The late Howard Cosell coined the term “jockocracy” to describe the erosion of ethics created by loading up the broadcast booth with ex-professional players. Because they are part of a close-knit group of sports alumni, former pros could be more likely to pull their punches when describing or commenting on events on the field.
It’s part of everyday life and we accept it. It is relatively easy for all but the most fanatic team loyalists to filter through the hype, exaggerations and oversights perpetrated by those who spent their careers competing in front of large audiences; enduring the “thrill of victory or the agony of defeat,” a phrase memorialized by broadcasting legend Jim McKay.
So when Vincent Bonsignore, the assistant sports editor of the Los Angeles Daily News, editorialized in favor of constructing a new stadium in downtown, I had to don my reality filter and sift through the hype he could only have picked up from AEG press releases.
It is not as if Bonsignore has devoted his relatively short media career to covering local politics and the city’s financial disaster. His perspective is that of a sports journalist who will only benefit from the addition of a football franchise, not only in terms of writing additional stories, but free admission to NFL games at the proposed venue in the due course of performing his job.
It has to be an exciting thought and I can understand his enthusiasm.
All of us would be excited, too, if the city were not on the line for even a penny of the project, as Bonsignore, the mayor, AEG and some members of the City Council would like us to believe.
Bonsignore seems to be clueless why the prospect of $350 million in debt issued by the city “freaks the people out.” What’s the worry when the new tax revenue from the stadium’s operating receipts covers the debt payments, he concludes. AEG will make up the difference if taxes fall short.
Perhaps he should stick to covering sports and not city finances.
You see, the city of Los Angeles has a structural deficit problem that will last for years to come. It would not be as bad if City Hall came to grips with the realities of pension and healthcare reform, but I don’t see any will on the part of our electeds to deal with it.
Therefore, we need every dollar of new taxes generated by the stadium to flow into the general fund. Using it to pay off the $350 million in debt is using our own money to make the payments. I’d rather see the additional monies used to support core services, which will also include additional demands created by events held at Farmers Field.
The debt would be used to finance the reconstruction of part of the convention center, connecting it with the stadium. Bonsignore suggests that would attract new business to the convention center, which does not even rank in the nation’s top fifteen.
A new stadium without a reconstructed convention center connected to it is bound to realize more business based on new sporting events alone, especially considering the mild climate that is the norm during most of the year. What’s the marginal revenue associated with the reconstruction versus what we’d expect from making less costly improvements to the convention center?
These are important details that have not surfaced, or at least not to a truly independent set of eyes. These are also details one hopes will be tested without the threat of a deadline issued by AEG hanging over the city’s head.
When someone is telling you to commit by a certain date, or else, it is time for the radar to go up.
We are not playing penny ante poker.
And we don’t have a rich uncle bankrolling us at the table. We are the bankroll and the stakes are high.
Bonsignore is out-of-bounds on this issue. At least the Daily News kept his editorial on the sports page.