Saturday, July 21, 2007

NBA Referee Scandal Nothing New For League

The allegations that veteran NBA referee Tim Donaghy may have shaved points in games he officiated the past two years has rocked the sport. In her column today in Newsday, Johnette Howard points out that conspiracy theories have been around the NBA for years. For example, she tells of two star players back in the 1980's who charted the point spread versus final game score for every league referee because they had some suspicions back then. Other whisperings include the so-called "frozen envelope" that Stern picked out of a bin to give the Knicks the right to draft Patrick Ewing in 1985, and rumors that Michael Jordan's father was killed by the mob because of some Jordan gambling incident gone awry.

from Johnette Howard of Newsday

Back before his own players started attacking him as racist, before his spats with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and the brawl at Auburn Hills, before the dress-code flap and the on-court behavior crackdown and the TV ratings flops for recent NBA Finals -- in short, before the NBA descended into the sort of trouble it knew when David Stern first took over a few decades ago -- Stern used to be known as the "genius" of pro sports commissioners.

Stern will need to channel the old David, the Other David, now that his league has been rocked with the darkest incident in pro basketball history -- an ongoing FBI investigation into a possibly mobbed-up referee, 13-year veteran Tim Donaghy, who may have shaved points in an unspecified number of games the past two seasons, allegedly because of gambling debts he couldn't repay.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Potential Evidence NBA Referee Bet on Games Uncovered?

NBA referee Tim Donaghy is under investigation for allegations that he bet on games he officiated. By analyzing Donaghy's profile on gambling site, Matt Watson of The FanHouse has uncovered some very interesting facts about the games Tim Donaghy officiated last year.

Donaghy officiated 74 games last year, and out of 60 referees, he ranked third in the league for officiating the most games where the final score topped the projected over/under. In addition, the home team's record against the spread in games he officiated was just 30-41-3, which ranks 52nd out of 60.
Bear in mind that by themselves, these rankings don't mean anything -- after all, someone has to rank high or low in these categories -- but it's certainly interesting that he ranks among the extremes in these categories instead of in the middle of the pack. I'm sure it'll be just a matter of time before we can point to specific calls in specific games, but astute gamblers already knew that most of the games Donaghy officiated were high-scoring affairs in which the home team lost by more than expected.

NBA Referee Under Investigation for Betting on NBA Games

NBA referee Tim Donaghy is under investigation by the FBI for allegations that he bet on games that he officiated over the past two seasons and that he made calls affecting the point spread in games, multiple sources told ESPN.

Donaghy, a 13-year veteran of the league, is aware of the investigation and resigned from the NBA recently.

The NBA issued a brief statement Friday, saying: "We have been asked by the FBI, with whom we are working closely, not to comment on this matter at this time."

According to a law enforcement official, authorities are examining whether Donaghy -- whose identity was not revealed until Friday afternoon -- made calls to affect the point spread in games on which he or associates had wagered.


UFC Lightweight Champion Tests Positive for Steroids

A day after Gary Player accused fellow golfers of taking steroids, it was announced that UFC Lightweight Champion Sean Sherk has tested positive for steroids. Sherk's opponent at UFC 73, Hermes Franca, also tested positive.

Now that Golf and MMA have been dragged into the steriods scandal, what will be the next sport to take the fall? See our poll in the right hand margin of Everything But the Game.

Nike Delays Vick's Shoe Release

After initially planning to release Michael Vick's new shoe as scheduled, Nike has now announced they will delay the debut of Air Zoom Vick V after all. Although Vick has only been indicted and not convicted, and in this country you are innocent until proven guilty, this was the right move. Nike also had endorsement deals with Kobe Bryant (accused of sexual assault) and Justin Gatlin (accused of using an anabolic agent ) and does not need the bad publicity of yet another scandal.

from Nicholas Casey of The Wall Street Journal

Nike Inc. suspended the release of a shoe endorsed by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, the second time in about a year that the athletic-footwear giant has taken the unusual step of cracking down on one of its star endorsers after alleged misbehavior.

Mr. Vick, who has been under contract with Nike since 2001, was this week indicted on federal charges for his alleged involvement in a dogfighting ring and is scheduled for arraignment next week in Richmond, Va. The Beaverton, Ore., company won't release Mr. Vick's fifth signature shoe, the Air Zoom Vick V, which was set to be released on Aug. 23, a Nike spokesman said. Mr. Vick's four previous shoe models will remain in stores.

"Nike is concerned by the serious and highly disturbing allegations made against Michael Vick and we consider any cruelty to animals inhumane and abhorrent," the company said in a statement yesterday. Nike added that it believes Mr. Vick should be "afforded the same due process as any citizen" and hadn't yet terminated its relationship with the athlete at this time. Mr. Vick's agent, Joel Segal, didn't return a call for comment.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gary Player Claims Golfers Taking Performance Enhancing Drungs

Gary Player, in an interview with the BBC, revealed that he knows of fellow golfers taking performance-enhancing drugs, and called for random drug testing in the sport. In fact, Player claims that two golfers told him personally that they are taking drugs to enhance their performance.

"I know for a fact that some golfers are doing it," said the South African, who won nine majors in his career.

Player goes on to say that he himself had rejected offers from doctors to take Human Growth Hormone (HGH). Player has been told that by taking HGH, he can expect to hit the ball 20 to 30 yards further.

It is now naive to think that only football players and bulky home run hitters are taking steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. If drugs are part of golf, can we assume that any sport, other than perhaps bowling, is drug free?

Nike to Release Michael Vick's New Shoe as Planned

Despite Michael Vick's recent indictment by a grand jury on charges of operating a dogfighting operation, Nike plans on going ahead and releasing his new shoe as scheduled. The Vick V shoe, which retails for $100, will go out on shelves on August 23.

When Darren Rovell of CNBC spoke to Nike chief marketing officer Jeff Hennion, he was told,

"What’s going on with Michael Vick doesn’t change our merchandising marketing plan. The shoe is obviously a small component of the overall marketing initiative with Nike."

When I first heard that Nike will be releasing Vick's shoes as scheduled, I admit I was surprised. After all, the indictment against Vick alleges that he was actually involved in the execution of dogs that did not perform well. But then I realized that, sadly, Vick's indictment will probably result in an increase in shoe sales. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dan Patrick to Debut New Show September 9

The Sports Business Daily is reporting that Dan Patrick's new radio show, distributed by The Content Factory, will debut on September 9. The show is being offered to terrestrial, satellite, and HD radio stations. Patrick's new show will touch not only on sports, but also entertainment and politics. There is no word yet on which specific outlets will carry the show.

The Star of David Beckham

When the Los Angeles Galaxy signed David Beckham to a contract reportedly worth $250 million, they did so with the ultimate goal of increasing revenue and establishing a worldwide brand. In a matter of months, the Galaxy are on their way to achieving that goal.

To establish a worldwide brand, the first order of business was to create a new logo that would be instantly recognizable throughout the world, much like the interlocking NY of the New York Yankees. Done.

To increase revenue, the Galaxy has done everything from the obvious (increasing ticket prices) to the creative (signing new sponsors to a series of exhibition games). A big piece of the financial puzzle was selling sponsorship on the front of the team's jersey. Herbalife outbid other potential sponsors, including Citibank, with a $20 five year deal -- better than some MLS stadium-naming-rights. The deal also gave the Galaxy a chance to sell more than 75,000 jerseys to Herbalife product distributors and included a commitment to back other AEG Sports.

It will be very interesting to see if the Galaxy can recoup their investment. The Beckham publicity machine is in full motion, but hype can only get you so far. In two years, when the hype has died down, the Galaxy and MLS may find themselves back in the obscurity from which they started.

from Tripp Mickle of Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal

Alexi Lalas’ family vacation disintegrated last January. What was supposed to be a quiet week away from work in Palm Beach, Fla., turned into a week of nonstop, international phone calls and e-mails

Is it done? Lalas, president of the Los Angeles Galaxy, would ask every few hours.

We’re close, AEG Sports President Shawn Hunter would say. Still no signature.

But late on the night of Jan. 10 that all changed when Lalas got word that David Beckham had signed to play for the Galaxy. He immediately got on his computer to e-mail his staff the good news. After labeling the subject, “The Star of David,” Lalas wrote:

It’s a go. Let’s have some fun.

He hit send and felt a mix of pride and excitement as he thought about the historic significance of the signing. But those feelings quickly faded under the weight of his new responsibility.

The team had just signed the world’s most iconic soccer player to an unprecedented contract reportedly worth $250 million. It was a deal he would have to help make work not just for the Galaxy but also for all of Major League Soccer.


Spike to Pay $100 Million to Keep UFC

Multiple sources are reporting that Spike TV will renew their rights deal to continue carrying the UFC for over $100 million. According to Multichannel News, the pact will give Spike more live UFC events than the previous agreement. The deal will also allow Spike to continue running it's Ultimate Fighter reality series. Executives from Spike would not comment, and UFC executives could not be reached for comment at press time.

For those of you keeping track, that is $100 million more than Gary Bettman and the NHL received from NBC in their last rights deal.

Falcons' Vick Indicted by Grand Jury in Dogfighting Probe

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and three others were indicted on charges of operating a dogfighting operation on property owned by Vick in southeastern Virginia. If convicted, Vick could face up to six years in prison and $350,000 in fines. Purses for the fights ranged from hundreds of dollars to thousands. According to the indictment, Vick was highly involved in the operation, attended the fights, and paid off bets when his dogs lost. The indictment also alleges Vick was involved in the executions of dogs that did not perform well.

NFL star Michael Vick was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on charges of sponsoring a dogfighting operation so grisly the losers either died in the pit or sometimes were electrocuted, drowned, hanged or shot.
If convicted, many are calling for the same punishment for Vick.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The First Rule of NHL Fight Club...

How proud the NHL must be to know one of its players has been hosting a camp that instructs kids as young as 12 how to physically decimate their opponents with their fists. This story was written by Adam Proteau of The Hockey News.

In addition to providing that oh-so-valuable life lesson in common assault, the second “Derek Boogaard Fighting Camp”, held last week in the Minnesota Wild enforcer’s home province of Saskatchewan, also gives the kiddies T-shirts “splotched with blood-red dye,” according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Awwwww. Cute. But I think Boogaard hasn’t gone far enough. He should be demonstrating what ambulance rides to a hospital’s intensive care unit feel like. The tykes ought to know how it feels to have reconstructive surgery on their orbital bones. And there’s got to be enough room in the curriculum for showing campers how to push aside their consciences, as well as how to live with the long-term, physical effects that follow when you pummel other human beings for a living.

read more ...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Was Rick DiPeitro's Contract Genius or Madness?

Sabermetric Research cites a July 16 Sports Illustrated article by Michael Farbe, in which he discusses a loophole in the NHL salary cap. At issue is that when a player is given a multi-year contract, the hit against the cap is the average salary for the length of the contract, and the not actual salary for that particular year.

For instance, Daniel Brière signed with the Flyers for $52 million over eight years. That's an average of $6.5MM, which will be charged each season against the Flyers' cap. But for the eight years, Brière is actually being paid $10, $8, $8, $7, $7, $7, $3, and $2 million, respectively.

To illustrate the loophole, Sabremetric Research offers the following extreme example,

Now, suppose the Flyers are so rolling in money that they're willing to pay Brière something completely unreasonable, like $50 million a year for 20 years. Technically, they can sign him to a billion year contract, at $1 per year, and front load all the money into the first twenty years. The cap gets charged $1 per year, for a billion years – and the Flyers barely notice. Brière gets rich, and the cap (in spirit, if not in letter) is blown away.

Which brings us to Rick DiPietro's much-criticized 15-year, $67.5 million contract. On the surface, this deal seems irresponsible. Why offer such a young goaltender, or any player for that matter, such a long expensive contract?

Well, let's assume the Islanders only expect to get 10 good years from DiPietro. Roberto Luongo recently signed a three year contract with the Canucks at $6.75 million per season. Using that as a base, one option for the Islanders would be to sign DiPietro to a 10 year $67.5 million contract. This deal would represent a $6.75 million dollar annual hit on the salary cap.

Here is where the genius comes into play. By extending the deal to 15 years at the same $67.5 million, the Islanders reduced their cap hit to only $4.5 million per year.

You might think that one risk to this deal is that even though the Islanders are taking a smaller cap hit, they are taking the hit for 5 additional years. What if DiPietro does not play all 15 years, and retires after the 10th season? Again, the Islander's are protected.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, if a player signs a multi-year deal before the age of 35, and retires before it finishes, there is no salary-cap charge for the unplayed seasons.

So the Islanders would not take any salary cap hit if DiPietro retires before the 15 year deal is complete. If DiPietro retires after year 10, he effectively gets a 10 year, $67.5 million contact. However, the Islanders cap hit was only $4.5 million per year. Suddenly, Garth Snow's first contract as Islanders GM seems much more like genius than lunacy.

A Deeper Look at the NHL Schedule

On The Forecheck, a terrific NHL blog, has created a very interesting spreadsheet of the 2007-08 NHL schedule. The spreadsheet, of course, includes columns containing the names of the teams that are playing. But added in are columns for distance from the previous game, opponent's winning percentage, opponent's power play %, and more.

So how can you use this? Checking out who has the furthest to travel for games on consecutive nights is a start. That honor goes to the Vancouver Canucks, who play at Edmonton on November 20, then have to fly 1,090 miles to play the Wild in Minnesota the next evening. You can summarize and sort the teams based on greatest and least travel. Who's going to face the toughest defensive teams on the road this year? Whose goalie is going to see the most rubber flying his way? How do the divisions compare?

Overnight Sports Nielsen TV Ratings: 07/09/2007 - 07/15/2007

Overnight Nielsen ratings for selected sporting events. One rating point equals 1% of the USA's 77 million overnight TV homes in Nielsen Media Research's 56 selected major markets. Cable rating converted to broadcast equivalent.

  1. 2.3/6 FOX SAT MLB Baseball
  2. 1.7/4 ABC SAT NASCAR Busch USG Durock 300
  3. 1.3/3 CBS SUN PGA Tour John Deere Classic
  4. 1.0/3 CBS SAT PGA Tour John Deere Classic
  5. 1.0/2 NBC SUN Golf American Century
  6. 0.9/2 NBC SUN Hy Vee ITU World Cup
  7. 0.8/2 ABC SAT NASCAR Countdown
  8. 0.8/2 ABC SUN WNBA All Star Game
  9. 0.7/2 CBS SUN Tour de France Highlights
  10. 0.7/2 CBS SUN Grand Prix of Germany
  11. 0.7/2 NBC SAT Golf American Century
  12. 0.6/2 CBS SAT SPT SP
  13. 0.6/1 ABC SUN British Open Preview
  14. 0.5/1 NBC SAT SPT SP 7/14

ESPN and the WNBA Team Up

The Sports Business News is reporting that the WNBA has agreed to an eight-year rights extension through the 2016 season with ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2.

The new contract includes a minimum of 18 regular-season games to be telecast on ESPN2 (approximately one per week) and two games on ABC. The postseason on ESPN2 will include a minimum of 11 games, including the entire best-of-five WNBA Finals. All ABC and ESPN2 telecasts will continue to have time-period exclusivity. In addition, the deal includes coverage of the first round of the WNBA Draft on ESPN2 and rights to coverage on ESPN Deportes, including: live simulcast rights for all ESPN2 regular-season and post-season games, as well as all studio and specials programming; SAP rights for all ABC games; and enhanced digital media rights for

Although financial terms are not discussed in this article, it has been reported that the deal did include a rights-fee, and not a revenue sharing percentage. What does it say about the state of the NHL that the WNBA received more guaranteed money than they did? Of course, it is probably not a coincidence that the NBA recently also agreed to terms with ESPN and ABC. It would not be surprising to learn that David Stern made it clear that if you take the WNBA, you will get treated better by the NBA.

Chris Benoit Tragedy Splotlights Strain on WWE Wrestlers

In the aftermath of the Chris Benoit tragedy, the stresses put on WWE wrestlers are coming more and more into the spotlight. According to insiders, wrestlers are placed under near-constant stress, face hazardous conditions, have no insursance, no off-season, and often perform hurt. A major factor leading to these conditions is that the WWE is basically a monopoly. According to Alfonso A. Castillo of Newsday,

Even when they are hurt, many pro wrestlers, who are classified as independent contractors and don't get insurance, choose to work through agonizing pain out of fear of losing their place in the cards or their jobs altogether.

With no unions or pensions and no viable competitor to WWE, losing your job can mean losing your career, wrestlers say.

The problem for the wrestlers is that the WWE has bought out most rival wrestling leagues. That leaves the performers with little options. They must keep performing up to brutal expectations -- the WWE puts on shows more than 250 nights a year -- or risk losing their jobs. If they lose their jobs, they do not have another league to turn to.

This is similar to the problem faced by UFC performers as previously discussed on Everything But The Game. When performers have few options, they are taken advantage of. Of course, the MLB and NFL are monopolies as well. But in those leagues, there are 30 odd teams competing for the services of each player. If a player leaves one team, he has 29 more opportunities to find another job. WWE wrestlers and UFC fighters do not have that same opportunity.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Odds & Ends: Beckham's Debut

David Beckham's home MLS debut for the Los Angeles Galaxy has generated some interesting betting odds. is currently offering the following odds on Beckham's home opener:

Option: Odds
Tom Cruise to be in the audience: 1.10
To score: 2.20
To be substituted: 2.75
To be booked: 3.50
To score by freekick: 4.00
To score by penalty: 6.00
To be sent off: 15.00
To score a hattrick: 31.00

What are the odds that by January, anyone in the U.S. is going to care?