The Best Owner In Professional Sports

Posted September 8, 2011

Since I’ve started writing for Capitals Outsider, I’ve had the privilege to talk to some amazing fans and some great people in the media. I’m very lucky and am humbled to have this opportunity. The one thing I didn’t take into consideration at first is how lucky we are to have Ted Leonsis as an owner of this team.

We, as fans, sometimes have the mindset that we don’t matter to the owners of professional sports franchises. We’re expected to buy the merchandise, buy the tickets, pay for the parking, engorge ourselves in expensive snacks and beer, and as long as the owners are able to line their pockets with a little bit more money, everything remains status quo (for you Redskins fans, you know exactly who I am talking about).

Ted Leonsis is a fan’s owner. He is a person that we all can relate to. Granted, the man is richer than I will ever be in my lifetime, but I’ll bet my next paycheck that if I were ever walking around DC and I saw him, he would have no problem shaking my hand and thanking me for my commitment to the Capitals. When our site ran the article about Michael Lindenbaum (aka The Capitals Tattoo Guy), Ted wrote a blog post asking Michael to e-mail him so he can personally thank him for his support to the Capitals. I was floored. In my 28 years, I have never heard of an owner EVER doing that. Leonsis is a stark contrast to a few team owners in New York. Here are two examples:

1) Jeff and Fred Wilpon – co-owners of the New York Mets

As a Mets fan, I literally shuttered as my fingers typed the words “Wilpon” and “Mets.” There’s more to my depression when the Capitals get eliminated from the playoffs – it’s that I’m now forced to watch this embarrassment of a team for months until the Capitals resume play. If you don’t know the whole scenario, please let me explain.

For several years, Jeff and Fred Wilpon invested money with a very famous person, Bernie Madoff. Remember back in 2000 when the Yankees and Mets faced each other in the World Series? That was in part because the Wilpons were making a killing on Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. They bought that entire team with stolen money. Well, Madoff got busted and is now serving a prison sentence and should be released in about the time my great-great grandchildren are born. With Madoff’s money gone, so went the hopes of the Mets making another postseason run any time soon. So what do they do with very little money left to run the team? Build another stadium! And bring in talent that’s 35 years old plus (sound familiar again, Redskins fans?)! Now, with no money to operate the team, they decide they will sell a part of a team to an outside investor so they can use his money for the day-to-day operation of the team. After months of biding their time and giving the new investor the run-around, they decide NOT to sell the team. The Wilpons would much rather bleed the team completely dry of money, let the franchise go bankrupt, and run the risk of the Mets folding. They take it for granted that Mets fans will keep supporting this team, and I assure you, we are becoming impatient and will probably protest and revolt like New Yorkers did in my next example.

2) Charles Wang – owner of the New York Islanders

If you’ve ever been to Long Island and smelled garbage, that’s not the landfills, that comes directly from the Nassau Coliseum. Granted, a part of the reason as to why the Islanders are in the shape they are in has nothing to do with Wang himself. You would have to go back roughly 30 years to figure out why the franchise bleeds money. The Islanders overpaid for the rent, which in turn caused any owner who actually would be dumb enough to buy the team to be in the red every year. In 2000, Wang decided to purchase this team to try to turn it around for a small sum of $180 million. That very year, the Islanders traded away their goaltender and drafted another one with the 1st overall pick. Who was the goaltender they drafted? Rick DiPietro. Who was the goaltender they traded? Roberto Luongo. And things for the franchise have snowballed since then. Wang has also done a great job during his time as owner of alienating youth hockey leagues on Long Island by not donating tickets to Islander games or any sort of money to support area youth hockey leagues. The Rangers and Devils have done that, which explains why there are a lot of young hockey players on Long Island running around in Rangers and Devils gear. For the last few years, Wang has tried to have another arena built on the site of the current one, called “The Lighthouse Project.” For more on that, read here. On August 1st, the Nassau County voters rejected a referendum to increase property taxes to fund the new arena. What was the problem with all of this? Wang unfortunately forgot to inform the public that the tax hike was only supposed to be $7-$60 per household, depending on how much revenue the Islanders generated. Because of this oversight, the Islanders are now left without a home and will end up moving to Brooklyn in 2015 after their lease ends.

So Caps fan, embrace the fact that we have an owner like we do. He’s embraced our “Rock The Red” culture and made the Capitals relevant again in the NHL. And if you ever get selected to go up to his box during a game, make sure you tell him I said “Hello” and “Thank you.”

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