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Boss often imitated, never duplicated
Who's The Boss? None of them.
But, boy, do they try.
THE BOSS: 1930-2010 Iconic Yankees owner George Steinbrenner died Tuesday at age 80. Get complete coverage right here.
Hey, not that you can blame them, any of them. We all have our heroes. If you owned a sports team, who would you want to be? If you're going to grow up to control 51 percent of a pro franchise, there's only one man whose proverbial poster you had on your wall when you were a kid.
They all wanted to be George Steinbrenner. They're still trying to be George Steinbrenner.
You just know Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban would have salivated at starring in one of those Miller Lite beer ads.
Daniel Snyder, who grew up as a Redskins fan, loved them so much he bought the company. He of the big splash, the new coaches, the battles with the media, the free-agent flavors of the month. Consciously or not, we know who his role model is.
And then there's Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. He buys one of sport's most iconic franchises, he restores it to greatness, he feuds with his star coach, he hires and fires, he acts as de-facto GM. And finally, he creates the ultimate state-of-the-art facility, and though unofficially, it bears his very own name: Jerryworld. Think about it. He has his very own world.
Yet yesterday put it all in perspective. Nice try, Hoss.
Who's The Boss? None of them. They couldn't take his blue blazer off the hanger. They couldn't wear his aviator shades.
But they all want to. All of them. Snyder. Cuban. Jerry Jones. That new Russian guy in New Jersey (I'll look up his name when he does something noteworthy), even if he might not have any idea that he does.
And who can blame them?
Look. There had been famous (and infamous) sports owners before George Steinbrenner. And there have been several who have tried to do it with pizzazz since. But the Boss was the one, for all time. He set the model, and then he broke the mold. (And then he re-ordered it and broke it again six times.)
We can laud the Rooneys for being classy and staying out of the way. But if you're going to own a sports team, would you want to just sit up in the suite and sign checks?
Or would you want to OWN it? Burn with a fan's passion? Make decisions from the gut, with unquestioned authority? Put winning just behind breathing (barely)? You could imprint your personality on your team's very soul.
You could put your stamp on it.
Steinbrenner put his stomp on it.
The man was a thunder lizard. The rest of these guys try, bless them. It's just that they never stood a chance.
Even Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. His psychotic anti-LeBron rant caught fire. Jesse Jackson condemned it. David Stern fined him $100,000 for it. It was the most outrageous thing we'd ever heard.
And then, George Steinbrenner died. And then we remembered:
Yeah. Nice try.
(He should have called LeBron a "fat toad.")
Jones probably comes the closest because he tries the hardest. But with Steinbrenner it was never about trying. He tried like a tornado tries.
You knew the Yankees. And you knew who owned them. You knew they won. And you knew why.
The Yankees became the world's biggest brand, because Steinbrenner was the world's biggest Boss. Love it or hate it, you couldn't look away.
You could see the appeal. But the rest of these guys are just doing impersonations.
Cuban personally answers his e-mails. He criticizes officiating. He does interviews while on an exercise bike. He was on "Dancing With the Stars." He gives his guys really fluffy towels. Um ... why should we find any of this interesting, again?
Yes, sure. His act will occasionally capture Stern's ire (it's a little dance they do) and once in a while he'll have to pay a hefty fine. Oh, how outrageous.
But then we remembered. The Boss was BANNED from baseball. Banned!
And Snyder has the revolving-coaches thing down pat. But call me when he hires Marty Schottenheimer twice.
Oh, and call me when he wins.
That's the thing. Yes, Steinbrenner obviously reveled in his image as the ultimate Boss, and he gladly became a caricature of himself when it suited his needs. But in the end, it was all a byproduct of wanting to win so badly it consumed him.
Anybody with a boatload of money can build a Jerryworld. It takes an all-time mad genius to give us the Bronx Zoo.
On second thought, Steinbrenner didn't break the mold.
He fired it.
Let's see Mark Cuban try that.