Stan Kroenke managed to get my goat the other day.
Not that Stan and I are all that tight. But the billionaire real estate developer and I do have a home state – Missouri – in common…and, at least for the time being, a passing interest in the NFL team he owns.
Which not incidentally is how Stan managed to get my dander up. You see, he’s looking to move that NFL team from St. Louis to Los Angeles – and in order to get the deal done, he (or one of his hired minions) verbally assaulted the community I call home in a relocation application sent to the NFL.
I readily admit to having a thin skin about that sort of thing. And my immediate reaction tended toward retaliation. I even joined in on the #kroenkecomplaints Twitter storm for a bit, seeking to secure my pound of flesh from Silent Stan.
Once I got past the wound he inflicted on my civic pride, though, I found myself becoming intrigued by the curious sickness that seems to afflict him. It is a disease which many Americans (like me) suffer: The desire for MORE.
You see, Stan – as I may have mentioned – is a multi-billionaire. By moving his team to Los Angeles, he can reasonably expect to increase that net worth by another billion or two. Not a bad payday…and one, frankly, that I’d probably find attractive, too.
What caught my attention, though, was the reason his relocation application gave for not staying put. “Any NFL Club that signs on to this proposal in St. Louis will be well on the road to financial ruin…” Kroenke claims.
That’s rich…if you’ll pardon the pun. The truth is, no NFL team is hurting for money. As Forbes reported last September:
The NFL’s rising tide has lifted all boats. The average NFL team is worth $1.97 billion, 38% more than last year. The gain was fueled by a $39 million increase in national revenue for each of the league’s 32 teams. The NFL is unlike any other sports league in that from an operating standpoint every team is immensely profitable.
So Kroenke’s definition of “ruin” must work out to something like this: “not enough MORE”.
Now, I’m not a billionaire. Still, it seems logical to assume that — when you’ve already got a couple of billion dollars to your name — the hunger for MORE ought to abate. But clearly it does not.
As I reflected on Stan’s greedy grab, I realized that I could perhaps profit from it, too. There’s a spiritual lesson to be found in the specter of a billionaire whose immense wealth does not satisfy. A lesson along the lines of the message tucked into the final sentence of the gospel reading we heard at Mass today.
Having just cured a leper, Jesus himself comes face-to-face with an attractive opportunity to acquire fame and followers:
The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him
and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.
Notice what Jesus does here: He makes a conscious effort to step back from the immediate, all-consuming demands of his culture. He steps back…and then, he prays.
Learning from this example, I wonder if we might well discover our own best defense against the disease that so often afflicts us — the only cure, perhaps, against the relentless desire for MORE.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.