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Volume 24 No. 155

Leagues Governing Bodies

          NBA: ESPN's David Aldridge reported that the NBA and
     the players' association "continue to get nowhere" in their
     CBA talks.  Aldridge: "Sources indicate that the league is
     still seeking a hard cap without a Larry Bird exception,
     something that the players just won't buy.  And the union
     appears to be skeptical about the NBA's contention that up
     to half of its teams may lose money this season.  Word is
     that the union believes only four teams -- the Clippers,
     Hawks, Pacers and Warriors -- will finish in the red this
     season.  And the Clippers, Indiana and Atlanta are all on
     line" for new arenas by 2000 ("SportsCenter," 5/21).  NBC's
     pre-game show on Sunday will focus on the NBA's labor talks,
     featuring interviews with Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik
     and NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter, followed by a round-table
     discussion (MIL. JOURNAL SENTINEL, 5/22)....Lakers Exec VP
     Jerry West discussed a possible minimum age for the NBA on
     Portland's KFXX Sports Radio yesterday: "[W]e need to find a
     way to put an age limit on it, because these kids simply do
     not understand why going to college, how important it is.
     ... We have glamorized everything in this league and we have
     marketed this league to a point where I really feel like we
     have to start worrying about our product" (THE DAILY).
          OTHER NOTES: USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke reports that NBC
     Exec VP Ken Schanzer said a report that he'd become COO of
     MLB is "not true."  Schanzer was President of The Baseball
     Network.  Martzke also talks to former USA Network President
     Kay Koplovitz, who said "a lot of people have called and
     suggested" she consider becoming MLB Commissioner. 
     Koplovitz: "Baseball needs a lot of repositioning in the TV
     area, which other sports have done, but they don't appear to
     want anybody making waves" (USA TODAY, 5/22)....NFL owners
     approved a trial use of instant replay during some of this
     year's preseason games (NFL)....NHL Fans Association co-
     Founder Jim Boone: "We're not a fan club.  We're going to
     look at broader issues facing the NHL and its fans."  NHL
     VP/Media Relations Frank Brown: "Their enterprise is
     laudatory.  That doesn't mean the NHL endorses it.  But it
     doesn't mean we won't be responsive to it, either" (TORONTO
     SUN, 5/21)....MLS Commissioner Doug Logan, on Rochester's
     chances of moving up from A-League to MLS: "If some magic
     gets made and a stadium happens, Rochester will get strong
     consideration for an MLS team" (DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 5/20). 
                 

          To "broaden" its appeal and "increase its popularity,
     NASCAR is targeting young customers with everything from
     amusement parks to NASCAR Barbie, grooming its next
     generation of fans even as TV ratings and race-day
     attendance soar," according to Liz Clarke in a front-page
     feature in the WASHINGTON POST.   NASCAR's Dir of
     Communications Worldwide John Griffin: "We're going after
     youth as a whole.  We want to continue in our direction of
     becoming more of a white-collar sport, where it's mom, dad
     and the kids sitting around the TV and rooting for their
     favorite driver on Sunday.  We're going after urban youth as
     much as any other youth" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/22).      
          YOUTH MARKET: Clarke reports that as part of the
     "campaign," tracks are "turning into family-friendly
     venues," drivers are "taking care to connect with young
     fans," NASCAR-themed parks, cafes and retail stores are
     increasing, as are NASCAR toys and games, and plans for a
     Saturday morning NASCAR cartoon are "in the works."   But as
     NASCAR "shifts its marketing focus toward kids, steering
     around" series sponsor R.J. Reynolds and its Winston brand
     "calls for deft maneuvers."  Clarke writes that despite
     RJR's $30M annual support and $5M in prize money, "when it
     comes to NASCAR-licensed ventures aimed at kids, Winston's
     logo is conspicuously absent."  The NASCAR Barbie Doll is
     "authentic down to the associate sponsors' patches" on her
     suit, minus any reference to Winston.  The Cartoon Network
     is an associate sponsor of a NASCAR team, and Cartoon
     Network VP Bob Bryant said the net steps "lightly when it
     comes to the Winston Cup.  We obviously do everything we can
     not to directly associate the (cartoon) characters and the
     (cigarette) brand."  But Cliff Pennell, RJR's Sports
     Marketing Enterprises President, said that the company has
     no interest in NASCAR's youth initiatives: "This isn't about
     getting anyone -- regardless of their age -- to smoke.  It's
     about trying to convert and switch adult smokers to our
     product."  Clarke: "Yet, as NASCAR seeks a younger, more
     affluent and urban audience, its tobacco backing doesn't
     strengthen its hand as effectively as a sneaker company or a
     soft drink bottler might" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/22). 

          Indy-car's biggest weekend has the 82nd running of the
     Indy 500 on Sunday and CART's Motorola 300 at Gateway Int'l
     Raceway in IL on Saturday.  But analysts and media contend
     that the Indy-car split more than two years ago has diluted
     interest in Indy-car racing as a whole.  A sampling follows:
          EVERYONE LOSES? In Dallas, Holly Cain wrote that the
     Indy 500 "won't be what it could be thanks" to the split
     with CART, and that CART's Motorola 300 "won't garner ideal
     attention either."  Cain: "There's still no winner in the
     Indy standoff between CART and the IRL" (DALLAS MORNING
     NEWS, 5/21).  In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports that ABC's
     CART ratings of a 1.5 are down from last year's 1.7, while
     ABC's IRL numbers are flat at 1.8.  Sandomir: "The split
     hasn't been healthy for either Indy-car circuit" (N.Y.
     TIMES, 5/22).  In Chicago, Skip Myslenski writes that CART
     is financially more secure than the IRL due to its sponsor
     support from 75 Fortune 500 companies.  Myslenski says that
     "no longer" can the CART and IRL feud "be compared with,
     say, the long war between the National and American football
     leagues.  It is more like how a war would be between the NFL
     and Austrian Rules Football" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/22).  
          CAN'T COMPARE TO NASCAR? In N.Y., Sam Walker writes
     that the Indy 500 is "fast becoming an also-ran to the
     raucous, fender-knocking racing that shows up in NASCAR." 
     The Indy 500 is "even struggling to remain the biggest
     Memorial Day weekend event in auto racing," going up against
     NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/22).  Barnes
     Dyer Marketing Chair William Dyer, who is involved in auto
     racing marketing, said that NASCAR's growth has helped
     diminish the 500 (INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS, 5/22).  In Dallas,
     Cathy Harasta writes that interest in the 500 has waned and
     that the "greatest spectacle in racing increasingly
     resembles an underdog" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/22). 
          LOSS OF STEWART WON'T HELP: In Indy, Robin Miller
     reports that the "major selling point" since the IRL's
     inception in '96 "will be missing" in '99 when Tony Stewart
     joins the NASCAR circuit.  Miller adds that the move will
     leave a "big void" for IRL Founder Tony George and that it's
     "unfathomable that George ... didn't try to keep Stewart in
     the league" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS, 5/22). 
          FROM THE BRICKYARD: In Indy, Mark Ambrogi writes on the
     media coverage of the 500 and adds that there are "several
     major newspapers that have either stopped covering or
     reduced their coverage of the Indy 500 since the split." 
     The Minneapolis Star Tribune is "staying away from the race
     for the first time in 25-plus years."  Star Tribune Sports
     Editor Tim Wheatly: "There is definitely a dilution interest
     with the IRL.  Frankly, we think our readers are more
     interested in NASCAR."  IMS VP/Corporate Communications & PR
     Fred Nation said that the absence "isn't a trend that
     concerns him" and that there has been no "significant
     change" in the number of requests for credentials (STAR-
     NEWS, 5/22).  Also in Indy, Bill Koenig reported that 500-
     related business has been "mixed."  While some hotels say
     business has returned to pre-split days, that's "not
     universal" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS, 5/21).  
          WHAT'S ON CART PATH? CART CEO Andrew Craig is
     interviewed by USA TODAY's Steve Ballard and says that CART
     and the IRL are "two organizations with very different
     philosophies.  The best thing for us is to plan like there
     won't be a reconciliation but remain open to positive
     discussions" (USA TODAY, 5/22).  In NATIONAL SPEED SPORT
     NEWS, Craig said CART is studying a Saturday night TV
     series, but "we have to look at it with great care because
     Saturday, in general, the HUT scores (Homes Using
     Television) is lower primarily. ... It's quite not like the
     panacea it would seem" (NSSN, 5/13 issue).
     
14  NORTHERN EXPOSURE: INDEPENDENT LEAGUES PONDER MERGER
     .    The independent Northern League and the Northeast
     League announced plans for a merger beginning with the '99
     season.  The leagues said they intend to operate under one
     name, most likely that of the Northern League, with Eastern
     and Midwestern Divisions.  Details are being finalized, with
     a merger expected to be completed by the fall.  The two
     leagues currently have 16 teams, with the Northeast League
     awarding an expansion franchise to Quebec City, which will
     begin play in '99.  The leagues had a combined attendance
     last year of just under 1.5 million fans (THE DAILY). 
     Northern League Commissioner Miles Wolff said that if the
     merger is approved, the leagues could play interleague
     series, an all-star game and postseason playoffs.  He said
     that all seven U.S. independent leagues are discussing an
     "off-the-field" alliance (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/22).