Ten thoughts about the routine story — you know, basketball star buys premier baseball franchise for $2.15 billion — that broke on Tuesday night.
1. November 1991. I'm walking home from the bus with a friend. His sister greets us at the door. "Did you hear about Magic?" she asks. "He just announced he has HIV." My head spins. My first thought is that he'll soon be dead. But of course Magic doesn't die. He plays one more season in the NBA. He hosts a talk show. He buys Starbucks and movie theaters, and becomes the very example of what an athlete should do with his fame and fortune once his playing days are over. Eventually he becomes part of a group that pledges $2 billion to buy and restore the Dodgers to their rightful place as a baseball powerhouse, not laughingstock. The story is so incredible and it's definitely among the most quintessentially American tales of the past 50 years or so.
2. Of course, on the other side of the coin, is Frank McCourt. The man was born in a parking garage on third base, was thrown out stealing home and still somehow walks away by getting someone to pay him $2.15 billion for a franchise he purchased for a highly leveraged $435 million only eight years earlier. That payday might sting some Dodgers fans, but as Tim Brown writes, it's a price worth paying.
3. Speaking of the price, I assume everyone's going to turn their head and examine the exorbitant price tag — which is more than twice as much as the parking lot-less Cubs went for two years earlier — once the initial hype over Magic dies down. I'm just going to take a stab in the dark and say that the numbers aren't going to add up. But these types of premiums happen when you've got three ownership groups filled with men with deep pockets vying for the team. You can always buy a bigger house, yacht or car than the next rich guy, but there was only one Dodgers team up for bid. Magic's group sees a business opportunity here, but they're lying if they say it's not also a trophy. The price they bid says as much.
4. That sound you just heard was John Moores setting off fireworks and leading a marching band around downtown San Diego. Now that the sale of his team to Jeff Moorad has fallen through, he's likely to produce a bigger return now that his is the only MLB franchise currently up for sale. Also, if you're impressed with the return on investment that McCourt received, imagine what the Steinbrenners would get back on the $10 million that patriarch George used to buy the team from CBS in 1973.
5. Let's not get too crazy over McCourt's business acumen yet, though. As I jokingly noted on Twitter, he'd be worth about $12 billion today if he had invested $435 million in Apple stock on the January 2004 day that he held a press conference to announce his purchase of the Dodgers.
6. So now we've got the Dodgers in better hands. The Cubs are in good shape, too. That leaves the Mets as the lone big-market team in flux, though the Wilpons' recent Madoff settlement — as well as the solutions in Chicago and Los Angeles — should buy them even more time from their pal in the commissioner's office.
7. It's suddenly cool to be a Dodgers fan. It'll be interesting to see how Magic's involvement translate to the number of Dodgers caps and jersey we see in popular culture.
8. One crazy twist to this storyline: Though Magic is being hailed as the savior today, it's rare that an owner escapes the ire of his fans if he can't put a winner on the field. Which could lead to Magic one day hearing boos in Los Angeles like he's back in Boston Garden. That's really a strange thing to think about.
On the flip side, Magic is the face of the franchise, but he's far from the only one who has put up money for the purchase. Will the other owners really be content to sit in the background and let Magic enjoy all the accolades if the Dodgers start winning again.
9. There's still a lot of challenges to face. While Stan Kasten is more than equipped to resurrect the baseball side, how do the other owners set about filling all those empty seats and parking spaces? How do they resolve an atmosphere that many families have been afraid to subject their children to? There's going to be a lot of hard work involved in this resurrection, which is probably why Magic says he'll be holding an office at Dodger Stadium.
10. Finally, it sounds weird to say, but Magic's group has a ways to go before they even replicate the success that the McCourt era experienced. Though the franchise was steered into a financial tailspin, it also somehow won three NL West titles, a NL wild card and made back-to-back trips to the NLCS.
That's probably a record that many other teams would take, but only World Series titles count for a team that hasn't seen one since 1988. Expect Magic to come out and set that as the goal from the get-go.
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