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.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Limbaugh’s Bid on the Rams: Pundits Analysis Wrong Again

Limbaugh’s Bid on the Rams: Pundits Analysis Wrong Again

By Evan Weiner

October 20, 2009

7:00 PM (ADT)

(Halifax, Nova Scotia) – Rush Limbaugh is not going to be part of any group that wants to buy the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams. That is a real fact. But the post mortem analysis of the Limbaugh story after he was asked to withdraw from Dave Checketts group’s bid on the franchise from the pundit wing of American media is a bit baffling.

Or is it?

Limbaugh, the ever ready to sprout out utterances conservative philosopher, blamed a group of detractors that included the usual Limbaugh cast of characters including Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and President Barack Obama as part of some Limbaugh blather that that his rejection of as a money man in an NFL franchise bid is part of a menacing Obama future that is dark and bleak.

Limbaugh, the businessman, knows that Obama’s National Football League is not much different than Richard Nixon’s NFL, Gerald Ford’s NFL, Jimmy Carter’s NFL, Ronald Reagan’s NFL, George H. W. Bush’s NFL, Bill Clinton’s NFL and George W. Bush’s NFL. The NFL of today was created in 1961 through the Sports Broadcast Act of 1961 that was signed into law by President John F. Kennedy which allowed the 14 partners (owners) of the NFL to sell their TV shows as one entity to a TV network and gave NFL owners protection from United States antitrust statues and use the 14 entities as one which meant they could make more money than selling their games piecemeal or ad hock TV networks.

Limbaugh, the businessman, also knows that it was President Lyndon B. Johnson in October 1966 who approved the American Football League-National Football League merger which created a major monopoly (as NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle confirmed as he was on the stand in the NFL-United States Football League antitrust court case in 1986) that gave NFL and AFL owners financial stability as one 24 team entity and led to the creation of the Super Bowl.

Two liberals, Kennedy and Johnson, created today’s moneymaking NFL, a private club that Limbaugh wanted to join.

Limbaugh also has to know that his hero, Ronald Reagan, as the President of the United States signed two bills, the 1984 Cable TV Act and the 1986 Tax Act, that helped the owners get money from cable TV and changed how municipalities funded stadium construction which also aided owners pockets.

Facts never get in the pundits (whether they are from the left or right) way of screaming and yelling, so with that here is a sports primer for such experts on everything like Cal Thomas, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, all of who were recently on FOX displaying their knowledge of how the NFL should work in their world.

For Hannity, who feels bad that Rush probably can never enjoy the NFL again in the same way he used to prior to being dropped as a potential Rams owner; for Coulter who somehow parlayed Rush’s failure into how NFL players probably have more in common with Rush because they are Christians, I am not exactly sure what that has to do with anything, but the players in the Coulter world of absolute punditry correctness could break bread with Rush so much more than his gang of detractors, the Jacksons, Sharptons, the National Football League Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and Obama. For good political measure, the blonde carnival barker threw in that the liberal George Soros was also trying to buy into the Rams, which was unverified. And she added for good measure that Soros was a Jewish Nazi sympathizer in Hungary during World War II as a teenager. It was the usual Coulter stuff that is light on accuracy but filled with raw red meat for her fans who fill her pockets with cash by buying her books and listening to her rants. Her fans aren’t the only ones who listen; journalists seem to like her as they seem to promote her endlessly. And for Thomas who is just a blank on the business dealings of football.

As a public service to both sides of the cable TV news network lighter than air discussions which more than not resemble third graders yelling at each other at a school lunchroom table although the third graders probably have more facts at their disposal, here is a sports owners guide for membership.

Have money and keep a low profile. Don’t do anything that might upset them.

Not everyone who wants to buy a sports team gets one. Edward Gaylord, who owned the Daily Oklahoman from 1974 until his death in 2003, twice failed to buy the Texas Rangers baseball team. Gaylord, who was a staunch conservative and The Oklahoman reflected that view, was turned down by the Lords of Baseball in the 1980s because Major League Baseball owners didn’t want Gaylord to turn the Rangers into a national team through his Dallas Cable TV superstation and have the Rangers on a daily basis on national cable TV with the New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves. The owners felt another “national” team would further diminish national television revenues. The Rangers franchise ended up with a group that included George W. Bush in 1989.

Gaylord’s political ideology had nothing to do with being turned down. The baseball fraternity was threatened by Gaylord’s technology. The National Basketball Association did not want the Minnesota Timberwolves to leave Minneapolis in 1994 and blocked the sale of the team to a group that was headed by the boxing promoter Bob Arum. Arum planned to move the team to New Orleans, the NBA wanted to stay in the bigger Twin-Cities market. Blackberry partner Jim Balsillie needs to be rehabilitated before he tries a fourth time to purchase a National Hockey League team. Balsillie tried to make demands of NHL owners when he reached an agreement o but Pittsburgh in 2006 and not play nice with Commissioner Gary Bettman and keep the franchise in western Pennsylvania, did the same thing in 2007 when he bought the Nashville Predators and was found unsuitable as an owner this spring/summer when he wanted to buy the Phoenix Coyotes and move the team to Hamilton, Ontario.

Those are just three examples. The oilman Marvin Davis had the right stuff to own a Major League Baseball team in 1977 but the Barons of Baseball said no when Davis tried to buy the Oakland A’s franchise and move the team to Denver.

The NFL is a private club, 31 owners plus the public ownership in Green Bay, that picks and chooses club members. One of those members is Alex Spanos who owns the San Diego Chargers and this is going to cause some problems for the carnival barker crowd.

Spanos probably has far more in common with the usual daily fare that Limbaugh fills the public airwaves with 15 hours a week. At least Spanos has a real track record of being politically active. He was number 2 on the list of donations to George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign and spoke at the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. In 2004, Spanos was a heavy contributor to the 527 Swift Boat attack ads against the Democrat John Kerry in his bid for the Presidency. At the same time, former President George H. W. Bush accompanied Spanos to Athens, Greece as where they served as the official American representatives at the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Spanos should be a hero to the Limbaugh/Hannity/Coulter/Thomas, radio talk show and Roger Ailes’ FOX crowd but Spanos knows there is far more to life than the daily foolishness that is paraded on MSNBC, CNN, FOX, talk radio from Air America or talk radio from Clear Channel (and the fictional) Excellence in Broadcasting network.

Spanos hired Mark Fabiani to help him get a new football stadium and real estate development project in the San Diego area. Fabiani has the credentials to get things done although Spanos might be considered a polar opposite. Fabiani was the Deputy Campaign Manager for Communications and Strategy at Gore for President in 2000 and was the Special Counsel to the President, the Executive Office of the President, the White House, Washington, D. C. between 1994 and 1996.

Fabiani served President Bill Clinton’s White House, Clinton, the mortal enemy of Limbaugh, Hannity, Thomas, Coulter, Ailes, and the rest of the conservative barkers.

The entire game of talk radio and cable news in the United States is shrill whether it is Keith Olbermann or Bill O’Reilly. There is a disingenuous nature to the beast, so much so that one FOX host who suffers from multiple sclerosis and is a financial supporter of a stem cell research center in New York City but real life and the strange life of cable TV news and talk radio never intersect and that host cannot give a public pitch for funding research at the facility and the people who helped put together the center would rather not talk about financial contributions from FOX News Channel personnel including some of the higher ups at FOX but take research money. If it became public, that would ruin the illusion. Cable TV and talk radio show punditry is more Wizard of Oz that academic debate and opening the curtain is the last thing that punditry class wants to do.

The strange disconnect extends into what is considered serious Sunday morning American TV news and interview programs. The Conservative George Will is a prime example of not being all that he appears to be. The free market proponent isn’t exactly a hard-core free market advocate. Will, who was on the Board of Directors of the San Diego Padres and the Baltimore Orioles, in 2000 as a member of a blue ribbon committee studying the industry said that he didn’t believe free market principles should be applied to baseball. Will, who is as stuffy in real life as he is on TV, is a hypocrite and this is typical of what passes as real journalism in America.

I should know, I asked Will about his 2000 stance and he declined to opine on the free market advocate who stifled his principles for baseball.

Olbermann, Chris Mathews, the late Tim Russert, Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, Thomas, Joe Scarborough, Larry King, Don Imus, Anderson Cooper, Campbell Brown, Katie Couric, Brian Williams, Charles Gibson, Bill O’Reilly, George Stephanopolous, Will, Chris Wallace, David Gregory, Alan Colmes and the rest of the barkers or political operators will never be confused with the people who delivered daily commentaries on the old 1970s CBS Radio Spectrum series which included Murray Kempton, M. Stanton Evans, Jeffrey St. John, Stewart Alsop, Jon K. Jessup and Nicholas Von Hoffman. Nor would any of today’s crowd be confused with the legacy of the American conservative William Buckley. Buckley and Kempton were polar opposites politically but were best friends because of their journalistic integrity something that is clearly lacking in American media. Neither Buckley nor Kempton were abrasive personalities and both were meticulous. The screaming hyenas of today are cherished by radio talk programmers and cable TV network executives as they search for angry listeners and viewers who want the red raw meat and vile instead of intellectual give and take.

Olbermann, who is an intelligent guy with a load of luggage in his background, would never have worked for CBS Chairman William Paley’s news department in the 1960s because of his sports background. Paley would not allow Art Linkletter to become a correspondent on “60 Minutes” because of his game show host background.

The carnival barkers have moved on from the Limbaugh debate and are on some other silly trail looking for viewers and listeners who genuflect at their every word. The barkers on a daily basis vent their spleens not because of ideological stances but the chance to scream for money on issues that appeal to a narrow segment of society.

Limbaugh won’t be joining the NFL anytime soon, but it is wrong for the Coulter crowd to blame their mortal enemies, the Jackson-Sharpton wing of the food fight club. The NFL owners like to keep low social profiles and not cause a ruckus and that is what eliminated Limbaugh from the Checketts group, not the liberals.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

NHL Loonie for Hockey in Quebec City or Winnipeg?

NHL Loonie for Hockey in Quebec City or Winnipeg?

By Evan Weiner

October 19, 2009

5:00 PM (ADT)

(Saint John, New Brunswick) – Saint John, New Brunswick is not anyone’s idea of the first stop of any major league sports tour, but walking through the downtown area of Saint John gives you a quick idea why it is possible that Canada is once again high on the list of possible destinations for financially failing NHL teams. A Saint John’s visitor does see an alarmingly high number of empty storefronts while walking through the downtown but a visitor armed with American dollars and ready to buy items gives you a quick answer as to why the National Hockey League is at least entertaining thoughts of putting franchises in either Winnipeg or Quebec City again.

The Canadian dollar is nearly on par with the American dollar for the first time in two years. That is not necessarily good news for Canadian companies hoping for American investors because the US dollar is worth on the other side of the 49th parallel has evaporated nor is it good news for businesses along with US-Canadian border as Canadians shop in American stores as American prices for items are cheaper. Eventually that can hurt Canadians as fewer US dollars flow into the country. Canadians have a major balancing act always. But the fact is that the loonie is getting stronger while the greenback has weakened.

All of this is good news for the six existing NHL franchises along with the National Basketball Association’s Toronto Raptors and the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball. Every time the Canadian dollar goes up against the American dollar, the franchises have more disposable income. The inverse holds true while the loonie backs off. The strengthening loonie is also helpful to Major League Soccer’s Toronto team and probably is good for the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions and the Buffalo Bills as those border three teams draw from the British Columbia and Ontario parts of their markets. It also helps Mike Ilitch’s Detroit Tigers baseball team and his NHL Red Wings.

The road back to Winnipeg or Quebec City in the NHL, Vancouver in the NBA and Montreal in Major League Baseball will be long and there is no guarantee that the loonie will maintain it’s present value. The NHL left Winnipeg and Quebec City when the loonie was heading to a low of 62 cents back in the late 1990s.

The situation in Quebec City has not changed much since Marcel Aubut sold his Quebec Nordiques to Charlie Lyons and Ascent back in 1995. Aubut was looking for a publicly backed new Quebec City arena and was told no by both Quebec City and the province of Quebec. Lyons moved the team to Denver. Recently Quebec City’ Mayor Regis Labeaume talked with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about his plans to build a new, taxpayers funded arena. Labeaume figures it will cost $400 million (Cn) to construct the building with $175 million coming from Canada, $175 million from the province and $50 million from Quebec City coffers.

There is no doubt that Quebec City has passionate fans but the financially the NHL of 2009-10 differs from the final days of the Nordiques franchise. Ticket prices have skyrocketed along with player’s salaries. There also might be some English-speaking Canadian players who might refuse to play in the French-speaking city as well although only player, Eric Lindros back in 1991, flat out turned his back in the city. Quebec City had a long history of having fine non-French players who wanted to play there including the Statsny Brothers and Joe Sakic.

The founder of the Kontinental Hockey League and the CEO of Russia’s Gazprom, Alexander Medvedev, suggested last spring that he thought Quebec City would be a great hockey market.

But the market still lacks an arena and there is no suggestion that either the city or the province is ready to spend hundreds of millions of loonies on a building and then give 85 or 90 percent of the revenues generated in the building to the owner of a hockey team. Arena costs have risen from the $70 million dollar (US) range in the late 1980s to the more than a billion dollars (US) for places like the new Yankee Stadium in New York, the new Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington, Texas and the new New Jersey football stadium in the Meadowlands. It was far cheaper to build in 1995.

If the province or city doesn’t come up with loonies, then a prospective owner will have to put up cash in the building process and will have to pass along building costs to the fans or customers and it would have to be customers because ticket prices for regular seats and for the higher end items like luxury boxes and club seats will be astronomical.

Quebec City hockey proponents need to only look south of the border to New York where Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees and New York Mets had trouble filling up the high end tickets and where the National Football League’s New York Giants and New York Jets are having problems getting people to reach into their pockets to pony up thousands of dollars for personal seat licenses for the right to own a seat and then buying a ticket for that seat.

No matter how rabid an area’s fan base might be, the harsh realty is that fans don’t have the wherewithal to spend a small fortune to attend a game. National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern claims that the NBA might sell more tickets in 2009-10 but that owners’ revenues will be down because they are discounting tickets.

Stern though is also positioning the owners in the upcoming collective bargaining talks with the players. The present owners-players agreement ends in 2011.

Quebec City remains a small market with limited corporate and TV money although that could change depending on the definition of the marketplace. If Quebec becomes a provincial team, perhaps a local cable TV entity will offer New York or Toronto like prices for rights fees. A $250 million contract over 10 years would certainly make a Quebec City franchise more viable. The roughly six million people in the Province of Quebec (along with nearby New Brunswick) is certainly large enough to handle an NHL team if the franchise can position itself as the province’s team but there is another factor here that will present a significant obstacle, Quebec already has a provincial team -- the Montreal Canadiens.

Will the Molsons, the Canadiens owners, want to see another team in Quebec City? Thirty years ago, the NHL rejected overtures from World Hockey Association members Quebec City, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Hartford to join the league. Hockey fans in the three Canadian cities threatened a boycott and would not purchase Molson beer if Quebec City, Edmonton and Winnipeg were denied NHL entry.

Eventually the four WHA teams entered the league for the 1979-80 season after some NHL owners relented and took WHA owners money to enter the league. But throughout the years there have been suggestions that the NHL never shed any tears when Quebec City, Winnipeg and Hartford departed although Bettman did work feverishly with Edmonton officials and businesses to prevent the franchise from moving to Houston in 1998.

Bettman, who gets bad reviews from what appears to be very provincially minded Canadian sportswriters for various reasons that don’t always seem to stem from his policies, has been in the forefront of preserving Canadian franchises in Edmonton and Ottawa. Bettman’s lobbying efforts did get Alberta officials to throw some money into Edmonton and Calgary’s coffers from the province’s hockey lottery and Bettman worked the Ottawa business community along with Ontario leaders to make sure the Senators remained in the Canadian capital after the team’s financial problems in the 1990s surfaced and through the team’s bankruptcy in 2003.

The NHL does have a Canadian commitment despite the writings of Canadian scribes although those writers seemed to suffer from memory loss during this year’s Phoenix Coyotes saga when Jim Balsillie attempted to buy the team and move the franchise to Hamilton, Ontario. Bettman showed the same tenacity in the Phoenix situation as he did in Edmonton and Pittsburgh and in Buffalo after the both the Sabres ownership declared bankruptcy in 2003 and in New Jersey in 1995 to keep the franchises in their home cities.

The Winnipeg situation has changed somewhat since Barry Shenkerow sold his Winnipeg Jets to Richard Burke and Steven Gluckstern in 1996. The team moved to Phoenix that fall. Shenkerow was looking for a municipally funded arena with all the gadgets that were state of the art in 1995 including luxury boxes and club seats. He never got the building but there is a new structure in Winnipeg today that probably would be considered state of the art. The problem with Winnipeg in 1995 remains the same today; there is a limited population, which means a limited cable TV market and limited corporate support. In other words despite a high interest from a local fan base, there are too few people to make it worthwhile. A potential owner would have to get virtually every penny spent in the new arena and have a cable TV operator willing to spent New York or Toronto money for TV that would include the entire province of Manitoba along with western Ontario and Saskatchewan and possibly make the games available in northern Minnesota and North Dakota to make it worthwhile.

In both cases, Quebec City and Winnipeg, the local market may be hockey fertile but is it financially fertile? That is why the teams left in the first place. Aubut decried the 1995 Collective Bargaining Agreement and predicted his Quebec Nordiques would not survive because he could not compete financially with the terms of that agreement. Despite the 2004-05 NHL lockout and the implementation of a salary cap, the business of the NHL remains very expensive.

Two years ago when the Canadian dollar overtook the US dollar in value, NBA Commissioner David Stern lamented that there was no interest parties in British Columbia who wanted any information on the finances of an NBA team. Vancouver was an NBA failure between 1995-2001 because the owner of the Vancouver Canucks Arthur Griffiths got into financial trouble by spending his own money to build an arena and then bought an NBA franchise for about $140 million Canadian. Eventually Griffiths sold the NBA Grizzlies to Michael Heisley who was so desperate to own an NBA team that he accepted Griffiths lease in the building which gave him virtually no luxury suite, club seat or concessions money. Heisley move his team to Memphis where it has struggled financially since day one in the new city.

There seems to be no interest in returning a team to Vancouver but if the loonie remains hot, there might be someone who might want to kick the tires in Vancouver.

There is no information suggesting that Major League Baseball wants to return to Montreal or that Montreal city officials want MLB back. Montreal Expos owner Jeffrey Loria was unable to build a stadium in the city in the early 1990s and ended up owning the Florida Marlins in a swap of franchises that saw MLB take over the Expos and Marlins owner John Henry end up with the Boston Red Sox. The deal was 10-strike for Henry’s portfolio, some much so that wife is now buying up property near the Garden in Boston as the family continues to gobble up properties near Fenway Park and now the Garden and Loria is getting a ballpark at the old Orange Bowl site in Miami. Montreal had changed throughout the years since MLB expanded there in 1968 but the end of the Loria years, no English-speaking Montreal radio station even bothered to bid for the team’s play-by-play rights.

The best area in good or bad economic times for an NHL team is probably the Kitchener-Waterloo area, which is just outside Toronto’s territorial rights. Hamilton lacks a suitable arena. If any Major League sport returns to Canada, it will be the NHL with the NFL keeping a close on Toronto.

The NFL-Toronto situation is difficult because of the presence of the Canadian Football League in the city. The Toronto Argonauts used to be a big deal in the city which had just one big league sport franchise---the Maple Leafs—but that was before 1977 when the American League put a baseball team in the city. Toronto is big league in every sense of the way and the CFL isn’t but the CFL is uniquely Canadian and in 1974, Parliament wanted to protect the league by imposing laws making it very difficult for any American football entity to operate in the country.

Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson is selling one home game a year to Toronto sports operators through 2012. Wilson, who is 90 years old, has a deal with New York to keep his Bills playing in Orchard Park through the 2012 season. Wilson has been regionalizing the team in the past few years in order to broaden his fan/customer/corporate base and part of his market is the Niagara Frontier of Ontario. Toronto would probably be a strong NFL franchise even though 12-man football is played in Ontario high schools and there are no football factories in Canadian colleges. Still, Toronto offers a football owner something that no other non-NFL city can – Bay Street – the financial capital of Canada. Toronto has corporate dollars that Buffalo (and Jacksonville) does not have. Toronto and Los Angeles are the best football markets available in North America and neither has a team.

Because of politics, the best solution for the NFL might be a split of the Buffalo-Toronto franchise like the Green Bay-Milwaukee situation that existed until 1994 when the Packers played home games in both Wisconsin cities.

The hot loonie has attracted Bettman’s interest but whether it is a passing fancy or the real McCoy will be answered by financial markets and politics because at the end of the day, it is not about the game that is played, rather the factors that fans never think about like currency rates, availability of credit and political sensibilities.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Carnie Has a Right to Buy an NFL Team

The Carnie Has a Right to Buy an NFL Team

By Evan Weiner

October 10, 2009

5:00 PM EDT

(New York, N. Y.) -- It is really odious to defend Rush Limbaugh but he does have the right to put in a bid for the National Football League franchise that is for sale in St. Louis. The carnie Limbaugh who might or might not believe every word that comes out of his mouth in a bid to startle people to get them to listen to his three hour daily United States radio program, apparently has enough money to join with long time sports executive David Checketts in an attempt to buy the team. If Limbaugh has the money, then he should go ahead with his bid despite his opinions on race, women, politics and anything else. After all, George Preston Marshall once owned the Boston-Washington Redskins and did not employ an African American player until 1962.

Checketts, if Limbaugh is telling the truth about the bid, is a Mormon and apparently is comfortable with the radio character who has made a career out of race baiting along a Nazi fascination and other less than complimentary, rude, hurtful, spiteful comments which would landed him in hot water with many elementary school teachers and principals which could lead to a school suspension and lessons on civility. Of course, Limbaugh’s words came out with a wink; he is only a carnie after all.

There are far more grown ups in elementary school than in the vast cultural wasteland of American radio and TV and that is where the defensive of Limbaugh has to begin. You see the caretakers of the publicly owned radio stations and syndicators are also involved in sports, people like Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers and the National Hockey League Dallas Stars owner Thomas O. Hicks. In addition to Hicks, there is the former owner of the National Basketball Association's San Antonio Spurs and the National Football League's Minnesota Vikings Red McCombs.

McCombs and Hicks were Limbaugh enablers but their contribution to the Limbaugh story is pretty much scrubbed from the public record. In 1975, McCombs along with L. Lowry Mays purchased a San Antonio, Texas radio station, WAOI, and founded Clear Channel Communications. In 1996, Clear Channel purchased Premiere Radio Networks and gained control of Limbaugh's nationally syndicated radio show. McCombs was the owner of the Spurs at the time and there seems to be no record of NBA Commissioner David Stern expressing any sort of outrage that McCombs had Limbaugh and others of his ilk under his control.

Limbaugh was making money for McCombs and the association flew under the radar screen. In 1999, Hicks' AMFM, Inc. merged with Clear Channel, but neither Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig nor National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman ever voiced any opinion about Hicks owning a company that allowed Limbaugh to rant three hours daily about whatever would get him into trouble with the elementary school principle whether it was race baiting or calling feminists "Feminazis" or other words or radio skits that would be deemed offensive.

The real genius of Rush Limbaugh lies in the fact that he can keep an audience between commercials with whatever inflammatory statements he can think up. The truth is that over-the-air TV and radio along with newspapers depends on keeping the consumer's attention in between commercials that pay the bills. It has nothing to do with political ideology or covering the news, it is all about getting the most consumers and then being able to steer them to buy what the advertiser is selling. Someone has to pay the bills.

It is all about money; Limbaugh has made money for bosses like McCombs and Hicks. McCombs and Hicks sports interests do not dovetail necessarily with their real businesses. McCombs and Hicks perpetuated Limbaugh's brand and they own sports teams.

Selig was not bothered at all that one of his owners, Hicks, was an enabler but Selig developed a social consciousness over two very visible incidents that involved Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott and Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker that sort of echoed the type of programming that Limbaugh and others had on Premiere.

One of the consequences of the absolute lessening of manners and civility of conversation on radio and TV is the diminishing of respect people have for one another. The likes of Don Imus back in the 1970s opened the door to nastiness and it was all in the pursuit of an audience that would spend money on sponsors. Perhaps Rocker, who was a guy in his 20s at the time felt that he could say what we wanted because of pioneers in race baiting, like Limbaugh who had a rap sheet going back to the days of being a radio disc jockey in Pittsburgh.

Of course there has always been this caveat that has been uttered by the likes of Imus and Limbaugh. We are only entertainers.

In December 1999, Rocker did an interview with Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman. Among the quotes that caught the attention of Selig was one response after Pearlman asked if Rocker would ever play in New York.

“I'd retire first," Rocker told Pearlman. "It's the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the 7 Train to the ballpark looking like you're riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing... The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?

Rocker also made it clear he did not like New York.

“Nowhere else in the country do people spit at you, throw bottles at you, throw quarters at you, throw batteries at you and say, 'Hey, I did your mother last night — she's a whore.' I talked about what degenerates they were and they proved me right.”

Pearlman did the interview while driving with Rocker and reported that "Rocker spat on a Georgia 400 toll machine and mocked Asian women. Also, he supposedly referred to black teammate Randall Simon as a "fat monkey".

The interview was a stain on baseball and Selig acted quickly after it was published. Rocker was suspended in spring training and for the first 28 days of the 2000 season without pay and ordered to sensitivity training. It did little good as Rocker continued opening his mouth but his career quickly went downhill. As soon as his left arm wore out rendering him useless, his career was over.

Schott had all kind of things to say about Nazis, including nice things about Adolf Hitler and disparaging opinions on African Americans and Jews along with men who wore earrings. She earned suspensions in 1993 and 1996 and Selig laid out a deal with her in 1998, face a third suspension or sell off your part of the team by December 31, 1998. Schott did sell most of her Reds ownership shares. What Schott said publicly hurt her, but there were baseball owners who said unsavory things but were never caught on the record. Selig had nothing to say in 1994 when it was alleged in a John Helyar book, Lords of the Realm, that New York Mets co-owner Nelson Doubleday said a derogatory remark against Selig and Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf to National League President Bill White.

Doubleday was one of the good old boys, Schott wasn’t.

Limbaugh is up front with his mouth. Oklahoma City Thunder minority owner Aubrey McClendon funds anti gay groups. That is McClendon's right but see how differently NBA Commissioner Stern handled McClendon’s political agenda when compared with his actions with Tim Hardaway. Stern did nothing. There could be a reason for that, McClendon is one of Stern's bosses, a commission has to answer to others and Haradway was merely a former player.

During an interview on Dan Le Batard's Miami radio show on February 14, 2007 concerning the recent coming out of former NBA player John Amaechi, Hardaway eventually said that " Well, you know I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States." He also said that if he found out he had one or more gay teammates, he would try to get them fired."

Hardaway was long retired by that point and was an NBA legend. He was supposed honored at the league's All Star Game Weekend festivities a few days after the interview. The NBA banned him from appearing and Hardaway lost his job with the Continental Basketball Association's Anderson, Indiana team. The CBA threw him under the bus. Stern did fine McClendon though but it had nothing to do with his politics. Stern was offended that told an Oklahoma City newspaper that Clayton Bennett and his partners, one of who was McClendon, bought the Seattle SuperSonics with the hope of moving the team to Oklahoma City. In August 2007, Stern levied a $250,000 fine against McClendon for speaking the truth.

Limbaugh does not a criminal record despite his OxyContin problem back in 2003, so that is a plus in his bid for a spot with Checketts group. There is a sports team owner with a Betty Ford Clinic background so that should not matter. But the NFL also has an unfavorable record with Limbaugh as his radio character came out in 2003 when he criticized Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb in a racially charged way, Limbaugh might have been right in his assessment of McNabb the quarterback but he forgot he was on ESPN not the imaginary EIB or Excellence in Broadcasting network and that his audience was not the radio "dittoheads". Limbaugh resigned his ESPN job on NFL Sunday Night Countdown October 2, 2003 after just a couple months on the job.

African American players who are currently employed by the St. Louis Rams are not impressed that Limbaugh wants to bid on the team. Ironically enough, the 1946 Los Angeles Rams hired two African American players, Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, and ended a 12-year-old policy of segregation. The rival All American Football Conference started in 1946 and did employ African American players as Paul Brown signed Bill Willis and Marion Motley for his new Cleveland Browns franchise. The 1946 Browns replaced the Rams as Cleveland's team and it was because of the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission's deal with Rams owner Daniel Reeves that Washington and Strode signed with Los Angeles. Reeves wanted LA but could only get the Coliseum if he signed Washington. Reeves signed the two players ending NFL segregation.

NFL owners generally never talk about potential partners but Checketts is already a member of the fraternity as an owner of the St. Louis Blues National Hockey League team after running Madison Square Garden for years along with the NBA's Utah Jazz. Checketts is not the problem, the carnie Limbaugh is for numerous reasons starting with his reputation. But Limbaugh has accomplished his primary mission which is all about El Rushbo, but saying he is interested in the Rams, he got people's attention and that probably will put money in his pocket. After all, isn't that what a carnie does?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The United Football League Finally Hits the Field on Thursday

The United Football League Finally Hits the Field on Thursday

By Evan Weiner

October 7, 2009

12:30 PM EDT

(New York, N. Y.) – Troy Aikman, the former Dallas Cowboy quarterback and now lead analyst for FOX’s National Football League’s TV presentations, doesn’t seem all that impressed that the United Football League is getting off the ground starting a six-week schedule on Thursday with a match up between the California Redwoods and the Las Vegas Locomotives. Aikman, who has the Dallas Cowboys-Kansas City Chiefs game this Sunday, remarked on Tuesday that the American Football League was the only successful rival to the NFL and doesn’t think any league can mount of challenge to the NFL.

Aikman is probably correct although the UFL has yet to establish just what the league will be. An NFL rival or eventually a place for NFL retreads and some young players with limited ability to get some playing time and then try to make an NFL roster.

The Kansas City Chiefs franchise was not an original AFL team. Lamar Hunt’s team started out in Dallas in 1960 and could not compete with Clint Murchinson’s Dallas Cowboys. The Texans franchise came about after Hunt and seven other others launched the league. Murchinson’s franchise was admitted to the NFL in 1960 in an effort to block the AFL in Dallas and strangle the league. The AFL wasn’t an original name either as they were three different AFL. AFL I lasted one year. AFL II played two seasons and AFL III also lasted two years.

Hunt’s AFL IV remains the only football league that successfully took on the venerable NFL. The AFL and the American League in baseball are the only two “rival” leagues that made it and in Hunt’s case, it was really the right time, right place as in 1960, the American sporting public was ready for more football unlike 1926, 1936, 1940 and 1946. Hunt was also able to get TV money and exposure which was the key to success eventually. In 1964, the AFL got a big money deal from the National Broadcasting Company which allowed them to operate virtually on the same level as the NFL in signing young talent. By 1966, the two leagues merged.

The NFL has seen many rival leagues come and go, three AFLs, one All American Football Conference, one World Football League and one United States Football League. United Football League operators have not overstated their ambitions, right now it is a low key league that might be in a good spot to grab attention in 2011 if there is a labor stoppage in the NFL. That is if the UFL lasts that long.

The UFL will lose money in 2009 and the investors know this. The league has teams in New York, Las Vegas, Orlando and San Francisco and is a scaled down entity compared to the original plans which called for a 2008 start.

Michael Huyghue, the league’s commissioner, said the football circuit’s backers have research the failures the six leagues that played a full season and have learned lessons from the financial wreckage that was incurred. The financial river of the United States Football League’s three years between 1983 and 1985) flowed with red ink and the league’s plight was further exasperated by Donald Trump’s urging that the league move into the fall after finding a niche of fans and TV viewers during the spring. Trump, who did not understand how football operated, and others reckless spending killed the USFL something that was not lost on Huyghue.

“We have a governor switch on that in the sense that as the Commissioner I set the salary cap each year,” he said. “And I also control what the budget is each year. Even if an owner elected to try to do something crazy outside the threshold we have set, he is not authorized to do so. The league signs all the players to a contract and then assigns them to the clubs. So a club cannot initiate that kind of situation plus every contract has to be approved by my office. I think we have the right kind of parameters in place to eliminate that autonomy that the USFL had that ultimately led to its demise.”

Overpaying stars has been the downfall of NFL rivals since 1926. The struggling NFL got a boost when Chicago Bears owner George Halas signed America’s most famous college player in 1925, Red Grange, to a contract after Grange played his final college game that year. The Galloping Ghost Grange finished out the regular season and went on a 19-game, 67 day barnstorming tour of the country after the season and made money for Halas and other NFL teams. Grange is credited with single handedly saving the financially struggling New York Giants franchise owned by Tim Mara.

Chicago played the Giants in the Polo Grounds in Manhattan and some 65,000 people showed up to see Grange, not the Giants on December 6, 1925. The revenues generated by Grange’s appearance gave Mara financial stability and the 19-game tour solidified gave the NFL a badly needed cash infusion.

Grange and his agent C. C. Pyle used the tour as leverage trying to get more money from Halas. Halas would not budge and that started a chain of events that led to the formation of AFL I in 1926.

Grange and Pyle wanted to buy a piece of the Bears but that was rejected by Halas, Grange and Pyle then petitioned for the league to put a team in New York’s Yankee stadium. All the NFL owners were in wanted Grange except Mara. At the time, expansion decisions needed 100% approval from the owners and Mara voted against Grange’s entry into the league.

Grange and Pyle responded by forming original American Football League, in 1926. The AFL decided to directly compete with the NFL in its largest markets, and to try their hand at the medium-sized markets that were accessible by public transportation. Franchises were formed in New York, Brooklyn, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Boston, Newark, New Jersey Rock Island, Illinois and Los Angeles.

Grange’s new league was a money loser and taught the NFL a valuable lesson. A war over players with a rival league could quickly escalate salaries to a point where both leagues would be losing money. The AFL went out of business with only two teams surviving. Grange’s Yankees and the Philadelphia Quakers.

Grange’s Yankees did enter the NFL in 1927 but only after NFL owners made a side payment to Mara and in order to get his vote to allow Grange’s Yankees in the NFL. The NFL made Grange pay a steep price as his Yankees had to play 13 of their 16 games on the road. Grange’s Yankees folded in 1928.

AFL II in 1936-37 was another financial loser. The league did not go after NFL talent but went head to head with the nine team NFL in various cities. The NFL did entice one successful AFL II team, the Cleveland Rams to join the older league in 1937. Cleveland paid $10,000 for the right to join the NFL.

AFL III lasted two years, big money was spent on Heisman Trophy winner and All American running back Tom Harmon but it was not a good investment of money and the league quietly faded into oblivion after a two-year run in 1940-41.

The All American Football league started operations in 1944 and got onto the field in 1946. The new league seemed to have money as AAFC owners signed top name players. Reportedly, the AAFC and NFL lost $5 million and $3 million, respectively, during the 1946-1949 seasons.

Both leagues were anxious to end the war between them, and merger talks between the leagues began during the 1949 season. The AAFC-NFL merger was announced in December 1949. Under the agreement, the San Francisco, Cleveland, and Baltimore teams moved from the AAFC into the NFL. The NFL was not interested in Buffalo despite the city’s support of the Bills. The NFL’s New York Bulldogs closed down, with owner Ted Collins purchasing the New York Yankees of the AAFC and moving them into the NFL. As reciprocation for having their territory invaded, the NFL’s New York Giants were allowed to choose six players from the New York Yankees line-up. Washington Redskins owner George Marshall received $150,000 for the invasion of his team’s local territory by the Baltimore Colts. The Colts franchise went under a year after the merger, and, after reforming in 1951, the team became financially successful in the NFL.

After receiving a 25% interest in the Cleveland Browns, James Brueil, owner of the Buffalo Bills, merged the two teams.

The NFL further consolidated after the folding of the Los Angeles Dons, Chicago Hornets, and New York Yankees. Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney said the NFL-AAFC merger deal made sense. “They were going out of business and we just felt that getting a west coast team was important and getting Cleveland was important. We also brought in Baltimore but they didn’t make it. But the 49ers and Cleveland Browns and were very important at that particularly time to get a national scope,” Rooney explained. “That was a good move.

The lessons of 1926 were ignored 47 years later by another group of football backers. In August 1973, Gary Davidson, the founder of the American Basketball Association and the World Hockey Association, started talks with investors about potentially starting a world-wide football league. By January 1974 the first meeting of what would become the World Football League was held, with representatives from Anaheim, Birmingham, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Honolulu, Memphis, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Toronto and Washington attending. Soon after, the 12- team World Football League (WFL) commenced, beginning its 20-game season in July 1974 in order to get a head start on the NFL. The season would conclude in November, ending in a “World Bowl” championship, which also occurred before the NFL championship game.

The league was divided into 6 large market teams competing directly with NFL franchises and 6 smaller market teams (with populations less than 1 million). The investors in the league were under-financed from the beginning. Each of the initial 12 franchises cost $100,000, with subsequent franchises fees ranging from $250,000 to $1.6 million. Although the league did not get a major network contract, the WFL did get a television contract with Eddie Einhorn's TVS network. The large market teams helped to secure a national television contract that paid each team $130,000 per year, compared with $2.2 million per team for the NFL television contracts that year.

The league's first major coup was the signing of the Super Bowl Champion Miami Dolphin's three top offensive stars, Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield by the WFL Toronto franchise for unprecedented amounts at a time when top NFL players were making $60,000 a year. The trio signed their contracts on a Sunday afternoon in March 1974, televised on ABC, and would begin play in the WFL in 1975.

Ron Mix, who was briefly involved in the Portland Thunder franchise, thinks the WFL could have had a major impact on football had the owners shown some fiscal responsibility. “My impression of it is that league absolutely had a chance to become successful, if ever a league did,” said Mix. “What ruined that league was that individual owners went crazy and started signing players at outrageous amounts like Larry Csonka I think received $1.3 million to sign. You cannot tell me that if the team had made a drop date offer of $100,000 bonus and $100,000 a year in other words, a couple of hundred thousand, they could not have signed Larry. I know they would have been able to. But they spent the league into absolute bankruptcy when the country was ripe for another thing.”

There were others who wanted to start football leagues but never got them past the drawing board stage. Starting an NFL rival is difficult and generally ends up in failure.

That is what Huyghue and his owners who include Paul Pelosi, the husband of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, the Tampa Bay Rays owners and William Mayer are facing. There is a long history of financial ruin but the UFL is cautiously optimistic.

If the six week schedule goes well and the championship game comes off, there are plans for year two and beyond.

“We won’t expand to more than 12 teams,” said Huyghue. “We really believe the talent pool would be diluted at that. If we only had 10, we probably be satisfied with that. We have an ownership group from Monterey, Mexico for next year, Los Angeles and Hartford are also vying for teams. We have been to London and met a number of people there that have a stadium on the Thames River, a soccer stadium, so I think there are a lot of opportunities. We certainly are going to be an international league.”

Huyghue needs to be careful about what he wishes for internationally. The World Hockey Association went belly up in 1979 after exploring the possibility of establishing a European Division and the Arena Football League had plans to go start a European Davison and that league too folded. In six weeks, Huyghue and the UFL will have an answer to their question. Does the sporting public really have a need for more professional football? The only answer they have at the moment is that they know they will be losing millions of dollars as they seek to get their query answered.

Friday, October 2, 2009

What Would Happen to the Olympics Without US Dollars?

What Would Happen to the Olympics Without US Dollars?

By Evan Weiner

October 2, 2009

10:00 PM EDT

(New York, N. Y.) -- I wonder how many of the International Olympic Committee delegates have ever watched the 1968 movie, The Producers, especially the scene where Max Bialystock is conning Leo Bloom into some creative accounting (the term creative accounting came out of Mel Brooks' wonderful screenplay). Bialystock would find backers to come up with money and then the pair would search for a bad script and produce a Broadway play which is destined to be a flop. Max and Leo would pocket the investors’ money and then flee to Rio. Bialystock croons "Max and Leo in Rio, oh me oh, oh my oh."

Max and Leo would live the good life in Rio. Rio by the sea-o.

Max Bialystock probably had more in common with the International Olympic Committee than his creator Mel Brooks ever could imagine. Like the IOC, Max was deceitful, in the world of bribery, Max was a briber while the IOC delegates of the past had no problem taking bribes and both Max and the IOC, particularly Avery Brundage had dealings with the Third Reich. Max also didn't care about stealing money from his backers, little old ladies, and the IOC doesn't care that its demands left Greece in financial ruins after the 2004 Summer Games and caused financial hardships in Montreal and Quebec and probably will produce disastrous results in Vancouver, British Columbia in 2010, London, England in 2012 and Sochi, Russia in 2014.

The IOC delegates have done President Barack Obama and the United States along with King Carlos of Spain and the new Japanese government a favor by awarding what is sure to be a money losing venture, the 2016 Summer Olympics to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The United States President went to Copenhagen, Denmark where the vote was held along with the leaders of Brazil, Japan and Spain to lobby what is still one of the most corrupt organizations that is in business in the world, the International Olympic Committee. The president has a lot bigger fish on the table like reforming the Health Care system in the U. S., dealing with North Korea, Iran, the Middle East, Russia, the broken economy and high employment and did waste his time on appearing before the delegates.

But the 2005 vote for the 2012 Olympics started a new traditional. Bidding countries sent their leader to genuflect before the IOC. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was there, United States President George W. Bush was not but even if the sitting US President was there it was highly unlikely New York would have won the bid. New York lacked an Olympic Stadium and that killed the bid. Tony Blair’s appearance helped London and having Vladimir Putin lobbying the IOC to award the 2014 to Sochi, Russia didn’t hurt Sochi’s cause.

Spain's King Juan Carlos has about a 20 percent unemployment rate and Rio has a major crime problem and the Japanese economy died in the 1990s and remains a problem. The IOC blissfully ignores the day-to-day realities and goes about making demands such as the host city better have a slush fund to cover operating losses. That is the IOC.

Obama is from Chicago and a President, Prime Minister or a King also is required to sell his country. The IOC, a group that likes American television money and American security to protect their Games, listened and then dumped Chicago in the first round of the playoff voting. Of course the noise crowd led by the never done anything in my life but bark behind a microphone crowd like Rush Limbaugh pronounced Obama a failure which should make the oxycontin dependant carnival barker happy because he wants Obama to fail. On cable TV news, the xenophobic, jingoistic CNN presenter Lou Dobbs had a rather embarrassing discussion with political consultants, columnists, and a newspaper/magazine owner Mort Zuckerman with the gist being whether Obama wasted much needed political capital by going to Copenhagen.

"Mr. Independent" Dobbs was in a tough spot in that he had no knowledge of how the International Olympic Committee operates because had the xenophobic, jingoistic Dobbs understood the process, he would have been extremely happy knowing that the IOC delegates are not pleased with the United States tougher rules since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks for entering the country.

Of course the radio talk show noise and the food fighting cable TV news presenters will not address a side issue that will be coming up for the 2014 and 2016 Olympics that does have an impact on American consumers. It appears the Walt Disney Company will make a big push to buy the American TV rights for the two week sports extravaganza for the ESPN cable TV network. There is a real question of who will actually pay for those rights? The TV network or will it be Americans who are totally unaware that their money will go into Rio?

For the pencil-neck geeks, rodeo cowboys and windbags with a microphone, here is the answer. The American public who subscribe to basic expanded cable TV will reach into their pockets, unknowingly, and pay for the Rio Games if Disney wins the bid and gives the IOC billions for the rights. You see, Disney's subsidiary ESPN has lived in a world of Cable TV socialism since 1984 when the Congress allowed various cable TV networks like ESPN, CNN and The Weather Channel to be bundled by cable operators and collect fees as one instead of being bought by consumers on an a la carte basis. The President who signed the legislation into law was Ronald Reagan; the same Reagan who blasted socialized health care in 1961.

Americans like their socialized Cable TV even though they probably are not aware that ESPN is a product of government socialism and a flagrant violation of American antitrust. But thanks to Congress and Reagan, they is no problem.

Will Disney's CEO and President Bob Iger grow a backbone or be a spineless jelly fish when it comes to bidding on the Olympics? The International Olympic Committee was supposed to wrap up the American TV deal for 2014 in Sochi and now 2016 in Rio last year but the broken economy has stalled American TV negotiations. The American TV contract is one of the major sources of revenue for the Olympics. Iger should stiff IOC President Jacques Rogge and his gang and make Rogge find other countries pay for the boondoggle.

If Real Madrid can get more than $105 million euros annually for their football rights globally, then Rogge should be able to get the UK, other Europeans, the Chinese and other Asians to fund his little athletic tournament. Iger should just say no as should NBC CEO and President Jeff Zucker. By 2016, NBC, whoever owns the NBCUniversal entity, will also be pulling money out of cable consumers. Ruppert Murdoch and his global News Corp will not bid on the 2014 and 2016 Games.

If the American TV networks pull their billions from the IOC coffers, what will happen? It would certainly knock the IOC delegates off of their pedestal and it would put the whole Olympic spectacular in a world of major financial hurt. But then again the IOC knows something about financial hurt. Montreal, Sydney, Australia, Athens, Greece, Turin, Italy and the next three sites, Vancouver, B. C., London and Sochi, Russia have and will be saddled with huge financial liabilities because of their dealings with the IOC.

If American TV turned away from the Games, the IOC would crumple. Congress has never really tackled the cable TV problem and give consumers a choice. Why should 90-95 million American cable TV subscribers pick up the bills for Sochi or Rio?

The IOC loves seeing portraits of dead presidents on little green pieces of paper from the US come their way. But they don’t like America.

Here is another Olympics problem.

Does Brazil have the security force that can protect the Games from terrorism? The answer is, of course, not. Guess what military force will be asked to help out? Obama might still be the American President or someone else could be in the Oval Office. No matter, the American show of force will be there. The IOC doesn't particularly like America but the IOC cannot love without US TV dollars and America's protection. Perhaps it is time that Iger and Zucker to not spend other people's money on Rio. Perhaps it is time America's military take a rest and let someone else protect Rio. What would happen to the IOC and the 2016 Rio Olympics? It is a thought that probably frightens IOC head Jacques Rogge and his merry band of IOC delegates.