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Newz Forum: OTHER: Michele Kwan, the Winter Games, the PGA, Indy Racing plus more...

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posted on Jan, 17 2006 @ 12:58 PM
It's Friday the 13th and I have a black cat residing in my home. Given that it is the middle of winter here, you can be sure there are no four-leaf clovers out on my lawn to counteract the negative omens of the day. Will I go and hide in a closet for the day? Absolutely not! I'll take my chances today and comment on a bunch of minor sports stories despite the chance that they may sending each and every reader into a state of stupefaction.

There's a figure skating controversy out there; isn't that a shocker? The only way for this 'sport' to get any publicity is for someone to kneecap an opposing skater or for a judge to get caught doctoring the scores to assure that a prearranged result happens. Unless something like that occurs, no one gives a damn. And even so, they will only continue to give a damn until the 'story of the moment' is played out. Michele Kwan has petitioned to be named to the Olympic team even though she will not be able to skate in the event that will determine the fate of all the other skaters who want the same honor. Wow, what a great story; writers can take sides and there can be debate among the writers in a city or even in the same newspaper. Good coverage for skating - because it takes the focus off the product which is not a sport and is only slightly less enthralling than full contact quilting.

For the record, I do not care if Michele Kwan is on the Olympic team or not. Understand, I do not wish any evil to befall her. But she has signed a big promotional set of deals with several companies to be 'the face of the Olympics' this year. So, I wonder just how much influence these corporate partners might have over the people who will be doing the team selection? In politics, they call it 'soft money'; in the Olympics, they call it what it really is, 'a bribe'. I'm thinking that if the doctors say she has a better than 50/50 shot at recovering before the skating competitions begin in Torino, Kwan is on the team. Whatever.

Speaking of the Winter Olympics, let me give you some financial data on this fiasco. The latest figure I read is that the games will cost $3.6B. That's not a typo; that's $3.6B. Even if you embrace completely the Italian stereotype for inefficiency, graft and corruption, you have to be stunned at that budget number. How can these games cost $3.6B? You need a stadium for the opening ceremonies; they had one there and it needed some renovation and touching up. You need a couple of arenas to hold the indoor events; they had one already there and needed to build another one. You need some hills with snow on them to hold the outdoor events; Mother Nature put mountains there; and after all, it is winter in Italy so snow ought to be there at little or no cost. So, where will the $3.6B go?

And after you ponder that one, ask yourself where the $3.6B will come from. The latest numbers I read from an AP report said that just over 1 million tickets would be available for all of the events and that 585,000 had been sold as of one month prior to the beginning of the games. I hope you didn;t invest all your IRA funds in Olympics tickets for Torino so you could scalp them on the Internet; I have a feeling that there will be lots of empty seats available for just about everything. But the numbers are even worse when you look more closely at the breakdowns. Of the 585,000 tickets sold, less than 250,000 of them were sold to international sports fans. Olympic committees, international sports federations and organizations like that purchased most of the tickets and lots of tickets were 'sold' to sponsors too. Even worse, of the tickets sold to international sports fans, it seems as if well more than half of those have been sold to Italians and mainly to Italians living near Torino.

I am not an economist by any stretch of the imagination, but if tickets aren't selling except to citizens of the host country, then how will there be any outside resources brought into the host country to pay down some of the expenditures? Remember, the myth of the Olympics is that the games pay for themselves by bringing in money from outside the economy to offset the local taxpayers' front-end expenditures. President Reagan was once accused of practicing 'voodoo economics'; the Olympics model seems more like 'doo-doo economics' to me.

I mentioned recently that ABC and ESPN had dropped out of the bidding for a new PGA television contract. Well, the PGA recognized that its leverage had seriously diminished at that point and the new contracts with the remaining television entities managed to achieve finality in a matter of days. NBC and CBS will do lots of tournaments while The Golf Channel will get some of the early season events and other stuff. PGA honcho, Tim Fincham, stressed all the positives in a news conference saying that the PGA now enjoys 'a streamlined set of relationships with NBC and CBS' and these streamlined relationships 'reinforce the continuity we can provide to our fans.' What nonsense. Here's what he did not emphasize in his news conference:

This contract extends for six years starting in 2007 and the PGA will not get a rights fee increase in the new deal compared to the current deal. Read that again. The rights fees for PGA golf on TV are not going to increase. Only the NHL finds itself in that circumstance this year and that's because they shut down the whole sport for a year.

Golf is now at a crossroads in terms of a major TV sports presence. With the rights fees stagnant, purse increases will not continue to spiral upward. That might cause some players/agents/promoters/tournament directors to use 'appearance fees' and 'other considerations' to get players to their events. That would be a BAD move; as soon as players can earn lots of money for something other than playing hard, you have the makings of a death spiral. Can the PGA demonstrate the leadership needed to avoid that kind of thing? Even more important, could it actually enforce any rules it might have or might enact related to that kind of thing? And what are they going to do about the cratering TV ratings for golf? Ratings are trending down in just about all circumstances even when Eldrick Woods does decide that it is worth his time to play. Woods makes a ton of money every year but probably 80% of it comes from something other than winning golf tournaments.

The Indy Racing League - you know, that's the organization that has a bunch of guys you've never heard of who are all jealous of Danica Patrick because she gets lots of publicity even though she can't win any of the races - has signed a deal with a new spokesperson. That would be Gene Simmons - the bass player for KISS. He must need money because he is also being featured in a Miller Lite commercial as an 'expert witness' on beer taste because he has a large tongue. I know that will convince me to drink more of that swill; how about you?

Simmons will do a song as part of the promotional activity titled I Am Indy. Simmons says that the song is 'a sort of personal allegiance to the United States of Indy.' And if that doesn't have your heart going pitter-patter, get this. Simmons will also design and produce a line of clothing that is 'Indy-related'. I hope that doesn't mean that it already has oil stains on it when you get it off the rack... The CEO for the Indy Racing League says this is 'very aggressive' and it is 'exactly what the IndyCar series really needs.' Pardon me while I yawn. I would rather clip my toenails than listen to I Am Indy and I would not use any of the new Indy clothing line for anything other than the business end of a torch.

The NCAA passed a new rule last week. This rule will prevent any college baseball teams from playing any games before the last Friday in February and will prevent any teams from practicing before February 1. This rule was put in because schools in the north felt they were at a disadvantage compared to schools in the south or the southwest where practices could begin much earlier and games could be played before northern schools could begin practices. While that is true, there is something to be said for the immutable facts of climate at various latitudes and longitudes on the planet. I wonder if those northern schools don't also enjoy a huge advantage in their ice hockey programs over schools in Texas or South Florida or Mississippi. I wonder if the NCAA even thought to consult with a few of the professors of meteorology at any of its member schools on this kind of thing. Probably not; that might give those professors an erroneous idea about the NCAA's interest in the 'scholar' part of 'scholar-athlete'.

Finally, a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

'Read that the coach of the US Olympic women's skeleton team has been accused of sexual harassment. The headline I hoped to see but didn't: 'Is Skeleton Coach Jumping Bones?' '

But don't get me wrong, I love sports... ... ...


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