Negotiations for a new MLB CBA "are moving at a fast pace and one issue the sides have all but agreed upon is adding two wild-card teams and holding one-game playoffs in each league to determine which of the wild cards advances," according to sources cited by Joel Sherman of the N.Y. POST. One source "described that scenario as a done deal and another hedged a little by saying it is likely to play out that way, but nothing will be finalized until an entire CBA is inked." Both sources said that "because there would be just a one-game playoff added, the second wild-card team could be installed as early as next year, but the new system will go into effect no later" than '13. The current CBA expires in December, "but there is hope by both the players and management to announce a new pact during the World Series." The "major hurdle remains issues involving the draft, notably whether to include a slotting system." The TV nets "generally have been uninterested in the other wild-card option -- a best-of-three series -- instead wanting the drama and ratings potential of a sudden-death game" (N.Y. POST, 9/25).
Leagues and Governing Bodies
The NBA and NBPA "plan to meet" this week, but "several key figures, including Commissioner David Stern, will be observing Rosh Hashanah" on Thursday, and union Exec Dir Billy Hunter will be in Miami tomorrow for a regional meeting with players, according to Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. That leaves Wednesday "as the most likely day for talks, which could resume Friday or Saturday if progress is being made." Regular-season games "will be jeopardized if no deal is in place by the first week of October." It takes "at least four weeks to prepare for the season, which is scheduled to open Nov. 1" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/25). In Boston, Gary Washburn noted the turnout for Hunter's regional meeting in Las Vegas earlier this month "was disappointing, and there are perceptions that the players' unity is losing momentum." Washburn wrote some "premier players," including Lakers G Kobe Bryant, Heat F LeBron James and Heat G Dwyane Wade "have remained eerily quiet the past three months" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/25). In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman reported James, Wade and Heat F Chris Bosh "have yet to indicate whether they would attend" tomorrow's meeting (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/26).
DIVIDE AND CONQUER? A number of agents and basketball sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they think the specter of a group of powerful players and agents could put pressure on both the NBA and the players union to make a deal. But agent David Falk, in a wide-ranging interview with SportsBusiness Journal last week, disputed that notion. "I think it’s putting zero pressure on them (the owners)," Falk said. "They have been counseled by their antitrust experts that if the union voted to decertify they would be in a position to void (multiyear player) contracts." Falk said he does not know if that legal theory is valid or not, but he said that is what NBA owners believe. Falk, along with agent Arn Tellem, represented a group of players who tried and failed to decertify the NBPA in ‘95 because they were unhappy with the leadership of then NBPA Exec Dir Simon Gourdine during CBA negotiations. Falk: “Not only was I in favor of it, I was the progenitor of it. I initiated the move.” But the vote to decertify the union failed. Although Falk said that he thought that decertifying the NBPA in ‘95 and in ‘98 would be a winning tactic for the players at that time, he is not so sure it would be now because courts have become more conservative and pro-business. Falk: “The principal is the same, but the courts have changed” (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).
Anthony says players are communicating
everyday during NBA lockout
BIDING THEIR TIME: In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin noted with players "barred from the premises and prohibited from even speaking with club officials, the Kings' front office keeps up with the players via YouTube and the internet." Kings President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie, Dir of Player Personnel Jerry Reynolds, Dir of Player Development Fat Lever and other team execs "also are working double shifts making various community appearances and attending season-ticket functions." Kings PR Dir Chris Clark said, "We're reaching out to the community, working harder than ever" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 9/25). In Orlando, Josh Robbins reported about 180 Magic employees, including team President Alex Martins, GM Otis Smith and four assistant coaches, spent Friday "at Palmetto Elementary School to beautify the school grounds." Robbins also noted the Magic are "still required to pay the city $2.8 million whether or not any games are played" in '11-12 (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/24). Also in Orlando, Brian Schmitz noted the city of Orlando "should know around mid-December whether the 2012 all-star game will be played at Amway Center -- or cancelled" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 9/23). The SUN-SENTINEL's Winderman noted prior to last week's postponement of training camps, the Heat "had yet to begin sales for individual preseason tickets at AmericanAirlines Arena, although ticket sales for" an Oct. 15 game against the Rockets in K.C., which "was considered a Heat home game, were under way." Refunds for that game "will be available at the point of purchase beginning" today. An Oct. 11 home exhibition against the Magic "had been part of the Heat season-ticket package, with refunds and interest payments to be issued Nov. 10 by the team for any games canceled in October, depending on the payment plan previously selected" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/24).
TIME TO PANIC? ESPN.com's Marc Stein wrote, "Daunting as it felt Friday morning to see an official announcement from the league office that the first two weeks of October business have been canceled, it's a non-surprise and not as fatal as it sounds." It is when the league "announces the cancellation of the rest of its October schedule that panic time starts in earnest." Stein wrote, "The problem, of course, is that there's dwindling evidence in circulation to suggest that a deal can get done by the end" of this week, or "even the week after" (ESPN.com, 9/23). In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell wrote the lockout "probably doesn't get settled until the entire season is about to be cancelled." Bonnell: "Stern probably needs to codify the revenue-sharing to get the union to give in on other issues. And honoring pre-existing contracts is probably key" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/25). In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz wrote this "simply is not a league that can support guaranteed, astronomical six- and seven-year contracts for players." Schultz: "It can't afford to have such a soft salary cap because owners clearly can't control themselves. ... I expect this to be a long lockout. I'd be surprised if teams play more than a 50-game schedule. I would not be surprised if the entire season is cancelled" (AJC.com, 9/23). In L.A., Lance Pugmire wrote, "My guess is no games will be played until January, maybe longer." Pugmire: "The wild card is the National Labor Relations Board, which could act early in October on a players' complaint the owners are not bargaining in good faith. The NLRB could accelerate a deal" (L.A. TIMES, 9/24).
FROM THE FAR EAST: The SUN-SENTINEL's Winderman wrote he does not "see any star leaving" to play overseas "until they are convinced there is nothing to stay around for." Winderman: "I'm sure LeBron could have had his overseas chances by now, but it simply doesn't make sense" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 9/25). Agent Chris Luchey, who reps Nuggets F Wilson Chandler, said of negotiating his client's one-year contract to play in China, "Wilson's instruction to me as his agent was, 'I want to play.'" Luchey added, "Ultimately, China is the closest season to the NBA from the standpoint that they play three games a week, and it is a shorter season and he has an opportunity to go back to the NBA once the season is over. And we knew when he decided to come, it would set the trend and that more guys would come over. By being the first one (coming to China), you get to choose the best scenario" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/25). Columnist Kevin Blackistone said if NBAers go and play overseas, that “hurts” the NBPA because “their star players are not back here with them and that’s the big difference between the NBA and the NFL. The NBA is an individual’s league, the NFL is a team league, and those guys stay together” (“PTI,” ESPN, 9/23).
Bill Haas “won a dramatic winner-take-all playoff worth $11.44 million against Hunter Mahan to capture the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup titles Sunday at East Lake Golf Club,” according to Chris Vivlamore of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. Haas, who won the PGA Tour playoff title by coming from the 25th position in the points standings, said that he “was unaware that both titles -- and the large sum of money -- were on the line in the playoff.” Haas won the playoff title with the “slimmest of mathematical chances entering the final of the four-event postseason” (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/26). ESPN.com’s Bob Harig wrote the finale of the FedExCup Playoffs and the Tour Championship “turned into riveting stuff when Haas and Hunter Mahan emerged tied for the Tour Championship title, which meant a sudden-death playoff that went three extra holes.” Haas got to “accept both trophies, just as Jim Furyk did a year ago, making a nice tidy affair of the awards ceremony and making everybody feel good about the FedEx Cup champion coming up clutch to win the tournament -- the only way in which he could capture the overall title.” But Harig wrote, “If Haas didn’t know he was playing for an extra $10 million, how would the folks following outside the ropes have any idea? And therein lies one of the biggest flaws with the FedEx Cup.” Having to sit “by a computer to figure out who might win and listening to the various scenarios is mind-numbing.” Harig asks, “Wouldn’t it be better to simply have the winner of the tournament win the FedEx Cup?” (ESPN.com, 9/25).
GREAT SUCCESS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s John Paul Newport wrote, “As a business proposition, especially for PGA Tour players, the FedEx Cup Playoffs have been a resounding success.” Since the playoffs debuted in ’07, Tour members “have competed for the $335 million in prize money that wasn’t there before.” For fans, the playoffs “have been less of a humdinger.” Newport notes few fans “will spend a lot of time parsing the peculiar, points-related puzzles that the FedEx Cup finale throws up.” The playoffs “have extended top-quality golf competition into the fall, an unequivocal bonus for hard-core golf fans.” The PGA Tour noted that the playoffs have “nearly 100% participation by eligible players and television ratings, for the last four years, that are 29% higher than the comparable ratings for the four prior years.” The Tour “deserves credit for tweaking the playoffs formula three times in response to its initial deficiencies amid withering criticism from some in the media" (WSJ.com, 9/24).
SHORT OF THE FLAG: Golf Magazine's Paul Mahoney tweeted, "So was the FedEx Cup a success? Nope. Sunday's last hour was exciting but just another exciting finish to yet another 72-hole tournament. … $10 million bonus is vulgar & even the winner of the FedEx Cup didn't know he'd won." CNBC's Darren Rovell: "FedEx Cup scoring is just as confusing as figure skating. Golf kills itself for making it so confusing . … Winner of FedEx Cup/Tour Championship makes $11.4 million. TWO TIMES more than Jack Nicklaus made for his career ($5.7M)." Comedian/sportswriter Gerry Dee: "Nice try FedEx Cup but I never have and never will buy into it. Still good golf but not the excitement for me that a major has" (TWITTER.com, 9/25).
SHOWING AN INTEREST: PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem Friday said the Tour has "parity right now." He added, "What we’ve seen is our ratings are up, our overall fan base is up. ... They know about the game of golf, and they’re interested in these young players.” Finchem: “The fans are interested in our product, and they’re demonstrating it week in and week out, and that’s why we continue to grow. We’re going to grow this year, and we’re going to grow each of the next 10 years based on our new television agreements. The television people have invested in it because they can see the quality of our audience and the size of our audience” (“Sports Biz: Game On,” CNBC, 9/23).
ACROSS THE POND: The GLOBE & MAIL's Lorne Rubenstein writes Sunday’s Solheim Cup conclusion “provided one nerve-wracking moment after another, and demonstrated” that the event “warrants as much attention as the Ryder Cup.” Rubenstein: “Women’s golf? It’s time to care, and time to follow. The Solheim Cup that Europe won on Sunday was brilliant stuff. Brilliant. Vital. Energizing. Simple as that” (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/26). Golfweek's Alistair Tait tweeted, "Solheim Cup proved we don't need daft ideas like FedEx Cup & $11 million to stage a great event. The girls played for pride only" (TWITTER.com, 9/25).
Three weeks into the NFL's regular season, there is "no HGH" testing, and it "remains the one unresolved issue lingering from the labor dispute," according to a front-page piece by Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY. The NFLPA has "not approved the league's proposed testing plan, maintaining that tests developed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) -- which flag a positive result when ratios of a hormone naturally produced by the body are abnormal -- are not reliable." The NFL "had hoped to begin random blood testing, even on game days, at the start of the regular season." WADA Chair of Prohibited List & Methods sub-Committee Gary Wadler contends that the "delay in HGH testing is a deliberate move by the players." Wadler said, "The pressure is off now. They got their sound bite and their headline. The public, glad to get football back, thinks it's taken care of. So it has lost interest in the issue. That's what the NFLPA is banking on." NFLPA Exec Dir of External Affairs George Atallah called Wadler's claim "shortsighted and misinformed." The NFLPA has said that its approval "is on hold in part because it hasn't received information requested from WADA." The union, which is "concerned the tests might generate false positive results, wants a population study comparing football players to athletes from sports such as rugby, soccer and cycling who have been in HGH testing programs." But WADA Dir General David Howman said that the NFLPA is "seeking information that doesn't exist." Bell notes it "might take a push from Capitol Hill to force a resolution." U.S. Rep. & former NFLer Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) last week "led a group of 14 lawmakers who sent letters" to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith "seeking an estimated time when HGH testing would begin" (USA TODAY, 9/26).
PLAYER CONDUCT: SI’s Peter King said there is “some concern about the relationship” between Smith and “some of his players.” Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio said at the end of the lockout, the NFL and NFLPA “had to decide what to do with players who were arrested during the lockout,” and Goodell and Smith “agreed that the first-time offenders who were arrested during the lockout would not be disciplined in any way by the league. Eight repeat offenders, however, they agreed, would potentially be disciplined.” One of those eight players was Bengals RB Cedric Benson, who “has been suspended three games. He's taking legal action against the NFLPA. Now the NFLPA is backing off a little bit and who knows how it’s all going to turn out, but some players not happy.” King added, “I hear that the Executive Board of the players’ association -- 10 players -- want to have a conference call this week to hear from De Smith” (“FNIA,” NBC, 9/25).
PLAYING HIS PART: Colts C Jeff Saturday sat down with NBC’s Bob Costas during “Football Night In America” yesterday to discuss his role in the labor talks this offseason. Costas noted Saturday, a member of the NFLPA Exec Committee, “was heavily involved in the negotiations during the lockout.” Costas said to Saturday, “You were an important part of the negotiations this summer between the players and the owners. (Cowboys Owner) Jerry Jones told me this week, without Jeff Saturday [there would be] no deal in time to start the season on time.” Saturday: “I'm very appreciative of all those guys. They've been really kind in the words they've used, and I took that very serious. ... It was important to me, it was important to the other men that we represented, and I felt like Jerry Jones, (Panthers Owner) Jerry Richardson and (Patriots Owner) Robert Kraft, all those men showed up prepared to make concessions. Everybody was forthright with what they wanted and felt like they had to have and whenever you have negotiations like that you can get it done” (“FNIA,” NBC, 9/25).
Randy Bernard “sits at the epicenter of everything IndyCar,” and the series CEO “talked about the challenges and opportunities” of his sport during an interview with the INDIANAPOLIS STAR’s Curt Cavin. Below is an excerpt from the Q&A:
Q: It appears there will be fewer oval-track events next season, and that concerns many fans.
Bernard: I'm not sure there will be (fewer), but I'm not ruling that out, unfortunately. Ovals are not being successful. The tracks besides Indy, Iowa and a couple of others aren't driving the attendance that they once were, and it's going to take some rebuilding. ... We can't afford to lose money on events, and I don't think promoters will lose money.
Q: Is promoting next month's race in Las Vegas a financial risk for IndyCar?
Bernard: I built a revenue model and a business plan that is sponsorship-driven and not based on ticket sales.
Q: Is success based on the bottom line or the attendance?
Bernard: The bottom line looks pretty damn good right now, so I'm not worried about that. I'm not sure how many people will show up. ... I personally think we'll have 65,000 to 75,000 people there.
Q: Are you interested in promoting races at other tracks if you have to?
Bernard: I'm very interested because if we can be successful with one, we can be successful with two, then three.
Q: Is that IndyCar's future?
Bernard: I'm not interested in doing the road courses and the street circuits, but I think we could be of value to the ovals. We have to do one first and understand what we've done right and what we've done wrong. This first one has taken us two years, unfortunately.
Q: You're trying to do a race in China next year. Is it a big moneymaker or just a moneymaker?
Bernard: We're not interested in running all over the world for just "some" profit, but we're not going to get rich on it. It's very expensive to go over there. What's attractive to us is that so many of our sponsors told us early in the year that they're very eager to see a race in China.
Q: You signed a contract to be the CEO for five years. Is it your plan to fulfill it?
Bernard: I've made no bones about it: I want to do the most I can in five years. I think we'll see the big success in years four and five. But as much as I love the people here ... for the last 19 months I've probably been home (to Los Angeles) four weeks, maybe five weeks max. I knew I'd run hard, but at some point I need to take a step back and start allowing my management team to do more (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/25).
The Hermosa Beach Open this past weekend was the final event of the Jose Cuervo Pro Beach Volleyball Series and the culmination of three domestic beach volleyball tours which have “tried to fill the chasm created by last year's abrupt dissolution" of the AVP, according to Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. TIMES. The consensus is the Cuervo series, the National Volleyball League and the Corona Light Wide Open tour “can't all exist peacefully.” There will now be “about eight months to figure it out, but players predict less fragmentation,” as three tours “seem like a lot to them.” U.S. volleyball player Sean Scott said, "I think it's going to be tough” as he doesn’t “know if the marketplace can" support it. Bresnahan writes “notably absent from almost every domestic tournament were the Big Four: Olympic gold medalists Misty May, [Kerri] Walsh, Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers.” Walsh said, "I don't think having two or three tours, dividing all the wonderful things people contribute to our sport, I don't think that serves the sport very well. I think we need to consolidate but do it in a really smart way. Start small and grow and shoot for the moon." Still, IMG Senior VP & Dir of Action Sports James Leitz, whose company runs the Cuervo series, said, "Our plan is to expand” (L.A. TIMES, 9/26).