Merchants of greed

The merchants of greed have hit once again. As usual the Magic men are leading the pack, but now they are joined by the owners of the new baseball team in town, the Orlando Rays.;;The Magic, always adept at making the fans' money disappear from their pockets, finally seem to have overstepped the limits of fan patience. Season-ticket holders were asked to ante up for a 15-game playoff package despite the fact that the Magic could play as few as one, and no more than 11, home games during the playoffs. Taking money for 15 borders on fraud, and certainly crosses the line of ethical business practice.;;Why would they do this? Greed and habit. By asking for payment in advance, the Magic accountants can deposit considerably more cash into short-term investments and rake in the interest. It is pure windfall.;;The Devos family has done this every spring and summer while holding millions in season ticket deposits. And in years past, when the team performed better and when they held home court advantage through a few playoff rounds, fans were willing to give Banker Devos the benefit of interest on their money.;;This year, however, season- ticket holders have not so freely departed with these deposits, as playoff package sales are down. Maybe the market realities will coerce the Magic into doing the right thing in the future.;;Meanwhile another greedy sports owner has showed up. Vince Naimoli, owner of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Orlando Rays, was in for the minor league season opener. After surveying Tinker Field and picking up the scent of money, he announced that Tinker Field was outmoded. What the Rays and Orlando need is a new, state-of-the- art minor league ball park, a la Disney World no doubt.;;He quickly announced that he and the Rays were not in the stadium-building business, and that the people of Orlando, who seem so willing to subsidize the Devos family, should do the same for him. This guy is in town less than 24 hours and already he is trying to extort The City Beautiful. Couldn't he have waited a week or two? Are there no standards anymore?;;The economic significance of the Rays to Orlando is somewhere in the same category as the Moscow Circus, with or without the bears. If the Rays leave, few will notice, and fewer will care. The Rays bring no appreciable new money into the city. Why anyone would think that Orlando might put a few million dollars into a stadium for Class A baseball is difficult to fathom. Perhaps Naimoli has been so conditioned to receiving gifts from cities, so well trained in professional sports owners' arts of extortion, that he just couldn't help himself. They do say that being on the dole causes addiction and dependency.;;Or perhaps he saw the tremendous welfare payments being made to the Devos family, and just assumed that he too should have the opportunity to feed at the public trough.


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