Jerry Reinsdorf Said a Bunch of Stuff That Will Probably Make You Mad
Chicago Bulls’ governor Jerry Reinsdorf got in front of a microphone.
The long-standing owner of the Bulls and White Sox recently joined a panel at the Milken Institute Global Conference. Titled “Game Changers: The New Business of Sports,” the 87-year-old Reinsdorf spoke with fellow majority stakeholders for a wide-ranging discussion about the world of professional sports leadership.
While Reinsdorf doesn’t answer questions that revolve specifically around the Bulls or NBA, I still think many of his responses are worth sharing. Not only does it provide a deeper look into his approach, but it could provide some context around why his current teams are struggling in the fashion they are.
I highly recommend you grab a pillow to scream into and another to punch. Here we go!
You can watch the entirety of the panel discussion here. Also, a hat-tip to Blake Schuster (no relation) of USA TODAY’s Bet For The Win for sharing the press conference on Twitter.
“My approach has been I never really cared about making money. I just want to win. And that’s not what I wanted to do in business. In fact, I better make money in business if I want to win in sports.”
Good luck finding either a Bulls or Sox fan that believes that first sentiment! Also, I love how Reinsdorf goes on to almost immediately contradict himself!
The fact of the matter is that sports is a business. If you care about making money in business, then you care about making money in sports. And, yes, Reinsdorf is right. You have to make money in business to be able to win at a high level in sports, especially in the spending spree of today’s NBA. With that said, when have we ever seen Reinsdorf spend the money necessary to win?
I don’t need to remind you that the Chicago Bulls have entered the luxury tax once in franchise history, do I?
“The first week I was in sports somebody said to me: You listen to the fans, you’ll soon be sitting with the fans. You can’t allow your decisions to be guided by emotion of what you think people want. At the same time, you have to consider what the fans are thinking or they’re not going to buy your tickets.”
Another contradiction of sorts!
Look, I’m not going to sit here and say that fans are always right. They’re not. I’m also not going to sit here and pretend that owning a team is easy. It’s not. But this entire perspective is just a long-winded way of letting yourself off the hook for something that could ultimately be the better decision based almost exclusively on the source of that idea. It’s just too convenient.
Moreover, albeit less importantly, we’re talking about a business within the entertainment industry. Maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to ignore the desires of your biggest and only customers, especially when what they want is to compete for championships.
Speaking of which …
“Sports is a business of failure. Only one team is going to win every year. But the fact that you finished second or third or fourth, it doesn’t mean you had a bad year. I think the important thing for fans is, while they want you to win championships, they want to know that when you get to the last month of the season, you still have a shot. You’re still playing meaningful games. If you can do that consistently, you’ll make your fans happy.”
On the surface, this concept feels somewhat reasonable: Consistent competitiveness will lead to a happy fan base. But what Reinsdorf says here seemingly underscores what every Bulls and Sox fan has always feared.
The goal isn’t to be the last one standing. The goal isn’t to be the best. Instead, sitting somewhere right outside the best is acceptable since it’s just enough to keep fans interested and optimistic. In other words, Reinsdorf makes it sound as if mediocrity is a sufficient outcome.
Fans don’t want to be a part of meaningful games; they want to win meaningful games. The mentality should always be centered around trying to win championships.
It’s unbelievably different than the real world. It really is. I just resolved all the inconsistencies by trying to win as often as I can, knowing you can’t. It’s a game of failure.”
Once again, Jerry Reinsdorf preaches that he tries to win games as often as he can.
The Chicago Bulls have held the NBA’s 9th-lowest winning percentage (45.9%) since 2000. In more recent history, they claimed the 4th-worst winning percentage (41.9%) since the 2016-17 season, per Statmuse.
As for the White Sox, they have sat a painfully average 15th in winning percentage since the turn of the century. They have also been the 5th-worst team in baseball over the past decade.
“If you think that you know more than your general manager, your head coach, then you got the wrong general manager. What you really want are people at all of the positions to be better at their job than you are. And, sometimes, you just have to bite your tongue and have faith. And if you don’t have faith, get somebody else.”
Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. I get the sentiment, and I don’t necessarily think it’s wrong.
What I do think, though, is that this quote helps us better understand why Jerry Reinsdorf consistently holds on to people for too long. If he gives blind confidence to the head coach or general manager and believes they always know best, it’s going to be hard to ever see the folly of their ways.