<Title>THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Meddlesome: Snyder just can't help himself

At least he won't endure any more micro-managing.
Flickr/Keith Allison

When Redskins owner Dan Snyder fired Jim Zorn, I doubt anyone's jaw dropped in surprise. Not only did Zorn coach the Redskins to their second consecutive losing season (a really ugly one too, 4-12), Dan Snyder is an itchy-finger owner. If there were any surprises to be had, it's in the deal Snyder made with Washington's new coach, Mike Shanahan.

Think about it– if you owned a business, how much say would you expect to have in how that business was run? A little? Total? How about none at all? 

If you owned a tire shop, chances are you'd make nearly all the business decisions, even the trite and mundane ones (like which color promotional pens to order). Big decisions, ones that really affected the success of your business, would most certainly be your responsibility. 

Not so in the world of professional sports, if you're smart. When it comes to owning a professional sports team, the ideal level of involvement is practically nil– at least that's how most fans, coaches, and players see it. An interfering owner is like the worst type of parent– overbearing, know-it-all, nit-picking, but out of touch. Who wants that?

Not Mike Shanahan. When he signed on to be the Redskins' head coach, it was with the understanding that Dan Snyder would keep his fingers out of the cookie jar and his trigger finger firmly wedged in his pocket. Who can blame him? For the most part, owners who play like managers have turned notoriously bad judgment into notoriously bad reputations.

Ever heard of Larry Ellison? As of September 2009, Forbes listed him as the fourth richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of $27 billion. Ellison's sport isn't football; it's sailing, and he's the second-largest financier of BMW Oracle Racing, an America's Cup racing yacht.

Back in 2003, infamous micromanager Ellison decided he didn't just want to own Oracle's racing yachts; he wanted to be the skipper. If you know anything about the America's Cup, you know that Oracle has never won it. Ever.

Even if you're not one of the 2 percent of Americans who are true soccer fans, you no doubt know Chelsea is a major force in the sport, even if you're unfamiliar with the team's owner, Roman Abramovich. If you happen to be a Chelsea fan, Abramovich's name is probably one of the dirtiest words in your vocabulary.  

Abramovich is so overzealous that he makes Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones look shy and retiring. His interference with Chelsea's management is so debilitating that his own players are calling him on the carpet. Just this month, Chelsea mid-fielder Michael Ballack, who in his three and a half-years with the team has seen four managers hired and fired, blamed Abramovich for once-champion Chelsea's inability to keep their heads up against Liverpool.

"We have had too many coaches during my time at Chelsea," Ballack said, "and that's not a good idea if you want success."

Right-O, Mike. I think most people would agree. 

Dan Snyder seems to. After all, when Mike Shanahan was introduced as the Redskins' new coach, Snyder was not on the podium, but rather seated in the audience. That, according to ESPN, is the first time in Snyder's tenure that he hasn't introduced a new coach (there have been several in the past) and is "a powerful symbol of how the balance of power has shifted within a proud franchise."

It's all a lie, of course. In theory, Shanahan's contract gives him final say over football decisions and managerial issues, but in practice there's no way that's going to be the case. Ever since he took ownership of the team, Snyder has made roster decisions, demanded the hiring of big-name (and over-the-hill) free agents, and fired anyone who suggested he didn't know enough about football to fill an envelope. For Snyder, interfering is like picking a scab– he just can't help himself.

Whatever else is in Shanahan's contract, I hope he insisted on a solid buyout clause. He's going to need it. It doesn't matter where Snyder sat during Shanahan's introduction, because from now on he's going to be lurking over Shanahan's shoulder, which is no surprise at all.


Juanita Giles lives in Keysville where she makes videos and updates her Sports Doctor site.