WHY RIVAL LEAGUE NEEDS COMMISH JORDAN

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When I wrote a few months ago that the baseball owners were grooming Michael Jordan to assume the mantle of baseball commissioner, did you think I meant he'd preside over the current major league teams?

I'm glad I have the opportunity to clarify my position. I was talking about a rival baseball league that will spring up to compete against the morally and mentally (and some say financially) bankrupt crop of baseball owners who have ruled the game so unwisely.

I have spoken eloquently before about the owners and the players being merely caretakers of the game; the real owners are the fans who support their teams through good times and bad. That's why I called for a fan strike on Aug. 16 so fans could show they held the ultimate power. Unfortunately, the players walked out before the fans could take action.

I know there wasn't much enthusiasm for a rival league five years ago, mostly because nobody could stomach having Donald Trump be one of the owners. Richard Moss, formerly general counsel of the players' union, and his partner David LeFevre, had lined up owners for eight teams and had planned to begin play in 1990.

George Vecsey, sports columnist for The New York Times, doesn't think the idea will fly. Baseball fans, he wrote, won't have much to do with a W.S. Walcott Medicine Show League. Come see Jo Jo the Dog-Faced Boy. Come see the Bearded Lady. Come see the New York Trumps. I don't think so.

But the new league doesn't have to be a freak show. According to Mr. Moss, players would have 50% equity, 50% share of the profits and a 50% share of the decision-making process.

That sounds better than what we have now, but the 50-50 split of power could still lead to an impasse on important issues-like the salary cap. What the replacement league needs for long-term success is another group that could throw its weight to the players or the owners, depending on what would be in the best interests of baseball.

That group would be composed of baseball fans. I would like the fans' group to own 20% of each team, with management and the players each having 40%. And if employees of United Airlines can buy the company in part by granting wage concessions, why couldn't the fans pay for their share of the baseball teams by assessing themselves a tax on each ticket they buy?

As minority owners, with representation on the teams' board of directors, one of the major duties of the fans' group would be to ensure that the new league selected a commissioner who would never allow two warring factions to disrupt the game again.

And who do the fans love more than any other player in any sport? Michael Jordan, that's who, a man who plays the game of baseball with the same zeal and joy he brought to basketball. "I believe in myself and I believe in my dream," he said after a charity basketball game at the Chicago Stadium, attended by 19,000 screaming people. "I will continue to follow my dream."

Michael's dream is now baseball, and through him maybe the flame can be lit again.

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