While watching Pardon the Interruption yesterday, I learned that Johnny Weir has gotten hate mail from lots of folks and has posted some of it
somewhere in the Internet. Tony Kornheiser said that people ought to consider Bode Miller a bigger athletic failure than Johnny Weir based on the
Olympics but that no one has heard anything about Bode Miller since then. That prompted me to go to www.joinbode.com to see what was happening there.
That was the website that Nike had flogged to death in their unending commercials 'starring' Bode. Guess what...
The site is defunct. If you go there, all you see is an 'artistic rendering' of some trees and a note thanking visitors for sharing 'your beliefs,
your convictions, your creeds, yourselves.' They shared all that on a website and all that's left is a silly drawing of some trees? And then the
message closes with, 'You all made Join Bode more than a website. You helped build a forest.' Excuse me, but how do you build a forest? Certainly
not with a pile of two-by-fours.
A while ago, I commented that the new MLS team in Houston had been named 'The 1836'. That was supposed to honor the year that Houston was founded but
it also happened to be the year that the Alamo fell. Well, many of the people in the Houston area of Mexican heritage didn't particularly like that
coincidence. The team owners recognized that the best way for a new team to get a toehold in a community does not involve using a nickname that
generates controversy, so the owners decided to change the name. OK, so the team is now the Houston Dynamo. Frankly, that's a better name on just
about every level as far as I'm concerned. Here's the rub.
They made the announcement of the name change on March 6. That seems pretty harmless until you go back to your history books and learn that it was on
March 6, 1836 that the Alamo fell. So, the changing of the name got linked back to the Alamo and that prompted people who liked the original name to
sound off in protest and start an e-mail campaign against the new name. Sometimes you just can't win for losing.
Here's another minor league promotion that ought to be interesting - only this time it comes from hockey and not baseball. The Las Vegas Wranglers
play in the East Coast Hockey League. It would be easy for them to hold a night where they give out road atlases to the first 500 customers to show
just how one might get from Las Vegas to the East Coast, but there's no creativity there. Instead, this Friday night, the Wranglers will host 'Dick
Cheney Hunting Vest Night' when they play the Alaska Aces - another team that seems to have difficulty understanding the concept of the East Coast.
The first 1000 fans will get orange hunting vests emblazoned with the note:
'Don't Shoot, I'm Human'
I hope the Wranglers actually get 1000 folks to go to that game. Look at the competition they face. This is the opening weekend of the NCAA
Basketball tournament so lots of folks in Vegas will be focused on action there. And on top of that, Friday is St. Patrick's Day. They might have
vests left over...
And since I just mentioned the opening of the tournament later today, I read that someone estimated that between 3.5 and 4.5 billion dollars were
wagered on the tournament last year and this year the 'handle' is expected to rise. PinnacleSports.com said it expected the online wagering total to
exceed $1.3B; Las Vegas sportsbooks predict that their handle will be at least $90M. Even the NCAA seems to have taken a small step into the realm of
reality on this issue. The NCAA will have a few folks in Las Vegas working with - not in opposition to - the folks who run the sportsbooks. The idea
is that the NCAA may learn how the sportsbooks spot warning signs of games that might not be 'on the up and up'.
Maybe someday in the far future, the NCAA will admit what it has to realize already. The NCAA basketball tournament - and all college sports played
at this level of skill and at this level of public interest - is fundamentally focused on money, television and gambling (in that order). Money is
the driver because that is what the NCAA exists to accumulate; television is second on the list because television provides the lion's share of the
money that the NCAA accumulates; gambling is at the foundation of all this because it is the gambling interest held by such a large number of people
that focuses their attention on these NCAA games and drives television ratings up so that advertisers pay the networks who pay the NCAA. As Deep
Throat told Woodward and Bernstein, you get to the bottom of things if you 'follow the money'. That's how you follow the money when it comes to NCAA
sports. And oh, by the way, the same thing applies to the NFL too and they don't like to admit it either...
If you think I'm being a bit simplistic with my argument that top shelf NCAA sports are about money/television/gambling in that order, please tell me
why the NIT continues to exist now that the NCAA 'owns it'. It's about money generated by TV and other than immediate fans for individual schools the
rest of the viewership for those games is likely dominated by people with action on the games or people doing research for action on a future game.
Think about it, the purpose of the NIT can't be an excuse for these scholar-athletes to miss a few more classes. Can it?
I just realized that the tournament starts in just a few hours and I haven't read anywhere who Rick Neuheisel has in his Final Four. Gotta go do a
Google search on that...
Professor Diane Swanson from the business school at Kansas State told the KC Star that US companies will lose about $1.5 billion in productivity this
week while workers fill out their tournament brackets and check on the results of early games. Here is what was missing from her analysis:
Professor Swanson neglected to estimate to what degree the relentless pursuit of knowledge - so prized in academia - was retarded while she sought to
calculate such a meaningless figure.
Finally, a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
'Swedish tennis great Bjorn Borg, tapped out by several business failures and two costly divorces, is hoping to raise over $500,000 by auctioning off
his five Wimbledon trophies and two rackets.
'To spice up the festivities we hear, departing contestants receive a complimentary 'Bjorn to Lose' tattoo.'
But don't get me wrong, I love sports... ... ...