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Goodell Says Draft Could Move
Locations Between Days In Future
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell indicated that the league could entertain the "notion of holding the draft in multiple cities" in the coming years, according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Goodell said, "We have talked about whether you move to a location, or maybe you move one day of the draft. If we are successful doing the draft on three days, that may be one alternative, to take one of those days and move it to a different location." Deitsch noted several cities other than N.Y. "have shown an interest in hosting" the NFL Draft, including L.A., Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Diego and Canton, Ohio. AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke "has been vocal about bringing the event to L.A.," which "would be an [attractive] option with its high celebrity quotient." Meanwhile, after holding the opening round of the draft on Thursday in primetime for the first time, Goodell on Friday "would not outright commit to a permanent move to primetime" for the NFL Draft, but he is "overjoyed at the ratings." Goodell: "Let's get through the draft and we'll evaluate all aspects of it, including talking to our clubs and seeing what worked and what has not. We'd like to wait until we have concluded with the entire event, but to see the kind of extraordinary increase in viewership I think does reinforce the idea that we can put the draft on a bigger platform, and that's great for everyone." Deitsch noted the "strongest detractors for the NFL switching from an afternoon to primetime draft were critics and viewers in the Pacific Time Zone," and Goodell said that the "possibility of changing the starting time of a primetime draft would be considered." Goodell: "We don't want anyone to miss the draft, so that is part of what we will evaluate. Maybe there is a better start time. We will look at all of that" (SI.com, 4/23).
LOOKING OUT FOR NUMBER ONE: In Ft. Worth, Charean Williams noted Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban last week "voiced his displeasure at the NFL moving its draft to prime time, pitting it against the NBA's playoffs," but Goodell Friday said that he "had not heard or read Cuban's comments." Goodell "shrugged when told Cuban said the NFL wasn't 'playing themselves out to be a good partner.'" Goodell: "I'm not under any responsibility to wait for somebody else to do something successfully. Our responsibility is the NFL. Let's go take care of (ourselves), and that's what we do. We don't assume that our success will continue. We actually assume there are going to be lots of challenges out there, so let's figure out ways to do it better before we have to" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/24).
STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: SI.com's Peter King said he would be "very surprised" if the league did not again hold the draft in primetime next year. King: "I don’t know how you can do much better than the first round in a neatly TV-packaged time of a little over three hours. It was perfect for TV that ended right at the time for the 11:00 news back on the East Coast. The NFL couldn’t have asked for anything better. ... It fits perfectly in that primetime window" ("PTI," ESPN, 4/23). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck wrote of holding the draft in primetime, "The bottom line for me was whether it was more entertaining than the old two-day format, and it certainly was. The opening round clearly had a more dynamic feel to it, and not just because the NFL squeezed the time between picks from 15 minutes to 10" (Baltimore SUN, 4/25). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said the primetime draft “really worked." Cowlishaw: "The first round went quickly. It kept moving and when it was over you were ready for the 2nd round” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN2, 4/23). In Dallas, Barry Horn wrote, "If Thursday night is an indicator, the league can pawn off one of its seven rounds on each night of the week and dominate the TV landscape from Monday through Sunday. ... It appears NFL interest, coupled with college fans' desire to see where their favorite players are headed, creates a perfect storm" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/24). ESPN's Trevor Matich said of moving the draft to Thursday, "You know what this is about? It’s about the Benjamins, and you know what? It is succeeding brilliantly in that regard, and if the players don't like having to wait another 24 hours between the first and the second rounds, they can just learn to deal with it" ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 4/23).
MAN OF THE HOUR: In N.Y., Mark Hale reports Goodell "chatted with fans of NFL teams" at a Saturday fan forum at Radio City Music Hall. Some Giants season-ticket holders said that Goodell "addressed such issues as the 2014 Super Bowl coming to New York, guaranteed player contracts and the importance of having the league become even fan friendlier" (N.Y. POST, 4/26). Meanwhile, USA TODAY's Nate Davis lists Goodell among the "winners" from the draft. He "presided over the event with his usual aplomb and clearly connected with the players." Davis: "Did Paul Tagliabue ever get bear hugs from the rookies?" Goodell also deserves credit for "looking after the players." Prospect Brandon Ghee, who was invited to N.Y. by the NFL, was not selected until late in the third round, but "Goodell ensured he was back on the dais to announce Ghee's selection, whispered words of encouragement to him and posed for pictures with the youngster" (USA TODAY, 4/26). ESPN's Chris Berman said of Goodell, “It doesn’t take very long to realize he’s the most normal guy in the room” (“NFL Draft,” ESPN2, 4/23).
Stern Vehemently Disagrees With Van Gundy's
Suggestion Of Tighter Playoff Schedule
NBA Commissioner David Stern downplayed Magic coach Stan Van Gundy's suggestion that the league "return to back-to-back games during the playoffs and condense the schedule," saying that "those days are long gone," according to Gary Washburn of the BOSTON GLOBE. Stern said, "It’s the playoffs. We craft an $800[M] TV deal, it’s a really good deal, and then I pick up the paper and see that Stan Van Gundy is an expert on scheduling. It’s like going back to high school, he said, and my response is that he’s speaking like he’s in high school. He should grow up." Stern added, "We’ve got a business here that feeds a lot of people, and we make a fair living at, and engages America, and I am really tired of hearing coaches who think because they have a postgame platform that anything that comes into their minds is a good thing to say. It sends a terrible message to our fans" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/25). But N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said of the prolonged schedule, "I always hear about, 'We have to protect our television partners.' How about protecting your fan partners?" ESPN's John Saunders: "As the NHL has found out, playing every other night does build a following" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 4/25).
A FINE LINE TO WALK: Stern last week threatened to increase fines for coaches who criticize NBA officials, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, "It's a competitive game. It's (not easy) to be calm and collected. Coaches fight for their teams. That’s what you get hired to do." In response to Rivers, Stern said, "It's the coach's job to comply with the rules and do what you can. ... There’s some beautiful basketball being played out there by some talented basketball players, and coaches should step back and let that happen" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/24). Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of Stern's threat to increase fines, "I believe him. I've gotten to know the commissioner well over the last few years because of my involvement with the coaches' association. And he's a man who is interested in the well-being of the game and he's interested in doing the right things" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/24).
IN A RUSH? The BOSTON GLOBE's Washburn noted the NBA "would love to get a new" CBA reached by July 1, when Cavaliers F LeBron James, Heat G Dwyane Wade and Raptors F Chris Bosh "could sign maximum contacts under the existing deal." Stern said, "It would be really nice (to get a deal done early). We thought it would be really great to try to get something done by this year, not because of the max contracts or free agency but because to the extent that there were changes that had to be implemented, they could be phased in over a period of time." However, Washburn noted the NBPA has "no interest in a new deal before the CBA expires in the summer" of '11, and "nothing has changed" since the two sides last met during NBA All-Star weekend in Dallas (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/25).
Twenty MLB Teams Have Seen
Attendance Drops So Far This Season
Twenty of MLB's 30 teams through Thursday had "experienced attendance drops through the same period from a year ago," but overall it is "not quite as dire as it sounds," according to Larry Stone of the SEATTLE TIMES. Total attendance for the 234 total home games through Thursday was 6,699,993, down a total of 140,269, or just 599 fans per contest, compared to the same number of games in '09. Five teams with declining attendance -- the Cubs, Nationals, Red Sox, Tigers and Mariners -- are down "fewer than 1,000 fans per game." The largest drops "belong to the Mets (down 7,000 fans per game), Padres (down 6,317), Marlins (down 5,220), White Sox (down 5,039) and Blue Jays (down 4,146)." While the Dodgers, Braves and Rangers have "experienced healthy attendance gains thus far, and the Yankees, Angels, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cardinals, Phillies and Cubs remain attendance juggernauts," the Twins at their new Target Field are "almost single-handedly responsible for keeping the numbers reasonable." The Mariners for their first nine home games drew 230,822 fans, down about 466 per game from '09, and have drawn "three of the four smallest crowds in the 10 ½-year-plus history of Safeco Field." The Mariners have "plenty of company in the empty-seat category," as the Blue Jays, Indians, Orioles, Nationals and Mets also have "the smallest crowds in the history of their ballparks" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/25). MLB Senior VP/PR Pat Courtney said that overall attendance is down just 1-2% "from this stage last season" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/25).
TIME TO WORRY? In N.Y., Joel Sherman wrote while MLB's '10 season is less than a month old, "there have been some concerning sights." Attendance was an "issue last year because of the economic downturn," but already this season "there have been record-low attendances" in several ballparks. The Mets are "staring at a dramatic dip" from last season, while "winning does not improve the spectator bottom line in Tampa, and losing is going to imperil the numbers in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Houston, Arizona, Cleveland, Kansas City and elsewhere." But MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said, "I think you have to wait until Memorial Day to really get a good feel" (N.Y. POST, 4/25).
Cuban Says Potential NFL Work Stoppage In '11
Provides UFL With Tremendous Opportunity
The UFL Friday during its annual meetings in Orlando announced that Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban is the "newest league owner," according to Jeff Caplan of ESPN DALLAS. Cuban, who is "investing in the league rather than owning an individual team," said, "I didn't want to take on the responsibility of a franchise." Caplan noted Cuban had expressed "interest in joining the UFL ownership group in the early planning stages but initially chose to limit his participation to a broadcasting commitment, using his HDNet to televise games during last year's inaugural season along with Versus." Cuban said that "one reason he joined the ownership group now was because of the timing of a potential NFL lockout of the 2011 season, which would focus more attention on the UFL." He added, "Now if there's not a lockout, it's a valid league. But, that just made it more interesting" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 4/23). Cuban said that he is "looking at the investment as a high-risk, high-reward opportunity." Cuban: "It's a product that has a lot of potential, especially if the NFL has a lockout down the line. People are still going to want to watch football." He said that he "will not be involved in the placement of teams or day-to-day operations" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/24).
POSSIBLE EXPANSION: UFL COO Bill Peterson said that if the league "grants San Antonio an expansion franchise this year, the team likely wouldn't begin play until 2011." Omaha received an expansion franchise earlier this month, but Peterson said that the UFL "likely will fall short of reaching its goal of adding two teams for the 2010 season." In San Antonio, Tom Orsborn noted the UFL "hopes to add two franchises a year until it reaches 12-14 teams." In addition to San Antonio, the UFL is "looking at Salt Lake City and a few other markets Peterson declined to identify" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 4/25).