You'd think that with the calendar flipping over to a new year, things might change and some of the 'usual suspects' for goofy occurrences in the
world of sports might change their ways. Well, if today is the harbinger of what is to come in 2006, there is still gold in those same ores.
Hosting the Olympic Games is something that is appealing to the people who lead - and I use that word in the loosest sense possible - the large cities
of the world. We had the drama of the competition for the 2012 games just last year; we had the economic disaster in Athens in 2004; we had the city
of New York trying to use the Olympics as a tool to pry open the tax revenue cookie jar to build a downtown stadium for the NY Jets. The silliness
never seems to end - - and now, the mayor of Chicago wants to get in on the act. Mayor Daley has suggested that Chicago become the home for a second
NFL team that would play its games in a newly constructed stadium in the downtown area. The cost of the putative new stadium would be $1B and of
course, it would be also be the place where the city would hold the opening ceremonies for the 2016 Olympics.
I don't want to get into any discussion about whether or not stadiums actually ever pay for themselves in an economic sense; that's an argument for
professionals in that field to carry on to a level of detail that makes my teeth itch. But let me merely point out a couple of things that make this
suggestion just a tad 'off-center':
The city of Chicago just got finished renovating Soldier Field. I think they spent about $500M on that project but I'm not sure; let me say with
certainty that they spent more than 'three easy payments of just $39.95'. If anyone had an idea about the Olympics, shouldn't they have also expanded
Soldier Field so that it was large enough to accommodate the opening/closing ceremonies?
The statements from the Chicago Bears indicate that they were not privy to the announced idea that the Bears might have to share the Chicago market
with another NFL team. Is that what you call 'partnering' in modern business-speak? (By the way, when did 'partner' become a verb?)
The NFL also seems to have been surprised by this statement since they are working on trying to find a home for the Saints and to find a way to put a
team in Los Angeles without 'abandoning' New Orleans and without another bout of expansion. Imagine the reaction of the NFL if Chicago asks for an
expansion team and the Bears oppose the request...
The baseball teams in Chicago and the Bulls and the Blackhawks all compete with the NFL for fan dollars and attention. The NFL overlaps part of all
those teams' seasons. Have they been part of the thinking here? Somehow, I doubt it.
But not to worry Chicagoans, Mayor Daley also has plans to put the Final Four in the putative new stadium - which will be domed - and the Super Bowl
too, on the assumption that he hasn't pissed off the NFL pooh bahs too badly. Maybe what he needs to put this over the top is to create an annual
event that will always be held in the new stadium. How about the Chicago Invitational World Championship Tractor Pull or some humongous motocross
event? That'll pay for the stadium, no?
Another 'usual suspect' for goofiness is the NCAA and they seem determined to remain as one of the 'go-to organizations' when you think of people
being out to lunch on the job. You may recall that I wrote about a high school diploma mill in Florida that managed to give high school athletes
diplomas and GPAs of a sufficient level so that the athletes could meet NCAA eligibility standards. Well, the school is closing; the school and its
owner are under investigation by Florida legal officials and by the Florida State Athletic officials and it is possible there could be some Federal
'issues' here since many of the putative classes 'convened' on-line and may have involved interstate commerce. This has been ongoing for several
years and the investigations have been ongoing for a while now, but it was just a couple of days before Christmas when Dr. Myles Brand crawled out of
his burrow to make a statement on this before seeing his shadow and scurrying back into his hole. Here is what the NCAA will be doing related to this
situation which strikes at the core of the NCAA's maniacal focus on 'student-athletes' and 'eligibility rules' and 'nothing special for athletes on
the basis of their being athletes':
A panel consisting of 17 sentient hominids will study 'correspondence and other non-traditional routes to college' and focus on how this may affect
NCAA eligibility determinations. Please notice that the panel will not be doing any hard-hitting investigations of the NCAA Clearinghouse, which is
the mechanism by which high school athletes are deemed to be eligible or non-eligible at the moment. Notice that Dr. Brand did not say that someone
or some ones in that part of the NCAA organization has been asleep at the switch for several years now. Then again, being asleep at the switch seems
to be a standard modus operandi for the folks who are in the mahogany offices at the NCAA...
Equally culpable in this whole mess are the faculties and the administrators at the schools where athletes from these diploma mills have been
admitted. The administrators are nominally there to run an institution of higher learning; they are allowing the athletic departments to slip people
by them who have not taken any real courses at the high school level and have gotten inflated grades for the ones they did take. That is nonfeasance
of responsibility. The faculties at these schools are as culpable if not worse. These are the people who screech about how the world will stop
spinning on its axis if they have any limitations on their 'academic freedom' because university education is the engine that keeps civilization
moving forward. Yeah, and how do you accomplish that when some of your students can't add a column of two digit numbers and might - I said might - be
able to read at the eighth grade level? Now if those same august faculty members are willing to admit that they need their academic freedom to do
remedial instruction on a bunch of unwilling, unmotivated, and often not-so-bright jocks, that's fine with me; normally, that's not the stance they
choose to take.
And the world of political correctness with its legal enforcement mechanisms seems determined to maintain its position as a source of strangeness. At
this moment, we have a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission against the Harlem Globetrotters alleging predatory business practices. The
complainant is another barnstorming basketball team called the Harlem Ambassadors, which features a team of men and women players. The Ambassadors
complain that the Globetrotters demand 'exclusivity windows' in their contracts with arenas for several months before and after the Globetrotters
appear and this affects the Ambassadors' ability to play in major venues. They allege that the Globetrotters have unreasonably used their name
recognition and reputation 'to initiate a conspiracy of contracts which unreasonably restrain the business activities of the Harlem Ambassadors'.
I wouldn't even begin to offer an opinion on the legal ramifications of these 'exclusivity windows' assuming that they exist as represented here.
Here's the angle that I can't wait for. The Ambassadors sue the Globetrotters on the basis of sex discrimination because the 'exclusivity windows'
prevents the women players on the Ambassadors from having equal access to the major arenas that the Globetrotters book for their games. Why do I
think that's the next step in the FTC complaint does not pan out for the Ambassadors?
Finally, let me close with a quotation from yet another source of continuing nonsense in the world of sports. Here is what Don King had to say about
the state of boxing and how fighters get ranked and get shots at titles:
'When we started, it was based on lies; it's changing now; there are no secrets in the business. You've got to come with the truth, the whole truth
and nothing but the truth. It's becoming very confusing.'
But don't get me wrong, I love sports... ... ...