Hey kids, guess what time it is!
Yes, it’s time once again for History You Don’t Care About, so quick, grab your parents and flee until this potential menace of learning blows over.
Dallas Cowboys oligarch Jerry Jones is threatening his fellow National Football League owners with the high-priced lawyer to the stars and scars David Boies, all over his ongoing jihad with commissioner Roger Goodell. The reason du jour, by all accounts, is Ezekiel Elliott, and whether Goodell told Jones he would not suspend the running back.
The real reason, of course, is so that Jones can run the league to his own specifications without bureaucratic interference. Billionaire’s prerogative, I think it’s called, and its coat of arms is a gigantic gray-haired man holding a scepter of Bitcoins and stock certificates while wearing a crown and an ermine cape while sitting on a throne of skulls and tattered wallets.
This reminds us that Jones’ entry into the league was highlighted by the way he cozied up to and tried to emulate the last NFL owner to fight a commissioner and league single-handed, Al Davis. Davis won the right to relocate his team (Raiders II) in court, but his war against Pete Rozelle ended short of this level on enmity only because Rozelle resigned before Davis could finish the job.
That was in the fun-filled ‘80s, when the richest teams were worth about one-fifth what the Cowboys are worth today, so you see Goodell’s main line of defense – as well as Jones’ leading avenue of attack.
The closest any other sport has come to mutiny was when five baseball owners (known collectively as The Great Lakes Gang, in that they came from Milwaukee, Chicago, Minnesota and Los Angeles) gathered a majority of their brethren to force Fay Vincent’s resignation in 1992. That wasn’t singlehanded treachery, though, but the will of the majority in the face of overwhelming logic – another valuable lesson in the limits of democracy.
But Jones’ action is also against the other owners trying to flaunt his petulant will, which brings to mind one other great battle in owner-on-owner crime, when in 1917 four of the National Hockey Association’s five team owners met to expel the fifth team, the Toronto Blueshirts, if it didn’t separate itself from its owner, Eddie Livingstone. When the team refused, the league disbanded and a week later reformed as a four-team league without Livingstone or his employees.
We mention that not because this is the 100th anniversary of that brilliant parliamentary maneuver – burn the village down around the guy you don’t like and build a new village up the street – but because the idea of Jerry Jones as the owner of a National Football League with one team is, well, hilarious in any era.
Then again, that would mean rooting for the other 31, and there are simply some frontiers we cannot in good conscience travel.
History lesson over. You can come out now.