Rick Casey's not in favor of sunshine for the Sports Authority

Rick Casey devoted his column today to Billy Burge's on-air meltdown from last week:

Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln and Samuel Johnson left no record of their feelings on the use of their tax money to subsidize millionaire athletes and owners. The only reason, I suspect, is that in their times taxpayers didn't build extravagant playgrounds for rich owners of sporting teams.

There were no such government entities as the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority, which is sucking wind as it tries to pay off more than $900 million worth of bonds for the city's new football, baseball and basketball palaces.

But all three are credited with advice that would have well served Billy Burge, a successful real estate developer who serves as the Sports Authority's chairman.

The advice? "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

Casey got THAT part right, but he went downhill from there. Here's how Casey framed the interview/call-in:

The venue: Dan Patrick's ultra-conservative radio talk show.

The opponent: His predecessor as Sports Authority chairman, Jack Rains.

It's hardly a new fight. Rains, a Republican politico who was Orlando Sanchez's campaign manager back in 2001, made no secret during that race that he would work to scuttle the authority if Sanchez beat Mayor Lee Brown.

Not that sour grapes were involved, but it was Brown that replaced Rains with Burge.

So when, last week, a friend called Burge on his cell phone out in San Francisco and told him Rains was on the air trashing him and the authority, Burge called in to take on Rains and Patrick.

The problem with Casey's column becomes apparent with this sentence:

In 23 minutes, not a single substantive fact was revealed.

Aha. Of course, those of us who listened to the whole show last week know that's not true at all. In the previous 20-30 minutes of Patrick's show, Rains gave listeners plenty of facts relating to the Sports Authority, and not in a mean-spirited, sour-grapes way. That's why Burge's call-in was so incredible. Burge came on attacking Patrick and Rains when there was no basis for it.

Out of curiosity, I emailed Casey asking if he had listened to the entire show or just the mp3 on Lone Star Times. He replied, promptly, saying that he had only listened to the mp3. I wrote back explaining that there was more to the show and sent him my write-up to show that Patrick's show had been informative and not angry and accusing, until Burge called in. He kindly responded again, saying that his column was only about Burge's call-in.

Well, okay. But the context of the previous part of the show is key to the whole issue.

Here's how Casey ends his column:

It was bad enough that when Sports Authority Executive Director Oliver Luck heard a replay Monday morning, he felt the need to invite himself on Patrick's show to counter " a couple of things Jack said that were flat-out untrue."

"I'd be the first to admit Billy didn't handle himself very well," Luck said.

Burge didn't disagree.

"I shouldn't have done it," he said. "It was one of those things that tees you off, and I responded to that."

The good news, Luck said, is they received only four e-mail messages generated by the show.

"On a bad parking day at Reliant, we get 15 or 20," he said.

So no great harm. Just keep Billy in the back room.

I listened to Oliver Luck on Monday with Patrick, and I am trying to remember what Luck corrected. If he really did correct something, it had to have been fairly minor, and in fact, Luck didn't do much for the Sports Authority's case to remain open.

I guess Casey doesn't mind the Sports Authority staying in business, making odd deals and frittering away taxpayer dollars. He also seems to be encouraging the Sports Authority to keep Burge in his little hidey-hole, away from public scrutiny.

Which is interesting since Casey often rails against secrecy, and since I thought the Chronicle was in favor of more government sunshine.

RELATED: Better late than never, we guess (Lone Star Times)

UPDATE: Jack Rains was on with Dan Patrick today repsonding to Casey's column. He wondered if Casey had heard the entire interview and emailed him to ask. We already know, since I did the same, that Casey did not. Rains also reacted to the part of Casey's column where he says that Oliver Luck went on Patrick's show to correct some things that Rains had gotten wrong. He too wondered what those things were. Rains says he didn't have his facts wrong, and as I said above, I can't recall any point that Luck corrected.

Rains also said that he was never contacted by Casey for the column. Since Casey does have quotes from Luck and Burge, that tells us plenty about Casey's point of view -- he was helping Burge and the Sports Authority with damage control.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 04/15/05 10:15 AM | Print |

Bookmark and Share