The Day Mark Cuban Worked at Dairy Queen

I haven’t gone through the list of names and confirmed this, but I’m pretty sure Mark Cuban is the most entertaining owner in all of sports. Even his background is compelling. The 57-year-old business tycoon is reportedly worth $3 billion, and none of it was ever handed to him. He managed to save up enough money to buy a bar while he was still in college, and the computer company he formed after his university days sold for $6 million in 1990. A natural-born entrepreneur who is almost as financially savvy as Warren Buffett, Cuban has gotten to where he is through an enviable blend of smarts and unmatched ambition.

He also won’t hesitate to sound off on just about any topic, no matter how controversial it may be. The league has fined Cuban excessively over the years for his outspoken nature, and the running tally has long crossed over into seven-digit territory. It’s worth noting that he matches each fine with a dollar-for-dollar charitable donation. His biggest fine to date came back in the 2001-02 season, when he famously said he wouldn’t hire Ed. T Rush — the NBA’s former director of officiating — to manage a Dairy Queen.

This statement did not go unnoticed by the league or Dairy Queen, and no one found it very amusing. For his part, Cuban insisted he meant no disrespect to Dairy Queen employees, and that the only reason he mentioned them by name is because he loved them. “Any additional pounds I have are due to Blizzards and Blizzards alone,” Cuban was quoted as saying. So when Dairy Queen challenged the loud billionaire to see for himself how hard it was to manage a Dairy Queen for a day, he gladly accepted.

The end result was total chaos, as thousands of customers flocked to the Dairy Queen in Coppell, Texas, the location Cuban agreed to work his shift at, on an otherwise ordinary Wednesday in January. Though he was apparently only behind the counter for a few hours and spent most of his time signing autographs, he did serve a few self-serve cones to customers who waited in line patiently for hours. When the media asked how the experience was, Cuban was unable to resist insulting the league once again, as he praised his temporary boss at Dairy Queen by remarking that the NBA could learn a lot from him.

By the end of the day, over $5,000 had been raised for the Children’s Miracle Network, and the restaurant got so much business it actually ran out of ice. As with anything else he’d done in his life, Cuban turned the event into something wildly profitable. Interestingly, the incident created another link between Cuban and Buffett aside from their penchant for getting disgustingly rich. Buffett, a fellow lover of Dairy Queen, personally sent Cuban a letter thanking him for his actions. The world-famous investment guru, whose company owns Dairy Queen, is apparently even more fond of Blizzards than Cuban is, as he reportedly tried to order one during a stay at the Four Seasons.

Obviously, Cuban is every bit as quick to air out his comments today as he was then, and he’s been fined many times since the Dairy Queen Incident. Just Wednesday he called the referees out for not blowing the whistle on defensive three-second violations, although at this point no response has been reported from the league’s end.

Despite his antics, which some may find off-putting, Cuban is the kind of owner you should want your favorite team to have. He’s emotionally invested in his team and can be seen in the stands during every game, often screaming and celebrating through the ups and downs like the rest of the common rabble, and often sporting the kind of casual attire billionaires are not known for wearing. He genuinely cares about the kind of product his team sells to fans, and not just from a business perspective. He also cares for the players themselves, as evidenced by stories like the one Michael Finley recently told. After an ice storm, Cuban sent a limo to each of the player’s houses so they wouldn’t have to brave the treacherous conditions themselves, and it was just earlier this season that Cuban offered to personally fund heart screenings for 33 retired Mavericks after the deaths of Moses Malone and Darryl Dawkins.

Wherever you stand on Cuban’s propensity to speak his mind, you have to respect what he’s accomplished and how he goes about his business. Some of his comments have rubbed people the wrong way over the years, but I’ll take a generally well-meaning, sincere person who is too honest over the greasy, smooth-talking politician type any day. Furthermore, I’d pay good money to get Cuban and Buffett together to listen to them talk shop in between what would almost certainly be spoonful after spoonful of Blizzards.

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