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Volume 26 No. 210

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Playing surface issues were minor this time compared to last year's complications that forced a venue change
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Playing surface issues were minor this time compared to last year's complications that forced a venue change
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Playing surface issues were minor this time compared to last year's complications that forced a venue change
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Chiefs' win over the Chargers on "MNF" in Mexico last night was a "competitive and captivating game on a night in which the NFL wanted to showcase what it hopes is its broadening international appeal," according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. There appeared to be "some issues with the playing surface," but they were "minor compared with last year's complications that forced the change of venue" for Chiefs-Rams. The NFL's return to Mexico "came at a time when the league is putting a particular emphasis on international games." The NFL and NFLPA currently are negotiating the next CBA, and there are "burgeoning hopes that the deal will be completed in the coming months with a 17-game regular season as part of the pact." If so, that would possibly "leave each NFL team playing one international game per year in future seasons." The NFL "hoped to be able to stage an entertaining and glitch-free game" last night, and "for the most part, it seemed to do so" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/19). The AP's Greg Beacham notes Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday met with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, with the league and federal government "considering extending the Mexico game series beyond its current deal" through '21 (AP, 11/19).

SURFACE LEVEL CONCERNS: ESPN's Scott Van Pelt said going into the game, there was "concern given the field issues last year," and before the game began "we noticed some of the turf was coming up, but it appeared over the course of the game that everything was fine" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 11/19). PFT's Mike Florio said the turf was "torn up and they had a small army of grounds crew out on the field at halftime, but the reviews were mixed." Many of the players were "fine with the field." NBCSN's Chris Simms said, "There were some chunks of sod coming up during the game, (to the point) where I was going, 'Man, if a superstar gets hurt out here on this field tonight, the NFL's never going to hear the end of it'" ("PFT," NBCSN, 11/19). ESPN's Lisa Salters said she spoke to players who all said they were "pleased with the way" the field played. Salters: "They like how it feels under their feet" ("Chiefs-Chargers," ESPN, 11/18).

Altitude Sports filed a lawsuit against Comcast for "violation of state and federal antitrust laws" in relation to the months-long negotiations to bring Avalanche and Nuggets games back to TV in Colorado, according to a front-page piece by Kyle Fredrickson of the DENVER POST. The 45-page complaint alleges Comcast "'wants to extinguish competition from Altitude' through stalled-out negotiations with financial terms that 'make no economic sense unless Comcast’s aim is to use its monopsony power to eliminate Altitude so that Comcast will control sports programming' in Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming." A source said that Comcast's latest proposal to Altitude for broadcasting rights to Nuggets and Avalanche games "represented a 50-percent cut from the previously agreed-upon contract." Comcast also would "remove Altitude from an 'expanded basic package' to a 'sports tier' -- decreasing the percentage of subscribers reached from 70-85% down to 15-20%." The "lack of a middle ground sets the stage for a potentially lengthy court battle as the Altitude blackout on Comcast continues." Comcast "continues to charge its Denver market subscribers of Altitude a 'regional sports fee' -- although Comcast did reduce the monthly charge by $1.25." Altitude "reached a multi-year carriage rights agreement with DirecTV last month with undisclosed terms" (DENVER POST, 11/19). In Philadelphia, Christian Hetrick notes Comcast "called Altitude's lawsuit 'meritless.'" The company said that Altitude has "several distribution alternatives in an 'intensely competitive market' where Comcast has no competitive" RSNs (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/19).

OTHER CONCERN: THE ATHLETIC's Ryan Clark noted the lawsuit also has a "subsection titled 'Professional Hockey in the Denver DMA' stating Comcast has control of the NHL through one of its subsidiaries" in NBCSN. The document "states NBCSN has the rights to televise nearly 100 regular-season games while providing other features like, 'Wednesday Night Hockey.'" NBCSN, as mentioned in the document, will "broadcast the 'maximum number'" of Avalanche games this season. Altitude also "states Comcast is a partial owner in the NHL Network which owns and operates NHL TV and 'therefore has partial ownership and control, and a share of the profits, of the NHL TV product'" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/18).

Next summer's 100th anniversary of MiLB in Daytona Beach "should be a happy occasion," but with MLB contemplating eliminating or relocating 42 minor league teams by the end of '20 -- including the Single-A Florida State League Daytona Tortugas -- next summer "could be one long goodbye," according to a front-page piece by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of the Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL. Tortugas co-Owner Rick French said of MLB's possible overhaul, "We're going to do everything humanly possible to keep that from happening." Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry also is "ready to put up a fight" to keep the Tortugas. He said the club is an "integral part of Daytona Beach." Henry: "They're part of our economic system. It'd be devastating to downtown to lose them." The Tortugas have the second-highest attendance at games among the Florida State League's 12 franchises, averaging 2,116 fans per game (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 11/19). FSL teams averaged 1,255 fans per game in '19. The next-lowest average for a full-season MiLB-affiliated league was the Single-A California League, which averaged 2,342 fans (David Broughton, THE DAILY).

BLUEGRASS BALL: In Kentucky, Musgrave & Desrochers note Single-A South Atlantic League Lexington Legends President & CEO Andy Shea and his family, who own the club, are "still trying to figure out why the Legends were targeted for closure" as part of MLB's overhaul plan. The Legends, who are coming off back-to-back SAL championships, have "just received an award for best Class A minor league team." Shea said, "We have no idea how we ended up on the list." He added that attendance figures have "remained the same over the past few years," but from what they have been told and read in news reports, it "does not appear that attendance or ticket sales were part of MLB's decision-making process" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 11/19).

POLTICAL SUPPORT: In Rochester, Freile, Lahman & Spector note the Single-A New York-Penn League's Batavia Muckdogs and Auburn Doubledays also "could have their ties to a parent club eliminated" under MLB's plan. U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in statement said, "America's favorite pastime should not become part of Upstate New York's past." He added, "It's no secret that New York's minor league teams are institutions within their communities, which is why I implore MLB to reconsider any such plans and will be reaching out to them directly to advocate for our New York teams." Schumer said he plans to call MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and "make a strong push" on behalf of the minor league teams that would be affected by this proposal (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 11/19).

SAD STATE OF AFFAIRS: In Daytona Beach, Ken Willis in a front-page piece writes MLB has been on a "slow drip," departing the "collective national consciousness for a couple of generations." Perhaps MLB's leaked plans are "just a first salvo in upcoming negotiations to extend its current agreement" with MiLB, which expires after next season. There also is "no way MLB clears all of the legal and/or congressional road blocks" between now and the end of '20 to "follow through on their wishes." Whether it is "just delayed or scuttled altogether is another story" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 11/19). THE ATHLETIC's John Sickels writes the "plot to kill the minors may or may not be an elaborate bluff," but even if it "does not happen, the fact that it is even being proposed is a bad sign for the future of the game." MLB "needs to grow more fans," and "cutting down on minor league affiliates, especially in such a coldly brutal manner, will reduce the number of fans, not grow that number." Even proposing it in this manner is an "insulting and egregious breaking-of-faith with many communities who have loyally supported their teams over the decades" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/19).