Sunday, November 16, 2008

Just keep on meddlin'

Please, don't try and help.

As you may have noticed, it has been quite some time since I have posted anything to this faire blog (see what I just did there?). So, it takes something in the sports world that is politically interventionist enough to roust my grumpy ass out of my cyberspace rut.

Sometimes, things like that come along.

On an interview on 60 Minutes, President-elect Barack Obama shared his feeling that college football should have a playoff system. Fair enough, I can't say I disagree with him. The sham BCS system is a complete sham that most college football fans would probably agree needs to go away in the process of determining a national champion. However, what seƱor Obama and I differ on greatly is the method in which that needs to happen:
"I don't know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this. So, I'm going to throw my weight around a little bit. I think it's the right thing to do."
First, let me say that this kind of thing isn't surprising. Politicians have many times thought it was in the best interest of the public to interfere in sports matters on behalf of fans. If you've read anything on this blog before, then my response is about to be very predictable.

Please, Barack Obama, leave it alone. Go back to sticking your fingers into the economy and fouling it up by overregulating the crap out of everything and further devaluing the cash in my pocket. But please, leave sports alone. Don't try and strong arm your way into "fixing" a system in which you have no stake. Don't "throw your weight around" to try and get an eight-game playoff system. If college football finally gets enough of the griping about the BCS system being idiotic, then they'll change the format. And if fans have enough of it, they'll stop watching games. Don't expect that to happen though since fans don't hold any stake in college football games other than the money they spend perpetually on gear, tickets and donations to their alma maters. If fans are truly fed up with it, they'll stop going to the games and buying stuff. They can also use the halt of their donation dollars to their school of choice with the caveat that the money will commence when their school gets on board with a playoff. Fans can do their best to bully their points of view in, that's America, dammit.

Ultimately, the BCS system still thrives because of the corporate sponsorship stakes that are held in the games. And any fan that claims to have more of a mandate over how those games should be played than a business that has poured millions of dollars into it is someone who clearly doesn't value the principle of investment.

Do I think that the businesses and NCAA could come up with a system that still utilizes bowl games and integrates them with a playoff system? Absolutely. But it isn't Barack Obama's or any other politician's responsibility to stick their nose in it and force private organizations to follow the whim of a fan who just so happens to have power.

Reasonably yours,

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Nonsense regarding unions and the UFC

The man made the cover of ESPN The Magazine, you think he might have earned his stripes?

I would like to acknowledge that I have been incredibly lazy and unmotivated to write lately. My sports excitment has been in the only real doldrum of the year. The Astros are done playing and the NBA season hasn't started. However, I do still follow the daily online rag and stumbled upon this little gem by way of Deadspin.

Let me start by saying that this hogwash idea is very pervasive throughout the United States. In the current state that the United States is in business- and employment-wise, unions are a ridiculous concept. The Motley Fool provides a decent dummy's breakdown of the positives and negatives of unions, but this is a sports site, so I won't bicker on about the invalidity of unions in general any longer. Instead, let's move on to the illogical points brought about in the Chicks Heart Fights blog.

Their main contention from the beginning is that there should be some kind of system to have fighters earn fair wages in comparison to their performance. In truth, their contention that Chuck Liddell earning $500,000 in a loss is unfair to Keith Jardine earning $14,000 in a win is preposterous.

I admittedly do not follow the UFC, although I do recognize its merit as a legitimate sport, much more so than the sham that professional boxing has become. My brother and Dad are huge fans and fill my ears with how awesome it is all the time. Regardless of what I hear of Liddell from my family, I still hear Chuck Liddell's name pop up quite a bit elsewhere. Hell, the newspaper I work at even ran something about the Chuck Liddell/Quentin Jackson matchup in May, which is something we usually never did at that point in time. My point is this: Chuck Liddell has earned his stripes and earns quite a bit of money based upon the popularity he has earned for himself. He has earned it, and he deserves the money he receives. In turn, he also earns quite a bit of money for the UFC as an organization, something they obviously see fit to reimburse him for. By defeating Liddell, Keith Jardine will likely see his dividends increase quite a bit in the future. He earned his victory, and if he continues success, he'll see the money he deserves.

In essence, if you adopt a union for the UFC and put in purse restrictions that supposedly even the playing field on how much money is earned, you are removing factors that consider revenue earned for the UFC. You think Chuck Liddell thinks he should make less money? Hell no. And the UFC obviously recognizes his importance. In a few years when Keith Jardine develops his legend further, he will prefer to have a 1/2-million-dollar payout as well for helping progress the UFC's cause.

Moving on, there is more nonsense within:
How can any fighter make as little as $3K for a fight that takes a minimum of two months of training, 30 hours a week? Break that down, and Diego Saraiva is being paid a little more than $11 an hour. He can make much more, and have benefits, working at UPS.

Let me just fall over in disbelief at this concept. If a fighter can make more money and have benefits working at UPS...maybe he should go work at UPS. The truth is, these guys want to be fighters. Their talent lies in beating the shit out of another human being. If they wanted a 9-to-5 job, that's what they would be doing.

They do make one good point:
With drug-testing, the UFC has clearly placed the onus of drug-testing on the state commissions, and that also makes me wonder. The states have different rules on drug-testing, so if the UFC has a fighter that they suspect might fail a test, the UFC could put him on a card in an event in a state with more lax drug testing. How is it fair that a fighter who has a match in Texas may get away with something that a fighter in Nevada can’t?

Instead of having a hard-line stance on drug testing, the UFC is instead opting to let whichever state the match is being held in determine what rules govern the fight. If they want to be taken seriously, they need to incorporate a UFC-wide system to govern drug testing.

In the end, it is a person's responsibility to determine how they want to make a living. If these individuals are unhappy with how things are going, they can ask the UFC for some recourse. And depending on what kind of business Zuffa (UFC's owner) wants to run, they may or may not get it. It's their decision, and if fighters don't like it, they are free to negotiate contracts that garner them the benefits and pay they wish, or they can leave. It is very simple.

Reasonably yours,

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Self-righteous pundits love anything with a "-gate" at the end

Think he'd give this up for a little reputation repair? Nope.

With all of this Bill Belichick business finally starting to settle down, most of the national pundits are finishing up their self-righteous rants about cheating and dishonesty.

As you've seen with many controversial subjects on this blog, my stance is usually a bit divergent from the media consensus about incidents.

When someone commits a wrong in sports, national columnists and pundits across the country can't jump to their keyboards fast enough to denounce the evil doer. If there is a juicy story out there, you can bet that anyone with a platform will try and one-up one another in an effort to strong-arm their way into the discussion. Sometimes it seems like some columnists are running for the President of Sports with one strong platform: "I'm tougher on crime than my opponents."

Given, what Belichick did deserves punishment. He broke specific rules concerning the monitoring of another team. What all of these self-righteous yahoos fail to recognize is that what Bill Belichick helped his team gain a distinct advantage that absolutely earned him and his franchise far more than the fines and penalties they incurred. Depending on who you talk to, he's been doing this for some time. If so, he was able to get away with something most teams dream of being able to pull off. He successfully stole the other team's advantage. And in the end, he is only accountable to himself and his franchise. The NFL can impose penalties until they are blue in the face, but until those penalties outweigh the gains derived from the infractions, they'll be useless. If you asked Patriots owner Robert Kraft if he would take a paltry fine and the loss of a draft pick for three Super Bowl championships and a position as a premier NFL franchise...well, you see the obvious answer here.

Other writers have made other logically faulty arguments defending Belichick's actions as just and simply of a competitive nature. These are not accurate either. Stealing signs in baseball has always been the norm, but nobody has been outed for using extra means to attain them, i.e. electronic means. You can bet it's been done though. They've just been too sneaky to get caught. Now that this business about Belichick has come about, the likelihood that anyone will will be caught in the future is slim. There are plenty of ways to survey another team without having a cameraman blatantly standing on the sidelines.

Stealing another team's advantage has been around since sports began. It will continue to be prevalent, even if the perpetrators go uncovered.

Reasonably yours,

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Will tiered pricing price you out?

What happens when Greg Oden isn't there to justify the Portland price hike? (Credit: RM)

I don’t have an economics degree (that’s Travis), but anybody would agree that tickets to certain games are in higher demand than others. Obviously, you have your Super Bowl or Final Four tickets, but what about individual games during the season for your favorite franchise?

It’s arguable that NBA fans would pay more to see LeBron James rather than Antoine Walker, but this week has brought a new test to the theory.

For season ticket holders of the San Antonio Spurs, individual game tickets went on sale this week and there was a noticeable bump on the prices of some games. Fans with the option to buy now are reporting the season-opener against Portland, as well as games against conference rival Phoenix and intra-state rivals Dallas and Houston are higher than most other games.

A supposed Spurs season-ticket holder said prices were increasing about 50-100 percent for the aforementioned games. That’s interesting.

A look at the seating chart and pricing (warning: PDF) for the AT&T Center reads "Tiered pricing will be in effect for select games."

I believe people will pay more for better games with arguably better players. The initial reaction around the Spurs message boards when Thursday’s news of the injury to Greg Oden and the ticket pricing was discovered was that the price for the Trail Blazers game might drop. That’s not going to happen considering it’s also expected to be the night when the Spurs receive their championship rings.

But think for a second if the game were scheduled a week later – would the pricing have to drop some with Oden missing the game? The casual NBA fan might not be so apt to shell out a little more money for the game while a deeper fan would recognize the Blazers have a solid, young core of players in Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Sergio Rodriguez and Raef LaFrentz (okay, you can stop laughing at the last one) that should be very entertaining to watch develop into a championship contender once their man in the middle returns.

What happens if Dirk Nowitzki goes down with an injury a month before Spurs vs. Mavs? Do the Spurs drop prices on tickets and risk an iPhone-like backlash or do they run the risk of not selling out the arena for what would still likely be a nationally-televised game?

The Spurs dealt with an embarrassing ticket situation following the Western Conference Semifinals against Phoenix last season. Following the emotional exhaustion of the victory over the Suns, there was such a quick turnaround – late Friday to midday Sunday/Father’s Day – to the matchup against the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, that the game didn’t come relatively close to a sellout (officially more than 450, but eyewitness accounts bump that number a little higher).

On the flip side, would teams reduce prices for games that might not sell? Doubtful. First, if your team is successful at bringing in fans at your pre-determined price, why drop the price and lose profits? People are already paying the set price and I don’t see a backlash coming unless your team flat out sucks and ownership fails to try and pour money back into the franchise to rebuild (see: Pirates, Pittsburgh; Lions, Detroit).

But as the NBA has seen its marketing go time and again (and as Scooter has pointed out) with the focus on individuals versus teams, the time when ticket prices rise for a game against a great team with less marketable (for whatever reason) stars will not come soon enough.

Granted, this is nothing new and MLB is approaching record attendance numbers (most on the high side and a few on the low side). The other factors will come into play, too, such as overall ticket pricing, local market economy, total costs of attendance, etc.

So the question finally arises: At what price point will you pay to see your favorite team play against a stellar rival versus one against an also-ran? Would you also demand to pay less for the lesser teams?


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Joe is a guest contributor to laissez-faire ball.

Not a lot of fish in the sea

So lonely...

Have you ever gone to a baseball game and tried to sneak into better seating than you purchased? If so, then Wednesday’s Nationals-Marlins game appears as if it wouldn’t have been much of a challenge.

According to published reports, there were around 400 people in the stands at Dolphins Stadium at the start of the game even though the paid attendance number floating around is 10,121.

Any team official worth their embroidered team shirt will tell you it’s the gate that counts, but this is simply embarrassing for the Marlins and the people of Miami. But they’ve pretty much shown they couldn’t care less about the pinstriped fish until they make the postseason.

In fact, the crowd was so sparse; a fan was ejected for heckling home plate umpire Paul Schreiber so loud his jeers were apparently heard on the telecast. The Washington Post (with such a delicious word play on its headline) describes the scene:

The man was so loud, and the atmosphere so quiet, the fan could be heard saying "you don't make more than me" on the television broadcast as he was forced to leave.

I haven’t overheard anything yet, but I’m just picking random spots before the fifth and listening for an at-bat or so. I do hear an echoing chant of “Let’s go, Marlins,” though. After continuing to watch and listen to the broadcast, I can hear distinct heckles, but not enough to hear exactly what’s being yelled.

Speaking of paychecks, Marlins catcher Miguel Olivo (1 for 6 with a 2-run homer) could have taken his game check and purchased an authentic Marlins cap for each fan through the gate at Dolphins Stadium. Olivo reportedly is making $2 million this year / 162 games = just over $30.

He might want to do that. I don’t think the Marlins can afford to lose any more fans.

Enough of that, though. Let’s look at the major money factor. Ten thousand paid seats sold and a crowd of about 400 can’t be profitable unless the concessions operator closed all but two beer stands and jacked up the price of a brew to about $450/cup.

Talk around the Miami area says people don’t want to sit during midday heat and humidity to watch a battle for the first amateur draft pick and that’s totally understandable. It’s just I just can’t imagine the profits of a team like this and sadly, I also can’t picture how an indoor stadium or one with a retractable roof will suddenly bring the gate attendance to the fifth digit.

The city of Miami does not deserve a team they can’t – or choose not to – support.

On the same evening, the San Antonio Missions (the Double-A affiliate for the San Diego Padres) drew around 3,200 for the second game of the Texas League’s championship series. Knowing the attendance numbers at that ballpark, it was probably a solid 2,800. Lately, the weather has been just as unbearable in SA as it reads in Miami – and granted the TLCS was a night game – but even this city that rarely supports any franchise not named the Spurs showed some support for the home team.

Well, enough support to make sure the concessions employees were paid.


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Joe is a guest contributor to laissez-faire ball.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

NFL needs a common sense injection

Wade Wilson, Cowboys quarterbacks coach will have five weeks off.

It was announced today that Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson will be suspended for 5 games and fined $100,000 for possessing a banned substance.

In the wake of New England safety Rodney Harrisson admitting to using human growth hormone, it was discovered Wilson, who is a diabetic, had also acquired banned substances to help him deal with his diabetes.

So, taking a hard-line stance against banned substances, commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL took action against Wilson as harshly as they could.

Did this strike anyone else as being incredibly off base? It's such an odd story. Why would the NFL penalize a coach for taking medicine that helps him deal with something as serious as diabetes? He's a coach, after all, and isn't playing or testing his physical mettle. HGH is a physical aid, not mental, and he was obviously taking it for a serious medical condition. He even admitted that he took it and made no excuses. He obviously wasn't trying to hide anything and was taking care of himself.
"If I was trying to hide something I wouldn’t have put it on a credit card. I had no idea this was illegal or against league policy."

It's a move that lacks common sense and represents the overzealous nature that Goddell has displayed thus far in his tenure as commissioner.

Normally I have no qualms in damning rule breakers to the consequences of their actions, but I make exception in this siutaiton. The NFL obviously has a lot of image and behavior problems, but punishing a diabetic 48-year-old quarterbacks coach isn't the way to clean it up.

Reasonably yours,

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Stay focused or pay the consequences

Hats off to you Mr. Materazzi.

With Italian soccer player Marco Materazzi finally disclosing exactly what it was he said to upset Zinedine Zidane so badly, it made me consider the nature of such actions and the repercussions of them.

Some incidents of a similar nature come to mind. Alex Rodriguez' yell when rounding third base against the Toronto Blue Jays, causing a dropped pop up was an act of distraction seen by many as unsportsmanlike. Robert Horry's clothesline of Steve Nash in the Western Conference Semifinals prompted Nash's teammates to leave the bench, thus earning them a suspension.

To varying degrees, these actions all come back to the same base concept of disrupting the other team in some fashion. One was more physical (Horry), another was merely immature insulting that incited action (Materazzi), while one was simple gamesmanship (A-Rod).

Fans get up in arms about these types of incidents since they interrupt a seeming balance of pure competition in the game by including more human interference than many fans are comfortable with. Most fans want to see a purer competition, one in which the participants play the game "the way it is supposed to be played" which basically means "the way each individual fan thinks it should be played."

Ultimately, a player can do whatever he chooses. In leagues and competitions that are driven by revenue, and with wins being one of the most impactful effects upon that revenue, players have choices to make. Is public perception more important to them, or is winning and succeeding and earning more money the priority? Some athletes choose to satisfy public perception while others choose the latter or find a middle ground between the two. There is absolutely nothing wrong with either one, and in a way, I respect the former more. If you can poke, prod, yell at or insult another team enough to get them out of concentration, make them angry enough with words to attack you or incite an action that is for the betterment of your team, you are dedicated to winning. You are devoted to your team, your fans and the ultimate outcome of that team. I respect that.

Additionally, if you are professional athlete and can't concentrate enough in the field to be distracted by another players actions, or if you don't have the mental fortitude to ignore an insult hurled your way, you deserve the repercussions of the lack of mental toughness you possess. Take some personal responsibility for once.

Despite the fact that some guys have done some despicable things in sports, when they are within the rules or for the betterment of your team, try to understand their motives. A-Rod's yelp may not have been classy, but it caused something positive for his team. Horry's attack on Nash was an unwarranted assault, but the ultimate outcome benefitted his team. Materazzi's insult may not have been the most reputable thing to do, but it got Zidane ejected. All of these guys won because of these things. They gained positivity for their respectice teams. Don't get angry just because it didn't seem like the sporting thing to do, get angry because the outcome of said events wasn't what you wanted personally.

Reasonably yours,

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

A community-selfish ownership move: Nothing wrong with that

It's coming.

Just as we thought might be the case, it is really looking like the Sonics will move to Oklahoma City.

With all that joy that Seattle fans had generated after drafting Kevin Durant, they have to be letting out a collective whimper. When a franchise decides to make a true youth movement and start from scratch, it can be one of the most exciting things that can happen for a fan base. Watching your young players grow and mature and gradually win more games as the develop, fans get a certain feeling of involvement with that team that just isn't the same as with teams that acquire most of their talent from free agency or through trades. The reward is so much greater when you get to watch your team blossom from scratch. That's why, subconsciously, this inevitable move is stinging the true Sonics fans out there in a major way.

What is most convincing about the potential of a move is that these Sonics owners are prepared to net a loss in moving the team to Oklahoma City. Aubrey McLendon, who the above article is about, said as much.
"But we didn’t buy the team to keep it in Seattle; we hoped to come here. We know it’s a little more difficult financially here in Oklahoma City, but we think it’s great for the community and if we could break even we’d be thrilled."

It's a strange thought on ownership that I honestly never considered. A rich man loves the area he lives in. The community, the area, everything about it. This is where him and his other rich friends want to spend money, work and live. By happenstance, a tragedy befalls another team's city and they temporarily reside in said rich guys' area. They know that due to the precarious political situation in the town the tragedy befell, they would likely not be afforded the opportunity to purchase that team. So, knowing the temporary team will eventually return to their old city, they seek out another team to purchase.

Clay Bennett saw his opportunity. The Sonics had been having some major problems in getting a new stadium built in Seattle for some time now. Seeing an opportunity to nab a franchise that could potentially move cities, Bennett and his compadres moved in. Their thoughts from the beginning were to move a team to Oklahoma City, that has become rather clear. Of course, they fed some public relations lines to the fans about wanting to stay in Seattle, and they will likely do that same until the move to Oklahoma is approved.

And good for them. Of course, the fans in Seattle are getting screwed pretty good by no control of their own. Unfortunately for them, it isn't their team. It's owned by the guys who purchase it. Sorry, that's how it works.

Now, the ownership group headed by Bennett will be able to move a professional sports team into their backyard, likely helping to pump money into their hometown economy and have a professional pet project to groom. Fortunately enough for them, their pet project is already looking like it has the makings of a thoroughbred.

Reasonably yours,

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