Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Jeff Schultz on Don Waddell: Not Impressed

AJC Sports columnist person Jeff Schultz has written a column blasting Don Waddell and instructing us that he, and he solely, is to blame for all of the Thrashers' failures and errors. Money quote:

We can’t know if owners will conduct separate reviews for each of Waddell’s jobs: executive vice president, general manager, temp coach. But given that he hasn’t helped create a significant hockey market in Atlanta, nor has excelled in player development, nor will coach his handpicked players to the playoffs this season, one failing grade should cover all three areas.

This has, predictably, set off a firestorm in the comments section. Some people agree with Schultz and want Waddell's head; others are more infuriated than usual (Schultz has never been the most popular columnist round these parts), and some accuse him of being a homosexual, for some reason. Seriously, what is the obsession with gays among sports fans? I know that in parts of the world like the Middle East and the American South they're supposed to be Evil People, but surely calling everyone you disagree with a homosexual isn't the best way to win an argument. And this argument does need to made, as Schultz is overlooking some fairly obvious things. (side note: In the comments Schultz is also accused of being a Warcraft fan, and that really IS a hanging offense-editors)

There's no doubt that Waddell has made his share of bad decisions (which are, to my mind, roughly off-set by his good ones), but like I said on the day of the Season Ticket Holders Town Hall, Problema Numero Uno is the ownership's permanent state of lazy irresponsibility and their bizarre financial arrangement. Yes, I was impressed by Levenson (and yes, I now know that his name is spelled

L-E-V-E-N-S-O-N; I was caught up in my half-conscious identification of him with the director Barry Levinson) but the Atlanta Spirit (the board of Owners that runs this boondoggle) has quite a few more money-throwers and they aren't as smart or as pleasing a bunch.

Don Waddell is a red herring. He's done some good and he's some done some bad; his role in this franchise is at worst ambiguous and mixed. The real villains are the Atlanta Spirit; not because they're wicked, but because they're feckless and unimaginative and unconcerned. Few of them apart from Levenson seem to care about the Thrashers other than as an investment (which proves what bad capitalists they are; as any first-grader knows, demand will dwindle if a product is consistently bad). And their process of allocating money and approving trades, of agreeing to do anything really, is as byzantine and needlessly confusing as some national governments.

To kick up a huge fuss about Waddell, as Schultz does, is to lay all the blame on a convenient scapegoat when there are more serious and more insidious problems at hand. I repeat: nothing is going to change for the Thrashers until the ownership changes its methods and procedures. Blaming Waddell is a blind alley.

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