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Old 07-12-2003, 09:40 PM   #1
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Default [Sports Central Newsletter] #102 - Athletic Armageddon

The Sports Central Newsletter
July 2003 - Issue #102

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|-- IN THIS ISSUE... --|

- Words From the Editor
- The O-Files: "Athletic Armageddon"
- What's New at Sports Central?
- Feature Article: "Size is the Issue at Wimbledon"
- Marquee Matchup: Cardinals vs. Giants



Hello folks,

As we get ready to head back into another work week, I hope you had a pleasant, safe, and enjoyable Fourth of July holiday weekend to the many Americans among us and likewise with Canada Day to our friendly neighbors up north.

Will the sports world ever implode and destroy itself? That's the question Brad answers in his O-Files column below. As you'll find out, the possible end to the sports world is something all fans have already seen, but its disastrous results are only beginning to show. Read on and find out what the heck we're talking about.

Finally, as another Wimbledon concludes over in London, Mike sheds some light on the controversies that are taking a bit of the spotlight away from the on-court play. Size seems to be the issue at Wimbledon -- from the size of the paychecks to the size of the racquets.

All that and more in this July issue. Enjoy!

Until next time,

- Marc James
mailto:[email protected]


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|-- THE O-FILES--|

"Athletic Armageddon"

By Brad Oremland

Forget the "Rise of the Machines". How about the Rise of the Yankees? The sports world is slowly imploding, and the reason is green. The ACC robbed the Big East for financial reasons. Miami and Virginia Tech played along to increase their own profits. Two NHL teams finished last season bankrupt. Even the NFL, the healthiest league in North American professional sports, features two perpetually non-competitive teams (the Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals) with owners who pay more attention to the bottom line than the team on the field.

The best example of money as the death of sports is Major League Baseball. Despite the best efforts of the Mets to correct the trend, high-spending teams such as the Yankees, Braves, and Dodgers routinely outperform teams with a light budget. And let's not forget that MLB features the $252 Million Dollar Man, Alex Rodriguez. David Beckham is the biggest sports star in the world, playing the world's most popular sport, and he just signed a new contract for less than a sixth of that. Baseball games used to be part of the American experience, because you could get a pair of tickets and a box of Crackerjacks for less than a day's pay. Not any more.

The most annoying aspect of all this may be that we don't know who to blame. Is it the fault of the players for demanding such high salaries? Their agents? Maybe it's the owners, for paying those salaries, or for raising ticket prices that keep ordinary folks away from the ballpark. Maybe it's only one owner, the Yankees' George Steinbrenner. Perhaps we should blame the leagues, people like Bud Selig and the NBA's David Stern. Some people even say it's the fans who continue to go to games and watch on television. It's probably a combination of all of those.

If you really want to sum up all of these problems in one word (other than Steinbrenner), the word is "Expos." Selig, to his credit, has recognized that MLB overexpanded during the '90s, and that it is in the game's best interests to reduce the number of teams. Of course, you're fooling yourself if you think Bud cares about the quality of play as much as he cares about how much money the Expos lose, but either way, he's got the right idea: contraction.

Contraction must begin with the Expos, but the players' union remains an obstacle. I can't say I blame them for not wanting to see their own jobs vanish, but it does make things a little more difficult. So let's say the Expos continue to exist, but they relocate -- there is no chance MLB will let them stay in Montreal indefinitely. Portland is a possibility, but it's not a huge market and still hasn't put together a compelling proposal. San Juan and Mexico City probably are not realistically workable at this point, either. That leaves Washington, D.C.

Many people in the nation's capital want a baseball team, especially the Washington Post's sportswriters. But. BUT Washington's public schools have been underfunded for a decade. BUT the city's libraries need tens of millions of dollars worth of repairs. BUT the southeast quadrant of the city needs better law enforcement. BUT the city's roads and public services need to be improved. And Washington's taxpayers are supposed to fund a new stadium instead of fixing those problems, then watch an ownership group sell the naming rights for millions of dollars?

Publicly-financed stadiums are standard in every sport now. Jane and Joe Taxpayer have to help pay for a new stadium (and see others profit from the new stadium's naming rights), then buy a $30 ticket just to get inside. Once Jane gets there, she'll pay $8 for a foamy domestic beer when a six-pack of the same thing costs less at the market down the street. If Joe wants to bring his son or daughter, that's another $30 and a Coke that costs almost as much as the beer. I'm sure Michael Wilbon can afford another couple hundred dollars in taxes to help finance a new stadium, and tickets won't be a problem for him, but what about Jane and Joe?

The money problem works in both directions. The Baltimore Orioles are owned by Peter Angelos, formerly a Steinbrenner-type who spent a ton and fired managers because he didn't like their aftershave. Now he's pinching pennies and whining that a team in D.C. will cut into his profits. He's probably right, but a Washington Expos wouldn't exactly force Poor Peter into Chapter 11. Baseball is listening to Angelos, though, so they may leave the Expos in Montreal -- and San Juan -- until the current collective bargaining agreement runs out and they can contract the Expos (and, please, the Devil Rays) and get rid of that problem once and for all.

Even if the Expos eventually vanish into memory, the money problem is not going to do the same thing, in baseball or any other sport. I have seen the end of the sports universe, and its name is greed.


Brad welcomes your feedback on his column: mailto:[email protected]?subject=O-Files
(Copy and paste the address if it isn't clickable)



A look back at the new articles from the week of 06/30/03 - 07/06/03:


COLUMN: The Jester's Quart: Independence daze
By Greg Wyshynski

Free Derek Jeter from the Yankees? Take Eddie George or Steve McNair from the Titans? Fly the Hawks out of Atlanta? SC's Greg Wyshynski calls for 10 sports emancipations to celebrate Independence Day. That, plus rants on Yankees vs. Mets, WWE, the Philadelphia Flyers, Michael Irvin, and jury duty in the latest Jester's Quart.



COLUMN: Amico Report: Hot summer hoops
By Sam Amico

Go all-around the NBA with SC's Sam Amico as he feeds your hoops cravings this offseason. Find out why July is his favorite month of the year for basketball, read some interesting thoughts on LeBron James and the Cavs, and discover which four teams could be on top of the West in five years -- they're sure to shock you.



MLB: Where the game went wrong
By Tony Arnoldine

Barry Bonds is revered as one of the best in the game, but only recently. In the old days, Bonds would be hated, writes SC's Tony Arnoldine. He, along with Sammy Sosa, are helping the game go right down the tubes. Sosa and Bonds were once the bad guys 10 years ago. Oh, how things change.



GOLF: Observations from Pinehurst
By Vincent Musco

Few words inspire thoughts in a golfer more than "Pinehurst." Anyone who knows anything about golf knows that Pinehurst is home to a great deal of golf and its history. But what makes Pinehurst so special? SC's Vincent Musco shares his observations from his trip to Pinehurst.



MLB: Perception is not reality
By Danny Sternfield

The Cubs/White Sox has become a fierce rivalry both on and off the field. The players feed off packed houses at Wrigley and at the Cell, while the fans keep busy by coming up with a plethora of jaded misconceptions. SC's Danny Sternfield reveals the truths behind these misconceptions.



TENNIS: Is Wimbledon losing its tradition?
By Motez Robinson, Jr.

What is this? Players no longer have to bow or curtsy when walking onto and exiting Center Court? Baseliners are the favorite to win the title? And there is even talk of doing away with the green turf all together? Say it ain't so. Wimbledon, the most prestigious tennis tournament on the planet, is going through a few changes -- and they are not all good.



COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Prepsters impact college and pros
By Alan Rubenstein

Kevin Garnett's entry into the 1995 NBA draft surprised many at the time and changed the NBA landscape forever. Now with many young stars skipping college, the influx of prepsters to the league has robbed college basketball of many of its brightest potential stars, says SC's Alan Rubenstein.



MLB: Midseason baseball in a nutshell
By Eric Maus

From Armando Benitez to Derek Jeter and Billy Beane, it's time to talk a little baseball. As the midpoint of the season approaches and the Midsummer Classic is upon us, SC's Eric Maus covers some of the key issues surrounding the world or baseball.



NBA: 2003 NBA Draft Day awards
By Rich Levine

Okay, so another NBA draft has come and gone. Some teams made us laugh, some teams made us cry, and a lot of foreign guys wore cool suits. SC's Rich Levine thinks an awards ceremony is in store, so let's give out some hardware to those who deserve it.




"Size is the Issue at Wimbledon"

By Mike Round

Wimbledon fortnight, as the British quaintly call it, concludes this weekend with the predictable all-Williams battle in the women's and an intriguing men's final between Australian comeback-kid Mark Philippoussis and young Swiss craftsman Roger Federer.

The tournament has been partly overshadowed by two controversies. Firstly, the players are complaining about their cut from Slam events. Secondly, a galaxy of former champions sent a letter to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) complaining about "boring play" and asking for the size of rackets to be reduced. For the game's sake, the ITF needs to ignore both arguments.

You have to feel for today's modern tennis player. He or she has to get by on a mere 10% or so of the cash generated by a Grand Slam event. The players point to sports like baseball, where their fellow athletes routinely take 50% of the revenue as their reward. The men of the ATP Tour are now saying they will only play alternate events on the calendar unless the Grand Slam Committee capitulates.

The players need to try living in the real world. First up, tennis isn't baseball. Its television contracts are minuscule in comparison, so there is a much smaller pie to divide up. But the crucial point is that organizations like the All England Lawn Tennis Club & Croquet Club, responsible for running Wimbledon, use the $30 million plus that the tournament generates for propping up the rest of the tennis calendar in England as well as subsidizing coaching and tennis at club level. Simply put, without the money from Wimbledon, tennis in Great Britain would die, though some might say it already has.

Compared to France, for example, the British tennis authorities waste the money generated by their national tournament. France has 160,000 serious club tennis players and a whole host of serious male and female pros, whilst the UK can claim a mere 20,000, despite three times the population. The British have one serious male pro, plus a Canadian pretending to be British. The British women pros have as much relevance to the WTA Tour as wooden rackets. Wasting the money isn't a good argument for losing it. How does making Tim Henman richer improve the lamentable state of British tennis?

The players only need to look at the current money list to see how absurd their argument is. Kim Clijsters, officially ranked No. 2 in the world, heads the women's money list for 2003 with over $1.5 million dollars coming into Wimbledon. She hasn't won a major -- ever -- yet leads the money list ahead of both Serena Williams and Justin Henin-Hardenne, the winners of the Australian and French titles. There is obviously plenty of money out there on the WTA Tour to keep a perennial choker in Versace.

In 1953, Vic Seixas won the Wimbledon title. He went back to the States with $25 English pounds, in the form of store coupons rather then cash, as the governing body thought the idea of giving cash vulgar. He took a necktie with him, too. Last year, Leyton Hewitt pocketed almost $1 million. Even allowing for inflation, that's one hell of an increase.

The other money issue in tennis is equal pay for women and men. At present, the U.S. Open and Australian Open pay equal prize money, whilst Wimbledon and the French Open keep a disparity between the sexes, though it's not a big gap. The Wimbledon prize money differential is 7%, hardly enough for Serena to require welfare assistance.

Unsurprisingly, Dr. Martha Burk, of the Augusta protest, has a view on this. "The gap today is so small, why not go ahead and follow the lead of other majors. But as with Augusta, sex discrimination in sports doesn't have to make sense if folks enforcing it are stubborn enough."

As with Augusta, Dr. Burk is wrong. The men should be furious about such a puny differential. Firstly, the men's game is much stronger than the women's in terms of quality. There is a minimum of 20 players on the ATP Tour who could at any time claim a Slam event. On the women's side, there's Venus and Serena Williams, plus Justine Henin-Hardenne and Jennifer Capriati, at a push. Clijsters is looking more like Jana Novotna every time she chokes another major and may never win one. Mary Pierce and Lindsay Davenport had the game to win Slams, but injuries have taken a toll. Hardly an inspiring situation, with the last four virtually picking themselves.

Some claim the men's game is mediocre, lacking in star quality, Agassi aside. Sure, Venus and Serena hog the tennis limelight, rightly so, given such an extraordinary story. But the men have a depth of talent the women can only dream of. Plus, the men play best-of-five sets. Billie Jean King, Martha Burk, et al can argue all they like about quality over quantity, but quality plus quantity wins every time. The women may draw more armchair viewers right now, but chalk that up as a temporary Venus/Serena aberration. Watch those NBC numbers plummet once the Eastern Europeans have hegemony in the women's game.

The other issue rumbling this week in tennis has been the size of the rackets. Eight Wimbledon singles champions, including John McEnroe, Boris Becker, and Martina Navratilova, have criticized part of the modern game as "boring" and called for the size of rackets to be reduced. They claim that the game has become one-dimensional, played mostly from the baseline, giving power an undue influence over skill.

In an open letter to the International Tennis Federation, they say: "Whereas in the '80s, there were many men players who would serve-and-volley on fast surfaces, today, it would be difficult to name 10. In the women's game, there are even fewer. On slow surfaces, matches have become tedious, even boring, either because rallies are long and repetitive or because players will try to hit early winners from the baseline and so inevitably commit a high-percentage of unforced errors along with a few spectacular winners. The ITF should consider reducing the width of the head of the racket from its present limit of 12.5 inches to nine inches, perhaps in stages over four or five years."

I can't think of a more muddle-headed theory than this garbage, and it's particularly galling to see the name of Boris Becker on the list of signatories. Becker was one of the original users of the larger, hammerhead racket and now he wants to abolish it, having made his fortune on its back. The theory behind this letter is that if the size of the racket is reduced, the serve-and-volley game will return.

Firstly, watching serve-and-volleyers is as interesting as watching your laundry go round in the dryer. Serve, return, volley at the net -- point won. Repeat four times -- game won. Alternatively, serve, passing shot or net -- point won. Roscoe Tanner was a serve-and-volley merchant and even Mrs. Tanner claimed she had to wash her hair or clean the oven whenever he played. Roger Federer and Sebastien Grosjean play from the baseline and serve up some of the most ingenious tennis the game has ever seen. Greg Rusedski likes to serve-and-volley, except he can't do the volley part very well. His games are excruciating to watch.

Calling for smaller wooden rackets is like saying you should still play football with leather helmets or soccer with an inflated pig's bladder. The game has moved on, John Mac, get over it, already. Pat Rafter played with style from the baseline and the net and I don't remember him needing his opponents to use a ping-pong-sized racquet.

If the ITF gives this letter any credibility at its symposium next month, it will be a retrograde step. Serve-and-volleyers, like Henman and Rusedski, can win Slams, particularly at the grass-courted Wimbledon, if they are good enough. But Henman can't serve and Rusedski can't volley -- playing with a ping-pong racket isn't going to solve that.


Mike welcomes your feedback on his column: mailto:[email protected]?subject=Feature_Article
(Copy and paste the address if it isn't clickable)


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By Steve Goldstein

St. Louis Cardinals (45-41) at San Francisco Giants (52-34)

Tuesday, July 8th, 3:35 PM EDT; Pacific Bell Park; San Francisco, CA

As the All-Star Game approaches, the National League's two best hitters (no offense intended to Gary Sheffield) and their clubs face off in the Bay Area. Albert Pujols is arguably the NL's first-half Most Valuable Player, while Barry Bonds continues to be the most-feared hitter in all of baseball. But it probably won't be either of those players to determine his team's success in this series, unless pitchers on both staffs make a lot of mistakes.

Top to bottom, even with the oft-injured J.D. Drew in and out of the lineup, the Cardinals have the National League's most dangerous lineup. Joining the aforementioned Pujols are Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Edgar Renteria, and Tino Martinez. And, unlike most potent lineups, St. Louis has balance between righthanded and lefthanded batters. But even with the top names, it's been rookie Bo Hart who's given the team such a spark recently. Though he's cooled off somewhat, Hart's batting average hovered around .500 in his first week in the big leagues. Hart's one of those players who gets dirty, plays hard, and can actually hit.

It's the Cardinals' pitching staff that continues to have question marks. Tuesday's scheduled starter, Jason Simontacchi, has pushed his record to 6-4, but his ERA has soared to 6.64. As good as the St. Louis offense is, it can't be expected to keep making up for a pitcher giving up that many runs. Ace Matt Morris has also struggled recently with knots in his shoulder that have slowed his fastball and straightened his curveball. At the moment, the Cardinals' most reliable starter is Woody Williams. The bullpen received a huge boost with the return of closer Jason Isringhausen, who's arrived just in time. Both Steve Kline and Cal Eldred, who were sharing closing duties, had started to fade.

The Giants continue to battle the Atlanta Braves for the best record in the National League. It's not easy to pinpoint why San Francisco's been so good, because they don't do anything better than every other team in the league. However, they're solid in every major area: pitching, hitting, and fielding.

Opposing pitchers have continued to try to avoid Barry Bonds' bat by walking him. The surprise this season has been that even without Jeff Kent's "protection" and with offseason signee Edgardo Alfonzo playing dreadfully, the Giants have continued to score runs at a strong rate. Outfielder Jose Cruz has seen his batting average drop into the .260 range, but his homerun totals are up and his defense has been exceptional. Ray Durham has also been one of the league's best leadoff hitters, batting over .300. Outfielder Marquis Grissom has also been a very pleasant surprise.

The Giants' bullpen seems to be living on borrowed time. Closer Robb Nen will miss the rest of the season, forcing the team to rely on journeyman Tim Worrell. But Worrell, along with Felix Rodriguez and Jason Christiansen, among others, have closed the door effectively for San Francisco. Tuesday's projected starter, Kirk Rueter, an effective lefty for almost a decade in the National League, has been pummeled in his past two starts, raising his ERA to 4.44. Rueter's record, though, is 7-3, so he hasn't exactly lost his ability. So there's no need for him to consider a job change to joining the cast of "Toy Story on Ice" as Woody, the character Rueter resembles.


Offense -- Cardinals
Defense -- Cardinals
Rotation -- Giants
Bullpen -- Giants


The Giants will win this series due to the homefield advantage.


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(Thanks for reading! Next issue is set to come out on 08/03/03.)

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