I’ve been thinking a lot about Tom Hicks lately, about his involvement in soccer.
He’s pretty much reviled around my town now because he’s been exposed for what he is – an opportunist who should never be in sports ownership. In the big picture, clubs with rich histories and legions of fans shouldn’t be put in the hands of people who just want to make a buck and expand their aristocratic profile.
The Liverpool FCs, the Fulhams, the Schalkes, the AJaxs of the world shouldn’t be reduced to Boardwalk and Park Place for rich people. It should be about more than that. (For that matter, so should the Cubs, Red Sox, Islanders, Packers, etc. … pretty much every professional team in every sport.)
In a smaller window on all this, I’m just happy about two things: I’m so very glad Tom Hicks never got into MLS, as so many people were hoping a few years ago, before Toto showed us the man behind the curtain, before Hicks was exposed. And I’m also so very glad that Hicks is out of the sport that we love – a sport he knew nothing about before he bought Liverpool.
(FYI, a few years back the University of Texas began making noise about starting a men’s ice hockey program. This is one of the world’s biggest, richest universities. And yet, it has no men’s soccer program. Too expensive. So why was UT making noise about ice hockey? It’s only a theory, and I want to stress that, but I suspect a certain major donor was behind it. Hicks, who was heavily involved in UT athletics at the time, certainly had an interest in seeing hockey flourish in the state. The Dallas Stars club that he owned had a number of ice hockey centers spread around the Dallas area. So there was the university saying, essentially, “Soccer? Nah … don’t need it. But ice hockey … now that’s a sport we’re exploring.”)
The other reason I’m thinking about Hicks these days is all about karma. He’s finally out as Texas Rangers owner. All this recent stuff with Liverpool … it pretty much happened with the Rangers, too. The devil’s in the details, of course, but it wasn’t so far from the same, with Hicks fighting tooth and Texas nail to protect himself and squeeze whatever he could personally from the sale.
All along, I wondered why things were so different for the rich? Why are life’s rules so different for 99 percent of us?
Think of Liverpool or the Texas Rangers. Then think of your house or your car. If you or I just up and decide to stop making payments, they take our stuff! That’s it.
Or, if I invest $5,000 in, say, a local restaurant, and that restaurant goes under, I lose my money. That’s it.
But it just doesn’t work that way for people better protected by the establishment.
Here’s my simpleton’s analogy of all that went on:
My girlfriend and I own our house. But we have a mortgage. Let’s say a few years ago we bought a summer home, even though we really didn’t have the money. We used our current house as collateral.
Then, let’s say we bought a few rent properties in the neighborhood. We didn’t really have the money, but we used our current home and our summer home as collateral. Then we were drawing some nice income off our rental properties. Suh-weet!
And we got to act like big shots around the neighborhood because we controlled property – even though we really didn’t ever own them. The banks did, technically. But since we were kings and queens of the ‘hood, and since we knew people and since we knew our way around the banking structures, we just kept on keepin’ on.
Oh, a lot of people whispered about us not really having a lot of money. But since we were big shots and threw big parties in the neighborhood and had some power, they never made waves.
Well, then the economy tanked. And cash was short. So we decided we didn’t want to make the payments, not under the current arrangement, at any rate.
So we stopped paying. We told the banks, “You’ll have to restructure the loans, because we’re just not going to honor the terms. Got it? Good.” And for whatever reason, because we were powerful and drove fancy cars, the banks didn’t just come and take our house or our properties. Pretty much any individual would be on the street. But not us. We knew how the game the system.
Then, when push came to shove, we tried hard to sell. Since the economy was on the skids, no one was offering what we wanted.
And we got pissed. “Damnit! We wanted to make some righteous cash by selling our properties! I mean, we’re big shots. We deserve it! We are entitled to make some money – never mind that we never really put a bunch of money into it. And never mind that we pulled money out of the whole thing while we owned it. We deserve handsome profit. We demand handsome profit!”
And when we couldn’t make money on properties we never really should have had … we decided to sue the crap out of everyone.
Simple, I know. And maybe it’s not totally accurate as an analogy. (You MBAs and accountants and generally smart people, please share if you have a parallel that’s more parallel.)
Bottom line, I’m happy Hicks never got into soccer in the United States, and I’m happy he’s out of the game. I even wore the shirt I bought at Anfield a couple of years ago while I coached my soccer game last week in celebration