Friday, August 3, 2007

Lovitz Beats Dick and Bud

First Jon Lovitz beats up Andy Dick, and now he beats up Bud Selig. At least this time Lovitz only used his words.

Erin Andrews interviewed comic Jon Lovitz during last night's Giants-Dodgers game on ESPN. (Why, I have no idea.) Speaking of the Barry Bonds-steroids scandal, Lovitz said that if Selig claims that he didn't know steroids existed in the game, he is 'full of crap".

Now maybe it's just coincidence, but that's two times that Lovitz has been in the news since he signed his lifetime contract to perform every Wednesday night at the Laugh Factory. For those of you keeping score, that's two more times than he's been in the news the last ten years. It looks like the publicity machine is in full motion.

Here is what "funny"-"man" Jon Lovitz had to say about Bonds. (Thanks to Neil Best of Newsday for the transcript.)

"I think he's the best hitter ever. All this talk about steroids is a bunch of crap. About seven years ago I was talking to a major baseball player in the league and I said, 'How many players take steroids?' And he said, '40 percent.'

"I'm not saying whether he took them or not, all I'm saying is the league totally allowed it, and anyway, whether he took it or not, out of all those players, three guys hit a lot of home runs - three. So obviously that's three out of 300 taking it. That's not the difference.

"The guy's just a great hitter. How many people get that many walks? He works the pitcher. Usually the pitcher is ahead of the batter, but this guy, he's ahead of the pitcher. He's unbelievably great. He was taught by his father, Bobby Bonds. He was taught by Willie Mays. Willie Mays was maybe the greatest player ever. Now he's the greatest player ever. It was Willie Mays himself who said he could be one of the greatest ever. If you've got Willie Mays saying you could be the greatest ever if you take it seriously, that's what happened and he started taking it seriously.

"The league is complaining about it and yet, you know, attendance is way up, a lot of it because of Barry Bonds. Wherever he plays, he sells out the stadium. So it's completely hypocritical.''

"Bud Selig, if he says he didn't know, is full of crap. If he didn't know he should resign, and if he did know, he should say, 'Yeah, I allowed it, so what?' But for him to say he didn't know, how did I know seven years ago and he didn't? Hello? Thank you.''

"I think he's one of the greatest hitters ever and I think it's fantastic. I think it's a shame he's getting booed everywhere. I think it's a wonderful thing to see. It hardly ever happens. And Hank Aaron is still as great as ever and Babe Ruth still is as great as ever. It's no reflection on them at all. It's another great guy. It's fantastic. If it wasn't for Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, those guys set the bar. Everyone shoots for that. You can't take it away.''

Michael Vick Inspires Minor League Promotion

It didn't take long before someone found a way to profit off the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal. While other companies (Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Topps, Upper Deck, Donruss) are all separating themselves from Vick, one minor league team is using Vick's dogfighting indictment to increase attendance.

The St. Paul Saints will be giving away a Michael Vick chew toy before their game on August 21. The toy will be shaped like the Falcons quarterback, clad with a black and red jersey with the number seven on his chest. The first 1,500 fans who enter the ballpark will receive the chew toy.

A portion of the proceeds will be donated to charity. The key word here is "portion", meaning that the Saints will be keeping the other, presumably larger, "portion".

Thursday, August 2, 2007

ESPN and ABC Release 2007-08 NBA Schedule

ABC and ESPN released their 2007-08 NBA schedule today. The schedule features a total of 90 games, with 18 on ABC and 72 on ESPN. The NBA finals will be broadcast exclusively on ABC. Overall ABC will broadcast six NBA Sunday doubleheaders. Both ABC and ESPN will feature a flexible schedule.

ABC and ESPN will combine to present a Christmas Day tripleheader. It will open at 2pm on ABC with the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James versus the Miami Heat with Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal. The game will be followed by Phoenix and Steve Nash visiting the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant. The nightcap moves to ESPN, where the Portland Trail Blazers’ and Greg Oden face the Seattle SuperSonics’ Kevin Durant at 8 p.m.

ABC highlights:

  • 18 exclusive broadcasts;
  • a flexible schedule allowing for the best possible matchups throughout the season;
  • a Christmas Day doubleheader with Miami at Cleveland and Phoenix at the L.A. Lakers with coverage beginning at 2 p.m.;
  • a NBA Sunday regular-season schedule from Jan. 27 through April 13;
  • multiple appearances from several of the league’s top teams, including defending NBA Finals champion San Antonio and runner-up Cleveland, along with Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, L.A. Lakers, Miami and Phoenix;
  • two games between the Miami Heat, with Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal, facing the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James – Christmas Day at 2 p.m. and April 13 at 1 p.m. (both games at Cleveland);
  • Cleveland and LeBron James will host Denver and Carmelo Anthony Feb. 10 at 1 p.m. The matchup will be followed by the Lakers and Kobe Bryant visiting the Miami Heat and Shaquille O’Neal at 3:30 p.m.;
  • 2006 NBA Finals rematch with the Miami Heat hosting the Dallas Mavericks March 16 at 3:30 p.m.;
  • a Texas showdown with the San Antonio Spurs hosting the Houston Rockets and perennial

YES Network for Sale

The New York Yankees' cable network, the YES Network, is for sale, Fortune has learned. And some baseball insiders and Yankees limited partners are wondering whether the team itself might be next. This story was written by Jon Birger and Tim Arango of Fortune.

The highest-rated regional sports network in the country and the cable home of the Yankees and the NBA New Jersey Nets, YES is jointly owned by the Yankees, investment bank Goldman Sachs & Co. (Charts, Fortune 500) , and former Nets owner Ray Chambers. Goldman and Chambers would like to cash out, YES and Yankees insiders say, and one source says to expect a deal by summer's end. Some possible bidders: Cablevision, Comcast (Charts), News Corp. (Charts, Fortune 500) and Verizon (Charts, Fortune 500).

Publicly, Yankees and YES officials are noncommittal. "Absolutely not," Yankees president Randy Levine replies when asked whether YES is for sale - though not before acknowledging some "testing of the market." Gerry Cardinale, a Goldman managing director and YES board member, is more forthcoming, conceding that YES is in fact being shopped. "We're testing the waters with a limited universe of quality buyers," says Cardinale. "We would consider selling only if we receive a full and fair price."

And what might a "full and fair" price be? Try a cool $3 billion to $3.5 billion. At that price, one could argue that the true gem of the Yankees business empire isn't the team itself but YES.


Odds to Win the World Series

Now that the MLB trade deadline has passed, and rosters are mostly set, I thought this would be a good time to check out the latest odds to win the World Series. According to, the Red Sox are the clear favorites at 4.25 to 1. The Sox certainly did not hurt themselves at the deadline, adding yet another quality reliever. Rounding out the top five are the Tigers, Angels, Mets, and Indians.

I find it surprising that the Braves and Phillies, only 3.5 and 4 games behind the Mets for first place in the NL East respectively, are so far down the list. The Phillies are at 26 to 1 and the Braves 21 to 1. It should also be noted that the odds on the Braves did not change after the deadline, despite the fact that they are much improved with the addition of Teixeira.

The following is the complete list of odds from to win the World Series.

Odds Team
4.25 Boston Red Sox
7 Detroit Tigers
8 Los Angeles Angels
8 New York Mets
10 Cleveland Indians
11 New York Yankees
13 Los Angeles Dodgers
13 Milwaukee Brewers
15 Chicago Cubs
15 San Diego Padres
21 Arizona Diamondbacks
21 Atlanta Braves
21 Seattle Mariners
26 Philadelphia Phillies
67 Colorado Rockies
67 Minnesota Twins
67 St Louis Cardinals
126 Toronto Blue Jays
151 Florida Marlins
201 Oakland Athletics
501 Houston Astros

Evidence World Cup Quidditch Game was Fixed

I found this disturbing article today on Phil Birnbaum's Sabermetric Research blog. If a Quidditch game can be fixed, a World Cup Quidditch game no less, what chance does society have?

There's been a lot written about game-fixing in basketball lately, but not much about an obvious game fixing episode in World Cup Quidditch.

Quidditch is played on flying broomsticks by two opposing teams of seven players. There are two ways to score. A goal counts as 10 points, and is achieved by putting a soccer-ball sized "quaffle" through the other team's goal hoop. Meanwhile, a magical golden ball with wings, called the "snitch," flies throughout the area of play, trying to elude the players. Catching it scores 150 points, and ends the game.

In Harry Potter's fourth year at Hogwarts, the Quidditch World Cup pits Ireland against Bulgaria. Ireland takes a commanding 170-10 point lead. Then, Bulgaria's Viktor Krum catches the snitch, ending the match. Ireland wins, 170-160.

Why did Krum throw the game by catching the snitch?


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Group with Kansas City Ties to Buy Predators

The good news for Nashville Predator fans is that it appears very unlikely that their team will be moving to Hamilton. The bad news is that doors may just have opened for a move to Kansas City.

from Randy Covitz of the The Kansas City Star

A Nashville group planning to sign a letter of intent to buy the Nashville Predators today is expected to include William “Boots” Del Biaggio, who also has a contract to own an NHL team for Kansas City’s Sprint Center.

Del Biaggio could not be reached for comment today, but was in Nashville for the announcement.

The Predators have been on the market since the end of the 2006-07 season, and owner Bruce Leipold had negotiated an offer, reported to be for more than $190 million with Del Biaggio, a San Jose, Calif., businessman, after talks were suspended with Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, who had offered $220 million.


NHL talking to ESPN about replacing NBC

It's looking more and more as if NBC will not be renewing its contract with the NHL when it expires after this season. Heading into the final year of their contract, NBC is cutting costs every way it can. Instead of covering 3 regional games per week, there will be only one national game. Also reduced is the number of on air personalities, with Brett Hull, Bill Clement and Ray Ferraro gone this year. In their place, Pierre McGuire will perform double duty as both game analyst and "studio" host. Note that "studio" is in quotes, because NBC has also dropped its entire NHL studio at Rockefeller Center.

The good news is that if NBC does not renew its contract with the NHL, that will open the door for the league to go back to ESPN and ABC.

from William Houston of the Globe and Mail

The online publication SportsBusiness Journal reported this week that the NHL has started preliminary talks with ESPN about replacing NBC as a television partner in 2008-09.

In response, an NBC spokesman said it was premature to speculate on what the network will do with its 2008-09 option.

What's more, NBC will employ a flexible NHL schedule in 2007-08, from which it will pick the best matchup — a move that should push up ratings.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tony Gwynn's Strikeout Rate

This morning a friend emailed me Tony Gwynn's career stats. He had highlighted some of his single season strikeout totals, which were ridiculously low considering the number of at bats. So I did a little research, and found this article which graphs Gwynn's strikeout rate throughout his career versus the league average.

Gwynn had a tremendously low strikeout rate throughout his career. Just as interesting, however, is what happened to the major league rate at the same time. It trended steadily up. As I’m sure you remember, these were the days of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Everyone was swinging harder, trying to hit the ball over the fence. But not Tony Gwynn. He resisted the trend and still wound up in the Hall of Fame.


Overnight Sports Nielsen TV Ratings: 07/23/2007 - 07/29/2007

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. 4.1 ESPN SUN NASCAR Allstate 400 at the Brickyard
  2. 2.2/6 FOX SAT MLB Regional action
  3. 1.7/4 NBC SUN PGA Tour Canadian Open, Final round
  4. 1.1 ABC SUN Senior British Open Final round
  5. 1.1/3 NBC SAT PGA Tour Canadian Open, Third round
  6. 0.9 ABC SAT NTRA Breeders' Cup Challenge
  7. 0.9/2 CBS SUN Tour de France
  8. 0.9 ABC SUN AFL ArenaBowl XXI
  9. 0.8/2 CBS SUN World Series of Video Games
  10. 0.8/2 NBC SAT Tennis Indianapolis Tennis Championships, Semifinal
  11. 0.7 ABC SAT Senior British Open Third round
  12. 0.6/1 NBC SUN Tennis Indianapolis Tennis Championships, Final
  13. 0.5/1 NBC SUN Championship Off Road Racing

Research: NBA Scores Consistent with Occasional Point Shaving

With the NBA point shaving scandal front and center in the news, a senior thesis paper by Jonathan Gibbs of Stanford is getting a lot of attention. In his thesis, Gibbs found that the betting line does seem to have an effect on the final margin in games with large point spreads. And if you are going to fix a game, the easiest way to do it is to make sure the heavily favored team fails to beat a large spread.

Gibbs found that teams beat the Las Vegas sportsbooks' spread almost exactly fifty percent of the time over the 16,000 games in the study (7,802 compared to 7,855). But in the games where point shaving would seem to be most likely, where the spreads were 12.5 points or more, the betting lines were not accurate.

Gibbs and others have looked just at the games where point shaving would seem to be most likely -- the games with spreads of 12.5 points or more -- and a really weird thing became clear. Suddenly the betting lines were not accurate. Favorites fell way short of the spread at a normal rate, and beat it by a long shot at a normal rate. But if the score was close to the spread -- in short, if it was a game that would be easy to shave points in the final minutes -- then the favorite fell short of the spread more often than they beat it at a significant rate.

That means that if the spread closed at, say, 13, the favorite tended to win by something like 11 or 12 more often than they won by 14 or 15."


Monday, July 30, 2007

Overnight Ratings for ArenaBowl XXI

The overnight ratings for ArenaBowl XXI, broadcast in HD on ABC Sunday afternoon, are in. The game, featuring the San Jose Sabercats versus the Columbus Destroyers, earned a .9 overnight rating. To put that in perspective, the World Series of Video Games on CBS Sunday afternoon, earned a 0.8.

NHL and ESPN Talking

Street and Smith's Sports Business Journal is reporting that the NHL and ESPN are having talks about bringing the league back to the World Wide Leader in Sports. The league may be back on ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC as soon as the 2008-09 season.

Sources also say the league is negotiating its planned NHL Network with cable and satellite operators. The NHL is taking a page from MLB by tying carriage of its planned channel with the renewal of Center Ice. The U.S. channel will have a look and feel similar to the Canadian version, and will have 50 live games in 2007-08. Most of the content will be identical to what appears in Canada, although repackaged with some U.S.-based programming.

The NHL and ESPN are in discussions about bringing the league’s games back to ESPN2 as soon as the 2008-09 season.

Multiple sources described the conversations as preliminary. The two started talking the week of July 16 when the NHL approached ESPN about NBC’s nine-game regular-season schedule, plus the playoffs. NBC holds the rights to air the coming season as part of a revenue-sharing agreement, and the network holds a one-year option for the 2008-09 season.

It’s not certain that NBC would exercise that option, given the sport’s tepid ratings on the network. Regular-season ratings on NBC averaged a 0.9 during the 2006-07 season and a 1.0 during the 2007-08 season over nine telecasts.

The key to this whole scenario is Versus, which holds cable exclusivity to all of the league’s games through 2011 and is paying the league a rights fee in excess of $70 million annually. Sources close to the Comcast-owned network, however, indicated that Versus would be willing to waive that clause, but only if it gets something in return — either a lower rights fee, a stronger schedule or a deal extension.


Poll Results: What will be the next sport dragged into the steroids scandal?

The issue of steroids in sports was all over the news in July. From Barry Bonds, to golf, to the UFC, to the Tour de France, it seemed as if not a day went by when the topic didn't come up at least once. So last week, EBTG offered an online poll, asking you, "What will be the next sport dragged into the steroids scandal?"

The people have spoken and the results are in. Oddly enough, 12% of the voters said that the Bassmaster Tournaments will be the next sport dragged into the steroids controversy. I am not sure how steroids can give you an edge here, but perhaps if the fish were given steroids all sorts of weight records would be broken.

The largest percentage of votes went to the AFL, which just celebrated ArenaBowl XXI. Personally, I find this hard to believe. If these guys were taking steroids, wouldn't they be in the NFL?

Soccer 6 (24%)
Arena Football League 10 (40%)
Lacrosse 4 (16%)
NASCAR 5 (20%)
Bowling 2 (8%)
Bassmaster Tournaments 3 (12%)

Boomer Esiason to Replace Don Imus on WFAN

Although not yet official, Newsday is reporting that Boomer Esiason will be taking over the Don Imus show on WFAN. The format of the new show is unclear. It is expected that Boomer will continue his work for CBS on their NFL studio show, as well as his show on the MSG network. However, he might have to cut back his "Monday Night Football" radio schedule.

from Neil Best at Newsday

CBS Radio and Boomer Esiason are close to an agreement to have Esiason become the morning host on WFAN, according to a person familiar with the talks, who last night said a deal is "imminent."

Esiason has been on the short list since Don Imus was fired April 13, but the situation has been muddled by Imus' legal status.

CBS Radio is expected to reach a settlement with him that would avoid litigation and allow him to leave for another station.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Strikeout Homerun

Of course, you've seen a batter strikeout and get to first base safely when the catcher drops strike three. You might even have seen a batter or two get to second when the ball is thrown past the first baseman. But I am pretty sure you've never seen a batter strikeout and come all the way around to score. While the other team is in the dugout. Well, now you have.

Online Poll: Should Sports Gambling Be Legalized?

Basketball has the Tim Donaghy point shaving scandal. Baseball had the Pete Rose and Black Sox scandals. Football had the Paul Hornung and Alex Karras scandal. College sports has suffered multiple gambling scandals. So what's the best way to prevent gambling in sports? Some say by legalizing sports betting.

By legalizing sportsbooks throughout the country, and not just in Vegas, all odds makers will be on alert whenever games look suspicious. After all, MLB already monitors baseball gambling trends to look for irregularities.

David Stern argues that, "By making it legal, you're going to encourage more people to bet." True, but as long as we know the games themselves are not corrupt, how is that a bad thing? And from the league's point of view, legalized gambling will only help falling TV ratings. The more people that have a stake in the game, the more that will watch.

Perhaps legalized sports betting is the best thing that could happen to sports leagues in the U.S.

Place your vote now, in the upper right hand corner of this page.

from Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post

The integrity of the NBA is broke. Don't worry. Somebody will fix it.

Wanna bet?

Thank you, Tim Donaghy. Do not collect your $260,000 salary as a referee with an apparent gambling itch. Proceed directly to jail, where a new uniform will be waiting. Maybe something in zebra stripes.

It took this rogue ref to blow the whistle on a harsh reality that won't go away, no matter how sternly commissioner David Stern covers his eyes.

There are two great guilty pleasures in the United States.


And gambling.