Archive - February 2013
- Column: Archdiocese - No Football for GirlsFebruary 25, 2013
You couldn’t blame Caroline Pia for thinking that adults are clueless. In Pia’s case, those adults represent the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Eleven-year old Caroline is a defensive end and offensive guard on a Catholic Youth Organization football team in Doylestown, PA. Earlier this month, a panel of 20 individuals appointed by the Archdiocese voted to continue a ban that prohibits girls from playing contact football on boys’ teams. The ban was instituted last fall after Pia was allowed to play two seasons for her CYO team. According to sources who spoke with Forbes, the focal point of the group’s discussion was “inappropriate touching,” a matter that the Catholic Church is obviously familiar with. The panel was presented with the scenario of a female quarterback placing her hands “too close to the posterior of a male center.” One member of the group thought a female quarterback would be inclined to “inappropriately touch a male center.” Another member of the group suggested that the boy might enjoy the touching and if word got out, more boys would be inclined to sign up to play the sport.
- Post: Jerry Buss: The NBA’s Bill VeeckFebruary 23, 2013
When Jerry Buss died last week at the age of 80, the NBA lost more than one of its owners. It lost the man who made the league what it is today.
When Buss purchased the Lakers, the Kings, and the Los Angeles Forum - along with a 13,000-acre ranch – from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979, the league was all but irrelevant. Buss set out to make the Lakers the hottest show in Hollywood. He introduced the Laker Girls and other entertainment designed to attract fans and to keep them entertained throughout the game. To Buss, sports was synonymous with entertainment. And along the way, the Lakers also managed to appear in 16 NBA finals, winning ten. They won more games than any other team during Buss’ tenure and are the most successful franchise in the history of the league.
Jerry Buss was to the NBA what Bill Veeck was to MLB, an everyman’s owner and marketer extraordinaire. He was also a visionary who wanted to win as much as entertain. Buss was known as a players’ owner who hired the best minds available - former GM Jerry West and former coach Phil Jackson come readily to mind – to run his franchise, paid them well and then stayed out of the way and let them do their jobs. There wasn’t a player in the league who didn’t want to play for the Lakers and Buss.
Like Veeck, Buss was one of a kind.
- Post: Feds Join Armstrong SuitFebruary 23, 2013
The Justice Department has decided to join Floyd Landis’ suit against disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.
Landis filed his suit under the False Claims Act, which allows private citizens to act as whistle-blowers and sue to recover money allegedly obtained from the federal government through fraud. If successful, the plaintiff is allowed to keep up to 30% of the amount recovered if the government elects not to join in the action and up to 25% if the government joins the suit.
The addition of the government adds some firepower to Landis’ claims. He no longer has to finance the suit out of his own pocket and thanks to taxpayers, the government’s resources are unlimited. But that doesn’t mean the suit is now a slam dunk. There are a number of legal and evidentiary hurdles the government must overcome, including whether the U.S. Postal Service – the agency that sponsored Armstrong’s cycling team – was damaged by Armstrong’s use of PEDs. Armstrong’s attorneys maintain that the USPS received more than a $100 million in publicity during the years Armstrong was winning the Tour de France. That figure is significant because although the USPS paid $30 million to sponsor Armstrong’s team, the False Claims Act allows the plaintiff to recover treble damages.
This is a suit that cries out for a settlement. Armstrong still has his supporters and selecting an impartial jury will be problematic. On the other hand, Armstrong can’t afford a judgment that could wipe out his fortune, not after losing all of his sponsors when the United States Anti-Doping Agency issued its scathing report last fall that claimed the cyclist lied for years about his drug use.
- Column: Increased Cable FeesFebruary 18, 2013
DirecTV recently announced that it will begin implementing a $3 monthly surcharge for regional sports networks in markets that have multiple RSNs (read: New York and Los Angeles). The company isn’t alone. Verizon’s FiOS TV has begun assessing similar increases in California, Texas and Florida. It won’t be long before customers in all markets will be hit with rate increases. The surcharges come as no surprise. Rights fees to sport teams and leagues have skyrocketed of late and ultimately it’s the consumer who pays the bill. The Dodgers’ recently announced $8 billion contract with Time Warner Cable is only the latest in a long line of exorbitant media deals. Is it time for sports fans to revolt? Not at all. Three dollars per month, or $36 per year, is hardly worth getting worked up over. It costs most Americans $6-8 more to fill up their gas tanks today than it did a month ago, and most drivers fill their tanks once or twice per week. Now that’s something to complain about, if only we knew who is responsible for – literally - what amounts to highway robbery.
- Post: Billy Hunter’s DemiseFebruary 17, 2013
If the allegations against NBPA executive director Billy Hunter are true, he should consider himself lucky if he only pays with the loss of his job. The NBA players union voted to oust Hunter on Saturday, following a unanimous vote of the executive committee during the annual All-Star break.
In January, an independent law firm hired by the players association released a scathing report of Hunter’s conduct during the time he led the union. Among the findings were instances of nepotism, ratifying his contract without union approval, taking excessive vacation time, investing union funds in his son’s bank, and using union funds to purchase gifts for union members. In the wake of the report, Hunter fired family members from their posts, reduced his own powers, and made changes to union regulations. But for the players, it was too little too late.
- Post: Pistorius Charged With MurderFebruary 16, 2013
The news that Oscar Pistorius, the South African double-amputee nicknamed the blade runner, has been charged with murdering his girlfriend shocked the world.
As the first double-amputee to compete on the world stage against able-bodied runners, Pistorius was an inspiration to millions of handicapped people when he participated in last summer’s London Olympics. Now, Pistorius is facing life in prison for the shooting death of his model girlfriend. Should we be surprised? Hardly.
- Column: National Letter of IntentFebruary 11, 2013
It’s the oldest trick in the book. If a kid can’t get what he wants from one parent, say an extra cookie or a curfew extension, he asks the other one. Alex Collins is a big kid, but he’s still a typical kid. When he couldn’t get what he wanted from his mother, he asked his father. Collins is a 5-foot-11, 200-pound running back from Plantation, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale. He is what colleges refer to as a five-star recruit, one of the most highly sought after high school football players in the country. Collins initially committed to play at the University of Miami, but then had second thoughts, in part, he says, because of the ongoing NCAA investigation of the Hurricanes’ football program. So last fall he reopened his recruitment to other schools, including Arkansas, Florida, Florida State and Wisconsin.
- Post: University of Texas’ Athletic Revenue 2011-12February 9, 2013
In another example of the rich getting richer, the latest NCAA financial report shows the University of Texas generated a staggering $163.3 million in revenue for 2011-12. That figure is $13 million greater than the comparable figure for the previous year. UT also reported a $25 million operating surplus (revenue over expenses). The athletic department transferred $8.3 million of their surplus to the university’s operating budget. Included in the total revenue figure is $103.8 million from football alone. It was the first time in history that an institution reported more than $100 million in revenue from one sport. Texas is only one of ten schools in Division I that generated enough revenue to cover expenses in 2010-11, without relying on some form of subsidy. To put the Longhorns’ windfall in perspective, the $25 million operating surplus is more than 135 of the approximately 220 Division I public institutions spent on their entire athletic programs in the previous year (2010-11).
- Post: Armstrong Sued by SCAFebruary 9, 2013
The legal fallout from Lance Armstrong’s doping admission has begun. SCA Promotions, Inc., the Texas company that insures sports promotions, has brought suit to recover $12 million in bonuses, interest and legal fees it paid for Armstrong’s 2002-04 Tour de France wins.
SCA initially refused to pay Armstrong’s management company, Tailwind Sports, Inc. $5 million in performance bonuses. Tailwind brought suit against SCA and as part of the litigation, Armstrong swore under oath during a deposition that he had never used PEDs. Despite the fact Armstrong retracted that denial in a televised interview with Oprah, SCA has an uphill battle to recover the $7.5 million it paid Tailwind, plus interest on that amount.
First, the insurance contract was between Tailwind and SCA, not Armstrong. Because he was not a party to the contract, Armstrong has no obligation to SCA. Second, the settlement in the case included the standard language that SCA made payment in full satisfaction of the claim and the case could not be reopened by either side.
- Column: PEDs Use in MLBFebruary 4, 2013
“The steroid era is…clearly a thing of the past.” MLB Commissioner Bud Selig Talk about a myth. Selig uttered those now infamous words in January 2011, around the time that former home run king Mark McGwire chose to end his self-imposed exile from the game to become the Cardinals’ hitting coach. Events of the past two years, culminating with last week’s shocking article in the Miami New Times on the role of so-called aging clinics in South Florida on PED use in baseball, have proven the fallacy of that statement. Except the New Times article wasn’t shocking at all. What IS shocking is that anyone would deign to make Selig’s outrageous claim. But then, Bud, as accomplished a commissioner as he has been, has always had a predilection for hyperbole, perhaps because he is such an unabashed fan of the game. While hope may spring eternal, the reality is, with apologies to Mark Twain, the demise of steroids in MLB is greatly exaggerated. Anyone who believes otherwise chooses to reside in fantasyland.