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Bud Selig recently sat for an interview with SPORTING NEWS' Stan McNeal, and he reflected on his accomplishments as MLB Commissioner, discussed the league-wide attendance decline, his plans for expanding the playoffs and the negotiations for a new CBA. The following are excerpts from that interview.
Q: Looking at your time as commissioner, what do you consider your most satisfying accomplishment?
Selig: What I'd say to you is if you took inventory (of MLB) in 1992 and took inventory today, the sport is unquestionably more popular than it's ever been by any criteria. The sport has changed more in the last 18, 19 years than ever before. The last six or seven years have been the greatest in our history. Revenue sharing has worked, the wild card has worked, and interleague has worked. Our gross revenues are at an all-time high. ... Here we are at $7.5 billion-plus. Our attendance is tremendous. Our network and our Internet companies have exceeded everybody's expectations to a point that we're the leaders in those fields, no question about it.
Q: What about attendance? It seems to have flat-lined.
Selig: This year, we have 16 teams ahead (of 2010), five virtually even and nine behind. Overall, we're ahead in spite of the fact that we've had a couple of places that are way behind. In this horrible economic environment, this is extraordinary.
Q: Even if realignment doesn't begin until 2013, could the playoffs be expanded for 2012?
Selig: We have a lot of mechanics to work out yet, but we could do that before realignment. One is not contingent on the other.
Q: Sounds like you want expanded playoffs for next year.
Selig: If we can work out all the details and it's part of the collective bargaining agreement, yeah, I think it will be good for baseball. I want to make sure we do it right.
Q: Will you be disappointed if a new CBA isn't announced by the end of the World Series, like it was in 2006?
Selig: No, I don't put any deadline on it. We'll be done when we're done. The talks are constructive. There are a lot of differences, but when you think back, we had the worst labor history from 1967 through 1995, '96. It was a tortured, mistrusting, painful relationship. While we have our differences today, the personal stuff is gone. I give a lot of people on both sides credit for the constructive relationship (SPORTING NEWS, 10/10 issue).
FIGHT CLUB: In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel writes, "Fighting in the NHL is good for the sport, and good for business." Engel: "The reality is that the NHL does not need any new rule in place to take fighting out of the game because the game is taking care of it. Or at least reducing it. With a heavy emphasis placed on speed and skill, NHL GMs are feeling the pinch on spending a roster spot on an enforcer" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 10/7). But a GLOBE & MAIL editorial states the NHL "should adopt an immediate protocol to give a dressing-room concussion checkup to anyone who takes a punch" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/7).
In Jacksonville, Don Coble writes the “economy is still losing speed in NASCAR.” Red Bull Racing, Germain Racing and Turner Motorsports “all have notified the state of North Carolina of potential layoffs at the end of the season.” North Carolina “requires the notice if 50 or more employees are about to lose their jobs.” Many employees at Kevin Harvick Inc. “have been laid off as that team moves its Nationwide Series program over to Richard Childress Racing.” KHI's truck series equipment “has been sold to Eddie Sharp Racing.” Roush Fenway Racing cars driven by Matt Kenseth and David Ragan “are without sponsorships,” and their teammate, Carl Edwards, “doesn't have full funding, either.” In addition, Clint Bowyer “doesn't have funding at RCR for next year, so he's moving over to Michael Waltrip Racing” (FLORIDA TIMES UNION, 10/7).
BOX OFFICE BOOM: In K.C., Randy Covitz writes what Danica Patrick “brings to NASCAR is box office.” The Nationwide Series is NASCAR’s “stepchild series, dominated by Sprint Cup drivers who parachute in on Saturdays for an extra payday.” Patrick’s departure from IndyCar next season to drive fulltime in the Nationwide Series “will give fans a reason to pay attention to Nationwide races, at least for a couple of years, and could open doors to a sport that has few women racers.” Patrick also “plans to enter eight to 10 Sprint Cup races, mostly at tracks where the Nationwide series runs on the same weekend” (K.C. STAR, 10/7).
TIME FOR A CHANGE: SI.com’s Jon Wertheim wrote former ATP Exec Chair & President Etienne de Villiers “was run out of town, in part because the players thought he was a grandstander.” Outgoing ATP Exec Chair & President Adam Helfant “has been criticized for being insufficiently visible.” Wertheim: “I think tennis could (desperately) use a forceful and outspoken commissioner, a presence who could cut through some of the nonsense and make some of the common-sense decisions that, when allowed to go unmade, hamper the sport. The problem: Which fiefdom is willing to surrender that power?” (SI.com, 10/5).
FREAK SHOW? The NFL announced earlier this week that it will open Super Bowl media day up to the public for the first time, and the AP’s Jim Litke wrote, “Media day is a freak show already. … Now, the league is inviting an audience to hoot and holler throughout the interview session, apparently hoping for something resembling an episode of ‘Maury.’ This is what happens when guys twice the age of the demographic they so desperately want to get down with decide to get ‘edgy.’” Media Day at the Super Bowl is “where a week's worth of sausage gets made for the NFL's awe-inspiring hype machine, which goes into overdrive by the time Sunday's big game kicks off.” Litke: “Seeing that could make the finished product look a whole lot less appetizing” (AP, 10/6).