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Volume 24 No. 114

Leagues Governing Bodies

          NBA Commissioner David Stern said Michael Jordan's
     retirement means, "We're going to have a mountain to climb
     now, sure.  We're just going to have to use stronger ropes,
     I guess" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/13).  In Philadelphia, Bob
     Ford: "The NBA stumbled when Jordan took his baseball
     sabbatical.  Now it seems set to fall harder in his absence. 
     That Jordan would abandon the league in the hour it needs
     him most -- with its very popularity on the line -- is
     telling.  Only Jordan could save this stunted season, and
     you'd better believe he knows it" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER,
     1/13).  Rick Burton, Dir of the Univ. of OR's Warsaw Sports
     Marketing Center, estimates that Jordan's departure "would
     likely cost the league" $200M beyond the $1B it has already
     lost due to a shortened season.  Peter Roby, Reebok Int'l
     VP/Consumer Marketing in North America: "I would have
     suggested that the NBA is facing a big problem even if
     Michael Jordan does come back.  And now they are facing
     coming back from a work stoppage without the greatest player
     ever to play."   Woolf Associates' COO Larry Moulter: "Even
     though the league is supported by corporations that buy up a
     lot of premium seating, the NBA must identify with the
     middle class.  And kids getting arrested with guns and
     marijuana in their car just aren't going to sell it."  The
     Bonham Group President Dean Bonham: "I think the NBA should
     take a very proactive tack and they ought to assemble a team
     of stars they can push" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/13).  In N.Y.,
     Wallace Matthews writes that Jordan's exit is "forcing the
     NBA to start cleaning up" its image (N.Y. POST, 1/13).
          A BIG HIT: MSG President Dave Checketts: "This guy is
     probably the most recognized man in the world.  To lose a
     star like that is a big hit.  However, it also means that it
     provides a time now to have the young stars take a step up"
     (N.Y. TIMES, 1/13).  NBC's Bob Costas: "To many people,
     Michael Jordan is the NBA and what happens to the NBA is
     that it settles back into a lower level of popularity that
     it may not approach ever again without Michael Jordan."  
     NBC's Katie Couric, to Tim Russert: "On the eve of the
     president's impeachment trial in the Senate, everybody is
     talking about Michael Jordan's retirement.  What does that
     say to you?"  Russert: "It says everything about where
     America's interest is this very morning, and that's MJ"
     (NBC, 1/13).  Jordan's retirement was the lead story on the
     "CBS Evening News."  Steiner Sports Marketing's Dave Smith:
     "The NBA without Michael Jordan is in deep trouble. ... And
     I think it's going to take a long time for them to recover." 
     CBS's Anthony Mason said that in losing Jordan, the NBA is
     losing its "billion dollar man" ("CBS Evening News," 1/13). 
          WHO IS READY? Brandweek Editor Matthew Grimm: "Jordan's
     retirement puts the spotlight on everybody else, and that's
     not necessarily a good thing for the NBA right now.  They
     have quite a mountain to climb in terms of public
     perception" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/13).  Bob Williams,
     President of Burns Sports Celebrity: "They have about two
     months to make a collective effort with some of the league's
     elite stars .. to pick up some of the slack" (PHILADELPHIA
     INQUIRER, 1/13).  In Chicago, Carol Slezak reports that
     Lakers G Kobe Bryant is "ready" to be the NBA's "new
     superstar" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/13).  Bryant: "I feel
     responsible, as a young player, to try to carry on the
     tradition he and other players have developed." Pistons F
     Grant Hill: "We're going to miss him.  But the NBA is going
     to be all right" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/13).
          WE WILL SURVIVE, WE WILL GET BY: In Boston, Bob Ryan:
     "If the NBA is to be salvaged, it must, must, must be bigger
     than one man. ... The NBA has many long-range problems. 
     Having Jordan to promote and slobber over might provide a
     pleasant distraction for the masses. ... He serves his
     league best by leaving it" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/13).  In N.Y.,
     Peter Vecsey writes that Jordan's departure should be "no
     problem" for the league.  If some of the young stars "don't
     catch attention of fans, then the NBA should take a page
     from the NFL and market teams instead of individuals. ... I
     say some other superhero will suddenly emerge" (N.Y. POST,
     1/13).  In Detroit, Mitch Albom writes, "Eventually, someone
     else will come along -- or rather someone else will be made. 
     The shoe companies, the soft drinks, the fast-food products
     and the NBA itself cannot resist the urge to find a
     successor" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/13).
          ONE MORE THING MISSING: Raptors President Richard
     Peddie said Jordan's presence was worth C$500,000 a year to
     his team in additional revenue (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/13).
          SHAQ-DADDY: Lakers C Shaquille O'Neal, on Jordan:
     "We're going to miss him and I can tell all my ten children
     from nine different women that I played against the great
     Michael Jordan" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/13). 

          Speedway Motorsports Chair Bruton Smith "is pressing"
     NASCAR to split its Winston Cup schedule into two divisions,
     allowing for more races to accommodate new tracks, according
     to Larry Woody of the Nashville TENNESSEAN.  Smith said that
     he has been talking with NASCAR President Bill France about
     the idea for "three or four years," but "so far, nothing has
     happened."  Smith: "Sponsors like to see their car win or
     run in the top five.  Increasing the races would increase
     their chances."  The Winston Cup series currently has 34
     races per season (TENNESSEAN, 1/13).  Smith said that one
     league could race in the East, one in the West, and both
     televised as a Sunday doubleheader (DETROIT NEWS, 1/13).  
          NASCAR'S CRYSTAL BALL: Speaking at NASCAR's Media Tour
     in Charlotte, Speedway Motorsports President Humpy Wheeler
     said he "believes" NASCAR racing in the year 2020 will
     include drivers earning up to $50M a year, HDTV putting
     "fans in the driver's seats" and satellite TV producers able
     to "bankroll" ten int'l races (PHILA. DAILY NEWS, 1/13).

          CT-based Phoenix Home Life Mutual Insurance is now "on
     the hook" to the ABL for a $6M bank loan "it may never
     recover," according to Kauffman & Wong of the HARTFORD
     COURANT.  Among the ABL's 1,000 creditors, Phoenix "is
     taking by far the biggest hit" among those who will lose
     money, since it "guaranteed payment of a loan from Fleet
     Bank."  ABL bankruptcy lawyer Michael Lubic said that the
     league "plans its own antitrust suit" against the WNBA, "a
     move that might provide more money for season-ticket holders
     and others."  Lubic said that he could "offer no details" of
     the ABL's legal plans, nor would he identify the defendant
     in the case (HARTFORD COURANT, 1/13).  CT's Commissioner of
     Economic & Community Development James Abromaitis wrote a
     letter Friday to the WNBA urging them to locate a franchise
     in Hartford by "offering the [CT Gov. John Rowland]
     administration's assistance" (HARTFORD COURANT, 1/13).
     Sheldon Spencer writes that two ABL fans have announced
     plans for a "hoopSalute" game featuring Jennifer Azzi and
     "at least" ten others former ABL players who have
     "tentatively agreed" to participate.  The 1,600-seat De Anza
     College (CA) gym will host the game on January 24. The
     event, not endorsed by the ABL, will pay each player a
     $5,000 appearance fee, and tickets will range in price from
     $50 to $1,500 (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/13).