In Atlanta, David O'Brien noted as MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner tours Spring Training camps, neither MLB owners nor union officials "seem overly concerned about potential obstacles preventing them from working out" a new CBA after the '11 season. Weiner met with Braves players yesterday for 90 minutes, and 3B Chipper Jones said, "Realignment, another round of the playoffs -- there’s a bunch of things that need to be talked about. But I don’t think it’s anything that’s going to put us in a lockout situation." He added, "I’ve been in a work stoppage before, and the tone (before that) was completely different" (AJC.com, 2/23).
LOOKING FOR CRUISING CONTROL: CBSSPORTS.com's Pete Pistone wrote the business of NASCAR is "off to a rousing start" after Sunday's Daytona 500, and there are "no doubt smiles on the faces of NASCAR and track officials, television and radio executives as well as sponsors." There has been "much worry over falling television ratings and attendance woes and quite frankly if the bubble had burst on NASCAR’s incredible popularity." The sport "needed to come out of the box with the biggest race of the year in a big way." Still, the "lift of the 500 will only go so far." The "casual fans that tuned in and witnessed an interesting and thrilling race at Daytona may surf over to Fox's telecast from Phoenix on Sunday," and it is "up to the drivers to put on a good show" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/22).
THE MORE THE MERRIER? In Houston, Jose de Jesus Ortiz noted MLS announced its new playoff format yesterday and it "seems more in line with other major American sports leagues." This year, 10 of MLS' 18 teams will reach the playoffs. The "top three from each division will qualify automatically," while the "remaining four with the best records will qualify to play a single-elimination play-in game for a spot in the Conference semifinals" (CHRON.com, 2/23).
A BRIGHT OUTLOOK: NBCSPORTS.com's Matt Reitz cited a USA Hockey report that indicates participation in the sport is "exploding in the Sun Belt." North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida are the "fastest growing states in terms of youth registration." There is "no question" that the presence of the Hurricanes, Thrashers, Predators, Panthers and Lightning "only helps plant the seed into children when they are playing sports during their childhood." Reitz: "Take those teams away and the NHL can kiss growth in non-traditional markets goodbye. It’s easy for fans to pick on Gary Bettman for his failures -- but looking at these numbers, one has to wonder if this ever would have been possible 15-20 years ago. These teams are taking hold in their communities" (NBCSPORTS.com, 2/24).