Power Rankings: Seven Most Interesting Behind-the-Scenes Organizations in Sports

Tom Smeaton@ByTomSmeatonContributor IIIJune 20, 2013

Power Rankings: Seven Most Interesting Behind-the-Scenes Organizations in Sports

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    We've all wanted to be a fly on the wall at one time or another. Certain people and situations just seem so interesting, especially when you can't know what's going on behind closed doors. 

    Of course, National Security Administration (NSA) monitoring has grabbed a huge share of the headlines this past week and a half. But seeing as my interest in politics is about as intense as my interest in ballet, these stories eventually got me thinking about sports. 

    What if you could have access to phone records and emails from within our favorite sports teams? Certain franchises guard their intentions like matters of national security, and who wouldn't love an inside look at the operations of a sports organization? Think of it as your own version of Spygate, but without the eventual sanctions.

    I'll reiterate that this story is really in no way related to the NSA leaks or politics in general, so take the political banter elsewhere. But if you did have the power to monitor a sports team from the outside, these are the seven options you wouldn't want to overlook. 

No. 7: Phoenix Coyotes

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    The entire NHL would have been interesting this year, given the extended lockout that almost cancelled the entire season. In terms of eavesdropping material, however, the Phoenix Coyotes are surrounded in financial drama. 

    The problems began in May 2009, when the team filed for bankruptcy with plans to move back to Canada (in case you forgot, the Coyotes franchise was the original Winnipeg Jets before moving to Phoenix). When the Canadian move fell through, the NHL purchased the team and still maintain ownership. 

    The most recent Forbes NHL team value list ranked the Coyotes next-to-last in 2012, posting the biggest operating loss in the NHL at -$20.6 million. Also, if another local deal falls through, the team could be on the move to Seattle. With so much up in the air, there's bound to be a lot of interesting maneuvering going on behind-the-scenes. 

No. 6: Boston Red Sox

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    The Red Sox in 2011 collapsed in colossal fashion, losing 21 of their final 29 games. This was later linked to a clubhouse infatuation with beer, fried chicken and video games, sometimes even during home contests. 

    The 2012 Red Sox gave us an unforgettable year of Bobby Valentine at manager after the departure of Terry Francona. The skipper threatened a radio host and lost the team internally before his firing after just one season at the helm.

    This year's Sox team currently sits in first place, but the last two seasons gave us enough to merit this choice. After all, Francona's retrospective book mentioned a $100,000 study commissioned by the team which highlighted the need for sex symbols on the roster above all else. I'd pay good money for a transcript of that conversation.

No. 5: University of Alabama Football

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    The lone collegiate representative on this list, I went with Nick Saban's Crimson Tide for a different reason: they just can't be beat.

    This is the program that has won three of the last four BCS National Championships. Saban is one of the best recruiters in college football, and it showed with nine players chosen in the 2013 NFL Draft, including three of the first 11 selections. Simply put, this is a dominant football team with an intense head coach who doesn't give away any secrets. 

    I don't think Alabama would be great to be on the inside for because of any wild stories or dirtsheets. I just think it'd be amazing to see what goes into the off-field building of such a powerhouse.

    But then again, this is the school that just installed a waterfall in its home locker room, so maybe there are some crazy happenings in Tuscaloosa after all. Roll Tide!

No. 4: New York Mets

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    The Yankees get all the credit in New York, but when it comes to being an ear on the inside, you'd want to be in Queens. They don't say "Meet the Mess" for nothing.

    This is the franchise that found itself in the thick of the Bernie Madoff scandal. The team that reportedly paid Jason Bay $21 million to go away and buy out his contract. The team that owes Bobby Bonilla $1.2 million per year until 2035.

    Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler offer a lot of promise for the future of the New York Mets, but this team is still far from realistically contending for anything. Until then, there's sure to be a few more memorable gaffes along the way, so why not learn the inner workings of a team that doesn't seem to put much long-term thought into anything?

No. 3: Oakland Raiders

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    If you read the April 22 Sports Illustrated story on the new organizational culture of the Oakland Raiders, you most likely came away with two main reactions. Of course, new GM Reggie McKenzie has really turned things around in Oakland on an internal level. But to that end, how could a professional team possibly be run so poorly to begin with?

    Among the highlights (or lowlights) of the story, SI writer Jim Trotter described a team with an ancient film room and no draft room or scouting questionnaires during the Al Davis era. The team didn't even employ a full-time grounds crew to maintain the practice field. 

    But don't turn your back too long, because new Raiders boss Mark Davis, Al's son, fired public relations director Zak Gilbert because of the story. Gilbert was only brought in by McKenzie last year, but Davis was apparently displeased with the article's depiction of his late father.

    This is a team in major overhaul mode already, which makes any potential tension between the owner and his GM well worth a wish to be a fly on the wall.

No. 2: Dallas Mavericks

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    Mark Cuban is a headline-grabbing owner, and he's usually not the most reserved in the press either. After all, this is the man that brought the Larry O'Brien Trophy to a urinal and to bed following the Mavericks' Finals victory in 2011.

    But Dallas is also at the center of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, looking to make a big push in the twilight of Dirk Nowitzki's career. This should be an entertaining summer in Dallas, for sure. 

    Of course, I must admit slight bias here. As a Mets fan, the thought of Cuban buying the team is still a pipe dream, even though that dream largely appears dead. But if anything ever changed, I'd want to be the first to know, so the Number 2 ranking stands.

No. 1: New England Patriots

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    Even before the recent Tim Tebow signing, the Patriots were unquestionably at the top of this list. Did we even need the additional evidence of Bill Belichick's handling of the initial Tebow presser? As expected, the responses were as cold as ice. 

    The Hoodie has been infamously tight-lipped with the media over the course of his reign in New England. Some email and phone leaks might finally give us some pulse readings on the most media-savvy coach of his generation. Or, of course, we could discover that Belichick has no personality after all, putting to rest a debate that has escaped NFL fans for years. 

    It would also seem like a bit of poetic justice for the Pats to get monitored after the Spygate controversy of 2007. Opposing fans would love the Karma, especially if any leaks confirmed additional spying. 

    Lastly, maybe we could finally get some answers in the Robert Kraft-Vladimir Putin Super Bowl ring controversy. I mean, come on, how many other sports trophies almost sparked a foreign relations nightmare?

    Have another team you'd love the inside knowledge on? Sound off in the comments section!