One of fans’ biggest complaints about modern pro sports is the increasing disconnect between teams and fans. A generation (and more) ago, sports teams were family-run businesses whose operations were more a labor of love than an investment opportunity. It wasn’t necessarily a better time - the “good ol” days rarely were - but it was most certainly less complicated and, often, more straightforward.
The number of teams in sports whose owners came from that older mindest have dwindled in recent years, but several still remain, mostly in the NFL - the Rooneys and McCaskeys come to mind. One such team in baseball was the San Francisco Giants, led by principal owner Sue Burns, who lost a brief battle with cancer last night at the all-too-young age of 58.
Burns preferred to fly under the radar, with managing partner Peter Macgowan do the talking for the organization in public until last year. But Burns, who just this month found out she had cancer, was described as the heart and soul of the organization by the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE:
Mrs. Burns was a passionate baseball fan and principal owner of the Giants, a close friend of slugger Barry Bonds through his personal best and worst of times, and a relentlessly enthusiastic supporter of the team, regardless of its changing fortunes or place in the standings.
She was also a former schoolteacher and the widow of Peninsula financier Harmon E. “Buzz” Burns, who helped save the Giants franchise from moving to Florida in the early ’90s.
Together, they hit a grand slam in the intersecting worlds of baseball and finance. They didn’t exude flash or cash, but cultivated many close friends - some influential, and others not - who loved baseball.
As mentioned, owners like Burns have become all too rare in the sports world thanks to the ever-growing big business that professional sports have become. And sadly, many of the family owners that remain have been terrible for their teams and sports (Al Davis, Randy Lerner, David Glass). It’s probably naive to wish for a return to those simpler times, but it’s unfortunate that our favorite teams have turned into faceless corporations who only care about maximizing profit.
The Bay Area and the world lost one of the good ones in Sue Burns, and she will be missed. Some may have bashed her for her enduring support of Barry Bonds, but to her credit she was loyal, a trait that is in short supply in modern times. Rest in peace, Sue.