Sunday, June 08, 2014

If Supervillains Owned Sports Teams...

Over at Sports On Earth, the estimable Mike Tanier did a piece this week on what would happen if various superheroes (and Richie Rich, the miserable little son of a gun) were somehow motivated to purchase sports teams. Tanier, whose writing on the NFL has a rare combination of wit, grace and insight, clearly knows and loves comics, and he managed to work a Fin Fang Foom reference into the article, so, nothing to complain about here.


Let’s think for a minute about what we know about sports owners. Do guys like Zygi Wilf really qualify as superheroes, or are they on the opposite side of that equation? Is sticking a city on the hook for $2B for a new stadium the work of a selfless hero, or a masterful manipulator? In short, aren’t an awful lot of team owners really much more like supervillains? And if that’s the case, which villains would potentially invest in sports teams?

We can leave out certain classifications of bad guy here. Cosmic or inter dimensional villains probably have no use for a sports team, even if they do get to amortize part of the team’s payroll. It’s hard to see Galactus, for example, plunking down for a team, as he’s more likely just to eat the stadium site, and the planet it’s sitting on. On the other hand, there are plenty of villains who have the financial wherewithal, the economic savvy and the megalomaniacal desire that goes into making a prospective owner without, say, turning the planet into a flaming hell of Parademons and Kirby-esque art swooshes. To wit:

Wilson Fisk would be the perfect owner for the Mets. Feared, respected, and indubitably of New York, he is essentially synonymous with organized crime in the city. He puts on a good front - investing in legitimate businesses, donating to charities - but the bulk of his wealth comes from his illicit activities. The Mets - a floundering but beloved local institution with plenty of growth potential and shaky financials - would be a perfect fit for him. Unfortunately, he’d be a good match for the Mets in other ways, as his obsessive need to put together over-complicated plans (in this case, to kill Daredevil; with the Mets, it’s to sign free agents or change the ballpark or do something with Lucas Duda) inevitably backfire and damage his position. On the bright side, with all those empty seats at Citi Field, it would probably be easy for Fisk to cram himself into a couple of empties, or just have them replaced with one Kingpin-sized seat. The dude is large.

Lex Luthor
There are days when I wake up and I’m mildly surprised Lex doesn’t already own a team. After all, this is a guy who boasted to The Question that he’d blown $75M on a presidential campaign just to irritate Superman. Think of how much cash he’d drop in order to actually get some ROI. Luthor’s well positioned to buy one of sports’ Cadillac franchises - he’s got the cash and the political connections, and the media (apart from Lois Lane) loves the guy. He’d probably bankroll a new ballpark on his own for the PR. Of course, Superman would probably then discover kryptonite laser-producing labs underneath the locker rooms, but hey, it’s his property, right?

Victor Von Doom
While Von Doom’s attempts to get the NBA to expand to Latveria would probably end in failure, he’d still be better than Donald Sterling. Doom’s megalomaniacal pronouncements are notably egalitarian; he thinks all other humans are inferior to Doom. Also, the whole “talking about himself in third person” wackiness would probably divert some media attention away from Mark Cuban, and I can see Adam Silver being thankful for that. And besides, who doesn’t want to see a cutaway to a team’s draft room in order to hear “TRADE DOWN? DOOM DOES NOT DESIRE YOUR PUNY SECOND ROUND PICKS!”

Ra’s al-Ghul
With so many stadiums attempting to “go green”, Ra’s might get tempted to get on the bandwagon. He also might be tempted to lock the stadium doors with everyone inside and demand Batman come rescue them from fiery death, but is that really so different from, say, insisting people buy Personal Seat Licenses? (Seriously, if a comics writer came to their editor with a pitch for making people pay thousands of dollars for the right to pay thousands of dollars for something it would get shot down immediately. The supervillains, they are already among us)   On the bright side, the addition of Lazarus Pit technology would make the team’s trainers the envy of all of sports. Will Carroll would probably plotz on the spot.

Norman Osborn
Zillionaire industrialist? Check. Secretly masquerading as a good corporate citizen? Check? Doing cutting-edge research into performance enhancing chemicals (that just happen to drive you crazy, make you put on pink shorts and a rubber goblin mask, and fly around on a bat-shaped scooter)? Check. There’s no way WADA or anyone else would be able to track down the Goblin’s concoctions through current screening protocols; meanwhile, his backup shortstop would be hitting 40 home runs a year. And the whole “mascot” thing is already taken care of. Kids love the Goblin, doncha know?

A bit of a stretch here, but if one organization was going to embrace analytics, it would be one backed by the computational power of Advanced Idea Mechanics and run by a giant floating brain. OK, maybe one run by Braniac instead. The war over John Hollinger’s services would be intense.

In the end, there would be no shortage of well-moneyed megalomaniacs eager to buy into various leagues, and one suspects most of them would be able to pull it off. Sadly, while we can dream of owners’ meetings where Sebastian Shaw of the Hellfire Club throws down with Vandal Savage over instant replay (and who has the better sideburns), we’re left with the far more mundane, and far less entertaining bunch we’ve got now. 

In way, it’s a pity - if the Rhino or the Riddler ever made a score like the Braves are about to make off Cobb County, they’d be able to retire, and New York and/or Gotham would be the better for it. Then again, if they tried to make that kind of score in the comics, someone in stretchy super tights would probably stop them.

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