The Arena Football League begins its 9th season this Friday
and is touting this year's changes: A lineup of 13 teams, the
most in league history; five expansion teams (Memphis, St. Louis,
Iowa, San Jose and Connecticut); a new ESPN announcing crew; and,
a new revenue-sharing system featuring sports' first payroll tax.
ESPN's coverage will include Tom Mees, Steve Physioc, Rick "Doc"
Walker and Mike Mayock. The league is on the Internet and has
its own "AFL World Wide Web Page." The Las Vegas Sting became
the first AFL team to have their own Web site. Address:
http://infolane.com/infolane/sting/ stinghp.html (AFL). USA
TODAY examines AFL's goals for the upcoming season. Among them:
League-wide attendance of 1 million for the first time; eventual
franchises in Mexico City, L.A., and New York; and making the
game more attractive to network TV (Larry Weisman, USA TODAY,
In an interview on this morning's "Bloomberg Business News,"
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was asked if the relocation of the
Jets, and the possible moves of other franchises, would give the
league a "gypsy image." Bettman: "I hope not -- short-term it
might. But what we're in the process of doing is dealing with
some of the harsh realities of small markets in Winnipeg and
Quebec, markets that don't have new buildings and that need them
when there is no prospect of getting them. And hopefully, in the
long-term, if the franchises move, it will the league and those
teams stronger." Asked about the effect of the lockout, Bettman
noted the improved ratings on Fox and the 3.5% increase in
attendance. Bettman: "We had a problem, and we dealt with it
and we got it behind us and our fans have reacted very favorably
to that." Posed with the notion that the league has never been
successful packaging its stars, Bettman said, "Well, in fact, I
am not sure if that was deliberate. But our goal is to let
people know who our great athletes are because that will help
sell the game. But it is the chicken and the egg -- not enough
people know our players, not enough people know our game, and we
have to teach them about both and that is what we are working on"
EDMONTON FEELS A DRAFT: A local Edmonton TV station
reported that the NHL entry draft will be held in that city. The
draft was scheduled to be in Winnipeg, but those plans changed
with the Jets move (CP/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/10).
MLS is expected to announce details of its planned opening
in '96 within a month, according to this morning's USA TODAY.
The final details are expected to cover the last two teams and
the investors who will get the league to the financial level
required to launch -- $50M. As reported yesterday in THE DAILY,
Kansas City is expected to be one of the final two MLS cities,
with Dallas, Denver, and Seattle among the others being
considered. MLS Chair Alan Rothenberg: "We're at the point
where we have all the commitments we need for financing and
operating our initial 10 teams" (Jerry Langdon, USA TODAY, 5/10).
Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner will reportedly suggest a
reorganization of baseball's hierarchy during the owners meeting
today in Chicago, according to USA TODAY's Hal Bodley. Under the
Steinbrenner plan, acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig would become
full-time commissioner and AL President Gene Budig and NL
President Len Coleman would become dual chief operating officers.
Selig said that while he "appreciated George's support," he has
not changed his mind on going full-time (USA TODAY, 5/10). It
also appears owners are attempting to convince Rob Manfred to
accept a full-time job with the Players Relation Committee and
become their lead negotiator. Manfred is a partner in the
Washington office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius -- the firm of
record for MLB's labor relations issues and employer of former
PRC head Chuck O'Connor. In addition, one MLB owner reports that
MLB Properties has received "several telephone calls" from
advertisers worried that the players will boycott the All-Star
Game if the owners fail to guarantee a pension payment
(AP/ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 5/10).
GO 'SPOS: The Expos' three-game series against the Marlins
outdrew the Yankees' three-game series against the Brewers,
76,003 to 60,796 (USA TODAY, 5/10). The success of small-market
teams is examined by George Vescey in today's N.Y. TIMES. Vecsey
writes, "I'm not so sure television money is everything. ... It's
too soon to be proclaimed a trend, but it bears watching" (N.Y.
GAMMONS' "DIAMOND NOTES": ESPN's Peter Gammons reports that
the Padres' experiment with Fernando Valenzuela -- designed to
bring in more fans from Tijuana generated only 50 additional
ticket sales for Valenzuela's last start. "The Fernando
Marketing Experience" will continue for one more start, with the
team looking to bring up more pitching prospects....The Angels
are holding off on trading Mark Langston because that several in
the organization believe that recent interest from Disney in
buying the team "will result in their pushing Peter Ueberroth out
of the way and bringing in heavier entertainment investment
dollars"....The Angels are inviting players Chili Davis and Tim
Salmon to sit in on management meetings "to try and foster some
understanding of what management tries to do." Also, Giants
Owner Peter Magowan and his players split the cost of a park for
inner-city youth. Gammons called those moves: "Two small steps
for baseball's mankind" ("SportsCenter," 5/9).