Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year, New NFL?

Happy New Year! Hopefully everyone had a safe and enjoyable night.....

And are feeling OK today...

Nothing better to cure a little hangover than a short read on I-95 SportsBiz.

On this first day of 2013, I am going to take a little turn away from typical sports business writing.

With the NFL playoffs set to begin, it had me thinking of how the league has changed. The biggest change that I have seen this year was the role of a rookie quarterback. Quarterback may be the most significant position in all of team sports. The quarterback leads the offense and is responsible for making sure everything is running smoothly. In past seasons, veteran quarterbacks were always looked at as being able to lead the team better than younger quarterbacks because they are more experienced. 

This season, the notion that a veteran is needed to be a great leader has been thrown out the window. Three outstanding rookies have stood up to lead an NFL team to the playoffs. Russell Wilson may be the most underrated of the bunch. Wilson lead the Seattle Seahawks to a 11-5 record and a playoff birth. Andrew Luck, the number one pick, has lead the Indianapolis Colts to an 11-5 record after a dismal season last year for the Colts. Robert Griffin III lead the Washington Redskins from 3-6 to start the season, to win the last 7 games and finish the season at 10-6. Griffin beat the Dallas Cowboys the last game of the year to clinch the NFC East and a playoff birth for the Washington Redskins. The most remarkable part about Griffin's success has been the obvious impact he has had on the team. As a rookie, Griffin was voted a team captain after starting the season 3-6.

It is possible that these quarterbacks are just special. That this type of success from rookies will not be seen again. That their is no way rookie quarterbacks will be able to step in the NFL and be great. It is possible, but not the way I see it.

I think this is the start of the NEW NFL. Where it is possible for rookies to come out of college and lead teams in the NFL. The reasoning for the change could be the new rules that are used to protect players (specifically the quarterback) help offensives have success. Or it could be a miscalculation by NFL teams thinking that rookies cant be great, when they can.

Final Thought
I am not sure the reason for the change in the NFL. I am also not suggesting that the emergence of the rookie quarterback is the only change in the NFL this year, it is just the only change that I care to talk about. Have a great NEW YEAR.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dollars & Sense - Bad Sports is a Must Read

If you know me, then you know that I spend a majority of my time reading, writing, and generally thinking a lot.  I always try to use any and all of the channels of communication at my disposal to get people to think.  If people think, read, and educate themselves, then they are in prime position to make meaningful and positive change.

When I read a book, I read to find out if it is a book that does just that.  Does it make you think?  Does it challenge the current way of doing things?  I recently finished Bad Sports by Dave Zirin, and it is a book that surely makes you think.  It is certainly a must read for anybody in or looking to break into the sportsbiz.

Bad Sports takes you through various examples of destructive and incompetent ownership, sports welfare through stadium/arena building, and offers one underlying solution to these two huge issues.  Zirin, currently writing for The Nation, does a fantastic job taking some of the most gruesome examples of ownership debauchery and brings them to light.  The way he outlines the rich-get-richer scheme that sports is currently modeled as is truly maddening.

Before you read this, especially if you are simply a sports “fan,” you probably do not see many issues.  You may see some things here and there that bother you, but nothing that requires a complete changing of the current system.  This book shows that there is not only a problem with ownership but perhaps an epidemic of bad ownership. 

The thing that really caught my attention was the fact that in American sports, the players are always blamed.  I never really thought about it before, but it is true.  Sure we blame owners a little bit, but the players are always the ones that carry a bulk of the burden.  It was interesting to see this in contrast to the ownership-fan relationship that the Tom Hicks and Liverpool had with their fans.  The fans hated him virtually from the beginning and even tried to band together and buy the team from Hicks. 

It all brings you to Zirin’s solution to the problem which is public ownership of sports franchises.  This would give the people a say in the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on lavish renovations and brand new facilities.  Does it really make sense for a multi-billionaire to rely on tax-payer dollars to fund a stadium project especially when it comes at the expense of infrastructure, schools, and anything else requiring immediate public funds?  Though it seems like a logical and feasible solution, both the National Football League and Major League Baseball have all but outlawed this as an allowable ownership structure.  The Green Bay Packers, the only publicly owned team, were essentially grandfathered in and until there is a change, will never be allowed again.

I highly suggest Bad Sports by Dave Zirin to anybody looking to get into the sports industry.  The book may make you think twice about the industry you think you know and love.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Bills Not Moving Anytime Soon

Although Buffalo Bills fans have not had much to cheer about in recent memory, they now have something. Although the good news is not related to play on the field, at least the fans will have a team to cheer for. The Bills have agreed to stay and play in Ralph Wilson Stadium for another 10 years. Although this agreement does not guarantee the Bills will stay in Buffalo, costly penalties for relocation almost assure they will not be going anywhere.

If the Bills backed out of the deal within the first seven years they would have to pay a penalty of $400 million. The penalty decreases dramatically in the last three years of the deal. The Bills will be charged a penalty of $29 million if they were to leave in the last three years. Although the fee decreases significantly in the last few years of the deal, the fee is prohibitive enough that it is highly unlikely the Bill will leave within the 10 year deal.

The deal also includes $130 million worth of improvements to the stadium. Of the improvement revenue, the Bills will be required to pay $35 million and the state of New York and Erie county will pay for the remaining cost.

Final Thought
It's about time for some good news for Buffalo Bills fans. The 10 year deal should provide fans with some security knowing that the team will not be going anywhere. Stadium improvements should allow for a better viewing experience for fans who attend the games. The Bills have been the center if potential relocation talks, now those talks can be on hold for a little while.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Because You Miss Baseball

It's the MLB offseason and YOU miss baseball!
The Dodgers shocked (but didn't shock) you by signing Zack Greinke, you followed the RA Dickey saga until he got deported and you have stayed up nights hoping Michael Bourn will roam the (insert your team's stadium here) outfield in 2013 and beyond.

If you are a Pirates fan, you grimace at the thought of Joel Hanrahan being shipped off for questionable return. If you are a Phillies fan, you (for some reason) see Michael Young as a top of the order savior. If you are an Angels fan, God bless you and God bless Mike Trout.

Jon Heyman, Ken Rosenthal, Jon Morosi, Danny Knobler and the rest of the breaking news guys feed your need to have every single rumor spewed on your timeline. Whether it is a potential signing, trade or roster move, these writers want to report everything that tickles their ears; AND YOU LOVE IT! At this point, you know SOURCE better than you know yourself.

You hear rumors that don't come to fruition. You hear reports from 100 different people once a transaction is completed. You hear things that ruin the element of surprise. But you don't unfollow these guys because you miss the game too much. It's mid December and there are still five major holidays between you and Spring Training.

The game you love isn't happening every night. Your (insert your beloved NHL team's name here) is locked out, you can't find yourself to watch the NBA under any circumstance and there are just too many days between Sundays. You long for more fulfilling times, when turning on the TV at 7:05 meant something other than missing the first five minutes of a Seinfeld rerun.

Once March comes around, you'll welcome the annual return of America's Pastime. But until then, you NEED the scoop on every single roster move, because you sure as hell aren't getting scoops from your local ice cream place (run by jerks) that closed in October.

You hear things and get worked up, but you can't live and die on every single rumor. Thoughts like "Is (insert your team's General Manager here) gonna sign any free agents?" and "Will (insert your team's beloved player here) gonna get traded today?" get you on pins and needles all day and night.

You should absolutely appreciate the offseason news, because it's a way to stay connected to your team during the four dark months. But, in all seriousness, cool your jets. Unless your NFL team is the Jets. Which sucks. In that case, you probably like the Mets. Which also sucks. Quite honestly, your time might better be served ringing the bell for the Salvation Army or something. Get to that.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dollars & Sense - Capitalizing On The End Of The World

The sports industry as we know it is as opportunistic as industries come.  There is never a dull moment, and just about any event that garners media and consumer attention can be utilized.  Whether it is a tragedy turned to charitable initiative and public relations masterpiece or a consumer-made ploy that at times can seem more whimsical than real deal, the sports industry can do it and more than likely has probably done it. 

What better to capitalize on than the biggest and baddest of them all: the end of the world.  The world is supposedly going to end tomorrow, so what better time to spend all of your hard-earned cash on some team licensed merchandise.  The end of the world paired with the continuing holiday season of shopping has consumers in a frenzy that looks more like a supermarket bread aisle the day before a Weather Channel-hyped blizzard super storm than your typical Friday, December 21. 


It could be fun.  A team could offer between 12% and 21% off on specific items in their online store.  They could even offer the discounts on their whole online merchandise store if they’re feeling particularly scared about ending the world with a warehouse full of unpurchased merchandise.  Teams feeling especially up to the task could even have a fun, end-of-the-world themed layout on their online store for the day.  Since nobody really knows what the end of the world looks like – I contacted the agent for the dinosaurs, he never got back to me – it could be interesting to see how individual teams interpret the ending of our beings.

Of course the deal could only run on Friday because, well, there aren’t supposed to be any more days after Friday.  However, since we are going to live – err at least I think so – teams could also use Saturday to capitalize.  Since it wouldn’t be the end of the world sale any more, teams could run a “We Survived 12/21/12” sale.  With this they could do whatever time they wanted on Saturday or if they were feeling ambitious, they could extend it the entire weekend.  The same 12% to 21% would suffice for this as well.

A deal like this would play on the heightened consumer interest around the “event” while also in a time of the year when consumer interest is already at its pinnacle.  Teams that do not at least attempt to capitalize on the end of the world this Friday are missing out on a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Literally.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cy Young Award Winner on the Move

The Toronto Blue Jays continued a dramatic offseason of improvements by agreeing to a trade with the New York Mets. The most prominent player in the deal is Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey. Dickey had an impressive year last year with 20 wins and an ERA of 2.73. The Blue Jays are hoping to see some of his impressive play this year and beyond.

R.A. Dickey was looking for an extension in order for the trade to be completed. The Blue Jays agreed to extend his contract for two years at a value of $25 million dollars. The specifics of the trade have the Blue Jays receiving Dickey and Josh Thole. The Mets will be receiving Travis d'Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, John Buck and potentially more prospects in return. Travis d'Arnaud is a catching prospect that is highly regarded throughout the league.

The Blue Jays have really made a push to be relevant next season. The starting rotation for the Jays looks quite impressive after this offseason of moves. The rotation will include R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, and Rickey Romero. The Blue Jays should have a chance to compete in the very competitive AL East next season with a starting rotation and starting lineup with great potential.

The benefits for the Blue Jays in the deal are obvious, I do believe the Mets also did great work making this move. I do not think that this deal will help the Mets win next season, but it is good for the future. It is tough to say now, but if catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud plays to the potential that he is expected to have, the Mets may have a catcher for the long term. Pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard also has great potential to be a front end starting rotation player. Although R.A. Dickey had a magical season last year, he is 38 years old and is unlikely to see that type of success again.

Final Thought
The Blue Jays are making the necessary moves in order to compete next season. They have dramatically improved the pitching staff and made improvements to the starting lineup. I believe they will compete for the AL East title if they stay healthy and perform up to potential. Although this was a good move for the Blue Jays, this was a great deal for the New York Mets. They got great value off a 38 year old Cy Young Award winner and set up a team that can have great young players in the near future. Rarely do I see a trade that I believe greatly benefits both teams, but I believe this deal may do just that.


Friday, December 14, 2012

The Day After Triple 12

I can't believe it's over...

12/12/12 was the other day zomg. What even happened? It was a Wednesday. I went to breakfast with my grandma at Eat n' Park. Then I came home and my mom made me read a book. This tweet by awesome dude @neiltyson made me feel a little more meh about the 12/12/12 and a bit more positive about the following day, the following hour, minute, etc. I'm deep?

That's why I woke up on 12/13/12 to take an online exam at 8 AM and vegged on the worn leather chair in my living room all day watching Forrest Gump, 30 Rock reruns and ugly Eagles football.

The Eagles fumbled in public for a few hours and I set up an Ikea TV stand for my mom. Unlike the Eagles, Ikea products are usually pretty reliable once you figure out how to construct the damn thing.

My dad watched Sopranos reruns because why the hell not, he's a straight thug. A man of 60 years and a Catholic school graduate. He's been a Big East basketball fan since he went to Pitt law school in the 70's and even he's dismissed the conference at this point.

Georgetown, St. John's, Seton Hall, Villanova, Providence, DePaul and Marquette were sick of being basketball only schools pushed around by a wannabe football conference. I feel like I should have realized Georgetown, Seton Hall and Marquette were Catholic schools before today. But I didn't, and I don't feel bad about it.

Now that Josh Hamilton is off the table, the Big East defectors might be the top free agents in the country. Hell, with $125 million in his pocket, Hamilton might start his own conference and morph it into a baseball/basketball hybrid sport. That's not a thing, that won't happen.

Los Angeles teams have unlimited money and resources, apparently. And by "Los Angeles teams" I mean the Dodgers. Maybe the Lakers. Can't be talking about the Angels because they are in Anaheim. 30 miles southeast of a city doesn't mean you're all about that city. Tell that to people in the 724 who think they're from the 412.

Good for the Angels though, the top of their lineup shouldn't be allowed to be legal. And by "the top of their lineup" I mean Mike Trout. He's a freak. Not quite Bo Jackson, but don't put it past Trout to pick up football as a "hobby" in the coming years if he wants to.

Rob Parker might need a new "hobby" after he gets fired from ESPN. Maybe he could be a consultant on Maury to judge the overall blackness of the guests. Are they a "cornball brother?" Are they married to a white girl? Are they... A REPUBLICAN?! God forbid a person has a strong sense of self and is comfortable with their own qualities. Life is life, people do things and they are who they are. Deal with it, idiot.

You know something else? The Boston Beaneaters were the original team in the current Atlanta Braves franchise. Look it up, I read it in a book with limited pictures.

What a day.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dollars & Sense - MLB Renews Stubhub Deal

Sports Business Journal reported earlier in the week that Major League Baseball has renewed its deal with Stubhub as the official secondary ticket market of the MLB.  The deal is said to be for five years (2013-2017) and worth more than the old deal that was estimated to be worth $60 million per year.

An interesting note in the agreement is that the MLB and Stubhub have agreed to a $6 price floor on all tickets (apparently due to electronic delivery fees).  This will help to quell some of the criticism that Stubhub has received for advertising tickets that are well under the market price and face value price. 

Stubhub (and the secondary ticket market as a whole) has become an interesting case study in unintended consequences of decisions.  The secondary ticket market poses a lot of pros and cons.  Obviously the revenue from a deal with a ticket resale website like Stubhub brings in an instant boost.  But is the extra revenue good for the business overall?

The secondary ticket market affects both the good and bad teams.  First for the bad teams, the secondary ticket market essentially represents a team’s ticket sales staff worst nightmare.  It is extremely difficult to sell tickets for a bad team.  We all know that.  It’s even harder to sell tickets for a bad team when ticket purchasers are turning around and selling their tickets to your games for well under the price that you’re looking for.  Sometimes the resale prices can dip below $1.  Not the ticket sales staff’s job just got infinitely harder in trying to deal with the sometimes ruthless relationship between supply and demand.

Good teams, however, are not immune to the wrath of the secondary ticket market either.  Say a team is very good for a very long time.  Demand for tickets is larger than the stadium capacity, and the team sells out most if not all of their games.  This is great.  It’s every ticket sales staff’s dream.  Here is where the unintended consequences come in though.  If all of the games are sold out, then fans are going to be indirectly trained to simply look at the secondary ticket market as their first option for tickets.  So when the team starts doing poorly and tickets are flying into fans’ pockets as quickly as they were before, then how will a team convince the fans to stop using the secondary market?  It’s something that teams deal with every single year. 

Not everything in the world is as straight forward and as great as they seem on the surface.  Sure the pairing between the MLB and Stubhub is a good match, but it’s not perfect.  Teams, good and bad, feel the pressure and deal with it on a yearly basis. 

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Greinke's Pay Day From Dodgers

Zack Greinke just received the highest contract given to a right handed pitcher. It is not surprising that the contract was given to Greinke by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have not been shy spending money this off-season.

Greinke's deal is for six years and $147 million. The previous highest contract for a right handed pitcher belongs to Matt Cain who signed an extension with the San Francisco Giants for six years and $127.5 million. As a part of Greinke's contract the Dodgers would not give Greinke a no-trade clause. This is not something new for the Dodgers. In previous contract negotiations with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier the Dodgers also refused to give a no-trade clause. Greinke does have written into his contract a clause that would allow him to become a free agent at the end of a season if the Dodgers were to trade him. In addition to that clause, Greinke received an opt-out clause similar to that of Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia. CC was able to opt out of his contract and then resign with the Yankees for even more money.

Soon after the Dodgers locked up Greinke, they added to the rotation by signing Ryu Hyun-jin. Hyun-jin received a contact of six years worth $36 million. As I previously wrote, the Dodgers already had an investment in Ryu because they had to bid just to have the opportunity to talk with him.

Final Thought
It should be a very exciting time to be a Dodgers fan. The willingness to spend money has been clearly shown by the Los Angeles Dodgers owners and front office. Greinke is a great pitcher who will certainty help them win games. The contact value may be questionable but if Greinke continues to pitch with success, the contact will be well worth it. If Dodgers fans think they are still missing some assets needed to make them a great team, they should not worry. The Los Angeles Dodgers have shown no signs that they are going to stop spending the big money anytime soon. The only real question for the Dodgers is... Who is next?


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dollars & Sense - Twitter and its Trolls

Look at the events from this past weekend.  Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Javon Belcher murdered his girlfriend and later took his own life in front of Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel.  Saint Louis University head men’s basketball coach Rick Majerus passed away due to ongoing heart problems at the age of 64.

Both of those events ranged somewhere in the spectrum of tremendously sad to horrendously tragic.  Both also required an inherent element of care and soul.  Social media, however, shows that many people don’t see stories in that light.  People see these stories as a way to take a cowardly and ignorant shot at an undeserved target behind the protection of a computer screen and an identity unknown to 99.99% of the world.

The positive uses of social media are always in the spotlight. The way that social media can connect people anywhere in the world is unparalleled.  The versatility for business and personal use is being further discovered every single day.  But the negatives can sometimes be forgotten in all of the positives.  And even though social media has done countless good for news stories such as the aforementioned, social media also shows a side of people that would best be never seen.

Twitter in particular is an interesting tool.  In 140 characters or less, people can get a glimpse into the soul of any user.  Sometimes it can be quite pleasant.  Other times it can be downright horrifying. 

All it takes is a simple search on a topic to see the reaction. Take Rick Majerus’ death for example.  He was considered one of the great guys in the college basketball game, but some people still find it alright to comment on his weight (see below).

Should we even take the time to acknowledge this sort of comment?  Maybe not.  But it should serve as a moment to learn about mankind. It should serve as a reminder this is the way some people think.  These are the types of people that are in this crazy world of ours.

In times like this, Twitter can also keep the trolls honest.  CBS Sports, a fine news outlet in many respects, had the gall to post about the fantasy impact of Jovan Belcher’s murder/suicide as details were still being discovered.  As George Okuhara points out below, there should not be a place for this in the world (and we all know that CBS handled the situation poorly during their coverage on Sunday as well).

Of course these are some of the most emotional of situations, but it can be seen even in what is a much more trivial situation.  We know that the Philadelphia Eagles are in the midst of a less than stellar situation to say the least. Leading up to the season, tragic news came out of Eagles training camp at Lehigh that head coach Andy Reid’s son had died in what was later confirmed as a drug overdose.

In two events that are not relatable, fans still take their hatred of Andy Reid to new heights.  Fans constantly attack Reid on the basis of his weight, which is so incredibly superficial it almost pains me to admit that I share the same favorite team as some of these people.  His weight and poor win/loss record this season has prompted an internet movement, “Trim the fat, #FireAndy.”

If that isn’t bad enough, fans have found a way to take this to a new level.  Though the exact tweet in my mind could not be located, I specifically recall one saying in summary that Reid should go die and join his son in hell.  I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

The statement is horrifyingly eloquent in a way of insensitivity and ignorance.  A better explanation of Twitter trolling could not be thought up by the best of us.

What it truly shows though is that the lines of fanhood have been blurred.  Love and hate for a team and its players has gone well beyond the boundaries of the playing field.  It has spilled over into life itself and Twitter gives us a window into how ugly it can truly be. 

I’m not necessarily talking about how these trolls affect the business of sport (although in the case of CBS Sports’ miscues we can see how the business of sport can corrupt some minds).  What I’m talking about here is one of the unintended consequences of the business of sport.  Shedding more and more light on the business has increased fan need for information, and the past examples of Twitter reactions shows the blurring of fanhood and ignorance.

There’s no way to control the trolls. The trolls will always be there. There’s no way to shut the trolls out.  But what we can do is use the trolls as a reminder.  It’s a reminder that we can all be better, and if we’re all trying to better ourselves, then we can make a difference in this world. 

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Stern Fines the Spurs

Everyone by now knows that David Stern fined the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 for sitting key players against the Miami Heat on national television. The Spurs decided to sit Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Danny Green against the Heat. This is a typical move for the Spurs in recent years as they have aged as a basketball team. Stern was highly upset by the decision made by coach Greg Popovich. Stern said that the Spurs, "did a disservice to the league and our fans." He apologized to the fans and said that the "substantial sanctions" would be handed down to the Spurs.

It is easy to understand the anger by Greg Popovich over the fine. Coach Popovich said, "I think the league operates from a business prospective. And I think thats reflective in the action that they took." Popovich is worried about the long term success of his team and showed little concern for how the fans would view the decision.

It must be remembered that the NBA is a business. There is not a better person to remind us of this then Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban. Cuban came out to say that David Stern and NBA were completely right to fine the Spurs. Stern publicly made it seem that he was upset for the fans, but Cuban states the real reason for Stern's frustration. NBA TELEVISION CONTRACTS.

It is all about the money, as usual.

Cuban calls the television contacts the "money train." Cuban says that without the huge contracts from television, the league would not be profitable. The relationship between the league and the networks is vital and must be kept strong. Cuban said about resting the key players, "Resting the stars for the long haul one game earlier, one game later, sure. Resting when you've got our biggest costumer at stake, that's a whole different animal." Cuban later went on to say that he believes the Spurs should have received a more punishing fine.

Final Thought
I understand both points of view in this situation. The Spurs are in the midst of a demanding schedule and needed to give aging stars a night off. The NBA makes its money on television contacts and they do not want to risk that relationship. I believe Greg Popovich was right to sit the players if he believed it would be better in the long run. I also believe the fine was warranted. It is an unfortunate situation, and it would have been more ideal for the Spurs to sit the players for a game that was not nationally televised but Popovich made the move that he thought was best and Stern replied with what he thought was necessary.