30 for 30 Rock: How Sports’ Biggest Suits Follow Jack Donaghy’s Lead

By Kyle Schmitt

(Twitter: @KyleRadioviolet)

You can’t blame Alec Baldwin for gradually morphing into Jack Donaghy. He’s starred in perhaps the funniest television comedy of this millennium, won Emmy and Golden Globe Awards, and waged heroic battles against photographersairline attendants, and rude, thoughtless 11-year-old girls. With the tumultuous end of his MSNBC show, however, it appears that megalomania has won the day, and the foremost Baldwin brother has now sworn off public life. The blurred line between the actor who engaged in mortal combat with the “fundamentalist wing of gay advocacy” and the boardroom shark who authored the book Jack Attack: The Art of Aggression in Business has finally disappeared.

But Jack Donaghy is more than just a man who “goes to Sbarro when he’s angry, the New York Stock Exchange when he’s horny, and Christie’s Auction House when he’s depressed”, as Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) refers to him. He’s also a gifted athlete who played football and baseball at Princeton University. Even as Jack exploits his mind-grapes to become head of NBC, he remains an avid sportsman who hits the links with his bourgeois buddies, takes in Knicks games via private skybox, and competes with Ryan Lochte for the attention of their shared paramour. Plus, he’s got inside information on how his cousin Tim fixed those NBA games.

Much as he mentors Liz, Jack provides business and life lessons to his fellow titans of capitalism in the sports world. As America mourns the sad death of his onscreen mother, Colleen Donaghy (the late, great Elaine Stritch), as well as the sad continued existence of Donald Sterling, we honor the ways in which sports’ biggest owners and front office talents have emulated Jack over the years. So put on your after-6 p.m. tuxedo, pour a glass of Donaghy Estates Sparkling Wine, and enjoy as 30 Rock’s top exec shows Chicago Typewriter how business really gets done.

Dual-Hatting Leads to Disasters

 Perhaps no team owner is more Donaghy than Dallas Cowboys honcho Jerry Jones. Jack could appreciate more than anyone the hubris that takes physical form in Jerry’s World, as well as the leadership instincts that drive Jones to serve as owner, president, and general manager of his team. Unfortunately, under Jones’ guidance, the Cowboys have won just a single playoff game since the 1996 season. And Tony Romo and Jason Garrett seem as permanently affixed to Dallas football as the 30-million light-bulb video screen hovering inside AT&T Stadium.

Jack Donaghy was once like Jerry Jones. He foists himself onto the TGS with Tracy Jordan writing staff, observing their work and then participating against their wishes. His script suggestions include co-opting the cartoon strip Dilbert into the show’s comedic fare and developing each nascent sketch by first coming up with a catchphrase, then working backward (his best offering, “Beep Beep Ribby Ribby!”, narrowly outpaces “Nuts to you, McGillicuddy!” and “Who ordered the wieners?”). Immediately after this chastening experience, Jack endures a TGS sketch appearance in order to support General Electric’s (GE) product placement directive. After these setbacks, he finally admits that he’s not qualified to perform these jobs, stepping down to allow trained professionals to do their work. Following Jack’s lead could allow Jerry’s team to once again dominate the NFL. But not bloody likely.

 Gender Relations (as practiced by Manhattan-based business tycoons in four easy steps)

  • Isiah Thomas, New York Knicks President of Basketball Operations, is accused of sexually harassing a team executive.
  • Knicks owner James L. Dolan fires the executive, allegedly for making accusations about said harassment.
  • Madison Square Garden foots the bill.
  • All truck parties are postponed until further notice.
  • Jack Donaghy: “Lemon, I’m impressed. You’re beginning to think like a businessman.”

Liz Lemon: “A businesswoman.”

Jack: “I don’t think that’s a word.”

  • Jack: “I like when a woman has ambition. It’s like seeing a dog wearing clothes.”
  • Jack: “I’m tired of talking this much to a woman I’m not having sex with.”
  • Jack to Liz: “Fire her. And don’t ever make me talk to a woman that old again.”

Take a Look, It’s in a Book

Only the Zen Master himself could teach Jack Donaghy something he didn’t already know about personnel management. New York Knicks President Phil Jackson is renowned for educating his star players by giving them books tailored toward their roles and personalities. For Kobe Bryant: Sun Tzu. For Shaquille O’Neal: Nietzsche. For Lamar Odom: a Walter Mosley book called “The Right Mistake”. What else could be expected from a former NBA player who once yearned to be a psychologist, and who titled his own 1995 book Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior? His literary leadership influenced even Jack’s coaching style.

Jack speaking to Tracy Jordan (Morgan) about his little league team from Knuckle Beach, the worst fictional neighborhood in New York: “Phil Jackson likes to give books to his players to inspire them. Which biography of Winston Churchill do you think would improve Rashid’s bunting?”

Unfortunately for these coaches, Michael Jordan and Jerry Seinfeld are not walking through that door. Despite their high-minded applications of the written word, Jackson and Donaghy are stuck directing punchline franchises whose best days are far behind them. Even worse, they must supervise two self-destructive goofballs (J.R. Smith and Tracy Jordan) who now appear to have been separated at birth.

 Race Relations

Donald Sterling: Did some stuff. For a long time. Then someone finally took action.

Jack’s advice to Tracy’s Knuckle Beach little league charges: “Baseball is a wonderful sport, boys. I remember when my high school team won the Boston city championship. Everyone told us we were gonna lose, because our team was all white, and the other team was completely … uhh … uhh … ahh-anyway, we won, and I learned that anything is possible.”

 Avoid Explosive Promotions

This summer marked the 35th anniversary of Disco Demolition Night, which proves that even the sharpest business minds can strike out on planning promotional events. Former Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck gave baseball its first hitting little person, brought back Minnie Minoso to take a few at-bats in 1980 so the former star could boast of playing in five separate decades, and allowed St. Louis Brown fans to help manage a game. As his tenure wound down, however, Veeck allowed his son (Mike Veeck) to greenlight the notorious Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park. Scheduled to take place between games during a July 1979 doubleheader, this promotion offered 98 cent admission to any fan bringing a disco record to the ballpark. The event drew an estimated 90,000 fans, many of them inebriated and some sneaking in with the use of ladders. After a radio personality blew up the offending vinyl, a legion of fans “stormed onto the field, tearing up clumps of sod, burning signs, knocking over a batting cage and flinging records like so many Frisbees.” The ensuing chaos led Detroit Tigers player representative Rusty Staub to claim, “I’ve never seen anything so dangerous in my life.” The White Sox were forced to forfeit the second game of the doubleheader to the visiting Tigers, and the debacle became a public relations nightmare for the organization.

Jack also makes the mistake of setting off explosives in a major American city. Sensing a younger executive encroaching on his turf, Jack dreams up his own promotion: the Rockefeller Center Salute to Fireworks. What he fails to understand about a show involving three hours of continuous fireworks, however, is how they will look exploding in the midtown Manhattan skyline post-9/11. His signature television event is shut down almost immediately after a phone-call from the mayor. The resulting disaster costs Jack his oversight of the GE microwave division and earns him a stern talking-to from his boss, CEO Don Geiss (Rip Torn).

Rebounding from the Agony of Defeat

Not Like This: “As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier. This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his ‘decision’ unlike anything ever ‘witnessed’ in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment… “I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE”

Like This: “I’m certainly not perfect. No, no, no, it’s true. I’ve made mistakes, sacrificed happiness for a job I don’t think I’m ever going to get. We all have ways of coping. I use sex and awesomeness.

Watching the Detectives

 Whatever you do, don’t hire anybody on the down low to help undermine your own employees. George Steinbrenner learned this lesson the hard way when he paid a gambler $40,000 to turn up dirt on his own star player, future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. Their arrangement went public when Steinbrenner’s new employee repeatedly asked for more money, leading to his conviction and prison sentence for extortion. Steinbrenner himself was banned for life from day-to-day operations of the Yankees, but reinstated in 1993.

 Similarly, Jack discovers that a man in his position cannot trust others to do his dirty work. When page Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer) accidentally receives Jack’s bonus check and finishes squealing at the number of zeroes, he instigates a strike to reclaim his colleagues’ lost overtime pay. Jack responds by hiring private investigator Lenny Wosniak (an extra squirrelly Steve Buscemi) to infiltrate the uprising and bring it down from the inside. This strategy fails as spectacularly as Steinbrenner’s dirty deeds. Everything Wosniak tries – including his effort to siphon off sympathizers by organizing a competing viral protest on “Tweeter and YouTubes” – fails miserably, leaving Jack to resolve the issue on his own. He is finally forced to comply with the page’s demand to sign a piece of paper admitting that he is “a big ol’ liar.” The moral is clear: never hire a PI who attempts to thwart a strike by cross-dressing (as “nympho coed” Charlene LaRue) and attempting to seduce its ringleader.


Proverbs from America’s Greatest Leaders of Men

On Values:

Vince Lombardi, former general manager and coach of the Green Bay Packers (as appropriated from UCLA football coach Red Sanders): “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

Jack Donaghy: “Money can’t buy happiness, it is happiness.”

On Faith:

Vince Lombardi: “There are three things that are important to every man in this locker room. His god, his family, and the Green Bay Packers. In that order.”

Jack Donaghy: “I have faith, in things I can see and buy and deregulate. Capitalism is my religion.”

On Country:

Vince Lombardi: “It is and has always been an American zeal to be first in everything we do, and to win.”

Jack Donaghy: “When our founding fathers first set out, time and time again, our nation horizon. Prosperity, dreams, freedom. But, the spirit, journey, destiny. Mitt Romney values, Jenna values. I’ve met people. For this generation, and generations to come: Thank you, America.”

Reality Bites

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is an entertaining, personable impresario who searches out businesses and products for potential investments in the ABC reality series Shark Tank. But he made a poor business decision himself when he elected to tape episodes of his TV show instead of meeting face-to-face with free agent Deron Williams in 2012. Despite the fact that Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson were both present for the in-person pitch to Williams, it was, as Ball Don’t Lie writer Eric Freeman stated, “fairly shocking that Cuban won’t be present on a day that could change the course of the franchise for a decade.” Many observers thought that Cuban’s absence would be insulting to Williams and lessen the chances that the star point guard would sign with Dallas. After committing to remain with New Jersey, Williams himself confirmed these suspicions, stating, “I think (Cuban) would have been able to answer a lot of the questions me and my agent have for him that really didn’t get answered that day pertaining to the future.”

Clearly, Cuban missed Jack’s regrettable appearance on the Bravo reality series Queen of Jordan. An ill-timed fall, a plausibly deniable bout of gas, and a misinterpreted retelling of his collegiate athletics career (all caught on camera) lead to his casting as “Gay Jack”:

Jack: “Yeah, I was an athlete. Very graceful. Sports stories, I got some… When I was at Princeton, I played baseball and football. And back then, football players went both ways.”

Dot Com (Kevin Brown): “Really? So you went both ways?”

Jack: “Yeah. We all did. It was the 70s.”

Dot Com: “So, when you played baseball, were you ever on the DL?”

Jack: “Yeah… I was on the DL most of my junior year.”

Dot Com: “Hmmm.”

Jack: “When we were on the DL, we spent most of our time in the whirlpool – getting rubbed down.”

Dot Com: “You were a switch hitter?”

Jack: “Switch hitter. Pitcher. Catcher. Whatever the boys needed.”

Donaghy eventually disavows this “idiotic” show, proudly proclaiming that he is not a “clumsy gay flatulent.” If Cuban followed Jack’s lead, perhaps the Mavericks could win their first playoff series since the team’s 2011 NBA Championship.

What’s in a Name? (race edition)

Daniel Snyder on his Washington football franchise: “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER – you can use caps.” Note: this remark was made before news reports that the Fort Yuma Quechan Tribe in Arizona rejected finances from Snyder’s Original Americans Foundation, stating, “We know bribe money when we see it.”

Jack Donaghy: “I’ll tell you who has it the hardest: white men. We make the unpopular, difficult decisions, the tough choices. We land on the moon and Normandy Beach, and yet they resent us.”

Kenneth Parcell: “Well, sir, I’m sorry to disagree, but I am also a white man –“

Jack: “No, you are not. Socioeconomically speaking, you are more like an inner-city Latina.”

A short time later, after Kenneth attempts to shoot himself in a stuck elevator to allow fellow passengers to breathe his share of oxygen:

Jack: “Well, Kenneth, I give up. I thought pure morality died with Chuck Heston, but you proved me wrong. You are better than all of us. You are one Latina Fantastica.”

 Steer Clear of the Political Arena

Former WWE CEO Linda McMahon has been bitten by the political bug – and it is a costly illness. McMahon staged two unsuccessful bids for the U.S. Senate in 2010 and 2012, spending nearly $100 million total to run as a Republican candidate in deep-blue Connecticut. Presumably because there is no Senate seat to lose this year, she and husband Vince McMahon have donated almost $1 million to support their favored political candidates and causes in the current election cycle. Judging by Vince’s recent stock market losses, however, the first couple of the squared circle may want to hold off on signing any more checks for the time being.

When he’s not dating Condoleezza Rice and Skyping with Mitt Romney’s dressage horse, Rafalca, Jack Donaghy also dips his toes in the murky waters of political star-making. He decides to back independent candidate Steve Austin (John Slattery of Mad Men) in a Rhode Island congressional election against incumbent Regina Bookman (Queen Latifah), who opposes his desired NBC/Kabletown merger. Jack knows that his candidate is crazy, but is willing to sell out and support Austin’s platform of bringing back unpaved roads and building casinos on the moon in order to benefit his company. His change of heart is coerced by Liz reciting two of Tracy’s greatest movie lines – one of which is, “Die, werewolf zombie!” He urges Slattery, who is sequestered to avoid being heard in public, to speak his mind at a fundraiser and engage in verbal self-immolation. Contemplating the decision to erase his personal guilt by undermining vital business interests, Jack muses, “Letting morality get in the way of making money. I might as well go and … be a teacher.”

Tell ’em Who You Are

 San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt crowing after his team wins the 2014 NBA Championship: “The best people in the world, we’ve got ‘em. We’ve got the best fans, we’ve got the best city, we live in a great state, and we are in the United States of America! The greatest country in the world!”

Jack Donaghy psyching himself up before a public speaking engagement: “Well, buddy, here we come. Bases loaded, bottom of the ninth. Are you gonna step up? Oh yeah. Because it’s winning time, you magnificent son of a bitch! You go in there and show them. Make Mommy proud of her big boy because he’s the best! Just do it! Is it in you? I’m loving it!”

Fix a Major Sporting Event

This level of accomplishment takes masterful skill and unsurpassed egotism, so only the most elite authorities should even try. It helps to be FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who responded to a reporter’s question on corruption earlier this year by snapping, “Listen, lady, when you speak about corruption, then you have to present evidence.” There have long been allegations that the World Cup can be bought, and the locations of the next two tournaments do nothing to disprove this belief. The 2018 and 2022 tournaments will take place, respectively, in Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Qatar, the latter of which currently hosts migrant workers dying to build up the necessary infrastructure. New Republic piece goes so far as to state that, “After Brazil 2014, unless there is urgent and fundamental reform of a kind that would seem unlikely, the tournament is finished.”

For his own coup de grace, Jack helps to stage fake Olympic events so Team U.S.A. can win more medals. America’s success in synchronized running and octuples tennis raises patriotic spirits as well as NBC’s ratings. This scheme is nearly exposed, though, when the silver medalist in tetherball threatens to expose the lie. Fortunately, Jack buys his silence by offering him a role as the voice of Knight Rider (“the film”), then ensures Kenneth’s discretion by providing him with a free television and an opening to steal cable. Jack proves the only way to cover up massive ongoing fraud is with outright bribery – sadly, a lesson that both the business and sports worlds have learned well.

 Beware the Power of the Press

 Marge Schott on, uhh…“Everything you read, when he came in he was good… They built tremendous highways and got all the factories going… Everybody knows he was good at the beginning but he just went too far.”

Jack Donaghy: “You know how the media are. They wait for a mistake, and that’s all you are. It happened to Hitler. No one eeee-ver talks about his paintings.”

Negotiate Ruthlessly

Owners and general managers deal constantly with greedy employees. Tight ends asking you for wide receiver money. Coaches demanding the payments that you guaranteed them. NFL players accusing you of illegally dispensing narcotics and NFL cheerleaders alleging that you are paying them less than minimum wage. These interminable issues can lead to holdouts, strikes, lawsuits, and acquiescence to give Allan Houston and Amar’e Stoudemire nine-figure contracts to observe games from the sidelines. Such are the fates awaiting each team’s front office – unless they follow the Jack Donaghy method of negotiating with their franchise talents:

– Utilize blackmail (preferably photographs involving the talent and an *NSYNC member frolicking at SeaWorld)

– Make a $1 pay raise offer (then lower it to 75 cents)

– Provide ridiculously uncomfortable office chairs for each contract discussion (then take them away)

– Fawn after their competitors to remind your stars that they can always be replaced

– Poison the well with any other prospective suitors looking to recruit the talent

Finally, give them an ultimatum of no extra money, ban them from pursuing any other career paths, and restrict their religious observances to one Jewish holiday per year. With these techniques, you’ll force even the whiniest superstar to degrade himself by performing the worm and yelling out five reasons why you’re better than him.


Follow Kyle on Twitter: @KyleRadioviolet