October 25, 2005

THE ANTI-STEINBRENNER (via Jim in Chicago):

NFL Mourns Death of New York Giants Owner (DAVE GOLDBERG, 10/25/05, AP)

Every NFL fan owes a huge debt to Wellington Mara, who died Tuesday at 89. So does every owner, executive and player.

Mara, who joined the New York Giants as a ballboy the day his father purchased the team 80 years ago and became co-owner as a teenager, was the face of the franchise for more than a half century.

But he also was the patriarch of the NFL, a man who was willing for more than 40 years to split the millions in television revenues he could have made in the nation's largest market with the Green Bays and Pittsburghs of the league.

It put the NFL at the top of America's sports hierarchy.

"He shaped nearly every rule and philosophy we have in our league today," said Ernie Accorsi, the Giants general manager. "Most of all, he was the moral conscience of the National Football League. He now joins the pantheon of incredible men who made this league what it has become." [...]

Mara became a Giants' ballboy at age 9 on Oct. 18, 1925 after his father, Timothy J. Mara, bought the team. He stayed fully involved in New York's operation for almost 80 years, except for the three years he served in the Navy during World War II. Until he became ill last spring, he attended most practices and every game.

In 1930, at 14, his father made him co-owner with older brother Jack.

He ran the club until several years ago, when his son John took over day-to-day operations. But from 1979 on, while the team was run by general managers George Young and Accorsi, Mara had final say on football decisions. He was the one who decided to fire Jim Fassel after the 2003 season and replace him with Tom Coughlin.

Coughlin remembered Mara as an owner who stayed away from the coaches — except when he was needed.

"I'll never forget when I was here as an assistant in 1988," he said. "We lost the last game of the year to the
New York Jets and didn't go into the playoffs. The next day he was in the coaches' meeting room, and he went from coach to coach, shaking everybody's hand. In 1989 we were in the playoffs and the next year we won the Super Bowl. We never saw him at that time. He didn't have to be there. He was there when he was needed. He always said and did the right thing." [...]

He would greet players after every game — win or lose — flashing a shy smile at stars and scrubs alike.

"My wife said it best when we talked about Mr. Mara," said Simms, the quarterback on the Giants Super Bowl teams and now a television analyst. "She said, 'There are so few icons left.' That's what Mr. Mara was. He was from an era where there were certain men who handled themselves differently than everybody else. I don't know if you can be that person anymore in this day and age. I don't know if society would let you be like him."

Pity society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 25, 2005 8:54 PM

Certainly there are such men. President Bush doesn't give a rip about what others say about him, he just does what he thinks is right.

Scary, that. Ought to be a law...

Posted by: Mikey at October 26, 2005 12:12 AM

As an ex-Giants season ticket holder, I can safely say Mara caught hell from the fans during the late 1960s and the 1970s for being too family-oriented in his personnel hirings, as the ex-players he put in the front office weren't able to keep up with the scouting and drafting efforts by other teams (though the only one who really lambasted Mara during that time on a personal level was Howard Cossell over the move to New Jersey, though I think Howard's antipathy towards the very conservative Catholic Wellington may have had a hint of religous bias in it). It wasn't until Rozelle stepped in and forced the Giants to hire George Young as GM that things finally turned around.

But on the other hand, the Dallas Cowboys became the Dallas Cowboys in part because original owner Clint Murchison had the good sense to stay out of the way of Tom Landry and Tex Schramm for the 20-plus years he owned the team, which is what Mara did when Young took over. Now, when you read the obits on Mara and his selflessness in giving up the TV money for the national NFL contract, in comparison to other "look at me" owners who are trying to gain extra cash by not sharing in the league marketing concept, the unmentioned name here is Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has signed several deals for beer, soda, athletic equipment, etc., that are outside the other 31 teams' agreements (Redskins' owner Dan Snyder would love to do the same, but he's run the team into the ground over the past eight years, and they don't have the name cache' Dallas does. And at least Jones did win a few NFL titles before Steinbrenneritis set in).

Posted by: John at October 26, 2005 1:54 AM

You can sum him up in one word: Class.

Posted by: Mike Morley at October 26, 2005 6:55 AM

Interestingly, if you look at the NFL's revenue sharing and hard salary cap, it's an example of socialism actually working in the real world.

Not that I'm suggesting that the NFL is a model for a national economy, but it's an interesting case study.


Posted by: Noel Erinjeri at October 26, 2005 8:24 AM


Did you see the guys who offered to buy the whole NHL and use the same type model.

Posted by: oj at October 26, 2005 8:52 AM

Being a life long Giants fan.........
It made me sad to see his passing, the feeling I had was one of watching the loss of.....
A man of GREAT class....
A man who believed that the good of the many out way the good of the few.........
A man who loved his players like they were his own........
There are not many men like Mara left in the NFL.........
I kind of figured things were bad for him when the Giants chanted Mara's nickname in the team huddle that he's had since he was little...... "DUKE" "DUKE" "DUKE"
It was said in the papers that after sleeping through most of the game Sunday, he woke up in time to see one his new kids (Eli)lead his team to a win at the end of the game.........
It was printed Duke smiled, said great win and went back to sleep..........
They don't make many men like you any more!!!

Posted by: bdawg65 at October 26, 2005 9:24 AM


Saw the NHL offer. If it worked, the first thing they should've done was contracted or moved every franchise south of the Mason-Dixon line, with the possible exception of the LA Kings.


Posted by: Noel Erinjeri at October 28, 2005 7:47 PM