It has been half a year since the Izod IndyCar Series season ended, but it “may as well have been half a lifetime,” according to John Oreovicz of ESPN.com. Out of sight “equals out of mind, especially when the NASCAR and Formula One seasons run through the end of November.” Meanwhile, IndyCar teams are “prevented from testing their unchanged spec cars from a year ago and the offseason was dominated by politics, chiefly the ouster of popular former CEO Randy Bernard.” Testing has been “severely restricted in an effort to cut costs," and Ryan Hunter-Reay, the series' first American champ in six years, "got virtually zero publicity over the long offseason.” Although it is “almost impossible" to go up against the 38-week NASCAR season, IndyCar "must somehow find a way to keep itself relevant when it's not in action every couple of weeks.” This year's schedule “extends to mid-October, which will help, but starting the 2014 season a month earlier would provide additional benefit.” Oreovicz noted the press gathered for IndyCar’s media day Monday“found itself battling Internet and PA issues in an unheated warehouse on a chilly, rainy day" during testing at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, "500 miles from Indianapolis and the heart of the sport.” Oreovicz: “Is on-track action really necessary for the media, just 11 days before the start of the new season, after a six-month offseason? I think it would make more sense to gather the media in Indianapolis” (ESPN.com, 3/12).
EXAMINE & EVALUATE:IndyCar yesterday announced the formation of an advisory competition committee that will consist of a minimum of seven members to meet regularly throughout the year. The committee will make recommendations to the sanctioning body, with final decisions made by IndyCar management. The committee will consist of two IndyCar management reps appointed by the series CEO, two team reps, two drivers, four manufacturer members and one at-large member appointed by its CEO. Additionally, the committee chair can invite other key stakeholders such as promoters, track officials and broadcast partners to attend meetings (IndyCar). SPEEDTV.com’s Marshall Pruett noted one member of the new committee who, despite “the predictable panning of 'yet another committee being formed,' believes it will make a positive impact on the series going forward.” Meanwhile, a “mandatory dinner meeting for IndyCar drivers was held Tuesday night to allow Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, interim IndyCar CEO Jeff Belskus and interim IndyCar CFO Robbie Greene a chance to meet drivers one-on-one” (SPEEDTV.com, 3/12).
The legal battle between the NFL and its former players over the effects of head injuries is “shaping up to be one of the more complicated tort claims in recent times,” according to Matthew Futterman of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. What makes this litigation “so complex are the tricky questions it poses.” For example, Futterman asks, “Is someone's mental deficit the result of injuries sustained in professional football, injuries from some other level of football, or just the vicissitudes of old age? And should former players who are asymptomatic be allowed to sue the NFL on grounds of potential future suffering? … Assuming the NFL is found liable, we'll have to wade into another issue: How much, and under what formula, should the victims be compensated?” By “all accounts, any trial is probably years off.” But NFL and plaintiffs’ lawyers “will square off for the first time next month before Judge Anita B. Brody in federal court in Philadelphia.” The focus “will be the NFL's motion to dismiss the case.” Should the suits “go forward, the first order of business will be which plaintiffs to include.” It is “possible the suit will be thrown out next month, although the plaintiffs would likely appeal” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/13).
The Miami New Times, which broke a story in January linking 25 MLBers to a Miami lab that allegedly distributed PEDs, yesterday announced that it "will not release documents to MLB that possibly illustrate a relationship" between the players and the lab, according to Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY. So if MLB "aims to impose discipline" on the players, it will "have to do so without a trove of documents that could have formed the crux of its case." Even with the New Times' cooperation, it would have "been a challenge for MLB to make any suspension of a player linked" to the Biogenesis lab. MLB in the absence of a positive test would have "been forced to suspend any of the players based on a 'non-analytical positive' that requires it to show a player acquired or used banned substances through other means" (USA TODAY, 3/13). MLB said that despite the decision, its investigation "will continue" (NEWSDAY, 3/13).
MLB'S KEY LIMITATION: YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan wrote lost amid the New Times' "flailing, logic-deprived rationale behind refusing to hand over documents" linking Brewers LF Ryan Braun, Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez and dozens of other baseball players "to a South Florida performance-enhancing-drug peddler was some real news." Despite the "failings of federal officials in past high-profile cases that married athletes and PEDs, the Florida Department of Health has started an investigation into Anthony Bosch, operator of the Biogenesis clinic." While MLB "may have the budget and resources to go after players who used PEDs ... it lacks one very important tool the government has at its disposal: subpoena power." Any governmental intervention is "a gift to MLB, which has struggled to find footing early in what it expects to be a long and drawn-out pursuit of the Biogenesis players" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/12).
The NHL and NHLPA have "agreed to change this season's escrow rate to 20 percent," according to sources cited by Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com. That is "up from the 10 percent rate both sides had agreed upon in late January shortly after the season began." The change comes as "a result of lower than originally projected NHL revenues for the lockout-shortened season." If players' compensation "does not go higher than their 50 percent HRR allotment for the season, they will be refunded the escrow payments with interest." However, if the players' compensation "exceeds the 50 percent share, the owners will be paid the escrow money." The NHLPA has "another option if its executive board wishes to dip into the $300 million 'make whole' fund, which owners are paying out to players as per the new CBA over the next three years" (ESPN.com, 3/12).