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Volume 24 No. 158

Leagues Governing Bodies

          The NHL returned to action on Wednesday after a 17-day     hiatus during its Olympic break.  Today, THE DAILY compares     announced attendance at the 15 games played Wednesday and     Thursday with the team's home average as of February 8, the     beginning of the Olympic Break (THE DAILY):        
TEAM 2/25
% +/- TEAM 2/26
% +/-
+ 2%
+ 3%
+ 2%
+ 25%
+ 7%
+ 7%
+ 6%
+ .5%
- 1%
- 22%
- 13%

AN OBSERVATION: In N.Y., the OBSERVER's Nick Paumgarten, a self-described hockey purist, comments on the marketing of the league by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: "Fortunately, for all Mr. Bettman's strenuous efforts to turn hockey into a hot commodity, the game remains a marginal form of entertainment, like cockfights or poetry." Paumgarten says that since Bettman started in '93, "he has subjected the game to marketing experiments and revenue enhancements that have managed to drive the purists bonkers without really increasing the game's profile -- third jerseys, pucks that glow on TV, dancing robots" (Nick Paumgarten, N.Y. OBSERVER, 3/2 issue).

          While ten NBA teams own their own planes, the NBA
     chartered five customized, 56-seat 727s from Northwest
     Airlines for "the exclusive use of seven basketball teams"
     and the NHL's Avalanche, according to Susan Carey of the
     WALL STREET JOURNAL.  The NBA teams sharing the five planes
     are the Pacers, Lakers, Clippers, Rockets, Spurs, Warriors
     and Nuggets.  Carey writes that the charter deal came about
     after General Electric, which owns NBC, leased some 727s to
     Northwest, and the airline "didn't want to extend the leases
     when they expired."  Some NBC sportscasters "began hearing
     about" NBA teams' transportation "woes," and GE's aircraft
     unit financed the refurbishing to the league's
     specifications.  The NBA leases the planes from GE, and has
     a seven-year agreement with Northwest to operate the planes. 
     Bill Wernecke, Charter Manager for Northwest, which also
     carries eight NFL teams, said that the NBA "expects other
     teams to sign up in coming seasons," as four other 727s are
     available to expand if needed (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/27).

          The "latest meeting" between the NBA and the NBPA was
     held Tuesday between NBA Commissioner David Stern and NBPA
     Exec Dir Billy Hunter, according to ESPN's David Aldridge. 
     Aldridge: "No breakthrough was achieved nor should have been
     expected, but the league did tell the union that it would be
     willing to open its books, something the NBA has been loathe
     to do in years past, to prove to the union that teams'
     profit margins have dropped dramatically or disappeared
     altogether over the past two years" ("SportsCenter," 2/26).
          NBA NOTES: THE SPORTING NEWS' cover story examines the
     events around the NBA's trading deadline under the header,
     "What's The Deal? Inside A Week Of Trades, Tantrums And
     Turmoil."  David Moore writes, "A league under siege took a
     few more hits this past week."  Noting players' moves to
     influence where and when they are traded, Moore asks, "Have
     the owners handed control of the sport over to their
     employees, setting the state for labor Armageddon to unfold
     in five short months?  The answer is unknown.  What is known
     is that every time commissioner David Stern turns around, he
     bumps into another problem that rips at the fabric of the
     sport's success" (TSN, 3/2 issue).  In Chicago, Lacy Banks
     writes that while Michael Jordan is the "league's most
     pervasive positive" it is "unfair for Jerry Reinsdorf and
     his partners to be saddled with paying Jordan by themselves
     when he is making so much money for everybody."  Banks:
     "Jordan is spreading the wealth around the league unlike any
     other player ever has done.  It would only be right if the
     league would spread around the responsibility of helping the
     Bulls pay his salary" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/27).

          NASCAR's Las Vegas debut for the Las Vegas 400 on
     Sunday is the subject of USA TODAY's sports cover story by
     Steve Ballard.  The Winston Cup race, held Sunday and
     televised by ABC, will run at the $200M Las Vegas
     Motorspeedway, which has a 2.5-mile road course, drag strip,
     dirt oval, research and development facilities and racing
     schools.  The facility has 107,000 seats, which sold out in
     one day for the event at prices of $50 to $110.  The Las
     Vegas Convention & Visitors Auth. also paid over $1M for
     title sponsorship of this weekend's race.  NASCAR Dir of
     Communications John Griffin: "We're in the entertainment
     capital of the world and being embraced with arms wide open"
     (USA TODAY, 2/27).  The Speedway has 102 suites that lease
     for $60,000 annually (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/27).  
          SPLIT LEAGUES? In Las Vegas, Ron Kantowski wrote on the
     state of NASCAR and added that the "best way" to grow the
     sport "is to split into east and west divisions with
     separate drivers, teams, speedways and schedules."  By
     forming two leagues, NASCAR "could move into new markets and
     provide their new tracks with the races they covet.  At the
     same time, it would enable the smaller tracks in the
     Southeast to keep their dates and preclude them from turning
     into flea markets" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 2/26).
          RAW NUMBERS: AUTOWEEK notes that attendance at NASCAR
     Winston Cup races has "nearly tripled" since '87.  In '87,
     the series drew 2,213,000 fans; in '97 it drew 6,091,356, an
     increase of 175.2% (AUTOWEEK, 3/2 issue).

          The NFL and NFLPA reached an agreement in principal on
     terms for a five-year extension of the current CBA through
     the 2002 season.  The tentative deal would include an
     uncapped season -- or an additional capped season at the
     mutual option of the two sides -- in 2003 (NFL).
          DETAILS: In DC, Leonard Shapiro reports that "most of
     the principals in the original CBA agreed to in 1993 remain
     in place," including free agency after four years,
     guaranteed signing bonuses which can be pro-rated over the
     length of a deal and the franchise player designation.  The
     rookie salary pool is increased, as are minimum salaries for
     fifth-year veterans.  The two sides also agreed that if a
     "vested player (one with four years' experience) makes a
     team's active roster for the start of the season, he will be
     guaranteed" a full season's salary.  The team can deny
     payment if it shows the player did not put forth sufficient
     effort.  A player "would be warned in writing by his coach
     if that did occur, and any dispute would be settled in
     arbitration."  The players also agreed to "consider"
     contributing some of the designated gross revenues they
     receive to a stadium fund.  Players will earn 63% of teams'
     designated gross revenues through 2002, and 64% if 2003 is
     uncapped (WASHINGTON POST, 2/27).  A one-year guaranteed
     deal would affect a "small number of players" and differs
     from the current system where players with five-plus years
     who make the active roster get only half of their salary if
     they are cut.  The agreement also includes increased
     benefits for the players, including a 401(k) plan and
     pension funds.  Benefits increase from $150M to "almost"
     $500M over the life of the deal.  Also, the NFL and NFLPA
     will donate $100M to a fund for the "further development of
     youth football programs" (Mike Freeman, N.Y. TIMES, 2/27). 
          TOUGH SELL? The deal must be ratified by 23 of the
     league's 30 owners and a simple majority of the players.  In
     N.Y., Mike Freeman writes that the deal could still "fall
     apart."  NFL Exec VP/Labor Relations Harold Henderson said
     the agreement is "certainly not a slam dunk" to be approved. 
     Henderson: "There are some people who won't like some
     aspects of this" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/27).  In Boston, Ron Borges
     writes the deal "moves the players one step closer to
     football domination."  Patriots Owner Bob Kraft: "It's a
     better deal for the players than the owners. ... I'll vote
     for it because it assures us labor peace for five years, but
     it's an awesome deal for them."  NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw:
     "There are things in here both sides will say, 'How could
     you ever agree to that?'  But we felt it would be best to
     guarantee labor peace and put our contract and the [recent
     TV deal] on the same track" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/27).