SBJ/June 4 - 10, 2001/No Topic Name

Marketing is marketing, unless you’re in L.A. it appears

While the WNBA's courting call for the 2001 season is "Basketball is Beautiful," the L.A. Sparks have taken a different marketing approach to reach their fan base. In one of the most inspired campaigns since someone decided that men with Phi Beta Kappa keys were the best potential customers for double-breasted suits, the Sparks have targeted the gay community by designating their June 14 game as "Gay Pride Kick-Off." Predictably, their efforts have been met with more than some criticism from those who probably think women have smaller feet so they can stand closer to the sink. One of those, T.J. Simers of the L.A. Times, wrote: "Unless there's some kind of ID card that I'm not familiar with, how are the Sparks going to separate the lesbians at the ticket window from someone like my wife?" However, it should be pointed out that both the Miami Sol and the Phoenix Mercury have long targeted the lesbian market without what New York magazine calls "a blip on the talk-back radar." Maybe writers in those cities don't believe equality is a step down.

 THE FAMILY THAT PREYS TOGETHER STAYS TOGETHER: In a move guaranteed to win him a gold medal in chutzpah, retiring IOC head Juan Antonio Samaranch submitted the name of his son for consideration as an IOC member. The move to pass the Olympic torch down from generation to generation was so audacious several were moved to comment, including Sen. John McCain, whose Commerce Committee had held congressional hearings into the Olympic scandals. McCain, taking issue with Samaranch's "Someday, son, this will all be yours" stance, said: "This is Samaranch's last gasp at nepotism, which has characterized his entire reign." Nevertheless, Samaranch shamelessly defended his son's nomination, arguing that if the White House can have a Bush dynasty, why can't the IOC?

  BAILING OUT: Want proof that getting caught is the mother of invention? Well then, take the case of the Cleveland Browns' fifth-round draft choice, Jeremiah Pharms. Pharms, a linebacker from the U. of Washington, was arrested for armed robbery after the NFL draft and pledged his signing bonus as collateral for his $150,000 bail. Minor problem: There never was a signing bonus, Pharms not having yet signed a contract and the Browns having no intention of signing him until he is cleared of the charge — which may not happen until the trial, which is still many months away.

  POPPING UP THE QUESTION: Back in the old days, the Washington Senators were described as being "First in War, First in Peace and Last in the American League." Today, the Montreal Expos can sport an equally embarrassing motto: "Last in the Standings, Last in Attendance and Last in Proposals Accepted." Last in proposals accepted? Yes, for on May 4, one of the few fans at Olympic Stadium for a game against Houston showed up with a diamond ring, all the better, he figured, like John Wilkes Booth, to take a shot at his intended in the box seats. And, in front of 40,000-plus empty seats and the Expos' orange-colored mascot, Youppi, who stood beside him dressed in a tux and holding flowers, the party of the first part held up the diamond ring and smiled for the Diamondvision cameras as he proposed. But he struck out, the party of the second part wanting no part of it. As Astros broadcaster Jim Deshaies said, "Probably when her mom tucked her in at 12 years old, she didn't tell her, 'Your prince will come along — with a big orange guy in front of 2,700 happy Canadians at a ball game.' "

  IS THAT BRAIN DAMAGE OR DRAIN BAMAGE? A recent survey of 1,094 former NFL players commissioned by the NFL Players Association and conducted by the U. of North Carolina's Center for the Study of Retired Athletes found that 61 percent of the former players suffered concussions during their careers, that 15 percent had five or more and that three-quarters said they were not sidelined after their injuries. Scott Ostler, of the S.F. Chronicle, taking note of the number who said they had sustained concussions, wrote, "The other 39 percent responded to the question with blank stares."

  LINE OF THE WEEK: Comedian Phyllis Diller: "If it weren't for baseball, many kids wouldn't know what a millionaire looks like."

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