All this, and not one mention of the Clippers’ Donald Sterling … amazing.
By Tim Dahlberg
The Associated Press
Roger Goodell was hanging with the common folks last Sunday, enjoying the experience of an NFL game from end zone seats in Tennessee. It was, he would say later, a perfectly fine day to watch football.
No drunks puking in the aisle next to him. No foul-mouthed fans screaming obscenities in his ear.
Just an elderly man prancing about, flipping off Buffalo fans with both middle fingers while celebrating the Titans’ 41-17 victory over the Bills.
Worried about the trash in the stands ruining your game and setting a bad example for your children? Make sure they don’t stray near the owner’s box.
Apparently youthful exuberance got the better of Bud Adams. The calendar may say he’s 86, but Adams seems to take as much pleasure berating his opponents as he did when he and his Houston Oilers won the first American Football League championship nearly a half century ago.
And he knows something about the extended middle finger. A lot of people in Houston gave it to him when he carted his team off to Tennessee, leaving behind a mountain of taxpayer debt at the Astrodome.
Unfortunately for Adams, his in-your-face moment was captured by a fan on video. That led to an obligatory fine from Goodell, and an obligatory apology of sorts by way of a prepared statement.
That’s unusual only because most of the time owners only issue statements when they’re heading out of town with their team in the middle of the night or, as Redskins owner Dan Snyder did recently, explaining why it was a bad idea for fans to bring signs into the stadium calling him an idiot.
Out in Los Angeles, Frank and Jamie McCourt have been issuing all kinds of statements, thinking, perhaps, that fans really do care which one comes out of a divorce owning the Dodgers. They don’t, but they do care about the McCourts spending so much money on lawyers that they won’t have enough to sign free agent John Lackey.
Still, being an owner used to mean never having to explain yourself. If you’ve got enough money to own a team, other people can do it for you.
Mark Cuban has taken that a step further, if only because he would never get anything done if he had to keep talking about every fine he’s collected or every insult he’s handed out. When the Dallas Mavericks owner feels the need to insult Kenyon Martin’s mother, he sends his regrets on his blog.
Cuban is relatively new to this all, though. Adams has been around since the founding days of the AFL, and it could be he’s growing impatient that he’s never had a team win a Super Bowl, though the Titans came agonizingly close in 2002.
Adams was involved in a middle-finger incident after that season, too. It happened when he was showing off the Titans’ AFC championship ring, and he mentioned that someone asked what finger he would wear a Super Bowl ring on if the Titans won.
Still steamed at Houston’s mayor over a new stadium, Adams held up his right hand and extended the middle finger.
“I said, ‘I’m going to put it right on this finger and say to the mayor of Houston, ‘There it is, mayor, take a look at it.'”
No fine for that one, but he did say he was sorry.
So consider his recent $250,000 penalty an admission fee to the owner’s Hall of Shame, an exclusive club that counts Marge Schott, the late owner of the Cincinnati Reds, as a charter member.
Schott so embarrassed baseball in the 1990s with her racist rantings and fond recollections of Adolf Hitler that she was finally suspended from ownership duties for a season.
When Schott came back she offended yet another portion of the population by saying she wouldn’t allow her players to wear earrings “because only fruits wear earrings.”
But the topper came on opening day in 1996 when home plate umpire John McSherry dropped dead of a heart attack in the first inning in Cincinnati. Schott didn’t want to call the game, reportedly saying, “… I feel cheated. This isn’t supposed to happen to us, not in Cincinnati. …”
Later, she sent flowers to the umpire room in sympathy — flowers she had been given earlier in the day by a local television station.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.