- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"You have to keep your product in reach of your customers, moneywise," says Battistone. "We have a lot of fans who become $6 and $7.50 customers after being exposed to the NBA. We're going to keep that $1.50 ticket."
Battistone sees only eight to 10 home games a season, his headquarters in Santa Barbara being some 1,800 miles removed from the Superdome and the wonderful, whirling world of Pete Maravich. But no matter, he claims, because there are always the telephone and the sports pages. "I keep in touch," he says.
At 37, tall, trim and altogether California smashing in his vest and French cuffs, Battistone still plays an aggressive forward for two Santa Barbara basketball teams, one of them sponsored by the Mormon church, of which he is a member. It was his passion for sports, he says, that led him to found Invest West Sports, a group of young jock-businessmen like himself who have invested in such enterprises as team tennis, pro track, sports camps, an ice-skating rink and a tennis club. "Besides the profit motive, it's an opportunity to make new business contacts and have some excitement at the same time," Battistone says.
Frustration and a financial bath is what he ended up with when IWS got burned with the Southern California Sun. "The WFL was an interesting experience," he says. "I came out poorer but wiser."
But not overly so. Battistone, who whipped up his first bacon burger at 11 and was raised on the concept of teamwork for shared profit (Sambo's owns 50% of each of its franchises), finds NBA owners' meetings a bit bewildering. He says, "In a business sense the NBA is unusual in that I'm dependent on the success of my competitors. It requires a joint effort to make the league prosper, but I find that people in sports are motivated differently than those in business. The ego and show business influence is there. By nature the owners are very independent, very competitive, very used to having their own way. To my mind, their decisions are not always practical."
While trying to divine the collective psyche of the NBA, Battistone dreams more pleasant thoughts. "I'm just waiting for the day the Jazz gets into the playoffs," he says, "because there're going to be 60,000 hysterical fans jammed into that Superdome. I just want to see us win one in overtime. Mayhem!"
PASS THE KETCHUP
Though the invasion of the jet-age owner has profoundly changed the character of professional sports management, vestiges of the old one-man's-family approach exemplified by the benevolent reign of the late Tom Yawkey and his magic Boston Red Sox checkbook still are tenaciously entrenched. Indeed, so many of the owners have sons, wives, nephews and distant cousins on the payroll that it all but insures that there will always be a Wrigley, a Rooney and a Jack Kent Cooke VIII checking gate receipts somewhere.
The former intimacy of the player-owner relationship, however, seems to be forever changed. No longer do the Chicago Cubs hit up the old man, P. K. Wrigley, for a loan or an advance. Wrigley, now 82, does not go to the ball park anymore, and even if he did, the players would find that everyone's favorite quirky uncle has changed. Living in semi-seclusion at his Lake Geneva, Wis. retreat, Wrigley sums up his more than four decades in the game thusly: "We've been too lenient, too lenient."