Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dollars & Sense - Women in the Media

This past week has been huge for women's sports everywhere.  But, we are not talking about all women's sport leagues like the LPGA Tour or the WNBA.  Oh no.  We are talking about women taking over the male leagues.  In fact women are taking over some of the most male dominated leagues in all of sports: the UFC and NASCAR.

Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche

On Saturday night, the UFC made history by holding their first women's title fight.  Ronda Rousey came in as the women's bantomweight title holder and faced challenger Liz Carmouche.  Rousey came in as quite possibly the biggest women's MMA name and certainly one of the most successful.  With the title and undefeated record on the line, the ladies made a thrilling debut.  Rousey ended up retaining the belt with a submission by her signature armbar in the first round.

UFC 157 was held at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA.  The Honda Center was near its capacity (around 18,000) selling a reported 15,525 tickets for a total gate revenue of $1.4 million.  According to, Saturday's event was the most tickets sold out of the six UFC events ever held at the Honda Center.  The only one with a higher return in terms of gate revenue was UFC 121 which featured Brock Lesner and Cain Velasquez.

Official PPV numbers are not released yet, and though it will not be the UFC's best showing, it should have garnered solid numbers based off of the number of tickets sold.

(Here is a good read from USA Today on how Ronda Rousey has changed women's MMA whether she wanted to or not.)

Even in a loss, Carmouche was not to be outdone.  In competing, Carmouche has become the first openly gay fighter to fight in the UFC.  UFC President Dana White came out in support of not just Carmouche, but LGBT fighters in general.  In a press conference leading up to UFC 157, White said that there should not be an issue if a fighter did come out but if fighters were giving a hard time, White would fix it.  

Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick has been blazing autoracing trails now for years.  First it was in open wheel racing, now she competes in the closed confines of NASCAR's Nationwide and Sprint Cup series'.  

The Daytona 500 is a historic race for any driver no matter what age, race, sex, or orientation.  However, there were many things that a woman had never done before in the sport's biggest race.  Patrick succeeded in becoming the first woman to win the pole after the qualifying rounds a week earlier.  During the race, she became the first woman to lead a lap not just in the Daytona 500, but in NASCAR's top series.  

Patrick ended up finishing eighth at Daytona, but that is no disappointing feat.  The Daytona 500 is a race that takes experience to navigate.  Although she started on the poll, a top-ten finish is extremely impressive.  

The fans certainly noticed her impact as well.  This year's running of the Daytona 500 pulled in a 10.0 TV rating, the highest rated Daytona 500 since 2006.


Barriers in all sports are being broken down and the media is taking notice.  Sports can sometimes lag behind the rest of the world in terms of social perspective and thinking, but there seems to be a shift in time to where people other than straight men are getting their due respect.  

We are in a time where the LGBT community and the women are making noise.  You have two choices: 1) You can simply ignore it and continue to think that sports are only for men or 2) You can get with the times and realize that men and women can produce equally incredible feats in athletics regardless of sexual orientation or race or age. The media is taking notice and so should you.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Brady Extension Seems About Right

Tom Brady has agreed to a three year extension that will keep him in New England through 2017. The extension almost ensures that Brady will play his entire career with the same organization. It is extremely rare in the age of free agency that a player can stay with one team throughout his career. Tom Brady has meant a lot to the Patriots organization, but make no mistake the Patriots have compensated him fairly for his work.

Brady is in the midst of a five year deal that was worth over $70 million dollars. The new three year extension will pay Tom Brady a total of $27 million dollars. All guaranteed. Brady will receive a $3 million dollar signing bonus. The 2015 season will pay Brady $7 million. In 2016 he will earn $8 million, and the 2017 season will earn Tom Brady $9 million. Although Brady will have guaranteed money for the rest of his career, he probably could have had more. Reports say that the extension will free $15 million of salary cap space for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

Brady should be commended for taking less money then he probably could have earned in the free market. Some comparable quarterbacks  include Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Rodgers is currently getting paid on the moderate side. He is in a six year contract that has a value of over $63 million. The contact will expire after the 2014 season. It is assumed that Rodgers will receive a long term deal with high value when his contact expires if for some reason the Packers do not try and lock him up with a long term extension. Peyton Manning is an older quarterback, like Brady. Manning is getting paid much more than Brady will. Manning is going to make $20 million for the next two seasons and then $19 million for the 2015 and 2016 season. Brees is in a deal that he signed that would pay him $100 million over five seasons.

Looking at the numbers would lead one to believe that Brady could have received more money. Brady has made it clear that he wants to play until age 40 and stay with the Patriots. The contract extension ensures both of these will happen.

Final Thought
It is clear that the Patriots did the right thing by locking up the franchise quarterback through his career. Although Brady could have made a little more money if he looked into free agency, it would probably have hurt his public image. No one wants to see an old quarterback leave the team that he has played with his entire career for a few extra dollars. At this point of Brady's career this deal made sense.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dollars & Sense - ESPN Announces "Nine for IX" Series

Criticism of ESPN has been building greatly over the past few years.  As their daily shows move away from highlights and analysis in favor of the new gimmicky debate format (which I for one have been critical of), it can be tough to remember that the Worldwide Leader is the Worldwide Leader for a reason.  

Even as their journalistic integrity has been questioned as well, their shows and programs that highlight their journalism have been incredibly solid.  Outside the Lines.  E:60.  Their 30 for 30 series.  All have been fantastic with OTL being perhaps their strongest journalistic endeavor. 

The 30 for 30 series was launched in 2009 and was another of Bill Simmons' big ideas (also the brainchild and editor behind Grantland).  Bringing together big name directors and big time sports stories, 30 for 30 gives a documentary style feel to some of the biggest stories of sports past and present.  In the latter half of 2012, 30 for 30 extended their footprint to 30 for 30 Shorts, which air on Grantland as 10-15 minute films.

Now that footprint will be extended even further with ESPN announcing Nine for IX, a 30 for 30 style series documenting nine stories on Title IX.  The series will begin on July 2nd with Robin Roberts and Jane Rosenthal serving as the series' executive producers.  Watch the trailer for the series here.

The nine stories are titled: "Venus Vs." "Pat XO" "The Diplomat" "No Limits" "Branded" "The '99ers" "Let Them Wear Towels" "Runner" "Swoopes"

This is a great initiative for ESPN.  Anytime that the sports world can get more of a gender balance in the stories they hear is a positive.  Do I think that this series will have some widespread impact on the industry?  No.  But I do think that the more people that hear these remarkable stories of these remarkable women, the better.

With the 30 for 30 brand expanding to the Nine for IX series, Bill Simmons' worth to ESPN is further expanded as well.  Already thought to be one of the top three paid talents at ESPN (Chris Berman and Rick Reilly round out the top three), Simmons continues to prove that he is well worth the investment.  

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Monday, February 18, 2013

NBA All-Star Game TV Ratings

On Sunday night the NBA had very solid TV ratings for the 2013 All-Star Game. The game followed a traditional format of NBA All-Star games. The first three quarters were centered around putting on a show for the fans. This includes big time dunks, no defense, a lot of three point jump shots and an emphasis on keeping everyone healthy. The last quarter picks up in intensity. Although players may not be going "all out", they seem to start trying to win the basketball game.

This years game in Huston was won by the western conference. The west can thank the MVP, Chris Paul, for putting a performance together that helped them win the game. Paul scored 20 points while dishing out 15 assists. Some other highlights of the game included Kobe blocking LeBron a couple times at the end of the game.

The television viewership for the All-Star game was a 4.6. This means that 4.6% of U.S. households were watching the game. This number represents a 13% increase from last year's game. Although this number seems rather impressive, it is important to note that last years game was played during the Academy Awards. Obvious viewership was lost due to this fact. This years rating is impressive though compared to recent history. Since 2005, this years All-Star game was the second highest rated game. 

The television markets that most viewed the game shouldn't come as a surprise to most NBA fans. The number one television market was Miami with a 12.6 rating. This is no surprise consider the Heat had the big three (James, Wade, and Bosh) as starters in the game and their coach leading the east. Following Miami in television ratings was San Antonio (9.9 rating), Memphis (9.7 rating), Los Angeles (9.4) and Oklahoma City (8.9 rating). All of these cities saw players from their home team in the All-Star game.

Final Thought
Although I would like to see the NBA All-Star game more competitive throughout the entire game, I enjoyed watching. The fourth quarter seemed like mostly genuine basketball. It is obvious that avoiding injury is a key component to the game, as it should be. 

After Major League Baseball made the change in their All-Star game allowing the winning league to have home field advantage in the world series, I became much more interested in watching. Baseball also has an advantage in the nature of the game. It is more difficult to give less than full effort playing baseball than basketball. In basketball, players can do creative dunks with the defense allowing them to do so. In a baseball game, the pitchers are not going to lob the baseball so a player can hit it out of the park. As far as implementing a rule that the winning conference of the NBA All-Star game could have home court in the NBA Finals, I think it would be interesting. This would force players to give 100% effort during the game. I wouldn't mind seeing that.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dollars & Sense - LGBT is Dominating Sports Media

The sports world tends to err on the side of conservative, and when you look at the figureheads of the industry it all makes sense.  Owners and players are perhaps the most visible people within an organization and naturally the ones earning the most money.  Given the conservative nature of sports, as a whole it tends to lag behind the rest of the United States in values and beliefs.  

Lately, the LGBT movement has been rocking the sports media world.  Sometimes the ugly, backwards side of the movement comes out -- ahem, Chris Culliver (ironically the San Francisco 49ers put together a video for It Gets Better prior to the season).  But a lot of it has been positive, and that's a great sign for the movement.

It started during Super Bowl week.  Although Culliver's comments unfortunately garnered more media attention, Ravens' linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo stood up for the cause.  As an NFL player and as a straight, biracial human being, Ayanbadejo's views matter.  He is an outspoken leader on an issue that splits NFL locker rooms.  For more on his fight, check out Frank Bruni's piece in the NY Times.

(Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe is known for speaking out for LGBT rights as well.)

As the Super Bowl wrapped up, Chuck Culpepper of Sports on Earth decided that this was his chance to speak out.  Being gay sportswriter in a sports world dominated by homophobia and masculinity is a challenge that Culpepper documents in tremendous fashion in a column a week ago.  It was courageous and touching as he documents saying thank you to Ayanbadejo for his work towards the movement.

Although the Super Bowl is now history, the LGBT movement has remained in the news.  Most notably, Kobe Bryant spoken out on Twitter and denouncing those using hateful slurs.  Here is his tweet earlier in the week:

Perhaps the thing that I love the most about his response is that he actually addressed the issue at hand: the use of "gay" in a derogatory sense.  Many people would have attacked the statement on grounds of the "your" as we all know is the incorrect form.  Coming from a guy like Kobe who is typically introverted and also has been in the media over for using a derogatory terms, it was impressive to see him speak out against this.

( also commended Kobe for what he did.)

Kobe is not the only athlete that is outwardly speaking out against those exuding hateful behavior and impeding the progress of the movement.  Earlier in the week, Dave Zirin of The Nation tweeted out a link to the You Can Play Project website.  The You Can Play Project highlights videos of of athletes and teams of athletes taking a stand against LGBT discrimination.  

As a nation, we are not where we are as a country on this important social issue.  But people are talking about it.  Importantly, the sports world and its media - the world that so often lags well behind the rest of us - is talking about it.  As we work towards a world of equality for all - where "gay marriage" is simply seen as "marriage" like it should be - let us all do our part for the cause even if that means just staying educated on the topic.


Here also are two videos from last year from Amy K. Nelson of SB Nation talking first to Jamie Kuntz (who was kicked off of his college football team after kissing his boyfriend) and the second to Wade Davis (who came out after playing in the NFL).   

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Monday, February 11, 2013

King Felix Getting Paid.... Like a King

It was reported last week the Felix Hernandez was going to sign the biggest contract for any pitcher in history. A seven year extension that would pay him $175 million.

The deal has been put on hold for now because of an issue in Felix's pitching elbow. It has not been determined what is wrong with Felix's elbow. It is possible that the issue is related to regular problems that pitchers face by being a regular starter. It is also possible that the issue is serious. Either way the issue has held up finalizing the deal.

In an era were pitchers and players in general are receiving contracts that are not only high in value, but long in length, it is important for teams to protect there investment. Recent examples have shown teams making sure money is not being wasted. CC Sabathia has an option on his contract for the year 2017. The contact language does a good job of making sure he will be able to play. The contracts says that the $25 million scheduled for 2017 will only be guaranteed if CC does not end the 2016 season on the disabled list with a left shoulder injury, does not spend more than 45 days on the disabled list due to a left shoulder injury in 2016 or if he does not make more than six relief appearances in 2016 due to a left shoulder injury. If any of those conditions are violated, CC may not recieve the $25 million. Some injuries have forced teams to not take a player at all.
The Chicago Cubs were all set to acquire pitcher Dan Haren in a trade. The Angels were going to recieve reliever Carlos Marmol. The Cubs decided to back out of the deal because of an apparent hip problem for Dan Haren.

For Hernandez, the contract will not be rushed. Hernandez still has two years remaining on his current deal.

Final Thought
It is no surprise to anyone that the Mariners have not been great in recent year. Locking up Hernandez for the long term is a necessary move for the team. It is necessary for the Mariners to get more competitive, especially now. The Seattle sports scene is expected to get a little more crowded with the former Sacramento Kings on the move to Seattle. If the Mariners do not want to become over looked in the city they must play competitive baseball. Locking up one of the best pitchers in the game today for the long haul will be vital for the Mariners success.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dollars & Sense - Sports Media Debate Rages On

ESPN’s critics have never been louder.  From legitimate journalists writing about the lack of journalistic integrity that the “Worldwide Leader” has to casual fans simply fed up with ESPN’s rouses, the criticism is out there. 

The show that takes the brunt of the criticism for ESPN is First Take, the debate show that places the polarizing-yet-mainly-despised Skip Bayless against Steven A. Smith (Or is that DeionSanders? Or Leon Sandcastle?).  It is controversial because it is at the forefront of the network’s increasing reliance of debate over some good old fashioned highlights.

First Take has stood by their format and has continued to embrace the debate.  They have been criticized for their infatuation with Tim Tebow (so has the network as a whole) and their ability to somehow bring him into everything.  However, it is hard to defend journalistic integrity with this on the television set:

This is where the team of Richard Deitsch (SI) and Josh Koblin (Deadspin) comes in.  Yesterday they challenged Jamie Horowitz (First Take’s producer) and Skip Bayless to a debate about the show’s debates.  Both have been strong opponents to what ESPN has consistently defended as authentic debate.

Whether ESPN allows Horowitz and Bayless to accept the challenge is a completely different story, but it got me thinking, do you embrace the debate?  ESPN was my go-to growing up, but it has changed dramatically.  It is impossible to watch Sportscenter and get consistent highlights anymore.  Most of the time is spent with theatrics, speculation, bad to awful DJ remixes, and protection of media/league partners.  Nowadays, I only really watch ESPN for Outside the Lines or for live games.  Want highlights these days?  Watch The Lights on NBC Sports Network.

It all comes down to what you think ESPN should be as a network.  Should it serve the wants and needs of the avid fans that the network was built on in 1970?  Should it serve the casual fan that may be looking for the quick fix of sports news to talk about around the water cooler regardless of whether the news is hard hitting or not? 

The first option makes the true viewers (albeit smaller in number) happy, while the second option brings in ratings.  It is a tough spot for sure.  For now, we will wait on a debate about phony debates and an embracing of the debate culture.

We want to hear your voice! What are your thoughts on the path that ESPN is headed as a network?  Do you find any shows or entire parts of their business completely unbearable?  Share in the comments section.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Lights Go Out On Super Bowl Ratings

Well not exactly the moment the NFL was predicting on the biggest stage in sports.

After a dominating first half for the Ravens, they expanded the lead with a kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half. It looked like this game was going to be a blowout. Then the moment that will define this Super Bowl in the years to come......

The lights went out.

It was a very strange moment. After a few minutes of confusion, the viewers were informed of the situation. After a lengthy 34 minute delay, the game resumed but changed drastically. As the lights in the stadium turned on, the 49ers turned it on. They battled back and had a good chance to take the lead late in the game. After a controversial no call, the Ravens held on for the win.

While I was waiting for the delay to be over, all I could think about was how many viewers would turn off the game for good. The game was not close, so how long would the viewers be willing to wait in a delay? Would viewers comeback when they saw the game was getting close? Lets take a look.

An average of 108.4 million people watched the game. This number is extraordinary, but it is down from the previous two Super Bowls. In 2011, an average of 111 million people watched the game. In 2012, the number increased to 111.4 million people.

Although the viewers were down from last year, advertisers should be happy. CBS reported that the game was sampled by 164.1 million people this is up from last year's 159.2 million people. The viewers who "sample" a game are those viewers who watched at least six minutes. Advertisers will be thrilled with this number, and they should. This year Super Bowl advertisements averaged between $3.8 million and $4 million per 30 second ad.

It appears that those who turned off the game during the light delay, tuned back in for the end of the game. The final minutes of the game had the highest average viewers with 113.9 million people watching.

Final Thought
The NFL got extremely lucky in this game. After a terrible first half, the problems for the league got worse. After a long delay due to the lights, they could have lost a lot of viewers. The NFL got bailed out by a great 49er comeback. They got bailed out once again when the officials failed to call holding on a critical 4th down play at the end of the game. Had the officials called holding and the 49ers went on to score and win the game, controversy about the lights destroying the momentum of the game would be a top news story. Roger Goodell has reason to be a happy commissioner.