Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Braves Fans To Greet An Old Friend

Most Braves fans harken back to the Ted Turner days as the good times. Back when Ted was running the show the payroll was up, the Bravos were on the TV all the time, and the outlook was rosy. Sure, Ted was slightly crazy and it took him a couple of decades to learn how to get the hell out of the way and let the team play, but you knew he loved owning the Braves.

Then, according to some anyway, the dark times came. Within months of the Braves' first championship since the 50s, Turner merged with Time-Warner. Five years later, that conglomerate merged with AOL at a time when anyone who really knew anything about the Internet could have told you AOL wasn't exactly the best horse to bet on. AOL-Time Warner stock tanked in the wake of the deal, and so began the cost cutting. The Braves -- not generating as much ad revenue as old "Friends" reruns -- began to be seen less and less on TBS, and eventually the team was sold by AOL to Liberty Media, which seems to only want to hold on to the team for a few years to take advantage of some tax benefits I am too dumb to understand.

Most Braves fans I know miss Uncle Ted and -- rightly or wrongly -- blame AOL for whatever has ailed Atlanta for the past couple of years. I think that oversimplifies things, but that's where the fanbase is. It will be funny, then, to see how the fanbase reacts to this:
Liberty Media, the serial internet investment company, has revealed an interest in an asset swap that would allow it to take control of AOL, the internet arm of Time Warner that is the subject of disposal talks.

Liberty Chairman John Malone said late yesterday that he would prefer owning cash-generating operating companies rather than minority stakes in larger businesses.

In essence, then, AOL -- the company which owned and, according to some, ruined the Braves -- could very well become a corporate sibling of the team, and in all likelihood a junior one at that. Corporate dynamics are kind of complicated, but I'm guessing that there are many Braves fans out there who would view such a thing much like a prisoner views the warden being arrested and placed in the cell next to him.

*Full disclosure: I now write the occasional bit for FanHouse, which is a creature of AOL. I don't say this to warn you about my lack of objectivity or anything because, frankly, they don't pay me enough for me to stack the deck in either direction. I just like writing "full disclosure" clauses because it makes me feel like a real writer.

1 comment:

Chris Heer said...

If I were a Braves fan, I would worry far less about having AOL as a corporate sibling and far more about being owned by John Malone, who...well, what's corporate-ish for "douchebag?"