SBJ/December 3 - 9, 2001/Other News

Airlines and bailout money? Let me count the arenas

With U.S. airlines unable to part their sea of red ink and forced to rely on federal bailout money, how can they continue to justify their long-term arena naming-rights deals? Since Sept. 11, five of the largest U.S. air carriers (United, American, Delta, Continental and America West) have received $1.3 bil in bailout money. And yet these same five are committed to $353 mil, or 26.6 percent of that money, in future years for naming rights to arenas in Dallas, Miami, New Jersey, Chicago, Phoenix and Salt Lake City. How long before the federal government makes them cut their losses and stop these "flights of fancy"? Maybe then, like the old department store in Fargo (N.D.), which went by the name "The Store Without a Name," these arenas will become known as "The Arenas Without a Name."

"A" ARGUMENT: Tampa Bay fullback Mike Alstott believes imitation is far less flattering than insulting. Especially when it comes to his nickname, "The A Train." Finding that Chicago Bears rookie running back Anthony Thomas uses the same nickname, Alstott fumed, "There's only one 'A Train.'" If Alstott is really serious about wanting exclusive possession of the name, maybe he should go after the estate of the original owner of the copyright, Duke Ellington, who took it and rode it into a classic. Or have the famous quote by Rocky Graziano expunged from the books — "As kids, we never stole anything that didn't begin with a 'A' ... a wallet, a car, a train ..."

HIGHER FASHION: Seems the NBA has little else to do than ensure that its players are wearing short shorts. Its "fashion police" recently bagged nine players for violating the sartorial code by wearing pants that looked as if they were made by Omar the Tentmaker, fining each $5,000. One of those, Orlando's Tracy McGrady, even tried to conform to the code, taking his pants to the tailor to have them shortened. However, despite his hemming (and hawing), the league still saw fit to fine him. Apparently, the NBA believes that brevity is the soul of shorts.

BEAUTY AND THE BOAST: While Anna Kournikova is waiting for her tennis ship to come in — and for all the success she's had, apparently she's waiting at a train station for that ship — her name continues to turn up in the unlikeliest of places. One of those was the recent rumor that she'll be cast as a "Bond Girl" in an upcoming James Bond movie, a rumor she's denied. However, her denial didn't stop espn.com from asking its readers to suggest colorful names for her supposed Bond character. Some 2,700 responded with names ranging from "Lussbody" to "Love Forty" to the improbable "Anita Tourwin." In yet another sighting of Ms. K's name, Lycos, which uses her as its commercial spokeswoman, reported that she was the most searched-for athlete on its Web site, ahead of Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter and Tiger Woods. All of which prompted her agent, Phil de Picciotto, to crow: "[She is] so highly visible in other areas that people tend to overlook her tennis achievements." De Picciotto's comment brought a guffaw from Thomas Bonk of the L.A. Times, who made this matchless point: "It's actually not too hard to overlook such 'tennis achievements' as zero tournament wins."

THE OLYMPICS: A GREEK TRAGEDY: Not only is Greece having a tough time getting ready for the 2004 Olympics — the road that's supposed to take materials to build the Olympic venues is still not completed — but they're also having trouble lighting the Olympic torch. Seems that the chemical process used in Olympic cooking, heating and getting a new start in business, the fire that's supposed to kindle the Olympic flame that will flicker during the Salt Lake City Olympics, thrice failed to ignite. And so a backup flame that had been produced during a practice session was employed. "Maybe next time, they can switch to a Zippo," wrote John Powers of The Boston Globe, tongue not too far removed from cheek.

LINE OF THE WEEK: Late-night host Jay Leno, on the Utah Supreme Court's ruling that grabbing one's crotch in public is against the law: "There goes the hopes of Salt Lake City ever getting a Major League Baseball team."

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