Thursday, August 29, 2013

Broken News - ESPN and NFL Falling Together?

All good things must come to an end.  We know that, even if we are in denial.  That's why Hannah Montana came to an end and gave us Twerkin' Miley Cyrus.  Or at least that's why I think it happened.

Anyway, the NFL and ESPN are both monsters at the top of their industries.  The NFL tops sports leagues and ESPN tops sports media.  It just so happens that the two are also partnered in the top sports media rights deal on the planet with nearly $2 billion of ESPN's hard-earned cash going straight into Roger Goodell's deep pockets for Monday Night Football rights.  Though the cash is going out, it's also coming back in as MNF is ESPN's highest revenue generating property.

Convenient, eh?  ESPN's parent company, Disney, must be so proud.

Both ESPN and the NFL have risen to their seemingly unreachable heights over the past 40 years or so.  I know, it's hard to remember a time when the NFL wasn't king.  Same with ESPN.

Although ESPN and the NFL may be at the top of their industries, both are deeply flawed properties.  ESPN -- who controversially pulled out of a collaboration with PBS Frontline that tackles the concussion issue in football -- has struggled through a bipolar relationship with entertainment and journalism.  They are only solely one when it's inconvenient to call themselves the other which is the case with their now severed relationship with PBS.  Their journalism has taken a major step back, so they're claiming entertainment.

Aside from that, ESPN is dealing with more pressure from viewers than ever to show more highlights and less useless B.S. (note: not referring to Bill Simmons).  Regardless viewers feel like they're getting more B.S. than ever.  So as they try to keep their journalism from butting heads with the properties they hold rights to, their entertainment may actually be struggling too.  Did Aaron Sorkin write this script?

The NFL has issues of its own.  And we're not talking about potentially having pressured ESPN out of the PBS documentary.  We're talking about concussions.  Head trauma.  A lawsuit with nearly 5,000 former players over issues with concussions.  The more you read the more bleak it looks for the NFL as settlement day will eventually come.

It all makes me wonder, will the inevitable fall of the NFL be tied to the inevitable fall of ESPN, or vice versa?  This may sound crazy, but remember, all good things must come to an end.  Nothing lasts forever.  I'm not saying that the NFL or ESPN will be gone tomorrow.  They will likely last far past the rest of my lifetime.

Think about it, though.  Take a moment to think about where ESPN and the NFL will be in the year, say, 2113?

When there are issues to be investigated, people tell you to follow the money.  In the case of the NFL and ESPN, the money leads directly to one another.  The issues are already present and the dots are already being connected.  Will ESPN and the NFL eventually fall together?  It's an answer that may not be so much good as it is true.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi

Monday, August 26, 2013

McGrady Retires.... From the NBA

After a sixteen year NBA career, Tracy McGrady has decided to retire from the NBA. It is important to make the distinction between retiring from basketball and retiring from the NBA. McGrady is keeping his options open when it comes to playing basketball again. After announcing his retirement on ESPN's "First Take," McGrady was asked if he would consider returning to China to play. McGrady responded "Officially retired from the NBA. Door's still open."

Tracy McGrady had a long and very successful career in the NBA. McGrady who was drafted out of high school played for seven NBA teams that included Toronto, Orlando, Houston, New York, Detroit, Atlanta and San Antonio.

McGrady was an NBA all-star every season from the 2001 season until the 2007 season. He averaged 19.6 points per game for his career, but that doesn't truly describe how good Tracy was in some seasons. In the 2002-2003 season while playing with the Magic, McGrady averaged 32.1 points per game. McGrady's success on the court paid off for him.

During his NBA career, McGrady's career earnings in salary totaled nearly $163 million. McGrady's single season high salary was $23,239,562. He earned this in the 2009-2010 season while on the Knicks roster. McGrady not only earned significant money through playing contracts, but he also was the beneficiary of endorsement deals. When first entering the league, McGrady signed a six year, $12 million dollar contact with Adidas.

Final Thought
Tracy McGrady should be known as a great NBA player. Unfortunately McGrady never had real team success. McGrady also unfortunately had to deal with injury problems, especially late in his career. If McGrady can stay healthy, I hope he can continue playing basketball wherever that may be.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Broken News: Former NFL Player Davis to Head You Can Play

There was some news that came out earlier this week that you may not have heard about, or cared about.  Sports news, that it.  This news is unlikely to have popped up on your score ticker and unfortunately did not break through A-Rod’s stranglehold on the media spotlight.  No, you probably missed it.  But it is important – very important – news that you need to know.

Wade Davis has been named Executive Director of You Can Play.

Davis played in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans and Washington.  After struggling to make it through training camp and off of the practice squad, Davis retired due to injury.  After his playing career was over, Davis came out publicly that he is gay.
Even though he was finished with the NFL, he did not let the status of being a former professional athlete go to waste.  Davis started a media company, InMotion, and has enjoyed a career as an LGBT activist.  He has had work published on websites like Outsports, Huffington Post, and New York Times.  Davis has spent nearly three years working with inner-city LGBT youth.

Patrick Burke is the brain behind You Can Play.  Burke, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers, put the idea into motion in 2011 after his openly gay brother, Brendan, was killed in a car accident.  Burke wanted to continue the legacy that his brother had begun.

Since 2011, You Can Play has become one of the most well-known activist organizations for the LGBT community in sports.  They counseled Toronto Blue Jays’ shortstop Yunel Escobar after he wrote a homophobic slur on his eye-black.  You Can Play has also begun a groundbreaking partnership with the NHL to provide training and seminars in various LGBT related areas.

Over the past year, You Can Play has been linked in a mentoring role to a group of potentially four professional athletes that were planning on coming out at the same time. 
Although he is stepping down as the public head of You Can Play, Burke will remain heavily involved in the organization’s planning and vision.  Davis, Burke says, is the only man he would trust in the position.

The news may not have made your radar, but it should have.  It’s important – very important – news.  What Burke has accomplished in a little over two years is remarkable and the room for growth is still tremendous.  In order to continue improving the climate for the LGBT community in sports, groups like You Can Play are invaluable.  Like it or not, with leagues partnering with LGBT activist groups, the conversation is here to stay.

Now it is up to Wade Davis to continue the conversation that Patrick Burke started.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dollars & Sense - Will Washington Ever Change Their Nickname?

The football team in Washington has a racist nickname.  Really there's no way around it.  Well, of course, it's only racist if you think about it.  And when you think about it, you probably have an image of the skinned skull of a Native American or of the outwardly racist former owner, George Preston Marshall, or some combination of both.  Yes, this is the same Marshall that was the last owner to integrate his football team in 1962 and only did so because the league stepped in.

Some contend that the nickname is to honor the Native Americans and their fighting attitude.  This seems to be a bit disillusioned and a Hail Mary pass to save the name in the face of public outrage.

Hail to the Pigskins!In Dan Snyder's defense, it's tough to toy with a brand that was recently valued at $1.7 billion by Forbes.  But, you know, sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same. 

Either way, tough decision or not, the name is racist.  The name needs to change. Let's be honest with ourselves; enough is enough.

Enough is exactly what many mainstream media outlets are saying to Washington's nickname.  Slate is the latest media outlet to join in a a boycott on using the nickname.  The New Republic and Mother Jones also followed suit.  The team will now be known as "the football team from Washington."  Heck, the nickname is even on the list of words band from the National Scrabble Championship that used to air on ESPN. 

So how much is a team's nickname -- their brand, if you will -- really worth?  ESPN's Peter Keating recently wrote about this, and below is a quote from his article:

It might seem that the Redskins, who have represented our nation's capital for nearly 80 years, have a uniquely powerful brand. But pro football teams get most of their value from the sport they play (62 percent, Forbes says) and the market they're in (17.4 percent). Just 6.5 percent, on average, comes from their brand equity -- the value teams get from fans being able to identify with individual franchises. Put an NFL team in DC and it would be worth more than $1 billion even if you called it the Washington Smallpox.
This is pretty major research considering how much emphasis we put on the importance of a team name (Exhibit A: New Orleans Pelicans). But, nonetheless, it shows that there are much much bigger factors into a team's value.

Many people shy away from talking about changing the name because, well, that means they need to come up with a new one.  Everybody is trying to avoid a Pelicans-esque catastrophe.  Personally, I think that Pigskins is a viable candidate.  It's a perfect candidate at least until Liberals start trying to protect pigs (Hint: If you are trying to argue for or against something, never bring up Liberal or Conservative agendas.  It makes you look like a conspiracy theorist and lose all credibility.)

So as owner Dan Snyder continues to live in his money-filled bigoted world -- "you can use caps" -- it may be coming time to change the name.  The financial hit won't be as big as Snyder or his supporters "estimate" in the press.  Changing the name is a long-term move for society and for the team.  As the number of media and people refusing to use the nickname grows, the number will sure exceed the number of those refusing to continue supporting the team if the name changes.

The time is now to change the nickname of the football team in Washington.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dollars & Sense - Numbers Don't Add Up For NCAA

I know, I know. This is usually a space reserved for professional sports, not "amateur" sports. However, some of the so called "amateur" sports make money. A lot of money, to be somewhat exact. But happens when you try to up the jig when the jig is already up? Well, you get this little organization called the NCAA.

Throughout the offseason, the media has become fixated on Johnny Football. Really it's quite graphic. They seem more willing to talk about Johnny's tendency to sip a Stella Artois than Johnny's tendency to win football games and, you know, the Heisman trophy. It doesn't even matter that Johnny's last name is actually Manziel - errr, I think - and that Johnny Manziel is human being.

Nope, he's just a recently felled carcass ripe for the feasting.

That's why when paired with his recent run-in with the egregiously overbearing NCAA rule book, I still kind of feel bad for Manziel.  Yes, he broke a rule (read: a stupid rule) by allegedly accepting money for autographs. And yea, breaking rules is bad.  But sometimes it takes somebody of Manziel's stature to show us how bad the rules really are.

(Related: No matter your view on Manziel, Wright Thompson's take on Johnny Football is worth your time.)

One of the angles that has been taken by some, ahem, journalists has been focused on Manziel's family money. Why does Manziel need the money if his family is already filthy-oil-rich? [*Checks current location; still in America*] If the same, ahem, journalists are so outraged by Manziel's greed, then maybe they need to take a quick look around our countries landscape and realize greed's prominence in our culture. Whether you believe that to be right or wrong, it's omnipresent nonetheless.
Johnny Manziel is only eight months removed from taking home the
Heisman Trophy, but his world has been turned upside down. (ESPN)

Anyway, back to the real point here. Manziel's alleged actions show a major injustice within the NCAA rules. Sure, many of us knew that these injustices existed, but maybe some of us needed a little reminder by perhaps the most famous and polarizing college athlete of right now getting caught in one of those infamous unjust NCAA scandals.


How much longer can the NCAA hang on to its profit-mongering ways? The O'Bannon case is in full swing, and the case by the current and former players involved is looking stronger and stronger by the day. Certainly not helping the NCAA's case is that the public perception of the organization tanks every time it goes after a player or botches one of its one investigations.

Perhaps one of the most obvious examples of NCAA profiteering is in its jersey sales. Year after year, the NCAA sells jerseys from each of the schools and with certain numbers and no names (obviously).  However, the numbers just so happen to match the numbers of the prominent and most popular players at each school. Hmm, something seems a bit too fishy here. Do you really believe that the No. 2 Texas A&M jersey hanging in the window of your local sporting goods store isn't Johnny Manziel and it just so happens to be a randomly selected number?

Right. It almost feels like our intelligence is being insulted.

Well, ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas was tired of his intelligence being insulted by the all-to-convenient jersey numbers (he's a lawyer too, so we know what happens when you insult them).

On Tuesday he took to Twitter and  Over a series of tweets throughout the day, Bilas tweeted out screenshots of what comes up when you search certain players in the site's search bar.  Needless to say, the results were astounding.

You can check out his timeline to see for yourself. My personal favorite was when he search for former LSU safety Tyrann Mathieu, the same Tyrann Mathieu that had been SUSPENDED by the NCAA last season for failed drug tests, and his jersey still came up.
Later in the day, the NCAA disabled the search feature on the site.

Bilas's work completely undermines the NCAA's spoken stance on the issue.  They are defending themselves in the O'Bannon suit partially under the idea that a No. 2 Texas A&M jersey is simply a No. 2 Texas A&M jersey and not a Johnny Manziel jersey.  Getting off on the technicality that there is no name on the back looses its footing when you can find a No. 2 Texas A&M jersey on by entering "Johnny Manziel" in the search bar.

As the NCAA continues investigating the case against Johnny Manziel, remember that the NCAA has also racked up quite the case against themselves.  The hypocrisy is as transparent as ever and widespread change seems to be on the doorstep of college athletics.  If there's one person that knows all about the NCAA hypocrisy it's Johnny Manziel because we all know that he didn't earn the nickname Johnny Football by going to math class.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Alex Rodriguez Set To Lose More Than Salary

Major League Baseball handed down some impacting punishments for many players on Monday stemming from the Biogensis performance-enhancing drug scandal. The biggest name being suspended was Yankee third baseman, Alex Rodriguez. After frequent denial of drug use, Rodriguez was suspended for the remainder of this season and all of the 2014 season. It is likely that he will be able to play some more games this year as the appeal process takes time to complete.

If the suspension is upheld Alex Rodriguez will lose considerable dollars in salary. It is projected that Rodriguez is set to lose anywhere between $30.6 million and $32.7 million. Although this is a significant loss for any person, Rodriguez will be able to handle the financial hit better than most people.

Alex Rodriguez will lose more than just his salary with his suspension. Rodriguez was not a well-liked athlete before the scandal broke. In fact, Forbes magazine ranked Alex Rodriguez in the top ten list for most disliked athletes in 2013. With the news of the suspension, fan support for Alex Rodriguez will be expected to fall further. For a player that has already made hundreds of millions of dollars, image must mean something.

Final Thought
Alex Rodriguez has proven that his image as a player and a person are important too him. If Rodriguez willingly took a risk by taking performance enhancing drugs, he clearly cares what others think of him. Rodriguez has a guaranteed contract and he knew how much money he could potentially be risking by trying to remain a dominant player in baseball.

I believe that performance-enhancing drugs provided Major League Baseball with years of success. Exciting players appeared all around the league and they were able to set records that previously seemed untouchable. Rodriguez was a part of this exciting era in baseball and I honestly can't blame him for using the drugs. The unfortunate decision for Alex Rodriguez was the continual denial of his use of the drugs. Had Rodriguez stopped using PEDs once baseball started to get serious about the situation, many fans around the league would have better understood the situation. Alex Rodriguez now faces over a year suspension that could potentially cost him a lot of money and any brand equity that he had left.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Broken News - NASCAR Leaves ESPN for NBC Sports

A lot of people love NASCAR.  A lot of people really don't understand the point of watching cars drive in circles.  No mater which end of the straightaway that you stand on, all you need to know is this: half of a NASCAR season is worth a 10-year $4.4 billion television contract.

Yes, that's right.  $440 million per year for the second half of the season's races.  That's what NBC is paying NASCAR.  The first half of the season isn't cheap either; Fox has those rights wrapped up for eight years and $2.4 billion.

However, the focus has been on the recent deal with NBC.  Amazingly, the focus isn't (or at least shouldn't) be on the incredible price tag.  Live sports rights have been ballooning for years.  We're used to that by now, I think.

The focus should be on with whom the deal was made.  Making a deal with NBC Sports Network, the same NBC Sports Network that has had well-documented issues growing since its inception, is a curious decision.  Even more curious is the fact that NASCAR is leaving ESPN to do so.

Sure, the deal allowed NASCAR to increase its media rights dollars by nearly 30-percent.  But what about the lost value in media attention.  ESPN is the chief provider of said media attention.  Why jeopardize that valuable media attention for the sake of a cash-grab?

According to Deadspin, NASCAR garnered 2.1-percent of Sportscenter's coverage last year. That places NASCAR ahead of soccer's 1.3-percent and behind the NHL's 2.7-percent.  We have watched the NHL's coverage on ESPN outlets diminish year by year since the league left ESPN for NBC.

Could NASCAR be headed down a similar path as the NHL?

Scary is that it very well could be, and it's already near the bottom.  With soccer growing, it is conceivable that NASCAR's coverage could fall and soccer's could rise.  Trending downwards coming off of record television deals is not a territory that any league wants to find themselves in.

There are still 14 Nationwide races and three Spring Cup races left in NASCAR's inventory arsenal.  Of course, third place is likely not where ESPN would like to find itself behind NBC and Fox, but a consolation prize could potentially become very important to the long-term health of NASCAR.  Keeping ESPN in the action, as little as it may be, would be the best way to begin to mitigate the potential media loss that NASCAR could face.

A saving grace for NASCAR on the media front could be the level of success that Fox Sports 1 attains.  If FS1 is able to put a chink in ESPN's overpowering armor, then the move may not end so poorly.  Also, this could be the deal that puts NBC Sports on the map, though I wouldn't hold my breath.

Simple fact is that ESPN does not need NASCAR, but NASCAR may very well need ESPN.  The calculated risk that NASCAR is taking to speed past ESPN to a new co-home at NBC Sports just does not seem to add up.  NASCAR still has a chance to keep ESPN in the picture, and they would be wise to do so in order to keep their name in the mouths of the most dominant media outlet.

The caution flag is out on NASCAR, and they would much rather see the green flag in the media than the red flag.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.