Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Frank McCourt And The Eye Of The Tiger

Jon Weisman over at ESPN Los Angeles poses an interesting juxtaposition between Charlie Sheen, about whom he writes for his day job, and Frank McCourt, about whom he occasionally writes for his day job. Both tragic figures have a key element in common, says Weisman:

I'm not going to try to stretch out too many parallels between Charlie Sheen and Frank McCourt, but I can't help thinking there's at least one. Sheen has made it clear that he is living by his own rules. He believes those rules are fair and righteous, and the fact that society, fans of his show, the people he (at least previously) answered to or even blood relatives might not share that view does not matter. Setbacks are hurdles to be bulldozed. "Defeat is not an option," Sheen says over and over again.

One of Sheen's most memorable lines came when he was railing against Alcoholics Anonymous, saying that it is for "people that are not special, people who do not have tiger blood and Adonis DNA." Charlie Sheen believes he has tiger blood. And though he would never say it like this, I suspect that in his own way, Frank McCourt believes he has tiger blood too.

Over the past 15 months, McCourt has seemed unshakable in his belief that what he's doing is right. That what he's doing is best for his children. That anything one might call a mistake or selfishness is, at worst, a means to an end. That the people who question him simply don't understand. That he will be vindicated. That because he's been a winner in the past, he'll be a winner in the future. Even when he's ridden on the edge of the cliff.

I imagine that tiger blood is a trait shared by a number of people who become successful, but there comes a point when it goes beyond empowering and becomes a pollutant. I have no expectations that this tiger is going to change his stripes. I don't believe he's going to give up the Dodgers without clawing or scratching through the last fight. But tiger blood makes people selfish to the extreme, and even allowing for the eccentricities and entitlements of ownership, circumstances have long since stopped any reasonable defense of his fight.

Yes, McCourt has rights. But he also has duties.

For all his romping and stomping, Sheen realizes that there is life after "Two and a Half Men." It's time that the McCourts embark upon life after the Dodgers. It's time they find a new passion. Quit this pretense that you're the best thing for this franchise, quit this pretense that your children deserve to inherit leadership of the team, and let go.

I've met Frank McCourt, but by no means am I qualified to psychoanalyze him...that said, it has been interesting to watch his tenure as Dodgers owner deathspiral due to a series of blunders and miscalculations. For an owner who presided over three playoff appearances in a short four-year span, including two postseason series victories which were the franchise's first in almost two decades--one would think that he would be canonized, rather than vilified.

And yet, watching Frank McCourt continually misstep is like watching Sideshow Bob in a lawn full of rakes (shout out to Karina with that there link!). McCourt revamps the parking lot system, but traffic flow nightmares make him run straight into a bollard. He heralds a band-aid public transportation alternative, a shuttle from Union Station, and then gets pummeled when he refuses to renew the deal (amidst an economic recession that made his $15 parking fees look even more garish). He wows fans with a new field level overhaul but loses appetite for further investment, reinforcing criticism that the Stadium segregates by class. He supports worthy charitable causes, but pays the head of the foundation an astronomically imbalanced salary. He tries to solicit other investors for cash flow, and his multiple rebuffs leak all over the press.

And worse than all of that, his presence in front of the media is simply a disaster, which culminated in the spectacle and circus of a very public divorce case that he ended up losing. Big time. I used to think McCourt just needed better handlers, like any celebrity or public figure; but as I was reminded by someone with the Dodgers, Frank McCourt has had his own publicist--and that hasn't worked, either. It's almost as if he can't save himself from himself.

Now, I'm one of those people who prefers to see the good in people. I know this probably comes as a shock given my overly sarcastic bent. But deep down in my heart, I'm sincerely hoping that Matt Kemp will rebound, that James Loney will finally find his power swing, that Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal's bodies won't betray them, that Jonathan Broxton will regain his swagger, that Chad Billingsley will gain unshakable confidence, that Hong Chih-Kuo's elbow won't snap in two, that Dioner Navarro and Juan Uribe won't eat the Dodgers out of house and home.

And I'd like to give Frank McCourt the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he's just misunderstood somehow, right? Maybe he means well for the Dodgers? It's unlikely, but maybe?

Weisman, as he wrote in his last paragraph above, is done with Frank McCourt. Roll credits. I'm guessing most other Dodger fans are with Weisman, and the jury of public opinion has reached its verdict. Heck, maybe I need to be there, too.

Perhaps, in hoping for better with Frank McCourt, I'm actually the one who is Sideshow Bob.

Uhhhhhhhhhh (said with floppy lips and clenched teeth).

Also, what is it with all these tiger references of late? First tiger moms, now tiger's blood--enough already. I'm tigered out.


Nostradamus said...

Setting aside the question "What is wrong with both these people?", I think the comparison is still apt.

The bottom line is that neither of these guys is helped by the standards of their peer group, either.

While I don't like higher ticket prices and parking, I don't think Frank is all that greedy when compared to other MLB owners (who seem pretty quick to cry hard times for a bunch of multi-millionaires with teams playing in publicly-funded stadia) in the same way that I don't believe that Charlie is all that outrageous when compared to the porn stars and Hollywood burnouts he associates with.

That's a long way from saying that I sympathize with either of them, but I you can pretty clearly see that losing touch with reality is a pretty gradual process.

Mr. LA Sports Czar said...

They're both hanging tough, staying hungry.

Kyle Baker said...

Easy, tiger.