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The NBA player agents advisory group that has been working with the NBPA met in N.Y. last Friday and "received an ominous report," according to ESPN's David Aldridge. Agents "were told the union has acquired the signatures of 85% of all players authorizing the union to decertify if talks with the league break down." Decertification would "force the league to deal independently with each player and leave the league vulnerable to lawsuits." Aldridge adds that the union "appears much stronger" than it was in '95 and sources say that the Jazz "have come around after being one of the strongest anti-union" teams during the previous labor negotiations. Aldridge: "Sources indicate that nine of the Utah players have signed the decertification agreement, and one of those nine is Karl Malone, who has never been a supporter of the union in past years. Malone declined to comment" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 5/14). In Chicago, Steve Rosenbloom: "[T]his spat will be settled by two different groups: the wives of NBA players and the mothers of their children" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/15). A MILLION REASONS: The NBA announced a 7.1% increase in average per-game '98 playoff attendance over last year. Through the '98 Conference Semifinals, 1,058,257 attended 54 games for an average of 19,597 per game. In '97, 1,006,694 attended 55 games for an average of 18,303 per game (NBA).
One of Indy-car racing's largest problems is a "noticeable lack of identifiable heroes," according to Robin Miller of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS. It's a "malady that plagues" the IRL and, "to some extent," CART, as they "battle NASCAR for television ratings, media coverage, endorsements and fans." Miller writes that "long before the IRL/CART war of 1996, Indy-car racing had suffered a massive star outage," and that the "only recognizable names to most of the non-racing world are" Michael Andretti, Al Unser, Jr., Bobby Rahal, Arie Luyendyk and Tony Stewart. He blames the "old regime at the United States Auto Club and CART's lack of awareness -- plus NASCAR's marketing savvy for its drivers." Miller: "The on-track competition in CART and the IRL has been better than NASCAR the past two years, but the split and poor TV ratings haven't helped cultivate many new national names" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS, 5/15). In Chicago, Skip Myslenski writes from the Indy 500 time trials that the IRL "doesn't have marquee names to match those in CART." He adds that when IRL Founder Tony George split with CART he "drained glamor from this race. That's why excitement is down, anticipation is minimal and scalpers are left holding fistsful of tickets" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/15). THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS: In Indianapolis, Robin Miller also examines the costs of fielding race teams for the IRL and CART, and writes that while Tony George's pursuit for affordability and cost-conscious rule can make it cheaper to run an IRL team, for the "front-runners ... the price of speed can be almost as expensive as it is for CART." The cost for one "ready to race car" for the IRL goes between $375,000 to $425,000. For CART, the cost can hit $600,000 "before the engine goes in" (STAR-NEWS, 5/15).