This week, The Guardian published a story about the profits of soccer teams in England's Premier League. The talking point was that despite being in the world's most popular sports league, eleven of the 20 teams lost money in 2010-11, the most recent year for financial results. The absolutely shocking thing was that two teams lost nearly unreal amounts of money; Chelsea lost $106 million, but this paled in comparison to Manchester City, which lost a staggering $308 million. The two clubs are able to do this because of filthy-rich owners. Chelsea is owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, while Manchester City is owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi's ruling family, and both owners have enough oil dollars to regularly use hundred-dollar bills as Kleenex without feeling any financial pinch.
Not surprisingly, the clubs' new-found ability to spend any amount of money has been successful for both; Manchester City just won its first title since 1968, and Chelsea won its first European championship one week later. Obviously, this financial disparity is patently unfair. Imagine if the New York Yankees were able to spend $500 million on player salaries, and you'd have some idea of the unbalanced playing field we're talking about here. For all of the complaining that we baseball fans do about revenue disparity - and I've done plenty - we should thank our lucky stars that baseball doesn't have oil gazillionaires owing teams.
But at the same time, it's worth mentioning that for all of the unfairness, this is exactly how most fans want their team's owners to act. Every off-season, the Twins have a rough idea of how much they want to spend on payroll. And every offseason, this number gets out, and the team is roundly excoriated for not having a larger payroll. Many fans seem to feel that the Pohlad family should lose money every year, out of some implied and possibly stadium-related social contract. Some will tell you that they wonder why $10 million more isn't plausible; some seem angry that the Twins didn't sign both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder this year, no matter how much this might cost. Many of these fans might also tell you that they hate those rich Yankees and Red Sox, but it's clear that if the Twins somehow generated the financial wherewithal to have a $250 million payroll, those people wouldn't feel guilty at all.
Ultimately, I'd rather be a fan of a non-oil-soaked soccer team. I'd think I'd feel impossibly guilty celebrating the victories of a team with unlimited finances, just like I think I'd feel guilty if I was a Red Sox or Yankees fan in baseball and my team had the resources to spend double what most other teams could spend. But I know both Manchester City fans and Chelsea fans, and as far as I can tell, not one of them feels this way. Maybe the truth of fandom is this: we just want our teams to win, and we don't particularly care how that's accomplished.
On with the links:
*Steve Adams of Twinkie Town looks back at two Twins trades that were frustrating at the time, including the Scott Diamond trade that everyone hated.
*Speaking of soccer finances, Brian Quarstad at Inside MN Soccer interviewed Minnesota Stars GM Djorn Buchholz after the latter had to make the tough decision to sell the rights to a home game to an MLS team.
*Joe Posnanski has a daughter who doesn't like sports, really, but loves NASCAR, and Joe is as confused as everyone else.
*I don't care at all about Justin Bieber. But I like Drew Magary, so when he writes a profile of Bieber, I'm fascinated all the same.
*And finally: the joy of sports, captured in one photo. (That's Ireland rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll visiting a fan in the hospital last year with the Heineken Cup, and I'm not ashamed to say this photo always makes me teary-eyed.) And if that's not enough, here's a portrait of Anthony Davis made entirely out of Kix and Reese's Puffs.