For some owners of professional sports teams, 2014 hasn’t been the best of times.
Between the Dan Snyder debacle in D.C., Colts owner Jim Irsay seemingly following in his father’s footsteps with his offseason arrest, or the controversy surrounding Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, there have been headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Some owners prefer the spotlight, while others prefer to remain low key.
As for Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, he certainly prefers the latter.
The initial investment from Bisciotti, who completed the final purchase of the team from the late Art Modell in 2004, back in 2000 immediately paid dividends by providing funds to procure free agents who played critical roles for the team en route to their first Lombardi trophy.
Since he was 11 months old, Bisciotti has been all Baltimore.
“I remember going to a couple of Colts games every season with my dad or mom and brother (Mike) and sister (Cathy Thomas),” Bisciotti has said. “We were on the 10-yard line, lower deck. We’d go to O’s games, too. My favorite player was Paul Blair, because my brother already claimed Brooks Robinson and would not let me take the same guy. We’d also go to Westminster for Colts training camp. We have pictures with various players, and I have one with me wearing Johnny Unitas’ helmet. I would always ask the Colts’ players if I could wear their helmets.”
Bisciotti, now 54, understands the importance of providing a successful franchise for his fan base. Under Steve, the Ravens have joined an elite group – they are now one of 12 NFL teams with multiple Super Bowl victories.
Six franchises have won one title. Ten others have earned the game and lost, while four teams have never advanced to the Super Bowl.
More importantly, with the team’s last Lombardi Trophy, the Ravens (two) joined the Patriots (three) and the Giants and Steelers, with two each, as teams that have won more than one NFL title since 2000.
“My responsibilities are not only to my family and the people who work for the Ravens,” Bisciotti explains in the team’s media guide. “There are over a million stakeholders in the Baltimore area that we have an obligation to.”
“They’re the fans who invest more than three hours on Sunday to watch, listen too, or attend our games. That’s a big difference from owning a non-sports company.”
Unlike in the NFL cities of Dallas, Cleveland and Oakland, where owners have raised eyebrows meddling in a general manager’s business of putting a team together, Bisciotti is quite the opposite. In fact if memory serves me correctly the only eye-raising thing that really stands out since Bisciotti took over full ownership was the hiring of John Harbaugh. Many fans, including myself gave the standard “HUH? Who’s that guy?” response.
But, we see how that turned out.
Many fans in Baltimore bristle over the perceived lack of respect the Ravens receive from the national media. Steve Bisciotti, though, has garnered respect from many pundits including Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, and Business Review USA.
In May 2009, SI named Bisciotti one of the NFL’s five best owners. In February of ’12, Business Review USA magazine ranked Bisciotti number 10 among all U.S. professional sports franchise owners while in 2013, CBS Sports named him the number three NFL owner fans would want running their team.
Ravens fans have flocked (pardon the pun) to support the organization and as noted by Forbes in May 2013, the team has doubled in value since Bisciotti became owner.
Like every other team in professional sports, there have been bumps in the road for the Ravens under Bisciotti. The off-field issues have been scattered (until recently) and then there was last year’s offensive debacle that led to the team missing the playoffs for the first time in the John Harbaugh era.
“We came up a half short of being in the playoffs,” Bisciotti remarked in the team’s end-of-season press conference, “and I think you saw last year that anybody can play [well, once in the postseason]. Anybody can win it; we’ve seen it in the last few years I think it’s fair to say it’s a failure because our goal is to be one of the Top 12.
“There are bigger failures out there. There are teams that are a whole lot more disappointed. If we found ourselves at 3-13, like the Falcons, then I think that they’re sitting there thinking, ‘We’ve got to make a lot of changes.’ I really don’t think that we do. If 8-8 is a failure, I hope it’s a long time before I feel worse than this.”
The Ravens have made moves this offseason to assure the offensive issues faced in 2013 don’t repeat themselves when the team takes the field in September. While there was some speculation that Bisciotti had more of a hand in the hiring of Gary Kubiak as the new offensive coodinator than did Harbaugh all of that is water under the bridge now.
On a few occasions during team OTAs and minicamp, Bisciotti was seen at the castle in Owings Mills looking over his product, quietly sitting alongside Ozzie Newsome.
For a blue collar town like Baltimore, Bisciotti is a man fans can gleam with pride over, as one who started at the bottom (figuratively, and literally as well; he began his company, Aerotek, in his basement) and worked his way to the top.
“I’m okay if I’m one of the least-known owners in professional sports,” Bisciotti says.
We are too Steve – we know you, and that’s all that matters!
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