A Family Affair

by Bryan Z. on January 28, 2013 · 0 comments

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Family AffairThe wheels on the bus go down, down, down. Ever since Jerry Buss retired and left the Los Angeles Lakers to his son, Jim Buss, the team has been a complete train wreck. To say Jimbo doesn’t have his father’s vision or business sense would be putting it mildly. A more accurate way of putting it would be to say that Jim Buss has as much business running a professional basketball team as I do. But that’s what nepotism will do for you. It puts people in positions they have no business being in. Just because daddy ran a successful sports franchise or company doesn’t mean it will translate to junior. Especially when junior has zero real world experience. Working for daddy before he hands over the keys to the kingdom doesn’t qualify. There is something to be said for branching out and being your own person. There is something to be said for building a name for yourself and blazing your own path. I am not going to get on my soap box and give you all a lecture about being your own person. I don’t claim to have all the answers anyway.

What I am going to do is point out the colossal failures that come from family run sports franchises. I realize for every example I show you, there are two more that go the other direction. For every failure I point out, there is a success story of children taking over for their parents; whether that be in sports or in business.

I also understand the desire of billionaires to keep their companies in family hands. They’ve built an empire, and they don’t necessarily want someone unrelated handling their affairs. I completely understand that. What I do not understand is their complete lack of interest in assuring that the son or daughter they will pass their legacy onto is actually up to the task of running the business. Keep it in the family sure, but don’t just turn it over to the kids because they’re your offspring. Had Jerry Buss looked at his son through an unbiased lens, there is no way on God’s green earth Jimmy would be running the Lakers right now. The Lakers aren’t the only franchise to have this issue. The sports world is littered with little Bobbies and Debbies ruining what their fathers started. I give you the top three family disasters in sports history.

          Today I settled all Family business, so don’t tell me you’re innocent.”

Don Michael Corleone

The San Francisco 49ers: While this isn’t a father/child relationship, there can be little question that the 49ers franchise all but fell apart when the team went from owner Eddie DeBartolo to his sister Marie. The 49ers are one of the most storied teams in the history of the NFL, going a perfect 5-0 in Super Bowls. They also just happen to have the best quarterback and wide receiver in NFL history. That was a distant memory when they entered the dark ages of Marie. She officially took control in 1999.  What followed was the darkest decade in 49ers history. It included no less than five coaching changes in ten years coupled with a complete playoff drought. Now the 49ers are back in the Super Bowl for the first time since 1994.  No thanks to Marie DeBartolo York. She is still technically linked to the organization as a chairperson, but her decision-making days are over.  I wonder if that has anything to do with the 49ers being back in the Super Bowl.

The Cincinnati Bengals:  Talk about a walking disaster.  Mike Brown has been to the city of Cincinnati what Hurricane Katrina was to New Orleans. Mike Brown officially took control of the Bengals after his father, Paul Brown, passed away in 1991. What has followed since? Only five winning seasons. Only a .361 winning percentage. I could go on and on about the records the Bengals have set for losing streaks and winless starts to the season, but that would literally be kicking someone while they were down. It’s not like the Bengals were the 49ers before Mike Brown took over. Although they did at least play in two Super Bowls in the 80’s and could have won both of the those games. The saddest part of Mike Brown’s ownership isn’t all the losing; it’s that he doesn’t seem to mind it. The man has done next to nothing as his team and its diehard fans waste away year after year. The Bengals have shown signs of life, making the playoffs the past two years, but with Mike Brown still running the show, it’s hard to get excited about the future of this team.

The Los Angeles Lakers: This story is only a few years in the making and it’s already a classic. Jerry Buss, the former owner of the Lakers, led his beloved franchises to ten NBA titles. He did so with rosters full of hall of famers. Players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. His son, Jim Buss, has only been in charge a few short years and it’s been downhill ever since. It started by forcing out Zen Master, Phil Jackson, after he won the 11th NBA title of his coaching career. Jim wanted to rid himself of anything leftover from his father’s time in charge. Along with Jackson, most of the front office was replaced. What do the Lakers have to show for it? Well, they have one of the highest payrolls in the NBA and a border-line playoff team at best. They are already on their second coach under Jim’s short tenure. Now Jimmy faces major issues; Dwight Howard is not long for LA and passing on Phil Jackson after he fired Mike Brown has proven to be his worst decision to date. If I were a Lakers fan, I would be very concerned about the future of my team.

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