"Sometimes I ask myself if it's worth it. But then I think of the satisfaction I've gotten from watching this team develop, and I long for the day we win a World Series—or three or four. I want to make up for a lot of bad years."
In the meantime, feeling suddenly ancient when he found that his youngest players do not remember the Whiz Kids, the heroes he used to take batting practice with at age 10, Carpenter says, "I'm going to write a book, How to Make a Small Fortune in Baseball. First, you start with a large fortune...."
If a pro franchise is really such a high-risk, low-yield venture, then why do so many supposedly astute businessmen get involved? Well, how can one be a pillar of society without a favorite charity? The Pacers' Bill Eason says, "I help support the symphony and the art museum, and I think pro basketball is just as important, or more so. It's simply one of those necessary elements in a large city."
Walter O'Malley, who had no compunctions about stripping Brooklyn of its most visible status symbol, terms his Los Angeles Dodgers a "hobby investment." Jack Kent Cooke is not so fussy. The Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings, Washington Redskins? "It's a hobby," he says, gesturing at the grand piano in the main lodge of his 16,000-acre Raljon Ranch. "Just like my playing the piano or composing music. It's so much more fun than almost any business that I know. I'd much rather watch Kareem than see a bunch of Chevy Novas come off the production line."
George (If-You-Can't-Beat-'Em, Buy-'Em) Steinbrenner loves watching his boyhood fantasies being acted out by New York Yankees with nice clean-cut short hair, just like his idol Joe DiMaggio had. "I never played baseball, except sandlot, but I read a lot of good books on the subject," says Steinbrenner. "I am childlike, almost infantlike in my respect for the Yankee tradition. I am like a kid with his first lollipop."
Loserville, U.S.A.: A morality play in five acts, with a little dramatic license.
ACT I: 1965. Rankin Smith, 41, Life Insurance Company of Georgia heir, buys new Atlanta Falcon franchise for $8.5 million and meets the press.
Smith: Doesn't every red-blooded American boy want to own his own pro football team?
ACT II: 1974. Falcon nine-year record: 41-75-4. Smith under fire. Former Coach Norb Hecker says Smith's nine-year-old son was allowed to make a draft choice. Smith calls Coach Norm Van Brocklin into his office.