The Acela is more than just a well-appointed train from Gotham to D.C., where you may find yourself seated between a politician and Wall Streeter -- and then find yourself in the bar car. It is also the Misery Express, connecting Washington's NFL team faithful with the fitful fans of the New York Knicks, in decades-old debates over The Big Engines That Can't.
With big money, their teams can't win.
With big coaches, their teams can't end the drama.
With big stars, their teams can't avoid blowouts.
They are forever lost at Dysfunction Junction. Amid this fog of disillusionment over every media leak about team turmoil, over each season that goes bust, fans of both teams reach a consensus: Their owners are the bane of society on par with aggressive drivers, The Kardashians and ticks.
Meet Dan Snyder, age 48, an NFL owner since he bought the Redskins in 1999 for $800 million. He grew up with bootstraps in a home with no TV, quitting college to start a business, designing travel packages and chartering transportation for college kids to sporting events and holiday breaks. Billionaire, self-made.
Meet Jim Dolan, age 58, an NBA owner since taking over Knicks operations in 1999, as a cog in the family's cable TV empire. He grew up in loafers with free HBO, darting around the Great Gatsby world of Long Island until, as legend has it, his father, Charles, was talking to pals aboard the family yacht one day and asked, what to do about Jim? So Charles gave his son Madison Square Garden.
However their goods were gained, both Snyder and Dolan are crazy-rich, and both own franchises with high perches on the Forbes list of most-valued teams in their leagues, with the Redskins No. 3 in the NFL ($1.7 billion) and the Knicks No. 1 in the NBA ($1.1 billion). And yet, defying all formulas, the math never adds up to sustained success. Snyder's team has four winning seasons in 15 years, with his Skins currently mired in Shanahan-gate at 3-10. Dolan has totaled five winning seasons since 1999, with the team teetering at 6-15 and coach Mike Woodson waiting for a trapdoor to open on the Garden floor.
An essential question remains: Which owner has done the least with the most?