Last week during the 2005 Congressional season of teatre d'absurde, they were asking questions of the NHL representatives about steroid and drug
testing in hockey. Neither Bob Goodenow nor Gary Bettman could be accused of using performance-enhancing substances given their pathetic efforts to
negotiate a deal in the NHL, but that was not the point of the hearings.
Goodenow insisted that Congress should keep its hands off anything related to steroid/drug testing in sports and that they were issues for collective
bargaining. The irony of that position is that the NHL has been stuck on one compendium of issues - economic issues - for about 2 years now; anyone
would want to add more complexity to that mix is irrational. Goodenow seems to want to be a wingman for Don Fehr in these hearings.
I read somewhere that the folks who previously offered to buy the whole NHL for $3.5B had upped their offer to $4B. I did not understand what they
thought was worth paying $3.5B for and so, I was surprised to read that the offer was increased. So, I asked a friend who is far more interested in
business matters than I am about this. Here is a synopsis of what he told me:
1. The group offering to buy the league has a lot of experience in managing companies that have lots of franchises. They are involved with Burger King
and Dominoes and one of the "Chicken Purveyors".
2. If they can't buy the whole league and institute standard business rules - i.e. the union can take a wage scale or other workers will be brought in
to play for a wage scale - then they can buy 16 individual teams and have a voting bloc to dictate business practices. There are some Dominoes
franchises that are individually owned and operated and others that are corporately owned. The corporation sets minimum standards for privately held
franchises or they lose their franchise.
3. Private franchises need not control costs if they don't want, but revenue sharing would be enforced from "corporate control central".
4. Selling games to the newly sprouting regional cable sports networks from a central control point is where the potential for big money lies.
So, if I have this right, the NHL has some value left in it but only if more than half the franchises are sold off and some serious business controls
are imposed. And if that understanding is even near right, I have to look now at the Washington Capitals and their owner Ted Leonsis - the anointed
marketing and branding genius from AOL. By the way, how's your Time Warner/AOL stock been doing over the last couple of years? Fortunately, I sold
most of mine real soon after that goofy-assed merger was announced. Leonsis bought the Caps from Abe Pollin and got a right of first refusal in that
package to buy the Wizards when Abe Pollin decides to cash in his chips. Leonsis has been losing money since he got the Caps and claims that his
losses now exceed $100M which makes me want to ask the sycophants at the Washington Post how this could possibly have happened to a marketing and
branding genius with such immense business savvy. But I digress...
Abe Pollin has just stuck it to Ted Leonsis once again; it is beginning to look as if Abe is playing Ted for a piñata. Abe just sold Ted the
Washington Mystics. The Mystics lead the WNBA in attendance and have for the entire life of the league yet the Mystics have yet to break even. The
WNBA's TV ratings are higher than a test pattern but probably no higher than one of those 3:00AM infomercials for seminars about how to buy
foreclosure real estate. If the team with the highest league attendance isn't going to turn a profit, how can this be a smart purchase? Oh yeah, I
forgot; he's a marketing and branding genius...
Here's a glimpse at his business analysis of the situation:
"I will say that the Mystics are managed and have been running better than the Washington Capitals. At least they're playing and have a shot at making
money. So it's an honor to be part of a team that is very vital and has been a leader in attendance so many years."
Translation: The Caps are being run in a worse manner than a team that has never shown a profit in about ten years of existence despite having
attendance that is the best in the league but declining. Somehow, it may show a profit in the future if someone can figure out how to get people to
pay more for the same tickets they buy now. Only, there are lots of empty seats at these prices... I'll figure this out later...
Leonsis has brought in a partner for the Mystics operation. Sheila Johnson - former wife of Bob Johnson the new owner of the Charlotte Bobcats - is
the first black woman to be a part owner of a major sports franchise (assuming that "WNBA" and "major" can be used in the same paragraph without
inducing giggles) and she will be the team President. Leonsis says she brings a "unique perspective" to managing the team. Let me translate that for
She never did anything like this before and so she'll be winging it for the next year or so.
Here is Greg Cote's perspective on the WNBA as a whole in the Miami Herald:
"The WNBA's ninth season has begun. Attendance and TV ratings are down but there are encouraging signs. For example, the league skews immensely
popular among women 18-34 who own two or more Indigo Girls CDs."
Disclaimer: Until I googled "Indigo Girls", I would not have known them from The Golden Girls, Mood Indigo or Slime the Wonder Snail.
Since I'm talking about attendance at sporting events today, all the baseball purists who say that interleague play has run its course need to just
shut up. During last weekend's "rivalry games", the Yankees/Mets drew 164,500 fans to three games; the Giants/A's drew 127,700; the Angels/Dodgers
drew 162,000; the average attendance over the weekend for interleague games was 36,379. The fans think interleague play is just fine; and just in case
the purists and poets have forgotten this, the game is there for the fans and not the purists/poets or the rotisserie geeks.
Coming off that solid weekend, MLB goes into the Memorial Day weekend about to shoot itself in the foot. Monday is Memorial Day; there used to be
doubleheaders on Memorial Day all over the leagues; on Monday, ten teams will have the day off. That is just plain stupid scheduling; there is no
polite way to put it. On the 4th of July, MLB seems to have decided to play baseball. Only two teams have that day off because Oakland and Toronto
start a series in Toronto on July 5th and the Fourth of July is not a celebration day in Canada so that makes some sense. But having a third of the
teams not playing on Memorial Day because Monday is a "travel day" is just plain dumb.
At the moment, the Boston Red Sox are the best "road draw" in baseball playing to crowds that average over 37,000 when the Sox come to town. The
Padres and Yankees are close on the heels of that figure. One might think that the Washington Nationals would be a terrific road draw. After all,
there has been this 34-year period with no baseball in Washington that created all that pent-up demand to see the local boys play baseball. If that
were even half-true, you might expect to see Nationals' fans flocking to other parks to see the Nats when they come to town. After all, people with
ties to Washington are spread all over the country...
Finally, the Anderson University Ravens - in Anderson, Indiana - compete in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. They just hired a new
basketball coach, Tom Slyder. Shouldn't he be the pitching coach for the baseball team?
But don't get me wrong, I love sports...
Copyright The Sports Curmudgeon