“A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.” (Unless you’re a Nets fan)

“There comes a time when things are simply too expensive. “- Mikhail Prokhorov on his decision to call off trade talks for Carmelo Anthony.

WRONG, Mike. If you aren’t familiar with Prokhorov, he’s the owner of the New Jersey Nets. Oh and he’s 6’9″ and Russian. Oh and he’s the 40th richest person on the planet, with a net worth of $10 billion dollars and owns this.The point is, NOTHING is too expensive for him.The fact that Prokhorov didn’t want to spend a few (million) more rubles to land one of the five best players in the league speaks volumes about his commitment to the Nets and even more about his ego.

But Prokhorov’s not alone. Billionaire owners pinch pennies all over the sports world. The Maloof brothers are owners of both the Palms Casino in Las Vegas and the Sacramento Kings. Both ventures earn them millions of dollars a year. But one features the Playboy Club and a 10,000 square foot suite. The other has Samuel Dalembert and nine wins.  The Seattle Seahawks are owned by Microsoft founder Paul Allen. They play in Paul Allen Stadium. But the Seattle Paul Allens are operating on Tim Allen’s budget and were led by this.

Yes, there are salary caps in sports, but most are soft caps which simply require teams to pay a luxury tax if they’re over. It’s not as if Mr. Prokorov is spending like MC Hammer by shelling out an extra $10 mil a year in cap penalties.  Also, Major League Baseball and the NFL had no salary caps this year.

But there are exceptions. This off season, my beloved Philadelphia Phillies turned some heads when they upped their payroll by $20 million and brought in Cliff Lee, you might have heard about it. Going into the off-season though, G.M. Ruben Amaro Jr. and the primary owners had no intentions of spending more money, as they were already over their budget and were resigned to Lee wearing pinstripes or going back to the Rangers. That is, until minority owner John Middleton, who sold his cigar company two years ago for almost $3 billion dollars, allegedly decided to pick up the tab on the superstar lefty. Likewise, Bob Kraft, who owns some macaroni and cheese company I think, invested millions into bringing in some of the most brilliant minds in football, and was thus rewarded with three Patriots Super Bowl rings.

Say what you will about the late George Steinbrenner, but the man had one goal: To win a World Series every year. And he had no problem shelling out tens of millions every year to do so. Everyone who hated Steinbrenner’s tactics made the same stupid argument every year. “Ohh well he just buys all the good players…it’s bad for the sport…he just uses his money to put together an all-star team instead of bringing players up through the farm system.” And everyone who thinks this way is dumb. He’s a billionaire who owns a sports team, and you’re faulting him for spending lots of money to bring in the best players? It’s so wildly idealistic and ostentatious to think that you build championships in baseball by drafting every key player, cultivating their talent in the minors for years, then finally bringing them up and putting together a story book championship season. This isn’t Hickory High. And while you’re blasting off to Jimmy Chitwood, your rival is signing a dude who hits 50 home runs a year.  The Red Sox used to take that approach, then they brought in David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez, Josh Beckett, Johnny Damon and GABE FACKIN KAPLAH and they won two World Series titles.

Mikhail Prokhorov is simply the latest in a long line of billionaire owners to disappoint their fans by conjuring dreams of a Steinbrenner-like spender then refusing to pull the trigger on “risky” investments.  And let it be stated, this isn’t like giving Eddie Curry a max contract. It’s Carmelo Anthony, he’s been around, he’s pretty good. It’s like a record label listening to U2’s first seven hit records and saying, “Nah it’s a little too risky of an investment. We’ll hold out until we move to Brooklyn and then we’ll sign Justin Bieber’s little brother.”

The worst part is, a Nets season ticket holder (it’s just an example, we all know that they’re mythical, not unlike the Chupacabra or the Bermuda Triangle), probably spends a greater percentage of their income on the Nets each season than their owner does.  It’s an embarrassment. So next time you want to complain about the Heat or the Yankees or (insert unknown hockey team here), consider the billions that most owners have and what they’re spending it on.


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