The increasing number of NBA Int'l events, with "more than 125 in 67 cities and 27 countries outside the U.S. this year," represents "bringing the NBA to its customers," according to Jonathan Feigen of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. NBA Int'l President Heidi Ueberroth said, "Our ability to reach them has significantly changed. Digital technology -- we're at an inflection point there. ... Just talking about the Philippines and Taiwan, we've got games on pay TV, free TV, streaming to mobile devices and customized. We have dedicated staff in all of those countries working on the social media networks." Feigen notes NBA-licensed products are "manufactured, marketed and sold by more than 300 licensees in more than 125,000 retail locations in 100 countries and on six continents." The NBA has "63 million followers in China on Twitter-like microblogs Sina and Tencent Weibo," and over 150 NBAers have accounts on those platforms. Ueberroth said the NBA is "continuing to take a long-term view in committing to markets." Feigen notes while games are "returning to some nations, the Rockets and Pacers will be the first NBA teams to meet one another in the basketball-mad Philippines." The NBA also is "staging its first games in Brazil and in the cities of Manchester, England, and Bilbao, Spain." But the "greater change" since the '04 Rockets-Kings game in China is the "appeal is no longer so much about the novelty of NBA games in far-flung nations and the celebrity of one-name stars such as Yao." While Rockets G Jeremy Lin "will be treated as Taiwan's favorite son," Rockets players like Dwight Howard and James Harden, "are far more well-known and more popular" than Yao Ming's teammates in '04 (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/8). Lin today was "mobbed by reporters and photographers on a Manila basketball court" after the Rockets and Pacers arrived for Thursday's game (AP, 10/8).
Leagues and Governing Bodies
NFL owners at their meeting in DC today agreed to compel teams to take part in the HBO's "Hard Knocks" series, though with conditions. Teams that made the playoffs two years in a row, have a new head coach or were on the show in the last five years are exempt. Currently teams are not obligated to be part of the series, and the new process will only occur if no team volunteers. How those teams that are in the pool of eligible franchises are chosen for the series is unclear. Each spring and early summer, what team will go on "Hard Knocks" becomes almost a media parlour game (this year it was the Bengals). Many teams are hesitant to open their camps to HBO’s cameras. The series, produced by HBO and NFL Films, began in '01 but has taken some years off. The Bengals have done the series twice, also appearing in '09. The other teams are the Ravens ('01), Cowboys ('02 and '08), Chiefs ('07), Jets ('10) and Dolphins ('12). The NFL also this morning approved $62M in league funding for the Browns' stadium renovation project, which will cost $124M. The league approved club seat waivers for the Redskins' $27M in upgrades to FedEx Field, meaning money the team otherwise would have paid to the league from club seat it can redirect to the renovation. Owners also voted to approve the Vikings' new stadium lease for their venue set to open in '16 (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer).
LATEST ON HGH TESTING: NFL.com's Albert Breer cited a sources as saying that the NFL and NFLPA "haven't discussed HGH testing in two weeks, with talks at a standstill and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's power over non-positive tests remaining the lone significant sticking point." A league source said that the NFL "initially wanted a 10-game suspension for repeat HGH offenders, and the union wanted six." The league "agreed to go down to eight games but only if the commissioner retained his appeal power" (NFL.com, 10/7). Meanwhile, in DC, Mark Maske reported it is "not clear at this point how much support" a measure to reduce the NFL preseason and expand the playoffs would have if formally proposed by the league. A source said, "That remains to be seen. I think that's something that will take a while. It's pretty far down the road." Another source said that it is "possible but unlikely that the NFL would make a move to shorten the preseason in time to take effect next year" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 10/7).
WHAT'S IN A NAME? In DC, Vargas & Maske report NFL officials will meet with the Oneida Indian Nation, which is campaigning against the Redskins' name and "hosted a symposium" yesterday on the issue a mile away from the NFL owners meeting. Sources said that "no formal discussion" of the Redskins’ name is expected by NFL owners today. The sources added that they "sense little or no sentiment within the league to urge" Redskins Owner Dan Snyder to make a change. A meeting between the NFL and the Native American group is "scheduled for Nov. 22 at the league’s offices." But sources said that "it could be held sooner" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/8). In N.Y., Rich Lowry writes the "epicenter of the anti-Redskins resistance is editors of liberal Web sites and magazines like Slate and Mother Jones who have decided to banish the word from their football coverage." Lowry: "Needless to say, if you get your gridiron news from Mother Jones, you probably care more about the team’s labor practices and its carbon footprint than the performance of its positional units on any given Sunday." In the "consciousness of the nation’s capital, the Redskins exist somewhere between a beloved sports team and the object of a quasi-religious veneration" (N.Y. POST, 10/8).
Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones appeared on last night's edition of the "CBS Evening News," and said of how he would address the NFLPA about his desire for HGH testing in the NFL, "I would say, 'Let's get this together. Let's get on the same page.' We said that's what we would do two or three years ago. Most players agree with that. The politics of getting that done are hard." CBS' Scott Pelley responded, "If most players agree as you say, and you and management agree that HGH has to go, why has it taken three years and you're still not there?" Jones: "If I could solve that then move me on up to Washington and there's some problems up there I can solve." Meanwhile, Pelley asked "if there's even more room to grow" for the NFL, as Commissioner Roger Goodell "seems hell-bent to start a team in London." Jones said, "Only seven percent of NFL fans have ever been inside an NFL stadium," adding TV is "how people participate" in NFL games. Jones: "So as far as our game is concerned and all of our fans in the United States, a team playing in London can be viewed and be entertaining and be competitive and be very much a part of the NFL." Pelley said of a team in London, "It sounds like you're for this." Jones: "I'm for growing the pie. I am for pushing the envelope. ... We have great markets that have a history of being interested in NFL football and American football. ... Can we have it in Great Britain? I think so. And so, yes, I think there's enough there to get interested. I'm not ready to vote for it yet but that's what we're in, a trial stage to look at it over a two-year period" ("Evening News," CBS, 10/7).
IndyCar driver Will Power "questioned the bumpy track surface and the position of the grandstand in the area of the street circuit involved" in Sunday's final-lap crash at the Shell-Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, according to Jeff Olson of USA TODAY. Power said, "Next year they'll have to grind that section of the track down (to make it more smooth)." Olson notes debris from the wreck as well as a piece of the catchfence entered the grandstand. The grandstand's positioning -- "on the outside of a high-speed, sweeping turn -- also came under fire after the incident." Power said, "You would never expect a grandstand outside a big sweeping corner like that." IndyCar, which returned open-wheel racing to Houston for the first time since '07, "had problems with the course starting Friday when the doubleheader race schedule was delayed after a large bump in Turn 1 delayed practice sessions as track and IndyCar officials erected a temporary tire chicane." Race promoter Mike Lanigan following the Friday delay "noted the short time he and his crew had to set up the course" because of the Seahawks-Texans game Sept. 29 at nearby Reliant Stadium. Meanwhile, Power "praised the fence and the car for preventing a larger catastrophe." While a section of the fence "did end up in the crowd, Power noted that it effectively sent" driver Dario Franchitti's car "back onto the circuit and not into the grandstand" (USA TODAY, 10/8).
SAFETY CONCERNS: CNN.com's Michael Pearson wrote the issue of fan safety has "long been on IndyCar's agenda." The issue was "amplified two years ago, when two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon died after his car struck a fence support" during IndyCar's season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. An IndyCar consultant last year said that it was "committed to investigating ways to better design barriers to prevent crash debris from reaching fans" (CNN.com, 10/7). NBC's Brian Williams said Franchitti's "frightening crash ... shook up the world of auto racing.” SI Senior Editor Richard O'Brien said of safety at tracks, "It's impossible to completely protect the spectators using the catch fencing as it exists now because it's something you can see through" ("Nightly News," NBC, 10/7).
LITTLE PROGRESS: The AP's Jenna Fryer wrote almost a year after the Hulman & Co. BOD ousted CEO Randy Bernard, "little progress has been made with IndyCar." Fryer: "In fact, some might argue the series has taken a step or two backward." The BOD elevated Mark Miles in late November to CEO, but "not much has been accomplished so far under his watch beyond the recently announced road course race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway." The Baltimore Grand Prix is "falling off the schedule after three years," and there "appears to be questions about the future of the event in Brazil" with the '14 schedule yet to be released. Series title sponsor Izod is "leaving at the end of the season, and Miles has yet to fill the role of head of IndyCar and IMS' commercial division -- the person who would likely be trying to replace Izod." So it is "fitting, really," that Franchitti's crash is "the one thing this season that has gotten IndyCar some mainstream attention." The accident was "replayed on television stations across the country and even made a morning show or two" yesterday. It came "with a hitch, though: At least one network mistakenly referred to IndyCar as NASCAR, and instead of recognizing Franchitti for his impressive racing resume, more than a few chose to identify him as the ex-husband of actress Ashley Judd" (AP, 10/7).
NBA.com's David Aldridge noted with NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver set to take over for Commissioner David Stern in February '14, the "question of who will replace him ... is an open one." Aldridge: "I don't know the league's internal politics and power bases, but Silver surely has made it clear who he wants working with him going forward." The restructuring of the league office, with Rod Thorn returning as Exec VP/Basketball Operations, "certainly signals bringing in people with whom Silver will be comfortable working." Aldridge asked, "Will Silver go outside the league office to bring in a marketing whiz/CEO type from the private sector, or a TV exec with whom he's done business, or maybe raid one of the other sports leagues for a top-shelf thinker/innovator?" (NBA.com, 10/7).
WHERE THE WILD CARDS ARE: In Detroit, Matt Pelc writes the MLB Wild Card round "should be a best-of-three series with the top wild card team serving as the host." MLB could have "easily organized a best-of-three series in both leagues to run concurrently Tuesday through Thursday and it would have delayed the playoffs by one or two days at most" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 10/8). But GAMMONSDAILY.com’s Peter Gammons wrote, "This is the way it should be. This is why the regular season counts, and why the new playoff system works." Many fans for years "complained that there was little disincentive to play out the final weeks of September preparing for the post-season, because there was little difference between finishing first or being the wild card" (GAMMONSDAILY.com, 10/6).
NO HARD FEELINGS: Tennis player Rafael Nadal today prior to the Shanghai Masters said that he "still believes too many tournaments are played" on hard courts, but he is "done trying to influence ATP policymakers." Nadal: "I am really out of politics, and I don't want to be involved in politics of the tennis anymore. I know even if you have strong ideas and even if you believe the changes are possible, I know there is always a wall there that is impossible to go over." The AP's Justin Bergman noted Nadal has "long advocated a shorter tournament schedule and more tournaments on clay courts to lessen the wear on players' bodies and prevent career-threatening injuries" (AP, 10/8).
DIVERSITY ON ICE: In DC, Katie Carrera noted Predators D Seth Jones in June's NHL Draft "became not only the highest-drafted African American player in NHL history as the fourth overall pick, but also the new face of diversity in the league." It is "not a position he asked for, but is one that he is ready to fill." Jones said, "Anything I can do to help the sport of hockey grow. Whether it's white people or black people, it doesn't matter. I'm happy to do it." The NHL last season "featured 22 black players, four of whom were American." More black players are "making a prominent mark in the NHL," including Canadiens D P.K. Subban, who won the '12 Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman (WASHINGTON POST, 10/8).