Spelling Bee Picks & More Tuesday Sports Biz
Who Will Win This Year's Spelling Bee?
Those who know me or have followed my work in recent years know that, besides specializing in sports business, I know niche sports better than anyone in the country does. It started with my love of the competitive eating circuit and carried over to becoming the top handicapper in the country on the National Spelling Bee.
Last year, while I was still at ESPN, I gave the betting public the top eight spellers. My No. 3 pick Katherine Close won it all and my other picks fared pretty well. So if you want to know who to root for this year, you have it all here for you.
Let me just say that it's very hard to predict the winner in the Spelling Bee because the words are so random, but trust me when I say that one of these kids is going to win. The Bee starts tomorrow, but it really commences on Thursday when ESPN picks up the coverage from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET with the Finals being broadcast live in primetime for the second straight year, from 8 to 10 p.m. ET on ABC. If you are scoring at home, I've included the number that my favorite spellers will wear so that you will know who is who.
One more note before I bring you the list. This year's finals is going to be broadcast by Mike & Mike (Greenberg and Golic), a hosting pair long overdue for an event like this one. The two can only hope to do play-by-play for something remotely close to this, the best moment in Spelling Bee history. Three years ago, eventual runner-up Akshay Buddiga fainted, then got up as if nothing happened and spelled the word "alopecoid," which -- by the way -- doesn't come up in spellchecker.
So here's my Top 10 list:
1. Samir Patel, No. 247
Most of you know that Vitaminwater was purchased by Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion. The folks at Glaceau always pitched the media on the fact that the players believed so much in their brand that instead of a standard endorsement deal, many of the players accepted a stake in the company as the investment.
Well, the New York Post is reporting that David Wright of the New York Mets had a .5 percent stake in the company, which would make Wright's payment on the deal $20.5 million. Wright denied that he'd make that much, but sources tell us that out of all the players that took a stake -- David Ortiz, LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Urlacher, Tracy McGrady -- Wright got the biggest chunk.
If he does make that much off the deal, I believe it will be among the largest single payouts for a single endorsement deal in history. Tiger Woods makes more than $20 million a year from Nike, as does Michael Jordan. From 1999 to 2003, George Foreman received annual payments of $22.7 million in cash from Salton for the rights to use his name on their electric grills in perpetuity.
Although UFC has been big for years, it's hard to deny the fact that the biggest brand in mixed martial arts was enjoying its pinnacle this weekend with the mainstream media publications like ESPN The Mag and Sports Illustrated giving MMA the cover in recent weeks.
But I think the sport, being called the replacement to boxing, laid a big egg on Saturday night as its champion Chuck Liddell went down in 1 minute and 53 seconds to Quinton Jackson on Saturday night. And that wasn't even the shortest fight of the night. Some guy named Houston Alexander knocked out his opponent Keith Jardine in 48 seconds.
If I were a first time UFC consumer who bought Pay-Per-View for $39.95 and saw this happen, I'd never order UFC again. Some choose to see it differently, believing that Jackson -- nicknamed the "Rampage" -- is more marketable and has a better personality than Liddell. That makes the victory at this point in the sport's development even more important.
Bonds & Hall Of Fame
Barry Bonds made news over the weekend by saying that he doesn't know what he'll donate to the Baseball Hall of Fame when he breaks the all-time home run record. "I'm not worried about the Hall," Bonds said. "I take care of me."
Here's a message to Barry that I'm sure he doesn't want to hear: you actually don't own your jerseys and helmets. That's property of Major League Baseball and the team, unless you are buying them before you put them on before every game.
NFL Steps Down
You might have read that the NFL is no longer trying to trademark the general phrase, "The Big Game," thanks to opposition from the likes of Stanford and Cal and even many corporations. But that doesn't mean anyone who is not an official sponsor of the NFL or the Super Bowl will be able to use "The Big Game" at will.
Sources tell CNBC that the league will likely re-file for a trademark, but this time will register the mark only in reference to the Super Bowl, which was the intent all along. Even without the trademark, the league asserts that it has shown -- through cease-and-desist letters -- that it already owns the right to enforce the association.
Pick a Vice
With Dario Franchitti winning the Indianapolis 500 in his Canadian Club car, it marked the fifth time in the past six years that an Indy 500 winner has had a "vice" brand closely associated with his car. Gil De Ferran (2003), Helio Castroneves (2002) and Sam Hornish Jr. (2006) all drove in Marlboro cars, while Dan Wheldon (2005) had Jim Beam as his associate sponsor, receiving secondary billing only to Klein Tools. Canadian Club is a whisky that is part of the Beam portfolio of drinks.
How a Spurs-Pistons Finals Would Rate
I'm thinking the Pistons will go up 3-1 tonight with the Spurs already leading three games to one. You might remember that I commented that a Pistons-Spurs Finals would be a doozy, but I should note that ratings for both teams on national television have actually increased since the 2004-05 season. Ratings for the Spurs appearances are up 38 percent on ABC, while Pistons games on the network are up 6 percent.
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