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SBD/January 20, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
More than a dozen former and current NFL players "donned pinstripe suits Wednesday and took their talking points to Capitol Hill, where they told lawmakers their side of an increasingly acrimonious labor dispute," according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. The "wide gap" between players and owners "has prompted league officials and players to increase their visits to the Capitol." But the visits may be "mostly window-dressing." The players said that they "would call on, among others," U.S. Reps Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) and Jon Runyan (R-N.J.), the "only two former NFL players in Congress." But lawmakers "say they are reluctant to get involved." U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said, "The owners and players are both literally and figuratively big boys and do not need Congress to referee every dispute for them." But former NFLer Pete Kendall said, "I know that this Congress in particular is concerned with jobs, jobs, jobs, so those are the three things that many of the newly elected members ran on" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/20). Smith said, "When it comes to their negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement, that is a business dispute." NFLPA officials contend that "rather than asking Congress to mediate the labor dispute, they are being more aggressive to keep up with NFL lobbying." USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell notes NFL player groups within the last two years "have made at least five trips to Capitol Hill." Yesterday's trip, which took place the "day after union reps underwent orientation" at NFLPA HQs, "began with a group photo on the steps of the Capitol" (USA TODAY, 1/20).
A LOT ON THE LINE: FOXSPORTS.com's Alex Marvez writes the NFL and the NFLPA are "engaged in a Cold War-style standoff," and Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith are the "Kennedy and Khrushchev in this impasse." Each "has his finger on the proverbial red button," and "should either side press it, the prospects of a 24th consecutive season without a work stoppage will become enveloped in a mushroom cloud." The fallout from a business standpoint "could be just as devastating," as the NFL is "riding a wave of unprecedented popularity and financial success." Marvez: "Common sense tells you common ground can be reached between the league and its players union before the CBA expires on March 4. There is no other reason for optimism" (FOXSPORTS.com, 1/20). In San Jose, Mark Purdy writes the NFL "has had a terrific year as a product," as the league "actually increased in viewership this season." Attendance is "holding fairly steady, as well." Purdy: "Yup, sounds like the perfect time to go in and risk horrible damage to the most-followed and well-liked sports league in North America" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/20).
WHERE'S THE SENSE OF URGENCY? In Detroit, John Niyo notes Goodell and Smith "reportedly got together" yesterday in N.Y. Niyo: "Everyone hears the clock ticking, but what's alarming is the apparent lack of urgency. And that only fuels speculation, as I've felt all along, that while we won't lose the 2011 season ... we probably will lose a good chunk of the offseason" (DETROIT NEWS, 1/20). In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette noted the "public relations war between the players and owners ratcheted up Tuesday." But fans "don't really care who wins or loses in the next CBA." Frenette: "It's up to the players and owners to negotiate an agreement, but don't give us the tedious blow-by-blow details" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 1/19).
The Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour, which "has struggled to attract sponsors and stay afloat for years," is throwing "what might be considered a Hail Mary pass with this week's Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas," according to Bob Velin of USA TODAY. The Tour is "throwing big money into the TOC, one of its majors," as it "has upped the purse to $1 million, the first seven-figure purse in bowling history." The $250,000 winner's prize is the "richest the sport has ever seen." This week's tournament final also "has moved to Saturday on ABC for the first time" since '96, "when bowling was one of the network's signature Saturday afternoon staples." The PBA "has a three-year deal to put the Tournament of Champions on ABC." PBA Commissioner & CEO Fred Schreyer said a "big part of what we're trying to do is carve out a place on the sports calendar for ourselves and create a signature weekend for bowling and the PBA." PBA HOFer Nelson Burton Jr., who will host ABC's coverage of the event, credits PBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Tom Clark with "taking a huge gamble and putting a good chunk of the PBA's eggs into one basket with this event." Burton: "Clark is an innovator ... willing to take some chances and get the biggest bang for their buck." Schreyer said that he "anticipates a spike in the TV ratings with the switch to ABC." Schreyer: "We've been a Sunday, 1 p.m., ESPN property for years. This is Saturday, 2:30 on ABC. Our only concern is that people are aware of the shift" (USA TODAY, 1/19). In Las Vegas, Jeff Wolf noted the first-place check Saturday "will be 2½ times more than the previous best for a winner in the PBA's 52-year history," and it "wasn't until 1989 that a pro bowler won that much for an entire season." Bowler Pete Weber: "I always imagined we'd bowl for that much money, but I didn't expect it now." Clark "hopes the sizable winner's check will help increase viewership." Clark: "The pressure of the moment is going to make the bowlers' emotions come out, and that's what you need" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 1/19).
The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Reed Albergotti notes the NFL "has long maintained that its drug testing program, which administers some 15,000 tests a year, is one of the toughest in North American sports." But anti-doping experts said that early notifications of upcoming tests "raise serious questions about the general effectiveness of the program." The problem is that "by giving an athlete notice of a drug test the following day, one that would not be conducted for at least 15 hours," the player has "ample time to take measures to 'beat' the test by distorting his sample." The advance notice "appears to violate the NFL's Policy on Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances, which states that all players who are subjected to in-season drug testing will be notified 'on the day of the test.'" Packers Head Athletic Trainer Pepper Burruss recently alerted C Scott Wells about a test he would have to take the following day, but the NFL said that the Packers "had not violated any NFL rules by notifying" Wells of his test in advance (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/20).
NEW WORLD ORDER: In S.F., Ron Kroichick writes we are "slowly inching toward a real world golf tour, where top players gather for marquee tournaments -- some in the U.S., some in Europe, some in the Middle East, some in Asia." And is that "really so terrible for golf?" It is "bad for" this week's PGA Tour Bob Hope Classic and next month's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which are "struggling to attract the world's best players, mostly because the Hope goes against the Abu Dhabi Championship, and the AT&T will unfold the same week as the Dubai Desert Classic." Only "three of the top 40 players in the world rankings teed off in Wednesday's opening round at the Hope." But golf "truly is a global game in 2011, and the European Tour achieved this week exactly what the PGA Tour sought with its 'playoffs' -- getting the best players to compete against one another, head-to-head." Kroichick: "That's good theater in any language" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/20).
ON THE UPSWING: Former driver Mario Andretti said the Izod IndyCar Series, "as we know it, is definitely on the upswing." Andretti: "I think now that it's unified, it has definitely taken off into the direction it needs to go and that it deserves. Izod is doing a tremendous job of promoting into mainstream America, and that's where we belong." Andretti said IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard is "doing a phenomenal job on so many fronts." Andretti: "He has learned tremendously over this past year. He is a very calculated individual. He's patient in some ways but also very energetic in some others. He's careful with his moves. ... I think he knows where it needs to go. He needs to know where we have to appeal. He is a very good business man" (SI.com, 1/18).