Friday, February 27, 2009

Jim Bunning Could Tip the Balance Again
Jim Bunning Could Tip the Balance AgainPosted February 27th, 2009 by Evan Weiner
By Evan Weiner
February 27, 20099:30 PM EST
New York, N. Y. -- According to some reports out of Kentucky, United States Senator Jim Bunning is threatening to quit his post if the Senate Republicans block his ability to raise money for his 2010 re-election camp. If Bunning does resign his seat, there is no question that Governor Steve Beshaer, a Democrat, would appoint someone from his party to replace him and in theory give the Democrats a filibuster proof majority assuming Al Franken wins his court case in his battle with Norm Coleman for the disputed Senate seat in Minnesota.
If Bunning did follow through with his threat, it would not be the first time he would have changed the dynamics of his industry. In his former career as a Major League Baseball player in the mid-1960s, Bunning was one of the prime movers in getting Marvin Miller to agree to run the unsuccessful Major League Baseball Players Association.
Major League Baseball would never be the same because Bunning and a few of his fellow players sort workers rights in an industry where the others ruled with an iron fist.
Marvin Miller came to baseball industry almost by accident. Robin Roberts, Harvey Kueen and Bunning were looking for an Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association when Roberts decided to call George Taylor, an economics professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Roberts read that Taylor was a mediator who was called into the White House when a labor situation arose and needed to be discussed and felt it was worth his time to invest a call into Taylor.
That was in 1965. Ironically, Roberts never met Taylor face to face, but it was Roberts and Taylor who changed the game of baseball.
"We were talking about getting an Executive Director and we had thought about different guys but none of them really rung a bell with me," said Roberts. "So I asked a professor at the Wharton School and I called him on the phone and told him what we wanted and he said he'd call me back. He was going to a labor meeting out in California.
"He called me and said he had two guys in mind. Lane Kirkland and Marvin Miller. He said I haven't talked to either one of them, but I will call you when I do."
True to his word, Taylor called back Roberts and delivered mixed news.
"Lane Kirkland isn't interested, but Marvin might be, he'd like to talk about it," said Roberts.
Through George Taylor, Robin Roberts got his man. Marvin Miller, an economist and negotiator from the United Steel Workers Association.
"When I called George Taylor, I told him who I was and he said, I know who you are, I follow baseball. That's how Marvin Miller was initially contacted. For Marvin to have been chosen and everything, he had to go through all the clubs. He did that all on his own.
"But I was probably his biggest backer because I knew the importance of having him and I was basically concerned about the television contract because that was the player's pension money. Also, the licensing thing that was staring to blossom.
"And Marvin didn't really understand the licensing business, but he was smart enough to get somebody to help him and set it up right."
The introduction of Marvin Miller on the baseball scene was not well received by the owners, but interestingly enough, players had some questions about bringing in someone to head their union who might have a difficult relationship with the owners.
"I got out of baseball, Marvin was fully accredited in 1966, maybe 1967 but I got out of baseball nobody would sign me. I went to work in 1967. Jim Bunning was on the original committee that was talking about these directors. Jim, Harvey Kueen and I met with Marvin in Cleveland with our initial contact.
"But Jim Bunning called me, I was in the investment business in Philadelphia and said we are having a meeting in New York and some of the guys are after your boy.
"I said well what do you want me to do Jim? He said would you come and attend the meeting, now I was out of baseball. So I rode the train over in the morning on a Saturday. The meeting was going to be at the Biltmore Hotel, so I went in and sat in the back.
"There was some conversation. I think there were a couple of clubs that were convincing their players that Marvin wasn't going to be good for them. I was listening to the discussion and I was sitting next to Milt Pappas who had been a teammate with Baltimore and I asked Milt to introduce me to the group. He said Robin would like to talk to you."
It was Roberts speech that convinced the players to stick with Robin and Roberts pitch was simple. The pension and the licensing monies were too great and the players needed someone they could trust to manage the monies.
"I explained how the pension idea and the licensing thing were two big things for the ball players," Roberts said. "There was no way this was going to interfere with anything as far as club owners were concerned, you can still have a relationship individually. What happened, a lot of guys had a good relationship with their club owners and they thought this was wrong because they were making nice money, but they were on friendly terms with club owners.
"A lot of club owners were that way. If a guy played well for them, they treated them nice.
"After I got up and spoke and I left and I went back to the train station to go back to Philly. Davey Johnson was Baltimore's rep. He had come running into the train station, I had known him and I had played with Baltimore. He said, well that meeting is over, you ended that meeting.
"Evidently that was the only time there was an attempt by some players to get rid of Marvin. After that, he was in charge the rest of the way. His influence on baseball was fantastic."
Roberts thought baseball was made up of three parts, the owners, players and commissioner with the commissioner having the absolute last say on all baseball matters. He admitted that he was rather naive in that thinking.
"I assumed the Commissioner was in charge and in fact when we picked the six guys in meetings about the Executive Director, I sent the list to William Eckert, who was the Commissioner and I said we are talking about hiring an executive director and here are the six guys being considered. If there is anybody on this list that you don't think we should be involved with, you let me know. That's how much I much I was involved with thinking the Commissioner ran baseball. The reason was because Happy Chandler in 1950, the only World Series I was ever involved in and the first big TV contract, he turned it all over to the pension plan.
"That was the commissioner and he got fired later on and may have been one of the reasons. He took all of the money and put it in and solidified it. It was on shaky grounds. They (the owners) were paying money out of their gate receipts and some of them weren't doing it. Happy Chandler took that money and that's when I assumed the Commissioner was in charge. That might have been the last Commissioner that may have been in charge.
"They never had anybody between the players and the owners," Roberts continued. "When you are a seasonal business like that and start missing games that just turned me off completely. I felt bad that they weren't able to resolve that. But Marvin played the Commissioner, he was able to convince the players and rightfully so that the Commissioner represented the owners. He wasn't an unbiased judge.
"Because of the way the ownership was set up, it became obvious that it was true. Marvin was from the union side of things and he never anticipated working with a Commissioner who was overall for both sides. I was naive enough to think you have an owners group and a players group and if by February 1, it's not resolved then the Commissioner comes in and resolves it. Then you can start Spring Training and you can play."
Roberts thought when he brought Miller to the players, there would be three sides in a dispute. The players, the owners and the Commissioner would could rule as an arbitrator.
Roberts does have some regrets bringing Marvin Miller into the game because itdid not produce a mechanism that had the Commissioner acting in something of an impartial way in dealing with labor issues.
Miller had replaced Judge Robert C. Cannon who had been the Players Association advisor and legal counsel for six years. On March 5, 1966, the 48 year old Miller was nominated to become the Executive Director of the association. By July 1, Miller was in a two year position at a $50,000 a year salary with an additional $20,000 in expenses. The Players Association annual budget was $150,000. Cannon had been re-elected to a new six year term on the Circuit Court bench in Milwaukee adding to the Players Association dilemma.
"We had a guy named Judge Cannon, who was the legal advisor for the players group," said Roberts. "The Judge was originally voted that job and I had backed Marvin. There were two things we originally agreed to, a five year contract at $50,000 a year and an office in New York. But Judge Cannon was a Judge in Milwaukee and the vote was taken. Marvin got about seven and the Judge got about 13, I said to Bob Friend, who was a big Judge Cannon guy at the time.
"After this meeting when we elected Judge Cannon, it was ironic, I said after the meeting, Bob the moment you find out the Judge isn't going to follow through about what he said about moving the office, and Bob went out to dinner with the Judge that night. It was a Saturday. Sunday morning he had called me, Bob said how'd you know that?
"We agreed that the office was going to be in New York, well (Judge Cannon) said I can't move my office. Bob said to me, what are we going to do? I said let's start over and we had another meeting and Cannon wasn't considered.
"I called Eckert and told him I wanted him to attend because we were voting again on it. He didn't come but sent Lee Mc Phail as his representative, that's when the players officially voted Marvin."
Miller immediately got to work and convinced the players that they were naive in their dealings with the owners.
"We were," said Roberts. "I knew it was a difficult thing for ballplayers to have that responsibility. But once they got there, Marvin got them involved too. He made them feel like they were really a part of it."
The Players Association had been around since 1953, but it achieved very little in terms of benefits to the players other to make sure that TV monies went into the pension plan.
Miller had two problems immediately. Financing the Players Associationoffice and more importantly, funding the pension plan. The players approved a voluntary dues check off to fund the office and Miller eventually struck an agreement with the owners through April, 1969 that $4,100,000 of the National Broadcasting Company's licensing fee for the Game of the Week, All-Star Game and World Series in 1967 and 1968 would go to the pension plan.
Once Roberts left, the players did rally behind Miller's lead and significant gains were made.
"Actually, the central issue that Marvin went after was always the pension plan,” said Jim Kaat, the Minnesota Twins top pitcher in the 1960s. “Nowadays, you would not think that but the pension plan in the 1960s was much more important to the players than salary. Because in those days, if you projected to when you were 55 or 60 years old and you could draw $30,000 a year in a pension plan...a lot of players weren't making that much money in salaries.
"That's how he kept everyone together. If you talk to Marvin, he will reiterate that. It was a big issue."
Kaat came up to the major leagues with the Washington Senators in 1959 and was with the Twins when Miller entered the picture in 1966.
In 1966, the players were tied to their teams because of the reserve clause, the maximum salary was about $100,000 and that was doled out to the Mickey Mantle-, Willie Mays-type players. There was no salary arbitration, and there was no free agency.
The owners controlled the game and the players had little say in their careers.
Today, the players have free agency as well as arbitration, and the rise in salaries has been astronomical. But in 1966, getting all of those benefits seemed as likely as man reaching the moon by the end of the sixties.
Jim Bunning helped change the direction of baseball and he could tip the balance of Congress should he resign his seat.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Why is A-Rod targeted while Stallone is not?

Why is A-Rod targeted while Stallone is not?
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February 26, 1:44 PM
by Evan Weiner, Business of Sports Examiner
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The Salem Witch Trails ended in 1692, Senator Joe Mc McCarthy's reign of blacklisting came to a sudden halt in 1954 but in the world of baseball writers, sports radio talk show hosts and sports TV's talking heads The Scarlet Letter (a book which was written in 1850 by Nathaniel Hawthorne) of S, for steroids, has been pinned on Alex Rodriguez and it is seemingly being done so for the benefit of fellow baseball writers and certain politicians not the general public.

The whole Alex Rodriguez situation is a dog and pony show with little journalistic integrity.

The problem for the writers is two fold. Elected officials have far more to worry about than the results of Alex Rodriguez urine sample and most baseball fans don't care. The writers, the moral guardians of baseball, are the only ones who are writing about whether Alex Rodriguez should get booed or whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

The writers are complaining about Alex Rodriguez news conference and how he didn't answer their questions to their satisfaction about getting supplements in the Dominican Republic. One New York newspaper, the Daily News, which recently cut its contribution to the employees 401k plan, sent a reporter to the Dominican Republic to see how easy it was for Rodriguez and others to get steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. It was pretty easy for me to find it in Samana in December; it is all over the place. It was simple for the Daily News reporter to find it too. Steroids are sold over the counter in the Dominican Republic pharmacies.

One by one, the bad guys or the ones who don't necessarily play footsie with the regular baseball beat guys, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez are falling and the scribes are having a conflicting time over this. The bad actors, or the ones they perceive as bad actors, are paying the price by their daily public humiliations. But baseball is being tarnished.

But missing in a lot of the prose written about Alex Rodriguez is the fact that he took performance-enhancing steroids in the Dominican Republic, not the United States and that is the way of the culture there. This remains a law enforcement issue or an immigration issue. Border patrol is not going to give drug tests to athletes. Miguel Tejada got a visa to play baseball this year even though he plead guilty to one count of perjury for lying to Congress in his testimony in 2005 on whether or not Rafael Palmeiro lied about whether or not he used steroids. Tejada faces a year prison term.

Tejada got into legal trouble, not for taking illegal substances but for lying to Congress. Alex Rodriguez is only in trouble in the public court of opinion with sportswriters and columnists presenting the story.

Players like Alex Rodriguez better apologize to the baseball writers or else. The or else is you can end up like Barry Bonds, intensively disliked by people who never met him personally in the perceived perception imaginary that is sold by the media because you didn't kiss the butts of baseball writers. After all, the baseball scribes matter, just ask them even if their jobs are being lost as many newspapers globally go out of business or go into bankruptcy. After all, the baseball scribe is the eyes and ears of the fan who has no access to players. They are acting on the fans behalf.

But all of this brings up a very troubling question. Is there a new Mc McCarthyism being practiced by baseball writers and is there a media double standard when it comes to baseball players and other athletes and baseball players and entertainers?

The actor Sylvester Stallone told Time magazine in 2008 that he used human growth hormone to get in shape for his new "Rambo" movie and added "HGH (human growth hormone) is nothing.

"Testosterone to me is so important for a sense of well-being when you get older. Everyone over 40 years old would be wise to investigate it because it increases the quality of your life. Mark my words. In 10 years it will be over the counter."

In 2007, Stallone was caught smuggling 48 vials of the banned human growth hormone Jintropin into Australia. In May, he was ordered to pay $10,651 in fines and court costs. It was the end of the story; Stallone paid his fine and moved on with his life. No one was calling for the removal of the statue of his Rocky character that sits near entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art as a cultural landmark. After the Australian conviction, a statue of Rocky was also erected in the Serbian village of Zitiste. His film Rocky has been inducted into the National Film Registry as well as having its film props placed in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. The film and the props have not moved since his sentence.

Stallone made big news this week when it was announced that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will be shooting a cameo appearance for his new movie the spring. No where in all the publicity stories surrounding "The Expendables" is there a mention of Stallone's Jintropin court appearance or Schwarzenegger use of steroids during his body building days before US made steroids a controlled substance yet the stories written about Alex Rodriguez continue a pace with the emphasis on steroids and how fans should be booing the Yankees players.

Entertainment writers have not editorialized about how Stallone has let down kids for taking drugs but baseball players are role models or at least there is a mythology about athletes as role models. Stallone could not have been a role model because actors and musicians aren't heroes like athletes.

Athletes are divided into two segments, baseball players and others. It seems very few sportswriters have ever complained about National Football League players being suspended for using banned substances. Sports and entertainment writers don't even approach professional wrestling even though the body count from performers that have died unnatural deaths in the past decade have skyrocketed with many of those deaths attributed from the use of banned performance enhancing drugs.

But for some reason only baseball players have the Scarlet Letter S as a permanent part of their wardrobe. Baseball scribes are seeing to that. Perhaps the baseball writers are trying to make up for the fact that they led the cheering in Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's hope for a "Baseball renaissance" after the 1994-5 players strike (the owners were found guilty of non faith bargaining in that work stoppage) and accepting the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run race as an important part of the "Baseball renaissance" and looked the other way despite whispers in the industry that certain players were juicing.

In 1997 and 1998 “juicing” was illegal in the United States and that has been forgotten by the baseball writers community.

For some reason baseball, which has endured a betting scandal in 1919 (eight members of the Chicago franchise were banned from baseball for throwing World Series games, giving the victory to the Cincinnati Reds, the players were acquitted after a Grand Jury was convened) and a drug scandal in 1985. The game goes on and it will survive Clemens, Barry Bonds, Rodriguez and scorned baseball writers and columnists even if there are just a handful left after newspapers succumb to financial pressures and the recession.

Perhaps one day, Congress will delve into the entertainment industry that feature Stallone and Schwarzenegger and will address why there is no outrage that performance enhancers are used by actors and actresses and ask why there is no call for testing of actors and actresses whose bodies are their livelihoods as well and also hold hearings on why non-high school athletes are taking banned performance enhancing drugs. That would force baseball writers, who really are only interested in watching games, to do some real journalism.

Right now, all baseball players, including those who never took an illegal performance enhancer, are now forced to wear the scarlet letter S, placed upon them by the judge and jury baseball writers. There is an awful lot wrong with the way the whole baseball-steroids-HGH affair is being played out. Where have law enforcement people been over the past 18 years after steroids possession was made illegal? Why did it take until 2002 for an investigation into the use of banned substances to begin, which happened in the BALCO case in San Francisco? After all there were hints for years that something was going on.

Why is the focus just on baseball players in the US? Why haven't there been Congressional hearings about banned performance enhancers in other industries and finally why are baseball writers the judge and jury and placing the scarlet letter S on baseball players? Why does Sylvester Stallone get a pass and no one is looking to throw him in jail when he is caught red handed with HGH and baseball players scrutinized?

The Salem Witch Trails, the Scarlet Letter and McCarthyism live on if you are a big league baseball player.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Should a college coach ne the highest paid state employee in Connecticut

Should a college coach be the highest paid state employee in Connecticut?
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February 23, 10:56 PM
by Evan Weiner, Business of Sports Examiner
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Ken Krayeske in all likelihood will be a forgotten man by the time college basketball's March Madness rolls around in a few weeks. But Krayeske should have opened up a legitimate debate about the salaries that state colleges give to head football and head basketball coaches at big time football and basketball playing schools. At the news conference following Saturday's University of Connecticut-South Florida game in Hartford, Krayeske asked a fair question. He wanted to know if Calhoun would return a part of his $1.6 annual million salary to help the state of Connecticut as the state legislature deals with a significant budget deficit of about a billion dollars that could result in firing of state employees.Calhoun was also asked about his other contracts which include a TV deal and a sneaker company agreement and answered Krayeske with the claim that the basketball team brings the school $12 million annually. That may be true but college sports programs are generally considered money losers. Some schools do get libraries or labs with some monies generated by sports teams but big time college sports is a very expensive proposition. Schools offer multiple sports beyond football and basketball.The exchange between Krayeske and Calhoun was highly unusual. Post game news conferences are boring affairs unless someone brings up a point to a losing coach who doesn't like the question or wants to embarrass the questioner or just wants to make a dramatic point and that coach goes ballistic and starts yelling at the media. Reporters think nothing of being abused by coaches or players because it is all part of the game. The reporters take one for the team or the sport.

Krayeske should have made journalists, elected officials and people think. Why is Calhoun, who is a basketball coach, paid more than Governor Jodi Rell? The governor has the responsibility of the welfare of the entire population of the state. Calhoun recruits players, runs practices and sends players onto a court to play a game. Calhoun isn't the only basketball or football coach among the highest paid state employees in the US. Two of Calhoun's colleagues at the University of Connecticut are also well compensated. Football coach Randy Edsall and women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma will each earn between an estimated $1.5 and $1.6 million.The entire college sports business is all about money. Schools, whether they are public or private, have been in an arms race to satisfy coach's money demands. Schools find an identity through sports. But once a school decides to go "big time" that school also becomes a professional organization except in one area. They get away without paying players and those players should be happy with the possibility of getting a fully paid education in exchange for their sweat, blood and tears.The coach makes his or her money off of their unpaid players backs. The coach gets a TV deal off of unpaid players backs. The coach gets a sneaker endorsement contract off of unpaid players backs. Calhoun was angry with Krayeske, who by the way has been dismissed as a political activist and freelance reporter, and told Krayeske to get his facts right.

But the facts in Connecticut include the possibility of cutbacks among the number of workers in police and fire departments and in public education or hiking public colleges bills. No use sugar coating it in Connecticut, the state is a billion dollars in the hole and while the economic stimulus will send money into Connecticut, New Haven is still looking for about $10 million in givebacks from its public employees.
It's time to stop pretending that Division I college football and basketball are some sort of amateur or scholastic endeavor for students. Colleges and universities are supposed to be places where students matriculate and get ready for the real world. For Division I schools, though, the real world is filling stadiums and arenas with well- heeled boosters, signing deals with corporations for stadium-naming rights, getting money from shoe companies for outfitting their teams and putting the best product available on the field or court to justify the multi-million-dollar broadcasting contracts for their games.

Putting the best product available on the field or court means that spending millions for the best coach or coaches and in Connecticut, three of the highest state employees are two basketball coaches and a football coach.The Calhoun-Krayeske confrontation comes at a time when President Barack Obama and Congress along with others in Washington are trying to find a solution to fix the economy. California almost went broke before a state budget deal was brokered. Kansas is in serious financial trouble, In New York Governor David Patterson is threatening to cut state jobs. Job cuts and unpaid furloughs are on the table as ways to close budget deficits yet no one is suggesting that a state employee like Rutgers' football Greg Schiano of New Jersey will see a pay cut but it seems out of whack that state employees like football and basketball coaches are getting raises and bonuses while classes at Rutgers have been cut and tuition along with student fees are being hiked for the average student, a good many of whom have to borrow money to pay for their educations.

Krayeske threw a curve ball at a news conference and while it was reported, it has not gone any further and it probably will not resonant with the public. There should be a thorough discussion of big time college sports and how states are paying millions in tough economic times for coaches. Don't expect CBS on any of its broadcast platforms to bring up the Krayeske-Calhoun exchange, it would not be good for Sumner Redstone and his faltering CBS business or its partner, the NCAA, or Calhoun. Silence in this case is golden.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Why aren't women sports groups lobbying for a return of softball at the Olympics?
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February 20, 2:33 PM
by Evan Weiner, Business of Sports Examiner
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If the International Olympic Committee decides to bring baseball back to their two-week sports extravaganza in 2016, Dr. Harvey Schiller should get a lot of the credit for pressuring IOC members to reverse their decision to drop the sport once the Olympics flame was extinguished at the closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Games. Dr. Schiller met with the Tokyo, Japan 2016 bid committee this week after lobbying IOC members at the National Basketball Association’s All-Star Game in Phoenix last weekend.

Dr. Schiller has a lengthy resume with both in baseball and the Olympics. He was the Executive Director/Secretary General of the United States Olympic Committee, the President of TBS Sports, the Southeastern Conference Commissioner and the CEO of the YankeeNets group after the New York Yankees, New Jersey Nets and New Jersey Devils joined forces. He is presently the President of the International Baseball Federation. If anyone can persuade the IOC delegates that baseball should be played at the Olympics, it should be Dr. Harvey Schiller.

Baseball and the Olympics are not a good fit because of scheduling conflicts, which is one of the reasons that baseball was dropped after the Beijing Games. The Summer Olympics take place in the summer at the same time Major League Baseball is conducting its championship season. The IOC wants stars in all of its competitions and Major League Baseball will not interrupt its schedule and allow the top stars of the sport to play for national teams. American teams in past Olympics both as a “demonstration” and regular sport featured a lot of college kids and some minor leaguers on their rosters for the most part.

There was one other factor in cutting baseball.

Major League Baseball could not get the Major League Baseball Players Association to agree to the abide by the World Anti-Doping code. The IOC wanted baseball to get in line with their drug policies. It is widely believed because of these two issues, baseball and softball were eliminated from the Olympic roster beginning with the 2012 London Summer Games.

Major League Baseball would like an Olympic comeback in 2016, especially if Chicago lands the event. But there still is the scheduling problem. The National Hockey League has accommodated the Winter Olympics by shutting down the season and letting players compete for their national teams. The NHL wants to grow hockey globally and has used the Olympics as a marketing tool. The National Basketball Association jumped onto the Olympic bandwagon with its Dream Team in the 1992 Barcelona Games and has used the Olympics to grow the game globally.

Major League Baseball has set its sights on growing globally and would like to make inroads in China and on the African continent. Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association decided that an effective way to expand interest in the sport was by holding the World Baseball Classic, which started in 2006. The second World Baseball Classic will take place this spring but there are some problems with the format. The tourney takes place in what normally would be the early days of spring training, which means national teams cannot get top performances out of their pitchers. Additionally, American players didn’t seem all that enthralled with the concept in 2006.

But the real purpose of the World Baseball Classic is to introduce top-flight baseball into either non-baseball playing countries or developing/emerging baseball playing nations.

Dr. Schiller is pitching but the question is simple. Are IOC delegates listening?

Baseball has a big gun lobbying for them in Dr. Schiller but it appears that no one is taking up the case for softball.

The Olympics softball tournament is the pinnacle for women athletes who play the game. There really are no professional softball leagues in the United States or elsewhere that have high visibility or pay well and there is a theory that the IOC delegates for whatever their reasoning ended softball as a competition because the American women were just too good.

Were the American and other softball playing countries women caught in the crossfire between Major League Baseball and the IOC?

That is a good question because on the surface, few sports more deserving of getting a spot in the games than softball.

In 2005, the IOC decided neither baseball nor softball were a good fit for the Summer Olympics beyond 2008. Softball was ditched because as IOC President Jacques Rogge saw it, the sport lacked "universal appeal.” At last look, there 126 national federations that boasted softball teams which is more than baseball, hockey, sailing, rowing, triathlon or modern pentathlon.

In 2005, IOC delegates rated Olympic sports on its history, television ratings, spectator attendance, media interest, anti-doping policies, gender equity and global development. Softball failed to meet the Olympic-worthiness test.

By the 2000 Sydney, Australia Summer Olympics, there was a feeling that the two week, quadrienal event had gone too big. And in 2002, IOC delegates decided to cap Summer Olympics at 28 sports and 10,500 athletes and to conduct a review of the entire Olympic program.

There doesn’t seem to be an active campaign to get softball back into the Olympics picture. There is nothing much from the Women’s Sports Foundation, no major push from Major League Baseball or other softball playing federations.

Dr. Schiller is on a campaign to bring baseball back to the Olympics. There needs to be someone to fill that role for softball. Until that happens, there softball will be a dead Olympics sport.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Don't Always Believe What You Read in the Newspaper Out of Toronto

Don't Always Believe What You Read in the Newspaper Out of Toronto

By Evan Weiner

February 19, 2009

2:00 pm EST

(New York, N. Y.) – As President Barack Obama takes his first international road trip of his term to Ottawa, Ontario, the closest foreign capital to the United States --- Ottawa is about 40 miles from the New York State border near Ogdensburg---perhaps he should read some sports sections of say, Toronto newspapers. President Obama will find that Toronto hockey writers are much like their New York baseball writers counterparts. They may know how the sport they watch is played but they have very little, if any understanding of the business of that sport.

For example, a reporter in today’s Toronto Star cast doubt on a story out of Phoenix, where Obama was on Wednesday, that the National Hockey League Phoenix Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes was indeed talking to possible investors that would help bail out his financially floundering franchise. The reporter, Kevin McGran, quoted an unnamed NHL governor as saying “this could be total bull.”

McGran should have named the governor. McGran also should start talking to Glendale, Arizona elected officials and see if they are willing to renegotiate the Coyotes-Glendale arena lease in an effort to ease Moyes financial burden. One of the reasons that the United States has not seen more chain stores go bankrupt or out of business is that store owners have concluded it is better to take less rent and have a functioning business than an empty store. That could happen in Glendale as it is very likely that elected officials won’t be too thrilled with an empty arena in what they think is an up and coming sports area with the NFL Cardinals, the Coyotes and two Major League Baseball teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox holding spring training there.

Canadian hockey writers don’t understand what makes a successful franchise in the United States. It takes government to build an arena/stadium with either public funding, tax incentives or tax breaks. Government also created favorable cable TV laws that ultimately aid sports franchises and governments give tax breaks to coporates who were buying luxury boxes, club seats and using arena/stadium eateries.

It is a very simple formula and it is why franchises work better in the United States than Canada. Why being in Glendale or Nashville or even Long Island are better off in the US than in say Winnipeg, Quebec City, Hamilton or Halifax.

Canadian hockey writers are very provincial when it comes to what their feel is their game. They had no use for former NHL President John Ziegler and very much less for the New York lawyer, present NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. They are under the illusion that it was Bettman who orchestrated a mass expansion of the league from 21 to 30 franchises.

Bettman didn’t.

NHL owners wanted to increase the league’s presence in United States markets long before Bettman arrived. Bettman had nothing to do with the first two steps of the expansion into San Jose in 1991 and Tampa and a Canadian city, Ottawa, in 1992. Bettman’s arrival in the NHL coincided with the league adding Miami and Anaheim.

Bettman, according to the scribes, was the cause of the 1994-95 and the 2004-06 lockouts. He wasn’t. Sports commissioners take their marching orders from team owners. If they cross one or more owners, they get fired. It happened to Baseball’s Fay Vincent, it happened to the wildly successful NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle when he could no longer get more TV money and it happened to Joe Foss in the American Football League and George Mikan in the American Basketball Association.

Bettman has been blamed for the failure of two small market franchises leaving Canada, Quebec City and Winnipeg. Bettman and Quebec Nordiques owner Marcel Aubut could not work out a deal to secure funding for a new Quebec City arena and Denver interests bought the franchise. It was not supposed to happen that way. Denver’s Charlie Lyons and the Ascent Entertainment Group were supposed to raise the stakes for Quebec lawmakers with the threat that the hockey team would leave without the funding for a new arena, then a casino-arena. Quebec called the NHL’s bluff. Aubut sold the team to Ascent.

The same act played out in Winnipeg. Jerry Coangelo of the Phoenix Suns NBA franchise said in the mid-1990s that the NHL was looking to fill in the Mountain Time Zone and that Phoenix was a perfect city for the NHL. Winnipeg’s owners sold the team to Phoenix interests. Denver and Phoenix have filled the NHL’s Mountain Time Zone need.

Bettman does not get credit from the Canadian media for his work in keeping the Edmonton Oilers in Alberta when it seemed the team was headed for Houston, Texas.

Bettman also pushed Alberta to share the proceeds of a hockey lottery with the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers owners. It seems that Toronto and Canadian hockey writers have amnesia when it comes to what Bettman has been to keep the smaller market Canadian franchises going in his dealings with municipalities. He helped guide the Ottawa Senators ownership through a bankruptcy.

Hockey writers seem not to know that a commissioner of a sport is in reality a very highly paid lobbyist. It is part of a commissioner’s duty. The commissioner is not there to please writers, fans, customers or players. A commissioner is hired to lobby local, state, provincial and national governments, broker marketing deals in Europe, Asia, Africa, South American and Australia. A commissioner cuts TV deals and put out local fires like getting a new arena built or renegotiating an arena contract. A commissioner is hired by the owners to further the business interests of a league and negotiate collective bargaining agreements with the players association. Bettman serves his bosses, the owners, not anyone else.

But it seems that Canadian writers have a lot of disdain toward Bettman because the league is in places that they don’t like. Atlanta, Raleigh, N. C., Nashville, Tampa and Miami.

The American South.

Canadian hockey writers feel Winnipeg and Quebec City were shafted. The truth is the NHL got too big for small market Canadian cities and the value of the Canadian dollar against the US dollar. As long as the Canadian dollar hangs around 80 cents versus the Greenback, Canadian hockey teams will struggle except in a big TV market like Toronto. The other markets cannot match New York’s three teams in TV revenues or LA, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and other American markets for that matter.

Whether Canadian hockey writers like it or not, this year’s stud in the Entry Draft, John Tavares will be taken by either the New York Islanders or the Atlanta Thrashers. One Toronto Sun writer, Steve Simmons, with obviously no knowledge of the Islanders very lucrative TV contract, which ends in 2031 with $38 million US as the final annual payment, has written, “ If I were John Tavares, I would be clear about my future and make certain I never play for the New York Islanders. Tavares hasn't said that much -- and quite likely he won't. But if I were in his position, as the logical No. 1 pick in June's National Hockey League entry draft, I would pull a John Elway, an Eli Manning or an Eric Lindros. And find a way to get out of playing for the Islanders. If you think about it, why would anyone with dreams and aspirations of greatness want to play for the Isles? They have become a Gertrude Stein kind of franchise: "There is no there there." From the owner to the front office to the players to an old rink and older fan base, there is nothing about the Islanders that represents hope. And, if nothing else, that is what Tavares can best represent for an NHL team come June. If I were him, I would rather have a say in my future rather than have it dictated by circumstance, or in this case, a lottery.”

Simmons got the Gertrude Stein quote right but not the intent. Stein was referring to Oakland, California not herself when she uttered the “There is no there” line. Simmons also slammed older fans. Older fans tend to have disposable income and hockey tickets are a high cost item but Simmons would not know that as he doesn’t pay to get into any rinks.

Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz over the years has pointed out that hockey is no longer a game that is confined to Canada. Trotz, a Canadian, has been angered by the Canadian hockey writer small minded mentality. When Craig Leipold decided he had enough of owning the Nashville franchise and sold it to Ontario native Jim Basille, the Toronto-area writers stopped being journalists (although in many ways they sound like Steve from Eglinton calling in a sports talk radio show than newspaper writers) and openly rooted for Nashville to fail financially so that the franchise could move to Hamilton for the 2009-10 season.

The journalism exhibited by those embracing a potential move was embarassing to the professional writing community.

One of Canads’s greatest strengths is its entertainment gift to Americans. William Shatner, Lorne Green, David Steinberg, Monty Hall, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Mario Lemieux have thrived on the other side of the 49th parallel. Americans and Canadians share common interests and culture along with geography. That is partly why Barack Obama’s first international excursion is to Ottawa.

The business of hockey should be covered by non sports writers because those sports scribes are really only interested in games and who wins or loses. Anything else gets in their way of enjoying a game.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Oil Price Collapse, Stock Market Crash, Sinking Currency Hurting Russian Sports Add a Comment February 18, 10:34 AM by Evan Weiner, Business of Sports Examiner« PreviousBy Evan Weiner (New York, N. Y.) -- The summer of 2008 was a good one for Russian sports. The ruble was high, the Russian stock market was doing well and oil was at $147 a barrel. The old Russian bear came out of hibernation and was ready to step back on the international stage was a major player as the 2014 Winter Olympics host in Sochi and with a new hockey league that was going to eventually challenge the National Hockey League for international supremacy. The hockey league had oil money behind it and was run by Alexander Medvedev, the Deputy Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of Russian energy company Gazprom, and the Director-General of Gazprom's export arm Gazprom Export The International Olympic Committee was impressed by the Sochi bid and in July 2007 awarded the 2014 games to the Black Sea resort area. The President of the International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge, said at the time that Russia won because the local bid committee was able to "in persuading the members that they can rely on three essential issues: well-known quality of Russian sport, in the top three in the world; total commitment of the Russian government and President (Vladimir) Putin and the legacy this project is going to leave for the city and the region." Things were going well for the Russians. Then August came along. There was there Russian-Georgia war, after that the bottom fell out of the oil market in September which caused problems with both the Russian stock market and the value of the ruble. By October, the Russian stock market lost two-thirds of its value and oil continued to tumble and all of that wrecked havoc on Russian sports. Despite the faltering economic conditions, both the KHL and work at the Olympics site went on. The Kontinental Hockey League was formed out of the Russian Super League about a year ago. It opened in September with 24 teams, 21 were based within the Russian Federation and three teams were located in Belarus, Latvia, and Kazakhstan. The new league, with the oil money, began signing players with the biggest name and biggest salary being NHL superstar and future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr. There were a number of other NHL players including goaltender Ray Emery and Nashville forward Alexander Radulov. Jagr was contractually done with his NHL team, the New York Rangers but Radulov still had a year left on his Nashville Predators contract when he signed with Salavat Yulaev Ufa and that did not sit very well with the National Hockey League or with the International Ice Hockey Federation. Radulov's deal was announced after the NHL, IIHF and the KHL had signed a deal that all leagues would honor existing contracts. The KHL with Jagr, Radulov, a host of former NHL players looking for one final big paycheck along with a handful of North American coaches is nearing the conclusion of season one. The grandiose plans of expanding into Europe seem to be on hold and in fact, there are some ominous words from Medvedev which appeared in the Sports Business Journal about the league's future. "We decided that players should receive adequate salaries. We believe there was unnecessary escalation of salaries in recent years and the crisis has put it in order," Medvedev said in the Sports Business Journal interview. "Next season, the salary cap per club will drop from $24 million to $17.4 million (US funds)." That is a significant drop in salaries. The ruble continues to stagger and has dropped about a third of its value since last summer. There are some KHL teams that are broke as owners and sponsors don't have money. Last fall Radulov fired a warning shot across the bow and told the NHL to "stop robbing us" meaning Russian hockey should stay home. But with the KHL in apparent disarray, it is likely younger Russians with talent with expired contracts will continue to jump at the opportunity to play in the NHL with or without an NHL-Russian transfer agreement in place. As the KHL reorganizes for next season, the Sochi Olympic Committee is also reeling. The Russian government is looking to save billions in construction costs and that it has slashed 15 percent of the Sochi Olympics budget. Money is very tight. The Russian bear wanted to re-emerge on the sports stage. At this point there are far more pressing problems, the collapse of oil prices, the collapse of the Russian stock market and the collapse of the ruble. All take center stage well ahead of Russian sports.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

All sports business eyes turn to Florida, Arizona and Detroit
Add a Comment

February 17, 12:21 PM
by Evan Weiner, Business of Sports Examiner
Today is the day President Barack Obama signs the stimulus bill into law with the hope that pouring billions of dollars into numerous projects nationally will create jobs and get Americans spending again.
In sports, owners have not yet felt the effects of the economic downturn because tickets for National Football League, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League contests were sold prior to the September-October meltdown and the leagues were locked into long term over-the-air and cable/satellite TV contracts along with marketing partnerships which were signed months before the economic crisis started.
But the calendar has caught up to sports, particularly Major League Baseball. Tickets need to be sold, marketing deals need to be signed and commercials need to be in place to pay for bills. Within the next two weeks, Major League Baseball teams will find out just how difficult the economy is as games will be played in two of the states hit hardest by home foreclosures, Florida and Arizona. If attendance is below normal in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues, that might be a sign that some franchises may be in for some difficult times, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Florida Marlins and the Tampa Bay Rays.
The franchise that seems to be in for the toughest season economically is the Detroit Tigers. No reorganization plans that General Motors and Chrysler submit to the White House and Congress today so they can accept government loans will help the Tigers in the near term.
The Big 3 automakers have laid off tens of thousands of workers, both blue- and white-collar workers, and the home foreclosure rate in the Detroit area is skyrocketing. A good portion of the Detroit consumer base comes from Windsor, Ontario, and other parts of Canada. The fall of the Canadian dollar has made going to baseball, hockey, football and basketball games along with college sports in the Detroit and Auburn Hills area much more expensive as Canadians are paying $1.26 Canadian per every U.S. dollar to cross the river and head into Michigan.
Even if U.S. and Canadian government loans help the Michigan-Ontario auto industry, the business will be forever changed in Michigan/Ontario and that will impact the Tigers as well as the NBA Pistons and the NHL Red Wings beginning this spring - and the NFL’s Lions and college sports next fall.
The stimulus package is designed to pump money into states, cities, towns, villages and municipalities for infrastructure development and repairs. Things like energy projects, road reconstruction which would create jobs. There also could be stadium/arena construction although that would seem to be on the low priority end behind building and repairing bridges and retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient. In New York, New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner, a political operative under New York City Mayors John V. Lindsay and Ed Koch in the 1970s, is turning to former New York Senator Al D'Amato's lobbying firm to help him get stimulus money in an attempt to get the stalled Atlantic Yards-Brooklyn Arena project moving.
Getting federal money for stadiums and arenas is nothing new. In the 1930s, the President Franklin Roosevelt's depression-era recovery plan included stadium and arena building under the umbrella of the Work Projects Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Public Works Administration (PWA) agencies. Among those projects included the Aud and the War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo, Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati and other venues used in major league, minor league and college sports.
President Obama's signature on the stimulus bill could help sports owners in a variety of ways but it may take a while before the economy shows signs of recovering. In Florida, Arizona and Michigan, sports owners can only help that the economy comes back a lot sooner than hoped.
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Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Question for Sports Illustrated about Alex Rodriguez: Whatever happened to Doctor-Patient Confidentiality?

A Question for Sports Illustrated about Alex Rodriguez: Whatever happened to Doctor-Patient Confidentiality?

By Evan Weiner

February 7, 2009

5:00 PM EST

(New York, NY) – There is a huge problem that is being overlooked in the whole Alex Rodriguez allegedly testing positive for steroids use in 2003 saga that once again the media is missing. Someone violated doctor-patient confidentiality privilege by leaking the story that Alex Rodriguez tested positive after being administered a drug test. Drug testing is a medical procedure and if sports organizations really wanted to make an example of players violating United States drug laws as using steroids without a doctor’s permission is illegal, they would turn in all of the players who failed steroids tests to law enforcement officials and let the players go through the judicial system. Then they would turn in the doctor or the person on the staff who leaked medical information to the media.

Instead there have been United States Congressional hearings, which have been a mega media events, grandstanding politicians and oh yes Roger Clemens testimony before Congress which is still being fought.

There is bread and circuses for the population, fodder for comedians yet no one takes the violation of doctor-patient confidentiality privileges under consideration. That is the ethical question that Sports Illustrated and now other news organizations will not take up.

They should, they might sell newspapers or get more viewers if they treated their audiences like adults instead of a crowd at a comedy club.

The argument, of course, is that Alex Rodriguez is a celebrity and that he appeared during an interview segment with Katie Couric on the United States CBS television show “60 Minutes” denying he ever took steroids and human growth hormones and that all is fair when it comes to reporting on Alex Rodriguez. But Sports Illustrated by reporting that Alex Rodriguez failed a drug test has breeched the doctor-patient relationship as did the sources who provided the story to Sports Illustrated.

There will be a familiar cry that the public has the right to know. The public doesn’t have the right to know about Alex Rodriguez drug tests. He is a baseball player, nothing more, nothing less. An entertainer in the eyes of some. That also brings up numerous questions that have not been answered in the nearly four years since a who’s who of baseball players appeared before Congress on St. Patrick’s Day 2005.

Why are just athletes signaled out in the probe of steroids use?

In 2005, Congressman Cliff Stearns of Ocala didn’t like a piece I wrote for the Orlando Sentinel and called the editorial department to express his outage at my criticism. Four years later that criticism still stands. I wanted to know why United States professional athletes were the only ones in the spotlight and why Congress was not going after TV networks and advertisers who were using actors and actresses who clearly were on steroids and human growth hormones, particularly on soap operas.

Congress had hearings partially because they felt athletes were sending out the wrong message to teenagers back in 2005 and the hearings were directed at that segment of the populace.

I wrote, “Why is Congress concentrating solely on major-league professional sports leagues in its quest to educate youngsters about the health risks of using performance-enhancing drugs?

If the two congressional committees really wanted to go after steroid usage among teenagers, Stearns and his colleagues should have broaden their horizons. If they think it's only jocks who are taking banned substances, they are wrong. American teenagers seem to come in two varieties: those in shape and those out of shape. Both may be using steroids, ephedra and other substances not because they want to hit a baseball farther, run a 100-yard dash in record time or block better on the gridiron, but because they want to look good.

Their entire lives, those teenagers have been bombarded with ads telling them to look good to attract members of the opposite sex. Just look at beer commercials, car commercials, magazines, movies and TV shows aimed at young people. The good-looking people with the good bodies get the good-looking girls or guys.

Committees should be bringing in muscle, fitness and other magazine editors along with advertising, TV and movie executives and various image-makers to explain their messages to young people.

They should ask why young girls are taking steroids to control their weight. Some government and university studies contend that about 5 percent of high-school girls and 7 percent of middle-school girls admit trying anabolic steroids at least once, and usage has been rising steadily since 1991.

Stearns was irate and answered back but his words didn’t match his fury at me. In fact, the Congressman was rather benign in his response.

“I am a sports fan,” he wrote in the Sentinel. “I enjoy watching sports and, when I have the opportunity, I enjoy the exertion and fun of athletic competition. Every two years, the nations of the world focus on the athletic excellence of the Olympics. Sports transcend language and culture -- they are embraced by all of mankind.The performances of the great players and great teams -- their victories, records and careers -- capture the honesty and integrity of sports and heighten the ideal that sports honor success based on merit and talent.Yet, the use of steroids in sports is undermining the notion of talent in the athlete and integrity in the sport.Steroids are the tools of the cheater. Not only do these performance-enhancing drugs undermine the legitimacy and integrity of all sports, they are illegal. Their use is a misdemeanor punishable with up to one year in jail. Distribution of steroids is a felony punishable by up to five years.Our elite athletes are role models for America's youth, and these children see and hear what their heroes do. While some adults look the other way at obvious steroid use in professional sports, young athletes see steroids as a shortcut to improving their game.I held my first hearing on performance-enhancing drugs in sports in 2003. This year, I also held the first hearing specifically dealing with steroids in sports.At that hearing, we heard testimonies from medical and athletic experts who outlined the health problems of steroids and the extent of steroid use, including among high-school athletes and younger students.We listened to the testimony of a father whose son killed himself after taking steroids to improve his performance in high-school baseball.Is this an issue for Congress?Yes, the health and safety of our children and athletes makes this a federal issue, as does the fact that it is a crime.The federal government provides funding for the World Anti-Doping Agency, which monitors the Olympic sports, and we should apply the same standards to professional athletes.Since my subcommittee has jurisdiction over this issue, I offered the Drug Free Sports Act. It requires the major professional-sports leagues to adopt a single uniform testing standard modeled on the Olympic standards, as well as setting tough penalties for steroid use.The commissioners of the sports leagues and the directors of the various players' associations provided their views on my bill, which was endorsed by Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and NBA Commissioner David Stern. Approved in my subcommittee, it next goes to the full committee for consideration.Professional athletes command high salaries and attract the spotlight of public attention. By focusing on professional sports, my bill makes them the platform for enunciating, loud and clear, that taking steroids is cheating, illegal, unhealthy and can end careers. This would represent a major step in reaching athletes and students thinking about taking steroids.”

There was no one word in there about other entertainment forums, like soap operas, which feature beefy men, like beer commercials and other ads. Nope, just about sports figures and there was nothing in their about doctor-patient privileges.

It is all very troubling. The media spotlight is on Rodriguez, he allegedly sells papers or gets attention on TV and radio. The United States media is broken and needs more than dishing dirt on Alex Rodriguez. Come to think of it, perhaps a series on doctor-patients and ethics might sell more newspapers or an investigation into other forms of entertainment and whether those performers are juiced could be a compelling story that Congress should take up. But wait, why should we go into those issues when Alex Rodriguez can be the center of attention of Joe Torre’s book or Page Six of the New York Post or fodder for late night comedians? The media is giving the people what they want, just ask Time Warner and Sports Illustrated bosses, as Don Henley pointed out in his song Dirty Laundry, We all know crap is king, Give us Dirty Laundry.

Alex Rodriguez has plenty of “Dirty Laundry” but the real question that needs to be asked has not been asked. Why is it okay for Sports Illustrated to get sources that are willing to break the doctor-patient confidentiality privilege? That needs an answer.

Athletes Are No Role Models

By Evan Weiner

February 6, 2009

10:30 AM EST

(New York, NY) – So Michael Phelps was caught inhaling weed, what is the big deal? If Michael Phelps wasn’t a great Olympics performer and was Mitchell Phelps or Michael Phillips and was smoking marijuana in a college dorm and a friend decided to take a picture of him, there would be a big laugh and life would go on. No one would ever know and Richland County (South Carolina) Sheriff Leon Lott could continue to investigate other criminal actions.

If Phelps is arrested, and that seems to be a big if, he could face up to 30 days in jail and a $570 (US) fine since the possession of marijuana in Richland County is a misdemeanor. Lott has to determine where Phelps alleged criminal activity took place although the British publication where the Phelps inhale pictures appeared; the News of the World claimed Phelps was visiting the University of South Carolina at the time he took a hit.

In case people don’t know, particularly college presidents or chancellors along with college and university reps and advisors who tell parents that their schools don’t allow drugs on campus, this type of behavior goes on all the time, just like it did 40 years ago and just like it did when Reefer Madness was released in 1936.

Michael Phelps is now paying the price and the sports moral authorities, sportswriters are doing their best to make sure Phelps understands that he needs to be put in his place. People like USA Today’s Christine Brennan who is concerned that Phelps is “having so much trouble balancing his life as both a role model and playboy.”

Brennan brings up the fact that a 23-year-old Phelps already had a driving under the influence charge against him in 2004, pictures with Las Vegas strippers after he won the gold in Beijing.

The writer is worried about Phelps future and, of course, how is giving advice on how Phelps can fix his problem, the playboy problem.

Other sportswriters have chimed in and it is basically the same drivel. Athletes are not role models except in a few exceptional cases like one-time NHL player Adam Graves who was truly dedicated to helping others. Athletes are human beings and are unfairly held to a higher standard or are they?

Phelps is being held to a much higher standard than say the New York Jets Shaun Ellis who is largely unnoticed as just another defensive end in the National Football League. Ellis was arrested in December for marijuana possession along with driving without insurance after he was picked up for speeding. His penalty from his employer, the New York Jets? None, he kept playing.

The Pittsburgh Steelers James Harrison is getting star treatment after his Super Bowl touchdown and being part of this year’s championship team. Harrison is being lauded for his perseverance after being cut by both the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens numerous times but last March he was arrested and charged with simple assault and criminal mischief surrounding a domestic dispute with his girlfriend, The charges were dropped in April after he completed anger management and psychological counseling. Pittsburgh needed Harrison but Pittsburgh didn’t need wide receiver Cedrick Wilson anymore. Wilson was let go last March a day after he was charged with assaulting an ex-girlfriend. Wilson’s production had declined.

Sports is filled with bad behavior, but if an athlete can produce he will be pardoned for whatever felony is committed. Exhibit A is Adam “Pacman” Jones. Steve Howe was suspended seven times by Major League Baseball for drug use, but he had a valuable left arm and stuck around the game until he was no longer productive.

Depending on the situation, if a player produces, anything goes. Phelps just smoked weed and apparently didn’t hurt anybody last November at the University of South Carolina. The judge and jury in this case was not law enforcement officials, that might eventually come to pass and Phelps could face a misdemeanor charge and could lose United States student loan funding, if convicted, although that doesn’t seem to be a problem for him, but the USA Swimming and his marketing partners.

The USA Swimming has suspended Phelps from competition for three months because of his “tokin.” Phelps has also lost the group’s financial support for three months, although Phelps certainly can afford to pay for his own training. The USA Swimming group decided to take strong action “because he disappointed so many people, particularly hundreds of thousands of USA Swimming member kids who look up to him as a role model and hero.”

Again that role model/hero platform comes up again. Is Phelps really a hero because he won gold medals?

Phelps marketing partners are having a tough time because of that picture of Phelps with a bong. The International Olympic Committee, Speedo and Omega are fine with him, Subway and Kellogg’s aren’t. That is the problem with athletics today. The Olympics, the Super Bowl and other major sports events are sports events and an athlete should not be judged on marketability. The Beijing Olympics were a marketing disaster except for Phelps. He is the only one who came out of the Games with a pitchman’s persona.

The Olympics is no longer just about sports. NBCUniversal, the American media company that picks up a good chunk of Olympics costs, needs to create heroes so that people will be interested in watching the contests in its multi-platform assortment of over-the-air TV, cable TV and broadband presentations. NBCUniversal sells personalities, not the contests. Marketers are in the same boat, they are paying big money for the Olympics logo and need heroes to help push sugar water (soda), hamburgers, watches, breakfast cereal and everything else imaginable including a program that can help you learn another language quickly.

If Phelps, who will be 27 in 2012, decides to give the London Olympics a go, his DUI, the Las Vegas strippers pictures and the inhaling will be forgotten. Someone else will be pushed into the marketing savior spotlight by then because Phelps will be old news. It is just how it is today in sports. New heroes will emerge and grab the marketing dollars because someone thinks athletes should be held to the role model standard.

Babe Ruth was no role model in his day although Babe’s most valuable contribution may not have been saving baseball from the 1919 Black Sox gambling scandal but his willingness to try a new cancer treatment, teropterin. Ruth was a guinea pig for chemotherapy. Teropterin would eventually morph into Methotrexate, which is used in cancer treatment.

Athletes are no role models, they are just human beings like everybody else who have in some cases better hand and eye coordination than 99 percent of the population or have extraordinary physical skills. Phelps was acting like most college students and the uproar over him inhaling is absurd. He did break a law but he didn’t beat up anyone, bilk people for millions of dollars or start a war. He is no role model though and athletes should be judged on their athletic performance solely.

The whole idea of an athlete as a role model/pitchman needs to be revisited and dropped. Parents, teachers and others who are there on a day-to-day basis should be children role models not some image created by sports leagues, sportswriters, sports radio talk show hosts, TV sports news readers and marketers because Michael Phelps, Derek Jeter and others are not substitutes for parents, teachers, clergy and others like youth coaches, piano teachers and tutors.