While much of the weekend World Series media coverage
cast a negative pall over the state of MLB, last evening's
historic Game Seven could recoup some of the lost glory of
this year's Fall Classic. In Washington, Thomas Boswell:
"This little-loved, little-watched Series proved that, for
those willing to watch all night and into the morning, even
bad baseball can be a ton of fun" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/27).
In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy writes Sunday's game "provided a
Must-See finish worthy of any Fall Classic" (BOSTON GLOBE,
10/27). In N.Y., Harvey Araton writes that 21-year-old
rookie starter Jaret Wright, Jim Leyland and Miriam Carreras
-- who was granted a Visa from the Cuban government and
watched the game at Pro Player Stadium -- "were the three
most compelling pre-game subjects, and here you had yet
another example of the sad state of baseball: not a single
Nike pitch person among them" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/27).
TV TIME: ABC's "Nightline" examined the state of MLB
under the title "Whatever Happened To The World Series?" The
discussion panel included David Halberstam, Washington Post
columnist Michael Wilbon, Doris Kearns Goodwin, minor league
owner Mike Veeck, Phil Rizzuto, Brandweek's Terry Lefton and
ABC's George Will. Asked about his interest in this year's
Series, Halberstam said, "Marginal. I was in Paris with
Michael Jordan watching the Chicago Bulls when the World
Series started, which tells you something about sports today
and where my mind is." Brandweek's Lefton: "Baseball's in
trouble. I don't see any excitement about the World Series,
I don't see any excitement about the game among people under
35." ABC's Will: "The fan base is too old and too white.
The American pastime has not held or expanded its appeal down
to younger people, who are much more interested in the NBA
and the NFL, and has not managed to the degree it should
have, to African-American or other fans." Halberstam, on
MLB's future: "If the people who ran it were smarter, and the
players were taught a little bit more about how to deal with
the media and with the fans, it would be okay. I don't think
it could ever be what it was in my childhood" (ABC, 10/24).
PARTING SHOT: On ESPN's "The Sports Reporters," John
Feinstein: "Baseball's a wounded game and the TV ratings for
the World Series reflect that. But before all the baseball-
bashers run off to celebrate, a word of caution -- the [NFL]
... isn't exactly breaking ratings records in this season of
mediocrity, and the only reason the ratings are as good as
they are is force of habit. This may not have been the most
riveting World Series in history ... but at least the World
Series is exciting most of the time. When was the last time
you were on the edge of your seat during the last five
minutes of the Super Bowl? ... As for the NBA, remember this
-- the day is going to come when Michael Jordan retires ...
check the ratings then. The point is this: baseball's a
mess, but its problems are eminently fixable. ... I'm not so
certain the same can be said for our other professional
sports" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 10/26).
A crowd of 57,318 attended the MLS Cup '97 at RFK
Stadium yesterday as DC beat Colorado 2-1 in a "cold rain"
(William Gildea, WASHINGTON POST, 10/27). MLS also awarded
its '98 championship game to the Rose Bowl, marking the first
West Coast site for the game (N.Y. TIMES, 10/26).
YEAR IN REVIEW: MLS Commissioner Doug Logan: "I can
confidently say the terrible twos are over. We turned three
last week. The MLS is here for the long run. We are on the
right track" (S.F. EXAMINER, 10/25). More Logan: "In year
two, the gods were all against us. New York and L.A., for
much of the season, both were in last place and neither team
had an attractive personality. We had a freak number of
weather days. ... The fact that we have weathered it as well
as we have is a good sign." In reviewing the league's second
season, the AP's Brian Trusdell wrote that its "drop in
attendance and cable TV ratings was perhaps not as bad as
some might have expected" (AP/HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/26). In
L.A., Grahame Jones noted that with MLS' TV deal with
ABC/ESPN and Nike's $120M sponsorship deal with U.S. Soccer,
American soccer "is ending on an extraordinarily high note."
But MLS attendance "remains troublesome," TV ratings "also
were off," and stadiums "remain a thorny issue." MLS had
budgeted for a $23M operating loss in its inaugural season
"but actually lost" $4M less than that. This season, it will
lose slightly more than $13M, which was expected (L.A. TIMES,
10/26). In Hartford, Jerry Trecker wrote that while MLS has
demonstrated "health at the gate" and "staying power," the
quality of play "is still well below the top national league
standards of Europe and South America." Trecker: "If MLS has
already beaten the naysayers who predicted disaster, it has
yet to win over the general sports fan or talk show host"
(HARTFORD COURANT, 10/26)....In other news, MLS sold in first
"high-profile" U.S. player when it reached a deal to send
Crew goalkeeper Brad Friedel to the English League club
Liverpool for around $1.6M (WASHINGTON POST, 10/25).
At a Friday press conference, NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter
and 12 of "the game's most influential agents" said that if
the league reopens its CBA next year, "they will face tougher
negotiations than they did in 1995," according to Mike Wise
of the N.Y. TIMES. Hunter: "We're not encouraging a
confrontation with the N.B.A. But the union is no longer in
the mind set it was two years ago. There will be unity
between the players, the union and the agents." The union
wants to see an end to the rookie salary cap that was put in
the '95 agreement. Hunter also downplayed talk of a work
stoppage: "Our intent is not to strike. At least not at this
stage" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/25). Hunter: "The current deal has
been a bad one for the players as a whole, and a setback.
The players made numerous concessions the last time. That
won't happen again" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/26).
REAX: In Orlando, Tim Povtak wrote that by next July,
the NBA "is expected to be engulfed in a messy labor/
management battle that could leave it with deep and lasting
scars. By July 1, the NBA could be a mess" (ORLANDO
SENTINEL, 10/26). In AZ, Bob Young wrote under the header,
"NBA Could Be Heading Toward Trouble Next Year." Young noted
the potential for a work stoppage: "Enjoy this NBA season.
... Because it could all go away next summer" (ARIZONA
REPUBLIC, 10/26). The AP wrote: "Time for a new slogan: The
NBA -- Enjoy it while it lasts." The AP: "From all
indications, this is the NBA's eve of destruction. The Bulls
are breaking up, a lockout looms, a baseball-style labor war
is possible and the whole basketball of wax could break apart
like a shattered backboard" (AP/STAR TRIBUNE, 10/26).
Marijuana and alcohol use in the NBA was examined on the
front page of Sunday's N.Y. TIMES sports section in an above-
the-fold feature by Selena Roberts. Roberts writes that
"[c]ontrary to the wholesome image marketed" by the NBA, 60-
70% of its 350-plus players "smoke marijuana and drink
excessively, according to conversations with more than two
dozen players, former players, agents and basketball
executives." Former NBA player Richard Dumas, who is banned
from the NBA for drug and alcohol use: "If they tested for
pot, there would be no league." Roberts: "Two decades ago,
the league nearly collapsed under a perception that its
athletes were high on cocaine. Now, many people are saying
the NBA's 14-year-old drug policy is so antiquated and
ineffective that it protects players despite behavior that is
illegal and commonplace." Under the CBA, the league allows
mandatory drug testing of rookies only and "does not list
marijuana as a prohibited substance" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/26).
PARTYMEN? Players interviewed said "marijuana, drinking
and clubs are part of a post-game party scene in almost every
NBA city. Cocaine, once the bane of pro basketball, has
fallen out of favor, but a fast-paced life style has been
thriving in a league that is increasingly richer and younger.
More exotic drugs are available." NBA Commissioner David
Stern said he has "serious questions concerning drinking and
marijuana," and added that if owners do reopen the CBA next
year, "the league will propose tightening the drug policy."
Stern: "I'm not saying it's a problem. But it's an issue
that we'd like to address. Beyond that, there is an
opportunity for athletes to lead as examples." NBPA Exec Dir
Billy Hunter: "I've often heard it from players that they
suspect people in management are using drugs. ... If there is
a marijuana problem, it's one reflective of society. ... I
don't intend to impose on our players more than what is
imposed on people in society." Raptors G Damon Stoudamire:
"As far as use, it's bad in the league, but I think half of
America might smoke marijuana" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/26).
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue testified via video
Friday in the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission's
$130M antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, according to William
Lhotka of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Tagliabue "admitted"
that he "refused to tell team owners before a crucial vote in
March 1995 that the Rams were offering the league" $25M to
relocate to St. Louis. NFL owners voted against the move at
that meeting, but a month later approved it after the Rams
"agreed to pay" $46M and "had made other promises" on future
revenue. Tagliabue "gave a variety of reasons for refusing"
to tell owners of the team's offer. Commission attorney Alan
Popkin "suggested" that Tagliabue, by not informing league
owners, wanted to "get more money from the Rams and St.
Louis." In other news, Tagliabue "first denied, then
admitted that he was the primary author of nine so-called
relocation guidelines adopted" in '84. He added that the
Rams didn't meet the guidelines when their move was approved,
"but that the owners had used their own business judgements
as the criteria." Tagliabue is expected to testify live when
the NFL offers its case (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/25).