Thursday, November 30, 2006

National Football League expansion in the next six years – here’s the plan

Wednesday was a great day for those interested in bringing an NFL franchise to Toronto. The inevitable destiny of Toronto becoming home to either a relocated National Football League team or an expansion franchise took a giant step forward Wednesday after comments NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made to Reuters, making it clear as a bright, cool, crisp Canadian day – faith will be rewarded, within the next six years the NFL is heading to Toronto.

“We can envision that,'' Goodell said of expansion outside the United States, in response to a question. “I don't know if it will become a reality, but it's certainly a possibility.

“The closer to the border, probably the more likely from a geographic standpoint; but I don't think in today's world that's a hurdle to overcome,” he added in the Reuters report.

As a matter of record, Toronto is 44 miles from the American border (Toronto to Niagara Falls, New York) and Mexico City 1,445 miles (Mexico City to San Diego).

Goodell going on the record and suggesting in no uncertain terms the NFL is looking at international expansion is in stark contrast from the long standing position of his predecessor Paul Tagliabue.

“What I said about possible expansion to L.A. is that to me that the only possibility in the foreseeable future for an expansion team would be Los Angeles. I could not see, at least now, a decision that would involve a two team expansion. So if there is expansion I would think it would leave us with an odd number of teams for some period of time, which we have had in the past, most recently when we had Cleveland back in the League, but not Houston. We had 31 teams and that's been a pattern that has been in the NFL in the past. So I don't see expansion in Canada as being related to what we might do in Los Angeles” Tagliabue commented at his Super Bowl XL conference.

It’s really important to understand when speaking at the Super Bowl, or any public event, Tagliabue always said what was considered politically correct. It served no purpose for Tagliabue to suggest the NFL is interested in expanding into Toronto. It wouldn’t be considered politically correct. Why then the dramatic reversal by Goodell?

The NFL wants to expand to Los Angeles. Paul Tagliabue made it his mission to place an NFL franchise back in Los Angeles before he left as commissioner on August 31. What began in 1996, a year after both the Rams and Raiders left Los Angeles without an NFL franchise for the first time in 29 years, Tagliabue committed himself to ensuring the NFL’s return to Los Angeles.

His last and failed final effort took place at the NFL meetings on March 28, and ended with a visit to Los Angeles in May. Everyone from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the right things, but no one said what needed to be said, we’ll find a way to make this work. Despite where the NFL is today in their seemingly futile efforts to find a sucker willing to invest $2 billion in building a stadium and paying a $1 billion expansion fee for the rights to Los Angeles, in the next ten years the NFL will find a way to expand to Los Angeles. Most NFL owners are billionaires and they became very rich by understanding how to make big deals work. Maybe not today and not tomorrow, but NFL owners need Los Angeles and Los Angeles might need the NFL.

Once the NFL finds its way to expand into Los Angeles, here’s where Toronto becomes the obvious choice for a 34th franchise. Despite comments Paul Tagliabue made at Super Bowl XL, the NFL has always expanded by two. It makes no sense whatsoever to add only one franchise, the scheduling headaches are enormous. The NFL’s bye weekends allow every franchise to open and close their seasons at the same time. History dictates the NFL will continue to follow that thought process.

By moving into Canada the effect on the American television market would be nil, properly positioned a Toronto based NFL franchise could be marketed as a ‘national’ franchise. Canadians do not react well to Torontonians believing they are the center of Canada’s universe. The team could play a pre-season game in Montreal, Toronto or Edmonton and hold their training camp in the Ottawa area. In other words, build the teams’ brand as Canadian, and be sensitive towards Canadians. A Toronto based franchise will be great for the business of the NFL, and the franchise can be positioned as a national franchise. That would give the NFL access to more then 35 million people.

The issues the NFL is having with selling the NFL Network are going to force the NFL to expand by at least two teams in the next six years. The NFL who rarely fail at anything have to be ‘concerned’ about the distribution issues the three year old cable network is facing. The NFL Network was in 41 million homes when the NFL training camps began in late July, and four months later with the NFL Network’s second game set for tonight, there isn’t much of a chance the NFL Network will be in more homes by seasons end. Time Warner, Charter Communications and Cablevision need more incentive before they’re going to consider adding the NFL Network.

In five years (this year is the first of a series of six year agreements) the NFL will add season long Thursday and Saturday night games. There will be a number of issues with weekly Thursday and Saturday nights games, one of which will be preserving the integrity of as many Sunday NFL games as possible. The NFL owns Sunday’s, but having a weekly money making taste of Thursday and Saturday night games is just what the NFL Network needs. However to make that work, the NFL needs more teams to be able to schedule more games, thus the need to expand by at least two franchises before the next TV contract is negotiated.

There are those who believe American markets exist that could be home to an NFL expansion franchise other than Los Angeles. San Antonio’s Alamodome seats just over 58,000 for football, and the good citizens of San Antonio won’t build a new football stadium. Orlando, don’t kid yourself. The Citrus Bowl isn’t big enough, and Orlando is a tourist driven economy, and a transient population traditionally has never been a good formula for supporting a football franchise. Hartford, that plan died on the vine when Robert Kraft used the interest the Connecticut city had in building a new stadium for the Patriots to leverage Hartford’s interest in keeping the team in Massachusetts. Las Vegas has long been interested in an NFL franchise – as long as Vegas sports books allow betting on football (more then $40 million a year), that will never happen.

There has also been some discussion about two expansion franchises being added to the Los Angeles market. That doesn’t make any sense. There are enough concerns regarding the viability of the NFL in the Los Angeles market. Many believe the market is well served by the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins. Putting two franchises into a market doesn’t make any sense. That said, the NFL needs to put one franchise into the Los Angeles market, and it needs to do that sooner rather then later. It will be challenging enough to make one franchise work in the Los Angeles market, two expansion teams is nonsensical.

There have been talks about placing an expansion franchise in Mexico City. The Hispanic market is very important to the NFL but the security concerns a team in Latin America would represent to the players and their families it’s never going to take place. With all due respect, the NFL Players Association will never allow the league to expand to Mexico City without the league and/or the team assuming astronomical personal security for athlete and their each family member. Imagine Denzel Washington’s 2004 film “Man on Fire” in a real life situation with an NFL player or a member of his family. Even better when Toronto presents their expansion bid, here’s how Toronto can highlight how terrible a choice Mexico City will be. As Toronto finishes their bid presentation, has a 60 inch plasma TV and a DVD player set up. Denzel walks in the room, removes “Man of Fire” from its case, pops in the movie (having never uttered a word), turns on the DVD player, the movie starts and two hours later Mexico City will be a distant NFL expansion memory.

Larry Tanenbaum has consistently shown a strong interest in playing with the ‘big boys’. He should have been awarded the NBA’s Toronto expansion franchise in 1994. He took care of the NBA’s mistake a few short years later and now runs Canada’s largest sports company – Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. You have to believe Larry Tanenbaum has waited a long time to be king of the castle. When Larry Tanenbaum wants something he has the drive and determination to find a way to get it done. For Larry Tanenbaum this is the opportunity he has worked a lifetime to achieve.

Despite comments from Ted Rogers that suggested he wasn’t interested in taking a leadership role in financing an NFL franchise, Rogers is too smart a business man to not want to play an important role in bringing the NFL to Toronto. Rogers understands content is king. An NFL franchise would represent untold content for his all-sports radio stations, cable sports network and other media platforms. When Rogers (the company) purchased the Blue Jays, Ted Rogers (the CEO) made it clear he believed a tremendous synergy could be created between the Blue Jays and every facet of the Rogers media empire.

Paul Godfrey president of the Toronto Blue Jays has proven on numerous occasions he has the ability to bring people and money together to create what he believes are world-class opportunities for Toronto. First as Mayor of Toronto he played a key role in bringing the Blue Jays to Toronto and then as head of Toronto City Council Godfrey again played a key role in the building of the Rogers Center. His biggest dream has always been an NFL franchise – he’s consumed by that goal, and with a proven track record he’ll find a way to get the deal done. He’s a dealmaker who gets deals done.

The Rogers Centre can be retrofitted to meet NFL standards, increasing the seating capacity to around 70,000. There are logistics in getting this done, but none of them are insurmountable.

The NFL can make whatever politically correct statements they believe they need to make about the future of the CFL and expanding into Canada, but at the end of the day Roger Goodell as the NFL’s eighth commissioner is responsible for creating new revenue sources for his 32 bosses, the 32 men who hired him. During Paul Tagliabue’s 17 years, the NFL added four teams who collectively paid expansion fees totaling $1.54 billion. Two franchises each paying a $1 billion expansion fee will make Roger Goodell look like God to his 32 bosses. Goodell has every incentive to make it work.

The bottom line, the NFL needs at least two more franchises in the next six years if the NFL Network is ever going to work. Goodell also revised the NFL Network’s subscriber goals telling Reuters the NFL Network’s short-term goals are to be in 50 million homes and in 60 million homes long-term. Clearly the NFL has dramatically downsized their expectations relating to where they want the NFL Network to be, but be very clear, the NFL knows they need more games on Thursdays and Saturdays if they are ever going to make the NFL Network work, and that is only going to take place with more NFL teams. Toronto – are you ready for some NFL football. Only Los Angeles and Toronto can make this work for both the NFL and their respective cities.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: Reuters.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Yet another shinning example of what’s wrong with the secondary ticket market

It seems every few weeks another story emerges suggesting in no uncertain terms the secondary ticket marketplace is a market out of control, heading towards a dangerous place in terms of perception, ethics and proper business practices. Once again, at the center of what remains a new revenue stream for professional sports franchises, are the mixed message being delivered. In this case, the New England Patriots are suing StubHub, despite StubHub having partnership agreements with eight National Football League franchises. The secondary ticket market reads a lot like the classic Abbott and Costello “who’s on first” routine.

Last Tuesday, the New England Patriots filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court against StubHub and two Patriots season ticket holders for what the Patriots believe is the illegal resale of tickets to Patriots home games. According to a report in The Boston Globe, the Patriots are seeking an award of three times the revenue StubHub and the other defendants brought in through the online sales, plus an injunction against further resale of Patriots tickets on the StubHub website.

And here’s where the NFL is normally the master of their own domain when it comes to everything associated with the National Football League and better begin to understand the scope of the problem the league will be facing in the not too distant future. The Patriots entertained the Chicago Bears Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. The Bears are one of eight NFL franchises who have a partnership agreement with StubHub. The other seven teams: Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, and Washington Redskins. How in the minds of the New England Patriots can StubHub be considered ticket scalpers, but are partners with the franchise the Patriots played on Sunday in Foxboro. One of the keys to any sponsorship is doing what you can to reasonably help your partners business grow. Would it not be incumbent for the Bears to have directed Bears fans who wanted to attend Sunday’s game in Foxboro to their partner StubHub if they where interested in tickets to the sold out game. However, what happens if football fans directed by the Chicago Bears inadvertently become tangled up in the Patriots/StubHub lawsuit – what message is being sent out?

And what happens when the Patriots next visit the Nation’s Capital and Patriots Nation wanted to accompany their team on the road making it a weekend road trip. FedEx Field may seat more than 93,000, but the Redskins sellout their season before the team plays a down of football. If you want tickets to Redskins games you’re forced to deal with the Redskins secondary ticket partner, StubHub, the company the Patriots are suing. When you consider the terms of the Redskins agreement with StubHub you better believe the Redskins and StubHub have an outstanding working relationship.

The Washington Post reported that StubHub pays the Redskins $5 million annually for their sponsorship. StubHub retains all of the revenue from the resale of Redskins tickets.

Karl Swanson, a spokesman for Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, made it clear to Heath the Redskins has no issues with their secondary ticket partner, StubHub.

"We have never been concerned with individual ticket holders selling individual tickets," Swanson said. "Our concern has been with blocks of tickets."

Have the Redskins sued fans who attempt to use StubHub’s competitors or others means (eBay, Craig’s List) to resell their tickets? No, but that doesn’t mean you either play the game the way the Redskins want it played or you don’t play it at all.

"We had the Redskins a couple of years ago taking tickets from people who had big accounts," said Jeff Greenberg, owner of ASC, a ticket broker in Rockville in the Washington Post report. "We had them last year going on eBay to see that people were listing their tickets on eBay and taking them right away from people. But this story is a 180-degree switch. . . . They have teamed up with these people just to get a piece of this pie."

The Philadelphia Eagles sold out their remaining tickets for the 2006 season an hour after putting tickets on sale on June 14. According to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, moments after game day tickets where unavailable at face value, the Eagles posted a notice on their website: "Still looking for tickets? Go to where fans can buy or sell tickets... "

The reaction in football crazy Philadelphia was swift and to the point.

"When this happened, we got a flood of calls from people who said the ticket sales [from the Eagles Web site] were closed in a matter of seconds, literally seconds," said WIP-AM sports-talk host Angelo Cataldi.

"Now regular Joes can't go see a game unless they pay four or five times the value, and the team is actually suggesting that they go to scalpers," said Tony, a longtime Eagles fan who declined to give his last name to the Daily News.

The Eagles where just as quick to react when suggestions arose the Eagles where working hand-in-hand with secondary tickets sellers.

. "This is crazy," said Eagles president Joe Banner.

"The same number of single-game tickets were available this year as last year, and it's more than when we were at the Vet," Banner said. "What was different this year was that, in response to fan complaints, we made them available through the Internet as well as Ticketmaster, so they went that much more quickly."

Nevertheless the optics aren’t just bad, aren’t just terrible, they’re embarrassing. TicketsNow Chief Executive Mike Domek was a broker for seven years, a ticket scalper working the phones. Now according to a Business News report: his business employs 100 people and generates annual revenue north of $40 million from online sales and the licensing of its listings, which allows smaller online brokers to have access to a ticket inventory, and that was 18 months ago.

Earlier this month on the eve of hosting the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the guy who used to work out of his basement hustling tickets reached a seven-year extension with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

" has been an excellent partner of the Pirates since PNC Park opened in 2001. Like our organization, they continue to strive to deliver an improved customer service experience," said Tim Schuldt, Pirates Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Broadcasting. "We plan to take advantage of any future ticketing technology enhancements to ensure our fans receive the highest quality ticketing experience possible."

"We've had an excellent partnership with the Pirates for the past five years and are excited about the opportunity to continue to bring new innovations that will help the Pirates in their constant effort to improve the fan experience," said Andy Donkin, co-president of

If the consumer is confused about who they can’t and can deal with when it comes to reselling tickets, bewilderment reigned supreme during the Major League Baseball playoffs.

Prior to their first round elimination at the hands of Detroit Tigers, the New York Yankees sent a not so subtle message to their ticket holders – try and sell your tickets on the open market and you’ll lose the right to buy your tickets next year. The Yankees response, exactly what you’d expect for the Evil Empire – sheer arrogance and gall.

“It’s a violation of our policy to resell tickets,” Lonn A. Trost, the Yankees’ chief operating officer told The New York Times. “It’s in our contract. If you don’t want to sign it, you don’t have to buy tickets.”

As offensive as Trost’s suggestion was, Trost told the New York Times, the Yankees were getting ready to launch their own secondary ticket agency.

“Times change,” he said. “You re-examine everything.”

Sports might be a half trillion dollar industry, but when it comes to managing and monitoring the secondary ticket marketplace, Alphonse and Gaston, and the Keystone Cops could do a better job than most sports franchises. Picking the biggest obscenity in the secondary ticket marketplace is a lot like deciding what is the most offensive remark Michael Irvin has made during his ‘career’ as a broadcaster. There are so many to choose from, it’s impossible to choose.

However, the Detroit Tigers took the secondary ticket marketplace to a new level during the World Series. The Tigers managed to provide ‘enterprising’ Tigers season ticket holders with an opportunity to circumvent City of Detroit and Michigan scalping laws in letting the marketplace determine how much tickets for the first two games of the World Series could be sold for.

The Tigers offered their season ticket holders (as they have throughout the entire 2006 season) an opportunity to resell tickets at what the Tigers call their “Tigers Ticket Exchange”. How does the Tigers Ticket Exchange work, according to the Tigers website, explained as simple as this -- Season ticket holders, now you can use the Tigers Ticket Exchange to resell your 2006 postseason tickets for games at Comerica Park!

If you can't use all of your postseason tickets, you can make them available to other Tigers fans with this efficient and easy-to-use service. As a full season ticket holder, you post your available unused tickets and name the price you want for each ticket.

Buyers can view and select the tickets that meet their game, price and seat location needs. The Tigers Ticket Office conducts the transaction from season ticket holder to purchaser to ensure a safe and secure exchange.

All payments are made directly to the Tigers. Tickets are e-mailed to the buyer and they are able to print their tickets at home. If a potential postseason game is not played, the Tigers Ticket Office will refund the purchase to the new ticket buyer. It's that easy!

However, while it may be easy, the Tigers Ticket Exchange operates under the principal of the free market system. The system allows Tigers season ticket holders to sell tickets at whatever price they determine. The Wednesday night before Saturday’s game one of the 2006 World Series, there were 169 different ticket offers. Tickets with a face value of $250 per ticket, a ticket price established by Major League Baseball, were offered at a cost of $8250 per ticket. The least expensive tickets with a face value of $75 where being offered at a cost of $572 per ticket.

The obscenity only began with the Tigers creation of a Ticket Exchange board. Selling tickets above face value is illegal both in the City of Detroit and in the State of Michigan. However, the Tigers are working within the bounds of the law because the law doesn’t apply to tickets sold by Tigers. World Series tickets are being sold well above face value through eBay, StubHub, Razorgator and all of the usual suspects. However, none of those would be considered legal in Detroit or in Michigan. And the Tigers, and here’s the real kicker – collect 10 percent, the Vig, the Juice, their cut of the pie. But because the Tigers were the ‘rights holder’ they are free to sell the tickets for whatever they’d like.

For their part in regards to the Patriots lawsuit against StubHub (criminal to some, partner to others) when it comes to dealing with whether or not they’re actually ticket scalpers, StubHub loves talking about their friends, but not their enemies and those who don’t appreciate or understand the unique opportunity they believe they’re offering sports fans.

"StubHub is a champion for the rights of fans to be able to gain access to tickets for events they want to see and a platform to sell the tickets they cannot use," the statement said. "Every individual is subject to our user agreement which obligates them to abide by their local and state regulations with respect to ticket resale," the company released in a statement.

Earlier this month “TicketLiquidator” sent out a release proclaiming the company was ready to challenge StubHub for ‘king of the ticket scalping hill’. The public relations agency representing “TicketLiquidator” offered Sports Business News the opportunity to help “TicketLiquidator” usher in their new era by interviewing “TicketLiquidator’s” CEO Don Vaccaro. SBN was interested in talking with Mr. Vaccaro, but the focus of the interview would address whether or not the secondary ticket marketplace serves as nothing more than a platform for ticket scalping, SBN was thanked for our interest but Mr. Vaccaro would not be available. There’s no issue whatsoever with Mr. Vaccaro’s declining an opportunity to be interviewed, but the sooner secondary ticket operators understand if they’re selling tickets above face value, they’re nothing more than scalpers dressed differently, the sooner they’ll earn respect.

Scalping tickets (selling tickets for more than $2 above face value) is illegal in Massachusetts. According to the Boston Globe, Boston’s four major sports teams – the Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics and New England Patriots have all either launched or will be setting up their own secondary ticket marketplace in the not too distant future.

"It appears that the current law is obviously not working," said state Representative Michael Morrissey, a Democrat from Quincy in a Boston Globe report. "I applaud the actions of the Patriots, but the question is, how does that stop the guy on the corner from reselling the ticket? They'd never know about it if the person didn't list the ticket on StubHub."

Daniel Goldberg, the attorney representing the Patriots, offered the unique ‘spin’ lawyers are infamous for to the Boston Globe.

"If you're encouraging people to list their tickets for sale, if you're doing that knowing that these tickets have an expressed prohibition against reselling and they're not telling them what the risks are, I think that's an issue," he said.

"Our experience is that as the listings on StubHub have increased, so also have the number of people who show up at the stadium with invalid tickets," Goldberg said.

What’s so surprising about one NFL franchise suing a corporate partner of eight other NFL teams is how closely the NFL protects its corporate partners. On November 7, 1995 Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys filed a $750 million lawsuit against the NFL, charging that NFL Properties is an illegal cartel and seeking to have it dissolved as the exclusive licensing and marketing agent for all 30 teams (in 1995 the NFL had 30 teams).

The NFL had sued Jones for $300 million in September 1995 after Jones reached sponsorship agreements with Pepsi and Nike for Texas Stadium that went directly against market exclusivity the NFL had in certain sponsor categories. Both sides reached an out of court settlement, but at the end of the day Jones backed down to the ‘power of the master’ the NFL.

Would the National Football League ever seriously consider a league sponsorship with a secondary ticket operator? Never, it wouldn’t make sense to potentially taint the NFL’s brand with the perception of being directly linked to anyone selling NFL tickets for more than face value. Leave that to other sports leagues; leave that to those ‘desperate’ enough to accept money from anyone. But in ignoring the various local and/or team operated secondary ticketing agreements; the NFL may indeed be making a big mistake. For a business so focused on delivering a unified message on everything, the NFL is setting itself up for embarrassment when it comes to the optics of how their member’s teams are dealing with the secondary ticket marketplace.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: The Boston Globe and The New York Times

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Time to vote “Big Mac” Mark McGwire into the Baseball Hall of Fame

The Baseball Writers Association of America released the nominees for the 2007 Baseball Hall of Fame Monday. "Iron Man" Cal Ripken Jr., and eight-time National League batting champion Tony Gwynn are certain to appear on 75 percent of the ballots in their first time they’ll appear. A player needs to appear on 75 percent of the ballots if they are going to be enshrined in Cooperstown. There are 15 other former Major League Baseball players appearing for the first time – none that has captured more attention than Mark McGwire, the first player in history to hit 70 homers during a single season and a member of baseball’s 500 home run club.

Ripken played his entire career with the Baltimore Orioles, Gwynn with the San Diego Padres. As retired players both men are furthering their roles as statesmen, giving back to the sport. Ripken is building youth baseball facilities, Gwynn the head baseball coach at his alma mater, San Diego State University. Both men are what the Baseball Hall of Fame is all about – each having made outstanding contributions to the sport both on and off the diamond.

McGwire is an entirely different case. Statistically Mark McGwire deserves to be recognized with induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Not in his first year, but in the not too distant future.

On Tuesday, January 9 McGwire will finally understand the full affect of his testimony before his March 2005 Congressional Steroid Hearings. McGwire ruined a reputation he took a lifetime to build by not admitting he ever used steroids (as Jose Canseco has suggested McGwire had done in the book he had written). McGwire not only refused to acknowledge (or refute them) the allegations Canseco made about him, he broke down and cried at the hearing. Because McGwire is eligible for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in January, this will be one of the most anticipated Hall of Fame voting results in baseball history.

Will the members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America vote McGwire into the Baseball Hall of Fame when he first appears on the ballot. Every member of baseball’s 500 career home run record was elected in his first year of eligibility. Will McGwire’s 583 home runs, seventh highest total in baseball history be enough for enshrinement into Cooperstown, or will McGwire be banned because he refused to answer questions and cried?

It’s not a question with an easy answer, but if baseball writers are prepared to reject McGwire’s Hall of Fame candidacy they’ll be forced to treat each and every member of the so called steroid generation the same way. And if baseball writers keep McGwire from the Baseball Hall of Fame will innuendos concerning Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds block their entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame. McGwire, Palmeiro, Sosa and Bonds have all hit at least 500 homes runs in their careers.

Only one of the four (Palmeiro) has tested for the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Do the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America have the right to judge anyone when they haven’t been proven guilty of anything? And does anyone really believe only McGwire, Palmeiro, Sosa and Bonds allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs?

"I turned in my Baseball Writers' card this year, specifically so I wouldn't have to vote on cheaters after possibly already having voted in cheaters without knowing so, because there was no steroids testing at the time.", Dave Newhouse, The Oakland (Calif.) Tribune.

Why was Newhouse ever a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America? It takes courage and conviction and principals to stand by your beliefs. Steroids, performance-enchacing drugs are a part of this era in baseball. Choose not to vote for McGwire, choose to vote for McGwire but by choosing to run and hide Mr. Newhouse is a coward – nothing more and a great deal less.

"I'm going to vote for him. I can't say I feel good about voting for him. ... Just as baseball allowed Gaylord Perry to go out and cheat his way to 300 wins - which got him to the Hall of Fame - it allowed McGwire and all of these players to compile their stats and break their records and earn their money and accolades based on those feats. So I think I'm stuck with evaluating what the sport allowed to happen on the field. Either the '90s happened or they didn't. Since they happened, and the hundreds of players using whatever they used leveled the playing field to some extent, I feel more comfortable voting for players like McGwire than I do trying to pick and choose who did what, and when, and why." - Jayson Stark, ESPN.

Exactly the point Mr. Stark.

Monday the Associated Press announced the results of a poll of Hall of Fame voters regarding McGwire that followed up a recent New York Times poll. The results of both polls where predictable – overwhelmingly against McGwire.

The Associated Press, like the New York Times offered no information as to who they polled and how they collected their data. According to the Associated Press, they surveyed about 20 percent of eligible voters, and only one in four who gave an opinion plan to vote for McGwire this year. That's far short of the 75 percent necessary to gain induction. In fact, the ‘anger’ Hall of Fame voters have towards McGwire is so intense; McGwire might fall short of 5 percent needed to stay on future ballots. If that were to take place, the Baseball Writers Association of America would lose any respect, any credibility they’d like to believe they have.

"There is a clause on the ballot indicating that character should be considered and after his nonperformance at the congressional hearings his character certainly comes into play," Dayton Daily News' Hal McCoy told The Associated Press.

Other voters believe that once you’re elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, you can’t be thrown out of the Hall of Fame. The pages of Sports Business News rarely offer much support for the ‘activities’ associated with hockey, but give the Hockey Hall of Fame all the credit they deserve for tossing convicted embezzler Alan Eagleson out of the Hockey Hall of Fame. On March 25, 1998, Eagleson was faced with two options either resign or face a vote the following week by the Hockey Hall of Fame directors on whether or not Eagleson would be forcibly removed. Eagleson choose to leave. If McCoy is as he is suggesting using character as a factor in voting, it’s time McCoy stood by his convictions and began the removal of Ty Cobb, and others of ‘questionable’ character already in the Hall of Fame.

The AP contacted 125 of the approximately 575 present or former members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who are eligible to cast ballots.

And the breakdown was:

• 74 will not vote for McGwire.

• 23 will vote for him.

• 16 are undecided.

• 5 refused to say.

• 5 aren't allowed to vote by their employers.

• 2 will abstain from voting.

The New York Times poll was conducted in late July, around the time of the 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame weekend. A sample of 50 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America indicated like the Associated Press poll there is little if any chance Mark McGwire, the first of the ‘infamous four’ eligible for election in January, will receive approval of 75% of the ballots.

In a poll of 50 writers who are eligible to vote for the Hall as 10-year members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, only eight said they would vote for McGwire, a former first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Oakland Athletics. Twenty-six said they would not vote for McGwire, and the other 16 were undecided. The Times acknowledged 50 represents but a fraction of the total eligible voters (a record 520 ballots where filled out this year when Bruce Sutter was elected).

“This might sound overly simplistic, but if McGwire did not feel the need to defend his career while appearing before Congress, why should I certify his career with a Hall vote?” Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News told the New York Times.

Steve Buckley of The Boston Herald said the refusal to talk about steroids would cause him not to vote for McGwire. “Whenever someone asks me to expand on my answer, I simply say, ‘I’m not here to talk about the past,’ ” he said.

Jeff Blair of The Toronto Globe and Mail, who said he would vote for McGwire, said: “Please spare me the drivel about McGwire’s performance before Congress. Seems to me that stonewalling congressmen is an accepted fact of life on Capitol Hill.”

There are two very important issues that are paramount in anyone entrusted with the honor of voting for enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Before 2004 it was legal to use steroids in America. It was however illegal to distribute and sell steroids. It has been illegal to use steroids since 2004. The 1991 Drug Act permitted the use of steroids by prescription (schedule III drug), not otherwise. However, the 2004 Act reclassified steroids into a tougher classification and explicitly bans possession.

Baseball didn’t begin a comprehensive drug testing program until 2004. However it is worthwhile remembering then commissioner Fay Vincent issued a memo in 1991 stating: "The possession, sale or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance by Major League players and personnel is strictly prohibited ... [and those players involved] are subject to discipline by the Commissioner and risk permanent expulsion from the game.... This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs and controlled substances, including steroids…"

MLB had a “Paper Mache drug testing policy” before the 2005 season. It may have been illegal to use performance-enhancing drugs since Vincent’s 1991 memo, but without a drug testing program in place the policy was nothing more then words on a paper – meaningless.

Associated Press baseball columnist Ben Walker suggested in a column published Friday that “Sadly, Steroids Saved Baseball”. Walker like many who follow the business of baseball believes the 1998 single season home record chase between McGwire and Sosa captured the attention of a nation, and brought baseball back from the depth of the 1994 strike that resulted in the cancellation of the 1994 World Series.

MLB attendance for the 1995 season was 50,469,236, an average of 25,022 fans per game. Three years later in the “Summer of Baseball Love” with McGwire and Sosa hitting home runs on a daily basis, overall attendance increased by more then a remarkable 40 percent to 70,601,147, an average of 29,054. Since the 1998 season MLB attendance has surpassed at least 70 million fans each season with the exception of 2002 (67,944,389) and 2003 (67,630,052). For all anger, innuendos and observations made by the media in the aftermath of the March 2005 congressional steroid hearings, baseball fans reacted by filling ballparks to unprecedented numbers, establishing a single season attendance mark of 74,385,295. MLB officials expect the sport to post even higher overall attendance numbers this year. Baseball fans have spoken with one voice and made it loud and clear – they could care less about, and yes they ‘dig the long ball’.

McGwire would have been a long shot for first time election into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. Two of the games immortals – Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn are also appearing for the first time on a Hall of Fame ballot.

Ripken is the sports “Iron Man” having established the record for consecutive games played at 2,632 games surpassing the record of the immortal Lou Gehirg’s record of 2130. Ripken beat Gehrig’s mark on September 5, 1995. The game televised on ESPN still ranks as one of the network's highest watched non-football games ever. When the game became official in the bottom of the fifth inning, the numbers that had been keeping track of Ripken's streak on the wall of the B&O Warehouse outside the stadium's right field wall turned from 2130 to 2131. The standing ovation Cal received lasted 22 minutes and 16 seconds. Ripken went 2 for 4, hitting a home run and a double in the game. Mike Mussina recorded the win.

Gwynn’s credentials are nearly as impressive. In an era when professional athletes change uniforms, loyalties for what seems like a dollar or two, Gwynn like Ripen played his entire career for one organization. Ripken with the Baltimore Orioles and Gwynn with the San Diego Padres. Over 20 years with the Padres, Gwynn collected more then 3,000 hits (3,141) and has a career batting average of .338.

Jack O’Connell, the secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers’ Association, and the man who handles the ballots, raised the issue of McGwire as a first time hall of fame selection on merit alone, not considering whether or not Mark McGwire has earned a first ballot selection into Cooperstown.

O’Connell pointed out that Harmon Killebrew, who had 573 homers during an era in which it was tougher to hit home runs, did not gain admittance to the Hall until his fourth year of eligibility. McGwire’s career mark stands at 583.

The real shame of the 2007 Baseball Hall of Fame voting, this should be a time of joy for Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn. In an era when athletes change teams and uniforms as often as they change their underwear, both men played more than 20 years; their entire baseball careers for one team. That is unquestionably not the resume of today’s athlete. Ripken and Gwynn are athletes from a bygone era, a period when sports was more about children’s games being played by adults. Sports is a half trillion dollar business today, men like Ripken and Gwynn are no longer ‘local heroes’.

"I think he's a Hall of Famer, myself," Gwynn said of McGwire Hall of Fame credentials in an Associated Press report. "He hit 500 or so homers, almost 600. I think we have no proof whether he did or not. Canseco said he did. He didn't perform well at the congressional hearing, and I think that will stick with people more than anything else. He's on the ballot, too. I have no control over that."

It is likely McGwire would have not been a first ballot Hall of Famer given Ripken and Gwynn being certain first ballot selections. There isn’t anything stopping voters from selecting McGwire along with Ripken and Gwynn, however if history can serve as a barometer, McGwire like Killebrew would have to wait a few years. The facts are what they are – there is no direct proof Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds have ever used performance-enhancing drugs while they played (or in Bonds case still playing) Major League Baseball. Palmeiro tested positive a year ago. However he’s also one of only four players to hit more then 500 home runs and collect 3,000 hits in his career. It has been said before in the pages of Sports Business News, and it will be said again – Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and especially Barry Bonds each deserve their spot in Cooperstown.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: The New York Times and The Associated Press

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Roger (Goodell) Rocks America

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s tour of NFL cities is nearing its end. Making full use of the NFL corporate jet “NFL ONE”, Goodell visited Kansas City Thursday night holding an impromptu press conference. The first few months of Goodell’s term as commissioner have been good times for the league. Before Sunday’s blackout in Buffalo, the NFL had sold out the first 11 weeks of their schedule, every game in every market. If the Bills had managed to sell their remaining 7,000 tickets before the NFL’s 72-hour blackout rule kicked in, the NFL would have turned the corner in putting together one of the more interesting streaks in recent sports business history – selling out an entire season.

“It’s been a great three months primarily because of how great the season has gone. When you see the game being as exciting and competitive as it is, it’s easy for us to keep a focus on that. From our standpoint, as long as fans are focused on the football field, that’s a big plus for any commissioner or anybody involved with the league. It’s been a great start and there have been no surprises. I’ve been in the league for 25 years so I think I understand what I was getting into.” Goodell offered the media in Kansas City.

While selling tickets hasn’t been an issue for the NFL this year, the league fell well below their stated goal for the debut of the NFL Network’s first live NFL game Thursday in Kansas City. In late July NFL Network officials hoped to be in 65 million homes by Thanksgiving. The NFL was very proactive in getting their message out to consumers, investing more than $100 million in a multi-media campaign. When the campaign started the NFL Network was in 41 million homes. When the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos kicked off Thursday night the NFL Network was in 41 million homes.

Goodell didn’t have much to say Thursday night regarding the NFL Network’s distribution issues (as a good leader Goodell; it makes more sense to let Steve Bornstein the head of the NFL Network deal with delivery issues), Goodell however didn’t back away when questioned about whether the eight games on the NFL Network and the move to put Monday Night Football on ESPN signals a move on the NFL’s part from over-the-air to pay-per-view (in this case) cable TV?

“There’s a difference between Pay-Per-View and cable. In fact, I can tell you that of all the satellite and cable operators that have taken the NFL Network to date, they have not had to have a price increase because of the NFL Network. Our fans are going to demand it. Our fans are going to want to see it. I think the cable operators will understand that as we get further into the season and as we deliver higher, better quality programming. I’m confident that our fans’ voices will be heard and cable operators will have to make a choice and say that they have to deliver this.” Goodell offered.

As the CEO (leader) of any business, Goodell is responsible for ‘delivering’ the company line, spinning the story in ways that best suit the National Football League. Much of the leverage the NFL Network had with Time Warner, Charter Communications and Cablevision (the three major cable providers not offering the NFL Network) and Comcast’s decision to place the NFL Network on their digital analogue pay-per-view distribution band ended Thursday with the first broadcast. It isn’t going to become any easier now that the NFL Network’s first game has come and gone. The outrage the NFL Network expected from consumers hasn’t materialized and shows no sign of ever taking place.

That’s not to suggest the NFL Network doesn’t offer solid value, just not the investment the NFL is demanding from cable providers. The NFL Network wants to charge cable providers 70 cents each month for what amounts to eight NFL games. ESPN charges cable providers $3 each month for 17 NFL games and collectively thousands of Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and NCAA football and men’s basketball games (all great sports television properties). When you take the time to compare what the NFL Network is offering, compared to what ESPN provides, and do a cost/benefit analysis for both consumers and cable providers, there is no question the NFL has vastly overestimated the value of their cable network.

Nonetheless, when asked where he believed the NFL Network would be in ten years, Goodell offered this view, “We are thrilled with the NFL Network to date. It’s been an absolutely great way for us to deliver more football to our fans. We think it is high quality. The production has been outstanding. I think this game you’ll see tonight on the NFL Network will be extremely well done. We’re proud of what has been accomplished so far.”

“Looking down the line 10 years from now, we see greater distribution. We think it will give an opportunity for more fans to experience football. It will give them an inside look at what NFL football is all about. The thing that is really exciting to me about it is giving fans football 365 days a year. Our fans want more and more football and we find that out everyday.” Goodell said

Goodell has played a key role in the evolution of the National Football League as a business, working side-by-side with now retired commissioner Paul Tagliabue for more than 25-years. There are those (SBN included) who believe in the not-too distant future (ten years) the NFL will be playing Thursday and Saturday games on the NFL Network on a regular basis (only with more games will the NFL have the leverage they need to convince cable providers of their worth,) but at least in the short-term Goodell made it clear he’s happy with where the NFL is with games on, the number of games, and where they are on the NFL Network.

“We are very proud of the fact that we have stayed on broadcast television and we’re one of the few leagues that has been able to do that. I think it’s the key to our success. We’re in the first year of six-year TV agreements, so we don’t have to face that for quite some time. But I will tell you that we’re going to make every effort to stay on the broadest possible platforms. We are mixing that in with some of the newer platforms, like the NFL Network, but doing it on a very limited basis and very strategically.” Goodell said.

Goodell is correct in saying that the NFL remains the only sports league with most of its games on over-the-air television, but he also failed to recognize the networks collectively invest $3.75 billion annually in the NFL. True ESPN pays the NFL $1.1 billion annually for Monday Night Football rights (games on cable TV) but its important to note that the NFL included a clause in ESPN’s contract assuring games are offered on over-the-air channels in the home markets on teams’ appearing on either Monday Night Football or the NFL Network package (as long as the games meet the NFL’s 72-hour blackout rule. The NFL enjoys strong friendships with local, state and national politicians. If the NFL ever seriously considered moving their games to cable or pay-per-view the political fallout may negate any financial benefits.

There has been a great deal of interest from NFL franchises in regard to the first European regular season games, expected to be held in either London and/or Berlin in 2007. One of the teams that have been very proactive in making sure Goodell is aware of their interest has been the Kansas City Chiefs.

“We’ve had a lot of teams express interest in playing an international regular-season game. The Chiefs have been at the forefront of that. They’ve been in a number of our overseas preseason games to date. I know that’s it’s an interest of Lamar’s and the Chiefs organization. We’ll probably be making a decision on the first game by the Super Bowl.” Goodell said.

One of the biggest challenges Goodell and the NFL are going to face in the coming months is the future of the San Francisco 49’ers. Two weeks ago 49’ers owner John York announced the team would abandon their plans to build a new state-of-the art facility in San Francisco for a stadium in Santa Clara, where the 49’ers have both their offices and their practice facility. Days later, York resumed discussions with San Francisco officials. Coming at the same time the Oakland A’s have announced their moving 30 miles south to Freemont, and the uncertain future for the Sacramento Kings, the past few weeks haven’t been the best of times for sports fans in Northern California.

While sports fans in that region may be experiencing a ‘perfect storm’; Goodell’s focus as it should be is only on what’s best for the 49’ers.

“It’s not so much a preference of where. You have to find out what’s reasonable and practical in the community. You need to determine what works for the community and the NFL. I’ve seen the plans for what’s proposed at Candlestick Point, I was out there last month, and I understand what they’re trying to do. But I’m not sure it’s a good solution for our fans getting in and out of Candlestick Point.”

“I don’t get involved in local decisions other than it has to work for the community and it has to work for the team. I think they’re trying to balance how to stay in San Francisco, I know that’s their priority, but I also know that Santa Clara has developed a pretty good alternative. I’ve been in touch with the mayor and other officials out there and I know there’s an effort to try and figure out if they can address some of the issues that are facing them in San Francisco.” Goodell said.

As Goodell and the NFL turn the corner in the home stretch for the 2006 season the business of the NFL remains strong and focused. The challenges ahead include the future of the 49’ers, the Chargers interest in a new stadium (and the lack of political interest in San Diego for any public – taxpayer support), the long-term business success for the New Orleans Saints, the NFL’s interest in placing a team or teams in Los Angeles, but those issues are for another day. As the NFL heads into the last third of their 2006, these are the best of times for the National Football League.

For Sports Business News, this is Howard Bloom. Special thanks to the NFL communications department for the transcript from Commissioner Goodell’s Kansas City unplanned presser.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

NFL Network, Let’s all take a deep breath

The NFL Network’s first broadcast of an actual NFL game has come and gone. Thursday night, the fledging cable sports network offered the first of the eight Thursday/Saturday night games they’ll offer this year. The good news, everyone survived. The bad news, everyone associated with Thursday night’s broadcast has a great deal of work to do, starting with Bryant Gumbel.

Never one to be humbled, Gumbel was terribly (boring) in his debut. Given that he hadn’t been responsible for a play-by-play broadcasting opportunity since 1982, Gumbel’s rust was evident from the start of the broadcast. The last time Gumbel actually called the play by play of an NFL game was the 1982 AFC championship game between Cincinnati and San Diego.

How much rust did Gumbel show during the broadcast? The NFL has been very proactive in sending out their message in regard to the number of (or in this case), the lack thereof cable carriers not carrying Thursday night’s broadcast. While the ratings for Thursday night’s game are not yet available, the NFL’s dreams of being in 65 million homes by last night’s broadcast (the goal the NFL set during the summer) became a nightmare, with Time Warner, Comcast and Charter continuing their position of not offering the NFL Network refusing to meet the NFL’s demands for 70 cents from customer cable operators service. At one point Gumbel attempted to give out the NFL Network’s website that offers cable subscribers information as to how they can contact their cable provider that aren’t offering the NFL Network. (I want NFL Network). Gumbel fumbled the ball when he gave out the wrong web address.

Gumbel was a lot like a fish out of water Thursday night. Much of his sports broadcasting resume is as a host, not in the role the NFL Network put him in. He first worked for NBC Sports in the fall of 1975 as co-host of its National Football League pre-game show GrandStand with Jack Buck.

From 1975 until January 1982 (when Gumbel left to do The Today Show) Gumbel hosted numerous sporting events for NBC including of Major League Baseball, NCAA basketball, and the National Football League. Gumbel returned to sportscasting for NBC when he hosted the prime time coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics from Seoul and the PGA tour in 1990.

One of Bryant Gumbel's more memorable moments during his stint at NBC Sports occurred in 1982, when he was on site for the now legendary "Epic in Miami" NFL playoff game between the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins. When the game was said and done, Gumbel told the viewing audience "If you didn't like this football game then you didn't like football!"

Gumbel served as co-host of NBC’s morning magazine program “The Today Show” from 1982 to 1997, leaving NBC for CBS’s morning magazine show in 1997, where he worked until 2002. Twenty years hosting morning magazine television hardly prepares one for the responsibilities of an NFL play-by-play man.

Working with HBO Gumbel developed the monthly HBO sports magazine show, “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” in 1995. According to Gumbel, the show was "spawned by the fact that sports have changed dramatically, that it's no longer just fun and games, and that what happens off the field, beyond the scores, is worthy of some serious reporting."

To suggest Gumbel was ill-equipped at handing the responsibilities of a play-by-play would be an understatement. Gumbel was ‘wordy’. He played the role he’s served for the last 24 years, a host. Gumbel has excelled as a host, controversial at times, but effective. Its likely Gumbel and Collinsworth did several ‘mock’ broadcasts before Thursday night (a mock broadcast where Gumbel and Collinsworth called a game live or via a TV monitor). Collinsworth played that day for the Bengals, who won in bitterly cold and icy conditions in Cincinnati, the last time Gumbel had actually handled a live play-by-play broadcast.

Along with being far too wordy, Gumbel throughout the broadcast was far too descriptive. The beauty of being a part of a television broadcast is the picture viewers have of the game a broadcaster is involved with. Radio play-by-play broadcasters have to be more descriptive. Was Bryant Gumbel trying to hard? Possibility, but Gumbel’s efforts Thursday night inadvertently put Chris Collinsworth (the commentator) off his game. It seemed Collinsworth wasn’t quite sure when it was his time to offer his opinions.

Technically the broadcast was fine, especially when you consider it was the first game broadcast for Mark Loomis and his crew. They used all the toys at their disposal, and it seemed relying at times a great deal on the infamous field-cam (ironically developed by Vince McMahon’s football mistake, between known as the XFL).

Last week Gumbel, Collinsworth, and company participated in a conference call. When asked whose advice, if any, Gumbel sought, and what was the best piece of advice that he’s received from someone, Gumbel (as wordy as ever) had an insightful response.

“I don't know if there is one single piece of advice. I have been fortunate enough to have tapped the brains of people who have been engaged a lot longer than I have from my brother through Cris and Bob Costas and everybody else. You could probably name the names as easily as I can.”
“I think Cris only touched on part of the difficulty. It is, in fact, finding a rhythm. And you know, our first effort is not going to be perfect and we are not going to be as good in November as we hope to be in December. That's the reality of it. And I'm not a very patient person, so I'm going to try to avoid not beating myself up a great deal. But there's an awful lot to learn, there's an awful lot to do, and it was interesting, I was just reading an article today on the Monday Night guys about still trying to find a rhythm and they are, what, ten weeks in.”
“So I think it is look, it is only football; that's true. But I think Cris is absolutely right. It is in today's age a very difficult thing to do properly and we want to do it right, we want to do it well, and we want to do it as well as out there and as better than anybody else out there. We have a long way to go to get to that point. This is going to be our first effort and it's not going to be without its bumps and bruises.”

The other challenge Gumbel faced was the backlash from the comments he made on HBO Real Sports on August 15.

"Before he cleans out his office," Gumbel said in an editorial that closed that edition of Real Sports. "Have Paul Tagliabue show you where he keeps Gene Upshaw's leash. By making the docile head of the players union his personal pet, your predecessor has kept the peace without giving players the kind of guarantees other pros take for granted. Try to make sure no one competent ever replaces Upshaw on your watch."

The aftermath from Gumbel’s insensitive remarks nearly forced the NFL to end Gumbel’s return to the broadcast booth months before it began. Play-by-play TV broadcasters rarely if ever offer their comments, it’s not their role. Was Gumbel on his best behavior Thursday night, did that affect his on-air performance; unlikely. Thursday night was a new role for Bryant Gumbel, a world he hadn’t been a part of. The real question – where will Bryant Gumbel be on Saturday December 30, when the New York Giants visit the Washington Redskins? Likely a great deal better then he was on Thursday night.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: Wikipedia.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Jerry and the Cubbies – the perfect marriage

For long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans 2007 will mark the 99th anniversary of the last time their beloved north side Major League Baseball team won a World Series. Cubs fans have waited longer than supporters of any professional sports team to experience their team winning a championship. Eternally optimistic the Cubs have been very active early on in baseball’s free agent signing period, agreeing to terms with Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Kerry Wood. But the most exciting news for Cubs fans might be the interest Jerry Colangelo, arguably one of the better sports executives (at least when it comes to winning, not business), has in taking control of the Cubs. For the long suffering members of Cubs Nation, Colangelo is the answer to what Cubs fans have been praying for, an owner focused on winning a World Series (and not on prudent business practices).

Born and raised in the Windy City, Colangelo moved to Phoenix in 1968 to take over the expansion Phoenix NBA franchise as the youngest general manager in professional sports, and has molded the Phoenix Suns into one of the most successful organizations -- on and off the court -- in the NBA. In addition, he brought Major League Baseball to the Valley in 1998, and was chairman of the 2001 World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks. Colangelo also was the key element in facilitating the move of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets to the Valley of the Sun to become the Phoenix Coyotes. He is a four time NBA executive of the year, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and the man entrusted with the responsibility to bring men’s Olympic basketball gold back to the United States.

"I have a lot of juice left," Colangelo said in a telephone interview Wednesday in which he barely tempered his enthusiasm over the fact Tribune Co. hasn't put the Cubs on the market officially with The Chicago Tribune.

"No decision has been made, but would I have interest? Absolutely. It would be very attractive—if they're for sale."

"I have great respect for the Cubs' brand," Colangelo said. "It's as strong as there is."

The Phoenix Suns where at the edge of the abyss in 1987 when Jerry Colangelo stepped up and coordinated a group of investors that purchased the club for $44.5 million on October 14, 1987. That transaction was the first of many that helped Colangelo not only stabilize the basketball organization but also transform downtown Phoenix into an active and thriving district.

In 1987 the Maricopa County (Phoenix) Attorney's Office indicted 13 people on drug-related charges, three of whom were active Suns players (James Edwards, Jay Humphries and Grant Gondrezick). These indictments were partially based on testimony from star player Walter Davis, who was given immunity. No defendants ever went to trial: two of the players went into a prosecution diversion program, while another received probation. Nevertheless, the scandal, although now perceived in many respects to be a witch-hunt, tarnished the reputation of the franchise both nationally and within the community. The scandal did provide an opening for general manager Colangelo to lead a group that bought the team from its owners for $44 million, a record at that time.

Colangelo quickly moved on a new arena for the Suns, and in April 1989 the city of Phoenix approved the concept of a new, state-of-the-art downtown arena that would house the team. The 18,422-seat America West Arena opened in June 1992 and became the first venue in the NBA to also house a full-size practice facility, an amenity now common in the league. The arena is a public-private partnership with the City of Phoenix and has played host to a wide variety of concerts, family shows and sporting events, including the 1995 NBA All-Star Game and the 2000 WNBA All-Star Game.

The key to understanding how Jerry Colangelo does business and why he’s been successful in managing the Suns and the Diamondbacks is that his actual investment (dollar figures) in the teams he served as managing director has been minimal. After putting together a group who invested $44.5 million in Colangelo’s vision for the Phoenix Suns, Colangelo put together another group of investors that secured a franchise for Phoenix on March 9, 1995, paying a record MLB $130 million expansion fee.

Colangelo mortgaged the Diamondbacks future to win the 2001 World Series. In 2000 Major League Baseball had to guarantee a bank loan to keep Colangelo’s Diamondbacks franchise afloat (a first for MLB). Ten members of the 2001 Diamondbacks agreed to restructure their contracts, including Randy Johnson, a key member of the World Series winners.

''I feel I'm helping this organization out to let Jerry have some working capital and go out and get what he needs to make this a competitive team,'' Randy Johnson, one of the deferring 10, told The New York Times. Having had to ‘rescue’ the D-Backs from financial peril, Major League Baseball was less than enamored with Colangelo’s business philopshy in May 2001.

''There are significant concerns there,'' the official told The New York Times Murray Chass at the time speaking on the condition of anonymity. ''They've spent themselves into serious economic problems. What they've done with deferring more money has only postponed the problem.''

It’s important to understand Colangelo’s history as an owner is to find investors, find success, win championships, while spending other people’s money. In May 2001, five months before the D-Backs accomplished what was once unthinkable (winning a World Series in the franchises fourth year), Colangelo made it clear to the New York Times all was fine with how he managed the business affairs of the Diamondbacks.

''Not at all,'' he said. ''People refinance their homes. Companies downsize and let people go. In our case, when the season ended last year and we took inventory, I had to weigh the fact that I had committed to make a run with a group of players I put together.''

''To keep it together, looking at our cash-flow projection, we needed to get a little more lean in our operations. We were a little fat. Part of what I thought was a viable option was spreading the payouts to the players. It lessens the cash-flow requirements each year.''

The Diamondbacks won their World Series in their fourth season; proof positive money can buy a championship. In 1969 the baseball world marveled at The Amazin’ Mets, winning the World Series in their eighth season. Jerry Colangelo’s personal investment in the Arizona Diamondbacks was less than 2 percent. Colangelo’s unique ability to raise hundreds of millions of dollars by getting people to support projects he believed in was proof positive when the D-Backs won their World Series. Colangelo sold Major League Baseball on the Phoenix market, found a group of investors, secured the additional funding for Bank One Ballpark, and then built (bought) the 2001 World Series.

Built at a cost of $349 million, and seating 48,569, the D-Backs sold 2,091,505 tickets in 2006, averaging 25,821 or 52.7 percent capacity. Winning wasn’t an issue in the teams’ inaugural 1998 season. The D-Backs won 65 games and sold 3.6 million tickets. A year later, the D-Backs won 100 games and made the playoffs. Interestingly the teams’ attendance fell to 3,013,778, a drop of nearly 600,000 but a team that won 35 more games and made the playoffs in their second season. The D-Backs 2001 World Series title attendance fell to 2,736,361. The fall in attendance while delivering a contending and competitive team had to raise a great many red flags about baseball’s future in Phoenix.

The D-Backs enjoyed a nice attendance bump after winning the 2001 World Series selling 3,198,977 tickets, averaging 39,493 or 87.7 percent in 2002. In 2003 the D-Backs sold 2,910,386 tickets, averaging 35,930 tickets or 71.4 percent capacity. The D-Backs won 98 games in 2002 and 84 games in 2003. After the 2003 season the D-Backs completed the dismantling of their 2001 World Series team by first trading Curt Schilling to the Boston Red Sox, and then traded Randy Johnson to the New York Yankees a year later for two players and $9 million. If ever a baseball franchise sent a message to their fans the good days where over it was the Arizona Diamondbacks in dealing Schilling and Johnson.

Schilling shared the 2001 World Series MVP Award star with Johnson. He and Johnson also shared Sports Illustrated magazine's 2001 "Sportsmen of the Year" award. In 2002, he went 23-7 with a 3.23 ERA. Both years he finished second in the Cy Young Award voting to Johnson.

In 2004 the D-Backs first year without Schilling, the teams’ attendance fell to 2,519,560. In 2005 the D-Backs first year without Schilling and Johnson their attendance fell to 2,059,331. Delivering a World Series in the teams’ fourth season was amazing. Winning 100 games in the teams’ second season must have seemed unbelievable, but at the end of the day it’s too much success to early on. How exactly was the D-Backs management team going to follow-up their first four seasons. It was 86 years between World Series titles for the Red Sox. The Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series in 103 years.

Three years after winning the 2001 World Series, the bottom having fallen out of the teams’ attendance, hemorrhaging in red ink, the members of the consortium who owned the Diamondbacks in 2004 had enough of how Jerry Colangelo managed the business affairs of the D-Backs buying him out. Clearly for a team that hasn’t won a World Series in 98 years makes the arrival of Jerry Colangelo as the Cubs savior perfect timing on his part.

The Tribune company placed a for sale sign on all of their companies including the Cubs recently. The teams’ free agent spending spree (more than $215 million and growing) has led to the belief the Cubs will be sold in the not too distant future. Why else would the teams’ baseball management have gone on an uncharacteristic payroll spending spree?

The big question how much could the Cubs be sold for. In 2002, the Boston Red Sox sold for a record $700 million, a price that included an 80% stake in NESN, the cable channel that airs the team's games. It’s important in understanding the value of the Red Sox, John Henry purchased the team, Fenway Park and revenue generating NESN.

Robert Caporale of Game Plan, a Boston sports investment firm, told The Los Angeles Times he believes, the Cubs could sell for "even more than what the Red Sox and NESN fetched." A Wall Street insider told the Los Angeles Times the Tribune company pegged the value of the Cubs at $1 billion.

Despite Caporale’s belief the Cubs could sell for more than the Red Sox did, that makes little if any sense. The $700 million John Henry’s group paid for the Red Sox included NESN. Cubs’ games are televised on WGN and the radio rights holder is WGN Radio. Both media properties are also owned by the Tribune company. The market value for the two media properties has been pegged at $729 million.

If the Tribune company packages the Cubs, Wrigley Field, WGN and WGN Radio as a package, those four properties packaged together could sell for as much as $2 billion, at the very least for $1.5 billion. It serves the best interests of the Tribune company to generate as much as they can from the sale of their assets. The Cubs sold on their own (with Wrigley Field) might sell for between $500 and $700 million.

While Colangelo’s name has been prominently mentioned in relationship to the sale of the Cubs, his isn’t the only ‘interesting’ sports industry related name. Mark Cuban, a sports owner who puts his money where his teams are, has also mentioned on several occasions if the Cubs became available he would be interested. However when asked by The Los Angeles Times regarding his current interest in the Cubs, the normally talkative Cuban passed on offering any comments on his interest in the Cubs.

What about Jerry Colangelo owning the Cubs? Well, he’s put together big sports ownership deals with other people’s money, but nothing that comes close to the $500 to $700 million he would need to buy the Cubs. Finding investors with enough resources to make the Cubs work (buying the Cubs and WGN as a package) isn’t in Colangelo’s league. Its rarified air Colangelo and his group aren’t a part of. However, that hasn’t stopped Colangelo before – you know based on his history the opportunity to own the Cubs is to enticing for Colangelo to not set his sights on.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: Wikipedia, The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

London Calling 2012: Staggering, runaway costs

Last week the City of San Francisco announced they were withdrawing their bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. Los Angeles and Chicago are the two remaining cities vying for the opportunity to represent the United States of America in bidding to host the first Summer Games that would be held on American soil since the 1996 Atlanta Games. Wednesday’s news from London, host for the 2012 Summer Games, served as a stark reminder regarding how careful cities should be when it comes to wishing they are capable of hosting an Olympic Games. Six years ahead of the Games, the costs to British taxpayers has surpassed $13.3 billion, and are heading for a final cost in excess of $20 billion.

Even scarier the current budget still excludes final security costs, VAT (facility costs), and decontamination costs, which could add at least a further $3 billion The running costs of the Olympics, expected to be raised entirely from private finance and sponsorship, are set at a further $3.89 billion, but these may also increase according to a report in the Times of London. Projected expenses associated with the London Games have surpassed $18 billion.

When it comes to the costs associated with hosting an Olympic Games, history should have warned British citizens what they were getting into when London defeated Paris 54-50 to be awarded the 2012 Games on July 6, 2005.

In September, the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee announced projected costs associated with the next Winter Olympics are going to be $2.5 billion, and not the budgeted $600 million. The report, which has sent reverberations throughout Vancouver, suggested British Columbia taxpayers better get ready to assume an additional $1.5 billion to pay for the Games.

"Our review of VANOC's venue capital cost estimates, however, indicates there are risks that may result in additional costs to the province," the province’s auditor general said in his report. "There are still many pressures facing the capital budget for the Games and risks inherent in the operating budget as well."

Canadians and in particular Quebecers have their own unique understanding of how much an Olympic Games can cost. When Montreal was awarded the 1976 Summer Games in 1970, then Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau's infamous quote, “The Olympics can no more lose money than a man can have a baby.”

However, with rampant corruption, and lack of financial controls, Montreal did indeed lose money, over $2 billion dollars (US), when it was all said and done. In fact, the Quebec government — afraid the province would be humiliated internationally — stepped in at the eleventh hour and essentially put the entire municipal Olympic organizing effort under trusteeship. The facilities would likely not have been ready in time for the games had this not happened, a reality trumpeted by the provincial government in a series of "Because of Quebec, we've done it all!" television commercials.

The 2004 Athens Games played like a classic Greek Tragedy. Originally budgeted at $5.7 billion, revised to $7.2 billion, final estimations for the Athens Games have costs somewhere between $8.5 and $12 billion. Generations and generations of Greek’s will be forced to pay for what was no more then a two week party.

The 2006 Torino Olympics were billions of dollars over budget. Stefano Bertone, a Torino lawyer and co-founder of the Turin Anti-Olympics Committee wasn’t surprised hosting the Olympic Games was an economic nightmare for the citizens of the Italian city.

"There is no intention from the promoters and the bidders and organizers to reduce the impact and dimensions of the Games, they want public funds handed them to build and build," Bertone said. "It has nothing to do with sports and friendship or peace."

The Games were forecasted in 1998 to cost $616 million US, and ballooned to more than $3 billion US. What the final bill is and how long it'll take for taxpayers to erase the debt is anyone's guess. There has been no cost-benefit analysis or audit.

TOROC originally forecast 1.5 million spectators, a figure downgraded last year to 1 million. Organizers scrambled to reach the 900,000 mark.

How scary have things become in London? The City of London was awarded the 2012 Games 15 months ago. In that short period of time projected costs have more than doubled. Recognizing the costs of the Games where spiraling out of control, engineer-in-chief, Jack Lemley walked away from the project.

Sir Roy McNulty, the acting chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), responsible for the infrastructure of the Games, told The London Independent: "There were issues between Jack and the ODA and other stakeholders. There was a mismatch that led to serious differences and it was in everybody's interests that he return to the US."

Games organizers aren’t taking any chances, dealing with the direct fallout from a 100 percent increase in costs in just 15 months, the revised budget includes a further 60 percent contingency fund. London Mayor Ken Livingstone realizing he’s a passenger on an out of control train and called the billions of extra dollars built into the budget -- "absolutely, breathtakingly ridiculous"

"If you start out on this huge infrastructure project and say it might overrun by 60 per cent, everybody bidding for contract knows you have set aside this huge pot of money for when they screw up," he said. "That sends all the wrong signals."

Mayor Livingstone may be correct in his assessment, but when the bills are all totaled for the London Games, Londoners are going to have to deal with an Olympic Games that will cost more than $20 billion, the definition of financial suicide for a city and a country.

Conservative MP Hugh Robertson, opposition critic Olympics minister, told the London Independent: "The hidden story of today is why the Chancellor seems to have reneged on commitments of VAT and contingency he should have signed up to at the time of the bid. He should stop posturing about [hosting] the 2018 World Cup and concentrate on setting a transparent and accountable budget for the Olympics."

For this part, the Tessa Jowell British government’s Culture Secretary (responsible for the Games) did her best to regain control of an Olympic budget that was clearly poorly planned on the part of Sebastian Coe and the committee that bid for the 2012 Games.

"Six years out, it would be foolish to rule anything in or anything out," Ms Jowell said. "I am telling the [select] committee that this project is under control. Just because the Government has underwritten the costs doesn't mean we are going to step up to the plate and write a cheque [to the organizers]."

Only a fool would believe the “project” that Ms. Jowell talks about is under control. Ms. Jowell has little if any direct responsibility for what must some of the worst budget event planning in history, but for her to suggest a budget that has more than doubled in just 15 months, has seen its chief engineer quit, doesn’t even include security yet (at that will cost more than $2 billion when all is said and done), you’d have to believe you had become part of that great Abe Lincoln quote – “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

The costs of the many facilities needed for what is a two-week event is driving the budget engine. Sir Stephen Geoffrey Redgrave a British rower who won a gold medal at five consecutive Olympic Games from 1984 to 2000, as well as an additional bronze medal in 1988 suggested to The Manchester Guardian, what’s done is done.

"It's disappointing. The government was involved in the budgeting side. They should have known there was going to be a VAT situation." Then at last some passion. "Remember what the Olympics can do for a country as a whole."

But does that excuse a city or a country to bid for an event, with a lasting legacy of debt that will last for generations of British citizens? Absolutely not.

Sebastian Coe suggested to The Guardian it was important to consider the bigger picture and remember what former Olympic hosts had to say after they had hosted the Games.

Coe recalled Barcelona host of the 1992 Games "They went for it. They were brave - and look at the legacy." And he reminded me how we'd sat through the Sydney opening ceremony together. "The Aussies were ripping the piss out of the Olympics until about halfway through that ceremony. Then it dawned on them - 'Hang on, this is rather good'"

Exactly how shortsighted is Sebastian Coe? As ‘great’ as the 2000 Sydney Games where, Sydney’s Olympic Park located 45 miles outside the cities downtown core has been nothing more than a money pit, losing tens of millions of dollars in the last six years. And Sir Coe, you aren’t brave if you bid for and host an Olympic Games, you’ve just made a terrible decision.

Every Olympic Games held since the Montreal Games (with the exception of the 1984 Los Angeles Games) has been well over budget. Early in 1976, Montréalers were reminded to enjoy the opportunity of hosting that summer’s Olympics. Quebecers were told, enjoy the two week party, the economic hangover is one you’ll never forget. Londoners have six years to experience how out of control the budgeting for an event can become, two weeks to enjoy the event, and generations of British citizens forced to pay taxes on an event the country will rue the day they decided to bid for an Olympic Games.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: The Times of London, The Manchester Guardian and the London Independent

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Vote Marvin Miller into the Baseball Hall of Fame

If the Baseball Hall of Fame selection process is to have any real integrity Marvin Miller MUST be inducted. At 89 (Marvin isn't getting any younger), the time is right and the time is NOW! It’s no understatement to suggest in the last 100 years Marvin Miller’s contributions to the evolution of baseball as a business, enabled the sport to move from the dark ages, to its modern era where the game has thrived both and off the field – and Marvin Miller was at the center of the modern baseball revolution.

“Whether you agree or disagree, he was one individual who had as large a ramification as anybody on the history of the game,” Baseball Hall of Fame member Tom Seaver told The New York Times Murray Chass this week. “If the Hall of Fame is an historical repository, he deserves to be there.”

When Marvin Miller was elected as the first executive director for the Major League Baseball Players Association in 1966 the average MLB salary was $19,000. The reserve clause tied players to whatever organization they had signed with as youngsters for life. Effectively the reserve clause represented slavery. The numbers are staggering. Consider when Miller assumed control of the union, the minimum salary has risen to $380,000 from $6,000, and the average salary to a little less than $2.7 million from $19,000.

Miller will once again be ‘considered’ for enshrinement into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. The Committee on Baseball Veterans will decide Miller’s Cooperstown fate. The veterans committee includes all living Hall of Fame members, all recipients of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, and all recipients of the Ford C. Frick Award. Selection is based on one’s name appearing on at least 75 percent of all the ballots cast.

The last time Miller appeared on the Baseball Hall of Fame veterans’ committee ballot was in 2003. The rules changed starting with the 2003 selection process when baseball executives would only be considered every four years. In 2003 Miller received only 35 of 79 votes, falling 25 short. While voting is open to all Hall of Fame members they all must be living Hall of Fame members. That’s what makes any questions of Miller being elected to the Hall of Fame inane.

When the veterans committee holds their vote, 84 people will be eligible. Of the 61 eligible voters in the players category close to 45 living Baseball Hall of Fame members directly benefited from Marvin Miller’s tenure as executive director of the MLBPA. The 22 media votes should overwhelmingly support Miller as well. The question that begs to be asked – how can any baseball player who has Marvin Miller’s leadership to thank for the millions of dollars they earned as elite baseball players.

Miller for his part, made it clear to The New York Times he’d be honored to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he isn’t holding his breath. Amazingly one of the players who didn’t vote for Miller – Reggie Jackson, baseball’s first mega free agent. After the 2003 vote, Jackson told the media he believed the Baseball Hall of Fame should only be for players. Miller’s drive and determination may have made Mr. October a millionaire many times over, but it didn’t make him any smarter.

“The only players I talked to,” Miller told The New York Times, “were those who said: ‘I don’t understand this. I don’t know why this happened. It’s ridiculous.’ ”

When the veterans committee vote is announced on February 27, Miller believes he’ll be on the outside looking in once again.

“It would be nice,” Miller said, “but when you’re my age, 89 going on 90, questions of mortality have a greater priority than a promised immortality.”

Brad Snyder’s new book, ‘A Well Paid Slave’ looks back the life and very tough times of Curt Flood. Curt Flood changed professional sports in 1969 after he refused to accept the St. Louis Cardinals trading the All-Star outfielder to the Philadelphia Phillies. Flood contacted Miller and the rest became baseball free agency. Flood and Miller failed in their attempts to rid MLB of its archaic reserve clause, but Flood’s courage and conviction along with Miller’s drive and determination led to the end of the reserve clause and free agency in 1976.

“To me Flood epitomized the modern player who began to think in terms of union, to ask questions like "Why is baseball an exception to how labor is treated in other industries? Why should we be treated like property? Why should we agree to have a reserve clause?" Basic questions that had gone unasked.” Miller offered in a 2004 interview with Counterpunch.

“Curt Flood came to me to discuss the possibility of a lawsuit and I thought that it was a losing case, the chance of winning was terrible. How was he going to finance it? I felt that he would indeed need help, and I was concerned how easy it was to make bad law with a bad case--and I felt the union should back him. And I began to lobby his case with the executive board and since we were going to meet in early December 1969 in San Juan, I arranged with Curt to have him come to the meeting, and have Curt be questioned, and when it came time to bring Curt in, I had already briefed him, and maybe some of them knew Flood but not in this context. I brought him into the board meeting and turned it over. And finally a board member asked Curt, 'The motivation here: why are you doing this?”

“Was it--to attack the reserve clause to stop the owners from trading a player where he didn't want to go? Or was this a sign of 'black power' and Curt looked at him and said 'I wish it was" but we are dealing with an issue that affects every player. Color has nothing to do it. We are all pieces of property,” Miller remembered the impact Curt Flood had on the growth of baseball.

Let’s be very clear. Flood had the courage, but it was Miller’s understanding of the law, and how baseball players where being treated that led to the explosion in salaries, and MLB becoming a business capable of generating billions of dollars annually.

“It’s not just that the players’ situation has improved,” Miller told the New York Times. “That’s undeniable. But it’s the whole industry. There has been an improvement that affected everybody. Now there are more players, scouts, concessions workers, managers, general managers, club presidents and so on.”

“I look at that with great satisfaction,” he continued. “That wasn’t my job as I viewed it. My job was to right some wrongs, improve conditions of players, and that was done.”

He added in The Times report: “It’s salaries generally, it’s the average, the median, the top salary, any way you want to look at it. I confess: that’s a great source of satisfaction to me. I didn’t do it all, but I played a part. I helped build a structure that has held together.”

There are those who will argue Marvin Miller is responsible for economic disparity and chaos in sports. Former MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn (also not in the Baseball Hall) was a strong believer that Miller hurt the game more then he ever helped it. When you consider industry revenue had risen to a record-high $5.2 billion this year from $1.2 billion in 1992 it’s easy to appreciate how little Kuhn understood regarding the evolution of sports as an industry. Because of Miller’s leadership, not Kuhn’s ineptitude, sports is a half trillion dollar industry. When Miller left the MLBPA in the hands of Donald Fehr when he retired in 1986, the MLBPA remains to this day the strongest union in America.

When Miller left the United Steel Workers to take charge of the newly formed MLBPA in 1966, the players as Miller told “Counterpunch” in 2004, the union was anything but strong.

“I don't know that they wanted a real union [at first]. If I had to make an educated guess, the one thing the players had which they prized was their pension plan. It was called a benefit plan, That had been put into effect also in 1947 once again the owners saying, let's do something to prevent the union here. 18 years later, two things, were concerning the players. One was that the pension had not kept pace over 18 years of progress; also they picked up strong rumors that the owners were wanting to change it. Television by 1965 had grown tremendously. [L.A. Dodgers owner] Walter O'Mally saw this and wanted to after the benefit plan. But beyond that I was also learning that it was like pulling teeth learning what else made them unhappy.”

“This was because they were a work force basically unschooled in working conditions. They had all undergone a bunch of brainwashing that being allowed to play major league baseball was a great favor that they were the luckiest people in the world. They were accustomed never to think, "This stinks. We need to change this." You have to remember baseball players are very young and with few exceptions have no experience in these matters,” Miller recalled.

Maury Brown publisher Biz of asked Miller in an interview for SABR (The Society for American Baseball research), where Miller saw his place in Major League Baseball history, and if Miller ever expects to get the 75 percent vote he needs from the veterans committee.

“No. I think the votes were never there. I found it interesting. But [it was] kind of uninformed when so many people said just because they changed the method of voting for non-players from the old veterans committee to all of the living members of the Hall of Fame that that necessarily meant I would be eligible. I never agreed with that. I think it left out an awful lot of factors.”

“One of the reasons I didn’t agree with all of this, is that I think anybody who has ever been a Union leader has to have gained some skill at being able to predict votes in advance. I think that what’s disastrous for a labor leader is to not have that skill.”

“For example, to call for a strike vote and have the membership turn it down. That’s the end of credibility. Or for a Union leader to go into difficult negotiations, reach a settlement, and then submit it to the membership for ratification and have it rejected. That’s almost the end of the Union.”

“So, you really have to learn how to forecast votes in advance, and one of the things you do is look at the facts.”

“Fact number one is that an awful lot of players in the Hall of Fame are pre-Union. They never had anything to do with the Union back in that terrible period.”

“Number two, is that many of those players and many of the players who were playing in the period in which in which I was involved, after they were through playing, became employed by management. A whole different mindset is set up.”

“Just for example Monte Irvin in the Hall of Fame is a very nice guy, but the last fifteen years in this working life he worked for Bowie Kuhn. You wouldn’t vote for me would you? And it’s not just Monte Irvin. There are people on the Cubs and people on the Red Sox and Hall of Fame who have worked for management and are working for management. There’s this fine great ball player in the Hall of Fame, who’s vice president of a major league team and so on.”

“And then there are members of the press who vote who are the newspaper reporters wing of the Hall of Fame. While some of those might vote for me many would not. There were a lot of them who were, if not in the owners’ pockets, at least on their laps. There are the radio and TV announcers who interestingly enough in almost every case cannot be announcers in radio and TV unless the clubs that they are telecasting or broadcasting agree. They hold the veto power over them.”

“And then finally, if all else fails, to make anybody understand how the votes go, if you have to get 75% of the vote and you do what the Hall of Fame people did two years ago or a year ago, put fifteen people on the ballot. You are making it almost statistically improbable that anyone is going to get 75% of the vote and in fact, no one did.”

“In the history of the United States, this is just to give you a contrast, while occasionally there are three candidates or four candidates, in most cases there are two. And with only two candidates on the ballot, except for George Washington in his first term, who ran unopposed, with only two people on the ballot--in all the rest of the elections no presidential candidate ever got anywhere near 75% of the vote.” Miller told SABR.

And what will Marvin Miller’s legacy to the game be?

“Well, you know every once in awhile you are forced to when you get to be my age. I’m referring to the fact that former commissioner Fay Vincent is involved in a project now, in connection with the Hall of Fame, in which he is interviewing various living people, obviously, who have had a part in baseball history. They are doing this project on film for the benefit of future generations of fans and scholars. As Fay said, when you do a project of this type, you interview the older members first, to make sure they are still around.”
“Certainly, you are forced to think about this, but in terms of things I would hope for, is that I would be remembered in terms of having playing a major part in building the first legitimate and still remaining the only legitimate trade Union in the team sports movement. A Union that has demonstrated to be one of great solidarity and integrity and unity and accomplishment. And that’s good enough.” Miller told Brown.

When they announce who the Veterans Committee will select (or didn’t select) on Tuesday, February 27, 2007 will Marvin Miller’s name be included? If there is any justice, any sense of right or wrong Miller’s name will not only be included, but it will be at the top of the list. At long last Marvin Miller will join the true legends of the game -- Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, the greatest of the greatest as an honored member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: The New York Times, Counterpunch, The Biz of Baseball and the Society for American Baseball Research.

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