“Why would anybody write such a hateful letter. I am.just guessing but ill bet your life is a mess and you are a hateful mess. What have you done that anyone would consider positive or nice. I am betting nothing. In fact ill bet you are negative force in everyone who comes in contact with you. You most likely have made your family miserable. Alcoholic maybe. I just celebrated my 21 year anniversary of sobriety. You should try it. Maybe it will help you become a person that folks would like to have around. In the mean while start rooting for the Nets because the Knicks dont want you. Respectfully James Dolan.”
That was Knicks owner James Dolan’s email response to disgruntled 73-year-old fan Irving Bierman, who criticized Dolan over how he’s run the team, from low-balling Steve Kerr – who’s having a breakout first season with the Warriors – to his dealings with Isiah Thomas years ago. Bierman said he’s embarrassed to support the team and urged the owner to sell the franchise.
Over the years, it’s hard to imagine Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs hasn’t received similar notes expressing disappointment regarding his frugal behavior, though that has not been an issue in the several years since hiring general manager Peter Chiarelli. Red Sox ownership, even with the group’s inclination to spend and grand success in bringing three championships to the city since 2004, has never been free of passionate criticism from its rabid fans.
Heck, even the Patriots’ and Celtics’ owners, albeit to a much lesser degree, have received their share of complaints, albeit typically misguided or overstated.
But never in a million years would men like Jacobs, John Henry, Robert Kraft, or Wyc Grousbeck have fired off an email to a fan the way Dolan did, laden with typos and grammatical errors, asserting he must be dealing with alcoholism, and insisting he root for another franchise. Even the fiery Larry Lucchino would have known better, no matter what he would have muttered as he aggressively punched at his keyboard with his fingertips before taking a deep breath and wisely discarding the draft.
Sometimes we truly don’t know how lucky we have it around here, and that doesn’t even have to include the nine championships and four near-miss title opportunities dating back to February 2002.
Whether it’s their positive attitudes, visibility without interference, community contributions or, most important, a willingness to provide their teams with the resources required to build winning organizations, Boston’s local ownership has come a long way from the days of Victor Kiam and James Orthwein, Paul Gaston, and Tom Yawkey. Jacobs, who’s owned the Bruins since 1975, has even made some forget he was one of the men chiefly responsible for the 2012-13 lockout.
Kiam didn’t support female reporters in the Patriots locker room and made headlines when he allegedly called former Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson a “classic bitch”; Orthwein wanted to move the Pats to his native St. Louis a few years later (can you imagine the St. Louis Stallions?!); Gaston oversaw all but a couple of losing Celtics teams and also ushered in the unforgivable Rick Pitino era; and Yawkey, whose family and subsequent JRY Trust owned the Red Sox for 68 years until the 2001 sale to Henry’s group, entered Baseball’s Hall of Fame with the reputation of being a racist after being the last major league franchise to employ a black player, along with other transgressions.
Like I said, we’ve come a long way around here, and that’s not simply defined by the evolution from “Loserville” to “Titletown”.
Sure, winning helps, something those previous owners never experienced at the highest level in their combined nearly 100 years overseeing their respective franchises. Obviously if the league-worst 10-42 Knicks were having any level of success (even the 19-31 C’s sit just 2.5 games out of a playoff spot in the miserable East), Dolan wouldn’t have received Bierman’s scathing note.
But, then, that’s really not the point, is it?
Fellow New York owner Woody Johnson, head of the Jets, has often had fans calling for his head, but he’s never gotten himself in this kind of pickle. Of course, describing the situation as a pickle might be something of an overstatement since Dolan won’t be punished.
“Jim is a consummate New Yorker,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver told the New York Post, noting the Knicks owner won’t be punished for his remarks. “Jim got an unkind email and responded with an unkind email.”
Wonderful. Eye for an eye. And why not insult New Yorkers while he’s at it?
Silver’s done an awful lot of good in his short time since taking over for David Stern, but this is a misstep. At the least, Silver should make an example of Dolan in the form of a fine or suspension for embarrassing the league and one of its most valuable organizations, never mind himself. Again, he insinuated an angry fan suffered from alcoholism. There’s pretty clear a line was crossed when a disease is not only assumed, but attacked. Maybe the Knicks’ lack of success, with just one playoff series win in his last 14 years (and soon to be 15) on the job since being gifted the team by his father, is punishment enough in Silver’s eyes. I don’t know.
Credit Bierman for sticking by his team and not going all-in for Nets season tickets, at least so far. Loyalty in sports is hard to find these days.
That unabashed loyalty is even rarer among owners, but we have it across the board here in Boston. And, seemingly, given the potential for family to take the reins with the Pats and B’s (Jonathan Kraft and Charlie Jacobs, respectively), the young age of the C’s heads, and perhaps Henry’s other interests in the community, the local ownership won’t be changing hands any time soon.