Jack Kent Cooke legacy in two opposites

The late Jack Kent CookeThe sports palace has changed hands.

No, not Fed Ex Field. I didn't say sports eviction.


Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer closed his deal to buy the fabulous Madison Square Garden Forum for $ 400 million, with the intention of using it for concerts and other events while building an arena for his Clippers basketball team , which now shares the Staples Center with the Lakers.

"The Forum will continue to function as a music venue, while plans to build the NBA arena, privately funded and focused on fans, team headquarters and the transformative community project are moving forward," said a Clippers spokesman. in a statement.

The Forum being in the news again with the sale is a reminder of the striking difference between Cooke's two sports complex legacies – the Forum and Prince George County, Maryland, soccer stadium he opened in 1997, which had his name briefly and has been cursed by Washington Redskins fans ever since.


It is difficult to believe that the two structures were built by the same man. The reminder that it was Cooke which built the Forum, home to six Laker NBA championships, the birth of the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and many other events, only serves to underscore the failure of FedEx Field.

CookeThe quest to own an NHL franchise gave rise to the Forum. The story goes that in 1966 the league announced that it was creating six new expansion teams, with one in Los Angeles. Rams owner Dan Reeves operated a Western Hockey League team at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena and was favored by city officials to secure the new franchise. Cooke was told that if he won the bid, he would not be allowed to use the arena, so he built the Forum for $ 16 million in Inglewood and changed his sport in Los Angeles forever.


The building almost became Cooke's grave. One night in 1973, before a hockey game, he suffered a massive heart attack. The story tells, according to the great former Los Angeles Times columnist Mike Downey, that CookeThe mother's mother, who participated in many games at the Forum, was beside her son when he woke up in the hospital.

"& # 39; Mother, & # 39; Cooke said, formally, as always: "believe it or not, for 30 seconds I was dead". His mother smiled at him and said, "Tell me, Jack. Where were you going? Heaven or hell? & # 39; "

Cooke, a Canadian, is most identified in sports with Washington, the Redskins and their three Super Bowls. But he dreamed of being the sports king in Southern California. He had missed an offer for an American League baseball franchise in 1961, with the Angels awarded to Western film actor Gene Autry. That same year, Cooke bought a 25% stake in the Redskins.


Four years later, Cooke bought the Lakers from Bob Short – the owner of the Washington Senators – for $ 5 million.


So he built a new home for them – the Forum.

According to Downey's column, the architects asked Cooke, "How should it be?"

"Like something 2,000 years ago and 10,000 kilometers to the east," he replied.

In other words, the Roman Coliseum.

Cooke he would only enjoy an NBA title at the Forum – the 1972 Lakers' Championship – before he was forced to sell the franchise and construction in 1979 to Dr. Jerry Buss to help pay the $ 49 million divorce settlement that he had been ordered by Judge Joseph Wapner – yes, Judge Wapner, of the "People's Court" fame.

The next sports facility that Cooke would build would not be so much announced – his new home for the Redskins, in the suburbs of Maryland.

They were built, however, under different circumstances. Cooke had been trying to build a new stadium for the Redskins for 10 years and was removed from the District and northern Virginia. At 84, he was running out of time and eventually used his own money to build in Landover on a website called "Raljon", in honor of his sons Ralph and John. Cooke would never see the opening of his new soccer stadium, as he died seven months before opening.

The stadium in Landover was not destined to become the Cooke Forum in Washington.

Listen to Thom Loverro on Tuesdays and Thursdays on The Kevin Sheehan Podcast.

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