Column: Canadian Hockey Lags U.S.April 21, 2016

For the first time since 1970, the National Hockey League playoffs began without a single Canadian team in the chase for Lord Stanley’s Cup. The last of seven NHL teams north of the border was eliminated with 11 days left in the season. Like their neighbors to the south, Canadians disagree on religion. Canada’s number one religion is Catholicism with 39% of the population identifying themselves as Roman Catholics. The next largest group is non-believers, at almost a quarter of the population according to the National Household Survey conducted in 2013. But one thing all Canadians can agree on is hockey. It’s the country’s national sport and in some circles, even more important than religion.

Read more

Column: NCAA Sleaze Dominates Final FourApril 14, 2016

When the Villanova Wildcats beat the University of North Carolina Tar Heels on a last second basket to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, it prevented one of this year’s two Final Four teams with dirty laundry from taking home the National Championship trophy. UNC had beaten Syracuse, the other recent NCAA miscreant, two nights earlier to advance to the final game. Syracuse, like the University of Connecticut three years earlier, advanced to the Final Four after sitting out the tournament the previous year. The Huskies were banned in 2013 for falling below the Academic Progress Rate threshold, a complicated and totally meaningless formula contrived by the NCAA to pretend that student athletes were obtaining an education while they were actually in college to play sports. One year later, the UConn men’s basketball team celebrated the school’s fourth national championship.

Read more

Column: Banned at The Ballpark: Smokeless TobaccoApril 7, 2016

Major League Baseball (MLB) kicked off the 2016 season on April 3 with the familiar sights and sounds of players in uniform, bats hitting balls, pitches plunking into catchers’ mitts, and fans cheering for their home team. But one thing is missing in seven of the 30 MLB ball parks: Smokeless tobacco. Baseball players have used smokeless tobacco for more than a century, since the days of Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth. Although the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that smokeless tobacco use among baseball players has declined over the years, according to Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an estimated 25-30% of MLB players currently use smokeless tobacco. That number is surprising, considering that all tobacco products are banned at the high school, college and Minor League Baseball (MiLB) levels.

Read more

Column: Baseball Dipomacy on Display in CubaMarch 31, 2016

Baseball diplomacy was on display last week as the Tampa Bay Rays traveled to Havana to play the Cuban National Team in an exhibition game, the first of its kind since the Orioles played there in 1999. The audience – including yours truly – witnessed a truly historic event. President Barack Obama entered the stadium with his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro. The two leaders sat side by side during the game before exiting after the third inning. It’s been 88 years since the last sitting U.S. president, Calvin Coolidge, visited Cuba, a country that’s been mostly off limits to U.S. citizens for 55 years.

Read more

Column: MLB Trying to Attract New GenerationMarch 24, 2016

Baseball has an age problem. According to data collected by Sports Media Watch, half the television viewers during the 2013 World Series were 55 or older. Those numbers are consistent with the age of viewers of all nationally televised games on FOX, ESPN, TBS and the MLB Network during the entire 2013 season, giving baseball the oldest television viewing audience of any of the four Major League team sports. And the 2013 season wasn’t unique. For the five year period leading up to 2013, the median viewing age increased by one year annually, which suggests to some observers that baseball is a dying sport. To counter that trend, MLB has made it a priority to reach out to younger generations in a number of ways. The goal is to introduce baseball to kids as early as possible, and for good reason. According to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, research shows that “The biggest and strongest indicator of fan affinity as an adult is if you played [the game] as a kid."

Read more

Column: Sharapova Tests Positive For Banned SubstanceMarch 17, 2016

As drugs go, this one was at least easy to spell and easy to pronounce: Meldonium. But it is no less dangerous to an athlete than a drug that is difficult to pronounce and impossible to spell, like tetrahydrogestrinone, a drug that many athletes have been accused and/or convicted of taking, including former track star Marion Jones. If you don’t believe that, just ask Maria Sharapova. Last week Sharapova called a press conference to announce that she had failed a drug test for meldonium at the Australian Open. Meldonium, which was developed in Latvia decades ago, is used to treat ischemia, a lack of blood flow to an organ, and neurodegenerative disorders. Sharapova said she had been using the drug - with a doctor’s prescription - for over a decade to treat a magnesium deficiency. She also said her family had a history of diabetes.

Read more

Column: Commish Manfred Makes A StatementMarch 10, 2016

The Times They Are a Changin’ Robert Zimmerman, a/k/a Bob Dylan When MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Yankees’ reliever Aroldis Chapman he made a statement that resonated throughout the sports world. Chapman was suspended without pay for 30 games for violating Major League Baseball's new Joint Policy on Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse which had been negotiated with and agreed to by the players’ union. The suspension was unprecedented and it may be just the beginning of a crackdown on player misbehavior, or rather, to call it what it really is, criminal activity against another human being. Any time someone – anyone, not just an athlete – physically abuses another person it’s a crime.

Read more

Column: Becoming an NBA Agent Now More Difficult and ExpensiveMarch 3, 2016

Becoming an NBA agent just got more difficult, and more expensive. Anyone who represents an NBA player must register with the union that represents the players, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). During the NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto player agents approved a number of changes to the agent certification process that had been under discussion since last summer. The new NBPA rules haven’t been widely disseminated but the union provided summaries to current agents. Among the changes were increases in yearly dues, limitations on the use of third parties for recruiting purposes, disclosures on referrals to financial advisors, and a new entrance exam for those hoping to represent NBA players.

Read more

Column: Female Athletes More Successful at Work Than Non-AthletesFebruary 25, 2016

A 2014 survey of college graduates found that female athletes were more successful post-graduation than their contemporaries who were non-athletes. The survey of 30,000 college graduates was commissioned by Purdue University President Mitch Daniels and conducted by the Gallup-Purdue Index. The primary goal of the survey was to determine the value of a college education. One key finding of the survey was that being involved with a mentor, a community or a long-term project while in school was important to future success. After the survey was published, the NCAA hired Gallup to dig deeper into the numbers as they related to student-athletes. The results of their work were released last week.

Read more

Column: NASCAR Adopts Charter ModelFebruary 18, 2016

The 2016 NASCAR season begins with the Daytona 500 on February 21 but every race team has already registered a win. Last week the sanctioning body and the team owners’ group known as the Race Team Alliance (RTA) announced a new charter system modeled after the franchise system that exists in the four Major League team sports. The announcement qualifies as big news in an industry where the folks who own the cars, hire the drivers, solicit the sponsors and take all the risks have never had a semblance of financial security. NASCAR is wholly owned by the France Family, now in its third generation of controlling the sport with an iron fist. They make the race rules, discipline the drivers, award the races and allocate the purses, all without any input from those who are most affected by those decisions.

Read more
Next Page