Sports Outside the Beltway

Congress Demands College Playoff

Three Members of Congress are claiming that the NCAA Bowl Championship Series is illegal and demanding a playoff.

Forget government corruption or corporate fraud. Three members of Congress want the Justice Department to investigate whether college football’s Bowl Championship Series is an illegal enterprise.

Reps. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., and Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, are introducing a resolution rejecting the oft-criticized bowl system as an illegal restriction on trade because only the largest universities compete in most of the major bowl games. The resolution would require Justice’s antitrust division to investigate whether the system violates federal law.

The measure also would put Congress on record as supporting a college football playoff.

“Who elected these NCAA people? Who are they to decide who competes for the championship?” Abercrombie said at a press conference Thursday on Capitol Hill, gripping a souvenir University of Hawaii football.

Now, granted, these are just three comparatively minor Members and this will likely go nowhere. Still, this is asinine. As Sean Hackbarth points out, Congress has more important matters on its plate.

Moreover, the answer to “Who elected these NCAA people?” is the presidents of its constituent universities. Who better to decide how college sports should be governed than the leaders of the colleges? Surely, not a group of people with demonstrably no business sense.

Personally, I’d prefer a playoff to the current system. But that’s a matter for the colleges to decide, with some pressure from the market. It’s certainly not within the legitimate purview of the legislature.

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Kansas City Testing Trade Waters with Johnson

The Kansas City Chiefs are having trouble signing their superstar running back Larry Johnson to a long-term contract. To make sure they don’t end up with nothing if Johnson leaves via free agency after next season the team has been talking trade with a few teams including my Green Bay Packers:

The Chiefs have spoken with the Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills and possibly others, but have not found anything close to a taker.

A Chiefs official insisted Tuesday that his team has not engaged in “specific” trade talks with any team. But it’s a matter of semantics. They clearly have spoken in trade generalities with a number of teams, trying to gauge Johnson’s value around the league and to their organization.

The reason the Chiefs are shopping Johnson is the exact reason that other teams are leery about trading for him.

Johnson is heading into the last year of his contract and is seeking a new deal that would eclipse the eight-year, $60 million contract given to San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson two years ago, before the NFL’s salary-cap increased 36 percent. With the salary-cap skyrocketing, so is Johnson’s asking price, and rightfully so.

As much as I’d love Johnson wearing the green and gold his salary would be way to high. Mike McCarthy’s zone blocking scheme appears to be like Denver’s. The running back isn’t as important as the blocking technique. Thus Denver could continue having an effective running game after trading Clinton Portis to Washington. The talent of the offensive linemen and the scheme are more of a key than the running back blasting through the holes. We’ll see if the Packers can garner some ball control without Ahman Green who left to go to Houston. The Packers are better off drafting a running back or two Saturday and putting their salary cap room into finding a safety and improving all-around depth.

“Future of Larry Johnson Still Cloudy”

[Cross-posted to The American Mind.]


Sports Stadium Names Grab Really Big Bucks

2006 was a banner year for sports stadium naming rights. Citibank agreed to fork over $400 million over 20 years to call the to-be-built New York Mets stadium CitiField. Action is also happening on the West Coast with Cisco and Oracle. This amounts to a boom for pro sports. Chris Isidore reports,

The average annual value for the 12 deals that were signed last year or first took effect in 2006 is $5.25 million, 61 percent above the average value of the new stadium rights deals from 1999.

The money keeps rolling in 2007 with Barclays paying $400 million to slap their name on the new basketball arena being built in Brooklyn.

Some places are untouchable:

The planned stadium that has perhaps the greatest naming rights potential is the new Yankee Stadium now under construction across the street from the existing park. But while fans can expect to see various gates, concourses and banks of seats, such as the bleachers, carrying sponsors’ names, one executive involved in the planning of the stadium insists that the team will not put a corporate name on the park itself.

The Yankees have learned that building their fans’ affection for the team’s history and tradition is a powerful marketing tool that has helped them improve revenue. But not having a sponsor’s name on the new park probably does mean the team is leaving hundreds of millions of dollars on the table.

“This really is a bow to tradition,” said the executive, who spoke on the condition that his name not be used. “There’s no market study that says if you change the name you reduce the value of the Yankees’ brand.”

The same can be said for the Frozen Tundra at Lambeau Field. In Green Bay fans are willing to walk through corporate-sponsored gates (Verizon Wireless, Miller) but there would be deep rumblings if they started walking into Coca-Cola Lambeau Field.

In the case of the Milwaukee Brewers’ Miller Park beer and Milwaukee are synonymous. The brand and the city fit so well. In Green Bay there is no nationally-known business. The city is known for the Packers. No local company could afford the sky-high price to Lambeau Field (if it were for sale) and an outsider’s name wouldn’t feel right.

“A Stadium Name Bubble?”

[Cross-posted on The American Mind.]


Company Claims McGuire Baseballs Juiced

A company that scans people’s brains peered into a 1998 baseball. They conclude Mark McGuire wasn’t the only one juiced when he hit 70 home runs:

A company that uses computer imaging claims baseballs had a larger rubberized core and a synthetic rubber ring in 1998, including the ball Mark McGwire hit for his 70th homer.

Universal Medical Systems Inc. said Wednesday that with the assistance of Dr. Avrami S. Grader and Dr. Philip M. Halleck from The Center for Quantitative Imaging at Penn State, it took images of 1998 baseballs.

“Examining the CT images of Mark McGwire’s 70th home run ball one can clearly see the synthetic ring around the core — or ‘pill’ — of the baseball,” UMS president David Zavagno said. “While Mark McGwire may or may not have used illegal steroids, the evidence shows his ball — under the governing body of the league — was juiced.”

But Bob DuPuy, baseball’s chief operating officer, said the core of the ball has been unchanged for decades. Rawlings has been the exclusive supplier of baseballs to the major leagues since 1977.

“All of our balls are subject to rigorous quality control standards and testing conducted by Rawlings,” DuPuy said. “No changes have been made to the core of the ball through the entire time they have manufactured it.”


Packers Fans Change New Year’s Eve Plans

Some would say us Green Bay Packers fans are hooked on our team. A better word would be “obsessed.” It’s true. We love our green and gold through thick and thin–we survived the 1980s always hoping Bart Starr or Forest Gregg would lead the team out of the losing-season wilderness. This week, with the Packers holding a slim chance of making the playoffs with an 8-8 record, and it possibly being Brett Favre’s last game (doubt it!) the NFL moved their game with the Chicago Bears to Sunday night. That throws a wrench in Packers fans’ New Year’s Eve plans. But we’ll do what we have to do even if it includes driving across the country all night, packing a radio inside a sport coat when going out with the wife, or just sitting in front of the television instead of going to the party. It’s the Packers; it must be done.


Griffey Breaks Hand in Mysterious Accident

Ken Griffey, Jr. is hurt again. Only this time no one is saying why:

The Cincinnati Reds’ center fielder broke his left hand in an accident at home, the latest in a series of setbacks since he joined was traded to his hometown team for the 2000 season.

Griffey will have the hand in a hard cast for three weeks, then be re-examined, the team announced on Friday. The club wasn’t authorized by Griffey to give any details of how he was hurt.

What was he doing? Did he slam it in a door? Fell down some step? Play to hard with his Nintendo Wii? Inquiring minds want to know.


Wisconsin Badgers Up to #4

With their win Saturday over #2 Pittsburgh the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team sits at #4 on the AP poll. It’s their highest ranking ever. Coach Bo Ryan said, “We’ve never had any better week than that. There’s a lot more basketball to play, but it’s pretty exciting and I feel good for our guys.”

In celebration we must sing.

Mark your calendar for 01.06.07 when #3 Ohio State with freshman phenom Greg Odom comes into Madison to face the Badgers.

Badgers Climb to No. 4 in AP Poll”

[Cross-posted to The American Mind.]


MLB Pitchers: Put Down that Fake Guitar

In the near future baseball players will have clauses in their contracts preventing them from playing video games. It will be called the “Joel Zumaya clause:”

The Tigers are satisfied they won’t see a recurrence of the right wrist and forearm inflammation that sidelined Joel Zumaya for three games of the American League Championship Series.

Why? Club president and general manager Dave Dombrowski told WXYT-AM (1270) on Wednesday the team had concluded Zumaya’s injury resulted from playing a video game, not from his powerful throwing motion.

“That was probably what was taking place,” Dombrowski later told the Free Press.

Zumaya, 22, was known to play “Guitar Hero,” a PlayStation 2 game in which a player uses a guitar-shaped controller to simulate the performance of popular songs.

Keep this guy away from any Nintendo Wiis.

[via Engadget]


Turn Off “Jacked Up!”

ESPN taking over Monday Night Football hasn’t brought with it drastic, annoying changes. It’s not like MTV took over and turned it into a reality show. What change that did occur has been a focus on football. There’s no T.O.-Nicollete Sheridan towel incident, and there’s no Hank Williams, Jr. asking me if “I’m ready for some football.” I watch MNF for the game, not to take part in a pop culture experience.

But goofiness isn’t gone. There is an annoyance. My thoughts go back to halftime. Tom Jackson is a good football analyst. He offers plenty of perspective as a former player while not sounding like a full-of-it ex-player (I’m looking at you Michael Irvin). But what’s with his “Jacked Up!” segment? I like watching big hits, but I don’t need to hear the rest of the ESPN halftime crew chanting “JACKED UP!” They sound like drunks at a sports bar. Keep the segment’s name, keep the close ups of the bone-crunching hits, just get rid the caveman chanting.

[Cross-posted to The American Mind.]


Those Glowing Uniforms

The latest trend in sports arenas are LCD ribbons that blast fans with even more bright lights and more ways to shoot advertisements onto fans’ retinas. Imagine if a kaleidoscope of media were projected from the athletes themselves. That may be the way of the future with this Australian invention as the start:

Basketball vests (singlets) with electroluminescent displays that show a player’s score, and number of fouls, are being trialled in Australia.

The vests can also display more general information, like the amount of time left in a game. This gives players greater confidence in their team’s tactics, say the researchers involved.

The simple, coloured display panels are attached to each vest and connected to a small computer, about the size of an iPod, strapped to each player’s body. These computers communicate wirelessly with a central control system, installed at the side of the court, which keeps track of all relevant statistics as the game goes on.

I envision LCD-like fabrics with the ability to put NASCAR-marketing to shame.

[via Engadget]


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