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Volume 24 No. 156

Weekend Rap -- Nov. 19, 2017

Sunday, Nov. 19, 2:00pm ET

Weekend Rap .... Latest News .... Right On Track

NASCAR's Brian France Calls '17 A "Great Year" Despite Challenges

NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France and President Brent Dewar this morning at Homestead-Miami Speedway expressed optimism that the sport is in a good place despite various changes and challenges. In the annual state-of-the-sport speech, France called '17 a "great year -- not a good year, a great year," and said that around 22 of the sport's 36 annual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races showed year-over-year attendance increases. The two also touched on the first year of Monster Energy's title sponsorship, as well as media consumption and linear TV ratings, which are down year-over-year heading into the final week of the season. Regarding Monster, France noted "this is only the first year and there are always growing pains," but that the sides are pleased overall. France and Dewar lauded the introduction of stage racing this season, which Dewar says has resulted in 40% more green-flag laps being televised.

Meanwhile, the ISC-operated track during today's drivers' meeting announced a sellout for its 46,000 grandstand seats. The Ford EcoBoost 400 marks the final race for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick and likely Matt Kenseth as full-time drivers, and social media has been flooded with tributes to the star drivers from fans, industry execs and brands such as Mountain Dew. NBC will air the race at 3:00pm ET, and NBC Sports execs in attendance today include Chair Mark Lazarus and Exec Producer Sam Flood.

Sources: Goodell Extension To Be Done By December Owners' Meeting

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's proposed extension is "on track to get done despite the recent battle surrounding the negotiations, and many expect it to be completed at or before" the Dec. 13 owners' meeting in Dallas, according to sources. A source said that Goodell's "total potential compensation could average" about $40M for each year from '19-23, making it a "five-year extension worth up to" about $200M (ESPN.com, 11/19). Sources said that Goodell's "max compensation" of $200M "requires him to hit all incentives, with a base salary in the range" of $20M a year. Goodell is "currently on a contract in which he has regularly pocketed" around $40M annually (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/19).

Ford Looks To End NASCAR Cup Series Championship Drought

Ford has "not won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship" since '04, but Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski could end that drought today in the Ford EcoBoost 400. Ford Global Performance Dir Dave Pericak said that the long title drought is "motivation for Ford and its two drivers" in the hunt. Pericak: "It’s time. We owe that to our fans and our employees and everybody who’s been with us throughout the years. It’s time to get it done. It means a lot to our program. It would be hard to define what winning a championship does, but it’s huge. We want it more than ever" (USATODAY.com, 11/18).

Ganassi Considers Teaming With Patrick In '18 For Her Final Races

Chip Ganassi confirmed that he has "had discussions to field cars" for driver Danica Patrick at the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, which will be the final races of her career. Ganassi: "It's a fabulous idea, a fabulous marketing idea. It's a fabulous opportunity" (USATODAY.com, 11/17). Patrick in a Friday press conference "refused to look back and analyze her NASCAR career." Patrick: "Looking back causes frustration. Looking forward causes anxiety. So you've just got to live in the present" (ESPN.com, 11/17). More Patrick: "I've never had sponsor issues. What I've always wanted is just to be remembered as a great driver" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 11/18).

Blackhawks To Play Bruins At Notre Dame In '19 Winter Classic

The Bruins and Blackhawks will play a Winter Classic game at Notre Dame Stadium on New Year's Day in '19, and the outdoor game "will be the third Winter Classic for the Bruins and fourth for the Blackhawks" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/19). Bruins season-ticket and premium-seat holders who renew for '18-19 "will have dibs ahead of the general public when the tickets go on sale, which has not yet been determined" (BOSTON HERALD, 11/19). Notre Dame hockey alum Anders Bjork plays for the Bruins, and Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman "graduated from Notre Dame" in '95 (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 11/19).

Notre Dame Stadium has "entered a new era" this year with the "completion of the Campus Crossroads Project, which extensively renovated the stadium" (SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE, 11/19). The game was "under discussion for the last few months," with Notre Dame "looking to expand the type of events" its football stadium could host (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/19).

Bettman: Montreal Lacked Outdoor Venue For 100th Anniversary Game

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Friday said that the league "wanted to hold an outdoor game in Montreal to mark its 100th anniversary, but couldn't find a suitable venue." Holding a game at the domed Olympic Stadium "wasn't considered, and Percival Molson Stadium, which is 102 years old, is too small and antiquated." Bettman said, "We're not ignoring the occasion. Everyone seems to be focused on why didn't we have an outdoor game. We couldn't do it. We wanted to. We tried, but it just didn't work" (AP, 11/17).

Meanwhile, Bettman said that the league "will generate between" $4.5-5B this year. On the state of the NHL, he said, "I don't believe the game has been stronger in terms of the competitiveness ... the excitement and entertainment our games provide" (TORONTO STAR, 11/18).

Patriots-Raiders In Mexico City To Have "Mini Super Bowl" Atmosphere

Patriots-Raiders today at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City "marks the second year of a three-year deal with the NFL to host regular-season games at the legendary stadium, and will be just the third regular-season NFL game ever" in Mexico. The game "sold out in about 20 minutes after it was announced." With the "demand for tickets, the massive popularity of the Raiders and Patriots, and the increased police presence," today's game will have the "feeling of a mini Super Bowl" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/19). Fans "decked out in Pats and Raiders gear flooded the streets" of Mexico City yesterday (BOSTON HERALD, 11/19).

Construction Delays Cause G League Herd To Play At Bradley Center

Construction delays on the new $21M Menominee Nation Arena in Oshkosh forced the G League Wisconsin Herd to "play at the BMO Harris Bradley Center" Friday and Saturday. The team will play another game at Bradley Center on Nov. 28 that is "not open to the public." The Herd's first game in Oshkosh is "scheduled for Dec. 1" (JSONLINE.com, 11/17).

Mortenson Construction is working on the new arena, and Senior Project Manager Jesse Kemp said that work is "about 68% complete." Bucks President Peter Feigin said that the team has "sold 30 suites and four remain, including one that's penciled in for the company that winds up buying the arena naming rights" (Milwaukee JOURNAL SENTINEL, 11/18). Construction crews are a "week away from fully enclosing the building" (TMJ4.com, 11/18).

Cowboys Continue Domination Of NBC's "SNF" With 40th Appearance

Tonight will be the Cowboys' "league-leading 40th appearance" on NBC's "SNF" since the net acquired the regular-season package in '06. That is "eight more" than the Giants, who are "second on the list at 32." The Eagles, "preparing for their 28th game, are No. 4," and the Steelers "are No. 3 at 29." The Cowboys have "played at least three regular-season games" on "SNF" every season since NBC took over the package from ESPN. Five times, the NFL has flexed a "fourth Cowboys game to NBC" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 11/18).

During halftime of Eagles-Cowboys, the Pro Football HOF "will present" Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones with his HOF ring (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 11/18).

Speed Reads....

Gold Medal-winning U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas has "apologized after receiving an avalanche of criticism on social media for what some saw as an attempt to blame other women for becoming victims of sexual abuse." Douglas' response to a Twitter post from former teammate Aly Raisman "drew the ire of another former teammate -- Simone Biles" (NYTIMES.com, 11/17).

San Diego State's "vision for a new Mission Valley Stadium was expected to be unveiled by Dec. 1." But AD John David Wicker said that the reveal "will be before Dec. 20, which coincides with a new NCAA signing date for football" (SANDIEGOUNIONTRIBUNE.com, 11/17).

Boston College football last night at Fenway Park "trounced" UConn 39-16 in front of 20,133 fans in the Fenway Gridiron Series game (BOSTON HERALD, 11/19).

UFC Fight Night 121 in Sydney, Australia, "drew an announced attendance of 10,021" (MMAJUNKIE.com, 11/19).

Former Univ. of Wisconsin men's basketball coach Bo Ryan today is "scheduled to be inducted" into the National Collegiate Basketball HOF (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 11/19).

Quick Hits....

"Who?" -- LaVar Ball, when asked about President Trump's role in helping LiAngelo Ball and the other UCLA basketball players arrested in China (ESPN.com, 11/18).

"I'm sitting here healthy, and I'm going to run this last race, and I got all the way through the year, so I feel blessed. I feel really good with it" -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., on his final race as a full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 11/19).

Weekend Hot Reads....

The N.Y. TIMES MAGAZINE examines the rise of Barstool Sports: "There exists a swarm of angry sports fans who maintain that they do not want to talk about Colin Kaepernick or the national anthem, and Barstool has cleared a space for them to gather and talk, mostly, about just how much they don’t want to talk about politics. They claim to be an overlooked majority. ... Barstool is their safe space."

The MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL goes with the header, "Wisconsin's Matt Kenseth Exits NASCAR, Leaving Legacy Of Admiration, Friendship, Success." ESPN.com goes with, "Dale Earnhardt Jr. Willing To Reflect On Long Career As It Winds Down."

Elsewhere:

Twitter Me This....

If you see a tweet we will not want to miss, send it to us at editorial@sportsbusinessdaily.com

Weekend Tweet Pic....

The Flames "suited up in 1950’s-style attire" prior to last night's win over the Flyers in Philadelphia and then "stuck to the theme as they prepared to travel by train" to DC for tomorrow night's game against the Capitals (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/18).

Today's Back Pages....

The Weekend Rap offers today's back page sports covers from some of North America's major metropolitan tabloids:

 N.Y. Post  N.Y. Daily News Newsday   Boston HeraldChicago Sun-TimesPhiladelphia
Daily News

Hit The Ground Running: The Week Ahead

THE DAILY’s Week Ahead: Nov. 20-26.

MONDAY

• WTA Hawaii Open (Honolulu)
• WTA Mumbai Open (India)
• NCAA men’s basketball FanDuel Legends Classic begins (Barclays Center, N.Y.)
• NCAA men’s basketball Maui Jim Maui Invitational begins (Hawaii)

WEDNESDAY
•  NCAA men’s basketball Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis begins (Paradise Island, Bahamas)

THURSDAY

•  NCAA men’s basketball Phil Knight Invitational begins (Portland, Ore.)

FRIDAY

• ITF Davis Cup Final: France vs. Belgium begins (Lille, France)

SATURDAY

• UFC Fight Night 122: Michael Bisping vs. Kelvin Gastelum (Mercedez-Benz Arena, Shanghai, China)

SUNDAY

• F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Yas Marina Circuit)
• CFL Grey Cup (TD Place Stadium, Ottawa)

If you know of any events that should be in our calendar, send them to us at mmiceli@sportsbusinessdaily.com.