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SBD/March 4, 2013/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
Golfer Rory McIlroy’s withdrawal during the second round of the PGA Tour The Honda Classic on Friday was the “latest disappointment since he made the highly lucrative but risky move of changing his equipment from Titleist to Nike at the beginning of the year,” according to Karen Crouse of the N.Y. TIMES. The week of his title defense at the tournament “began with McIlroy brushing off criticism in the news media" over his equipment change. However, nobody who has “spent time around him believes" that the value of McIlroy’s Nike contract “was his motivating factor in making the switch.” Golfer Mark Wilson said, “I truly believe he didn’t leave Titleist for any money reasons. He just wants to be with a company that represents some of the best athletes in a lot of sports.” Crouse wrote McIlroy before his tournament withdrawal had “demonstrated why so many in the golfing world and global marketplace regard him as a golden asset” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/2). GOLFCHANNEL.com’s Randall Mell wrote this is the “third troubling exit for McIlroy since he opened the year with news trumpeting his multi-million dollar deal with Nike.” There is “mounting pressure to prove this swoon isn’t the clubs” (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 3/1). In Daytona, Ken Willis wrote when a “mammoth sporting-goods corporation” like Nike reportedly adds $200M to your personal worth, "all because you’re an international megastar and figure to remain one for a decade or more, you take on even more personal responsibility” (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 3/2). In Illinois, Barry Rozner writes McIlroy is “going through a lot right now, the biggest issue being a new ball and equipment.” There are the “expectations of living up" to being the world's top-ranked golfer and the Nike contract, "not to mention a high-profile, public relationship and a swing that looks out of sorts” (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 3/4).
THINGS WON'T BE THE SAME: ESPN.com’s Gene Wojciechowski wrote McIlroy’s “humility and the easy-going charm of someone who doesn't take himself too seriously have always been his strengths.” Until he “walked off the course and offered conflicting reasons that still don't add up, his reputation didn't have a smudge mark.” But it “does now.” There is “nothing normal about getting money-whipped by Nike to change equipment and join Tiger Woods atop the endorsement mountaintop.” McIlroy’s credibility and image in the U.K. “took an instant kneecapping” (ESPN.com, 3/3). McIlroy's withdrawal was a topic for GOLF.com's weekly roundtable discussion, and SI Senior Editor Mark Godich said, “Plain and simple, Rory is frustrated over the adjustment to his new equipment. But remember: The switch wasn't about the money.” GOLF.com Senior Producer Jeff Ritter wrote, “There’s no question this whole Nike/life adjustment is going to take some time.” Golf magazine’s Cameron Morfit wrote, “What if Rory went back to his old clubs? What legal superstorm would ensue and how much money would it cost him? ... I think the pressure got to him and this is turning out to be the most awkward adjustment period since Kardashian-Humphries” (GOLF.com, 3/3). The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s John Paul Newport wrote for deals less than $1M, switching equipment "isn't necessarily the right play.” That is what makes McIlroy’s "rare complete-bag switch to Nike from Titleist so difficult.” The quality of Nike’s clubs “is not at issue.” Even if the “heads, shafts, lies, lofts and weights of McIlroy’s new clubs are identical to his old ones, however, they won’t all feel the same” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/2). YAHOO SPORTS’ Jay Busbee wrote, “Let’s kill the whole ‘it's the equipment's fault’ meme dead" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/1).
PEER REVIEW: Golf HOFer Jack Nicklaus said of McIlroy, “He shouldn’t have walked off the golf course. That was unfortunate. I think if he had thought about it for five minutes he wouldn’t have done it” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/3). Golfer Ernie Els said, “I’m a great fan of Rory’s, but I don’t think that was the right thing to do" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/2). Golfer Graeme McDowell said, “Something (had to) give. It was only a matter of time. ... He kind of skyrockets into the (upper) echelon by becoming the No. 1 player in the world, signing the biggest (endorsement) deal in world golf, becoming the most marketable player in the world. It’s a lot to deal with for a young kid” (PALM BEACH POST, 3/4). Golf Channel’s Damon Hack said, “To walk off that golf course as the No. 1 player in the world, you're an ambassador of the game, it was a mistake and Jack Nicklaus was spot on” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 3/4). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said, "A professional golfer cannot do that to a tournament and the sponsors and the patrons.” ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser: "I think his people don’t want people to say that it’s the Nike clubs or the Nike golf ball" (“PTI,” ESPN, 3/1).
The NHL recently informed the NHLPA that the projected hockey-related revenue (HRR) for the shortened '12-13 season will reach $2.4B, a "staggering number with implications far beyond the obvious that the league essentially suffered no damage by locking out the players for more than three months," according to Larry Brooks of the N.Y. POST. The $2.4B projection is "for a 720-game regular season plus the playoffs." HRR last season hit a record $3.3B, and the NHL expects to generate 72.7% of last year’s revenue in 58.5% of the season "without the benefits reaped from the money-printing outdoor game." However, the projected $2.4B "represents a case of less being -- or meaning -- more to the consumers." It seems "obvious, as long suspected, the NHL generates a comparatively small amount of revenue over the course of the first six weeks of the season, when it’s difficult to attract attention and sales in October." Attendance and percentage of capacity are "up dramatically, essentially across the board." The lesson here for the NHL and NHLPA is "reducing the schedule to 70 games in a season that begins in the final week of October -- it would be important to get a jump on the NBA -- very well could and almost certainly would not only produce better hockey but generate more interest and thus more revenue." Rather than realignment, the league and the union "should be devoting their energies to a radical reduction of the schedule and resetting of the season." Eliminating October is "good business for the NHL" (N.Y. POST, 3/3).
REALIGNMENT A PRECURSOR TO EXPANSION? In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote of the NHL's most recent proposal for realignment, "The imbalance, with 16 teams in the East and 14 in the West, makes it appear the league is readying to accommodate a couple of expansion teams." The likes of K.C., Houston, Seattle, Portland, and even Las Vegas "have long been considered candidates." In the East, Quebec City, southern Ontario, and Hartford "are among the wannabes." NHL sources believe that "if Florida remains a doormat, it could be shifted to Quebec City, where construction on the state-of-the-art Quebecor Arena began in September" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/3). In Buffalo, Bucky Gleason wrote the NHL in its realignment efforts "isn’t going to satisfy everybody, but it also shouldn’t send a reliable car to the junkyard because it has a broken tail light." Overall, the league "doesn’t have a balance problem." It certainly "shouldn’t make changes that would throw off competitive balance" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/3). In Columbus, Michael Arace writes the NHLPA "has it in its power to kill the plan, and, if it does, it will be a defeat for logic, a blow to smart-thinking people who care about hockey, and a bog of spit in the eye of the Blue Jackets, their players and their fans." The aim of the proposal was "to bring some measure of relief to a handful of teams that are at a competitive disadvantage" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 3/4). In Illinois, Barry Rozner wrote, "It's a shame that an Original Six franchise like Chicago doesn't get more consideration" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 3/3). The CBC’s Elliotte Friedman said if the NHLPA votes against the realignment plan, it is "a bad sign because you’d hope after the lockout they’d be able to make a deal together on things, especially when they’ve discussed this before" (“HNIC,” CBC, 3/2).
NEGOTIATING THE EXCHANGE RATE: In N.Y., Jeff Klein notes the NHL is expected to send players to the '14 Sochi Games, but it is "hardly a done deal." The talks "hinge on one overarching issue: whether the NHL can extract extra rights and considerations from the IOC and the IIHF in exchange for suspending business for two weeks at midseason and risking injury to its players." But the IOC and the IIHF are believed to "be reluctant to grant such concessions." It could set a "precedent for other professional leagues that send players to the Olympics to ask for similar deals." Officials have not disclosed the "full list of what the NHL is seeking, but the league is known to want the right to use Olympic video on the NHL Network, NHL.com and other league platforms." The league also may be "seeking some form of financial compensation or increased perquisites for participating in the Olympics." Officials from the NBA and WNBA declined to comment on "what they would do if the NHL won extra video rights from the IOC" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/4).
A commissioned report by the Boston Consulting Group found that the Hulman-George family should "retain ownership" of the Izod IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, offering "a wide array of suggestions on how to better position the troubled open-wheel series," according to Jenna Fryer of the AP. BCG's 115-page report suggested a 15-race IndyCar schedule "in major American cities held over 19 weeks; a three-race playoff with a season finale on the road course at Indy; a new marketing strategy promoting IndyCar’s 'daredevil drivers'; using just one U.S. television partner instead of both ABC/ESPN and NBC Sports Network; overhauling the ticket pricing at IMS in tiers that would raise the cost of the most expensive Indy 500 ticket from $150 to $200 and lower almost every ticket" for NASCAR's Brickyard 400 and MotoGP Red Bull Grand Prix. Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles on Friday said that the company is "taking the report under advisement." Miles: "Our strategy has not yet been finalized. As part of finalizing our strategy, we will be sharing information with our stakeholders and listening to their feedback and ideas before we come to any final conclusions." The report suggested that IndyCar should "split the schedule into two seasons -- a 15-race U.S. calendar from April to August and an international series during the offseason." The championship would be "decided during the U.S. season, and the hypothetical schedule proposed by BCG included seven cities not currently visited by IndyCar." The report also suggested that IndyCar select "one TV partner, preferably ABC/ESPN," or place "as many races as possible on ABC." The report said IndyCar was "the best pure racing motorsports league in the U.S.," but the series "suffers from lack of awareness." Focus groups said IndyCar should position itself as "having the most skilled, daredevil drivers and not theatrical off-track personalities" (AP, 3/2).
LET ME CLARIFY: In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin noted Miles on Friday "worked to curb speculation" that Hulman & Co. is "on the verge of a massive overhaul" of IndyCar and IMS. The company is "under no obligation to introduce any of the items" in the BCG report. The report's "most polarizing" recommendation is that IMS should "host a season-ending IndyCar race on its infield road course." The report estimated that IMS "could realize" a $4.3M profit. The report also noted that NBC Sports Net in broadcasting F1 races this year might "be in violation of its contract with IndyCar if it promotes any other form of motor sports more than IndyCar" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/2).
The nine games during MLS’ opening weekend saw attendance down 9.5% "from the opening-day crowds at the same venues" last season, according to Paul Kennedy of SOCCER AMERICA. The Sounders and Timbers “topped last year's home-opening crowds,” while the Whitecaps and Earthquakes “were also sellouts.” The “most disappointing crowd” was 20,148 at Home Depot Center for the defending champion Galaxy's opener against the Fire. The game marked the club’s “first since the departure of David Beckham.” The Galaxy also played without F Landon Donovan, "who won't join the team until the end of the month.” Meanwhile, an announced crowd of 7,121 attended Chivas USA’s home opener against the Crew, marking the “smallest crowd for a home opener in MLS history.” But most observers put the Home Depot Center crowd at “no more than 4,000.” MLS Commissioner Don Garber on Saturday backed Chivas USA Owners Jorge Vergara and his wife Angelica Fuentes, saying that they “were committed to MLS and knew what needed to be done” (SOCCERAMERICA.com, 3/4). SPORTING NEWS’ Brian Straus noted anyone watching Crew-Chivas on TV "probably would wager that the actual total was closer to half" of the announced crowd. The attendance is “an indictment” of club Vergara’s vision (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 3/3).MLS OPENING WEEKEND ATTENDANCEDATE
AWAY-HOME'13'123/2 Impact-Sounders38,99838,7093/2 Toronto FC-Whitecaps21,00021,0003/2 DC United-Dynamo20,91922,0393/3 Red Bulls-Timbers20,67420,4383/3 Fire-Galaxy20,14827,0003/2 Sporting KC-Union18,16019,0743/2 Rapids-FC Dallas18,07520,9063/3 Real Salt Lake-Earthquakes10,52510,5253/2 Crew-Chivas USA7,12114,464MLS AVERAGES19,51321,573
TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.: Garber said of Chivas USA, “We believe in a second team in Los Angeles. We originally in 2005 came up with this concept of having [a] club that was connected with Mexico. It hasn’t turned out quite the way that we had hoped. I have not seen the final report about [how] the attendance is down there, but certainly if it doesn’t grow beyond what I have heard I would be concerned about that” (SEATTLETIMES.com, 3/3). In L.A., Kevin Baxter wrote after Vergara and Fuentes bought out their Chivas USA partners last year, the couple “decided to start over.” Vergara has been “cleaning house over the last four months, sacking the entire front office and much of the coaching staff.” He also “remade the roster, ridding the team of 14 players and bringing in 11 new ones who have never played in MLS.” However, “just one of the 14 players cut loose has Mexican nationality while 10 of the additions are either Mexican-born or have Mexican parents.” Last year, Chivas USA “had just two players with Mexican ties” (LATIMES.com, 3/1).
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A ...: In Houston, Jose de Jesus Ortiz wrote the Dynamo front office “loves to whine about their lack of coverage, but they have plenty of egg on their face after only an announced crowd of 20,019 showed up to the season opener.” There is “no reason why the Dynamo shouldn’t sell out every game in this diverse city with hundreds of thousands of kids playing soccer.” The Dynamo front office “walks around with the inferior complex of a minor-league baseball team,” but Dynamo President Chris Canetti and his group “should be embarrassed that they couldn’t sell out their season opener.” Ortiz: “How do you not sell out the opener in a small stadium with a capacity of only 22,039? Even worse, the Dynamo had months to sell this game. Here’s some advice for Canetti and the Dynamo: Instead of doing some self promoting on CSN, radio and everywhere, how about getting out of the way and letting the players be the faces of the franchise?” (CHRON.com, 3/2).
MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner yesterday said that "toughening penalties for drug violations will have to wait until the 2014 season," according to the AP. Weiner: "There are going to be talks. I don't what the result is going to be." The current sanctions have been in place since the '06 season: 50 games for a first offense, 100 for a second and "a lifetime ban for a third." MLB Commissioner Bud Selig on Saturday said that he "wanted increased penalties as soon as possible." Weiner said, "We had some dialogue even with the commissioner's office in the offseason that didn't lead to any changes, and I suspect that we'll have those discussions over the course of the year. But it's going to be a 2014 issue. We're not going to change the rules of the game in the middle of the season" (AP, 3/3). In a special to MLB.com, Andrew Simon wrote although MLB's policy is the "toughest program among the major U.S. sports, Selig expressed a desire to tighten it further." Selig said that he asked MLB Exec VP/Economics & League Affairs Rob Manfred "to sit down with Weiner to negotiate harsher penalties, with an eye toward reaching an agreement for 2013." Selig: "As soon as possible; I really feel very strongly about it. This is not something we ought to wait around on. This is something we should do quickly, expeditiously." Simon noted several other players have "responded by speaking out in favor of increased suspensions, something Selig would approve" (MLB.com, 3/3).
ALL IN FAVOR SAY AYE: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes, "We are witnessing another pivotal moment in the relationship between major league players and the commissioner's office." Players are telling Weiner that they are "sick of it." Veterans are "demanding harsher penalties," and they are "increasingly aggravated that their sport has the toughest testing policy of any North American league but can't shake the scrutiny the tainted minority attracts." Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman said, "If you want hardship penalties, I'm all for that. Nobody wants to watch cheaters. Those guys make those of us who don't cheat, don't use, look worse." Nightengale notes Selig "won't say it publicly, but he wants that first-time suspension doubled to 100 games." A second positive test would ban a player "forever from the game, just like Pete Rose" (USA TODAY, 3/4). Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia said, "I want all the young kids and everybody to see baseball as pure and everybody that they see, they can look up to them. I don't want those kids looking down on their role models. It's upsetting, man." Pedroia "isn't sure whether stiffer penalties would work," but he "supports the idea of baseball going after cheaters to a greater degree" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/4).
NASCAR Senior VP/Racing Operations Steve O'Donnell said that the investigation into the Feb. 23 NASCAR Nationwide Series crash that injured 28 fans at Daytona Int'l Speedway "will focus on the gate area of the fencing and how improvements can be made before the next superspeedway race at Talladega, Ala., in May," according to Terry Blount of ESPN.com. O'Donnell said that Dr. Dean Sicking, designer of the SAFER barrier, along with engineers from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, "have been brought in as part of the investigation." Suggestions for "improving the catch fencing include a double-fencing setup or a super-strength plastic glass, similar to what hockey arenas have, instead of fencing." O'Donnell: "It's really far too early to speculate. We have to do the investigation and do it right. There are a number of suggestions out there, and we will look at all of them" (ESPN.com, 3/2). Meanwhile, O'Donnell on Saturday said that the two fans "originally listed as in critical condition remain hospitalized in Florida." In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell noted both patients "are stable" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/3). An OBSERVER editorial stated no driver "has died in the racing body's top divisions" since Dale Earnhardt's death in '01, and it is "time for NASCAR to take the same care with its fans." NASCAR has shown it can "find a balance between the best and worst of its sport, and it has become a racing industry leader with its commitment to protecting drivers." The people who "pay to watch them deserve the same" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/2).
DO THE CRIME, PAY THE TIME: O'Donnell said that suspended Nationwide Series driver Jeremy Clements, following his racially insensitive remark last weekend, "will work with Dr. Richard Lapchick before any reinstatement occurs." Lapchick, who founded the Center for the Study of Sports in Society, is a "national authority on diversity issues in sports and does annual studies of each of the four major leagues in minority-hiring issues" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/3). ESPN.com's Blount noted O'Donnell "defended NASCAR's decision to suspend" Clements. O'Donnell also said that NASCAR "has a plan for Clements' eventual return to racing." He said, "Our go-forward plan with Jeremy is to quickly engage Dr. Richard Lapchick to work with Jeremy as soon as possible and get Jeremy back in the race car as soon as possible and as soon as we deem fit" (ESPN.com, 3/2).
VIVA LA MEXICO: Driver Abraham Calderon won Friday's NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series race at Phoenix Int'l Raceway in a car sponsored by the World Baseball Classic. The WBC also was featured on Calderon's race suit, as the driver won the first ever Mexico Series race held outside of Mexico. The WBC sponsored the car to mark the beginning of WBC training camps and exhibition games in Phoenix this week, and was on site at PIR all weekend. Fans were able to purchase WBC tickets and enter to win prizes (WBC). NASCAR.com's David Caraviello wrote the Mexico Series race for NASCAR was an "opportunity to spotlight an international effort that also includes a fledgling circuit in Europe and a more established tour in Canada." For the Toyota Mexico Series, it was a "chance to perform at a major American motorsports facility." Caraviello: "Clearly, it meant a great deal for the Mexico Series drivers to compete in the U.S." (NASCAR.com, 3/1). BEYONDTHEFLAG.com's Mike Smallwood wrote, "I am not understanding the reason behind having a NASCAR Mexico race in America." If NASCAR is "trying to get new fans into the sport from another country then that is like a last ditch effort to get new fans." Although there are "probably many NASCAR fans in Mexico and its great to see them have a series they should not be racing in the United States because that would defeat the purpose of the Mexico in the series name" (BEYONDTHEFLAG.com, 3/2).