This week's death of George Steinbrenner triggered two terribly clichéd responses:
1. "He was a great man.'' (Because in an obituary, we are not allowed to mention that the deceased was a bully, a tyrant, an egomaniac, a Nixon supporter or a human who was in any way flawed.)
2. "Which owner in sports is "The Next Steinbrenner?''
TSN - the Canadian sports network, and you can tell that by the silly way they spell "favourite'' and "labour'' - went with cliché No. 2. Let's begin there, because as you might guess, the names "Mark Cuban'' and "Jerry Jones'' figure prominently.
The first two candidates offered up by TSN as "The Next Steinbrenner'' were Dallas powerhouses Cuban and Jones, respectively. On Mavs owner Cuban: "Most outspoken'' ... "brash and charismatic.'' On Cowboys owner Jones: "A villain'' ... "criticizing and clashing.''
The characterizations are rather limited, as are some of the other "Next Steinbrenner'' candidates. TSN also suggests Al Davis of the Raiders, Danny Snyder of the Redskins, Dan Gilbert of the Cavs and Steinbrenner's son Hank of the Yankees as contenders to the throne of "The Boss.'' Of course, there will never be another George Steinbrenner.
Sports now lives in a more politically-correct time, a more positive-PR-minded time, a time of "Moneyball'' management. Cuban and Jones have both "spent wildly,'' especially early in their tenures. And they still spend on quality. But they manage their assets and their people in a "Moneyball'' way Steinbrenner never bothered to do.
Cuban and Jones have both, over the years, made references to how (paraphrasing) "any news is good news,'' because it keeps their franchises in the headlines ... but they don't mean it the way Steinbrenner meant it. Cuban and Jones are acutely aware of the views of their teams' fans; there is nothing about their public approach that suggests they are kings of a fiefdom.
George Steinbrenner was a king of his fiefdom. He was a great man, in his way. And if winning is a measure of greatness, few did it better than George Steinbrenner.