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Volume 23 No. 13
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Ties strong between Nats, Caps as teams and owners share celebrations and advice

Prior to a Nov. 3 Washington Capitals game at Capital One Arena, the Nationals were honored with a ceremony on the ice and members of both teams posed for photos.
Photo: Getty images
Prior to a Nov. 3 Washington Capitals game at Capital One Arena, the Nationals were honored with a ceremony on the ice and members of both teams posed for photos.
Photo: Getty images
Prior to a Nov. 3 Washington Capitals game at Capital One Arena, the Nationals were honored with a ceremony on the ice and members of both teams posed for photos.
Photo: Getty images

It’s not an accident that Washington Capitals players spent time celebrating their 2018 Stanley Cup at a Washington Nationals game, and that Nationals players celebrated their 2019 World Series trophy at a Caps game.

 

After all, Nationals owner Mark Lerner is a partner in Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which runs the Capitals.

“Our families are very close,” said Ted Leonsis, managing partner of MSE. “Mark and I are very close. We talk all the time.”

Leonsis said he called Lerner in May after legendary Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell published a piece that said the team should consider firing general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Dave Martinez.

The Nationals were 16-25 at the time, and a World Series appearance — heck, even a playoff appearance — looked unlikely, to say the least. In his column, Boswell ultimately concluded that the two should ride out the season. But the column gave voice to a frustrated fan base.

“You can ask Mark,” Leonsis said. “I called Mark and said, ‘You’re going to win the World Series.’ He laughed.”

Leonsis preached patience to Lerner, reminding him to not get drawn into doing something when he wasn’t ready.

Nantz has some fun at Pebble Beach

CBS announcer Jim Nantz has appeared in several of my social media feeds recently narrating the golf shots of regular players.
In one such video from Pebble Beach’s 14th hole, Nantz uses his calmest “golf voice” as he narrates Golf Magazine columnist Alan Shipnuck’s errant tee shot: “Oh dear. And that ship has sailed. That is heading out into the Pacific. My goodness. Let’s go to 17.”
I caught up with Nantz last week and asked him about these posts, all of which made me smile. Nantz lives at Pebble Beach and clearly has fun with some of the golfers who play the course. He describes these scenes as a “fun little hobby.”
Nantz: “I’m out at the golf course with my son every day. We ride down to a place called Neville’s on a golf cart, and I’ll stop and see along the way five or six groups minimum. A lot of them will ask me to do a little play by play. Oftentimes, they’ll take the phone out and record it."

Leonsis: “I said, ‘No, you’re going to win. And don’t fire your manager. Do the opposite of what these people say. They’re not in the business of seeing the big picture. They’re in the business of tomorrow. You firing your manager feeds the monster.’”

In his pep talk, Leonsis reminded Lerner of the unintended consequences that happen when owners make such a drastic organizational change.

As Leonsis recalls, he told Lerner, “You have to have faith. It’s painful firing people. When you fire people, you failed. You set the strategy, and the buck stops with you. You didn’t get the organization to execute.”

For Leonsis, that was a conversation that could only happen with a fellow team owner — somebody who uniquely understands the public pressure they encounter. Leonsis equated it to the 12 people who have walked on the moon — they share a similar experience and can relate to each other in at least one big way that others can’t.

“There’s been times along the way where maybe you feel more pain and angst than you should,” Leonsis said. “You’ll hear that from owners. It’s so public. That’s why some owners start to hang out with other owners. … 

“Mark Lerner just won the World Series with the Nationals. The road that he went on this year, the opinions that were thrown at him, the advice that was given and the angst — we could share in that. There was a bonding there.”

 

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ and read his twice-weekly newsletter.