Paul Allen, The Artist

Paul AllenThe greatest non-lethal argument among sports fans is the ‘era’ discussion. It starts with ‘Could one superstar transcend their time and dominate another?’

With players it turns into a statistical comparison.

For example, could the long haired, bearded, Bill Walton of Blazer championship fame work his magic today? Could Big Red stand up to the modern game? This is the vegetarian, Grateful Dead following Walton, not the Sixth Man of the Year Boston Celtic Walton.

Doubt Walton’s adaptability, but not his teammate Maurice Lucas. For some reason, tough guys stay tough no matter where they show up.

The joy of the era-argument is player comparisons. Who is the modern Walton? The modern Lucas?

NBA fans hear this and break out the record book to match size, scoring, and minutes played. They scour the stats for an answer then give up and call their favorite guys ‘one of a kind.’

But power-fan never gives up. They expand the subject from player to owner.

Who does Paul Allen most resemble?

Common logic says close the book. There is only one Paul Allen. After him they broke the mold. A recent story about Mr. Allen in Newsweek is the prime example.

A snippy art critic educated in England, Blake Gopnik reports that Paul Allen is ‘pear-shaped.’ No one wants to be described as pear-shaped. Look at the produce aisle at your local store. Even pears are growing less ‘pear-shaped.’

Let’s hope Allen found humor in a fruity description written by a man with a head shaped like a floodlight bulb.

In a game of scoff at the rich guy, Gopnik gushes over the price of Allen’s art collection. $80 million for a Rothko painting and it’s protected by $12 pylons. Additional millions spent on a pointillist masterpiece by Seurat that doesn’t show a busy park near a river.

Where’s Andy Warhol when you need him?

Paul Allen enjoys his art and he’s got lots of it. But he doesn’t publish a list of his holding. Gopnik calls the details of Allen’s collection ‘murky’ because he and his art pals are left in the dark.

Murky? As if every Euro art thief has an open contract for the Mona Lisa and the number of a climate controlled vault in Seattle.

Do Blazer fans care about Allen’s art? Only if Rothko and Seurat take the court at the Rose Garden for a decade of 20-10 careers.

Otherwise, no, not any more than they care about his boat or his spaceship. Those are sports no one but money guys and Ponzi schemers play.

Fans get a thrill of shooting hoops in the driveway, then watching the best in the world do the same. They relate their ball and hoop to the NBA.

Even if fans can’t relate their canoes and water rockets to Octopus and SpaceShipOne, there is one former owner with an Allen-esque grip on sports. Only Lamar Hunt, one of three tycoon sons of oil tycoon H.L. Hunt, had sports interests equal or greater than Paul Allen.

Here’s the breakdown: Allen has ownership interest in the NBA Blazers, NFL Seahawks, and MLS Sounders. He’s a big sports guy, one of the biggest.

Lamar Hunt had money in the Chicago Bulls, Kansas City Chiefs, and FC Dallas. In a game of sports one-up, he also founded the AFL before it joined with the NFL. The AFC championship trophy carries his name.

He was a founding member of professional soccer leagues from the ’60′s as well as today’s MLS. He co-founded World Championship Tennis and opened that game to the modern era.

For his work in sport, Lamar Hunt’s name is engraved in halls of fame, cities, and uniforms.

Professional team owners once stood in the shadows and let others take the glory and the hits. Larry Weinberg, Herman Sarkowski, and Robert Schmertz wrote checks that brought the Blazers to Portland. Did anyone in Portland care about the dealings of early Blazer owners?

(In an odd turn, Allen followed Sarkowski’s trail from Blazer owner to Seahawk owner).

A final look at Paul Allen’s art shows why writer Blake Gopnik can’t see the connection to sport. The huge amount spent on an old canvas by a mega-investor surprises him, as if he’s never heard of J. Paul Getty.

To ease his concern, If Gopnik had done the proper research he would have found a French impressionist on the Portland Trail Blazer roster in Nic Batum.

The Monet might be worth millions, but the $46 million spent on Batum will produce hardwood masterpieces over the next four years. He hits the three, something still missing from Rothko’s arsenal.

About Arran Gimba

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