WOMEN'S HOOPS: Roger Thurow examines the ABL and WNBA,
writing that women's basketball, "swaddled in a warm, fuzzy
blanket during its recent ascent in popularity, sits
precariously atop the same fault line of outsized riches and
celebrity that rumbles beneath all sports. ... This week,
the first fissures -- salary wars, jealousies over
endorsements, player defections -- opened up and began
swallowing the innocence" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/19). In
Utah, Doug Robinson: "This thing could get ugly before it's
finished, namely because it involves a) money; and b) women.
Women fighting is not a pretty sight" (DESERET NEWS, 9/18).
NFL: In L.A., Steve Harvey wrote that Raiders Owner Al
Davis "tells friends he believes NFL owners might agree to a
settlement in his latest lawsuit by allowing him to bring an
expansion team to Hollywood Park" (L.A. TIMES, 9/18)....In
the NFL's first visit to western Canada, Vancouver will host
an American Bowl game at B.C. Place August 15, 1998 (NFL).
MLB owners yesterday voted to approve public ownership
of franchises, according to Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore
SUN. The decision "could have a significant long-range
impact on the economic health of the industry" and owners
"apparently view it now as another way to bring new money
into the sport." MLB President & COO Paul Beeston: "It
certainly is another option for financing. When you've got
a new option available, it's going to be beneficial." Teams
"will not be allowed to put the majority of their stock in
the marketplace, and voting rights of public shares will be
restricted" (Baltimore SUN, 9/19). In N.Y., Murray Chass:
"No rush to the stock market is expected. ... To go public,
a team would have to issue a prospectus and annual reports
with financial disclosure that clubs have always been
reluctant to provide" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/19).
NO BLUE JAYS VOTE: A vote on the sale of the Blue Jays
was "pulled at the last minute from the agenda," according
to Jim Byers of the TORONTO STAR. One source close to the
meetings: "It was a shock. ... [I]t was suddenly taken off."
Another source said Blue Jays-parent Interbrew SA "asked
that the issue not be dealt with Wednesday." Byers adds
that it "isn't clear if the action was requested for
housekeeping reasons or something more serious, such as
problems with the proposed purchase" (TORONTO STAR, 9/19).
MLB owners adjourned their meetings in Atlanta Thursday
"without solving their realignment riddle. But make no
mistake: Realignment is approaching, and more than likely
will affect no more than seven teams, possibly as few as
five," according to Jerome Holtzman of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE.
The owners also extended their original realignment deadline
from September 30 to October 15 and "indicated it could be
delayed further if necessary." Of note is that "a simple
majority vote from both leagues will remain the manner of
deciding the issue, but if settlement is not achieved before
or immediately after the World Series, a two-thirds majority
would be required" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/19).
NEW PLAN: In N.Y., Murray Chass writes that a "key" in
approving a compromise plan of two leagues, with four NL
divisions and two AL divisions, is convincing the Astros to
move to an AL Midwest division. Chass: "If the planners
want the Astros to move, they will very likely offer a
financial inducement." It is also "possible" that the
Giants could be compensated for any economic loss stemming
from the A's joining them in the NL (N.Y. TIMES, 9/19). In
Houston, Alan Truex writes that while Astros Owner Drayton
McLane wants to be in the same division as the Rangers, he
"doesn't want the Astros to move." Truex: "Privately, other
owners blame McLane for the ... stalemate" (HOUSTON
CHRONICLE, 9/19). ESPN's Peter Gammons reported last night
from Atlanta that Selig "hopes to have this realignment done
in three weeks. Then, he has to take it to the union, which
begins another story" ("SportsCenter," 9/18).
From the NBA's annual meetings in Orlando, Sam Smith of
the CHICAGO TRIBUNE writes that "the rocket ship called the
NBA that soared above all sports in the '90s may have
reached its zenith, and the ride down may prove more heart-
stopping than imagined." Smith: "As league, team and
network TV officials gathered for a weekend of meetings, a
serious potential malfunction occupied their thoughts. ...
[T]he consensus ... is that a lockout or strike looms after
this season." NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik: "It's
clear in some respects our collective bargaining agreement
is not working so well." Smith reports that the labor
contract signed two years ago "has become an albatross" that
"must be removed." Also, while ten teams "lost money last
season ... as many as 15 could lose money" this year. One
team exec listed Boston, New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia,
Washington, Cleveland, Indiana, Milwaukee, the Clippers,
Sacramento, Vancouver, San Antonio, Minnesota, Denver and
Dallas "as teams that have lost money or face potential
deficits." As the league and owners "dig in for what could
be a lengthy labor battle next fall," the players'
association is "building a strike fund." Led by newly
elected President Patrick Ewing, and his agent, David Falk,
the union "has been taken over by hard-line players and
attorneys who tried to scuttle" the '95 deal (CHICAGO
TRIBUNE, 9/19). On his "NBA Beat," ESPN's David Aldridge
reported that, "The revenge of the dissident agents is
complete." Falk, "who is among the most bitter opponents"
of the CBA, now has three clients, Ewing, Juwan Howard and
Dikembe Mutombo, on the NBPA Exec Committee (ESPN, 9/18).
The Beach Volleyball World Championships, played last
week at UCLA, are examined by Michael Bamberger in SI under
the header, "Sand Blast. The First World Championships Of
Beach Volleyball Were A Hit, But The Struggle For the
Sport's Future Continues." Bamberger writes that the event,
"promised to be the first meeting of all the best players"
in the world, was still "threatened to break down at times
because of petty haggling." But Management Plus' Leonard
Armato, the event co-promoter, said off-the-beach events
will mark the future of the sport. Armato: "To watch beach
volleyball at the beach, you have to schlepp across sand ...
and try to find a place to sit. Corporate America isn't
going to do that. And you need corporate America if you're
going to grow the game" (SI, 9/22). More Armato: "Where
sports start and where they end up are two totally different
events." He added that organizers would follow the model of
hosting tournaments in an amenity-filled, in-stadium
setting, "utilizing modern venues and marketing principals
to create interest in a unique event" (THE DAILY).