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Volume 24 No. 117

Leagues Governing Bodies

          NBC and TBS, "shut out" of the NFL's recent TV deals,
     "might decide to combine their considerable resources and
     start their own pro football league," according to Rogers &
     Pasquarelli of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION.  In a statement
     released yesterday, TBS said it was "speaking to" NBC "about
     the possibility" of starting a new league.  The early
     "working title" is the "Fan Appreciation League."  NFL
     VP/Communications Greg Aiello said the NFL had "no comment
     and no reaction."  However, Patriots Owner Robert Kraft and
     Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen, both members of the NFL's
     broadcast committee, reacted to the news, with Kraft saying
     "[W]hen CBS got shut out [on the NFL contract], it talked
     about the same thing and nothing ever happened."  Bowlen:
     "You never say never, but there are a lot of bones out there
     of leagues that attempted to compete with the NFL" (ATLANTA
     CONSTITUTION, 1/30).  The two are considering a league that
     would play Sunday afternoons in the fall, "competing
     directly with the NFL," according to Pope & Shapiro of the
     WALL STREET JOURNAL.  Pope & Shapiro write that an
     NBC/Turner "alliance would have an edge in its programming
     and vast distribution network" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/30).
          SOUR GRAPES OR REAL ALTERNATIVE? USA TODAY's Rudy
     Martzke reports that the league would consist of 10-12 teams
     and begin play in '99.  Players "would come from" the CFL, a
     "few NFL stars, taxi-squaders and late training-camp cuts." 
     TV "possibilities" include NBC with a Sunday doubleheader
     and TNT "having one, or possibly two" prime-time games a
     week, while cities "could include" N.Y., Chicago, L.A.,
     Atlanta, Boston and "possibly" teams in other markets with
     NBC O&Os, such as DC and Miami (USA TODAY, 1/30).
          FEASIBILITY STUDIES: The Marquee Group's Mike Trager
     projects that NBC could achieve a 2-3 rating for the league,
     which "likely would take a ratings point away" from NFL
     broadcasts, equating to a 10% drop.  That drop would affect
     CBS' "ability to make a profit" because it would base its ad
     rates on a 10 rating.  Trager: "The issue is, can they sell
     the ad inventory in the (year's) fourth quarter, when
     there's already so much pro football inventory?" (Rudy
     Martzke, USA TODAY, 1/30).  In S.F., Glenn Dickey said that
     for a new league, the old AFL "must be the model."  Dickey
     said he would be "surprised if a new league doesn't start
     within the next couple of years" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/30).  

          MARTIN CASE: PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and
     Casey Martin's attorney William Wiswall have contributed
     opinion pieces to ESPN's SportsZone regarding Martin's case,
     which goes to trial Monday.  Finchem: "The PGA Tour strongly
     supports the spirit of the [ADA] ... [b]ut we also have an
     obligation to our members and the sport to provide
     tournament conditions that are equitable for all golfers."  
     Wiswall: "The PGA Tour has missed a golden opportunity to
     embrace a highly talented golfer.  It should accommodate
     Casey Martin" (ESPN SportsZone, 1/30)....In the Bergen
     RECORD, Adrian Wojnarowski criticized Tiger Woods for not
     supporting Martin's quest and wrote that Nike's "most famous
     golfing pitchman is nowhere to be found."  Last year, Woods'
     "mandate" was to make golf "the game of all the people. ...
     Sadly, Woods has learned his Madison Avenue lessons well,
     the ones Michael Jordan has perfected: Courageous stands
     don't push product."  Wojnarowski: "So far, [Woods] seems
     perfectly content to win majors, collect his endorsements,
     and never miss a Planet Hollywood bash" (RECORD, 1/29).
          NHL: Blues F Brett Hull, who lashed out against the
     league Wednesday, saying the quality of play "sucks," spoke
     with Commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday, according to Tom
     Wheatley of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH.  Hull: "[Bettman]
     said 'We see everything you do on the ice.  We're addressing
     it.  But we don't need you to say the game sucks.' And he's
     right" (POST-DISPATCH, 1/30).  In Calgary, Jim Kernaghan
     writes that the NHL "will be whatever marketing dictates ...
     [t]his isn't about sports you know, it's about what Bettman
     likes to call 'growing the league' and establishing a
     greater NHL 'footprint'" (FREE PRESS/CALGARY SUN, 1/30).

          Results of a new survey show that "more Canadians are
     becoming football fans," but don't want the NFL in Canada
     "if it spells the end of" the CFL, according to Dan Ralph of
     the Toronto GLOBE & MAIL.  The Gallup Poll, which carries a
     margin of error of +/- 3%, surveyed 1,006 Canadians who
     follow pro football.  Of those surveyed, 18% "don't want the
     NFL in Canada" at all, 12% want it only if it coexists with
     the CFL, and 8% want the NFL "even if it meant the demise"
     of the CFL.  A "resounding" 62% said they "didn't care."  In
     terms of interest, 21% of respondents said that they follow
     the NFL, "up from" 11% in '90.  Fifty-nine percent of NFL
     supporters "also follow the CFL," while 63% of CFL fans
     "keep tabs on" the NFL (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/30).   

          The use of Sudafed by NHL players is examined by
     Michael Farber of SI under the header "Hockey's Little
     Helpers."  Farber: "It's the NHL's dirty little secret, and
     with the Olympics imminent, it is of great concern to the
     league because although Sudafed is legal, it is on the
     Olympic list of banned substances."  Farber writes that the
     "exact number of players who use Sudafed, a nonprescription
     drug that contains the stimulant pseudoephedrine, in an
     effort to boost their performance on the ice, is unclear." 
     Two NHL trainers "estimate that before a game 20% of the
     league's players routinely take" such over-the-counter
     medications "to feel a little buzz."  The NHL, however,
     "disputes that figure, saying the percentage of players
     using drugs such as Sudafed is much lower and that they use
     them for medicinal purposes only" (SI, 2/2 issue).          
          REBUTTAL: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, on SI's
     article: "The evidence that we have indicates that [SI's]
     anecdotes aren't born out by the facts, and that if there
     was a problem -- and we're not so sure that there ever was -
     - that it was a while ago."  More Bettman: "[I]f we thought
     we had a problem, our substance abuse program would be
     directed at it, even though we're talking about a perfectly
     legal substance" ("CNN/SI," 1/29).  NHLPA Exec Dir Bob
     Goodenow declined to discuss specific results of pre-Olympic
     drug tests but said those results contained "no shocking
     revelations of drug abuse, nor any indication the use of
     Sudafed was as high" as depicted in SI (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/29).

          Latrell Sprewell testified for the first time at his
     grievance hearing yesterday, answering questions before
     arbitrator John Feerick for "about 6 hours and 15 minutes,"
     according to David Steele of the S.F. CHRONICLE.  Sprewell
     started at 9:00am PT, broke for lunch at 12:30pm, and then
     returned at 2:30pm.  In between, Feerick heard testimony
     from Warriors team doctor Robert Albo.  The final witness of
     the day was Warriors VP Al Attles (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/30). 
     In N.Y., Mike Wise reports sources who said that "in the
     morning session Sprewell answered questions clearly, that he
     never grew upset or became emotional and that his demeanor
     ran between calm and attentive" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/30). In San
     Jose, Jesse Barkin writes the case "ultimately" might be
     decided on whether Feerick "believed Sprewell" during his
     testimony (S.J. MERCURY NEWS, 1/30).  NEWSDAY's Greg Logan
     reports that "no other witnesses were in the same room when
     Sprewell testified.  So, the atmosphere was not as
     emotionally charged as on Wednesday when [Warriors coach
     P.J.] Carlesimo and Sprewell sat across a table from each
     other."  The hearing will continue today in OR and resume
     next week in New York through Thursday (NEWSDAY, 1/30).  
          BEHIND THE SCENES: A gag order imposed by Feerick has
     prevented hearing participants from speaking to the media. 
     But while the NBPA is arguing the league's claim that
     Sprewell returned to the team's practice a second time on
     December 1 in a premeditated attack on Carlesimo, sources
     told Thomas Heath of the WASHINGTON POST that "at least one
     player who testified" has said that "he did not see Sprewell
     strike Carlesimo a second time" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/30).  
          BULLISH BEHAVIOR: The Bulls were in Portland last night
     and Michael Jordan commented on the Sprewell case: "There's
     a morality clause in each and every contract. ... Anything
     detrimental to the league or to the team can terminate you. 
     That's not hidden in the contract."  But Jordan questioned
     the league's disciplinary process: "[T]hey gave three
     different penalties, and it raised a lot of questions and, I
     guess, created an argument for Sprewell" (NEWSDAY, 1/30). 
     Bulls coach Phil Jackson, on the one-year suspension: "I
     think there's some reason to say that might be a little bit
     long" (Terry Armour, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/30).