Speed Read: NBC, NHL Screw Local Hockey Fans

One of the most jarring aspects of the Stanley Cup finals, other than the ease with which the Red Wings dispatched the Penguins on Sunday night to push the series to 3-2, has been NBC’s hardball with fans in Detroit and Pittsburgh. For the duration of the playoffs, both teams have been able to hold massive viewing parties in and outside their arenas. It was such a wonderful, organic expression of the communal nature of fandom that it was basically destined to be ruined by business in short order.

JoeVision Detroit Red Wings
(Thousands of fans watching the game with each other? Nope, can’t have this!)

And lo, in stepped NBC, stopping the broadcasts. As HOCKEYBUZZ.COM reported, initially, they blamed the NHL, despite the NHL’s assertion that that was quite not the case. Then came the truth, that it was a business decisions (all the crappy ones are), and their “business is ratings driven.” CRAIN’S DETROIT BUSINESS has the, ahem, money quote:

A near-sellout of Joe Louis could shave a ratings point off the local television ratings measurement, and such ratings are used to establish advertising rates.

So to that, if the all-important ratings model can’t deal with 8-10 thousand people watching a show in one place on one screen, you know what? The ratings model is completely worthless.  Seriously. How can NBC or Nielsen not figure out what to do with a giant honking party of some of the most hardcore fans all watching one screen? Is that really a deal-breaker?

And if so, if they’re really curious as to what the ratings would look like if everyone stays home, away from the shared community aspect from which most of the value of a ticket to a game is derived, there’s a really easy answer to all of this. You ready? Dick Ebersol, you taking notes?

All NBC has to do is announce that in exchange for showing the game outside both arenas, attending fans have to fill out a simple, anonymous survey about where they would otherwise watch a game (their place or someone else’s), with how many people, and whatever other information the network needs to most closely approximate what ratings would look like. Use that and Nielsen data to extrapolate what the final ratings would be with that many eyes on a TV, and adjust. That’s it. Easy.

This is a rare, rare opportunity for the NHL and NBC. At no other point are they ever going to be able to get this kind of a free pool of television watchers from whom they can mine valuable demographic information. Forcing them back into their homes and away from a group of thousands of like-minded, passionate fans for the sake of moving a needle one or two points does the city, fanbase, and team a disservice. It’s so easy to work around. Figure it out.

Speaking of soccer [I thought we were talking about hockey. No, I’m dead certain of it.–ed.] [Shut up.–AJ] [You have problems.–ed.], UEFA just got a seismic news flash as Real Madrid, evidently furious at having seen FC Barca take the title, has bought the contract of Kaka from AC Milan. Too bad UEFA contract holder SETANTA SPORTS probably won’t survive to see him in the new kit.

Kaka Kiss
(This is where we mention Kaka’s wife and fine whatever you’re all perverts.)

Kaka, a sensational striker from the one-word-name factory that is Brazil, will reportedly command a 6-year, $94 million contract. That’s enough to make it the most expensive in soccer’s history, barely beating out Zinedine Zidane’s 6-year, $65 million deal with Juventus from eight years ago. Meanwhile, David Beckham is running around for a crappy MLS team in Los Angeles for 30 cents on the dollar and going home to a bag of antlers with oversized sunglasses and the “I’m married, but still vain” haircut straight from Jon & Kate + 8. Sic transit gloria mundi: Glory is fleeting.

We mentioned Andrew Thomas Gallo, the man accused of killing Angels rookie Nick Adenhart and two others in a drunk driving collision, yesterday. Gallo pled not guilty to murder, drunk driving, and fleeing the scene of an accident charges yesterday. Great.

Nick Adenhart Killed In Hit and Run Accident
(No, nothing criminal led to this. No way.)

But as we (rightfully) focus on the three people killed far before their time, we should point out that one passenger in Adenhart’s car, 24-year-old Jon Wilhite, has, in fact, survived the crash that left him in critical condition (via the RIVERSIDE PRESS-ENTERPRISE). Wait, that doesn’t appropriately convey the gravity of what happened. He survived internal decapitation.

As MANOLITH explains, internal decapitation, which is exactly as horrifying and life-threatening as it sounds, happens when the skull detaches from the spinal column. It’s usually fatal. Wilhite somehow survived without total paralysis, which is unbelievably rare, and he’s now in rehab with the help of several major leaguers. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s on the right track.

Since we need to get back on a higher note, here are some more links to consider while you’re riding in a cab with former Beach Boy Brian Wilson:

Nick Collison Red Afro
(Yes.)

What do the Raiders need the most on offense?

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Speed Read: Even In Sports, It’s All About Obama

Let’s face it: For the next four years, the most important man in the free world will be Barack Obama. Yes, it sounds like Osama, and his middle name is Hussein, but as of slightly past noon today, he’ll be the president of the United States. So it shouldn’t be a shock to any of us that prominent athletes are jumping on the unstoppable Obama gravy train, taking advantage of the best ticket in town right now — single seats at the inauguration are going for upwards of $20,000 at the moment — and whether they played a role in getting him elected or not, they’re all happy to celebrate a moment in history.

Barack Obama

As we reported right here last week, Tiger Woods was first to get in on the action, speaking at the free “We Are One” concert extravaganza put on by HBO on Sunday in front of the Lincoln Memorial. It should come as no surprise that El Tigre spent most of his comments genuflecting upon his own childhood and his father’s military background, but that was still a positive contribution to an important day, and one small step toward a more politically relevant best golfer in history. Still, the best line of all came from the crowd. If you listen to the background chatter, there are isolated exclamations of “Fore!” in the video below.

That’s more than we can say for Dexter Manley, who’s hopping on this Obama bandwagon awful late. The legendary Redskins star voted for Obama, but that’s the first Democratic vote he’s cast in his entire life.

dexter manley barack obama poster
(This is all an odd joke. Dexter Manley actually did vote for Obama.)

That shouldn’t be surprising, considering the fact that Manley was practically an unofficial drug czar for the Reagan administration in the ’80s. Yet you wouldn’t know it from this quote Manley gave to THE WASHINGTON POST’s Dan Steinberg:

“I think it’s a divine thing,” Manley said. “I think it’s divine. It’s the way God wanted it. This is bigger than political stuff. As Sam Cooke said, ‘Change is Gonna Come.’ Change HAS come, but it’s not gonna happen in one administration. It’s gonna take many administrations. It’s easy to put people in office, but it’s difficult to change attitudes, and people here must change attitudes, because it’s a new America.”

So there you go. Evidently it’s ok to be a major backer of multiple Republican administrations, then flip the script as soon as it’s politically expedient to do so. Or maybe he’s legitimately changed. Whichever, Manley’s transformation has brought about some significant action, even if it’s only for one man.

And just as the Tiger Woods-Dexter Manley regression was a step down on the influence ladder, so too is Dexter Manley to Philadelphia 76ers point guard Andre Miller. Despite not voting in the last presidential election, Miller is making a full day of the inauguration and all its assorted festivities. Here’s the full synopsis from the DELAWARE COUNTY TIMES:

Miller, who didn’t vote in the November election, is off to Washington, D.C., to see President-elect Barack Obama sworn in as the first black president of the United States. The tickets came through a contact at the University of Utah. He plans to make a full day of it, too, from the swearing in, to the celebrations. … “I think I’m supposed to be going to a Hillary Clinton function, like a night function, like a formal dinner or something,” Miller said. “I’m not sure yet. I’ll find out more.” … Miller said he has followed politics for a long time, even if he doesn’t actively participate. But he finds this occasion truly special.

Also worth noting on the Miller front: He’s buddies with extremely elderly Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. Yup, another politically expedient athlete. What a shock.There’s little doubt that both LeBron James and Kobe Bryant were Obama backers last November. That didn’t mean they had to get along when facing off last night though. Kobe’s crew got the best of the matchup, but it wasn’t primarily because of No. 8 No. 24 himself. Instead, Pau Gasol’s 22 points and both Sasha Vujacic and Andrew Bynum’s 14 points apiece helped make up for Bryant struggling through a dislocated ring finger. We use the term “struggling” liberally, since he still scored a whopping 20 points while adding 12 assists.

Oh, that LeBron guy? He chipped in 23 points and nine rebounds, though he suffered through yet another really poor shooting night (9-of-25). Do Cleveland fans have to start worrying about a Bron-Bron slump? Maybe, though games like last night against almost any team except the Lakers will still probably yield a win. It’s worth noting. Also worth noting: You’ll probably get something more from Brooks about this puppy a little later today. We hear he had good seats.

Caca may be Spanish for poop, but Kaka has become the Brazilian embodiment of the Portugese phrase for brilliant. Still, there’s something that seems less than brilliant about turning down the opportunity to earn $150,000 a week. That’s exactly what the Brazilian who openly claims he belongs to Jesus did yesterday, turning down a massive transfer bid by British side Manchester City because, quite frankly, he really didn’t want to play for a mediocre team.

kaka milan
(Kaka: What belongs to Jesus will stay in Milan.)

In the sum total of sports, this should be a great, borderline heartwarming story. But it also seems like a crazy one, too. Kaka not only turned down a massive weekly salary to stay in Italy, he also cost his team, A.C. Milan, some $150 million in the process. That is an unbelievable boatload of cash in a recession, particularly when your club is owned by the country’s president who may or may not have mortgaged a lot of his wealth to fund a re-election campaign. Good luck getting that back, Meeeelan.

Which athlete is most likely to make a TV cameo appearance during today’s inauguration?

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Speed Read: NCAA Bans Recruiting 8th Graders

Finally realizing that we might be headed for a day when future hoops stars are recruited out of the womb, the NCAA has passed legislation banning contact by coaches with players who have not yet reached high school. That means no more offering 13-year-olds a full ride, there, Billy Gillispie.

Billy Gillispie

(”Noooooooo! I already had the class of 2019 signed!”)

It also means that this Mr. Show skit, which was starting to look less far-fetched over time, won’t eventually reflect reality:

The WASHINGTON POST explains the new legislation:

Over the past few years, some college coaches have looked to gain recruiting advantages by working at basketball camps comprising elite seventh- and eighth-graders because there was no NCAA rule prohibiting it. But the NCAA will now designate boys’ basketball players as “prospects” beginning in the seventh grade, which will prevent college coaches from working at such camps.

This is bad news for seventh and eighth graders, who now have to do things like, you know, go to school and learn rather than worry about their college hoops prospects all the time.

Speaking of hoops, Luol Deng woke from his season-long slumber and led the Bulls to a 102-93 upset victory over the Cavs in Chicago, where it was approximately -293° last night. LeBron James made only eight of 28 shots and turned it over eight times for what he termed his worst performance of the season — but he also said he was sick.

Luol Deng

In New Jersey, yet another rookie had a breakout performance for the Trail Blazers, as Jerryd Bayless scored a career-high 23 in Portland’s 105-99 win over the Nets. Meanwhile, the Nets owners (remember when they were going to move to Brooklyn?) are exploring playing preseason games next year at the Devils’ new arena in Newark, but want the NHL franchise to guarantee regular-season-sized crowds to do it. How are the Devils responsible for that?

It’s official. The Dodgers paid Andruw Jones $12 million for each home run he hit, and he’s not going to be hitting any more in their uniform. After attempting to trade him, L.A. finally released Andruw after one insanely horrible season, and Jones agreed to accept the $22 million he’s owed over a period of six years. Which means your team will still be paying for him in 2014, Dodger fans. Two years ago, Jones looked like he had a chance to hit 700 home runs. Now, it looks like he might not get 700 more at-bats in his career.

So, as you read here yesterday, Mark Cuban confronted J.R. Smith on the court for allegedly throwing an elbow at a Dallas player during the Mavs-Nuggets game on Tuesday night. Cubes reported the incident to the league office and even sent back a pair of signed shoes Smith sent him as a peace offering, saying Smith needed to sell them to help pay for the fine that was coming.

Mark Cuban thinks he's awesome

Well, it appears the joke is on Cuban. The NBA has cleared Smith of any wrongdoing, and — and this is great — are now pursuing possible punishment against Cuban for going on the court. George Karl wasn’t amused with the owner’s antics on Tuesday:

“If you want to interact, interact with the league office and interact with your own players, but don’t mess with my players. There’s no room for it.

“If this was a normal fan, he would have been banned from the building and maybe not ever let back in the game,” Karl said. “When the game starts, he is a fan. After the game, he’s an owner, but during the game, he’s a fan.”

Ouch.

Mark Cuban mad

Barry Melrose told people he wanted the Lightning to lose every game this season after he got fired. Former Leafs coach Paul Maurice has upped the ante, saying he’d like to see his old club not win a game for 10 years, according to the TORONTO STAR.

• THE JOY OF SOX is giddy that the Red Sox have extended Kevin Youkilis‘ contract for a very reasonable price of $40 million for four years. It’s four more years of this, anyway:

Kevin Youkilis

• The Rangers have asked their Gold Glove-winning shortstop Michael Young to move to third base to make way for a rookie named Elvis. Young was not happy with this request, but now tells MLB.COM it’s all been worked out.

• There’s dismal, and then there’s Northwestern blowing a 14-point second-half lead at home to Purdue and losing its 1,452,918th Big 10 game of all time.

• Baseball finally fixed the rules to definitively say that a postseason game must be played to its completion regardless of weather, and also eliminated the coin flip as the way to determine who would host a one-game playoff. They’re doing this crazy thing now where the team that won the season series would host the game, rather than something completely freaking random (the Twins would’ve hosted the playoff against the White Sox last year, had this whole “merit” approach been in effect).

• PETA is doing this thing where they’re trying to get fish renamed “sea kittens” to make them seem cuter or something. Anyway, WPBF-TV says they sent a letter to Palm Beach Atlantic University asking the school to change its nickname from Sailfish to Sea Kittens. Which begs this question: Is Palm Beach Atlantic University the most high-profile school you can go after, PETA? I think they play in Division XIV.

PBAU Sailfish

• 90-year-old Atlanta sportswriter Furman Bisher somehow has managed to put together a blog. Bisher is so old that he once interviewed Shoeless Joe Jackson about the Black Sox scandal. At the bottom of this entry he pushes the bounds of taste about the new stampede of Japanese media coming to cover pitcher Kenshin Kawakami (ah, so? Really, Furman?)

• Yankees blogger Todd Drew passed away on Tuesday at the age of 41. Drew was a frequent contributor to BRONX BANTER, which memorialized him yesterday. Drew had his own blog called YANKEES FOR JUSTICE.

Drew Rosenhaus tells the DALLAS MORNING NEWS that he’s certain that Terrell Owens will still be with the Cowboys next year. And we all know what a great source Rosenhaus is about all things T.O.

• You think the A-Rod deal is out of control? EPL TALK is reporting that Manchester City (that’s soccer) is offering to pay £243 million (that’s more than $362 million) to acquire Brazilian midfielder Kaka from the Italian league’s AC Milan.

Should Mark Cuban be allowed to go on the court during games and interact with players?

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Brian Suksomwong Becoming The Comedy Event of The Sports Year

EX-UCLA BAND MEMBER MUST BE A BIG HIT W/THE LADIES: DEADSPIN plays the name game, as the amusing moniker of a former UCLA band member is causing chuckles and generating guffaws among the blogosphere.

Brian Suksomwong

The name raising a ruckus? Brian Suksomwong.Is such a name the funniest in existence?

Dick Trickle

Ask Dick Trickle.Or Chris Porn.

And don’t talk crap about FIFA Player of the Year Kaka.