Monday SportsBiz Roundup

Near Historic Domination


Tomorrow is the NBA Draft Lottery. It is designed to give teams who had a bad season a better future and turn their fortunes around, thus giving their fans hope. It is designed to make sure the league doesn't have the same teams competing for the championship every year.

Well, despite the fact that LeBron James has Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals, the lottery apparently isn't doing enough. I don't know how you define parity, but I define it as 'amount of teams that win championships in a certain period of time.'

Near Historic Domination

Right now, the San Antonio Spurs and the Detroit Pistons are favorites to be in the Finals. If either of them win, it will mean that only six different teams have won titles over the past 21 seasons. That's right, since the 1986-87 season, only six teams -- the Bulls, Lakers, Spurs, Pistons, Rockets and Heat has won it all.

Compare that to the NHL, which has had 11 champions over that time period, the NFL, which has had 12 champions in that time and Major League Baseball: an amazing 15 different champions, including a new champion in each of the last six years.

Only six winners in 21 seasons would actually be the second worst parity of any league in the modern era -- just behind the NHL from 1967 (you can't really start counting before then) to 1988, when only the Canadiens, Bruins, Flyers, Islanders and Oilers won.

This span of 21 seasons would beat out the span of 1956-1977. That's when the Boston Celtics won an amazing 11 times, but six other teams won championships during that period. It also beats out the period from 1936 to 1956, when the New York Yankees won 13 times. Six other teams won besides the Yankees.

How Do You Promote The Belmont?

From 1997 to 2004, it was pretty easy to promote the Belmont Stakes. After all, six of eight races featured a chance at a Triple Crown. It was easy to be spoiled.

But with Street Sense losing by a nose to Curlin on Saturday, we'll have no Triple Crown for the third straight year heading into the Belmont. You actually don't have to go back to far to see some major droughts -- where the Kentucky Derby winner didn't prevail in the Preakness, thus rendering the Belmont just another race.

From 1982 to 1987, there were no Triple Crown hopes heading into the final leg, as was the case from 1990 to 1996. You have to believe that the reason ABC struck a deal to land the Belmont (even though NBC does the first two races) is because of the huge value of the race should there be a Triple Crown on the line.

When that happens, the Belmont is the highest-rated horse racing broadcast of the year. When it doesn't, it's a real downer. And with the news that the Derby winner Street Sense might not even be running in it, ESPN may have to consider scaling back its five hours of coverage planned for the day of the race.

With the marketing challenges in mind, here are the top six slogans I think ESPN/ABC should use now to try to get you to watch Belmont coverage:

  1. "We’re still running this damn thing, OK?"
  2. "We have a great Barbaro tribute."
  3. "Watch history: Because we haven’t told the horses."
  4. "You can still have the Belmont without the stakes."
  5. "Watch Curlin Go For The Double Crown."
  6. "We’re the fastest two and half minutes in sports."
  7. "At least our athletes don’t get arrested."
  8. "What Else Are You Doing On June 9th at 6:30 p.m.?"

Sports Business Programs Give An Edge?

I've always thought that schools that promised easy academic environments had the best chance in recruiting athletes, but the new weapon may be sports marketing and sports business programs.

Over the weekend, I read a piece on by the site's recruiting editor Allen Wallace on Mychal Rivera, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound tight end from Van Nuys, Calif. Rivera told Wallace one of the reasons why Oregon was at the top of his list. "I just think it could be a good fit for me, but I need to go there and see what it's like. I want to major in sports business and they have like the best sports business program in the country."

Earnhardt Potato Chip Sells

Ever since the Barbaro Cheetos sold for $69.69, I've been monitoring the snack food area and the sports world on eBay. Well, over the weekend, a Ruffles potato chip in the shape of No. 3 sold for $1.25. It would have been more if the chip looked like Dale Earnhardt Sr., but at least the seller made the connection with his number.

Buyout Stupidity

I read yesterday a tremendous story written by my ESPN buddy Andy Katz. The University of Kentucky, Katz reported, is going to pay a $50,000 buyout to back out of its November game against UMass. The issue is that they've already sold 7,000 seats for the game and they now stand to lose about $300,000.

My question is if the buyout isn't commensurate with what the school could make, then why have it? Why not just skip the buyout and then let it play out through the legal world. I guarantee Kentucky isn't so scared of UMass that they'd stick their counsel on this.

What UMass did will definitely serve as a lesson to all athletic directors out there. If you are going to have a buyout, do the math first. Figure out how much it's going to cost you and then make it cost-prohibitive -- meaning, charge more than you will make -- for your opponent to back out.

Recommended Reading

I just finished reading "The Card: Collectors, Con Men and the True Story of History's Most Desired Baseball Card." It's written by Michael O'Keeffe and Teri Thompson of The Daily News and it is hands down, the best book written about the collectibles industry since "Card Sharks," which hit stands 12 years ago. The T206 Honus Wagner card is not only the most expensive card, but it might be the most written about card. So I was a bit skeptical that the authors would be able to tell me something new to keep me turning for 217 pages. But they did. I read the thing in four hours straight without stopping. If you're into the card industry at all, trust me, this one is a real treat. It officially goes on sale on Tuesday.

Questions? Comments?