Saturday, December 26, 2009

Major League Soccer's actions may provide a clue to the likelihood of a 2011 NFL lockout

By Evan Weiner

December 26, 2009

For those who follow the National Football League, here is a suggestion. Take a good, hard look at what could happen with Major League Soccer players in February because what the MLS owners, which include the New England Patriots’ Kraft family, the Kansas City Chiefs Hunt family, Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen, could lockout their players around February 1.

At least that is the opinion of one of Allen’s employees, Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller.

Keller has outlined some of the sticking points between the two sides and it sounds a lot like any other management-players association dispute centering on free agency, guaranteed contracts and money. The players want a bigger share of the revenues and the owners want to keep as much of the revenues that are generated.

Major League Soccer is not the National Football League, but collective bargaining agreements end in the NFL and the National Basketball Association in 2011. The National Hockey League might also have a contract negotiation in 2011 if the owners or players decide to pull out of their present collective bargaining agreement a year early and Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement is done in 2012.

If you take a close look at the money behind the MLS, you begin to see that the same people who are behind the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB run the MLS. In 2004, the National Hockey League ownership group decided to play hardball with the players association and locked out the players in September of that year and shut down the league for a year.

Bettman is thought to be the father of the National Basketball Association’s salary cap that was implemented in 1984.

The NHL owners wanted cost containment and a salary cap. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman gave the owners exactly want they wanted. One of Bettman’s owners in 2004 was Phil Anschutz of the Los Angeles Kings. Anschutz is still the power behind Major League Soccer with ownership of the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo. At one time, Anschutz owned six MLS teams, if Phil Anschutz wants to lock out the players; chances are good that the MLS will not be preparing for the 2010 season in February.

The NHL labor action of 2004-05 had a profound affect on other sports. The National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern, who had been Bettman’s NBA boss between 1984 and 1993, kept a close eye on the NHL negotiations and certainly had a lot of leverage in his negotiations with NBA players. Stern could always point to the NHL players and tell NBA players look we can do the same to you.

There was a quick agreement between the NBA owners and players in 2005 and Major League Baseball, whose interim commissioner Bud Selig in 1994 when the baseball players went on strike was emotional at a news conference when the baseball playoffs and World Series were about to go down the drain in saying he heard from a hockey owner, presumably Chicago’s Bill Wirtz, that the baseball owners needed to hang in and not cave into the players.

Whether people or fans want to believe this or not, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League are tied at the hip through overlapping ownership of not only teams (Texas Rangers-Dallas Stars Tom Hicks, the New York Knicks- Rangers Cablevision/Dolan Family, the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers, Comcast, Chicago White Sox-Bulls, Jerry Reinsdorf. The Toronto Maple Leafs-Raptors-Toronto FC/MLS, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to just name a few), there are overlapping ownership of regional cable TV networks as well (Reinsdorf, the Wirtz and the Chicago Cubs each have a piece of the Chicago regional network, the New York Yankees and the New Jersey Nets have an agreement with the YES Network, the Boston Red Sox group owns 80 percent of the New England Sports Network with the other 20 percent in the hands of the Boston Bruins group just to name a few).

The MLS has ties to the NHL (Anschutz, the Maple Leafs, St. Louis’ Dave Checketts, Colorado’s Kroenke Sports Enterprises), the NBA (Kroenke), Major League Baseball (Oakland’s Lewis Wolff, San Francisco’s William H. C. Chang) so this is not a minor league even though the MLS is not recognized as one of the top soccer leagues in the world. In fact, it is probably more of a minor league based on talent and the league has problems attracting major talent because of the salary cap.

The exception being Anschutz’s signing of David Beckham. But it is Anschutz’s league, he can write the rules if he so chooses.

The MLS is in a bit of a bind. Will American football fans notice if the league doesn’t operate in 2010 with the World Cup taking place? The World Cup supersedes the English Premiership and all the other more prominent leagues globally and people cheer for their home country. The World Cup qualifier in 1969 set off a four-day war between El Salvador and Honduras. Earlier this year,
Egypt and Algeria nearly had an international incident after reports that Algerian fans attacked Egyptian partisans after Algeria beat Egypt in a qualifier in Khartoum, Sudan that escalated into a rowdy protest by Egyptian partisans at the Algerian Embassy in Cairo that ended with 20 arrests, dozens of Egyptian police suffering injuries and 15 cars damaged.

There is not that sort of passion for football in the United States or Canada.

Of course the same thing was said about the National Hockey League in 2004 and 2005, did fans really miss the NHL? The truth is that owners don’t want fans, they want customers who don’t mind paying top dollar or loonie to attend games, corporations bought tickets then as an inducement for business and since the regional sports cable TV networks are owned by teams or people like Rupert Murdoch (who is heavily involved in funding Major League Baseball, the NFL and teams in both the NHL and NBA), there was no pressure from the regionals to settle the dispute.

To this date, no cable subscriber in the United States has been reimbursed for missed games from the 1994 NHL lockout or the 2004-05 lockout, nor has more been returned from the 1998-99 NBA lockout or the various Major League Baseball work stoppages.

The corporate ticket buyers along with marketing partners returned to the NHL. The MLS has major TV partners, major sponsors and is building a corporate base and has been successful in getting municipalities to fund new stadiums around North America. More than likely, any potential lockout will blow over but you won’t see the baseball-like diehards screaming they will never attend a game again because of greedy players.

It is still too early in the negotiating game to say there will be or will not be an MLS lockout. But owners like Kraft, Hunt and Allen (presuming his health problems will allow him to monitor the situation, Allen is a minority owner of the Sounders) could tip their collective hand in the National Football League's bargaining by backing a MLS lockout. The MLS might be an after thought to most of the remaining American newspapers sports editors and to American sports talk radio, but it is the rabbit in the race, the MLS will set the pace in what might be a very tumultuous few years in sports starting in February.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Did the 2004 Athens Olympics Contribute to the Greece Financial Meltdown?

Did the 2004 Athens Olympics contribute to the Greece financial meltdown?

By Evan Weiner

December 17, 2009

Is the International Olympic Committee to blame for the December decline in the Euro? It may not be that much of a stretch to blame the International Olympic Committee demands on Greece to make certain that the 2004 Athens Olympics opened on time with state of the art facilities which in turn cost Greece taxpayers’ billions upon billions of dollars.

Greece is still paying for the Olympics and the Olympics may have partially helped nudged Greece into a financial abyss that is causing trouble for Europe and the euro. Greece may not be able to borrow any more money to pay down the country’s debts, some of which can directly be traced to overspending on the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Greece has not exhibited much discipline in spending over the years. Greece won the 2004 Olympic bid in 1997 and the project was in immediate trouble. Construction of the facilities and infrastructure was slow and costs mounted. Costs soared and Greece was on the hook for the billions of euros or dollars or pounds or whatever other currency you could name.

Greece could be insolvent and join Iceland, Dubai and Ireland as major financial trouble spots which gives the European Union a major problem. The EU wants a concrete plan of action from Greece officials that will reduce government spending and debt. Some of that debt is 2004 Athens Olympics related. Greece is also reeling from decisions by various credit agencies to downgrade the country’s financial ratings.

There seems to be a spillover which is dragging down the Euro to new December lows. The European currency has fallen to about a $1.44 US as of December 17 and is about seven cents down in the month of December.

The 2004 Athens Olympics is not the only financial burden on the Greece’s government but it certainly has not helped the Greece’s bottom line. The International Olympic Committee promises the world to host cities and it usually ends up in a bad financial experience for host cities such as Montreal, Sydney, Athens, Turin and the same thing is happening right now in Vancouver, Canada who host of the 2010 Winter Olympics, and in London, England, the host of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

In the United States, General Electric’s NBCUniversal division could lose as much as $200 million (US) because advertiser revenues are not going into the Vancouver Olympics telecasts.

The Olympics experience has become a money pit. Most people going after the Olympics know that the International Olympic Committee is a scourge but cities still throw themselves at the IOC’s feet hoping to get chosen. The lure seems to be nothing more than let’s feel good about hosting the event and that we will get some positive publicity out of the event that might eventually draw tourists to the city.

Remember how the Republicans and Conservatives in the United States mocked President Barack Obama when Chicago did not receive the nod from the International Olympic Committee to host the 2016 Games after Obama went to Copenhagen, Denmark to speak before the IOC? Remember how American radio talk show hosts were gleeful that Obama failed to get the Games and how America failed.

Needless to say the politicians and the noise crowd were really ignorant of the whole Olympics process and how it really is a drag on countries and local and provincial governments. The noise and ignorance radio carnival barkers crowd, led by Rush Limbaugh, didn’t bother to do any homework and see how tax rates in Montreal and Quebec rose between 1976 and 2006 to pay off the 1976 Montreal summer games.

The Montreal Games ended up costing about one billion dollars US. But that was nothing compared to what happened in Athens. The radio know-it-alls failed to notice just how much money the 2004 Athens games cost. But the Obama is failed carried the day for the know-it-alls on crow on radio daily.

Did Greece spend 10 billion euros or more on the Games? The true answer may never be determined. Whatever was spent, Greece lost billions of euros on the two week sports event. By 2008, 21 of the 22 venues built for the 2004 Games were unused and were in various state of disrepair yet Greece taxpayers were paying for some sort of maintenance at the venues and that too was very costly. It seems that the Olympics did very little for Athens and Greece and that 10 billion euro expenditure was a waste and probably in some way has led to Greece’s financial meltdown.

Of course people will scoff at that notion but that money spent on the Olympic venues could have been used elsewhere. Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen in 1997 as Nashville mayor admitted that a supermarket was worth far more than a stadium or an arena in terms of economic impact. But Bredesen wanted to change Nashville’s image and make it a major league town complete with a National Football League team that would play on Monday Night Football and show off the Nashville Skyline and either a National Basketball Association or a National Hockey League team.

Bredesen wanted Nashville to be known for something even though it was the “country music capital of the world” and Bob Dylan put out an album called “Nashville Skyline” in 1969. Nashville spent hundreds of millions of dollars for the right to be a “big league” town and has an NFL team, the Tennessee Titans and an NHL team, the Nashville Predators.

It is a much smaller comparison, building a stadium or an arena with taxpayers’ money when put up against an Olympics which requires 22 or so venues but Bredesen’s point is well worth examining.

A supermarket that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week employs three full shifts plus weekend shifts and employs far more people than a stadium and/or an arena. The people who work in the supermarket live in the community and spend their paychecks at other businesses in that community. A stadium is used just a handful of times a year, a football stadium might operate only 10 days a year and employee a handful of part time employees. A team might have an office in the stadium, but the team does not employee as many people as a supermarket, Yes players get paid large sums of money and taxes are collected on the salaries but players don’t live in the community surrounding a stadium and don’t shop in the area. Wealthy athletes live in gated communities somewhere else.

A baseball stadium could be used 90 days a year but that still leaves about 275 days with no event. An arena might get 200 days of use but none of the sports venues are open virtually everyday of the year. Having 22 venues unused is not financially feasible yet that is what is happening with Olympic facilities after the circus leaves town.

Even if some of the 21 unused Greece facilities come back on line, it is highly unlikely that the Greek government can ever reclaim the public investment money on the buildings.

Athens did get a new airport and new transportation system out of the Olympics and walkways in the historical areas. However Greece would have built that infrastructure eventually but all has not been well with the construction.

Greece doesn’t even have a real handle on just how much was spent on the non Olympic venues in the “infrastructure” category. The Olympics cost is a drop in the bucket compared with the Greece debt which is about $300 billion euro but the Greek economy was faltering long before the global market collapsed in September 2008.

The 2004 Olympic experience certainly did not help. Yet even with all of the evidence, cities continue to go after the Olympics and there is a list of cities wanting the 2018 Winter Games as Annecy, France, Munich, Germany and PyeongChang, South Korea are bidding for the right to hold the competition. Italy wants the 2020 Summer Games and will decide whether Rome or Venice is the best city for the country’s bid next April.

Meanwhile, economists and sports business experts really need to examine what affect the 2004 Athens Games had on Greece’s debt and how those Olympics bills are dragging down the euro.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tiger, Harvey Levin, Time Warner and Murdoch and American journalism

Tiger, Harvey Levin, Time Warner and Murdoch and American Journalism

By Evan Weiner

December 15, 2009

(New York, N. Y.) -- In all the stories about Tiger Woods, the one that doesn’t stand out is how much money charities will end up losing because people like Harvey Levin keep pushing the envelope and claim it is journalism. This much is known, Woods dropped out of his own charity tournament in late November and attendance was way off without the golfer at the Thousand Oaks, California course.

That meant a loss of money that would be given to charities and people who need help. That is not something Levin and his ilk give much thought to.

What happened with Tiger, the mistresses, his family is Tiger Woods’ business and he has to deal with his problems. The general public does not need to know what is going on. The public does not have a right to know even though Tiger Woods is a public figure. Woods is a golfer and a corporate pitchman, he is not a governor of a state who spent time with a hooker in Washington, DC, he is not a governor of a state who decided to take off to Argentina to be with his lover and disappeared for five days and not tell any state officials about not being around which is unconscionable for the leader of a state and should be an impeachable offense.

Woods is a golfer. That is what he does best.

The Woods story is taking a familiar route with the media being led by the nose by people like Levin and his benefactor Rupert Murdoch. Levin and Murdoch together in bed? Yes, you see Levin’s TMZ television show is picked up by Murdoch’s WNYW in New York and his stations in Chicago and Los Angeles. TMZ’s franchise TV show is distributed by Warner Brothers Domestic Television Distribution and the show is also partially produced by Warner Brothers Telepictures along with Levin. So two of the United States’ three cable TV news entities have an interest in TMZ and further the Woods story as Murdoch’s FOX and Time Warner’s CNN are giving the people what they want or are they?

And the media pile on includes spin doctors, public relations agents, the amateur and professional psychiatrists and others who are giving their professional advice to Tiger and how he can reclaim his pedestal. It seems like we have heard this story before with Alex Rodriguez the last sports icon to fall last spring. The Yankees won a World Series and Alex Rodriguez seems to be doing fine.

The Tiger Woods story doesn’t resonant in gyms or in the Eastchester, New York CVS store. Inquiring minds need to know, so I asked a woman who has worked at the store for a long time whether there has been a spike in sales of Murdoch’s New York Post, the National Enquirer, People, US, Star the Globe and all the other “entertainment” magazines and papers and the answer was a resounding no.

The National Enquirer is on the ropes financially; the New York Post has lost a chunk of circulation and is in the red. CNN and FOX would not be profitable without the Cable TV Act of 1984 which does not allow a la carte cable TV pricing.

Murdoch, the hero of the conservatives and moralists, really does pull the wool over his audiences’ eyes sort of like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain. His audience never seems to notice that he hired the former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s hooker as a sex columnist for his New York Post, or that the Post has ads for escort services or that his WNYW TV station runs spots for escort services.

Levin is an interesting story. He nearly blew up the O. J. Simpson case as a reporter for KCBS in Los Angeles back in 1994 by showing a video with a wrong time code of the prosecutor Marcia Clark searching Simpson’s home before a search warrant was issued. Levin had to apologize for his mistake, but he has continued having a TV career despite his almost over-the-top miscue.

Levin is now the host of The People’s Court. AOL helped get off the ground. AOL was owned by Time Warner when that happened in 2005.

The court TV genre is popular but perhaps it is time for either the House or Senate’s Committee on Legislative Oversight start taking a serious look at Levin and others in the genre if a veteran TV booker who shares a first name with a one time gossip columnist and a last name with a baseball writer is correct. According to the booker, court shows look for people who are over the top who get easily excited and are interesting. Before the court shows are taped, there is a lot of alcohol available to drink and then it is show time. To get a plaintiff to sue a defendant on the show, the plaintiff is given a sales pitch by a producer which consists of what do you have to lose, you probably aren’t going to get your money anyway from this man or woman so come onto the show and you are guaranteed something.

There is a catch though. The plaintiff might win a judgment but the show’s budget has been stretched and that the plaintiff might not get the all of the money from the show’s producers because the show’s budget has been stretched.

If Congress could investigate TV game shows of the 1950s, they can look into Levin and others who engage in this type of genre. After all, Levin has no problem going after people like Tiger Woods or Mel Gibson or Britney Spears or Michael Richards (by the way, how did TMZ not run afoul of the do not tape performances announcement that accompanies all performances and put the Richards meltdown on a website without getting sued for copyright infringements?)

Woods is just the latest in a long line of people who were placed on a pedestal by the media and now the media is feasting over his rapid demise as an icon and idol. Golf writers, who sound a lot like baseball writers who were caught with their collective pants down by not writing about alleged steroid usage in the sport (although the Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell and sportscaster Bob Costas did write and talk about their suspicions) are now doing a mea culpa.

Leonard Shapiro in the Washington Post has expressed some sort of guilt by not following Tiger Woods into the bedroom. Shapiro in his column also fingers fellow writers for not following Woods on his sexual romps.

This is what the Murdochs, Levins, Time Warners have created. But the point is that people don’t care. No matter what the media barons say, it doesn’t sell newspapers, if scandal did, Murdoch would be rolling in dough with the New York Post and not blaming the Internet for the decline of newspaper readership. TMZ would be pulling a 46 percent share of the audience during its time slot and the National Enquirer would be flying off the shelves.

Back to the gym, there was a conversation between a senior woman and a man from one of the Caribbean islands. The woman said “look men like sex, Tiger Woods is a man, he is a powerful man and woman throw themselves at him whatever happened, it is his business.” The man in the other end of the conversation had an interesting point about the American media, how they like to build up people and then knock them down and that didn’t happen in his home country.

Back in the 1980s, the veteran New York sports columnist Dick Young used to write about “My America”. Young’s America in his mind cared about law and order so he expected that the Major League Baseball players who were linked to cocaine usage would get booed upon their return from court or a suspension or even jail time. None of that ever happened because people just want to be entertained.

In the 1980s and 1990s, grown men used to quiver in line when Mickey Mantle did baseball card autograph shows even though they knew about Mickey’s drinking and infidelity.

They loved the Mick.

Tiger Woods is an entertainer. No more, no less. He is not the Commander in Chief conducting two wars, nor is he trying to turn around a severe recession. He is not trying to find a cure for cancer. He is not a school teacher nor is he is member of the clergy. He is a golfer. That’s it.

But Levin and is ilk have hurt charities in their quest for an extra three viewers to make their presentations more valuable for advertisers and knock Woods from his media made throne. The Professional Golf Association donates a piece of the gate in every city that a tournament is played to local charities. Without Woods, charities are going to suffer. Tiger Woods drives the gate and that part of the story is going unreported by Murdoch, by Levin, by CNN. They just a reporting on how much money Tiger Woods could lose in endorsements.

It is a sad, sad commentary on what passes as the news industry in the United States. But as a one time WNEW-FM, New York disc jockey turned WABC-TV, New York political reporter named Pat Dobson once said on the air, the media just follows the New York Post’s lead.

It is that mentality that is sinking the journalism business rapidly.

One last thing, when Tiger Woods returns to the golf course, he will be welcomed back by the consumer just like those baseball fans who cheered the guys linked to cocaine in the 1980s.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bad week for Toronto hockey writers

Bad week for Toronto hockey writers

By Evan Weiner

December 12, 2009

(New York, N. Y.) -- It has not been a good couple days for the Toronto sports media, rather the Toronto hockey fan sportswriters. National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman met with Quebec Premier Jean Charest and the Quebec premier is under the impression that Bettman would like to see a franchise in Quebec City.

Then came the story that Bettman would prefer expanding the league rather than relocating teams and on top of that there seems to be a group ready to buy the financially troubled Phoenix Coyotes willing to keep the team in Glendale, Arizona.
The stars are not aligning for the Toronto hockey scribes who were waving their red and white pom poms last summer and basically begging a United States bankruptcy judge to let Jim Balsillie pick up the Coyotes franchise and move the team to Hamilton, Ontario.

That didn’t happen as Judge Redfield Baum decided to let the NHL handle the sale of the Coyotes franchise. Balsillie, one of the BlackBerry founders, appealed to Canadian nationalism in his bid to buy the Coyotes and the Toronto hockey writers acted as if they were a Balsillie flack instead of journalists who researched sports league’s constitutions or previous denials of sports teams ownership transfers or relocation such as Major League baseball saying twice no to Edwin Gaylord in the 1980s in his attempt to but the Texas Rangers because he owned a “superstation” in Dallas and Gaylord’s Dallas TV station would air Rangers games nationally and devalue other baseball TV contracts.

That opened the door for George W. Bush to eventually join a group that would buy the Rangers in 1989. A little research would have helped Toronto hockey writers understand how leagues operate.

Now the Toronto writers are facing a dilemma. What if Quebec City really has the wherewithal to finance a new arena? In 1995, Quebec Nordiques owner Marcel Aubut and Bettman tried to persuade Quebec politicians to come up with public financing for a new arena to replace Le Colisee and failed. Aubut sold the team to Charlie Lyons and Ascent and the franchise ended up in Denver, Colorado.

The Toronto writers have been tearing apart Bettman for years about a perceived perception that Bettman has anti-Canadian stance and never include in their critiques of the “New York lawyer” or the “diminutive” commissioner helped prevent the Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington from selling his team to Houston sports owner Les Alexander who planned to take the team to Texas in 1998. Bettman also helped broker a deal to keep the Ottawa Senators in the Canadian capital, although technically the Senators home arena is in Kanata, which is west of Ottawa.

Bettman also fought to keep franchises in Pittsburgh, Nashville and Glendale, Arizona (Phoenix). He pushed for Edmonton and Calgary to get a share of the Alberta hockey lottery.

Under Bettman’s watch, Quebec City, Winnipeg and Hartford (three former World Hockey Association teams) have relocated. Quebec City to Denver in 1995, Winnipeg to Phoenix (now Glendale) in 1996 and Hartford to Raleigh, North Carolina in 1997. All three cities simply did not have state of the art 1990s hockey arenas. Connecticut Governor John Rowland, who ended up in prison, seemed smitten with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft snooping around Hartford looking for a stadium for his National Football League team and didn’t really play ball with Hartford Whalers owner Peter Karmanos.

Rowland not only lost a hockey team but probably Compuware jobs as Karmanos wanted to establish a Connecticut outpost for his computer company.

Rowland lost the Whalers and Kraft never really had any intention of moving his Patriots from the Boston metropolitan area and simply used Rowland as leverage to get a new stadium in Foxboro next to his old stadium. Kraft is further developing that property in Foxboro. He may be using United States government stimulus funding for his project.

The Toronto media, at least one of the hockey fans, er writers, Randy Sportak is urging the NHL to go into Toronto or Hamilton and while Quebec City or Winnipeg would be great additions to the league, Toronto deserves a second team. Sportak is also suggesting that the league move the New York Islanders or the Nashville Predators to southern Ontario.

Lazy journalism on Sportak’s part if he thinks the Islanders will move. Sportak probably has no idea how lucrative the Islanders cable TV deal with Cablevision’s Charles Dolan really is. The deal runs until 2031 and it behooves Dolan, the owner of Madison Square Garden, the National Basketball Association’s Knicks and the NHL’s Rangers and the MSG Network, to keep paying. You see Dolan needs the Islanders to stay in Uniondale or move to the proposed Brooklyn arena or the proposed building that could end up on Shea Stadium’s former site or in the junkyards at Willets Point adjacent to the US National Tennis Center to keep his cable TV franchises on Long island.

Here is how it works. Dolan can go before any town, village or city board on the island in both Nassau and Suffolk County when his cable TV systems franchise licensing agreement is up and say I have two things other cable operators don’t have. The Islanders and News 12. Dolan uses the same strategy in New Jersey with the Devils and News 12. Dolan is a major benefactor of New Jersey Devils hockey.
That is how sports operators. Islanders owner Charles Wang is hoping that he can develop the area around the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. If he cannot, you can be sure that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who found funds for new baseball stadiums for the Yankees and Mets, will be chatting up Brooklyn and Queens with Wang.

No matter how lucrative the Toronto market might be, and this is no slight about Toronto, T. O. is not the Big Apple even if hockey is king in Toronto.
There is no suggestion at present that Nashville is ready to give up on the Predators.

If there is expansion, Quebec City and Winnipeg are on top of the charts for the NHL. In fact, the founder of the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League Alexander Medvedev, the Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Russian Gazprom energy company, thinks that Quebec City is long overdue for an NHL team. An expansion of the league would mean a good deal of money for NHL owners. Even if the league sells the franchises for $150 million each, which is probably a low figure, two franchises would mean the NHL owners would split the $300 million 30 ways and give each owner $10 million.

It has not been a good week for the Toronto sports media. Quebec City wants an NHL team and Gary Bettman is listening, the NHL favors expansion over relocation, New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner wants a hockey team in his proposed Brooklyn building, presumably the Islanders, and Ice Edge wants the Coyotes and has a plan to use Saskatoon, Saskatchewan as a second home for five games which should cause the Toronto writers to break out the pom poms again. But Saskatoon is not Southern Ontario nor is Quebec City and that is a problem for the Toronto scribes.

Bad week for Toronto hockey writers

Bad week for Toronto hockey writers

Posted using ShareThis

Friday, December 11, 2009

The NFL, Congress, the BCS and the Bahamas

The NFL, Congress, the BCS and the Bahamas

By Evan Weiner

(Nassau, Bahamas) -- You can tell a lot about a sport’s popularity by going to a supermarket. I spent the day before Thanksgiving, a huge sports lead up day in America to three National Football League contests on the holiday along with a three-day menu of college football games, in Nassau, Bahamas. Strolling through a supermarket you can see how integrated a sports really is within a society by walking through the beer and snacks areas.

In Nassau, the Super Value supermarket near the beach near Sandals is far more of a gauge of what the locals think about the National Football League and college football than Paradise Island and the Atlantis resort. There is no real NFL interest despite Nassau’s close proximity to the United States on West Bay Street not far from Goodman Bay. There were no in-store promotions pushing the National Football League in the beer area or the snack aisle.

It was almost as if the NFL didn’t exist.

That probably is not news to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or his owners even though they would like to expand the league’s reach. The only North American sports league that has tried to do anything in Nassau was the National Basketball Association as the Miami Heat played a pre-season game in the city. There are basketball courts around Nassau. There were two NBA players from the Bahamas, Mychael Thompson and Rick Fox.

Nassau and the rest of the Bahamas have boxing and track and field along with a lot of yacht races but there is no football, the American version, but there is the international version of football, soccer, along with cricket and rugby. The Bahamas have golf, tennis and water sports but there is no real interest in football except when tourists bet on games. In the 1990s, the Bahamas government approved gambling on sports events as a way to keep the gambling money in the country as some of that money was being lost to riverboat style gambling.

The Bahamas, after all, became an independent country in 1973 and centuries of being under British rule and the country is a member of the British Commonwealth which means that American sports stayed on the mainland except for some baseball.
The National Football League is no big deal outside of North America. The NFL has the entire United States, a good chunk of Canada and parts of Mexico in its marketing footprint and that why the NFL is desperately trying to establish a foothold in London and the United Kingdom with the thought of marketing the brand in the Commonwealth nations.

But the NFL and college football have far more problems than expanding the global gridiron footprint. Walking on Goodman’s Bay beach the day before Thanksgiving, a holiday not celebrated in November in the Bahamas, is a world away from Washington and Goodell along with the college football industry have spent more time up on Capitol Hill recently than dealing with Dan Snyder’s Redskins or the University of Maryland’s football squad.

Congress wants to know more about head injuries and concussions and Congress wants to know about college football’s way of determining a national champion. Should politicians be involved in football?

The answer should be no but the game and business of football and Washington interests have been intertwined since President Theodore Roosevelt in October 1905 began to ask questions about the brutal nature of football. Columbia University dropped football because of the brutality and Harvard was ready to follow suit. Roosevelt liked football, his son played the game at Harvard, however the game bordered on savagery.

By December 1905, Roosevelt used the bully pulpit of the Oval Office and cleaned up football, a game which had a growing casualty rate.

Because of Roosevelt’s interference or influence and it according to historians was a bit of both, new rules were drawn up to make the game safer.

Thanks to federal legislation, big time college football factories have a tax exemption; pro football got a version of an anti-trust exemption in 1961 which allowed the established National Football League to group all 14 franchises as one and sell weekly games to a television network, just like the newly formed American Football League and Congress gave approval to the 1966 American Football League-National Football League merger which ended the competition for players between the 15 team NFL and the nine team AFL.

The merger not only combined the leagues but created the American Football League-National Football League World Championship Game which is now known as the Super Bowl.

That is why Congress has held hearings on head injuries and long time consequences for players who have had concussions and how college football determines a champion. Congress has not yet touched on football programs being dropped at Boston’s Northeastern University of Long Island’s Hofstra University. It has become far too expensive to run programs for those schools.

Perhaps Congress will look into the divide between the big time football programs and the schools who are opting out on a small level. Congress has had issues with the Bowl Championship Series in the past and Congress should be reviewing every aspect of college sports from tax exemptions to graduation rates to whether players should get a piece of the pie from the billions of dollars in TV revenues.
Congress wants a national football champion. A House panel wants a national champion which is sort of strange given that America is fighting two wars, there is a battle going on over health care. Municipalities are laying off people because of the consequences of a very severe recession and unemployment remains too, too high. But there is bipartisan support for a national college football championship game.

Congress is about a decade and a half late in holding hearings on head injuries. The former NHL power skating hockey coach Laura Stamm was talking about the issue in the mid-1990s and was doing research on injuries. Laura Stamm was just a voice in the wilderness in the mid-1990s.

Head injuries in sports is not a new topic, it is just getting far more scrutiny now. Theodore Roosevelt knew all about head injuries as President in 1905 when there was serious consideration given to banning football and on field deaths.
Congress has some leverage in making sure Goodell and his owners get the message that they better do something to clean up football. Congress has passed legislation that has greatly aided the NFL and made NFL owners a lot of money in bills ranging from the 1961 Sports Broadcast Act to the 1966 merger to the 1984 Cable TV Act to the revision of the tax code in 1986 which changed the funding methods of municipally funded stadiums. In 2007, Congress forced the NFL to put the undefeated New England Patriots-New York Giants game on over-the-air TV networks instead of the NFL Network when New England was 15-0 and going for an undefeated season. It seems inconceivable that Congress has that kind of power, but Congress does as the House of Representatives and the Senate are very active partners in sports.

But in Nassau, Bahamas, the beach is far, far away and the NFL is largely a TV and betting affair. There is no American football in Nassau. The NFL is a world away despite being less than an hour plane flight from Miami to Nassau. Before the NFL goes overseas in a quest to sell more logo-ed t-shirts and hats, Goodell better take care of his own home which was why he is obsessing with head injuries and might have to feel the wrath of the bully pulpit like college presidents did in 1905.

The NFL, Congress, the BCS and the Bahamas

The NFL, Congress, the BCS and the Bahamas

Posted using ShareThis

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tiger Woods and Broken Journalism

Tiger Woods and Broken Journalism

By Evan Weiner

The United States must not be conducting two wars or trying to get out of a severe recession or trying to figure out how to solve the health care crisis. You see two big name so-called journalists, Bob Schieffer of the CBS television network and the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd have decided to comment on the golfer Tiger Woods personal problems which means all is well with the world and America.

Schieffer on his CBS-TV Face the Nation public affairs program and Dowd in her New York Times column.

The fact that Schieffer, the one time CBS Evening News anchor, and Dowd are throwing on their two cents on Woods shows just how far journalism has sank. Schieffer, if he has to weigh in on Tiger Woods, should just go back to his Friday night dinners and discussion of fantasy baseball with his brother Tom, the former Texas Rangers President and Rangers Managing General Partner George W. Bush like they did in the 1990s and Dowd, well someone at the New York Times likes her. Hopefully for the columnist that like will still be on display in the future as later this week the New York Times plans lets go of a number of employees.

The Times is hemorrhaging money and has to lay off personal.

The times are a changing and the New York Times is not what it once was nor is CBS News, the home of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. Murrow helped bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy on the See It Now show back on March 9, 1954 and Cronkite concluded the Vietnam War was not winnable on February 27, 1968 during a CBS news program which set into motion a series of events that might have had a heavy influence on President Lyndon B. Johnson’s decision not to seek re-election in 1968.

To be fair, both Murrow and Cronkite did preside over a lot of fluff programming as well with Murrow hosting People to People and Cronkite was an anchor at the 1960 Winter Olympics and did the narration of the Violent World of Sam Huff as part of the “The Twentieth Century” series on October 30, 1960.

There is a lot going on in the world. A global climate conference in Copenhagen, more troops will be headed to Afghanistan, unemployment at 10 percent, the on going health care debate and in the sports world, head injuries in football. All of that is significantly more important than whatever is going on between Woods and his wife.

The tearing down of an idol is nothing new in American journalism and now it is Tiger Woods turn to feel the wrath of the jock sniffers who report on sports. Somehow Tiger didn’t level with them, as if the reporters who follow golf deserve an explanation of his exploits. Of course Tiger has never palled around with sportswriters types anyway and now they can even the score since he is not their friend. Hell hath no fury like a sportswriter or sportswriters scorned.

There will be fewer reporters following Tiger Woods around in 2010 as the newspaper industry continues to bleed red ink and the radio/TV industry cuts back on news programming. The funny thing about the entire Tiger Woods coverage is that newspapers, radio and TV are giving the people what they want.


Of course if scandal really did sell, the National Enquirer would not be reeling. The New York Post would be selling millions of papers daily instead of seeing plunging circulation and the Gannett newspapers would not be laying off reporters, closing down printing presses and furloughing employees. The Gannett papers including USA Today, the New York suburban papers including the Journal News and others have ceased to be legitimate publications.

Newspaper executives and newspaper owners like Rupert Murdoch can scream all they want about how Google and the internet have inflicted a great deal of damage on their circulation and advertising but the truth is simple. Newspaper owners, publishers and managers sat snug while people like Craig Newmark came up with a better idea, Craig’s List, which took millions of dollars away from papers by charging far less for classified ads.

It is true advertisers are cutting back because of the economy yet marketers are willing to spend more on web advertising.

Tiger Woods is not going to sell any more newspapers or even more National Enquirers. But don’t tell that to various executives.

At one time, newspapers provided the backbone of publicist for sports. Notre Dame owes a great deal to the writers of the 1920s who sold the public on the mythology of George Gipp, the Four Horsemen and Knute Rockne. Newspapers made Babe Ruth and Red Grange household names in the 1920s and sports has embraced newspapers and sportswriters have gained a sense of entitlement which includes voting for various sports hall of fames and for individual players and manager or coaches awards which impacts on the earnings power of athletes, coaches and sports executives.

Today college students don’t read newspapers and young people get sports information from team websites, league websites, blogs, TV and radio. The golden age of the newspaper in America is gone and AARP members are the last generation that depends on newspapers for information. That is an undisputed fact.

Tiger Woods is a genuine 14 carat superstar with major ability in his field which is golf. Tiger doesn’t need sportswriters around because the truth of the matter is that he doesn’t say very much and his talent is always on display and people who follow Tiger don’t need a sportswriters’ analyst of his ability. They can listen to the former professional golfer who is part of a television network’s presentation of a golf tournament.

By the way, Tiger is not in trouble with the law. The case is closed and done with Tiger playing a small fine. But the media is not done with Tiger, the story they created about Tiger has come undone and it is payback time. Yet Tiger is not going to add to the media bottom line with scandal. It doesn’t work, if it did Confidential magazine would still be in circulation.

Tiger Woods never really sold newspapers but he did draw eyeballs to the TV screen whenever he played in a tournament. Woods sponsors are not fleeing and the Professional Golf Association’s media partners whether it is Summer Redstone’s CBS, General Electric’s NBC (soon to be merged with the Philadelphia-based Comcast, the multiple systems operator which owns the Golf Channel and Versus, which carries PGA shows), Disney’s ESPN and ABC in the US or the Disney-owner TSN in Canada along with RDS and CanWest north of the border and the numerous televisions partners globally can’t wait for Tiger to play in the tournaments they are showing. XM Satellite Radio, another financially struggling entity, is not dissolving its partnership with the PGA because of Tiger’s car accident or apparent National Enquirer fodder lifestyle.

Schieffer should keep his CBS Face the Nation program focused squarely addressing important American issues and Dowd, well she should go back to the Breck Girl (John Edwards) type columns on politics. Tiger will get more viewers for Redstone by playing golf; Tiger will not bring Redstone or Schieffer any new viewers. Dowd’s columns on Tiger will not help bring readers back to the New York Times.

As soon as Tiger is back on the golf course, all will be forgiven. Tiger is just another jock, another human being; although he is a superior golfer and he will make his money which is more than can be said for the New York Times or the National Enquirer.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Is Detroit Still a Major League Sports Town?

Is Detroit Still a Major League Sports Town?

By Evan Weiner

November 20, 2009

10:00 PM EST

Has Detroit ceased being a middle market franchise? There are three not so subtle clues that Detroit has slid into a small market city that has cropped up in just the last week. Mike Ilitch’s Detroit Tigers baseball franchise has a lot of money tied up in players and the rumors are that Ilitch is about ready to shave millions from his payroll and is looking to trade Curtis Granderson, a 28-year-old All-Star outfield, who has three years remaining on a five-year agreement with Ilitch that pays him more than six million dollars annually.

Granderson remains a member of the Detroit Tigers, but the 2009-10 hot stove league is far from over.

Granderson plays in a market that is going through more than just a bad recession. Detroit and the surrounding area lost been devastated by the retrenchment of the auto industry with both General Motors and Chrysler hanging on because of government bailouts from the United States and Canada. The only good news Ilitch has seen is that the American dollar has weakened while the Canadian dollar has flirted with par with the US greenback, which is a good development in the Detroit market as a good chunk of the metropolitan area is shared with Windsor and nearby Ontario cities. The bad part is that the automobile industry was a major part of the Windsor/Ontario economy as well.

Whether Granderson or Edwin Jackson is entirely up to Tigers management. But there is a question of just how much money that corporate Detroit can sink into two of Ilitch’s teams, the Tigers and the NHL Red Wings, William Ford’s Detroit Lions and the Auburn Hills-based Detroit Pistons.

The answer seems to be, not as much as the old days. In some aspects, it seems as if the Detroit Lions franchise has gone back 75 years. This Sunday’s home game against the Cleveland Browns will be blacked out in the Detroit metro region, an area that includes Toledo, Ohio, Lansing, Michigan and the Saginaw-Flint, Michigan market. Granted both the Lions and Browns are terrible football teams, both have won just one game and lost eight, but there would seem to be enough Cleveland Browns backers to make the relatively short trip up to Detroit.

This is the fourth time in six games that a Lions home contest has been blacked out in 2009. Detroit did sell out earlier this year against Pittsburgh and a lot of Steelers fans made the trip to Detroit but Ford’s team has had a lot of trouble selling 40,000 or more tickets per game. In 2008, as Detroit’s football team continued to lose and the auto companies were on the verge of failing, five of the Lions last six home games were not shown in the Detroit and secondary Detroit markets.

Of course, it cannot be said that a winning team in Detroit would do that much better considering the deteriorating economic conditions in Detroit and the surrounding area.

Detroit will be facing an old Thanksgiving Day rival this year on turkey day, the Green Bay Packers. More than likely, Detroit will fill up the stadium with help from Packers backers.

The Detroit Lions franchise was born in the Great Depression that started with the stock market crash in 1929 after the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans franchise was on the financial ropes in 1933. The owner of Detroit’s WJR radio, Gene Richards bought the Spartans and move the team to Detroit where the newly minted Lions franchise was looking to get people into Briggs Stadium.

Richards scheduled a Thanksgiving Day game in 1934 with the hopes that Thanksgiving Day parade goers in Detroit would wander over to the stadium and watch. There was significance to that game that is mostly lost today. The Chicago Bears-Detroit Lions contest was the first NFL game ever to be heard coast-to-coast and border-to-border in the United States. Detroit has hosted 69 Thanksgiving Day contests from 1934-38 and 1945-today. In 1939, United States President Franklin Roosevelt changed Thanksgiving and moved the holiday up a week to November 23 in an effort to spark Christmas sales and help the still struggling economy.

Political parties never change stripes and a silly battle ensued between Democrats and Republicans (this in the days prior to ersatz arguments on talk radio and cable TV news) and by 1940 there were states that “celebrated” the Democrats’ Thanksgiving a week earlier than the Republicans Thanksgiving. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia played each other in 1939 and 1940.

They were in the same state.

The municipally funded Pontiac Silverdome opened in 1975 with the Lions football team as the main tenant. The new facility cost $55.7 million. William Clay Ford’s Lions played football there from 1975-2001. The dome also played host to Detroit Pistons games from 1978-88. After Ford moved his Lions back to downtown Detroit, the then 27-year old football facility has virtually useless. The Jehovah’s Witnesses left the facility in 2004 after using it for years for an annual convention.

Between 2003 and 2006, the Pontiac Silverdome parking lot was the home for a Drive-In movie theater.

Two leagues that never got off the ground took a look at the facility. The World Hockey Association and the United States Football League. The reincarnation of the WHA was an ill-fated idea but there were plans to put a rink in the building in 2003 and the reincarnated USFL was looking to purchase the building and playing games there in 2010 along with hosting concerts,

The new USFL never got financial backing. On November 16, a Toronto-based company bought the old stadium for $583,000 at auction with the hope of placing a Major League Soccer team in the building.

The “new” USFL appears to be in the hands of another promoter with the hope of starting up in 2011 but that league will not be buying the old dome.

At least the building is still standing which is more than can be said for old stadiums in Seattle and Pittsburgh which were blown up after new facilities for major league sports teams were build with taxpayers money. Seattle (King County) and Pittsburgh (Allegheny County) taxpayers are still paying off the debt on the long departed Seattle Kingdome and Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium.

Some may suggest the cheap purchase price for the Silverdome is the result of a crashing Detroit real estate market and the weak economy. While that is a major factor, the real reason the price went so cheap is that once a stadium gets to a certain age, it becomes useless and has virtually no value because it lacks what sports owners want today, luxury boxes, club seats, wide alleyways for concessions, in-facility restaurants and shops.

What was state-of-the-art in 1975 is a dump in today’s sports marketplace.

Detroit was once a major market thanks to the auto companies a half century ago. Today, the city and the surrounding area are hurting economically and the population is shrinking. That has taken a toll on Detroit sports properties and raises the question, can Detroit remain a major sports town that can support big time pro and college sports or will Detroit become a city like Louisville, Kentucky, which was once major league town in a different century?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why Brian Roberts Wants NBC

Why Brian Roberts Wants NBC

By Evan Weiner

November 17, 2009

11:30 AM EST

(New York, N. Y.) – Nearly five and a half years after failing to gain control of the Walt Disney Company, Brian Roberts’s Comcast Corporation’s cable TV multiple systems operation is on the verge of reeling in NBCUniversal and gaining control of NBC’s various properties including the NBC network, a number of NBC owned television stations along with cable TV outlets including Bravo, MSNBC, the USA Network and CNBC and a movie studio.

General Electric is ready to give up 51 percent of NBC and remain a minority partner. General Electric purchased NBC’s parent company, RCA in 1986. NBC does not fit in with General Electric’s core businesses. Roberts wants to make Comcast bigger and perhaps rewrite communications history.

In February 2004, Roberts made a $66 billion offer to take over Disney but the Disney board refused to play ball with the Philadelphia-based cable TV CEO. By 2004, Comcast had become the United States biggest cable TV multiple systems operator. Roberts went after the ABC TV network along with the Disney film studio, ESPN and other Disney-owned cable TV networks, the various ABC radio networks and theme parks.

In 2004, Roberts had a rather weak cable TV sports network, the Outdoor Life Network and a number of other cable entities including E! Entertainment Television, the Golf Channel and ownership in the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers and the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers. What Roberts really wanted was ESPN, which was a cash cow for Disney in 2004 and continues to be a major source of funding for Disney to this day.

Disney rejected Roberts’s overtures and in April 2004, Roberts gave up on the bid.

Comcast is a major player in the video distribution industry whether it is through cable TV or broadband. Roberts is also a major player in the American sports industry and capturing NBC would substantially increase what presently is a large sports company.

Among Roberts’ holdings is Comcast Spectacor (the Flyers, 76ers, the company manages the teams’ arena along with skating rinks in the Philadelphia area and the company’s Global Spectrum manages more than 20 arenas and stadiums in the United States, Canada and Croatia including the new soccer stadium in the Philadelphia suburb of Chester, the Arizona Cardinals stadium in Glendale, and the Glens Falls Civic Center in Glens Falls, New York which houses the Flyers’ American Hockey League affiliate. Comcast also owes Ovations Food Services, a concessions company that provides food and drinks to various arenas and other facilities in the US and has a sports and events ticketing company.). Comcast also produces figure skating shows on NBC.

Roberts and Comcast have a number of regional sports networks including Comcast Sports Net in Chicago featuring the Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox; Philadelphia (Roberts’s 76ers and Flyers along with Phillies baseball and local college sports), CSN Washington (Capitals, Wizards and DC United games along with Washington Redskins programming), Roberts has a partnership with the San Francisco Giants and Rupert Murdoch’s FOX in San Francisco in the Comcast SportsNet Bay Area channel which features Giants, Golden State Warriors, San Jose Earthquakes and college sports. Another regional sports network, Comcast SportsNet California is fully owned by Roberts and has the Bay Area sports teams that are not on the Bay Area channel, the Oakland A’s, the San Jose Sharks, some Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers programming along with the Sacramento Kings and Monarchs.

Roberts is also part of the jointly owned SportsNet New York with Time Warner Cable and the New York Mets, which features Mets games and programming, New York Jets programming and some college sports. Comcast also owns a sports network in the Pacific Northwest that revolves around Portland Trail Blazers and Vancouver Canucks games along with college sports and in New England, CSN New England has the rights to Boston Celtics games.

Additionally, Comcast has a piece of the MountainWest Sports Network which is a joint venture with the CBS College Sports Network and the Mountain West Conference and the entire programming consists of conference related games and shows. Comcast also has a piece of Major League Baseball’s MLB Network.

So just why does Roberts want NBCUniversal?

It would make Comcast an even bigger player in the cable/broadband world. Comcast would add USA, Bravo, CNBC and MSNBC to its assets and would get a piece of the broadband video streaming site Hulu.

Comcast and Roberts would get significant sports content as well. The 2010 and 2012 Olympics, the Sunday Night NFL package along with the NHL’s New Year’s Day game and the Stanley Cup playoffs. NBC also has the French Open and Wimbledon in tennis and a number of major golf tournaments including the US Open. That fits into Comcast’s sports strategy but more importantly, Roberts might be able to leverage his Versus network into a competition with ESPN for rights to the NFL, MLB, NBA to go along with his NHL agreement.

NBC’s deal with the National Football League ends in 2013. Most of NBC’s partnerships with sports leagues are revenue sharing ventures except the NFL and Olympics agreements. The International Olympic Committee has put off negotiating a new American TV rights deal until 2011 for the 2014 Sochi Games. Roberts could be at the table for those talks. It is not unknown if Roberts will keep NBCUniversal Sports and Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol around. Ebersol walked away from agreements with the NFL in 1997, Major League Baseball in 2000, the National Basketball Association in 2002 and the Belmont Stakes in 2005 because rights fees had escalated to the point where networks began losing money on the properties.

Roberts funds a large number of sports teams and college sports conferences through his cable TV ventures. If Roberts gets NBC, will the network become a player for the NBA, MLB and perhaps the Bowl Championship Series or is network TV dead? That is a question that Roberts can only answer if he latches onto NBC?

Taking on ESPN will be a daunting task as the Disney Company is shifting into the broadband business with ESPN360 but an NBC deal might change the equation and allow Roberts to go after the 2014, 2016 and 2018 Olympics with the combinations of networks and a major broadband presence at hand should the Comcast take over of NBC be approved by Eric Holder’s Department of Justice and other regulatory agencies.

Comcast, if the deal goes through with NBC, would control a significant portion of programming. In 2004, Roberts failed to gain control of Disney through a hostile takeover. This time, it appears that Roberts will have an easier time in gaining control of a major United States media company but it will not be easy.

The French-owned company, Vivendi, has to sign off on the deal as it owns 20 percent of NBCUniversal, and there are the various reviews from the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission. There also could be private citizens who file objections. But General Electric wants to get rid of NBC, which makes life a lot easier for Roberts in his bid to make Comcast an even more omnipotent communications force.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Eighteen Regular Season NFL Games? Not So Fast

Eighteen Regular Season NFL Games? Not So Fast

By Evan Weiner

November 13, 2009

12:00 PM EST

(New York, N. Y.) – John Bogusz is not a name normally associated with the power structure of the National Football League, but John Bogusz is a major player in the NFL. You see John Bogusz is the head of sports sales for one of the NFL’s major financial partners, CBS, and at a Sports Business Journal sports business conference in New York, Bogusz didn’t seem particularly happy with the trial balloon that his partner, the NFL, floated a couple of years ago that the league might add two regular season games.

It is not known how Rupert Murdoch and his henchmen at FOX, another league partner, feels and neither Robert Iger at Disney, the parent company of ESPN nor Jeffrey Immelt have weighed in on the issue. DirecTV’s John Malone has also been silent. The NFL isn’t a real money maker for networks although it can be safely argued that Murdoch’s FOX syndication (technically FOX is not a network) was put on the map by the NFL in 1993 when Murdoch outbid CBS for the National Football Conference national over-the-air TV rights in the United States.

Murdoch may have overspent for the NFL in 1993 from a dollars and cents standpoint on what really is a TV entertainment series, he benefited greatly turning FOX from a ragtag network (syndication arm) with a few shows like The Simpsons and Married With Children into a legitimate entity and along the way he picked up more powerful stations in Detroit and Milwaukee which dumped CBS for FOX and Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers games.

TV networks use the NFL as a platform to promote other programming, CBS lost that platform in 1993 and the network fortunes plummeted. That is why a guy like John Bogusz should be taken seriously because TV is the NFL’s most important partner.

The NFL was a ragtag, pretty close to semi-pro league, in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. The league didn’t stabilize until 1953 when the Baltimore-New York-Dallas franchise returned to Baltimore and even then there were questions about the future of a number of franchises including Green Bay (where fund raisers were held to keep the team going and to build a new stadium) and in Chicago, where the Cardinals could not compete with the Bears forcing the Bidwill family to look at alternative cities like Minneapolis and Buffalo before settling on St. Louis in 1960.

Television made the NFL. In 1950, baseball, boxing and horse racing were the most popular sports in the United States. By 1965, football became the favorite sport among American fans and it had all to do with television.

To that end, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is now reviewing names to put before a committee that selects Hall of Famers. There are numerous people who should be in the Canton, Ohio shrine who built football. People like William Paley, David Sarnoff, Rupert Murdoch, Bill MacPhail, Carl Lindemann, Roone Arledge and Leonard Goldstein. Paley founded CBS and it was Paley’s money that helped solidify the league in the early 1960s and propel the league from a mom and pop store operation to the multi-billion entity it is today.

Leonard Goldstein is not recognized as a football pioneer but he is. Goldstein’s small American Broadcasting Network cut a deal with the upstart American Football League in June 1960. It was a five-year agreement that was worth about $2,125,000, which was an enormous sum for an unproven sports entity in 1960. The eight AFL owners evenly divided the ABC cash and that deal would cause a world of concern in the National Football League which had 13 teams with 13 different TV contracts of various worth with the New York Giants, Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams having the most valuable and Green Bay sitting at the bottom. (In 1960, CBS gave the Bidwill family $500,000 after they moved their Cardinals to St. Louis and freed Chicago from having Bears games blackout because the Cardinals were home as under the NFL blackout rules, no home game could be televised in Chicago when either team was home, CBS put together the Bears network. Some of the Bidwill’s “home” games were played in Minneapolis and Buffalo to get around the blackout in the 1950s. The $500,000 was to go to move portable stands from Comiskey Park in Chicago to St. Louis.)

Goldstein put the AFL on the map and that contract had a major implications. The AFL deal more than likely violated American antitrust laws as the league bundled the assets and sold it as one entity. In 1961, Rozelle and the NFL studied the AFL deal and decided that grouping the NFL’s then-14 teams into one package would be far better than having 14 separating networks. On September 30, 1961, Rozelle got the cover he needed to duplicate the AFL deal from President John F. Kennedy who signed into law the Sports Broadcast Act of 1961, which allowed Rozelle and the very established NFL to borrow a page from Lamar Hunt’s new AFL and sell the TV package to either CBS or NBC.

Paley (and McPhail) outbid Sarnoff (and Lindemann) for the 1962 and 1963 for $4.65 million. In 1964, Paley got the better of Sarnoff again and won the NFL rights for $28.2 million for the 1964 and 1965 season. The NFL was flush in money while Goldstein’s old deal dragged down the AFL.

But Sarnoff was not going to be beaten. NBC and Sonny Werblin had a long time relationship and now Werblin was getting a TV deal together for the AFL. Werblin owned the New York Jets. Sarnoff gave his old business partner Werblin a five-year, $36 million deal. Sarnoff’s endowment made the AFL, gave Werblin the kind of money he needed to sign the University of Alabama quarterback Joe Namath to the biggest contract ever given to a player by a football team and set off a series of events including the escalation of players salaries in bidding wars between the two leagues flushed with TV money that ended with the June 8, 1966 merger between the National Football League and the American Football League.

Football ceased being a game between June 1960 and January 1964. Football was a TV show that filled hours on Sunday morning and afternoon in the fall and winter, depending on the time zone. Advertising flocked to games because they could reach young men and middle-aged men, their target audience because they were watching football.

The NFL was CBS and Ford; the AFL was NBC and Chrysler. Even after the merger there were fierce rivalries between the teams, the networks and the sponsors although that died out as the NFL and AFL amalgamation took place over a four-year period.

But the American Football League-National Football League World Championship Game first played in 1967 did not catch on until 1969.

Namath, more than anybody, is responsible for the Super Bowl becoming a quasi holiday and now a National Special Security Event under the aegis of the US Department of Homeland Security. Namath and Muhammad Ali were at the vanguard of the evolving athlete, going from the aw shucks you know I have nothing to say mode like Joe DiMaggio to the brash, I will show you model. Namath had the white shoes, the mink coat, the fu Manchu moustache, what passed for long hair, a perceived perception so to speak built by sportswriters who were divided into NFL and AFL camps instead of sticking to journalism.

Namath was one of those hippies that ruined sports while the crew cut Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts was old reliable.

Perceived perceptions are often wrong.

Sportswriters in NFL cities dismissed the AFL out of hand. Fortunately for football owners, players, coaches, general managers and fans, sportswriters didn’t run TV networks. Paley, Sarnoff and Goldstein did and they were much smarter than the average football writer like Sports Illustrated Tex Maule who was probably the worst offender of the journalistic role of being an impartial observer.

Namath was not the best player on the field in Super Bowl III when the Jets beat the Baltimore Colts but he guaranteed a Jets victory and the Jets did win and that victory would ultimately lead to ABC and Roone Arledge and the NFL agreeing to a pact, which created Monday Night Football in 1970. ABC’s Monday Night Football was not just a game presentation; it had to include an entertainment element to attract non-football fans.

It did.

Television has called many of the shots in football since Goldstein signed that initial contract with Lamar Hunt in 1960. Oddly enough football’s TV success came out of a failed concept, the Continental League, the Branch Rickey-led baseball business that started in 1958 with the hope of establishing a third major league by 1961. One of the Rickey business tenets was that all Continental League owners would share TV revenue equally. One of the owners of the proposed Denver Continental League team was Bob Howsam who also was part of the proposed Denver Broncos franchise of the AFL in 1959. Rickey’s concept ended up as part of the AFL and by 1961 was embraced by Rozelle and the NFL as “leaguethink” a concept that put the good of the league ahead of the individual team owner.

People like Goldstein, Sarnoff, Paley, McPhail, Arledge, Lindemann and yes-even Murdoch (all of whom should be put in the Canton Hall in that media category as they are far more important than any sportswriter) are responsible for the football industry so when a CBS sales guy talks, it is worth more than a casual listen. TV made the NFL and is a huge financial partner and TV may call the shots on the number of regular season games, after all it is THEIR dollars being spent.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

“Money, It’s Gotta Be the Shoes.”

“Money, It’s Gotta Be the Shoes.”

By Evan Weiner

November 5, 2009

4:00 PM EST

(New York, N. Y.) – American sportswriters can rejoice, the college basketball season has started and now American sports journalists like Seth Davis can get back to what they enjoy the most --- watching college basketball games --- without the little interruptions of the off season of 2009 like the troubles at the Binghamton University in central New York, Rick Pitino’s extortion problem with a waitress in Kentucky, and coach John Calipari jumping to Kentucky just before the NCAA invalidated his Memphis State 2008 NCAA tournament runner up finish because one of Calipari’s players -- Derrick Rose -- had his SAT invalidated by the NCAA. USC coach Tim Floyd’s resignation after the NCAA’s investigation of the recruitment of O. J. Mayo, some players backing out of their commitments to play at a school.

Davis wrote in August in his CNNSI column that college basketball needed some feel-good stories and that he was not feeling too good about the off-season.

Davis and his ilk don’t like it when outside business influences college basketball but college basketball is a business and in the college industry it is just second to college football complex in producing revenues for members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The sports writing community still buys into the student athlete fairytale that sprang up in the 1920s despite all the evidence that suggests that college sports is made up of money partnerships between the colleges and TV networks, colleges and marketing partners, money that pours in from boosters, the building of new or renovation of arenas and stadiums complete with revenue producing club seats and luxury boxes and in-venue eateries with big prices on parking and heavy duty sales of school related merchandise.

The NCAA gets $545 million annually from CBS following the 2006 signing of a CBS-NCAA partnership that is worth $6 billion over an 11-year period. The NCAA also enjoys a federal gift -- tax-exempt status.

The feel good start to the season has already evaporated because Michael Jordan’s son decided to wear an Air Jordan brand basketball shoe instead of an adidas shoe in a game. The problem is that Marcus Jordan is a member of the University of Central Florida’s basketball team and that school had a five-year deal with adidas that requires all University of Central Florida athletes to use and wear adidas products.

Jordan wore his father’s shoe, which is manufactured by NIKE, in a game against St. Leo. adidas didn’t like that so the sneaker company terminated the deal with the school and cost the school money.

College sports is a business and this is where the sportswriters created college sports fantasy meets reality. Marcus Jordan has lived very comfortably because of his father’s deal with Phil Knight and NIKE. Sure Jordan has a multi-year contract with the school and let’s get right to the point, a college athletic scholarship is a multi-year deal that gives him the right to play sports at the school in exchange for a scholarship. Any athlete also gives up various rights to the school including his (or her) name on merchandise which the school or the school’s license holder sells to consumers with the athlete receiving nothing in return.

The whole issue of sponsorships and marketing partnerships between NCAA member schools and the NIKE, adidas and other companies like EA Sports is never really addressed with any sort of constant seriousness. The old saw is the players get a scholarship and they should be happy with that and the schools run deficits in having many athletic teams with the only money makers being football and basketball.

So the attitude is shut up with any criticism and let us run our business and be grateful you are covering a major event and don’t make waves. Sports journalists who follow college usually tow the line and enjoy the game. That is the beauty of sports; newspapers give free coverage along with magazines which helps market the product.

Television networks, regional and national cable TV networks have to pay for games or engage in a revenue sharing deal and then colleges allow some highlights from games as the non-rights holders (and even rights holders) are restricted to a certain amount of time. Still there is some free coverage at news conferences and after game interviews. But over-the-air TV is not capable of producing investigative reporting and most cable TV news reporting is either endless highlights with grade D talent trying to deliver funny lines or like in the news division, people on talk shows saying nothing while making a lot of noise. Radio is just carnival barking so real issues are never brought up except in a few cases. Partners like CBS and ESPN will not do true investigative reports into the industry.

The NCAA is making millions off of football players even when they aren’t playing in the video game genre. The NCAA cannot use a players name but in the video games there a major similarities between well known college players and the players portrayed in a game, so much so that Sam Keller filed a class action suit on behalf of himself and others because he feels EA Sports and the NCAA used his likeness in a video game and he did not receive compensation.

The NCAA claims it does not violate any players rights and the sports organization has by-laws that prohibit the commercial licensing of a player’s name picture of likeness. Of course if that were the case, CBS would not be able to promote the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament with video of players in commercials pushing the tournament. Nor could ESPN, various regional sports cable TV networks or other NCAA partners. But there is a Form 08-3a that a player must sign in order to receive a scholarship that allows the NCAA or a third party NCAA partner (like CBS) to use a players name in championships, activities, events and programs.

The student-athlete gives up marketing rights. His or her coach does not nor does the school. The player is getting a scholarship and that should be more than enough. The players should be grateful that a sneaker company is giving them a shoe.

The school’s coach gets endorsement money from the sneaker company, the athlete – the stars of the show – get nothing. Jordan is in a unique position, he has money unlike a good many college athletes in Division I who are barred from making more than a NCAA dictated set amount of money for the year.

The whole college sports industry never gets a close scrutiny from Davis and his colleagues and that also may stem from the newspaper industry’s cozy relationship with sports. Newspaper executives (and sportswriters) believe that sports coverage is a driving force in newspaper daily sales (although the industry continues to lose readership and newspaper circulations have fallen about 10 percent in the last year). There is major interest in sports though as television ratings are up but people are getting sports news, really team and game information, from sources other than newspapers.

Perhaps if newspapers began reporting, real reporting, on issues that might attract more interest. It might even sell newspapers.

Jordan’s shoe story will produce a predicable response of he should be more of a team player, his decision is costing his school money and what do you expect from a spoiled rich kid? NIKE more than David Stern’s NBA publicity machine defined the Michael Jordan business brand in his early days with the Chicago Bulls. Jordan’s son understands business.

There is money in the shoes.

College sports is a business.

Marcus Jordan understood that when he wore his father’s shoes. As Mars Blackmon once said in a NIKE-Jordan commercial, “Money, It’s Gotta Be the Shoes.”

Sunday, November 1, 2009

WADA’s Fahey: Agassi and the ATP Should be Accountable for Something That Happened in 1997

WADA’s Fahey: Agassi and the ATP Should be Accountable for Something That Happened in 1997

By Evan Weiner

November 1, 2009

8:30 PM EST

(New York, N. Y.) – Andre Agassi’s revelation that he used crystal meth in 1997 has attracted the attention of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), a group that was formed in 1999 in an effort to get rid of drugs in the sports world. It is not unusual for the head of WADA to run his mouth and John Fahey is certainly following in the tradition of the former head Dick Pound in barking.

In November 2005, Pound made a baseless accusation of doping in hockey. Pound estimated that a third of the players in the National Hockey League were taking enhancers. Only a handful of players have ever been suspended for drug usage

Of course there is nothing Fahey can do to Agassi but that doesn’t mean Fahey and WADA cannot complain. Agassi’s crystal meth usage took place 12 years ago and even though he tested positive for using a banned substance, a recreational drug as opposed to a performance-enhancing drug, the Association of Tennis Professionals bought his story that he drank something that was provided to him by his assistant Slim who “spiked” his drink.

Agassi was cleared of any wrong doing and resumed his career.

But WADA doesn’t want the story to end when Agassi’s autobiography hits the stands in this month. WADA would love to go after Agassi because WADA thinks it is a law enforcement agency. Pound, Fahey and others want to weed out the bad guys, the steroids, guys, the meth guys, the cocaine users and that is all well and good, but WADA is not a law enforcement group.

WADA also only has elite athletes in mind. The meth user on the street is of no concern to Fahey or Pound. They don’t sell tickets to athletic events or are compelling enough to fetch the IOC billions from American TV money and corporate sponsors. The drugged out entertainer, whether it is an actor, comedic or singer, is also of no concern to the group. They don’t sell tickets to athletic events or are compelling enough to fetch billions from American TV money and corporate sponsors.

Athletes are an elite group of people and that makes them different in the eyes of say WADA or the International Olympic Committee, a pair of non-government agencies who think they are in charge of enforcing some sort of justice in the elite athlete doping world. The International Olympics Committee President Jacques Rogge told Italian officials prior to the 2006 Turin Winter Games that the IOC, not Italian law enforcement officials should police the Olympic Village because the athletes were not really breaking laws by using banned substances rather they were cheating if they were taking illegal performance enhancing drugs and that the IOC should hand out punishment not Italian authorities for possessing illegal substances. Rogge and his minions felt that suspending an athlete for two years from competition was more meaningful than having a jail term.

It is the IOC’s view of the world. Cheating by an elite athlete is more of an offense than law breaking.

The IOC demands governments genuflect in front of them. Tony Blair, Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama and other world leaders have to come to IOC functions and be seen or risk not getting a chance at winning a sure money loser for taxpayers, the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee created WADA and that group provided the agency with funding. But somehow this independent agency gained funding from countries around the world beginning in 2002.

In 2003, Pound started throwing barbs at United States George W. Bush and suggested that sporting events should not be held in America because United States pro leagues were not handing out stiff enough penalties to athletes caught using banned substances and also that the Bush Administration was rather slow in sending money to the anti-doping agency.

Eventually the United States and other countries mailed their checks with payments to Pound and his gang. The Bush Administration cut what American taxpayers gave to WADA by $200,000 reducing the commitment to $800,000.

Needless to say that did not please Pound.

Pound wanted to turn the United States into a sports “pariah.”

Of course had that happened, WADA and the Olympics movement would be out of business as the International Olympic Committee lives on the dime of the American broadcast network, General Electric’s NBCUniversal has endowed Rogge’s group with billions of dollars.

It is highly unlikely that Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer would have been handing Rogge money if Rogge reduced the United States into a pariah sports state.

The IOC also has not opened negotiations for the American TV rights for the 2014 Sochi and 2016 Rio games as of yet because of the American economic collapse. The IOC figures if it waits until 2010, they might be in a better negotiating climate but Rupert Murdoch has already ruled out that his American TV network FOX will bid on the Games, NBCUniversal may be sold, Disney and ESPN may go after the rights but will the huge sums of money be available? If the answer is no that, not Mark McGwire returning to baseball to be a hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, will turn America into a sports “pariah.”

Strangely enough, WADA does concede it has no power even if Pound and Fahey make demands.

The WADA website points out that “Governments have many responsibilities in the fight against doping in sport. They also have powers that sport organizations do not have.

“For example, governments can facilitate doping controls and support national testing programs: encourage the establishment of ‘best practice’ in the labeling, marketing and distribution of productions that might contain prohibited substances, withhold financial support from those who engage in or support doping, take measures against the manufacturing and trafficking of doping substances: encourage the establishment of codes of conduct for professions relating to sport and anti-doping and fund anti-doping education and research.”

WADA though has a major limitation – “Many governments cannot be legally bound by a non-governmental document such as the World Anti-Doping Code (Code). Accordingly, governments prepared the Copenhagen Declaration on Anti-Doping in Sport, a political document through which they signalled their intention to formally recognize and implement the Code through an international treaty. The Copenhagen Declaration was finalized in 2003.”

WADA is not a law enforcement agency and cannot be a law enforcement agency or can it?

WADA tramples on human rights by demanding athletes be available seven days a week and giving the agency an hour so they can do a drug test. This has not sat well with Belgium’s Sporta, a sports union, which claims that WADA has violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human rights that includes “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence” and “There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

Other groups that have opposed include the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels, a group of 42 football (soccer) players associations around the globe, the Australian Cricketers Association, the international football (soccer) governing body, Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the European governing body for football (soccer), Union of European Football Associations, and a panel of the European Union which said WADA’s “whereabouts” rule might violate privacy rules.

Rogge and his cronies suspect that every athlete is a possible drug user and that invasion of privacy is not big deal.

Elite athletes are treated differently. Privacy invasion is no big deal. Perhaps Madrid lost race to land the 2016 Olympics because they have gone soft on the war on drugs in sports. Any elite athlete living in Spain doesn’t have to be bothered by WADA’s troops that come knocking on the door between 11 PM and 8 AM looking for a urine sample and there is nothing WADA can do.

It is the law in Spain.

It is no surprise that WADA wants to go after Agassi and the Association of Tennis Professions even though the group has nothing to do with what happened in 1997. That is what WADA does best, perhaps it is time that countries take the matter of doping in their own hands and let law enforcement not a bunch of old jocks and jock sniffers handle criminal activities. After all, taking an illegal substance, whether it is a steroid (which is not illegally in every country in the world and that causes another ethical problem for the IOC/WADA) or crystal meth, should be handled by law enformance not Jacques Rogge or John Fahey.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Goodman to the NBA: Viva Las Vegas!

Goodman to the NBA: Viva Las Vegas!

By Evan Weiner

October 30, 2009

1:30 PM EDT

(New York, N. Y.) – Oscar Goodman is talking about bringing a major league professional sports franchise to Las Vegas again; this time he wants the National Basketball Association to set up shop in the city. Las Vegas residents should not count on Mayor Oscar Goodman to bring them a major league team. He has missed every three pointer he has thrown up.

Goodman’s sports record is about the same as those looking to strike it rich in the city’s various casinos. The mayor went after a number of Major League Baseball teams beginning in 1999 and tried to convince baseball operators, including the Los Angeles Dodgers ownership, that they could let it roll in Las Vegas and get major rewards. He failed.

Goodman and his team were correct in their assessment that Florida-based Spring Training Major League Baseball clubs like the Dodgers, the Chicago White Sox and others were looking to move to more lucrative areas for baseball’s pre-season but Arizona ended up with the teams because the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority (which was fired up on April 24, 2000) gave $32 million to Sunrise (they ended up with Kansas City and Texas – two Florida teams), $4.3 million to keep the Oakland A’s in Phoenix, $12 million to keep the Anaheim (now Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) in Tempe, $20 million to keep the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale, an estimated $55 million to Goodyear (Cleveland and Cincinnati left Florida for the new Goodyear ballpark), and estimated $60 million to Glendale for a stadium that lured two more Florida teams, the Dodgers and White Sox.

Goodman has gotten a handful of exhibition games in Las Vegas but a game here or there is a weak consolation prize.

In 2005, Goodman predicted that Las Vegas would have a Major League Baseball team by 2011. During 2003 and 2004 Las Vegas officials met with Major League Baseball about moving the then-MLB owned Montreal Expos to the desert gambling oasis. MLB cut a deal with Washington, DC politicians and move the team there in 2005. Goodman’s staff also tried to lure Florida Marlins owners Jeffrey Loria to the desert and failed.

Loria ended up with financing for a new Marlins ballpark at the site of the old Orange Bowl in Miami last spring some four years after Goodman started to chase him. Las Vegas was never a major contender for Loria’s team nor was San Antonio, which also put out a feeler.

There will not be a Major League Baseball team in Las Vegas in 2011 as Goodman’s plan for a 40,000 stadium never materialized. When Goodman made his prediction, ownerships in Minnesota, Florida and Oakland were looking for new venues. Only Lewis Wolff in Oakland is looking for a new stadium at the moment although the Tampa Rays ownership wants a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area. The Rays have a long lease in St. Petersburg while Wolff continues to seek a San Francisco Bay Area locale.

It is unlikely that Las Vegas will have a Major League Baseball in the near or long term future.

Goodman is now seeking an NBA team. The truth is that Las Vegas had a National Hockey League team and lost it because Phil Anschutz's AEG and Harrah’s were unable to get financing to build an arena near the Strip. The NHL apparently had an owner also in Jerry Bruckenheimer, the Hollywood producer, who was ready to get behind a Las Vegas team in 2007.

When the economy tanked, so did the chances of a getting NHL team in Las Vegas even though two arenas were on the drawing board. Sports people talk about how Las Vegas might be a potentially great market and Goodman will roll out a whole bunch of talking points about how Las Vegas would be a great home for a major league team, but there is one major obstacle to putting a team in the city.

It is not gambling either; leagues can work around legalized sports betting.

It is the economy, more specifically foreclosures. In the third quarter of 2009, one in every 23 homes in the state was foreclosed. That does not help Goodman’s cause. Nevada is among the worst states in the nation in terms of the numbers of foreclosures.

Goodman has a deal with the Baltimore-based Cordish Companies to do a study on an 18-acre parcel of land near City Hall where an arena along with a new City Hall could be built. Cordish is taking a look after REI Neon could not build an arena. REI Neon talked to Las Vegas officials between August 2007 and October 2008. The plug was pulled because of the worsening economic conditions.

Cordish is an intriguing partner for Goodman in that Cordish was supposed to develop the area around St. Louis’ new baseball park in a stadium village concept. The stadium was built but little else has been done at the site.

The economy tanked.

Cordish isn’t promising to build an arena, the company is kicking the tires so to speak to see if it is wise to put a venue up along with other buildings.

The NBA has had a presence in Las Vegas for a while. The league held the 2007 All-Star Game and other festivities in the city which was supposed to be a showcase. It turned out to be a public relations nightmare because of the Adam (Pacman) Jones incident and other problems. The NBA also has an annual summer league in the city and in 1983-84, the Utah Jazz played 15 games there. The National Hockey League’s 2009 award presentation went off without a hitch.

The NHL has played pre-season games in Las Vegas.

In 1996, the Oakland A’s first home stand was played in Las Vegas because the Oakland Coliseum remodeling was not complete.

Las Vegas is a destination site and that becomes problematic when the sports model for success is applied to the city.

Government, Cable TV and Corporate support.

Goodman is giving a potential sports owner support in offering a venue, in this case a proposed arena although there are very few specifics about the facility including what it might cost if Cordish goes ahead with construction. How would the facility be funded, will the city will give land away to “boost” the economy or would Cordish pay property taxes, or use other mechanisms like payment in lieu of taxes or tax increment financing? Another question. Will Cordish or a potential sports owner pay more than eight cents on a dollar (the federal bottom) or just eight cents on every dollar earned inside the facility to go back to the municipality? These are multi-million dollar questions.

Goodman and arena proponents may scream and yell and claim that an arena is an economic engine but time and time again that has been proven wrong as once the construction stops on the building, the majority of the people working at the arena will be per diem, minimum wage employees.

Leg two on the three-legged sports financing stool is cable TV. Las Vegas does not have a big population, sure it was growing but cable TV money from a regional sports network may not be very large. Right now, there is no regional sports network in Las Vegas and someone would have to build it from scratch or a Las Vegas team might have to deal with a regional that already is in the city from another market.

Thirdly, a team needs large corporate support. In Las Vegas, the casinos control entertainment. Do casinos operators want competition from a sports team that might keep customers out of the casinos for four hours? The Maloof Brothers own the NBA’s Sacramento Kings (they need a new arena and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player with Cleveland and Phoenix is seeking ideas to build a new place in his city) and one of the Maloofs, George, runs the Palms Casino Resort so that might be a major factor in whether the casinos would support a Vegas NBA (or NHL team, there have been rumors for years that the Maloofs might be interested in the NHL in Las Vegas). Without casino support, there is no chance a team can be successful in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is a service industry town and that group could make up a fan base but owners need a customer base, people willing to spent money -- fans look for bargains, customers don’t. That is a huge divide when it comes to actually supporting a franchise.

The NBA’s Women’s National Basketball Association has a franchise in the arena at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. The casino owns the team and people leaving the arena can go right into the casino. In essence, Connecticut Sun patrons can be a captive audience that is released into a casino right after a game. The NBA, based on allowing the Mohegan Sun owners to run a franchise in a casino, should have no problems with a potential Las Vegas franchise.

Las Vegas needs all three requisites to align.

Goodman has failed in getting Major League Baseball to set up a “Gambling” League (MLB has the Grapefruit League in Florida and the Cactus League in Arizona) Spring Training loop and did not land the Expos or Marlins. The NHL doesn’t have a rink in the city although the league still likes Las Vegas and the NBA has business in the city. But neither the NBA nor the NHL has a place to play.

Goodman is at it again. He won’t get a National Football League because of the gambling although NFL teams are partnering with state sponsored gambling in various cities. Goodman does have a United Football League team in the city that is getting lukewarm support. NASCAR has a Las Vegas stop, boxing is still a big deal in Nevada, there are minor league baseball and hockey teams in the city and golf and tennis tournaments are played there throughout the year. But Goodman wants more. He needs to build a taxpayers supported facility as a lure or give land away and hope for an arena-village for an NBA (or NHL) team to come to Vegas and that has not happened as of yet.