Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Chicago Cubs, Tiger Woods and a Senator Wannabee

The Chicago Cubs, Tiger Woods and a Senator Wannabee

By Evan Weiner

February 21, 2010

The American media never ceases to disappoint. Tiger Woods is forced by someone to make a statement about his private life and people like Mort Zuckerman are there ready to provide all the details and analysis of a manufactured for media consumption mea culpa. Zuckerman owns the New York Daily News and is rumored to be a candidate for the New York senate seat held by Kristen Gillibrand.

How can you actually take Zuckerman seriously when his newspaper puts out on the front page a headline concerning Tiger Woods and bimbos? In fact the exact New York Daily News headline on February 18 was Lock Up Your Bimbos. Now Zuckerman does not write headlines for the newspaper but if Zuckerman wants to really run, he needs to explain how the lack of serious news judgment, in that edition, on page 2 there was a poll about how Americans are fed up with elected officials, on page 3 there was something about a fortune teller or psychic and then the gold, pages 4 and 5 on Tiger Woods with Zuckerman’s lead columnist Mike Lupica, who also doubles as one of Zuckerman’s political commentators. That makes sense since Lupica can now apply his limited knowledge of facts in not only the sports section but on the political scene.

Zuckerman also needs to explain why he has taken away his contribution to the 401k plan at the Daily News. But that would require a dedicated section on the economic woes of the country. Zuckerman would also have to explain why he is spending millions of dollars in beefing up the look of the Daily News including more color in an age when newspaper readership is declining or simply dying off as young people do not flock to buy newspapers. He might also by asked why his newspaper is disrespectful which newspapers generally are with sarcastic headlines, half truths and malicious gossip.

Zuckerman’s people also might want to actually report on something that concerns people. Here’s a story that Mort has overlooked in his paper and if you are running for Senate Mort, this might be a good one for you.

The city of Mesa, Arizona has decided that it needs the Chicago Cubs baseball team needs to remain in the town to conduct spring training after the Cubs ownership lease with Mesa officials runs out at Hohokum Park after the 2012 spring training portion of the baseball calendar. Mesa officials reached a deal with the Cubs new ownership to build an $84 million stadium, which would be used by the baseball team for at the most 15 or 16 times a year, and the stadium would be funded by adding a seat tax on all spring training games played in the Mesa vicinity, places like Phoenix, Scottsdale, Goodyear, Glendale, Surprise, Maryvale, Peoria and Tempe. There would also be a rise in the Maricopa County car rental tax, which is sold to local residents as a tax on tourists, not them although a significant amount of car rentals are local.

The Cubs ownership would buy the land needed for the stadium and then swap the land back to Mesa in exchange for a stadium and the baseball team would also get the stadium naming rights and keep all of the signage revenues. Mesa voters would have to approve spending for bonds to fund the stadium in a referendum.

Needless to say, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and the owners of the Dodgers and White Sox (Glendale), the Indians and Reds (Goodyear), the Giants (Scottsdale), the Angels (Tempe), the A’s (Phoenix), the Brewers (Maryvale), the Mariners and Padres (Peoria) and the Royals and Rangers (Surprise) who are presently in the Mesa area and the Tucson-based Diamondbacks and Rockies who will conduct spring training on an Indian reservation starting in 2011 are not to thrilled about the proposal.

The ticket tax means those teams’ owners will get less disposable income directed at them.

The Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank type entity, is not on board either. They think that the deal is illegal because of Arizona’s ban on giving gifts to private concerns.

Arizona is also broke.

Zuckerman should understand that as he has a piece of the National Football League’s Washington Redskins and he put up money or the Daily News did to help New York land the 2012 Summer Olympics. This should be an easy article for the Daily News to get. Sports, politics, economics, a Senator wannabe should be rather familiar with the issues.

Mesa elected officials came up with all sorts of goodies to support the argument that baseball fanatics who travel to Mesa and the Valley of the Sun should help pay for the new Cubs park. The Cubs baseball team has an annual impact of $138 million on the Arizona economy (which if believable would be a huge haul for a state that is selling government buildings and closing state parks because the state is broke --- another Zuckerman political issue to report on perhaps he can get Lupica on that). Cactus League attendance would drop 22 percent without Chicago Cubs baseball (Cactus League attendance should increase in 2010 with the addition of Cincinnati in the Phoenix area as Reds ownership has moved the spring training headquarters from Sarasota, Florida to Goodyear) and the Cubs baseball is spring training’s biggest draw as more than 203,000 people paid to see the team last year in Mesa and other Phoenix/Tucson area stadiums.

Arizona, through the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority (AZSTA), has been very aggressive in going after baseball teams and luring them from Florida. In recent years, the state has landed Cleveland and Cincinnati for Goodyear, the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers in Glendale, Texas and Kansas City in Surprise and has fought off an attempt by Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman to get team owners to move to the Nevada area. The AZSTA has a budget shortfall of $10 million and cannot help in the Cubs-Mesa stadium plan.

One of the teams opposing the seat tax is the Milwaukee Brewers. Milwaukee’s deal with Maryvale ends in 2012 and that could set up a battle between Arizona and Florida over building a spring training facility for the team.

Arizona and Florida are two of the hardest hit states in the economic downturn but somehow are trying to find millions of dollars to support stadium building despite being broke.

Naples and Collier County, Florida officials were ready to get on their collect hands and knees to build Wrigley Field South for Cubs owner Tom Ricketts with the hope of using a tourist tax, a hotel/motel tax to help fund the project. Perhaps they will turn to Brewers owner Mark Attanasio and give him the same offer if Mesa prevails and keeps the Cubs.

Perhaps Zuckerman, the New York Senatorial candidate, and his ace columnist Lupica, will follow the Cubs-Mesa story and all of the political elements that are involved. But then again, maybe not. There are still bimbos on the loose and fortune tellers’ stories to be told and they can play amateur psychiatrist and continue analyzing whether Tiger Woods apology was heart-felt enough for them.

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