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Indianapolis Motor Speedway President and IRL founder Tony George explains his position in an op/ed piece that ran in Sunday's INDIANAPOLIS STAR. George writes that CART's position against the new qualifying procedures for the Indy 500 come from CART's desire to "eliminate the IRL and gain control of the Indianapolis 500." George claims CART created the conflicts that threaten participation in Indy through its schedule, which makes it impossible to race in both circuits. He also calls the IRL's qualifying incentives "a new and interesting dimension to how starting fields are established because they provide a hard, venue-to-venue continuity." George continues: "CART had obviously made a perfectly legal, free-market competition move to prevent its teams from participating in the opportunities presented by the IRL. At that point, it became incumbent on us to respond in kind, and we did it with a carrot instead of a stick." George writes the IRL's purpose is not to "harm or control CART," but to keep the Indy 500 in the control of a local group (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 10/22). In Philadelphia, Pete Schnatz reports fan response has "exceeded expectations" in Orlando for the IRL's inaugural race at Walt Disney World. The race is reportedly a "virtual sellout already" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/21).
NBA players say the officiating during the NBA preseason has been "inconsistent at best." They are having a hard time adjusting to the college and CBA refs filling in for locked-out NBA officials. The primary problem cited is the number of fouls called. Michael Jordan: "They're trying to be helpful and make all the little calls, but I don't think they understand the game to a point where the ticky-tack fouls don't always have to be called" (Terry Armour, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/23). Celtic Dino Radja: "We have to get them back. We have to start saying it." Guard Dana Barros: "I never thought I'd be saying it, but we do miss the (regular) guys" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/23). Nugget Dikembe Mutombo: "Things are getting worse, and it's not in the players' interest. I mean, it's a league problem. You can't get mad at these guys" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/23). FREE AGENT TAMPERING: Two teams with big-name free agents in '96 -- Denver (Mutombo) and Charlotte (Alonzo Mourning) -- have put the league on notice for "potential tampering violations. Their primary target? [Pat] Riley and the Heat" (Mitch Lawrence, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/22). NOTES FROM LONDON: In New York, Harvey Araton writes, "While the NBA tones down its domestic act, it was pumping up the volume over here." But Araton notes that the British are not as excited about the NBA as the rest of Europe. "More than professional basketball, they also prefer the World Series, judging by Times of London coverage." The paper offered a lengthy preview of the Series while "relegating its hometown basketball event to six well-hidden paragraphs" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/22)....Marv Albert called NBA Commissioner David Stern "more visible today on the world scene than Warren Christopher" (NBC, 10/21).
NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw met with a "handful of big-name player agents" last Tuesday in Dallas to discuss the proposed extension to the NFL's present CBA. The union and league want "labor peace" beyond '99 when they head into talks for their next TV contract in '98. Since the union "took quite a bit of heat from players and agents during the initial stages" of the implementation of the '93 CBA, Upshaw has been traveling around the country talking with players and agents (Timothy Smith, N.Y. TIMES, 10/22). DEION TALK: The NFL has notified Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones that his team is over the cap "and had better make an adjustment pronto." Under the present CBA, a team is not allowed to play a game if it is over the cap. This was the bye week for the Cowboys, "which is why the league office chose it to bring the Deion Sanders contract matter to a head." Jones maintains Sanders should cost him $2.02M per season against the cap, while the league says the figure should be $3.39M (Will McDonough, BOSTON GLOBE, 10/22). INSTANT REPLAY: NBC's Will McDonough conducted a poll for "NFL on NBC" that showed the Cardinals, Bills, Bears, Bengals, Cowboys, Giants, and Bucs against using instant replay. The Panthers, Lions, Chiefs and Jets are "leaning against." NBC's Joe Gibbs: "It's crazy not to use every tool we can to help officials who do make mistakes." NBC's Mike Ditka: "What's best for the league is what the fans want, and the fans want instant replay" (NBC, 10/22).