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NBA Commissioner David Stern Thursday night “relished the boos from the Barclays Center crowd” in the last Draft before he retires, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY. The boos are “something he traditionally receives from fans and he even played it up a bit, encouraging fans to boo louder” (USA TODAY, 6/28). ADVANCE PUBLICATION's Scott Branson named Stern one of the “winners” from the Draft. Branson wrote of Stern’s reaction to the boos, “Boy did he milk it.” Stern appeared to “genuinely enjoy the constant smattering of boos from the Brooklyn crowd, even taking time to stoke the fire from time to time.” Branson: “It was nice to see the longtime villain of the NBA enjoy his last moment in the spotlight” (NJ.com, 6/28). SPORTS ON EARTH’s Will Leitch writes there is “no way” Stern has “ever had more fun" at a Draft than he did Thursday. Stern has “always soaked in the inevitable boos” he receives at the Draft, but this year he “actively embraced them.” He was “clearly having the time of his life.” The Draft has “always been his night when everyone is watching, when he is at the total center of the world he has created.” Thursday was his last one, and “you could see him do everything in his substantial power to not let it go” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 6/28).
GOING OUT WITH SOME PANACHE: As Stern walked on stage to begin the Draft, he was greeted by loud booing in Barclays Center and said to the crowd, "Good evening and thank you for that enthusiastic Brooklyn welcome." The crowd continued booing Stern each time he walked on stage to announce the next pick, and he would encourage the crowd by gesturing with his hand to bring more of the boos. For the third pick, Stern told the crowd, "I can't hear you," which elicited some very loud booing. Prior to announcing the 21st pick, Stern said, "We've had to explain to our international audience that the boo is an American sign of respect." Noting the boos were getting softer before pick No. 23, he said, "Your enthusiasm seems to be dwindling." As Stern walked on stage to announce his final pick, the crowd gave him a standing ovation and he acknowledged it by saying, "Stop it, you're ruining all the fun." NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver, who is succeeding Stern, later brought HOFer Hakeem Olajuwon on stage. Olajuwon, the first draft pick Stern announced in '84, embraced Stern, with Stern saying, "He still fits into the same tuxedo he wore in 1984." Olajuwon said, "I wanted to be here to honor the commissioner as he announces his very last NBA Draft picks. I'd also like to thank the commissioner for an amazing 30 years and all what he has done for the league and the players." ESPN's Rece Davis said, "That's why the NBA gets it with marketing. That's a great moment." He added the fans "were terrific." Davis: "It's been part of the fun over the last few years that when Adam Silver comes out, they go wild like he's a rock star. And then turn on him and boo him, which was terrific" ("2013 NBA Draft," ESPN, 6/27).
A MEMORABLE NIGHT: CBSSPORTS.com’s Matt Norlander wrote the Draft was "memorable because it was suspenseful and surprising." Norlander: "Dare I say: actually gripping, and better than this year's NFL Draft by a wide margin.” He added, “A lot of the proceedings were unpredictable. And funny. And will be David Stern's last as commissioner, making this moment an instant classic and all too appropriate.” Norlander continued: “We love sports -- or more specifically, the games -- because of that unknown factor. … Drafts offer that, but in a different, smaller way. A delayed way. Seldom do they actually provide surprise and buzz.” But Thursday night’s event “did.” Norlander: “That's why 2013 gave us the best draft I can remember” (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/27).
With the U.S. Women's Open taking place this weekend, Golf Channel held an LPGA state of the game roundtable discussion tackling several issues facing the league. Golf HOFer Annika Sorenstam said the influx of successful Korean golfers on the LPGA Tour and the "growth of the game in Asia" is "very impressive." LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said, "A lot of our sponsors are based in the U.S. but have a global business as well, and so our business does the same thing." He added talent "comes in waves" from different areas around the world and "I think we'll see another wave soon," particularly from Thailand. Golfweek's Beth Ann Baldry said of the LPGA finishing events on days other than Sunday, "I just feel like it's so traditional, it's so ingrained in us ... so if they can stay on Sunday, stay on Sunday." Whan added, "We like the idea and one of the reasons we like the idea is Golf Channel and NBC have said that they'd like to get behind that and anytime we can get more interest and more exposure for our players [is good]." He continued, "The reality of it is we play tournaments, generally speaking, to make sure that we're delivering for our customer partner and if it doesn't work for the customer partner it really doesn't matter what works for Mike Whan or for Golf Channel or NBC and that's the challenge. A lot of them want to finish on the weekend in their hometown and I'm not going to change that." Of the Tour's efforts to grow the game globally, Whan said the "key is to make sure we don't just play in New York or don't just play in Toledo or don't just play in Singapore, for that matter." Whan: "We want to play in 160-plus countries every time we play so it's really about broad TV coverage. You'd be amazed at our website hits and where they come from" ("State of the Game," Golf Channel, 6/26).
CHANGE IN COURSE: In Rochester, Sal Maiorana reported the Wegmans LPGA Championship is "cutting ties after 37 years with Locust Hill Country Club, and Monroe Golf Club will host" the '14 tournament. Tournament Dir Linda Hampton said, "Our mission was to keep the major with the Wegmans name on it in 2014, and it worked out that we have a new site and a new date." LPGA officials determined that the "Donald Ross-designed layout -- despite having no water hazards -- was suitable for the tour’s premier championship." Monroe Golf Club President Steve McCluski said, "They toured the course in May and June, and they’re not going to require us to make any changes." Maiorana notes as far as "infrastructure, many decisions need to be made, and arrangements must be finalized with the Town of Pittsford, but it seems likely that all spectators will be shuttled to the course from satellite parking lots and dropped off in the main club parking lot adjacent to the 10th fairway where it is expected the LPGA merchandise tent will reside" (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 6/28).
The CFL is "anxious to send a signal to sports fans across the country that it’s ready to move on from decades of stagnation and reinvent itself for a new generation of fans," according to Steve Ladurantaye of the GLOBE & MAIL. Many Canadians still perceive the CFL as "a tired franchise whose better days have passed." But the league is "making progress in changing that image." Coming off its 100th Grey Cup game, in which "most of the focus was on looking to the past," CFL President & COO Michael Copeland said that the league is "finally comfortable looking forward to its future." He said, "Having a new building in Winnipeg is really a symbol of everything we’ve worked to do over the last while." Copeland added that there are "new buildings planned in Ottawa, Hamilton and Regina in the next few years." He said, "We truly are in a period of Renaissance right now. This building really demonstrates the renewal, and signals that we’re ready for a period of true growth rather than a prolonged period of crisis management." The season opener Thursday night is the "first since TSN and the CFL signed a five year extension to their broadcast deal." For TSN, the league "provides steady audiences through the summer months when its main competitor is on the air almost every night with" Blue Jays broadcasts. The league, for "its part, didn’t bother shopping its rights to other networks because it’s so comfortable with TSN and the audience it can deliver." The broadcaster was "consulted through construction" of Investors Group Field, but was "often left out as new issues arose." It remains to be seen "whether the league can use its new broadcast deal and sparkly stadiums to convert new fans to the game" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/28).
CONSTRUCTION SEASON: The CP's Scott Edmonds noted CFL stadiums are "being replaced or refurbished at a pace probably unmatched in league history, starting this season with the opening of a new home" for the Blue Bombers. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats in '14 will "move into a new facility while the expansion Ottawa Redblacks are projected to call a revamped Frank Clair Stadium home." Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan Roughriders in '17 are "scheduled to move into a new open-air venue to replace Mosaic Stadium." Existing facilities in Calgary and Edmonton "get upgrades this season to make the game-day experience nicer for their fans." A lot about the new Winnipeg facility "drew rave reviews: the player areas, sightlines, comfortable seats and fancy suites and concessions." But there are "kinks to be worked out." Cracks in the concrete are "being repaired and then there’s the small matter of getting 33,400 people on and off the campus of the University of Manitoba in time to actually watch football games." The Tiger-Cats this season will "play their home games at Alumni Stadium in Guelph, Ont., as a new" C$145.7M facility is built where Ivor Wynne Stadium used to stand. When the new stadium "is complete, it will initially seat 22,500 with standing room for another 1,500." But it also will "have 700 club seats and 30 VIP suites and the potential expanded capacity of 40,000 for special events like the Grey Cup." Meanwhile, Roughriders officials have "visited the Winnipeg stadium and taken notes" with their C$278M project in Regina "following a similar pattern of covered seating over an open field." Calgary’s McMahon Stadium will boast "new seats in corner end zones with plans for new concessions, washrooms and VIP areas." Edmonton Eskimos fans are "getting more comfortable in the upper bowl at Commonwealth Stadium, as it enters the final phase" of a C$12M plan to replace all seats (CP, 6/25).