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In Chicago, Sam Smith writes on the NBA, calling it "Just another week in the league gone mad. ... One of the biggest problems facing the NBA today is the intransigence and obstructionism" of the league's Players Association, "which continues to defy the league's attempts to bring more discipline to the game" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/12). The CHICAGO SUN-TIMES' Lacy Banks: "Who is running this NBA asylum? ... [Commissioner] David Stern ... is making the NBA an international marketing gold mine. But while a deteriorating economy is definitely damaging the league, the negative behavior of various players might be causing even more harm" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/12). LATIN LOVER: NBA VP/Managing Dir of Latin America Rob Levine is profiled by Fran Brennan in the MIAMI HERALD. Brennan, on Levine's efforts to increase the NBA's popularity in Latin America: "Apparently, it's working. Although few of the NBA's players hail from Latin America countries, the league sells down south (MIAMI HERALD, 1/12).
The state of the NFL was examined by Allen Barra in Sunday's N.Y. TIMES magazine under the header, "How Football Got Sacked." Barra writes that "on the verge of another 'Stupor Sunday,' it might be time for a reassessment. ... The dip in the TV ratings and those empty seats in the Meadowlands may be forgotten in the rush of the coming Super Bowl hype, but they're signaling a change in the American way of life -- a change that the men at the top of the football establishment will typically be the last to see coming" (N.Y. TIMES MAGAZINE, 1/12). NEWS & NOTES: In Boston, Will McDonough notes a poll of all 30 NFL teams indicates that 22 would vote for instant replay, with eight teams against. 23 votes are needed to approve replay's return. McDonough: "With the vote that close, the issue will fall into the hands of commissioner Paul Tagliabue" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/12).... The success of the Jaguars and Panthers, and their effect on the cities of Jacksonville and Charlotte, were profiled in Saturday's N.Y. TIMES. The TIMES' Kevin Sack writes that, with the success of the Panthers and Jaguars, "football is being embraced and promoted for those upstart towns as a metaphor for civic momentum" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/11).
The NHL will hear eleven presentations from nine cities bidding for an expansion team over the next two days in New York City, according to Damien Cox of the TORONTO STAR. Each group, including three from Houston, will have 30-45 minutes to "make its pitch," then another 30-45 minutes to answer questions. The cities: Atlanta; Houston; Nashville; Raleigh-Durham, NC; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Columbus, OH; Hampton Roads, VA; Hamilton, ON; and Oklahoma City, OK. Cox notes Atlanta "is regarded as the favorite along with Houston ... mostly because it is believed the league is looking to improve" its TV presence. But those two do not have "perfect arena arrangements" and "only Nashville has everything in place" (TORONTO STAR, 1/13). USA TODAY's Kevin Allen notes that with the NHL looking to land "a far more lucrative" TV deal in two years, "they will be looking to expand their national ratings potential with this round of expansion. That's why Atlanta is considered the favorite ... Houston also seems like a certainty." The "conventional wisdom" is for the NHL to expand by four teams by the 2000, two in '98-99 and two in '99-00 (USA TODAY, 1/13). LOCAL REAX: In Houston, Neil Hohlfeld: "Perhaps it is a coincidence, but the [Executive Committee] will hear the bids from the Houston groups in the order that probably is how they rank in terms of winning the expansion battle:" IHL Aeros Owner Chuck Watson, followed by Rockets Owner Les Alexander and then the Maloof family (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/12). In Atlanta, Henry Unger notes that Turner Broadcasting's bid "is viewed as one of the strongest by league observers" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/13). St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman: "It wouldn't surprise me if the league announces Atlanta and Houston would join as expansion teams in '98 and leaves 2000 open to wait for the resolution of the Hartford situation." The Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE's Curt Brown notes St. Paul "is considered a prime relocation city because the league has been inclined to waive hefty transfer fees," as much as $20M, for teams returning to former NHL cities (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/13). COL. KURTZ? In Toronto, Damien Cox, on expansion: "The horror. The horror" (TORONTO STAR, 1/13). ALL-STAR DOUGH: In San Jose, city officials estimate that "direct spending" at the NHL All-Star weekend "will exceed" $5M and "indirect spending should exceed" $10M (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/12).