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The first game of the ABL Championship series between the Columbus Quest and the Richmond Rage drew 4,152 at Battelle Hall in Columbus, OH. The best-of-five-game series continues Tuesday night (RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 3/3). SEASON REAX: In Colorado Springs, Ralph Routon of the GAZETTE TELEGRAPH: "Just how good was the American Basketball League and its Denver franchise, the Colorado Xplosion? Better than even the most hopeful optimists could have expected." Noting the 4,000-plus regular attendance, Routon notes "the best news of all was the quality of basketball. ... That's the best reason -- quality of product -- for the ABL to push onward. ... The guess here is, by next season, we'll see some kind of merger between the ABL and WNBA, which clearly would be in the sport's best interests. It would also have an excellent chance of survival" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE TELEGRAPH, 3/1). In St. Petersburg, Sharon Ginn of the TIMES: "Both leagues are preparing for their next drafts -- late April for the WNBA and early May for the ABL. ... For now, recruiting efforts are low-key." The ABL has been sending information about its league to coaches, letting them give it to their seniors "at the appropriate time," according to Tracey Williams, ABL Dir of Player Personnel. Ginn: "There is still the untouched issue of what happens if an underclassmen decides to leave school early" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/2).
The International Motorsports Speedway Group will move its headquarters to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway after the '97 racing season. A new facility will be constructed for both the IMSG and its subsidiary, the Int'l Motor Sports Association (IMSG)....NBC's Peter Vescey, on the recent indictments of three NBA refs for tax evasion: "It is definitely going to impair the game. It is going to be bumpy at best because we are talking about an intimidation factor here. If coaches and players feel that they can back down the weaker refs, the less experienced refs, they will not hesitate to do so. ... If you lose the quality referees that we are talking about, the names that we've heard, it is going to have an effect" ("NBA on NBC," NBC, 3/2).
The All-American Football League was profiled in Sunday's BOSTON GLOBE by Nick Cafardo. One of the league's founders, Randy Vataha of Boston-based Game Plan Inc., humorously said, "In two years, we hope to put the NFL out of business." The league, scheduled to start in March '98, will have teams in Boston, L.A., Chicago, Miami, Tampa Bay, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas and San Francisco. Vataha "expects there to be 4-5 former NFL players per team" and although he "would like a TV deal," he said that "since investors will make their return on ticket sales, it's not vital." He hopes that any TV deal will be a time buy. All travel, training, salaries, stadium rents, etc., will be paid for by the league. Average ticket prices will be around $18.50, but Vataha "expects" to have a package where a family of four can attend for $50. Players contracts will not be guaranteed (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/2). In Dallas, Rick Gosselin writes under the header, "Spring League May Stir Up Some Free-Agency Movement in '98." Gosselin: "Obviously, the only dent the new league might make in the NFL's free-agency market would be its 12 marquee players, all quarterbacks." A player "might want to go that route for a season to try to establish a more attractive market for himself in the NFL" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/2).
Federal Judge Lewis Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled Friday that Bud Selig is not the commissioner of MLB, according to Murray Chass of the N.Y. TIMES. Kaplan gave his decision in a lawsuit brought against Selig by minor-league club owner Marvin Goldklang over financial compensation for giving up territorial rights to the Marlins. Selig had stated in depositions that he "was only the chairman of the executive council, which served as commissioner in the absence of a commissioner and made all decisions." Kaplan wrote: "Based on the evidence before the court, it is apparent that Selig is neither the de jure nor the de facto Commissioner of Baseball." Kaplan ruled that a de jure commissioner would be legally elected or appointed and Selig "was neither." Kaplan: "There is a vacancy in the Commissioner's office" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/1). ROBINSON REAX: In S.F., Tim Keown on MLB's season-long honoring of Jackie Robinson: "It seems this anniversary should be treated as the equivalent of the day you stopped beating your wife. Something to acknowledge, but not to trumpet. ... The honor in this issue is all Robinson's, not baseball's" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/1).