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According to an independent survey conducted by the sports division of Golin/Harris Communications from January 12-15, twice as many respondents blame players than owners over the baseball strike. Of the 1,008 adults surveyed throughout the country, 51% were categorized as baseball fans -- because they at least watch baseball on TV (45%), listen to baseball on the radio (20%), or attend games (19%). Of those "fans," 55% blame both players and owners; 21% the players; 11% the owners; 10% don't care. Of all respondents: 46% blame both; 24% don't care; 18% blame the players; and, 8% blame owners (Golin/Harris). PLAYING HARDBALL: In Denver, Tracy Ringolsby notes that the union's threat to withhold licensing money from managers and coaches if they coach replacements "may backfire." A's Manager Tony La Russa, who has questioned whether he would manage a replacement team: "If the union doesn't go about its business in the right way, that's when I lose sympathy for the cause. ... I guess that means we're supposed to feel threatened. Isn't that blackmail?" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 1/21). The Brewers have insisted that manager Phil Garner and his staff report on February 20. Brewers coach Duffy Dyer: "If I don't have a job, I can't get licensing money anyway. There's really not much of a choice" (Tom Haudricourt, MILWAUKEE SENTINEL, 1/23). RADIO AND TV RIGHTS, THE NEXT BATTLE: One broadcasting exec, who noted the contingency plans the owners have come up with on ticket prices and replacements: "If ballclubs think they'll get the regular TV and radio rights payments, there will be a war" (Phil Mushnick, N.Y. POST, 1/23). UNITED THEY STAND: Dick Moss, who is heading the effort to start the United Baseball League, announced that any strikebreakers will not be considered for jobs in the new league (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 1/22).
In this week's "Inside Golf" section of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Tim Rosaforte writes that "there has been speculation" that IMG Chair Mark McCormack "sicced the FTC" on the PGA Tour. McCormack, who sponsors tournaments featuring IMG players worldwide, would have "the most to gain should the Tour have to alter its ways." The proposed World Golf Tour would also benefit (SI, 1/23 issue). In Washington, John Hawkins comes out in favor of the PGA Tour: "Give me a sport run by an entity that has shown unabashed success at satisfying the public. Not one run by a federal bureaucrat" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 1/22).
The MLB Expansion Committee unanimously recommended that MLB proceed with expansion of four teams, two of which will be awarded in an "expeditious manner" and two more franchises to be added in a "reasonable amount of time thereafter." MLB Acting Commissioner Bud Selig: "Expansion continues to be on a fast track" (MLB). Expansion Committee Chair John Harrington hinted that the final steps in the process could be completed at the next owners' meeting, scheduled to be held March 7-9. But there are indications a meeting could be held in early February (Marc Topkin, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 1/21). Four cities have made official expansion bids: Tampa-St. Pete, Phoenix, Orlando, and two separate groups from Northern VA, with Tampa and Phoenix considered front runners. The cost for the next two franchises is estimated at $125-140M. The first two teams will be chosen from the four finalists, but the second two teams will most likely be chosen from a larger list of applicants that could include Vancouver, Mexico City, Monterrey, Nashville, Buffalo and Charlotte (Mult., 1/21). TAMPA BAY: Tampa Bay's expansion effort is headed by Vince Naimoli, and if chosen, would likely be placed in the AL. Yankee Owner George Steinbrenner, who has been an advocate for the area getting a team: "This is a good sign." Sen. Connie Mack (R-FL), who had suggested that he would drop his opposition to MLB's antitrust exemption if Tampa gets a team: "I hope this is a sign the long ordeal of heartbreaks and headaches is coming to an end" (Marc Topkin, ST. PETE TIMES, 1/21). In Tampa, Joe Henderson writes, "If Tampa Bay doesn't get a team out of that mix, it never will and we all can get on with our lives" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 1/21). PHOENIX: Suns Owner Jerry Colangelo is heading up this city's efforts and is very confident that he will gain a team: "This was a big hurdle. We're well on our way to being one of the up and coming cities of the next century" (PHOENIX GAZETTE, 1/21). The city has placed an April 1 deadline for a team to be named so that public money can be allocated for the new $275M stadium. If MLB owners insist on having two teams begin play in '97, Phoenix may not make the first round since their stadium will not be ready until '98 (Maske & Lipton, WASHINGTON POST, 1/21). But one MLB owner said of Tampa and Phoenix: "It's a fait accompli. Those franchises have been promised to Phoenix and Tampa" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 1/21). Colangelo also has begun plans to find a temporary home for the '97 season. The most likely site is the Peoria Sports Complex. Still, Colangelo thinks the next two teams will not begin play until '98 (Eric Miller, ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/21). NORTHERN VA: There are two groups vying for a team: one headed by telecomm exec Bill Collins and the other by attorney Bart Fisher. Many baseball and local officials have acknowledged that Collins' partnership will be awarded the franchise if the owners select this area. Collins said he has reached a "memorandum of understanding" on a temporary lease at RFK Stadium, which would require $7M in renovations. The team would play there until a new park is built, probably near Dulles Int'l Airport (Maske & Lipton, WASHINGTON POST, 1/21). While the proximity of the Orioles always had hurt expansion efforts in the area, the "unpopularity" of Orioles Owner Peter Angelos among his peers "has made that a moot point." MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr: "They might want to punish Angelos by putting a team there. That's the sort of under-the-table comment you pick up" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 1/21). ORLANDO: Real estate developer Norton Herrick is leading the drive for an Orlando franchise. Herrick: "If they award a team to St. Petersburg, I'd have to rethink my position in Orlando. I'm not sure if Central Florida can support two teams" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 1/21).
A look at the NHL's opening weekend finds that, at least initially, the league's U.S. cities are outdrawing their Canadian counterparts. Of the 12 teams that had their home openers over the weekend, eight sold out -- all of them American. Three of the four cities short of sell-outs are Canadian, but Tampa Bay -- at 94% on Friday and 82% on Sunday -- drew over 20,000 for each of its games. The ThunderDome holds 28,000. Toronto and Montreal are yet to open their home schedules. Listed below are attendance and percent capacity for each game (USA TODAY, 1/23; THE DAILY).
BUF at NYR18,200100% CHI at DET19,875100% STL at SJ17,190100% TOR at LA16,005100% PIT at TAM26,38794% CAL at WIN13,38287% ANA at EDM14,96786% DAL at VAN12,03874%SATURDAY MON at NYR18,200100% QUE at PHI17,380100% TOR at SJ17,190100% WAS at HAR15,635100% FLA at NYI14,10687% STL at VAN12,55878% ANA at WIN9,72563%SUNDAY PHI at BOS14,448100% CAL at DET19,683100% BUF at TAM22,95282% EDM at LA13,16082% NJD at HAR12,05477% OTT at NYI10,31163%
NOTES: "In the United States the 3 1/2-month lockout is already a distant memory to hockey hungry-spectators. But in Canada, cradle of the game, healing will apparently not be so speedy" (Neil Campbell, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/23)....The smallest crowd the Canucks had last season was 12,479; they drew 12,038 on Friday (VANCOUVER SUN, 1/21).... Noting the small crowds in Winnipeg, Dave Roberts writes, "There was a feeling Winnipeggers had crossed the Rubicon: They've grown accustomed to the absence of hockey during the labour hiatus and may be able to live without it in the future." With public funds necessary for a new arena, "such indifference" rekindles the possibility that the Jets will play elsewhere next year" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/23). GAME ON! Spotted during ESPN's Friday night NHL broadcast were lockout-related spots by Starter and Bud Ice. The Starter spot had scenes of last year's playoffs with an announcer calling the game as if it were a negotiation. Excerpt: "The lockout is over! The lockout is over! Holy cow, they've reached a collective bargaining agreement!" Bud Ice featured two spots, both with action highlights. The tag-line for one of the Bud ads: "You miss it? -- This is the ice." The NHL also ran its "Game On!" spot with a scene from "Wayne's World" (ESPN, 1/20). The NHL is spending $10M on the "Game On!" campaign. While the league managed to keep sponsors Anheuser-Busch, Nike, Molson and Ford on board, NHL Enterprises COO Rick Dudley admits the lockout slowed momentum in adding new sponsors. The NHL and NHLPA are discussing a promotion with McDonald's, possibly with trading cards (Gayle MacDonald, FINANCIAL POST, 1/21).
Orioles Owner Peter Angelos has "taken center stage in baseball's labor battle with his refusal to use replacement players -- even under the threat of having his franchise revoked" (Thom Loverro, WASHINGTON TIMES, 1/23). SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's Tim Kurkjian profiled Angelos on ABC's "Wide World of Sports." Angelos, on the fielding of replacement players: "We are convinced that 90% or more of our fans would demand a refund of their money. So that in itself tells you that this threat, and that's exactly what it is. This rattling of the sabre by the owners -- 'if we can't work something out we'll use replacement players' -- is an empty threat because the parties that will be injured the most if we resort to so-called replacement players will be the owners of the franchises" (ABC, 1/21). In New York, Claire Smith profiles Angelos: "He single-handedly fights on, establishing himself as the proverbial thorn and the potential worst nightmare of the game's top authorities" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/22). Mike Lupica: "His stand against replacement baseball is proper, and he comes up looking like a hero at a time when baseball needs at least one hero" ("SportsReporters," ESPN, 1/22). Angelos will speak with AL President Gene Budig about the league's contention that he must field a replacement team (WASHINGTON POST, 1/22). O'S FANS: More than 6,000 attended the Orioles' winter carnival at Camden Yards and bought 30,000 tickets to regular season games. The turnout almost doubled attendance from last year's carnival (Jim Henneman, Baltimore SUN, 1/22). Orioles spokesperson Charles Steinberg: "What strike? Enthusiasm is rampant" (USA TODAY, 1/23).