"No one buys a ticket (or tunes in to a game) to see an owner” is a sports adage that means the fans want to watch the players, not the owners. The owner of a team might get a lot of publicity on the sports pages (such as longtime Yankees owner George Steinbrenner), but it’s the sports product that people want to see.
“Nobody pays his way through the turnstiles to see an owner” was cited in print in 1955. “I don’t know anyone who has gone out to see an owner play” was said by New York Titans football team owner Harry Wismer in 1961.
28 July 1955, Oakland (CA) Tribune, “The Bull Pen” by Emmons Byrne, pg. 48, col. 1:
But, sad to relate, a manager, no matter what his name or fame, is only as good as the ball club he can put on the field, and nobody pays his way through the turnstiles to see an owner.
24 February 1961, San Diego (CA) Union, “Major Sports Formula Given to San Diego,” pg. B6, col. 4:
“I don’t know anyone who has gone out to see an owner play.”
(Spoken by Harry Wismer, owner of the New York Titans of the American Football League—ed.)
14 October 1961, San Deigo (CA) Union, “Wismer’s Tactics Handicap Titans In Attracting Fans” by Jack Murphy, pg. A17, col. 1:
It’s doubtful any fan ever bought a football ticket in order to see an owner, and the crowds have been scant at the Polo Grounds.
23 April 1978, Jacksonville (IL) Journal Courier, “NFL players seek riches from TV” by Murray Olderman (NEA), pg. 32, col. 6:
Considering the prospective returns, and that no one turns on a TV set or goes to a game to see an owner, why, a naive questioner asked Garvey during a press conference, don’t the players set up their own league?
8 August 1978, The Capital Times (Madison, WI), “Selig still angry over memory of Braves” by Jerry Izenberg, pg. 10, col. 4:
“Nobody comes to the park to see an owner or a manager—contrary to what some owners may actually think.”
(Spoken by Bud Selig—ed.)
11 November 1980, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), “Cavaliers sink,” pg. 3D, col. 2:
The only thing that counts is what happens on the court. No one yet has bought a ticket to see an owner or coach. They buy tickets to see what the coach gets out of his team.
2 October 1987, Atlanta (GA) Journal-Constitution, “Best thing Upshaw could do is shut up,” pg. E1:
Nobody buys a ticket to see an owner balance his checkbook. Players make the NFL
1 August 1990, Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO), “Good news at last: Steinbrenner is out” by Thomas O’Toole (Scripps Howard News Service):
Baseball finally received some good news: George Steinbrenner is outta here.
No fan has ever paid to see an owner. The perfect owner should speak softly and carry a big wallet.
By George F. Will
New York, NY: Touchstone
But no one last year bought a ticket to see an owner.
10 newsmaking sports team owners
CBC Sports Online | June 1, 2005
There’s an old sports adage that nobody ever bought a ticket or tuned in to see an owner.
That’s mostly true, but the history of sports isn’t completely devoid of owners whose antics are more than worth the price of admission.
Chris Paul Looking to Follow LeBron James’ Lead in Assembling Dynasty
by Evans Clinchy on Thu, Jul 22, 2010 at 2:04PM
No one buys a ticket to see an owner. Likewise with a GM. Not even a head coach can put the butts in the seats. It’s a players’ league, and the players are now keenly aware of it. The players know that they, and pretty much they alone, are the reason American professional basketball is a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Baseball’s Greatest Maverick
By Paul Dickson
New York, NY: Walker Publishing Company, Inc.
Brewers president Bud Selig, a long-standing Veeck admirer, now told a writer for People magazine: “What went on in the ‘40s and ‘50s is no more germane to baseball today than last winter’s snow is to our conversation. Nobody ever paid to see an owner yet, and nobody ever will.”