Drayton McLane: Time To Open The Books
Do those cries of poverty add up?
Several things happened last week on the edges of the sports world that, while interesting on their own, are even more interesting when connections are made.
For instance, early last week, the sports blog Deadspin published the financial documents for several major league baseball teams. Not just any financial documents, but those documents assembled by the financial guys for the various teams which show exactly how profitable, or unprofitable, a team really is.
Among the teams nailed in this leak of the documentation was the Florida Marlins, a team which has apparently bilked not only MLB, but the taxpayers of the Miami area, for hundreds of millions of dollars while making a huge profit for the ownership group of the team.
The taxpayer bilking coming from the ownership group crying poverty and demanding that the public build them a new stadium or they would split for some place else, and MLB being bilked because the Marlins made cash off the revenue-sharing agreement between the clubs that had teams like the New York Yankees paying millions of dollars to teams with low payrolls, bad attendance, and low revenue figures.
The Marlins pulled this off because they let their star players leave, which kept attendance down, which seemingly lowered revenue, which allowed the Marlins to claim poverty, and which caused the Yankees to write out a check to them.
The Marlins, when confronted with this information last week, went with the old Watergate-era nondenial denial, refusing to deny that they were bilking taxpayers and MLB while calling for criminal punishment to the person who leaked their information to Deadspin.
Now combine this taxpayer bilking with a story that hit Houston at the end of the week.
The Harris County-Houston Sports Authority found that the bonds it has issued to cover the construction of Minute Maid Park, Reliant Stadium, Toyota Center, and the just-as-unneeded Dynamo stadium had been reduced to junk bond status.
The Sports Authority, which was supposed to go out of business after the construction of Minute Maid and Reliant, was created to oversee the construction of those facilities which were to be mostly funded - because Saint Drayton The McLane was claiming poverty - by funds generated from hotel occupancy and car rentals, discovered what any native Houstonian could have told them for free: Houston isn't a tourist destination and it's just plain nuts to rely on that type of funding to generate hundreds of millions of dollars.
So lacking the funds to pay off that all of the money borrowed to pay for all of these various sports stadium boondoggles, the Sports Authority attempted to refinance that debt, only to find out, like numerous people holding adjustable rate mortgages, that they couldn't do that.
And since they couldn't do that, the bond status was lowered to junk status.
And since none of this would have never come about without Saint Drayton's cries of poverty - which only the media and various politicians actually believed - it only stands to reason that maybe it's time for Drayton to finally open up his books and show us just, exactly, what his financial condition is.
And while we're at, perhaps Saint Bob The McNair, Saint Les The Alexander, and Huge Corporate Entity Running the Dynamo should open their books as well so that we can see exactly what their financial conditions are.
Why should we bother with this since, for the most part, the stadiums have already been built? Well, let's just say that the Sports Authority's reassurances really aren't, well, that reassuring. And likely, at some point in the future, it's more than likely that the Sports Authority is going to come before the city and county, begging poverty, and request that, despite all assurances in the past, they need the local taxpayers to actually pony up some cash to pay off these facilities.
When that day should come, if it should come, wouldn't it be more appropriate to, instead, have the primary tenants, for who these facilities were actually constructed and who actually run the facilities and get to collect revenue off of the facilities, be the ones who actually have to pay for the facilities?
Yes, in this day and age, it's rather uncommon for team owners to actually pay for their buildings, but maybe it's time for that to change, and if we actually know what their actual money figures are, we'll know just exactly what they can afford to pay.
And hey, if Drayton objects to releasing his books, I have a feeling that, if they're asked politely, Deadspin will be more than willing to expose Drayton's dirty laundry. It can't be worse than that of the Marlins, can it?