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Limited seating is available for the 7th annual Sports Business Awards to be held Wednesday, May 21 at the N.Y. Marriott Marquis at Times Square. The most exciting night in sports business will feature a Lifetime Achievement Award presentation to Steelers Owner Dan Rooney, as well as winners announced in 15 separate categories. Among those scheduled to attend are NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, NASCAR CEO Brian France, Timbers Owner Merritt Paulson, Dodgers CEO & President Stan Kasten, Blackhawks CEO & President John McDonough, Warriors President & COO Rick Welts, CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus, Fox Networks Group President & COO Randy Freer, NYRR CEO & President Mary Wittenberg, USOC CMO Lisa Baird, Legends CEO Dave Checketts and ACC Commissioner John Swofford.
A very limited number of seats remain. Tickets can be purchased at www.sportsbusinessdaily.com.
Walt Disney Studios' "MILLION DOLLAR ARM" -- based on the true story of India-born RINKU SINGH and DINESH PATEL winning a reality show pitching contest and signing contracts with the Pirates -- opens Friday to mixed reviews. CHICAGO SUN-TIMES film critic Richard Roeper writing, "Nearly everything in this movie feels borrowed from other movies and ever so slightly reshaped, and almost never for the better." The sports film that it "most resembles is 'JERRY MAGUIRE,' except the screenplay, the direction and the performances aren't as memorable." There also is "no Oscar-winning role or lasting catchphrase to be found." The 124-minute film is "at least 20 minutes too long," and that is "without a single batter vs. pitcher confrontation, let alone an actual game." The drama in the film "comes from the number that shows up on a radar gun when one of the prospects takes aim and fires." Roeper: "Not exactly 'THE NATURAL'" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/14). In L.A., Chris Erskine wrote for baseball folks, the film is "a study in how Major League Baseball is reaching out to the world for new talent and fans," while for others, "it's a sweet little story about how a business relationship turns personal, and how several people from different sides of the planet can be brought together by this crazy, maddening sport." Erskine wrote he was "hoping for the next 'THE BLIND SIDE,'" but this "isn't that." However, for those "seeking a live action flick you can take the kids to -- rare as a no-hitter these days - 'Million Dollar Arm' delivers" (L.A. TIMES, 5/15). At presstime, the film had a 54% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes (THE DAILY).
A HOME RUN: In DC, Ann Hornaday gives "Million Dollar Arm" three stars and writes the film "tells a terrific story by way of an appealing cast, handsome production values and a warm, unaffected tone." It "doesn’t break the familiar mold of come-from-behind sports movies -- indeed, it obeys every convention of the genre." But it does so "with understatement, style and an exceptional group of actors who bring just the right balance of humor and restraint to their roles" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/16). In Pittsburgh, Barbara Vancheri writes it is an "inspirational, enjoyable, old-fashioned family film." It "seems to be the rare movie deserving its 'based on a true story' label" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 5/16).
JUST ABOVE THE MENDOZA LINE: In Boston, Ty Burr writes, "Your kids will probably like 'Million Dollar Arm' a lot -- and that’s all that really matters -- but some of us wish this inspirational true-life baseball tale were more, um, inspired." It is "an average movie, and that isn't bad -- just average" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/16). In L.A., Kenneth Turan writes viewers can "see the stuff 'Million Dollar Arm' throws at you from miles away, but that doesn't stop this baseball movie from being genially enjoyable" (L.A. TIMES, 5/16). In Seattle, Moira Macdonald wrote it is a movie "you think you’ve seen before, every step of the way." But despite its "overstuffed baggage and slightly bloated running time, 'Million Dollar Arm' is good fun" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/15). In Pittsburgh, Bob Cohn writes for the most part, the film is "fun, funny and yes, inspirational, enhanced by knowing that what you see -- most of it, anyway -- really happened" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 5/16). In St. Louis, Joe Williams writes it is "as predictable as a 3-and-0 pitch down the middle, but when it’s baseball season, who wants dark clouds?" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/16). In Columbus, Peter Tonguette writes lead actor JON HAMM "gives a Willy Loman-like flavor to his character’s desperate salesmanship as he rehearses a pitch for a football player on his business partner." Director CRAIG GILLESPIE "nicely captures" India's "teeming, traffic-choked atmosphere and its unconventional business practices." The film "careens pleasurably to its foreseeable conclusion, and its devotion to its sport is appealing" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 5/16).
CALLED STRIKEOUT: USA TODAY's Claudia Puig writes "Million Dollar Arm" is a "Jerry Maguire wannabe, with a touch of LIFE OF PI." It is "hampered by a predictable storytelling style and not enough curve balls" (USA TODAY, 5/16). In N.Y., Stephen Holden writes the "watchable but rambling, flaccid movie ... has little of the bite or tension of 'Jerry Maguire.'" It also lacks "the surreal exoticism and charm of its other obvious forerunner, 'SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.'" This is "a Disney family movie, and every conflict is softened by inspirational clichés" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/16). The WALL STREET JOURNAL reviews the film as "grimly efficient on its own terms, a string of ever more naked calculations" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/16). In Boston, James Verniere writes, "If you’ve seen the trailer for 'Million Dollar Arm' -- or “Jerry Maguire Meets Slumdog Millionaire” -- you’ve seen the movie." The best place to see it "might be on an airplane" to "pass the time" (BOSTON HERALD, 5/16). In S.F., Mick LaSalle writes, "'Million Dollar Arm' is in that odd, fake-true category." Hamm is "the movie's strongest asset and its only unalloyed advantage." The movie's ending within minutes is "apparent and inevitable, even to someone who knows nothing of the real story." The movie "takes forever to get there," and it is "at least 30 minutes too long" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/16). MCCLATCHY's Roger Moore writes under the header, "'Million Dollar Arm' Swings, Misses Too Much." Gillespie "goes out of his way not to offend in the Indian scenes." The film is "a baseball comedy that is as tentative as a base on balls" (MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE, 5/16).
SPORTS MOVIES STRUGGLING? Walt Disney Studios Exec VP/Theatrical Distribution DAVE HOLLIS said that the studio "will be happy if the film debuts to north" of $10M during its opening weekend, a figure "that pre-release tracking suggests it will hit." VARIETY's Brent Lang wrote "Million Dollar Arm," with its $25M budget, is "throwback to the kind of inspirational sports movies that the studio once routinely put on the field, a legacy of athletic uplift that included such successes as 'MIRACLE,' 'REMEMBER THE TITANS' and 'INVINCIBLE,' but one that has been left untended of late." Hollis said that the film's May release date was "designed to capitalize on the start of baseball season." The timing has also "allowed the studio to engage in a bit of synergy with its corporate sibling, ESPN, with the hosts of programs such as 'Baseball Tonight' talking up the picture on the air." To that end, the net's BILL SIMMONS was "tapped as executive producer on the film" (VARIETY.com, 5/14). USA TODAY's Scott Bowles wrote strong early reviews and box office projections for "Million Dollar Arm" are a "welcome sign for the sports-film genre, which has been a decades-long staple of the film industry but has struggled of late." Most sports films have "become long shots at the box office." Bowles cites Box Office Mojo data as showing that the "average sports drama" earns $27M. But experts said that sports are "too ingrained in American culture to disappear from the landscape" (USA TODAY, 5/14).
FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH: Former MLBer and pitching coach TOM HOUSE, who trained Singh and Patel, said, "I thought it was a really, really good show. It represented very well the agent and the two kids, to get here to the United States and how hard they worked to sign a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and how hard the agent, J.B. BERNSTEIN, worked to try to get a movie. I thought it was well done across the board." House added he was "kind of a consultant" on the film, in which he is played by BILL PAXTON, and has "a real small cameo at the end" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 5/15). Hamm said of the film, "It's not really a baseball movie. It's not 'MAJOR LEAGUE' or 'The Natural.' It's a story about a guy who takes steps to change his life for the better and two boys who worked their asses off and changed their lives for the better as well" (ESPN THE MAGAZINE, 5/12 issue). USA Today's BOB NIGHTENGALE was among six baseball scouts in the film "not named ALAN ARKIN" who were played by actual sportswriters (USA TODAY, 5/6). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Debbie Emery noted ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" last week aired live "for the first time from a Hollywood premiere" when the film debuted at the El Capitan Theatre (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 5/7). Meanwhile, FOXSPORTS.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote under the header, "Could 'Million Dollar Arm' Help Indians Dare To Dream Of Baseball?" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/4).
The sport of soccer has touched every aspect of MARTIN ZÚÑIGA’s life. He was a pro goalie for 14 years on Mexico's national team before taking on a role as a play-by-play announcer. He spent time calling games for MLS and Fox Deportes before landing his current role as an analyst for Time Warner Cable Deportes. Originally from Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico, Zùñiga lives in El Segundo, Calif., with his two kids -- ages 11 and 4 -- who both play soccer for clubs within the Galaxy organization. While Zùñiga spends most weekends working games for TWC Deportes, he always makes time to get out to his kids’ soccer matches or at least kick the ball around with them in the backyard.
OFFICE SPACE: A typical workday for me is coming into the office a couple of hours before there’s either a live studio program taking place, or a production meeting in relation to the broadcast of whatever MLS game I’m going to be a part of that weekend. I meet with producers, talk to them about that day’s production, talk about what my role is going to be and what the focus of that weekend’s programming is going to be. Deportes also has some broadcasts of Italian soccer games -- retransmissions I guess I should say -- of Italian soccer matches, so I have to come in and make sure that I’m prepared to do the recordings for all of that. Basically, all of the production that I have to be a part of is kind of a daily thing.
DINNER & A MOVIE: I’m a big-time Italian food fan, so I love going out to Italian restaurants when I have a Friday night available. My favorite place in El Segundo is called Il Fornaio. It’s actually right around the corner. That’s my spot. I’m also a big movie fan, so I like to catch movies and of course whenever I can take the kids to the movies because they really enjoy that, too. Going to the movies for me is like a de-stresser, it’s a release. So I love all movies, but if we were going to put them in order, I like action and adventure movies, and I would put the drama movies at the end because I feel real life already is full with enough drama.
GET DOWN TO BUSINESS: There’s a Dynamo-Galaxy game on Saturday, so I’m getting ready for the pregame, postgame, everything that’s related to the production. I call every game that Deportes has. My routine for a gameday is in many ways a mix of me as a professional now as a broadcaster, and then also how I used to prepare when I myself used to play professionally. The first thing I do in the morning is check e-mails for anything that may have broken in relation to the teams overnight. Then I like to get a workout in on the day of the job, because I like to be relaxed and focused and with a clear mind in terms of that day’s game. Then I come back to the e-mails, check to see if there’s anything that came up during my time working out, then I head over to the studio in the afternoon and meet with producers, check in with them to see if there were any changes in terms of the production.
BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL: Most of the time, because the weekend games that Deportes tends to have are in the later part of the day, I don’t often have a chance to go out to dinner with my family after the game. But I do so with the production team because we all are done at late hours because there’s always a postgame show after the actual broadcast. So I take those opportunities to talk with the team and talk about that day’s broadcast and what worked and what they want to change for the next time we work together. If it’s an early game and if I’m off earlier, I will take that time with family.
SKILLS COMPETITION: This Sunday, I am excited to be part of a program that the MLS has which is called Sueño MLS. It’s a yearly community outreach initiative whereby kids ages 14-18 from all over the country compete for an opportunity to be the chosen youth player with the opportunity to try out for one of the different teams within Major League Soccer. It started Wednesday but the biggest day in terms of what I’m going to be doing is on Sunday. For this program, my role on Sunday will be to be one of the judges that will choose the young man that stands out as the best goalie of all of the kids that came to try out for this program. I feel very lucky and am happy that Major League Soccer reached out to me for an initiative like this, because I really feel like I’m giving back to the community and it’s giving kids in the local community an opportunity that they maybe wouldn’t have had otherwise. It makes me remember my days when I was a young man trying to get a shot myself.
PLAYING CATCH UP: How I wind down on Sundays is really catching up with the latest news with all the activity happening in the Mexican soccer league. It’s the league that I played professionally in, it’s the soccer that is culturally relevant to me and the soccer that I feel the most passionate about. But because I work on the weekends, I don’t ever have time to watch as much live soccer as I’d like. So I really enjoy using Sunday nights to catch up on all of the latest news on who won, who lost, trades, all that kind of stuff. I’m more of a night owl, so after catching up on the soccer, I will either read or watch a television series like Jack Bauer in “24.” I love that series, and I like to watch that on late nights after everybody has gone to bed.
Bacardi Limited's BOD named IMG Worldwide Chair & CEO MICHAEL DOLAN interim CEO, effective immediately. His principal office will be at the company's HQ in Hamilton, Bermuda (BERNEWS.com, 5/15)....The Grizzlies named ArenaNetwork Talent Buyer & Dir of Marketing JEFF OLSON Dir of Event Booking at FedExForum. He will be responsible for scheduling Grizzlies and Univ. of Memphis home games. He replaces BRETT REOPELL, who "left the organization earlier this year" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 5/15)....Sacramento State Univ. AD TERRY WANLESS will retire June 30, and Deputy AD BILL MACRISS will become interim AD as the school "develops a transition plan" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/16)....S.F. State Univ. named Clark College AD CHARLES GUTHRIE to the same position, effective July 1 (SFSU)....Whitworth Univ. named TIM DEMANT AD (Whitworth).
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ESPN soccer analyst ALEXI LALAS on Sunday will "don a black cap and red gown" and graduate from Rutgers Univ., earning a "degree in English with a minor in music, taking a ridiculous workload -- 12 classes and 36 credits -- over 10 months to get it done." Lalas would "study Shakespeare at 37,000 feet during business trips," and would "do homework for a geology or personal finance class at the ESPN studios, during breaks from his day job." Lalas "even had an online chat with his music professor -- about diatonic scales, of all things -- on location during the U.S.-Mexico match last month in Arizona." Lalas said, "It's the hardest thing I've ever done. ... Rutgers gave me so many opportunities. ... I'm proud that not only I'm graduating, but I'm graduating from Rutgers" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 5/16).
AYE AYE, CAPTAIN: Yankees Dir of Communications & Media Relations JASON ZILLO is the "point man" for opposing teams' retirement ceremonies for Yankees SS DEREK JETER during his final MLB season. Zillo had the same responsibilities last year with P MARIANO RIVERA, whose events "required extensive planning." But with Jeter, Zillo "simply informs the clubs that he prefers a more understated approach." His "one stipulation is that the ceremony end 15 minutes before the first pitch so Jeter can prepare for the game." The Mets on Thursday held a news conference before their game against the Yankees in which COO JEFF WILPON "presented Jeter with a ceramic mosaic made of subway tiles with his No. 2 in the middle" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/16).
DOING THE WAVE: In Baton Rouge, Scott Kushner profiles Tulane Univ. boosters JILL and AVIE GLAZER, writing their contribution to the school is "as diverse as it is impactful, stretching between endowed scholarships, lucrative fundraisers, beautified landscaping and even a new football stadium." Those projects are the "result of vision and determination." It is "clear the Glazers' role inside the school is invaluable." Tulane's stakeholders, from the "uppermost reaches of the administration down to the current student body, expressed words of gratitude and awe when prompted with the Glazer name" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 5/16).
AFTER REVIEW: The WALL STREET JOURNAL reviews Goodspeed Musicals' "DAMN YANKEES," and writes it "isn't a great musical, but it can be great fun when done really well." Goodspeed has "filled the bill with a snappy staging" in which STEPHEN MARK LUKAS and ANGEL REDA are "wonderfully well cast as Joe Hardy, who sells his soul in order to become a major-league ballplayer, and Lola, the demonic temptress whose job is to keep him from exercising the escape clause in his deal with the devil (DAVID BEACH)." JOE DIPIETRO has "rewritten the original GEORGE ABBOTT-DOUGLASS WALLOP book, turning the once-hapless, now-defunct Washington Senators into the Boston Red Sox, who were having a comparably tough time of it in 1952." The switch is "neatly managed, though it requires a plot twist in the finale that is less than totally convincing" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/16).
CHARITY STRIPE: Broncos QB PEYTON MANNING on Thursday was the featured speaker at the B'nai B'rith sports banquet for the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber "presented Manning with a check for almost $70,000 for his foundation for at-risk children" (AP, 5/16)....The second annual Phillies Charities' Phantastic Auction on Wednesday raised close to $160,000 for charity (Phillies)....Patriots QB TOM BRADY and Best Buddies Founder ANTHONY SHRIVER on Tuesday attended a Houston fundraiser for the organization (BOSTONGLOBE.com, 5/16)....Univ. of Minnesota football coach JERRY KILL has started a new "Chasing Dreams" fund through the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota. Kill and his wife, REBECCA, donated $100,000 and have an "initial goal of raising $500,000" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/16).
NAMES: U.S. figure skater JASON BROWN “signed a representation deal” with Proper Marketing Associates’ SHEP GOLDBERG, who also reps Olympians MICHELLE KWAN and EVAN LYSACEK (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 5/14)....MLB announced Vikings RB ADRIAN PETERSON, Wild LW ZACH PARISE, T’Wolves F KEVIN LOVE, WNBA Lynx F MAYA MOORE, actor JON HAMM and TV personalities ANDREW ZIMMERN and JAMES DENTON will participate in the Taco Bell Legends & Celebrity Softball Games during All-Star Week (MLB.com, 5/15)....Red Sox radio announcer JOE CASTIGLIONE will return to the booth Friday after “missing the past four games.” His wife, JAN, was “injured in a car accident Saturday, suffering a fractured sternum" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/16)....Pro Football HOFer JIM KELLY “went back to the hospital Thursday afternoon to deal with a case of dehydration.” Kelly is “in the middle of a course of chemotherapy and radiation treatments this month, which he’s receiving at Erie County Medical Center” (BUFFALO NEWS, 5/16)....LSU AD JOE ALLEVA was at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday “to spend some time” with Astros GM JEFF LUHNOW. Alleva’s son, JD, is a “regional crosschecker in the Astros’ scouting department” (MLB.com, 5/14).
IN MEMORY: UEFA Club Financial Control Body Chair JEAN-LUC DEHAENE, who had been “diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, died following a fall in France” on Thursday (London TELEGRAPH, 5/16).