Saturday, July 7, 2007

News Flash - A-Rod is no Jeter

Last night Alex Rodriguez hit his 493rd career home run, tying him with Lou Gehrig for 22nd on the all-time list. After the game, a reporter informed Rodriguez that he just tied Gehrig. A-Rod's response: an apathetic, "Cool."

Cool? Rodriguez sounded as if he couldn't care less that he just tied a Yankee legend. If Derek Jeter was in the same situation, I can guarantee that his answer would be along the lines of, "It's an honor to even be mentioned in the same sentence as Lou Gehrig."

Yet another reason why, depsite the incredible numbers Rodriguez puts up, Yankee fans have never warmed up to this guy.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Odds & Ends: MLB Punishes ESPN and Beckham's First MLS Match

  • MLB is punishing ESPN for reporting this year's All Star team selections while TBS was broadcasting their own selection show, for which TBS had acquired the exclsuive rights.

  • David Beckham's first Major League Soccer match will be broadcast on ESPN Saturday, July 21. According to ESPN, the planned coverage of Beckham’s arrival represents ESPN’s most expansive initiative ever for a single U.S. domestic soccer event.

NBC renews Wimbledon deal

from John Dempsey at Variety

NBC Sports has reupped its deal to air Wimbledon, where Serena Williams reached the quarterfinals this week.NBC Sports has renewed its rights to the Wimbledon tennis tournament for another four years, starting in 2008, ponying up $12 million a year vs. $13 million in the current contract.

The license fee dropped by $1 million a year at least in part because the Wimbledon ratings tumbled in 2006 by 20% from the previous year's average.

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Maybe David Stern should have negotiated this deal for Wimbledom. When the NBA ratings dropped 31% from 2002 - 2006, Stern was still able to increase TV revenue by 22%. At least they did better than Gary Bettman and the NHL, who got the league zero guaranteed dollars from NBC.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Paychecked into the boards: Small markets can howl, the NHL needs rich dynasties

from Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated

There's been quite a bit of anguish about the way free agency has played out this summer. Listen to the talk shows, check out the message boards, it's everywhere. In fact, my colleague Darren Eliot crafted a piece bemoaning the fact that, just like in the bad old days, the best free agents have flocked to such big-money franchises as the Rangers, Red Wings and Flyers, leaving their middle-class relations to fight over the scraps.

My first reaction, and probably yours, was the same as Darren's. It's like the lockout never happened. The rich get richer and everyone else gets relegated to farm team status as nurturers of talent that stays just long enough to break the hearts of those who raised them before heading elsewhere to find Stanley Cup glory -- or at least a
pay raise large enough to choke a banker. Why is this happening? Where's the
level playing field that we were promised after that cruel, yearlong labor stoppage?

Yeah, that was my gut reaction. But after reading Darren's piece, I finally realized I was looking at this situation all wrong.


In Allan Muir's article today on, he claims that when the big market NHL teams snatch up all of the big name free agents, it is actually good for the league. This is the same point I made in my post on July 2, Free agency off to much-needed (and frenzied) start.

If this logic sounds counter-intuitive, think again. When the largest market teams are the best teams, TV ratings grow. Why? Well, obviously fans in the home team market will watch. And the bigger the market, the more home team fans. What's not as obvious is that when big market teams are good year after year, they provide the sport with a much-needed villian. And the only thing that's as fun as cheering for your beloved home team, is jeering against a hated villian. If you don't beleive me, just look at MLB TV ratings when the New York Yankees are playing.

Dan Patrick Update!

I just listened to the first half hour of the Dan Patrick Show. I can now confirm (drum roll, please) that Dan Patrick is not in the studio today. Bob Valvano is guest hosting today, as he did on Tuesday. A half hour into the show, and there was no mention of this story. Apparently Patrick is on vacation, and will not be back until Monday.

The Dan-Patrick-is-Leaving Rumor Picks up Steam

from The Big Lead

When we left Tuesday, speculation about Dan Patrick leaving ESPN was turning from a whisper to a roar. For us, it’s what our contacts over at the four-letter weren’t saying: nobody would give us a straight answer. They either hadn’t heard or they couldn’t say. Which led us to believe Patrick was gone. It also sort of makes us wonder if Patrick’s agent planted the Price is Right rumors to fuel interest in the anchor. We do remain somewhat skeptical, though, because ESPN hands USA Today any meaningful scoop (not due to a relationship, but simply because the McPaper has the largest readership audience in the United States), and we found nothing about the announcement in that rag today. We’re guessing it’ll happen Monday, when the world returns to work.

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The Dan Patrick rumors are really picking up steam now. Most observers are guessing that he will move to Fox Sports. As far as I can tell, this is the only space guessing that he will be taking over Don Imus' old job.

Dan Patrick to Leave ESPN?

from Michael David Smith at's Fanhouse

Greenstein reports that a source said there is a "90 percent chance" that Dan Patrick will announce his farewell during his Thursday radio show. Although Patrick won't host The Price is Right, he has been rumored to have a number of other options, ranging from sports to news to entertainment.

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Earlier, I commented that WFAN and MSNBC would have to bring back Dom Imus if they could not replace him with "a Bob Costas." Well, what about a Dan Patrick? If Dan Patrick really does leave ESPN today, as is being reported, let me be the first to guess that he will be Dom Imus' replacement. Patrick is the perfect choice, in that he can talk knowledgeably about sports, news, and entertainment, has a great sense of humor, and already has a huge fan base that he can bring with him.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Cablevision sells regional sports holdings to Comcast

from Daniel Wagner at Newsday

Cablevision has executed a $581-million deal that will give Comcast Corp. full ownership of Cablevision's remaining regional sports holdings outside of the New York area, the company announced Tuesday.

Under the agreement, Rainbow Media Holdings Llc, a subsidiary of Bethpage-based Cablevision Systems Corp., will transfer to Comcast a 60-percent stake in the corporate parent of the FSN Bay Area regional sports channel and a 50-percent interest in the owner of the FSN New England channel.

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Comcast has just purchased an ownership stake in the cable stations that broadcast the Boston Celtics, San Francisco Giants, Oakland A's, San Jose Sharks, and Golden State Warriors. One benefit to Comcast is that the stations provide excellent marketing opportunities, as cable companies face increasing competition from telephone and satellite providers. However, another potential benefit may be that these stations can provide Comcast with both content and on-air talent for their Versus cable sports network. Judging from Versus' Nielsen ratings, it can use all the help it can get.

Is UFC a Monopoly?

from Lotfi Sariahmed of

With UFC 73 just a few days away, I've noticed a lot of talk regarding one particular issue that has a lot of MMA fans shouting from their rooftops. Now mind you for MMA fans, myself included, that usually doesn't take much. But in this case there's an interesting debate. There's no doubt that UFC 73 is a loaded fight card with even a few fights on the prelims that fans want to see. The next few UFC PPV cards look promising as well with fights like Georges St. Pierre v. Josh Koscheck, Quinton Jackson v. Dan Henderson, a long awaited welterweight title fight and the debut of Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. But despite all the great matches coming up, there's one thing about these cards that have some MMA fans worried. They're all taking place in the UFC.

With at least 75% of the best fighters in every weight class, (and that's a low number) the UFC has a virtual monopoly on talent. So where does that leave us when it comes to the issue of competitive balance in MMA?

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Despite the general decline in sports tv ratings, including the recent NHL and NBA finals, there is still one sport that continues to gain in popularity. No, not NASCAR, which has also suffered ratings decline. Its MMA (mixed martial arts) leagues such as the UFC and WEC. The UFC's Ultimate Fighter 5 finale recently earned a 2.0 rating for Spike TV.

What do the UFC, WEC and PRIDE all have in common? They are all owned by the same company. Recently, the UFC bought out both PRIDE and WEC, effectively preventing rival leagues from broadcasting its fights on Versus. Is this consolodation of talent good for the sport? While it may be good for fans, it can't be good news for the fighters, who now have less options than ever.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

At ESPN, conflict of interest is business as usual

from Le Anne Schreiber of ESPN

Imagine The New York Times owning half of the Broadway theaters whose plays it reviews. Or imagine CNN paying billions of dollars for exclusive multiyear rights to cover the War in Iraq. Imagine the temptation to recoup investment by piquing advance interest and prolonging the runs of plays and wars.

That kind of temptation, almost inconceivable for other news organizations, is a chronic circumstance of journalistic life at ESPN, and has been since the day it first paid good money to televise an event while also covering it as news.


After the NHL left ESPN for Versus in 2005, hockey fans have complained that ESPN's coverage of the sport has declined considerably. In contrast, coverage of NASCAR and AFL, whose rights ESPN recently acquired, appear to be way up. Le Anne Schreiber, ESPN's ombudsman, confirms that hockey coverage on SportsCenter has indeed dropped 28 percent in the last three years. Can "The Worldwide Leader in Sports" kill or build a sport by giving it more or less esposure? ESPN seems to think so.

Once the Dirtiest Player in the NFL, Conrad Dobler is Now Fighting for the Guys He Tried to Dismember

from Michael Weinreb of

"I always tried to play it fair," he says

He knows perfectly well how any mention of fairness or honor might sound, coming from someone who made his reputation as the maestro of a nasty little karate kick technique called the leg whip, coming from a man best known for using his helmet, his feet, his knees, his fingers, a plaster cast, and — perhaps most famously — his teeth as lethal weapons. This is, after all, the same Conrad Dobler whom Sports Illustrated anointed on its cover in 1977 as "Pro Football's Dirtiest Player," the same Conrad Dobler who titled his own autobiography "They Call Me Dirty." This is the Conrad Dobler who gouged eyes and twisted facemasks and worked hard to irritate everyone from Pete Rozelle to John Madden to a mild-mannered Mormon defensive lineman named Merlin Olsen


Last week I commented on a story that told of retired NFL players seeking Congress' help in repairing their pension and disability system. Officials claim that only 317 of more than 10,000 eligible players are getting payments out of the NFLPA disability fund. Today, this story was plastered on the front page of Conrad Dobler, who once actually made an opponent cry on the football field, is part of a class-action suit filed to help retired players to get their fair share of the profits from the league they helped build.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Free agency off to much-needed (and frenzied) start

from Wes Goldstein at

It's about time the NHL had something that lived up to its hype.

Too bad it took until July. But after a postseason that was generally a competitive dud and the failure of the anticipated major trades at the draft, a league desperate to remind people of its existence could have done worse than the noise created from the first day of free agency

Especially since the biggest splash was made by the team in what is arguably the NHL's most important market. That would be the New York Rangers, who opened their wallets and signed the two most coveted free agents in centers Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, instantly legitimizing themselves as Stanley Cup contenders next season and maybe even earning a few headlines at home during prime time for the Yankees and Mets.


Who was the real winner of the first day of NHL free agency? The Rangers, who signed both Scott Gomez and Chris Drury? The Flyers who picked up Daniel Briere? How about the Red Wings who signed Brian Rafalski away from the Devils? Wrong. The real winner was the NHL, which, after a frenzy of free agent signings, saw their largest market teams grab all the best players. After three straight years of seeing six small market teams reaching the NHL finals, resulting in dismal tv ratings, the NHL needs its largest market teams to start winning again. This is a good start.