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The first year of Broncos QB Peyton Manning's five-year, $96M contract is “guaranteed for $18 million, but another $40 million will be guaranteed if he passes a physical” showing his neck is sound after the first year, according to an NFL source cited by Klis & Legwold of the DENVER POST. If Manning passes that neck exam, another $20M “will be guaranteed in 2013 and an additional $20 million will be guaranteed for 2014.” If he fails the physical “for a reason other than the neck injury, the money will still be guaranteed.” The remaining money in the contract, which is “not guaranteed, would be $38 million through 2015 and 2016, when Manning would be 41 years old.” Klis & Legwold note Manning “clearly made concessions for his neck issue.” Manning said of his new team, "They've got to be protected. That's why the whole medical -- I was as open book as I could be.” It appears Manning “made some concession in his deal with the Broncos as his first-year guarantee was lowered 32 percent compared to his previous deal with the Colts” (DENVER POST, 3/21).
THE PLAYERS: In Denver, Mike Klis writes Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen “came through Tuesday,” and he is “one reason Manning chose the Broncos from a list of at least 10 teams.” Bowlen at Manning’s introductory news conference yesterday said, "This is obviously a huge step in the right direction. The only question I have is how long will it last? I mean, he's the real deal. If I can get four or five or six years out of him, that's going to be a huge thing for this organization” (DENVER POST, 3/21). ESPN.com’s Rick Reilly wrote the reason Manning signed with the Broncos “has everything to do with one man,” Exec VP/Football Operations John Elway. The move was “all about Elway and what he wants and what he doesn't want” (ESPN.com, 3/20). USA TODAY’s Jarrett Bell writes Elway’s presence “undoubtedly is part of the equation when Manning says that one of the reasons he chose Denver is because he saw the organization as a good fit” (USA TODAY, 3/21). In Denver, Woody Paige writes Manning “was comfortable” with coach John Fox, Elway and Bowlen, and he “was comfortable after visiting the Broncos first” (DENVER POST, 3/21). FOXSPORTS.com noted Elway “has proven to be as shrewd and gutsy an executive as he was a quarterback.” No matter how this “ultimately turns out for the Broncos, no matter how many more years Manning can last or how healthy he’ll be, Elway drew on his legacy as a player without allowing it to interfere with his legacy as an executive.” He “thought big, went bold and staked his reputation as a team-builder on one of the few players of any era whose accomplishments could match his own” (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/20). ESPN's Dan Le Batard said Elway “just added to his legacy” by bringing in Manning (“Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 3/20).
THE STRATEGY: In N.Y., Andrew Mason writes for all the "private planes, car rides and elegant dinners, the Broncos’ successful pursuit of Manning was defined by three phone calls." The first was “from Fox to Manning on the evening of March 7, just hours after Manning’s emotional farewell news conference.” Fox said, “We kind of felt it out -- what to do, how to do it, because he had obviously never done that before.” That conversation “began the Broncos’ soft sell to Manning,” and it “continued when the sides met at Broncos headquarters on March 9 and again last Friday at Duke University, where Manning worked out for the team.” Mason writes, “Given Manning’s discomfort with the situation, the tactic proved logical” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/21).
A group of about 25 Dolphins fans yesterday “convened across the street from the team training facility” with a mission to get GM Jeff Ireland “fired and let owner Stephen Ross know the depth of their despair over the team's decade-plus of futility,” according to Ben Volin of the PALM BEACH POST. The protesters “put brown paper bags over their heads and carried signs with slogans” such as, "Fire Ireland, save our team," "Fins Down" and "Taking my talents to Cleveland." Matthew Cozzo, who helped organize the demonstration, said, "It's just one thing after another with Ross and Ireland." Volin writes “frustration has grown as the team's prestige has seemingly sunk.” The Dolphins' unsuccessful courtships of coaches Jim Harbaugh and Jeff Fisher and “failure to sign big-name free agents -- most notably quarterback Peyton Manning -- have encouraged critics to pile on.” But criticism of Ireland is “nothing new.” An NFL source said, "The players in the locker room don't even like talking to him face to face. A lot of people around the league feel like Jeff should've gotten fired when Tony (Sparano) did, and that weakens the respect level people have for him." Ireland said he understands that criticism "goes with the job." Ireland: "I know there are passionate fans out there, and they want results. But I would tell them, 'Look, we don't play until August. We're not all the way through the process. Let it run its course.'" Sources said that Ireland “needs to be more savvy about his image.” One example is following his questioning of then draft prospect Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute, Ireland “tried to ignore it rather than confront it head-on, a mistake he now acknowledges” (PALM BEACH POST, 3/21). Protester Jason Staum said, “I gave up my season tickets this year. I’m done with this team until they make some changes, until Ireland’s gone. I’m not going to one game until Ireland’s gone.” Fellow protester Rob Rutolo said, “We’re just basically tired of mismanagement within the Dolphins organization.” However, Rutolo said that his family “would hold onto their four season tickets and keep going to games.” The Dolphins season-ticket base “is around 30,000, which would be the lowest since 1970” (MIAMI HERALD, 3/21).
MONEY TALKS: In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde noted “one common discussion is whether Ireland's approach is turning off players.” Former Dolphins Joey Porter and Channing Crowder have “criticized Ireland's brusque methods.” The NFL Network's Jason La Canfora said that he “has received text messages from players saying they wouldn't sign with the Dolphins.” But Ireland “dismissed this idea, citing free-agent Paul Soliai returning to the team and desired free agents Richard Washington signing.” Hyde wrote Ireland was “right in saying it's often about money” (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 3/20). Pro Football HOFer and former Dolphins LB Nick Buoniconti yesterday said, “There is a monumental weakness in the organization. You can’t possibly lose out on every single individual, whether management or player or coach, without there being consequences to pay for it. They obviously don’t understand free agency.” Buoniconti said evaluating a GM is based "on results,” and the results thus far with Ireland “have been dismal.” Buoniconti: “It’s obviously not just money. It’s the perception of a team that is in a downward spiral. This is what people don’t want to attach their future to” (MIAMIHERALD.com, 3/20). Manning met with the Dolphins last week before signing yesterday with the Broncos, and the N.Y. Daily News’ Frank Isola asked, “Why would people think that he was ever going to go to Miami? Miami has been a joke for several years” ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 3/20).
With the MLB owners set to vote in the next week on the five remaining bid groups for the Dodgers, the question of whether Rams Owner Stan Kroenke's potential purchase of the Dodgers would violate the NFL's cross-ownership rule still has not been answered. "The rule is that an NFL owner can own teams in the other major sports leagues (MLB, NBA, NHL) only in his/her own market or in non-NFL markets," NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello wrote in an email. "Mr. Kroenke’s potential ownership of the Dodgers has not been reviewed as it relates to our cross-ownership rule. We are not going to speculate on how it might apply because 1) it remains a hypothetical situation; and 2) it has not been presented for review," Aiello continued. Also unclear is whether L.A., which has not had an NFL club since '95, is an NFL market and, therefore, subject to the cross-ownership rule. Asked whether L.A. was an NFL market, Aiello said, “I am not addressing this any further right now.” Attempts to reach Kroenke for comment were unsuccessful. Rams Exec VP/Football Operations & COO Kevin Demoff declined to comment for this story. A spokesperson for the Dodgers declined comment (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal). Meanwhile, in L.A., Bill Shaikin cites U.S. Bankruptcy Court documents as indicating that at least one party bidding on the Dodgers "has inquired about the possibility of selling naming rights to Dodger Stadium." Sources said that the investment bank brokering the sale "has included naming rights among what it calls the 'value creation opportunities'" for a buyer. It is uncertain whether the inquiries "came from bidders still in contention and whether the questions reflected standard due diligence or a sincere interest in selling the Dodger Stadium naming rights" (L.A. TIMES, 3/21).
Mets GM Sandy Alderson yesterday indicated that while the "perception of the franchise has perhaps changed," in the wake of Owner Fred Wilpon and President Saul Katz' $162M settlement agreement with Irving Picard, the trustee for the Bernie Madoff victims, the team's front office plan to "reload with young, affordable talent remains the same," according to Mike Puma of the N.Y. POST. Alderson said, "We’re going through a process of redirection and sort of reinvigoration. That takes a little bit of time and a little bit of patience. But I do believe having put (litigation) behind us and the likelihood of major investment in the team allows us a greater array of options." He added, "The immediate impact on our payroll is going to be negligible. ... (But) I do think the overall environment will be much more positive and allow us and fans to focus more on the team and less on the other externalities.” Alderson said, "We have to put a better product on the field, and ultimately that means winning. Last year I think we made inroads into the overall perception of the team. ... I think the clouds are parting, but at the same time we have to do a good job on the baseball side" (N.Y. POST, 3/21). Alderson also said, "From just an overall organizational standpoint, the landscape today is a lot brighter than it was two or three days ago, going into a potential three-week trial. Obviously we're very happy for Fred and Saul. And putting something behind us that has been an overhang for the franchise for well over a year -- just about from the time I arrived -- I think is a real plus" (ESPNNY.com, 3/20). Alderson: "The fact is, we’ve lost quite a bit of money over the last couple of years. We have to create a more sustainable operation, and that relates to putting a good product on the field, so that’s what we’re about" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/21).
STICK WITH US: In N.Y., Harvey Araton writes Wilpon's "pleas to Mets ticket-buyers to 'stick with us' demonstrated a willful blindness to the bond that exists -- or really doesn’t -- between owners and fans." But the "more likely outcome is that suffocating financial realities will continue." Beyond potential payments to Picard, the franchise has a "mountain of debt to deal with in the coming years, hundreds of millions in principal on loans against the team, its cable network SNY, along with Citi Field." Even if Wilpon and Katz "end up paying nothing to Picard under the terms of their settlement, there could be an ethical taint." Wilpon "could spend the next few years climbing trees, saving cats and parking fans’ cars," but they "won’t stick with him if his team can’t play" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/21).
WELCOME TO THE CLUB: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Brian Costa cited a source as saying that Clear Channel Communications Chair of Media & Entertainment Platforms Bob Pittman and Huffington Post co-Founder Kenneth Lerer are among "several investors who combined to purchase one $20 million stake in the Mets." The team "completed the sale of 12 minority stakes" in the franchise for $240M last week. The club publicly acknowledged the deals for the first time Monday, but "declined to identify any outside investors." The only "previously known outside investor" is SAC Capital Advisors Founder Steven Cohen, who also is part of a bid group still in contention to purchase the Dodgers (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/21).
Warriors co-Owner Joe Lacob yesterday discussed being booed by fans during Basketball HOFer Chris Mullin's jersey retirement ceremony and said, "Things happen sometimes and it’s not really clear the reason." He said, "I don't think any of us expected it. Maybe we should've, but we didn't really expect that reaction." Lacob appeared on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's "Chronicle Live" program and watched video of the ceremony for the first time. Lacob: "It’s uncomfortable to watch. It was pretty uncomfortable at the moment, as well, and all I could remember during it was I wish they'd stop so I could just honor Chris because that's what we're here to do." Asked what he thought the boos represented, Lacob answered, "I obviously think there's some frustration with the trade that occurred [last] week. Monta Ellis was one of our most popular players … (but with) 20 years of history not making the playoffs, a lot of different things going on. It's just hard to say." He added, "I don't know anyone out there has been in the situation like I was last night. I don't know that anyone can get used to a situation where you have 20,000 people, or at least it sounded like 20,000 people, booing you." But Lacob said, "We don’t hold it against the fans that they booed. I didn't enjoy it, certainly, it was very uncomfortable but it is what it is and the fans, I still believe, are the greatest fans in the world and I certainly hope that they'll just bear with us and understand we're trying to make a lot of improvements and trying to improve this team and trying to get us to the promised land." Discussing working to improve the team, Lacob said, “Money is not an object, commitment is not an object. We are going to make it happen." But he conceded there "probably will be more booing before there's cheering." He added, "We're committed to making this happen and if we have to take a few hits, and me in particular, we'll take a few hits but we're going to get there" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 3/20).
WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME: ESPN.com's J.A. Adande said Warriors fans are "entitled to voice" their opinion, as “no group has had better support than them for as bad (a product) the Warriors have put out there." Adande: "However, that does not entitle them to ruin Chris Mullin’s night” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 3/20). NBA TV's Matt Winer said, "This is the absolute wrong venue to voice their opinion." NBA TV's Dennis Scott said, "You would think a little more respect would come out. ... It's unfortunate to see Chris Mullin on his day to get his number retired to hear all of those boos." NBA TV's Steve Smith: "Obviously, they didn't like what was going on, whether it was the trade, whether it was the ownership, and they feel they wanted to express it at that time. Not the right time." Smith added if GM Larry Riley "would have grabbed that microphone, he would have got the same" ("Inside The NBA," TNT, 3/19). CSNBayArea.com’s Ray Ratto said fans did not “forget what happened before” Lacob and co-Owner Peter Guber bought the team, because “you buy their history.” CSNBayArea.com's Matt Steinmetz said, “You cannot praise and want Warrior fans to be Warrior fans with all that passion and then not have that part of it (Monday) night. You get both.” Ratto noted the fans “have put up with awfulness almost unremitting for 35 years." Ratto: "They don’t have anywhere else to vent their anger.” Steinmetz: “The thing that was surprising was how long it lasted. That to me was the issue” (“Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 3/20).
SHOULD LACOB HAVE EVEN BEEN OUT THERE? In S.F., Bruce Jenkins writes it was "inexcusably rude for the Warriors' fans to ruin Chris Mullin's halftime ceremony with such relentless booing." It took "some guts for Lacob to stand out there in the first place." Some wondered why he would even "consider sharing the ceremonial spotlight, but Lacob earned the right." Mullin had "soured on the Warriors after leaving his general manager's post, to the point where he avoided Oracle Arena at all costs, and Lacob spearheaded the reach-out process that made Mullin feel welcome again." Jenkins: "Good for Mullin and Rick Barry, both of whom felt compelled to grab the microphone and chastise the mob" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/21). But L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said of the Warriors, "They had to know their owner was going to be booed. They had to know he was that unpopular … and shouldn’t have sent him out there.” Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said the team's marketing department "should have known to have the ceremony before the trading deadline,” and the team should not have “brought the owner out there” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 3/20). SportsNet N.Y.'s Jonas Schwartz said, "I don't know why the owner speaks at a night like that, but who knows?” WFAN-AM's Joe Benigno: “Can you imagine Jim Dolan making a speech in the middle of Madison Square Garden?” (“Daily News Live,” SportsNet N.Y., 3/20).
WORKING LATE: The AP noted Lacob "worked into the wee hours of Tuesday morning to return 'hundreds' of emails in the wake of a stunning display by typically well-behaved Bay Area fans." Lacob said that of the "hundreds of emails he received after the alarming boo-fest, 'every single one of them has been supportive.'" The video clip of the halftime ceremony had "generated nearly" 50,000 views on YouTube by midday yesterday (AP, 3/20).
Demand for Heat tickets has dipped to the point that the team has "begun offering tickets at up to half off the regular price, in an attempt to unload excessive inventory and compete with bargain basement deals found on the secondary market," according to Adam Beasley of the MIAMI HERALD. The Heat have "tasked a third-party ticket service, GoldStar.com, with doing its price-chopping" in a way to "not offend season-ticket holders who paid full freight." GoldStar launched the Miami component of its website yesterday, and GoldStar CEO Jim McCarthy said, "If a game is 95 percent sold out, it's an opportunity for a venue to make a few more dollars, get more people in the building." Beasley notes partnering with GoldStar allows the Heat to sell "leftover inventory at a price that's competitive with StubHub, yet saving them the embarrassment of having an open fire sale." Tickets to the April 19 game against the Bulls have a $125 face value, but "can be had for just $65 through GoldStar." StubHub's cheapest ticket for that game currently is $79. Meanwhile, the NHL Panthers are "offering seats through GoldStar for as little as $15" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/21).
Basketball emotions in North Carolina “are dominated by the state’s college teams,” which leaves the Bobcats “as a vehicle for fan entertainment, although not many who follow the team are necessarily living and dying with the results,” according to Robert Weintraub of the N.Y. TIMES. The contrast in loyalties in the state “was starkly apparent” last Sunday when the Bobcats “practiced in front of three reporters.” The rest of the state’s news media “was in Greensboro, 90 miles up Interstate 85, where North Carolina was playing in the second round of the NCAA tournament and where Duke would have been playing, too, if it had not been upset by Lehigh on Friday night.” From the outside, it appears that Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan “is well on his way to leading his second NBA team into difficulties.” But he has “seemingly benefited from low expectations in Charlotte, profiting from the negative reputations of the previous two owners of the Charlotte NBA franchise.” When the George Shinn-owned Hornets left for New Orleans in ‘02, the “general feeling in town was good riddance, given the toxic effect of Shinn’s miserly methods and the fact that he had been the target of a sexual-assault lawsuit.” Former Bobcats Owner Bob Johnson also “quickly wore out his welcome, failing, among other sins, to deliver on a promised television network for the team.” Jordan became the majority owner in ‘10 and has since “made an effort to be around the team and the city” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/21).
NO PRICE HIKE: Bobcats Exec VP and Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Pete Guelli said that ticket prices “will be flat next season, meaning fans should get a slightly better product for the same price” in ‘12-13. In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg notes the team “cut prices for three years before raising and lowering some tickets for the current season.” The Bobcats have the NBA’s “worst record thus far in 2011-12” and with estimated “losses off the court of $25 million last season, the Bobcats and their fans could use some good news in the months ahead” (CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/16 issue).
The Bills Monday announced that 1,400 new season-ticket packages were purchased and over 4,000 were renewed since last Thursday at 4:00pm ET when the team announced the signing of DE Mario Williams. The new season-ticket sales mark the most in a two-day timeframe since ’02, when the team sold 1,285 new season tickets in one week. The team's web site also registered nearly three million page views last Thursday and Friday. Social media follows also saw an increase as the team added over 3,200 Facebook fans and nearly 4,000 Twitter followers since the start of free agency on March 13 (Bills).
HE'S BACK: In L.A., Arash Markazi noted Clippers’ season-ticket holder Darrell Bailey, known as “Clipper Darrell,” attended every game of the team’s most recent six-game home stand “in his custom-made, half-red and half-blue suit.” Bailey “created a media firestorm when he said the Clippers asked him to refrain from using” his nickname earlier this month. The two sides “came to an agreement before the Clippers returned home after their road trip and Bailey was back in his usual seat in Section 107 on March 11” when the team played the Warriors. Markazi noted the agreement “was more of a clarification than anything else.” The Clippers “wanted to be notified of appearances Bailey was making under the ‘Clipper Darrell’ name and also wanted Bailey to be careful of possible endorsement deals he was considering accepting as ‘Clipper Darrell’” (ESPNLA.com, 3/19).
SCOTTISH RIGHTS: In London, Rod Liddle wrote Scottish Premier League club Rangers bankruptcy administrator Paul Clark said that "more than three offers have been lodged for the club, with at least one more in the pipeline." English rugby club Sale Sharks Owner Brian Kennedy “and a consortium led by former Rangers director Paul Murray both confirmed they had submitted takeover proposals on Friday, the loose deadline for first indicative bids set by administrators Duff and Phelps.” Chicago-based Club 9 Sports, “who have seen investment offers for [English League One clubs] Sheffield Wednesday and Tranmere rejected, and groups from the Middle East and Far East were also reported to be formulating bids” (LONDON TIMES, 3/18).