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Volume 24 No. 112

Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL teams through the season's first 30 games are averaging 20.3 points per game, 2.4 fewer than a year ago, and the scoring dip has been "so precipitous that it’s unprecedented," according to Andrew Beaton of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. If it "continues throughout the season, it would mark the largest drop-off in the Super Bowl era." This is "jarring because it flies in the face of an offensive explosion the league has experienced in recent years." Beaton writes there is a "possibility that these numbers represent nothing more than an early-season swoon." The "reduction in offseason practice time, and increase in reluctance to play important players for long stretches in preseason, have created a plausible argument that it’s more difficult to get going early in the season for highly-complex offensive systems." The offensive dip is "unwelcome at a time when the NFL is suddenly fighting for fans’ attention." Conventional wisdom "says these low-scoring snoozers aren’t the product to electrify the season." Many of the high-scoring games "haven’t been competitive: There have been twice as many 20-plus point blowouts than in the first two weeks" of last season" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/19). In Pittsburgh, Tim Benz wrote two contributing factors that might be solved through improved play are "not enough points" and "too many penalties" (TRIBLIVE.com, 9/18). PATRIOTS.com's Don Banks wrote Week 2 featured more "shoddy offensive football ... with five different games pairing teams that failed to crack 20 points." Fourteen teams "didn’t crack 20 points," and four more "scored exactly 20." It is "not all great defense being played either." Some of it is "attributable to lousy offensive execution" (PATRIOTS.com, 9/18).

COLD START: In DC, Deron Snyder writes many NFL ticket holders were "treated to abominations" in Week 2, which has been a "national theme thus far." Fans "don’t tune in to watch defensive struggles." Snyder: "I’m not suggesting we want NFL scores to mimic Arena football, but a bunch of punts mixed in with some field-goal attempts and a touchdown won’t maintain many fans’ attention." Competitiveness was "better" in Week 2, as seven contests were one-possession affairs. But "let’s not confuse close games with good games." That is "as bad as the NFL’s mistaken assumption that every team deserves primetime exposure" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/19).

OVERSATURATED PRODUCT? In S.F., Ann Killion writes "TNF" has "become Exhibit No. 6,732 in the problems the NFL has created." "TNF" has been a "universally poor product" since inception in '06. They have "become symbolic of the NFL’s oversaturation." Thursdays are also becoming an "example of the dwindling popularity of the once-Teflon league." Killion: "Is the nation really clamoring to see the Rams (1-1) against a 49ers team that has yet to win a game or score a touchdown? Probably not." “TNF” has been "such a bad and boring product over the years." In its "greed for more cash, and more exposure, the NFL failed to account for the reality that short-week football is bad" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/19). The WASHINGTON TIMES' Snyder notes the next two "TNF" games feature Rams-49ers and Bears-Packers. Snyder: "Are you ready for some bad football?" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/19).

Falcons Owner and NFL Compensation Committee Chair Arthur Blank said that he told NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that a report suggesting Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones has "slowed down the process of finalizing his new contract was 'mischaracterized,'" according to Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY. Blank said, "The committee, including Jerry, is really in a good place. I told that to the Commissioner tonight and I sent a note to the committee earlier. We’re working within the structure of what the ownership wanted us to do." Blank added, "It takes time to work through some issues, questions and things of that nature. But we’re in a good place." Bell notes Jones "didn’t muscle his way onto the compensation committee." Blank said that he "invited him to join the group as an ad-hoc member for the specific purpose of addressing Goodell’s contract." Blank: "He has a perspective and a voice that’s important to be heard, and I think he’s been very helpful in that regard. He’s not overstepping anything" (USA TODAY, 9/19). ESPN's Chris Mortensen said Jones "started voicing concerns many months ago about the formula in which they pay the commissioner," and that he "makes too much money." He also said there are "some issues with the NFL structure and how much money they make." Mortensen: "Jerry's pretty good with dollars." Mortensen cited sources as saying that Jones "feels he represents the owners whose voices are not within the committee, but there is general optimism this is going to get done" and Goodell will be re-signed ("OTL," ESPN, 9/18).

LOOKING AHEAD: SI.com's Andrew Brandt writes the NFL "will likely" have Goodell for '19 and beyond, with a "lucrative compensation package, much to the chagrin of some fans, media and certainly union leadership." Goodell would "certainly help his image by showing some more humanity and vulnerability." Brandt: "It is there, I have seen it -- but my sense is the constituency mentioned above don’t want that side on display." Rather they want the corporate face of the league "unflinching in the face of criticism, staying on task with bland, unrevealing party lines about the game, its safety and its players." It is the Goodell that owners want; "taking the bullets so they don’t have to" (SI.com, 9/19).

The Verizon IndyCar Series has a "shot to really push new champion Josef Newgarden to its audience" with a "stronger infrastructure and the power" of the Penske Racing brand, according to Jenna Fryer of the AP.  Newgarden is only the third U.S. series champion in the "last 11 years," and at just 26, he is the "youngest champion" since Sam Hornish Jr. in '02. With almost six months to go before the '18 season begins, IndyCar should have Newgarden "carry them through the offseason." However, IndyCar has a "lot of work ahead." The series will introduce a "new car next season, and the driver lineups could look considerably different." Helio Castroneves appears "headed to sports cars in a Team Penske shuffle, and the move will cost the series one of its most popular drivers." Additionally, Tony Kanaan is ending his tenure with Chip Ganassi Racing that "produced only one victory in four seasons." Kanaan at least "appears to be staying in the series, albeit with a smaller team in A.J. Foyt Racing." The entire CGR organization "could go from four cars to just two." Penske Racing President Tim Cindric said, "It's all of our responsibility to continue to promote the next level because it's not just on the racetrack. These personalities are the ones that everybody needs to see and understand" (AP, 9/18). USA TODAY's Brant James writes Penske officials "knew what Newgarden would bring to the series’ power organization." But none of them "could be sure it would happen so soon" (USA TODAY, 9/19).

HELIO SAYING GOODBYE FOR NOW: RACER.com's Robin Miller notes Sunday's race represented a "passing of the IndyCar torch" at Penske Racing, with Newgarden in a way taking Castroneves' place. Castroneves has been the "most recognizable face of IndyCar for the past two decades." In addition to being a "great ambassador" for the racing circuit, Castroneves was one of the "most popular and successful drivers" (RACER.com, 9/19). In Indianapolis, Jim Ayello writes Castroneves "should and will walk away from the sport he loves so much with his trademark ear-to-ear smile." The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion "has been a fantastic ambassador for the sport and will always be one of the most beloved drivers of his era" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/19).

SAVE THE DATES: IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said that a finalized '18 schedule is coming and that he is "'optimistic' it will include the widely discusses race in Mexico City." Miles said IndyCar is planning to announce the schedule either Sept. 25, 26 or 27. In Indianapolis, Jim Ayello noted all 17 events from '17 "will be back on the calendar" in '18 (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/17).

NBA 2K esports league Managing Dir Brendan Donohue recently "shed some light on the venture" since many people "don’t have much of a clue of what it is all about, or why esports is so popular," according to Ryan Wolstat of the TORONTO SUN. Donohue said, "It’s 5-on-5. Oftentimes, people are used to seeing video games being played 1-on-1. This actually is going to be five human beings playing five other human beings, controlling every player on the virtual court. So there will be no artificial intelligence whatsoever." The players for the new NBA 2K esports league "will come from all over." Donohue: "Our goal, to make this the best league possible, is to find the best 85 players on the planet. They can be anywhere in the world, they can be male, they can be female, we just want the best 85 players." Players will be "paid by their respective teams." Tryouts will start around Feb. 1, 2018, with a "draft to follow in mid-March." The season will "run from May 1 and go for 15 weeks, before concluding with two weeks of playoffs ending the third week of August." When most people picture esports they think "teenagers and people in their early-20s playing video games." Donohue said that NBA 2K players "don’t really fit that description." He said, "We actually don’t skew that young. So, 58% of our player are actually over 25, so we skew a little older. I think there are some myths about our players in general. They’re actually more likely to be educated, more likely to have a higher income." Donohue said, "I would expect other leagues to follow our lead and to get involved in this. I would expect that to happen, I think it’s great for esports" (TORONTO SUN, 9/19).

In DC, Rick Maese reports attorneys representing hundreds of former NFLers are "concerned that their clients’ claims aren’t being granted in a timely manner and settlement money isn’t reaching the players who need it most" nine months after the settlement with the former players. The lawyers "contend their clients’ claims are being unnecessarily denied or audited." Tampa-based attorney Steve Yerrid, whose firm reps more than 300 players, filed a brief in court last week asking to “present evidence showing that no (or very few) claims have been paid to any former player.” He said that "none has had a claim granted thus far, even though some filed their claims six months ago" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/19).

GENIUS MOVE
: ESPN.com's Ryan Rodenberg noted the PGA Tour has "entered into an agreement with London-based Genius Sports to monitor wagering information worldwide for any irregular activity," part of the Tour's "new integrity program set to launch Jan. 1, 2018." Such moves are "widely seen as helping sports governing bodies be better positioned for potential widespread legalization of sports gambling domestically." Genius Sports and MLB "entered into a line monitoring agreement two years ago" (ESPN.com, 9/18).

DECISIONS, DECISIONS: In Boston, Gary Washburn reported the NBPA is "seeking another member of the executive committee with the retirement of James Jones," who joined the Suns’ front office as VP/Basketball Operations. The NBPA committee could "elect another member" at its meeting at All-Star Weekend in L.A. or "decide not to replace Jones" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/17).