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The state of soccer in the U.S. was examined by Marissa Silvera of the SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS. U.S. Soccer Federation President Alan Rothenberg "hopes the public can show some patience" before judging the viability of the pro game in the U.S.: "I don't expect the public to give us 40 years, but give us at least 10 years." He alluded to the U.S. team's first win over Brazil in the Gold Cup semifinals last month and said, "In many ways, this year has already been a success for U.S. Soccer. The only way that it's not successful is if we are embarrassed in Paris or something horrible happens in the MLS" (EXPRESS-NEWS, 3/1). NUVEEN TOUR SANS CONNORS? The prospects of the Nuveen Tour without founding member Jimmy Connors was examined by Meri-Jo Borzilleri of the MIAMI HERALD. Connors said recently that he may have lost some desire to continue playing. Tour co-Founder Ray Benton said without Connors, "the tour might put more emphasis on its international market." Benton has had discussions with Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander about joining when they turn 35. Citibank, which is an event sponsor, said it will continue backing the Tour. Citibank President & CEO Frits Seegers: "We believe big-time in the concept. And the concept is bigger than one player" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/1).
The NBA's rookie wage scale was examined by Bryan Burwell on "Inside the NBA." He said the system "that management and even some star players wanted so desperately three years ago ... no longer looks like such a great idea." Burwell: "Yet in reality, is it the system that's causing so many problems or just this particularly poor 1995 draft class?" The first ten picks of the '95 draft have produced only one All-Star, the worst ratio of any draft from '92-95. Burwell: "But as one general manager told me, 'If you leave this one alone it might just correct itself.' Yet just about everyone else -- players, agents and management -- believes they won't leave well enough alone, and the rookie contract system will be one of the major battlegrounds in this summer's labor wars" ("Inside the NBA," TNT, 2/27). NOTES: FAME's David Falk, on possible NBA action toward players who refuse to accept trade assignments: "I don't know what else they can do. If a guy says, 'If I had to play somewhere I'd retire instead,' and he's sincere about it and willing to follow through, I don't know what you can legislate to force him to do that. You can't have specific enforcement of a personal services contract. A guy doesn't have to play" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/28)....Pacers Coach Larry Bird answered questions for an MTV crew Thursday. Afterward he said, "I don't like MTV. Our league is going MTV and that's what's wrong with it" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS, 3/1).
Bruins President Harry Sinden "thinks the NHL should get a commitment from the Olympics and NBC to show the big hockey games -- US-Canada; Canada-Russia; US-Russia -- in prime time without interruption before guaranteeing NHL players would play in Salt Lake City four years from now" (Will McDonough, BOSTON GLOBE, 2/28). Fox's Dave Maloney, on the NHL's Olympic participation: "This was a wonderfully contested tournament, games were close, there were spectacular stories. Let's move on, folks. Do it again." In a Fox/TMG poll conducted last week, 64% said NHL players should participate in the 2002 Winter Games, 19% were opposed and 17% were undecided ("Fox NHL Saturday," 2/28). WHAT ABOUT BOB? In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote that while NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "has been crystal clear in addressing the issue" of the NHL's investigation into Team USA's vandalism at the Olympic Village, NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow "has been conspicuously silent." Brooks questioned why Goodenow hasn't issued a statement "urging the guilty to cooperate and come forward." Brooks: "We don't understand a Players' Association that from appearances seems more concerned with protecting the rights of the minority than of the majority" (Larry Brooks, N.Y. POST, 3/1).
In the tentative deal reached by the NFL and NFLPA to extend its CBA through 2003, there is "some ambiguous language in the agreement to redirect some TV money to help needy teams pursue new stadium construction," according to Tony Grossi of the Cleveland PLAIN-DEALER. Steelers President Dan Rooney: "The problem with that is the confusion. The (people in) Pittsburgh and Denver, they'll think, 'OK, now the league's going to pay for stadiums.' That is not going to help. All this does is help a little." Grossi added that the union "held the advantage in negotiations, but it declined to hold out for such givebacks as eliminating the restrictive franchise player and transition player designations" (PLAIN-DEALER, 3/1). In San Diego, Jerry Magee examines the "dogging-it" clause in the tentative deal which applies to a player with a guaranteed contract being warned by the team over the "intensity" of his performance. Magee: "Intensity is not a matter that can be legislated. It is a character thing. It should be left that way" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/1). OTHER FOOTBALL NOTES: ESPN's Chris Mortensen said that members of the Black Coaches Association "feel progress is being made" where "the pool of coordinators -- black coordinators -- is starting to get deeper." Mortensen: "We now have ten black coordinators on the offensive and defensive side of the ball in the NFL, which has widened the pool. They're happy with that. What they're not happy with is what's going on in the NCAA, where there are only five head coaches out of 114 schools, and the coordinators, just about ten, really, what they have in the NFL" (ESPN, 3/1). ...USA TODAY's Gordon Forbes reports that Joe Kapp's planned pro football league includes former Rams exec Don Klosterman and ex-NFL QB Craig Morton. The league "targets Hispanic- American fans in New York, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Orlando, Mexico City and San Jose" (USA TODAY, 3/2).