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Volume 24 No. 117

Events and Attractions

A small group of protesters yesterday "flew a large Confederate flag from the top of a parking garage" next to Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C., the site of two NCAA Tournament games, according to Pete Iacobelli of the AP. Protesters said that they "wanted to make their presence known to the NCAA" (AP, 3/19). In Greensboro, Ed Hardin writes the flag was a "bitter reminder of the days when South Carolina lost NCAA events because of the flag." The "tense scene" outside the arena yesterday "seemed to foretell what would happen inside." The atmosphere in the venue was "poisonous" and it was a "bittersweet way to end" the event (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 3/20). NCAA Senior VP/Basketball Dan Gavitt in a statement said that the organization would "not permit symbols compromising a safe environment on venue property the tournament controls." The AP notes other areas are "under the city's jurisdiction, and the NCAA back the city's efforts to manage actions concerning freedom of speech" (AP, 3/20).'s Matt Norlander writes the location for South Carolina-Duke and the "reasons for the tournament being played at said location must be addressed." No. 2-seed Duke in effect "played a road game." South Carolina fans "overtook the building" while UNC fans "filled up the joint and joined in their border buddies to cheer against Duke." Sports and politics "mix more often than people realize, but this was a decision that wound up costing millions for Duke, the state of North Carolina and the ACC." Duke "didn’t lose because of where it played, but the NCAA’s moving the tourney out of North Carolina unquestionably had some impact on what happened" (, 3/20). 

ROUND WE GO: In Tulsa, Kelly Hines reports BOK Center drew a total attendance of 43,585 for its first- and second-round Tournament games, an average of 14,528 for the three sessions Friday and yesterday. The arena capacity for the games was listed at 17,996. Tulsa Associate AD/Operations & Internal Affairs Nick Salis, who served as Tournament Dir for the event, said, "The crowds were into it and once again I think the building performed and exceeded expectations" (TULSA WORLD, 3/20). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes under the header, "NCAA Tournament Brought A Buzz To Sacramento That Bodes Well For City's Future." After "snubbing the area for a decade because creaky old Arco/Sleep Train Arena had outlived its usefulness," NCAA officials "gave Sacramento another chance and on Sunday started dropping hints about more to come." NCAA Dir of Men's Basketball Championships L.J. Wright said of Golden 1 Center, "It’s a brand new toy, right? And now that we’ve been here, seen and experienced it, we’ve received nothing but positive feedback from the teams. ... The atmosphere has been incredible" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/20). In Buffalo, Tim Graham writes the first- and second-round games at KeyBank Center were "righteous." Buffalo "enjoyed its place on the national stage and forgot for a few days how rare the postseason is for their hometown teams" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/19).

PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE: In Utah, Dirk Facer reported the Univ. of Utah has submitted bids to host the NCAA Tournament's first two rounds or regional finals in '19 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in order to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the '79 Final Four that "pitted Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the championship game." Utah has also sent in bids to host the first two rounds or regionals in '20, '21 and '22. Univ. of Utah Dir of Event & Facility Management Steve Pyne said, "We really enjoy doing it, and I think the city enjoys having it here." Vivint Smart Home Arena hosted first- and second-round games this year, and Pyne said that "things went really, really well." Arena officials "informed him that concession sales set a venue record for highest volume at a one-day event" (DESERET NEWS, 3/19). In Detroit, Mark Snyder notes Detroit Mercy will be the host school for NCAA first- and second-round games at Little Caesars Arena next year, and work has "already begun, working with the Detroit Sports Commission." UDM Dir of Athletic Marketing & Promotions Jeremiah Hergott "came to Indianapolis’ NCAA tournament site this week ... for meetings and seeing all the machinations in person." Being on-site "showed the Detroit group that volunteers are essential, as the Indiana Sports Corporation has 250 volunteers" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 3/20). In Milwaukee, Rich Kirchen noted Marquette and the Bucks are "seeking future NCAA men’s basketball tournament games at the new Bucks arena scheduled to open" in '18 (, 3/18).

UCONN TERRITORY: In Hartford, Kenneth Gosselin noted attendance at this year's American Athletic Conference men's basketball tournament at XL Center "fell short of forecasts." About 20,000 attended AAC games, "less than half of the up-to-50,000 forecast" by the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau. Capital Region Development Authority Venue Dir Kimberly Hart said, "The attendance was disappointing" (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/18).

The '17 World Baseball Classic has set a new attendance record with a draw of 976,828 through the tournament’s second round. The figure exceeds the total attendance of 885,212 in '13. With semifinals tonight and tomorrow and the championship game Wednesday at Dodger Stadium, this year’s WBC is assured of surpassing 1 million in attendance for the first time in its four iterations. Tokyo set a record as the most attended first-round site with 206,534 and the most attended second-round site with 209,072. Saturday’s U.S.-Dominican Republic game, in which the U.S. clinched a semifinal berth, drew 43,002 at Petco Park, the largest crowd ever for a second-round WBC game played in the U.S. (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).

CATCH THE FEELING: YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown wrote under the header, "Adam Jones' Stunning Catch May Have Finally Given The U.S. Reason To Believe In The World Baseball Classic" (, 3/19).'s Ken Rosenthal wrote, "If there was no such thing as Team USA lore in the World Baseball Classic before, there is now." Jones’ catch Saturday was the "stuff of legend, the kind of play that, had it happened in the World Series, would be celebrated for generations." It is time for people to "stop complaining and just watch the games, the riveting, rollicking games that are as tense and dramatic as many you will see in October." Rosenthal: "For all its flaws, the WBC is a baseball carnival" (, 3/19). In Boston, Nick Cafardo wrote the WBC has been a "smashing success on the field, with exciting games, stellar plays, and colorful players who have made it fun." If MLB could "package this type of excitement for the regular season, baseball would be king" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/19). The N.Y. Daily News’ Mike Lupica said the WBC will "never have the feel of the Ryder Cup, even though that's clearly what Major League Baseball is shooting for here. ... but I still think the WBC is cool. ... I loved the crowd shots from Miami and San Diego and shots of the dugouts in big moments. ... All I've seen over the last couple of weeks are big leaguers, ones who have chosen to play for their countries, acting like little leaguers in a good way" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 3/19).

COMING TOGETHER: U.S. C Buster Posey, comparing the American players with those from other countries, said, "Definitely here in the dugout, you know guys are into it and they care. From an outsider's perspective, I don't know if a lot of guys' personalities are on display. We grow up in different parts of the world and play the game differently. I don't think it's really fair to players from different backgrounds to act a certain way for a tournament. But it doesn't mean there's less fire. There are just different ways we grew up playing the games" (, 3/19). In N.Y., Billy Witz writes the U.S. players have "quietly developed an edge as the tournament has progressed." They have had to deal with the facts that their games have been "somewhat overlooked" in the U.S. -- although "certainly not by the announced 43,002 fans who jammed the park on Saturday night -- and that their more businesslike approach on the field has been unfavorably contrasted with the unabashed enthusiasm (and the occasional bat flip) of Asian and Latin American players" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/20).

: In N.Y., John Harper writes under the header, "World Baseball Classic Hurting Itself With Late Start Times." Under the circumstances, Jones' catch on Saturday was "one of the greatest catches you’ll ever see," Jones "leaping high above the center-field fence to rob Manny Machado in the seventh inning of a tension-packed, do-or-die game between the USA and the Dominican Republic." Except you "probably didn’t see it -- at least not live." After all, it happened at 1:00am ET, "three hours into a game" that did not end until nearly 2:00am. Considering how hard MLB "works to promote this tournament, the late start on the East Coast for such an appealing game made no sense, especially since it’s on their own network." If the tournament is ever going to get the "exposure needed to make it something of the Olympics for baseball," MLB and the MLBPA are going to have to "take some form of the suggestions from [Yankees manager] Joe Girardi and others, and play at least some portion of it during the All-Star break." Harper: "In the meantime, earlier starting times sure wouldn’t hurt, either" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/20). In Boston, Christopher Gasper wrote MLB needs to start thinking of the WBC as the "new Midsummer Classic to reach its potential." One way to "provide entertainment, star power, and meaningful competition is to have the semifinals and final of the WBC replace the All-Star Game every four years." Gasper: "The WBC needs to change its timing to grow into a marquee event, and MLB needs to get with the times with the All-Star Game" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/19).

The first Arnold Palmer Invitational without its iconic host "provided the kind of Sunday drama that would have made The King proud to deliver his famous 72nd-hole handshake," according to Edgar Thompson of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. Marc Leishman won the tournament on a day "filled with momentum swings and heartbreak for several golfers with a chance coming down the stretch" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/20). In Boston, Ron Borges writes Palmer’s "memory and his love for golf hung over the tournament all week." Leishman said, "It’s a huge honor to win this event on a year when we’re honoring such a great man. Sad to be the first guy to walk off 18 and not be greeted by Arnold Palmer but it’s been an unbelievable week for me" (BOSTON HERALD, 3/20). Borges writes "everyone noticed" Palmer's absence. Golfer Rickie Fowler said, "To look over and be in one of the last few groups and not see Arnie up on the hill, it was definitely different." Fowler added, "Not everyone is going to play here but there are guys that do enjoy this course. On top of that, it still being Arnie’s event, guys will be here" (BOSTON HERALD, 3/20).

HAPPY DAYS: In Orlando, Mike Bianchi writes as time goes by, "we can only hope that golfers worldwide continue to give the thumbs-up to Arnie’s statue, his legacy and, mostly, his beloved tournament." Fans yesterday "lined up by the hundreds to get their picture taken in front of the new larger-than-life statue" of Palmer. The tournament was a "resounding success." The crowds were "phenomenal" and the weather "wonderful." Tournament COO Marci Doyle said, "The crowds were way up this year, and I think that can be attributed to Mr. Palmer. Our goal this week was to pay tribute to Mr. Palmer and hope that he would be looking down smiling and happy." Bianchi: "Let’s hope new PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan is right when he says he will do everything in his power to make sure The Arnie remains one of the Tour’s premier events" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/20).

LOOKING DOWN FROM ABOVE: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes the "most informative piece of technology this weekend was during NBC's coverage" of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Using a split screen, the camera on the left "focused on the golfer's swing, while the picture on the right was an overhead shot of the hole with a tracer showing exactly were the ball was headed." Jones: "Good stuff" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 3/20).

THE LEGEND GROWS: In Orlando, Naseem Miller reports the fifth annual Arnie’s March Against Children’s Cancer "raised more than $280,000 to benefit patients at Haley Center for Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders at Arnold Palmer Hospital" (, 3/17).

Officials from the Breeders’ Cup made a "scouting visit to Laurel Park on Saturday, a significant step in the Maryland Jockey Club’s hopes of luring one of horse racing’s signature events to the Anne Arundel County track" in '19, '20 or '21, according to a source cited by Dave Sheinin of the WASHINGTON POST. Future sites beyond '18 "have yet to be chosen." Landing the Breeders’ Cup would be a "major coup for Laurel Park, located roughly halfway" between DC and Baltimore. Although it is smaller than Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course, it has "more land, as well as the high-end amenities favored by the Breeders’ Cup." Laurel Park has a seating capacity of 15,200, but could be "expanded with infield admissions and corporate villages on the 310-acre property." A future Breeders’ Cup at Laurel Park also would "likely increase speculation of an eventual move of the Preakness Stakes there, as many within the horse racing industry have long suspected the MJC, which is headquartered at Laurel, would attempt to do" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/18). In Baltimore, Childs Walker noted the Breeders' Cup has never been held in Maryland." However, state racing officials have said that this would be an "ideal time for that to change, given recent increases in field sizes, betting handle and breeding numbers" (Baltimore SUN, 3/18).