Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How would you deal with a "Bryan Stow" incident?

The name Bryan Stow may not be familiar to you if you don't follow baseball or if you don't live on the west coast, but for some people the name is very familiar.

Stow is the San Francisco Giants fan who traveled down to Los Angeles to see the opening day game between the Dodgers and Giants. After the game, he was viciously attacked and ended up in a coma.

This incident clearly has law enforcement implications, and it has implications for us as a society, but it also has business implications. Consider how you would react if someone were violently attacked at YOUR business.

Now consider how the Dodgers have reacted, and how this has affected the reputation of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.

Not that McCourt's reputation was all that great to begin with. McCourt took over from Fox - incidentally, I lost interest in the Dodgers during the Fox years, when Fox management jettisoned manager Bill Russell, catcher Mike Piazza, and pitcher Hideo Nomo in a short period of time - and didn't do much to improve the perception of the Dodgers from the Fox years. (In 1955, could anyone have dreamed that the O'Malley family would become the poster boys for franchise respectability?) Ridiculed as "the parking lot guy" from out of town, not much hope was held out for the McCourt tenure. The McCourt divorce has only served to fuel the negative impressions. And don't forget Manny Ramirez and his female hormones.

Despite this, the Dodgers have actually done fairly well. The Dodgers won a postseason series against the Cubs in 2008 - something that the Dodgers didn't do in the Fox era, nor did they do in the last years of the O'Malley era.

But the Stow beating has opened up a host of other issues regarding the Frank McCourt era. Matt "Money" Smith was a guest on Dan Patrick's radio show this morning and Smith, based upon his own observations and the comments from listeners on his own afternoon-evening radio show, was damning in his criticism of McCourt. Excerpts from Patrick's account of the interview:

“I won’t take my family any more,” Smith said. “I will not take them to Dodger Stadium, because of the element that exists.”

Smith said that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has been way behind on this. Smith said that McCourt only put in money to the fund to help Stow because the Giants put money into the fund first.

Now I personally don't care for the oft-quoted argument that goes along the lines of "Person X is very rich, so Person X should give money to Cause Y." I don't believe that I should be telling Donald Trump or whoever how to spend their money - even if I pledge a significant portion of my money to the same cause. (It seems that most people who advance the "Person X should give to Cause Y" argument haven't given a penny to Cause Y themselves.)

But there is another element at play here - the image of your business. Smith argued that McCourt should have immediately offered to pay all of Stow's medical bills - not because he has the money, but because this should be done to protect his franchise.

I don't know if the Stow beating will be enough to cause large numbers of people to stop going to Dodgers games - I suspect that people will continue to go to Dodgers games regardless. But it certainly doesn't help the image of the Dodgers, or of the league. And the Dodgers' reaction to the incident has been tepid at best.

If you were Frank McCourt, what would YOU do?
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