Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Jim Irsay case

As most NFL fans know, Jim Irsay is the sole owner of the Indianapolis Colts. Before him, his father owned the team for many years. After a protracted legal battle with his step-mother upon his dad's passing over ownership of the team, Jim came out on top. He runs the show.

But Irsay has been in the news lately for not-so-good reasons. A few months ago, he was accused of DUI and drug possession. Felonies were involved. Fast forward to the recent past, and his case was plea-bargained down to one simple misdemeanor. He pled guilty and received a year's probation. Such are the luxuries that come with being ultra-rich. It's nothing new.

Why do things like this happen when the average John or Jane working stiff would be ground under the wheels of justice -- perhaps even imprisoned for the same offenses? A theory.

Jim Irsay is a billionaire, reputedly worth 1.6. Though the term "billion" has become thought of as chump change in government circles -- it's still an incredible amount of money for one individual to possess. Most folks could and would make do very nicely, thank you, on one simple million. But a billion is a thousand millions. A mind-boggling amount of money.

Let's say you were the prosecutor in the Jim Irsay case. What do you do? You know a billionaire can easily afford to hire an entire army of top-flight attorneys to represent him. So what if it costs him a few million in legal fees? Chump change. And his accountants might find a way to write it off on his taxes to boot -- if he pays any in the first place. Going to trial to prove a point could get mighty expensive for your office, which is funded by taxpayer dollars. And even if you win, there would be endless appeals that could drag on for years. Do you really want to devote that much time, energy, and money into a non-violent case, where the optimum scenario is sending the defendant off to a country-club "facility" for a short while? And God help your career if you pursue this all the way to the end and lose, having spent countless millions of the above-mentioned tax-payer dollars.

So yeah. Right or wrong, it's understandable why prosecutors take what they can get when a billionaire is the defendant. If they can get a conviction -- any conviction -- they'll chalk it up as a win.

Yet that wasn't the end of the Jim Irsay case. Enter the NFL. The league suspended Irsay for the first 6 games of the 2014 season and fined him $500,000. And the plot thickens.

The players say it's not enough. A half a million bucks to a guy worth $1.6 billion is only about 1/3000th of his total bankroll. Put another way, let's say your total worth, house, furniture, car, the works, is $160,000. Irsay's NFL fine would roughly equate to you getting a $50 traffic ticket. A nuisance to be sure, but hardly something to worry about. In that respect, the players have a point.

To boot, Irsay getting suspended for 6 games is a total joke. Just because he can't sit in his luxury box at the stadium until the middle of October doesn't mean he won't continue to rake in the money that comes with owning the team. Even Roger Goodell and the mighty NFL can't deny Irsay the profits his team will generate in the meantime. No court in the land would uphold such a ruling.

Though the Colts open the season on Sunday night, Sept. 7, on the road against the Denver Broncos, with revenue sharing, that $500,000 fine will pay itself after Game 1, and then some. A minor hiccup in the world of a billionaire.

But on a smaller scale, the players themselves are edging very close to hypocrisy when they beef about Irsay's fine.

There are those in the NFL that have been fined for various infractions. Yes, when they rise to the level of suspensions, unlike Irsay, the players forfeit game checks for those weeks. But other player fines over the last few years have become a joke as well. Particularly amongst repeat offenders. Pick your goon that has a history of dirty play (see late hits and other personal fouls), but happens to be making a salary of $10-15 million a year because he is a "disruptive force". Fining him 10-15 grand, merely 1/1000th of a year's salary, is a joke as well. A parking ticket, and hardly a deterrent to future mayhem.

The difference between Irsay and dirty players? Besides a few decimal points in the money column, Irsay didn't intend to hurt anybody while driving his vehicle. And he didn't. On the other hand, the obvious intent of some of the goon players is to inflict great bodily harm on an opponent. Neither was/is cool, but there's a big difference.

Besides, without the billionaire owners, there wouldn't BE any multi-millionaire players. They'd still be selling used cars or moonlighting elsewhere in the off season to make ends meet. And let's face it. It's not like a high percentage of NFL players are Mensa members. They play football because that's ALL they can do. Who's kidding who?

Though yours truly has long been a "union" guy, there are times when some people need to realize just how fortunate they are to 1) be in this country, and 2) make an obscene amount of money for playing a game.

Hey, it's America. Owners are owners and players are players. Then there's the schmucks like you and me that wind up paying for it all.

Is this a great country or what?

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