For as long as most of us can remember, the Dallas Cowboys have been America's Team.
A lot of that has to do with the teams locale, the dearth of professional teams that existed in America's heartland when the 'Boys broke onto the expansion scene in 1960.
Mostly though you'd have to say it's been their great on field success—almost from the word go as they quickly came to challenge Vince Lombardi's Packers for NFL preeminence in the reasonably early '60's—that has dictated to their becoming not only a storied franchise, but one of the two or three most highly valued in all of sports.
There are challengers to the throne no doubt. Incrementally teams will rise up each year and capture the fancy of the rooting public, the New Orleans Saints of 2009/2010 for example, and in a bigger picture, love/hate/you just can't take your eyes off them sense, the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox or Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers can at least make some claim to being the most acclaimed team in American sports.
But that's not quite the same thing as being America's Team. The team that best represents the country's current state of being, and at this time we'd like to throw a new candidate into the ring.
The New York Mets.
The team is owned by Fred Wilpon, who providentially bought a split share of the Queen's nine in 1986, and then finished the deed in 2003 when he paid off partner Nelson Doubleday a balance sum of $135 million.
Good deal for Wilpon you would say. Let's say he paid around $200 million in total for the Mets who are currently valued somewhere between $8-$900 million dollars.
The problem there though is the Mets are currently in debt to the tune of $500 million plus.
Reports say they are leaking funds annually, maybe as much as $50 million—God knows how that can be, when virtually every other team in the game is turning a profit—and as everybody with access to any aspect of the media is aware, Fred Wilpon and company are up to their eyeballs in the Bernie Madoff scandal.
The latest byline being Wilpon profited from his dealings with the since jailed paper money maker, when countless others took it on the chin to the tune of 70 or 80 billion smackers combined.
Wilpon claims to be clean of course, that is in lieu of the billion dollar law suit against him helmed by attorney Irving Picard who represents the angrily fleeced. But with a Ponzi Scheme prior in 2008—which already cost him a $13 million settlement—you've got to figure "Fast Fred" could very well be going down on this one, at least to the tune of another couple of hundred million dollars.
That's not good, and there's no wonder MLB had to float the Mets $25 million a couple of months ago, and Wilpon now has his hand out for another $50 million in lieu of sorting through potential investors who are willing to invest an enormous sum for a 20-25 percent stake of this barely floating baseball ship.
And these issues don't even begin to address the Mets' monumental on field concerns. With the games fifth largest payroll, $135 million, they finished the 2010 season 79-83, good for fourth in the tough National League East, and did little to improve the club in the offseason.
Heading into 2011 the team has about $120 million tied up in these eight players:
Johan Santana $22.5 million
Carlos Beltran $18.5 million
Jason Bay $16 million
David Wright $14 million
Oliver Perez $12 million
Francisco Rodriguez $11.5 million
Jose Reyes $11 million
Luis Castillo $6 million
There are some pretty frightening names and contracts there.
Figure you can count on Wright and Santana to perform at a high level, but by the same token you're going to have to pray Oliver Perez and, to a lesser extent, Luis Castillo can make season long big league contributions.
You'll be in the same position hoping Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran can stay healthy, Jason Bay can give you ten million dollars worth out of the sixteen, and Francisco Rodriguez, Krazy-Rod, can just keep his head on straight long enough to complete the 162 season without complications arising due to domestic affairs and/or incarceration.
And that's only eight guys!
Is there any wonder why the Mets brought in "Moneyball Administrator" Sandy Alderson, previously adhered to the ever spartan Oakland Athletics, to take over the team and bring some measure of sanity to a situation run completely amok?
My goodness, we're still thirty days or so from Opening Day and the New York Mets appear to be screwed sixteen ways from Sunday.
Financial status? Bleak.
Opportunity to remedy financial status? Slim to fat.
Field Product? Filled with question marks if not glaring holes.
Prospects for 2011? Prayerful.
Similarity to the status of too many Americans struggling to keep pace with diminished incomes if not outright joblessness and the higher cost of almost everything? Stark!
The New York Mets for all their myriad problems, tall tales, poor management and bleak prospects have become a media enhanced microcosm of too many things that plague our once great nation.
American's have lost confidence in our government, Met fans, baseball fans from around the country have come to view the Queen's Kids as a shining example of almost everything wrong in our National Pastime.
Big spending, little to no return on the dollar. The team is rife with egoism, gluttony and most of all failure, and it would take an apparent miracle for a significant rebound in 2011.
Ring a bell?
In their not so storied past, the Mets have been known to conjure a miracle or two. "You Gotta Believe" is the teams very own catch phrase, and would it surprise you terribly to hear those same three words uttered by political mouthpieces hoping to gain your consumer confidence or just your plain vote as the country moves tenuously forward into continued uncharted waters?
It's all so murky, but on the other hand so terribly clear. The New York Mets have almost always embraced the role of underdog, but now they are in the worst kind of financial mess to boot.
A lot like the rest of us, and one would have to hope if somehow the Mets can pull through and make a go of it in 2011, then maybe a great breath of others can too.
So here's a vote for the New York Mets, with all their flaws if not glaring deficiencies becoming America's Team.
Because we need a miracle too.