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Newz Forum: OTHER: ESPN, baseball commentators, Juan Gonzalez, the Dolphins plus more...

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posted on Oct, 10 2005 @ 05:01 PM
I need some help here. As I was grazing through the channels on my cable system last night, I think that I ran across something that looked like a promo for an ESPN movie about Roger Bannister running the first four-minute mile. Is that right? Did I miss the premiere? If so, do you think they'll rerun the flick - - about 238 times.

I have a couple of quick baseball comments here. First of all, I've heard far too many times from talking heads and commentators on the televised playoff games about the importance of winning the first game of a five game series. Balderdash! That level of importance pales in comparison to the importance of winning the last game of a five - or a seven - game series. Just ask last year's Red Sox about that. Hell, now that Chicago has a 2-0 lead in the ALDS, ask this year's Red Sox about that.

I did hear one comment - but can't recall who said it - about how appropriate it was for the White Sox and the Red Sox to meet in the ALDS this year. That pairing represents the last team to win a World Series against the last team to throw a World Series. I heard that on the radio while in the midst of a looong drive and could not write down who said that. It sounds like something Jim Armstrong might say, but I don't ever recall hearing him on the radio.

Juan Gonzales reportedly told the Congressional sleuths, who are trying to determine if Rafael Palmiero committed perjury when he told the House Committee in March that he never used steroids, that he had never seen Palmiero use steroids and always thought Palmiero was "clean". He said he never even heard rumors that Raffy was "on the juice". Since these guys were teammates for about a decade, that would sound like an excellent testimony to Raffy's good character and honor. Problem is that Gonzalez spent so much time in the training room and on the DL in his career that Raffy could have built a scale model of the Golden Gate Bridge in the clubhouse and Gonzalez might not have been around to see it.

Major League Baseball set an attendance record this year with more than 75 million fans buying tickets. That's an increase of about 2.2 million over last year. Lots of commentators are making a huge deal over this; but frankly, I think it is as much a mirage as it is anything else. Look at one franchise - the Washington Nats. This year they drew 2.7 million fans; last year in Montreal they drew less than 1 million - so let's call it 0.9 million for the sake of argument. The single act of moving that franchise accounted for an increase of 1.8 million fans for MLB. Now, does that increase of 2.2 million look so huge? I don't think so.

Baseball is indeed doing a whole lot better when it comes to revenues generated off the game. This is no mirage. Yes, there has been an attendance increase and those 2.2 million extra fans - no matter how they were drawn - poured a lot more cash into MLB's coffers than last year. But the real spike in revenue comes from broadcasting and telecasting rights. Three years ago, MLB got a total of $40M a year from the ESPN contract, the national radio broadcast deal and the Internet. Now, a satellite radio deal plus a new ESPN contract makes that revenue stream produce something near the $400M mark; and the FOX TV deal is up for bids next year. Oh, and the current owners will get at least $12M and maybe as much as $18M apiece from the sale of the Washington Nats to whomever they decide to fleece - er - select.

Over in the NFL, the Miami Dolphins are alone in first place in the AFC East at this moment thanks to the fact that the Jets, Pats and Bills all lost last weekend while the Dolphins managed not to lose on their "bye week". I wonder if this has generated a wave of enthusiasm down in South Florida; has an epidemic of "playoff fever" broken out in Miami? Here's how you'll know. Miami has three home games in December. If they have playoff fever in Miami, two of those games will be sold out in time to lift the TV blackout.

Last Sunday, the Saints sold 58,588 tix for their game in San Antonio against the Buffalo Bills. The Alamodome holds 65,000 folks so that kind of attendance is not too shabby given the circumstances that put the game there in the first place and the lead-time people had to sell tix. However, I hope that the people of San Antonio do not become complacent about this attendance percentage because if they want to get a team in San Antonio permanently - or keep the Saints there permanently - it will take more than just ticket sales. The city fathers have a stadium that has the requisite number of seats, so they don't have to dig into the community coffers to do a whole lot there but there is work to be done. Such as:

San Antonio is categorized as the nation's 37th largest TV market. San Antonians claim that rating is too low because Austin, Texas should be counted as part of their market. Whatever. Fact is that San Antonio is short on TV sets for the NFL's taste. The NFL needs TV viewers the way Dennis Rodman needs publicity. This is a hill these folks need to climb and they need to recognize they have a hill to climb and get about the business of climbing it. Nit picking the counting rules for the TV sets in the market will assure that they do not get a team. It represents time and energy that need to be expended elsewhere.

San Antonio has a large portion of its local economy derived from the military. That's good for economic stability, but it does not create wealth in the town that might be funneled into luxury suites and corporate sponsorships and partnerships for things like training facilities. Those are huge bargaining chips when trying to get a franchise and San Antonio will have trouble coming up with an economic package along those lines that can compete with cities like LA (where the NFL really, REALLY wants a team) and a couple of other sites. The city fathers need to get cracking here too.

The good news is that the Saints are not the only team that might be able to move. Jacksonville - also a town that derives a lot of its economic muscle from the military - is not supporting the Jags and the owner has an out in his stadium lease coming up soon. Neither the 49ers nor the Raiders sell out anymore and Al Davis has been known to pull up stakes in the past. And there's always expansion. So, if San Antonio wants a team, it would be well advised to use this time interval with the Saints as a way to figure out how to put a package together to lure a team there. Because, it is still an uphill march.

Don't write to tell me to stop hating on the people of San Antonio. I'm not. I'm just saying that if they want a team, they better recognize that, at the moment, they are not on the NFL's dance card for the long term. If they prefer to believe otherwise, they're wrong.

Finally, a comment that I am certain comes from Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post:

"And finally, Dolphins PR man Harvey Greene, on the three years he spent working for George Steinbrenner with the Yankees:

'It was actually 21 years. They treat you like a dog there.' "


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