Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Emulating Shahid Khan...

For all the animus Indians have on Pakistanis (and vice versa), there are lessons to be learned everywhere in the sense that any rational Indian (or Pakistani) would want some curious incidents emulated. Shahid Khan has owned the Jacksonville Jaguars football team for more than a year now. An UI graduate, Shahid, has most likely inaugurated the Jags' worst season on record (I expect it to finish 2-14 as the Pats visit next, followed by a trip to Nashville). And given that Florida is known not only for its pregnant chads and hanging chads, but also two other floopy chads on the gridiron -- Pennington and Henne, that 2-14 mark was a foregone conclusion. Even though alluring, I hope the Jags dont waste their impending first pick at the draft with Geno Smith or worse, Matt Barkley and pick someone like Manti Te'o instead. That said, whatever be the Jags' pick, it is not hard to bet on the rise of the Jags in the coming few years.

All this background begs the question: why is the ownership of the Jags worthy of emulation by the Indian and/or Pakistani expat community?
1) While Shahid is a part of the visible revolution in ownership of mega-sports franchises in the US coming in the not-so-long-line of African-American and Latina/o celebrity owners of the recent past (Jay-Z, Usher, Jennifer Lopez, Will Smith, and so on), he is nevertheless a potent symbol that the symbols of what make Entertainment America, Inc., are available for sale to the highest bidder provided some "home"-ownership caveats* are not bruised in the process.

2) Owning franchises is a self-contradictory proposition. It is rare to see winning money-making franchises put up for sale. Packs, Yanks, Pats, Dodgers, no they are not about to be sold anytime soon. But, even losing franchises gain in capital value over time. This is because there are very few franchises around (even fewer marquee franchises) and a large number of suitors (glamorous and not-so-glamorous) fishing for them -- either for vanity or for business or for any of the gazillion reasons one can conjure up (tax benefits, possibly). The classical supply-demand mismatch means that the asset value bubbles up over time with more and more money chasing the elusive ownership tag. Thus, the owner makes the biggest profit when he/she gives up a part of the/the whole stake in the franchise and ergo, no longer commands the franchise.

3) Often time, franchise-buyers coax out sweetheart deals on stadia/merchandising from the City that looks up to the franchise for circulating the local economy. While some cities such as LA can see spikes in green-nik protesting in the process of bringing a football franchise "back home," almost every other City could care less about environmental regulations and other jazz as long as the local unemployment rate is held under a cap. Some of these stadia/merchandising sweetheart deals accrue tangible benefits as the real-estate market bubbles up, an eventuality that is a given in a mid- to big-City in the medium- to long-term.

4) Noone in the US loves a losing team. So all that said, when bought, it is difficult to steer a losing franchise to winning on the field and help it make money for the investments put in. It is also difficult to get the professional players to play for pride when millions of $ float around and every concussion is valued in terms of the $ lost rather than in terms of certain death at 40s. Its even more difficult to get the City going nuts over a franchise and building a Black-Hole, or a cheesehead club, or a Jerry World. Every entrepreneur worthy his/her salt loves such a challenge. Its a better challenge than being the CEO of a Fortune-500 company, because it is his/her own money at stake and not of the stockholders (not always).

5) Franchise owners form a club of exclusivity and he/she gets to hobnob with the fellow-travelers in this weird journey. While owning a franchise does not get a free-pass from the security drills the TSA puts in, it does get attention from the people who make the news and the views, even if they are of the TMZ variety. The constant gripe of the Indian community that they do not get adequate attention of the powers-that-be relative to the houbara-hunting-facilitators across the border can only be resolved by playing the power game in all its dirty glory.


*The caveats mentioned above are all-powerful and make America what it is (today). It would be implausible to imagine the town of Green Bay ever giving up on their team -- the entire population up north of the Rockford Line and part of the W in the Paul Bunyan's Axe is going to bubble up and un-winterize the Frozen Tundra. Nor are some rivalries going to go away -- Red Sox-Yanks, Packs-Bears, Colts-Pats, etc. So a Rams-type team is not going to run away from LA every other day. Nor will a virtual non-entity be allowed to bid, let alone win a bid. Even less so if that non-entity is from Third World country with no antecedents of the game, ever. Thus, it is not surprising that Wayne Weaver was so embarrassed by the Shahid Khan-bid for Jags that he offered Shahid to pass the bid on. Shahid did not, and therein lies the message that needs to be hit in 24-ct gold.

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