Bombay and Moscow, instead Manhattan (by way of Tampa), Boston and Los Angeles.

So, the locales of the next generation of sports owners could span further and wider than ever before, and my prediction is that it will. After all, it's a big world, and with globalization, more markets are opening up.

But with very wealthy people, it's a small world. There aren't just that many of them, and they compete in ways that most of us cannot imagine, through yachts, show horses, race horses, sports teams, invitations to key events and who knows what else. If one magnate buys one key team, another one is sure to follow.

Even one who's English isn't much better than Yogi Berra's.

One question that intrigues me particularly involves the NBA. What will happen first -- the NBA's starting a league of sorts in China, or a Chinese businessman buying an NBA franchise -- an existing NBA franchise in the U.S.? Sure, many leagues want to take their acts abroad, but many people abroad want to bring their acts to America.

Except, perhaps, in the case of real football.


Blogger steveh2 said...

"real" football? Please. I mean, I'm a soccer fan. I have season tickets to Real Salt Lake, and I probably watch more EPL than NFL during the course of a year. But this insulting, elitist, "real football" crap has got to go.

The word "football" may have a certain meaning in the United Kingdom. But here in the United States of America, the term "football" refers to the game played by the NFL on a gridiron.

If you have any doubt about what that word, or any other word, truly means here in America, just go outside and converse with some people. If you use the word "football" in those conversations, 99 out of 100 will understand you to be referring to the NFL game. Therefore, the word football, at least here in America, means the NFL game.

3:20 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Welcome to the blog, Steveh2. Didn't mean to hit a nerve through my semantics, and you yourself are pretty presumptuous to call me elitist (I'm hardly that). Moreover, what I meant by "real" football is that in the rest of the world, which counts for something, football has another meaning which dwarfs the meaning it has for Americans. I'm hardly being elitist, just pointing out a practical reality that for most people in the world, football means something totally different. Finally, some could argue that your use of the word "football" is elitist in an American way, that if you don't use the term the way Americans do, you're just wrong. That's not a good way to look at things, either.

3:59 PM  
Blogger steveh2 said...

Yeah, reading my post, I went overboard.

Just so it's clear, I do not mean to call you elitist. But I do think that it is elitist to imply that the majority of people using a word don't know what it "really" means.

And I agree that if I told someone from England that "real" football was the NFL, and insisted that they use the American definition because, you know, we're America and we kick ass, then I would be elitist, too.

But I don't see anything elitist about using a word in accordance with the meaning ascribed to it by the overwhelming majority of the possible audience.

By the way (and this is not a rhetorical question, but an actual request for information), how do the Canadians and Australians address the soccer/football thing?

12:16 PM  
Anonymous jonjon said...

Should there be a Salary Cap in Football?
Personally I think there should be! It’s just getting to be stupid money in football at the top of the premiership!
It’s always the same teams at the top proving that football success is based purely on money which ruins the idea of it being a sport! They’ve done it in rugby, basketball, hockey and American football and it makes the sports more competitive and better to watch!
I do a little Spread Betting (or more precisely Football Spread Betting) from time to time and most matches don’t hold much surprise who is going to win, its boring! I want to see a team at the bottom pulling off an amazing season beating last seasons winners in a close fought battle!
Make things fair! It shouldn’t be about money!

4:11 AM  
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