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Newz Forum: OTHER: World Baseball Classic, Baseball in DC, Jim Fassel, Norv Turner plus more...

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posted on Jan, 27 2006 @ 02:08 PM
World Baseball Classic - to be played in the midst of MLB's Spring Training - has not captured any huge measure of attention. The reason might just be that there is nothing particularly interesting to say about it nor has there been any serious attempt on the part of MLB to put it in the public eye. The US Government's current position barring the Cuban team's participation might generate some headlines and some adrenaline in the policy wonk community, but Joe Sixpack doesn't seem to care. And now that Alex Rodriguez has wrestled with whatever demons he may have in his being over which team he ought to play for and how he will do so without dishonoring the team he chooses not to play for, even the longest running - albeit annoying - story about the World Baseball Classic is over. I can't wait until there's an early round game between Italy and the Netherlands; play that puppy in a balmy setting such as Yuma Arizona and maybe you draw 5000 folks...

The World Baseball Classic is very much like the Winter Olympics Ice Hockey competition. In the Olympics, you have teams representing countries but the core of those teams is built on NHL players who play for different squads in the NHL. It's like shuffling a deck of cards. That's what the World Baseball Classic comes down to. If I were going to find a sports model to emulate in order to build a new 'product', I think I'd go a long way before I chose Olympic Ice Hockey as my model because the widespread interest in Olympic Ice Hockey would have to magnify tenfold to qualify as 'minimal'.

Here's another 'entertainment model' I might be looking elsewhere to emulate. When March Madness rolls around, you can go to a sports bar - or to Las Vegas if you were smart enough to have planned ahead and gotten reservations - and see over a hundred hours of game telecasts in that first weekend. People do that because there's a huge interest in March Madness. At the moment, you may not be aware that ESPN2 is in the midst of showing 91 hours of television from the Australian Open tennis tournament. The reason you may not be aware of this is that you are likely to be one of the huge majority of people in the US who do not care even a little bit about the Australian Open. ESPN2 is not seeking to capture an audience and to 'brand' itself with that audience as a source of entertainment more than they are trying to avoid dead air. After all, there are just so many times they can replay the 2003, 2004 and 2005 World Series of Poker games or the Interplanetary Scrabble Championships.

Every time I note here that the folks who run the DC government have still not figured out a way to build the baseball stadium that they will need in order to keep the Nats in town, I get notes from people giving me the same arguments about how MLB is trying to rip off the city and how taxpayers shouldn't line the pockets of these rich owners. OK, I agree. Now, let's talk about reality. Those rich owners have a commodity - the Nats - that DC seems to want to acquire. Those rich owners have said that DC can have the Nats but at a price. Now, there is no inalienable right conferred on DC by The Almighty to have a baseball team in town, so they will get the team when they meet the price. And here's an update; they still haven't figured out if they will build the stadium or how they will pay for it.

Lost in the shuffle of that financial maelstrom is the plight of DC United of MLS. You may recall that the team was sold for a reported $26M a while back. The team had been operated by AEG, which seems to own and/or operate about half the teams in the league. (Conspiracy theorists take note; here is a league where you can generate stories of intrigue, conflicts of interest and interlocking loyalties and they could all be true!) But alas, the sale of DC United seems to have fallen through. Strangely, AEG has returned all of the money put on deposit by the prospective owners who have backed out of the deal. Even more strangely, AEG and the now-disillusioned owners are going to work together to build a new soccer stadium in one of the worst neighborhoods in DC. I have no idea where this story will go next, but if there is a news conference held by these folks any time soon, do not be surprised if it is interrupted by a white rabbit hopping along looking at this watch and saying, 'I'm late. I'm late - for a very important date...'

The New Orleans Saints have hired Sean Payton as their new head coach. Given the state of the Saints' ownership and the make-up of the team roster and the condition of the Saints' facilities in New Orleans and the brilliant leadership provided in New Orleans by Hizzoner the Mayor there, I think a psychologist might have sufficient information to diagnose Sean Payton with an advanced manifestation of masochism. Whatever; that situation will play itself out as time goes on. But it is interesting to note that the Saints paid exactly no attention whatsoever to the resolution passed unanimously by the New Orleans City Council saying that Doug Williams should be the coach of the Saints. And that is precisely as it should be. No one who has read these rants for any time now would think for a moment that I hold up Tom Benson as a paragon among NFL owners; I think he's a buffoon and a bumbler and his team's performances mirror that description of him. Nonetheless, even a bumbling buffoon of an owner is better equipped to choose the coach of a football team than an assemblage of politicians who couldn't figure out how to evacuate the city in a time of disaster.

Imagine for a moment that Jim Fassel is named the new head coach in Buffalo and is introduced to the Buffalonians by Marv Levy. Now put in your mind the picture where Levy and Fassell are standing at a podium each raising the other's hand in a victory gesture. You have that image, right? Here's the caption:

Fassel and the Fossil

Remember the character in L'il Abner who had no vowels in his name and was perennially under his own dark cloud? In the NFL, Norv Turner might be that guy. His first head coaching job was in DC just as Jack Kent Cooke was dying and the ownership of the team in a state of flux for about two or three years; then Danny Boy Snyder took over and started making football decisions all of which were wrong; after time with the Dolphins where he had no decent QB to work with, he went to work for Al Davis in Oakland to no avail. And now according to, he will take over as the offensive coordinator with the SF 49ers where he will have highly suspect quarterbacking, a mediocre set of running backs, an offensive line whose performance is truly offensive and a pass receiving corps that might someday be characterized as 'ordinary'. Good luck with that, Norv.

Finally, Gregg Drinnan of the Kamloops Daily News had this comment by former NC State center, Charles Shackleford, on his ambidexterity in a recent column:

'Left hand, right hand it doesn't matter. I'm amphibious.'

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


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