SBJ/March 22 - 28, 2004/Opinion

What’s real, what’s not? Six trends to follow

Despite the atmosphere in many offices, this time of year is not all March Madness. There are other issues in the news, other trends to watch. The trick, though, is distinguishing real trends from passing fads. Here's our take on a six-pack of topics making the headlines.

Olympics: The train bombings in Madrid were a sobering reminder for planners of this summer's Olympics, and of every other major sporting event, that we live in a treacherous world. For Athens, this is a headache that makes construction delays and

A sense of discomfort over the Athens Games is growing on two fronts, the venue preparations and the security.
other questions seem minor in comparison. But a security boycott by the United States, as has been floated, is not the answer. Taking heightened safety precautions is. That's a reality we all will have to live with for a long time. Certainly, there is a growing sense of discomfort about Athens — the preparations and the safety. Relocating the Games would be virtually impossible, but until everyone is satisfied with the progress on both fronts, the concerns will remain.

Champ Car racing: The exodus of teams continues, with the influential Adrian Fernandez taking his team to the Indy Racing League. Some sources expect the new season to begin with as few as 12 cars racing. This is not a trend; it's handwriting on the wall.

Delay of game: We hope this idea has gone away. CBS says it will not impose a 10-second delay on game broadcasts from this year's NCAA basketball tournament, counter to what a network executive was previously reported to have said, though the claim was later denied. The delay mechanism might protect broadcasters from profanity and flashing, but at a steep price. Ten seconds might not seem like much, but it's the difference between live game broadcasts and not live. Sports is the one true unscripted drama. If delays become the norm, sports loses its compelling real-time appeal.

Reality boxing: From "Survivor" to millionaires (both real and fake) to Donald Trump, we thought the reality-TV craze had done it all. Now, it moves in on the sweet science with "The Contender." Everything Mark Burnett has touched so far has turned to gold, and the sport of boxing could get a boost from this venture. Does it add more credibility to the sport? Questionable. Does it put more eyeballs and buzz behind it? Unquestionable. Burnett's winning streak is at risk, but we expect others to try and piggyback on his gravy train.

Lexus lots: Atlanta's Turner Field and Miami's Office Depot Center, with the backing of area Lexus dealers, are carving out sections of preferred parking reserved for those fans who drive a Lexus. What a great twist on slicing sponsorship categories as thinly as possible. Is the sponsorship exclusionary? Elitist? Some may make that argument, but in this competitive marketplace, we applaud such creative thinking that showcases branded content, exclusivity and an on-site showroom. The downside: If you're not paying attention when you park, good luck finding your car later in a lot full of vehicles that are the same make as yours.

Poker face: Poker tournaments are everywhere on television, from ESPN and Fox Sports Net to the Travel Channel and Bravo. There's continued buzz about the game, which fans say delivers both intrigue and interesting characters. But is it a sport or just a bluff? We'll call.

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