Forbes magazine -- run by Malcolm Stevenson Forbes Jr., two times a delusional conservative Presidential candidate and no times a regular guy named "Steve" -- has ranked the 50 Richest Sports Franchises in the world.
1 Manchester United Manchester, England, UK Soccer $1.86 B
2 Dallas Cowboys Dallas, Texas, USA Football $1.81 B
3 New York Yankees New York, New York, USA Baseball $1.7 B
4 Washington Redskins Washington, DC, USA Football $1.45 B
5 Real Madrid Madrid, Spain Soccer $1.45 B
6 New England Patriots Boston, Massachusetts, USA Football $1.37 B
7 Arsenal FC London, England, UK Soccer $1.19 B
8 New York Giants New York, New York, USA Football $1.18 B
9 Houston Texans Houston, Texas, USA Football $1.17 B
10 New York Jets New York, New York, USA Football $1.14 B
11 Philadelphia Eagles Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Football $1.12 B
12 Baltimore Ravens Baltimore, Maryland, USA Football $1.07 B
13 Scuderia Ferrari Maranello, Emilia-Romanga, Italy Auto Racing $1.07 B
14 Chicago Bears Chicago, Illinois, USA Football $1.07 B
15 Denver Broncos Denver, Colorado, USA Football $1.05 B
16 Indianapolis Colts Indianapolis, Indiana, USA Football $1.04 B
17 Carolina Panthers Charlotte, North Carolina, USA Football $1.04 B
18 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tampa, Florida, USA Football $1.03 B
19 Bayern Munchen FC Munich, Bavaria, Germany Soccer $1.03 B
20 Green Bay Packers Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA Football $1.02 B
21 Cleveland Browns Cleveland, Ohio, USA Football $1.02 B
22 Miami Dolphins Miami, Florida, USA Football $1.01 B
23 Pittsburgh Steelers Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA Football $996 M
24 Tennessee Titans Nashville, Tennessee, USA Football $994 M
25 Seattle Seahawks Seattle, Washington, USA Football $989 M
26 FC Barcelona Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain Soccer $975 M
27 Kansas City Chiefs Kansas City, Missouri, USA Football $965 M
28 New Orleans Saints New Orleans, Louisiana, USA Football $955 M
29 San Francisco 49ers San Francisco, California, USA Football $925 M
30 Arizona Cardinals Phoenix, Arizona, USA Football $919 M
31 Boston Red Sox Boston, Massachusetts, USA Baseball $912 M
32 San Diego Chargers San Diego, California, USA Football $907 M
33 Cincinnati Bengals Cincinnati, Ohio, USA Football $905 M
34 AC Milan Milan, Lombardy, Italy Soccer $838 M
35 Atlanta Falcons Atlanta, Georgia, USA Football $831 M
36 Detroit Lions Detroit, Michigan, USA Football $817 M
37 McLaren Racing Woking, England, USA Auto Racing $815 M
38 Los Angeles Dodgers Los Angeles, California, USA Baseball $800 M
39 Buffalo Bills Buffalo, New York, USA Football $799 M
40 St. Louis Rams St. Louis, Missouri, USA Football $779 M
41 Minnesota Vikings Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA Football $774 M
42 Chicago Cubs Chicago, Illinois, USA Baseball $773 M
43 Oakland Raiders Oakland, California, USA Football $758 M
44 New York Mets New York, New York, USA Baseball $747 M
45 Jacksonville Jaguars Jacksonville, Florida, USA Football $725 M
46 Chelsea FC London, England, UK Soccer $658 M
47 New York Knicks New York, New York, USA Basketball $655 M
48 Los Angeles Lakers Los Angeles, California, USA Basketball $643 M
49 Juventus FC Turin, Piedmont, Italy Soccer $628 M
50 Philadelphia Phillies Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Baseball $609 M
Now, I'm not surprised to see Man United at Number 1. Nor am I surprised at the other soccer teams -- sorry, forgot to speak English there, football clubs, that are in the Top 50: Real Madrid, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Milan, Chelsea and Juventus. But I was shocked that so many teams on the list were OUR football, rather than football/futbol/fussball/voetbal/calcio. Surely, clubs like Liverpool, the Glasgow giants Rangers and Celtic, Internazionale (the "other" club in Milan), AS Roma of Rome, Portugal's Benfica, and one or two other German clubs would have made the list. (And, of course, Arsenal's North London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, didn't make the list -- and their fans still think they're a "big club.")
Then I remembered: Unlike soccer, the National Football League has that revenue-sharing plan. It's what makes it possible for Green Bay -- or even its closest big city, Milwaukee -- able to compete on an even keel with New York.
That's why the NFL has locked out the players: They can afford it. Whereas in the soccer-centric countries, all of which view socialism as something that, in moderation, works, rather than as poison the way a majority of Americans view it, they realize that, when labor benefits, management benefits, too.
No hockey teams made the list. Not the Rangers, not the new Stanley Cup winners the Boston Bruins, not even Canada's 2 biggest teams, the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs, neither of whom has played to an unsold seat since World War II. (Unfilled, maybe; unsold, never.) And the only basketball teams that made the list were the Knicks and Lakers -- not the Boston Celtics, not the Miami Heat, and not the new champion Dallas Mavericks, and I suspect none of those will make the list next year, either.
Looking at the NFL teams, I saw some things that surprised me:
* The Jets ranked 6th among NFL teams. I'm not surprised that they trail the Giants (4th), but they trail the Giants by "only" $40 million. I guess sharing ownership of the new Meadowlands Stadium has been as big a boost as making it to 2 straight AFC Championship Games, every bit as much as being a "New York" team does. (On the chart, I've listed each team's base of operations as the nearest big city, which is why the Giants and Jets aren't listed as "East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA."
* The Baltimore Ravens are 8th among NFL teams. Baltimore is not a big market, especially when you don't include the Washington, DC market. This is why Orioles owner Peter Angelos was adamant about Washington not getting Major League Baseball back, consistently leaving such votes as 27-1 or 29-1. (Camden Yards and Nationals Park are just 37 miles apart, a little closer than Liverpool FC's Anfield and Man United's Old Trafford -- and while Baltimore and Washington don't hate each other as much as the cities of Liverpool and Manchester do, it's bad enough; some Washingtonians still blame the 1964-71 success of the Orioles for the 1971 death of the Senators.)
* The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the most valuable sports team in the State of Florida, slightly ahead of the Miami Dolphins. Truly shocking, especially when you consider that the Dolphins not only had a 10-year head start, but have been Playoff contenders for almost their entire existence, while the Bucs have had long stretches where they've been a freaking joke franchise. However, the Bucs -- run by the Glazer family, which also owns Man United -- have had a much better business model. Since 1997, 14 seasons, the Bucs have made the Playoffs 7 times (and just missed 2 others), reaching and winning a Super Bowl; over the same stretch, the Dolphins have done so just 6 times, and haven't once reached an AFC Championship Game. The Dolphins' last World Championship was 38 seasons ago -- during the Nixon Administration. And Dan Marino, his Mark II receivers and the Killer B's defense may have put up big statistics, but never got them a title; Brad Johnson, Mike Alstott, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and the rest did.
* The Cleveland Browns are worth more than a billion dollars. Granted, that's less than the company that used to have that name, which Art Modell moved to Baltimore. Nevertheless, after 12 seasons, most of which have been bad for the new Browns and good for the Ravens, you would think the Ravens would be worth more than $50 million more than the Browns.
* The New Orleans Saints are worth just under $1 billion. I wonder how much they'd be worth if they hadn't won that Super Bowl; on the other hand, I wonder how much they'd be worth if they hadn't had to play a season outside their home base due to Hurricane Katrina.
* The San Diego Chargers are in the world's Top 50 Richest Sports Franchises. So are the Jacksonville Jaguars. And yet, we keep hearing about how these teams are struggling, and how they might have to move. (The Chargers, most likely, up the freeway to Los Angeles; the Jags, who knows.) In fact, ALL of the NFL's 32 franchises are in the Top 50. That's how much the revenue-sharing deal has helped them.
As for baseball, I don't think anyone's surprised that the top 5 teams are the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs and Mets. Nor that the recently successful Phillies, who've done almost as good a job of promoting themselves as they have of playing the game, are in the overall top 50. What's surprising is that the recent financial shenanigans that have supposedly thrown the Mets and Dodgers into dire straits haven't knocked them off the list.
It's also a little surprising that the Angels aren't on the list, after all Arte Moreno has done to promote them, including changing the name from "Anaheim Angels" to "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim," and, of course, winning, making the Playoffs in 6 of the last 9 years (and having a decent shot this season of making it 7 of 10).
But how dumb are Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn? They've gotten the White Sox into the Playoffs 3 times in the last 11 years, just missed 2 others, and have won Chicago's only Pennant in the last 52 seasons and the city's only World Series in the last 94. And not only are they behind the Cubs (in attendance, too), but they're not in the Top 50! Come on! It's not like Chicago is a small city! It's one of the 4 biggest in the country! (It was 2nd for decades, but L.A. passed it in the 1970s, and Houston is pretty close to passing it as well.) Reinsdorf can't be that stupid, because he built the Bulls into a 6-time World Champion, and they got back to the Eastern Conference Finals this season -- the first time they've ever gotten that far without Michael Jordan.
Finally, it did not escape my notice that the top 2 teams on the list -- the only ones ahead of the Yankees -- are Manchester United and the Dallas Cowboys. These 2 are a lot alike:
* Fans are front-runners. If United ever stop winning, the true fans will jump on United's players the way Cowboy fans jump on Tony Romo every time he screws up in a big game.
* Glory-hunters -- or, the other side of the preceding coin. The joke is that everyone in Manchester actually roots for Manchester City. Or that United is the 2nd-most popular team in London. And in New York. And in Jerusalem. And in Cairo. And in Johannesburg. And in Mumbai. And in Hong Kong. And in Tokyo. And in Sydney. And in, oh yeah, Manchester. United fans are everywhere -- like rats. Same with Cowboy fans. You've seen him: The Cowboy fan in your local Hooters or Outback Steakhouse, cheering on "his" team, when he'd probably piss his pants if he ever actually visited Dallas -- which, like Manchester, has a bit of a crime problem. Indeed, there are a lot of people in Dallas who have no use for the Cowboys, and would rather spend their energy rooting for their college's team, especially if it's the University of Texas -- or, to a lesser degree, Texas A&M, Dallas' Southern Methodist University (SMU) or Fort Worth's Texas Christian University (TCU).
* A warped sense of history. It's true that United had won a few trophies in the 1950s and '60s, but from 1967 to 1993 had never finished first in England's Football League First Division. But with the 1993 Premier League title -- the 2nd season the first division was officially known as "the Premier League" or "the Premiership" -- they've hardly stopped winning. Talk about referees being biased for them all you want, but they have won. They finally surpassed Liverpool this year, 19 titles to 18. And Liverpool haven't finished first since 1990, a drought almost as long as United's old one. (Joke: What ship has never docked in Liverpool? The Premiership.) As a result, United fans act like titles won before it became the Premiership don't count -- just like Cowboy fans act like NFL Championships won before it became the Super Bowl don't count. They'd better think so, or else they've got to admit that their arch-rivals, the Washington Redskins, are even with them, 5-5. Of course, the Pittsburgh Steelers have surpassed them, 6-5, and even the Green Bay Packers now only trail them 5-4 in the Super Bowl era, and lead them 13-5 overall.
* Glitz and glamor. Or "glamour." United have had their share of hard-working players over the years -- "grinders," a hockey fan would call them -- just as the Cowboys have. But they're first and foremost a team of stars, often pretty boys. Granted, no one would ever call Wayne Rooney a pretty boy (in fact, he's often called "a fat ugly Scouser," even by Liverpool fans, themselves "Scousers," and "Shrek" after the cartoon ogre), but Cristiano Ronaldo (a.k.a. "Purseboy"), and the still-there Patrice Evra and Nani fall into this category. Granted, Roger Staubach has been a class act all his life, but he was the epitome of the Cowboys' pretty boy. And what other NFL team would have a receiver, with long blond hair, named Golden Richards? Fans of "blue-collar" teams, such as the Giants, Steelers, Packers, Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles hate the Cowboys even more for their image-is-everything attitude than for their winning. Same with Man United.
I wish there was a way for the Cowboys and United to get together. And then have aliens come and beam them up and take them away to their planet.
But why would I want to do that to a planet full of people Earth doesn't even know? Not good for international relations. And we don't yet have Captain Kirk (or Picard, or even Archer) and a starship Enterprise to protect us.
So... You might be asking, "Wait a minute, Mike, if you hate the Cowboys and United that much, why do you love the Yankees? Aren't they the same way? A cold, impersonal corporate entity with lots of glory-hunting fans, a team pretty much hated by everybody who's not a fan of theirs?"
With the Yankees, it's different. I grew up close to New York -- and, for most of my youth, the Yankees weren't winning all the time. Yes, they won Pennants when I was 7, 8, 9 and 11, and started again when I was 27. But between 11 and 27, they weren't winning. Indeed, there were times when the Yankees were terrible.
Imagine a man 10 years older than I am, who grew up a short (under an hour) train ride from Manchester, and was 8 when United won the League in 1967 and 9 when they won the 1968 European Cup. And then, despite 4 FA Cup wins, United didn't win the League again until 1993, when he would have been 34. But he didn't drop them for Manchester City, or Liverpool, or Don Revie's Leeds United, or Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest, or Arsenal under Bertie Mee, Terry Neill or George Graham.
That kind of fan deserves to be hailed as a true fan of his club. Same with me; I could have dropped the Yankees after the chaos of 1982, or the rise of the Mets from 1984 to 1990, especially after the Yankees finished last in 1990 with the owner getting suspended. But I didn't.
Here's a test: Get a United fan to name the manager before Sir Alex Ferguson -- and get a Yankee Fan to name the starting shortstop before Derek Jeter.
If the Yankee fan can't come up with the name of Tony Fernandez, you can tell him to get lost, he's not a true fan. If the United fan doesn't remember "Big Ron" Atkinson as anything other than an eminently quotable, charged-with-racism pundit, you can tell him to sod off.
Before any other sports franchise was -- before Rutgers football, before the Nets moved to New Jersey, before the Devils existed, before I knew that Arsenal did -- the Yankees were my team. I was still on the bandwagon when it was in the shop. And it was in the shop for a long time. (See "Mattingly, Don/Curse of Donnie Baseball.")
Like Arsenal fan Nick Hornby said: "Perhaps it's something you can't understand, unless you belong."
Aside from the Yankee examples above, I've been through West Virginia 80, Rutgers 7; Syracuse 52, Rutgers 3 on national TV (not that I saw it on TV, because I was there, freezing my ass off in Piscataway); Stephane Matteau turning into New York hockey's Bobby Thomson; the Devils blowing a 3-2 lead to Carolina in the last minute and a half of Game 7 and losing 4-3; and Arsenal blowing a 4-goal lead against Newcastle this past season (with help from a ref) and a pair of 2-goal leads at home against Tottenham in the last 3 seasons.
You're a real fan if you've faced a team having losses like those, compounded through the years -- and you stick with it.
If I were a Red Sox fan, and had lived through Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner and Aaron Boone, and all the little indignities in between, I'd be saying to the kids with the Red Sox caps, from Cambridge to Calabasas, "You front-running jackasses, this is the best era in our team's history, and you're ruining it for the rest of us by acting like that!"
And, yes, there are Yankee fans like that -- notice I do NOT capitalize the F in "fans" on this occasion.
A few years ago, I was reading an article on the Baltimore Orioles. It was a piece on their 1966 World Championship team, and it included a quote from the man who was then their clubhouse manager, who had been with the pre-1954, minor-league team with that name. He was asked to compare the 1944 International League Pennant winners with the 1966 team. He knew what it was like in harder times, even when they were at the top of the minors. He said, "Don't ask me about 'the good old days.' They weren't even lousy."
There are times when I would give anything to sit in the old Yankee Stadium again. And I wouldn't mind seeing another game in the 1938-1992 version of Rutgers Stadium. Although I have been to a Nets game at the Meadowlands Arena (whatever it was named at the time) since the Devils got out and moved into the Prudential Center, and it all came back to me, just how inadequate the "old" building was. How the building still called "the new Madison Square Garden" (now older than the "old Garden" was when it was demolished) is still more modern than the big white barn off Exit 16W.
And that's when I recall that, if given the chance to either see the 1990 Yankees at the old Stadium, or the 2011 Yankees at the new Stadium, I can say, "Been there. Done that. Got ketchup on the T-shirt."
Every real fan of a team knows who his team's other real fans are.