Obnoxious Boston Fan

Arthur S. Or Arthur T.? There's a Little of Both In Boston Sports Ownership

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One is an angel.

The other, not so much.

Or at least that's what we've been told and led to believe. The saga of the Fighting Demoulas Cousins, and its effect on Market Basket, has been the story of the summer across New England.

Two Greeks fighting over the family business was the stuff of columns, social media, and blogs 4,000 years ago in ancient Athens.

This family drama, however, has been extraordinary in so many ways.

It's a modern-day George Bailey vs. Mr. Potter.

For a century, the Boston sports scene has been dominated by titans who fit both the roles cast for "good guy" Arthur T. Demoulas and "bad guy" Arthur S. Demoulas.

Benevolent, caring, and wise.

Brutal, greedy, and manipulative.

Do the owners of Boston's pro sports teams fall under the "Arthur T." or "Arthur S." label?

Well, as you'll soon see, many have a little of both.

Hoodie Kraft

Bob Kraft: Whether dancing with Gronk or Ty Law, he's everybody's Arthur T. in 2014.

Kraft, who helped Bon Jovi meet the Ice Bucket Challenge over the weekend, is the doting and caring owner of the New England Patriots. He's smart enough to let Bill Belichick run his football team. He built perhaps the best facility in the NFL east of Levi's Stadium.

Once upon a time, Kraft was on the verge of becoming the ultimate Bay State Arthur S. He had a deal to move the Patriots to Connecticut in 1999, only to kill it at the last minute once he got $72 million in state money to help with the cost of CMGI Field/Gillette Stadium.

That's now ancient history -- three Super Bowl trophies later.

But his inner Arthur S. is never too far away. Just ask Wes Welker.

Henry Stogie

John W. Henry: Disclosure time: Henry's company pays me every month to write this column. His tenure as owner of the Red Sox has undeniably been solidly in Arthur T. territory. Since Henry's group bought the Red Sox, the team has won three World Series, renovated and upgraded Fenway Park, and once-and-for-all exorcised the franchise from both its racist past and the evils of Donald Fitzpatrick.

No matter what Henry and his group do from there, those three accomplishments are Arthur T. gold.

Henry's ownership faces perhaps its biggest challenge this coming offseason. While Red Sox Nation has accepted, with minimal resistance, the failure of 2014, the long knives will be drawn should the team arrive in Fort Myers without at least one bona-fide, big-money ace atop the rotation.

Across Henry's Fenway Sports Group empire, there are signs of Arthur S. creep. The auto racing team cut loose its highest-paid driver, Carl Edwards, for next season. Its soccer team pocketed more than $100 million for selling Luis Suarez. And its baseball team traded Jon Lester after botching its attempts to agree on a long-term deal.

If Henry Owens is the team's Opening Day starter against the Phillies, you can expect multiple "Arthur S. Henry" jabs on Twitter and elsewhere.


Wyc Grousbeck: The CEO, governor, and managing general partner of the Celtics has run the show since 2002. The Celtics are on the verge of entering Stage II of Tankapalooza and Wyc has seemed to emerge from it all relatively unscathed. In the eyes of Celticdom, he's a younger and more dynamic Arthur T. The woes of the Celtics have been assigned to age, bad luck in the lottery, and LeBron James. In the 11 full seasons since Grousbeck took over the Celtics, the team has gone 477-408 and made the playoffs eight times.

But can he get the shelves re-stocked before the end of next summer?

He's got one more year of empty-produce aisles on the Celtics bench before things get really ugly around the parquet and he's cast as an unwilling Arthur S. Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge can only take so much of the fall for another 20-something win season.

Boston Bruins Victory Parade

Jeremy Jacobs: Here's a guy who fit the Arthur S. role to a T for about three decades after taking over the Bruins and Boston Garden. The old Boston Garden was an epic dump. It really was. The romance about the Garden itself is vastly overblown. What made the old Garden great, and your memories special, were the games and other events that took place within its walls.

The building was terrible. From the often cramped, obstructed view seats, to the bathrooms clouded by second-hand smoke (cigarette and otherwise), to the rancid concessions, to the non-existent parking, there was nothing special about it.

Stories about the "new Boston Garden" were common throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Yet Jacobs and Delaware North held onto to the crumbling edifice until the early 1990s. It took a confluence of events that involved the most powerful politicians of the day - including Whitey Bulger's brother, Billy - and $160 million to get the new Garden built.

The history of the Bruins under Jacobs' reign was filled with classic blunders, foolish transactions and catastrophic playoff demises until the 2011 championship season. Like many other business titans later in life, Jeremy Jacobs is now enjoying an Arthur T. renaissance with the public. He bathed in the adoration of millions during the Bruins' Duck Boat parade and has been inoculated ever since.

The failure and frustration of this past season, for instance, has been laid squarely at the feet of the players and coach Claude "Fourth Line" Julien.

There's been scant evidence presented that ownership has prevented the team's front office from making any substantive move it wanted to make. That's all any team can really ask.

Five Owners of The Past:

Tom Yawkey: During his lifetime, Yawkey was regarded as an original Arthur T. He spent lavishly on his players. He created and sustained The Jimmy Fund. He kept the Red Sox going through lean decades, never mind lean years.

But history hasn't been kind to Yawkey's reign as Red Sox owner. He kept the Red Sox whiter than the foul line throughout most of his term as team owner. Little changed after his death during his wife's tenure in charge of the club.

Yawkey's antipathy toward black ballplayers did more to keep Carl Yastrzemski from winning a World Series than any pop-up Yaz ever hit. Bob Gibson was the MVP of the 1967 World Series. Gibson broke into the majors with St. Louis in 1959 three months before the Red Sox were integrated. Hall of Famer Joe Morgan drove in the game-winning run against Yaz and the Red Sox in Game 7 of the 1975 World Series. When Morgan was signed by the old Houston Colt-45s as a free agent in 1962, the Red Sox only had two black players on their team.

Since race is one of the few issues that hasn't come up in the Market Basket saga, we can't assign Yawkey a "Arthur S." grade based on that criteria.

But it's a wrong that truly cursed the team for decades.

John Y. Brown: He once owned Kentucky Fried Chicken. Not just one restaurant, but all of Kentucky Fried Chicken. He was married to Phyllis George, creating one of the 1970s' great power-glam couples. He was even governor of Kentucky. At various points, he owned the ABA's Kentucky Colonels, the NBA's Buffalo Braves, and the Celtics. He's indirectly responsible for the Los Angeles Clippers and all that is Donald Sterling because he swapped NBA franchises with Irv Levin so Levin could take the Braves and move them to San Diego.

Brown famously said basketball wasn't a business for him before he owned the Braves, and then the Celtics. His time in Boston was best-known for his clashes with Red Auerbach. Things got so bad between Brown and Auerbach that Red famously threatened to take his cigars and jump to the Knicks.

Arthur S. all the way.

Harry Frazee: He bought the defending World Champion Red Sox after the 1916 season. The team won the World Series again two years later. The myths of "No-No Nanette" aside, selling Babe Ruth was the original sin of the Red Sox.

But Frazee didn't stop with Ruth. He dealt no fewer than 11 players to the Yankees, many of whom helped Ruth form the core of the Yankees' first dynasty in the 1920s and '30s.

Boston's original Arthur S.

Billy Sullivan: The Patriots were one of the post-merger NFL's original laughingstocks. Talk about a team that was cursed. The servers at aren't big enough for a litany of the failings and litigation that took place during Sullivan's 28 years as team owner. Perhaps the greatest public sin ever committed by the founder of the Patriots was landing on the wrong side of late Boston Globe columnist Will McDonough. Sullivan, who died in 1998, was viewed far too often unfairly during his lifetime in the Arthur S. category.

The passage of time and the current status of the Patriots as the NFL's model franchise merits their founder's place as a legitimate Arthur T.

Walter Brown: He founded the Celtics and was a key figure in the NBA's formation. Boston's 17 championships and 21 retired numbers can be directly traced to Brown, who ran the Boston Garden and created the Celtics to give the building a steady tenant when there was no hockey. Brown brought in Auerbach to take over the failing franchise in 1950. Auerbach promptly drafted Chuck Cooper, breaking the NBA's color barrier. Auerbach and Brown together guided the Celtics together to seven NBA titles overall and six straight from 1959-64, until Brown's death later that year.

An Arthur T. for the ages.

The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Hit up Bill on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
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. Thanks always for reading.

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