A Big Wallet Shouldn’t Mean Inflated Prices

It was once said of legendary Chicago Bears owner George Halas that the man was so tightfisted with his money, the extent of his largesse spending was throwing quarters around like manhole covers.

Dallas Mavericks honcho Mark Cuban, on the other hand, has a slightly different philosophy?one that considers spending $500,000 just to tell the NBA’s head referee, Ed Rush, that he isn’t competent enough “to manage a Dairy Queen.”

Of course, his maverick behavior (stupid pun intended, just for the record) is made a bit easier by his billionaire status and the fact that the only quarters he’s bothering with are fiscal ones.

Between this reprimand from commissioner David Stern, and the seven he got last year totaling $505,000, he’s incurred over a million dollars in fines and shrugged them off like a death-row convict would a late fee from Blockbuster, content to know he again got under Stern’s skin and made his point.

Still, his latest punishment got me wondering? Just because he can incur those fines, should he? True, he’ll never have to worry about cutting the league a check, but then again, it’s not like his repeated outbursts have made Stern at all sympathetic to Cuban’s personal crusades.

That issue, however, only encouraged my little hypothetical session though, and soon enough my train of logic (which, incidentally, is whipping the Dockers pants off of Amtrak when it comes to derailments) led me to inquire? Just because Stern can fine Cuban such absurd amounts of money, should he?

Thanks to a gallon-bottle of Coke, I was alert enough to actually give a damn. So I did some investigating.

Of the eight fines Cuban has now earned, five were for criticizing the refs. In chronological order, those respective fines were worth: $25,000; $5,000; $15,000; $250,000; and $500,000.

For committing the same offense on each of those occasions, there sure seems to be some disparity in the punishment. I’m not majoring in economics or finance or anything else that requires a significant amount of brain power, but even I can recognize the gap between five and 500 Gs.

As for Cuban’s three other fines, he was charged $100,000 for sitting on the baseline during a game against the T-Wolves; $10,000 for running onto the court and trying to break up a fight against the Cavs; and another $100,000 for showing off the length of his middle finger to somebody (wouldn’t surprise me if it was Stern).

Finally, the epiphany hit, the light bulb turned on, the bells and whistles and sirens sounded and a little chorus line of ZhiZhi Wangs started dancing in my head Rockettes style?

Cuban’s fine total isn’t more astronomical than NASA just because he mouths off so often, it’s just that, with pockets deeper than any marijuana user’s pontifications on life, his barbs are a little more valuable than anyone else’s.

He gets the fines simply because he can afford to pay them.

You can’t tell me that if Larry H. Miller said Ed Rush wasn’t qualified to sell used Hyundais that he’d be coughing up a half mil.

That Cuban can afford to pay off his excessively steep fines does not excuse the blatant subjectivity in handing them out. I mean, come on? $100,000 for a vulgar gesture? So many birds have found their way onto the court via fed-up players you’d think half the teams in the league played in outdoor stadiums. I have yet to see any of them get a hundred-grand tab for it.

Then again, the whole idea of fining athletes and coaches for criticizing refs is kind of childish and stupid anyway.

Some will argue that no business would tolerate an underling speaking ill of a superior; well, this is not some entry-level software code programmer for Microsoft telling Bill Gates that not even Mr. Rogers would wear such a nerdy sweater. Everyone involved here is an adult pulling in?at the very least?a six figure salary.

So saying the officiating sucks, the management sucks and the administration sucks should all be gravy. Saying that Ed Rush isn’t qualified to scrub the toilets at Madison Square Garden ought not to meet with disdain. Saying that David Stern is a capricious, puerile, bumbling spawn of a rabies infested wombat should not raise an eyebrow.

That perfect day, however, is still a ways off, I imagine.

In the meantime, I’ll be expecting a certified letter from David Stern telling me I’ve been fined $50,000.

Eric welcomes feedback at: [email protected].