Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.

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Monday, March 07, 2021

It was bound to happen sooner or later… Last week, Population Statistic was cited as a source in The News Record, a campus newspaper for the University of Cincinnati.

The topic was Reggie Fowler’s bid to buy the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, which I noted was plagued by several inconsistencies in Fowler’s personal and professional background:

“Fowler, a star linebacker at Wyoming, was actually cut in training camp by the Bengals and also by the Edmonton Eskimos - not the Stampeders. Clarifying the Little League confusion, Fowler said he played with an all-star team at a tournament in California that was called the World Series,” according to www.populationstatistic.com.

Nice, huh? I’ll take any media mention I get (it would have been nice to have that URL hyperlinked, but what can you do).

Except… Those factoids aren’t “according to” this blog at all. They were, in turn, cited by me from the original report from USA Today. The distinction is more acute because the News Record writer goes on to reference USA Today in the very next paragraph.

So, the reportage is a bit sloppy, matching the overall clunkiness of the piece (both in argument and presentation). I guess you can’t expect much more from a college paper; they are in training mode. Everytime I get to wondering about the overall quality of print journalism, a peek at minor leagues gives me great reassurance.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/07/2021 05:26:10 PM
Category: Bloggin', Football, SportsBiz | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Sunday, February 27, 2021

still for sale
There’s no season this year, and no guarantee that the next one will start on time, but billionaire Henry Samueli is buying into the NHL anyway, picking up the Mighty Ducks from Disney.

Let’s see: Hockey owners claim to be bleeding cash year after year, in the millions — and this guy want to join in. He must be real stupid, huh?

Not that this will change most people’s perceptions. The story will be spun as Disney getting out of failing sport, further proof of the NHL’s falling fortunes, blah blah blah. Not as an arena operator acquiring another securing another booking event in whole and thus maximizing his business.

Samueli said he fully intends to keep the team at the Pond, and that he won’t be changing the name to Los Angeles Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Arte Moreno, who bought the Angels from Disney in 2003, recently caused a stir by changing the team’s name from Anaheim Angels to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Yes, I missed the chance to riff on the one-city-Angels-of-another-city marketing ploy. If the Ducks or any other team (hello, football Giants and Jets?) join in, then I can sit back and marvel.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/27/2005 01:52:12 PM
Category: Hockey, SportsBiz | Permalink | Feedback (3)

Saturday, February 19, 2021

fantasy league
During a press conference last week to introduce Reggie Fowler, prospective buyer of the Minnesota Vikings, he gave this reply when asked to describe himself:

“I’m six-foot-one and I’m tons of fun.”

In reality, Fowler is six-foot-three. And, presumably, full of glee.

It’s a minor discrepency, but as it turns out, it’s one of seemingly many that Fowler’s already been caught on.

His original bio claimed he played in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals, in the Canadian Football League with the Calgary Stampeders and in the Little League World Series as an 11-year-old.

Fowler, a star linebacker at Wyoming, was actually cut in training camp by the Bengals and also by the Edmonton Eskimos — not the Stampeders. Clarifying the Little League confusion, Fowler said he played with an all-star team at a tournament in California that was called the World Series.

So, big deal — everyone exaggerates the sporting exploits of youth. That shouldn’t disqualify him from owning an NFL team.

The murkiness of his financial wherewithall should, though:

He again declined to reveal his net worth or confirm any reports about his company’s revenues. But Fowler said he and his limited partners are wealthy enough to complete the transaction. He insisted the NFL and McCombs are satisfied with his financial condition after 10 months of research.

“If both those groups did not feel that we were capable of doing what we’re doing,” Fowler said, “we would not have been allowed to sign a purchase agreement.”

Actually, there’s nothing preventing him from signing a purchase agreement. The thorough background checks start after the signing. This wouldn’t be the first time someone managed to bluff their way into the first stages of a major-league ownership process, only to come up short under further review.

From what little is apparent, his Spiral Inc. holdins generate something under $500 million annually. That’s not the sole determining factor of financial clout, but it certainly doesn’t indicate that Fowler can operate as a team owner when his peers are mostly billionaires.

In any case, I say Fowler’s bending of the truth only fortifies his qualifications. Sports team owners lie all the time anyway; Fowler is off to a head start in that regard.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 02/19/2005 07:19:23 PM
Category: Football, SportsBiz | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Wednesday, February 16, 2021

locked 'til ???
As I noted earlier, this year’s National Hockey League season is kaput. And while the end has been in sight for weeks now, the finality of it provided that final jarring feeling.

It’s natural to assign blame for the first major-league full-season cancellation. Fans, predictably, are blaming the players, assigning it to greed. Bloggers, who for the most part are fans as well, pretty much are pinning it on the players as well. Reporters and analysts have parceled out equal shares of damnation to both sides, especially as the dispute dragged on; but even there, the underlying feeling had been that the players needed to acquiesce.

So mostly, the public sentiment has been that the players are responsible for no games this year. With that, let me make the following statement:

It is all the owners’ fault — without exception, without qualification, without a shred of doubt.

Clear enough? There’s no NHL hockey this season, and it’s the owners, with their greed and their duplicity, who have killed it. Not the players, not their agents, nobody but the boys in charge.


- The moment a team owner ceases to complain publicly about how much money he’s losing, give me a call. NHL owners have claimed long and loud about how much red their team operations are bleeding; some of them have been doing so for decades. It has to be considered a miracle just how any business, much less a high-volume one like major professional sports, can lose mountains of cash year after year, and yet continue to stay in business year after year.

- Salary levels rise year after year in the NHL; it’s a given. Yet every time a franchise comes up for sale (either an existing club or through expansion), buyers line up to grab the brass ring. If the business model is so lousy, why would anyone pony up for what’s allegedly a sure money-loser?

- The owners claim to have offered to let the NHLPA look at team books. When those books show overhead expenses like rent — for facilities that just about always are owned by the same holding company that controls the team — and municipally-owned parking lots, it doesn’t take much savvy to figure that there’s a lot of cooking going on.

- I’m sure every business owner on the planet would love to have “cost certainty” built into their operations. But last time I checked, when you run your show in a free market, the only certainty you have is competition — for talent, for results, and for the opportunity to show you can succeed against your peers. An entertainment venture measured (mostly) in wins and losses is the most transparent way to demonstrate that.

I can go on. I can point out how the owners abandoned the semantic dancing around not calling their various proposals “salary caps” — for the past two week, “cap” dropped from Bettman’s and Daly’s lips freely. I can mention how, for a decade, the league opted to continue operating under the last collective bargaining agreement that was killing them, despite having two opportunities to end it. I can bring up another half-dozen things that show how hollow their poverty-pleading is.

But why? Bottom line, the owners stonewalled by negotiating via fiat, forcing the union to make a last-ditch effort in accepting a cap, then pulling the plug despite this philosophical agreement. It’s over, the process basically begins again from square one, and my fingers are crossed for on-ice faceoffs come October 2005.

Life goes on. Eventually, so will the NHL.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 02/16/2005 11:33:33 PM
Category: Hockey, SportsBiz | Permalink | Feedback (4)

It’s all over but the cryin’.

Not that I actually am crying. Maybe a little part of me is. But I was resigned to the 2004-2005 NHL season biting the dust, despite the faint glimmers of hope right up until the end. The shoe skate has dropped, so now it’s time to look forward.

I’ll have more to say about this tonight. But in the meantime, in way of a preview and of demonstrating my feelings at this moment, I’ve swiped adapted a little exercise from Princess Wild Cow. Feel free to partake:

1. On your Windows PC desktop, empty your trash (if it isn’t already empty).

2. Open a new file on your PC.

3. Name it “Gary Bettman”.

4. Save it onto your desktop.

5. Now send it to the trash.

6. Empty the trash.

7. Your PC will ask you, “Do you really want to get rid of Gary Bettman?”

8. Answer calmly, “Yes” and press the mouse button firmly.

9. Feel better, don’t you?

Why, yes. Yes I do.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 02/16/2005 04:26:56 PM
Category: Hockey, SportsBiz | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Sunday, February 13, 2021

see-you-in-court league
What do you do when you follow a Super Bowl-winning season with a 12-20 record?

If you’re the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you threaten to sue fans who have the temerity to want to cancel their season tickets.

But when [Mark Olson,] the Dunedin businessman called the ticket office last week, he was stunned to hear the team might take him to court if he failed to renew the club seats he has owned for two years.

“Without prompting, they told me, “There’s been so many people who’ve expressed that they might not renew their seats, we’ve been instructed to advise you that you may be sued by the team,” he said.

“At that point, I almost dropped the phone. I said, “Can you repeat that again?’ “

It turns out that, when you enter into an agreement for season tickets at Raymond James Stadium, you are assuming a lease on your seats, which represents a separate (though, obviously, necessary) transaction from buying your tickets. And like any lease, you have legal obligations to stick to that lease for the duration of the agreement.

Since Personal Seat Licenses are the favored instrument of financing NFL stadiums, we may be seeing a lot more of this stuff in the future.

Of course, it’s tricky business to sue your customer base:

Though the language in the contract supports the team’s right to sue, it might have trouble winning a judgment then reselling the seats, said Brad Bole, attorney with the law firm of Rahdert, Steele, Bryan, Bole & Reynolds, which represents the St. Petersburg Times.

“If the seats can be re-leased, this would be the best option for the Bucs: They would get the deposit and the full rental for the seats going forward,” Bole said in an e-mail. “If there really isn’t a waiting list and they can’t re-lease the seats, they might take the deposit and sue for the balance, but I think they would have to offset the deposit and whatever they get from re-leasing the seats.

“If they do not re-lease the seats in order to protect their right to sue for the balance of the lease, it would look bad on TV to have a bunch of empty seats; it could lead to blackouts … and, of course, suing season-ticket holders would be very bad public relations.”

But this is the NFL, right? Teams love to brag about the thousands and thousands of waiting-list names they have for season tickets; the Bucs publicly advertise that they’ve got 108,000 people on their list. So why resort to PSL enforcement legal action when, presumably, so many people are chomping at the bit to grab any cancellations?

I don’t doubt that there really are that many names on the Bucs’ waiting list. But I also don’t doubt that the vast majority of them don’t realize just how much they’d have to shell out to go from waiting list to ticket-holders list: The cost of the tickets plus the PSL rental fee — basically, twice as much as the listed ticket price. The Bucs know this, and realize that a large portion of the waiting list is worthless — a lot of those people can’t or won’t cough up the money to buy tickets even if they were offered openings. (Maybe they should do like the Jets and charge a $50 fee just to wait; that should thin out that herd.)

What compounds the bizarreness here is that plenty of former season-ticket holders were able to cancel their PSLs and tickets in the past, without the threat of legal action from the team. I think it’s safe to assume that the Bucs have gotten so many this offseason that they’re resorting to this strong-arming out of desperation, knowing they’d have a tought time re-leasing those seats.

So let’s review: Instead of turning the team around to retain and attract butts in the seats, owners can just sue their customers and/or threaten to relocate the team. Makes me want to plunk down my season-ticket deposit (note to Bucs’ sales and legal departments: that should not be construed as a binding promise; don’t sue me, fuckers.).

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/13/2005 06:36:58 PM
Category: Football, SportsBiz | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Sunday, December 26, 2020

bats tackles hoops pucks
With collective bargaining agreements on the minds of hockey fans (those who haven’t succumbed to total apathy, anyway), this Sporting News comparison of the recent/current CBAs in the NHL, MLB, NBA and NFL offers a useful shorthand reference on how players and owners coexist in the major sports leagues. It also includes various tidbits of related info, like attendance numbers and TV ratings.

Given that the content is syndicated on Yahoo!, and thus has a likely short online shelf life, I’m going to reproduce the factual information here. The editorial “Is it working?” parts I’ll leave out, not because I disagree with their conclusions (although mostly, I do, especially on the soon-to-be-deadlocked NBA), but because I figure they’re most subject to any copyright issues. By all means, follow the link to read them if you’re interested in the interpretations.

National Hockey Leaguepucks
Teams: 30
Players per team: 23
CBA expired: September 15, 2021
Highest-paid player: $11 million, Jaromir Jagr, Rangers
Average salary: $1.81 million
Most valuable franchise: Rangers, $282 million
Average payroll: $41.6 million
Players’ share of revenue: 75 percent
League revenue: $2 billion
Average attendance: 16,533 (includes record crowd of 57,167 at outdoor game in Edmonton)
Salary cap: None
Payroll tax: None
TV deal: TV revenues from national contracts in the U.S. and Canada are shared equally; last season, that was about $4 million per team. As for the new deal signed with NBC, “If the NHL sees a penny from NBC, it’s only because the guys at NBC are good guys,” a FOX executive told Alan Hahn of Newsday.
TV audience: 1.1 rating on ABC, 0.47 on ESPN and 0.24 on ESPN2
Revenue sharing: 10 percent
Free-agent system: Players become restricted after their first entry-level contract, unrestricted after turning 31 if they have at least four years of NHL experience.
Rookie system: 2004 draft picks had a rookie cap of $1.295 million and can’t sign anything longer than a three-year deal; excessive and easy-to-attain performance bonuses have made the cap ineffective.

Major League Baseballbats
Teams: 30
Players per team: 25
CBA expires: December 17, 2021
Highest-paid player: $22.5 million, Manny Ramirez, Red Sox
Average salary: $2.5 million
Most valuable franchise: Yankees, $832 million
Average payroll: $68.1 million
Players’ share of revenue: 63 percent
MLB revenue: $4.1 billion
Average attendance: 30,401
Salary cap: None
Payroll tax: In 2004, first offenders were taxed 22.5 percent for anything above $120.5 million; second offenders paid 30 percent.
TV deal: The league has a six-year, $2.5 billion deal with FOX through 2006 and a six-year, $851 million deal with ESPN through 2005.
TV audience: 2.7 rating on FOX, 1.1 on ESPN and 0.6 on ESPN2
Revenue sharing: 34 percent of local revenue, including gate receipts, is shared equally among the teams.
Free-agent system: Players who have six or more seasons of experience become unrestricted after their contracts expire.
Rookie system: None

National Basketball Associationhoops
Teams: 30
Players per team: 15 (12 active)
CBA expires: June 30, 2021
Highest-paid player: $29.5 million, Shaquille O’Neal, Heat
Average salary: $4.92 million
Most valuable franchise: Lakers, $447 million
Average payroll: $59 million
Players’ share of revenue: 57 percent
League revenue: $3.1 billion
Average attendance: 17,050
Salary cap: A complex system of sliding caps is the base. Effectively, the soft cap for 2003-04 was $43.9 million, extending to an average of $59 million after free-agent exceptions.
Payroll tax: Teams are taxed one dollar for each dollar over $54.6 million, but only if leaguewide salaries exceed a specific percentage of revenue.
TV deal: A six-year, $4.6 billion deal with ABC, ESPN and TNT brings each team $25.5 million each season.
TV audience: 2.4 rating on ABC, 1.3 on ESPN, 0.9 on ESPN2 and 1.4 on TNT
Revenue sharing: 35 percent of total revenues
Free-agent system: Players are eligible for contract extensions after three years, become restricted free agents after four (they can be unrestricted if the team does not pick up the option) and are unrestricted after five.
Rookie system: Fixed three-year contracts for first-round picks are figured on a sliding scale based on where players were selected in the draft; contracts have two option years, though the second rarely is used.

National Football Leaguetackles
Teams: 32
Players per team: 53 (45 active)
CBA expires: After the 2008 draft; 2007 is an uncapped season
Highest-paid player: $17.8 million, Peyton Manning, Colts (note: Michael Vick’s recently reworked contract probably puts him in the top spot)
Average salary: $1.25 million
Most valuable franchise: Redskins, $1.1 billion
Average payroll: $71.8 million
Players’ share of revenue: 64 percent
League revenue: $4.8 billion
Average attendance: 66,817
Salary cap: $80.58 million (64.75 percent of gross league revenues)
Salary floor: $67.3 million
Payroll tax: None
TV deal: An eight-year, $17.6 billion deal with ABC, CBS, FOX and ESPN expires after 2005. The deal gives each team $78 million (a six-year extension was signed November 8 by FOX and CBS; FOX will pay $4.3 billion for NFC games, CBS will pay $3.7 billion for AFC games). The NFL also has $3.5 billion satellite deal with DirecTV.
TV audience: 9.0 rating on CBS, 9.9 on FOX, 7.1 on ESPN and 11.0 on ABC.
Revenue sharing: 80 percent of all gate receipts, among other things, are spread evenly among the teams.
Free-agent system: Players who have four years of experience become unrestricted after their contracts expire. Teams can retain a key free agent by designating him a franchise player and paying him the average of the top five salaries at his position.
Rookie system: There is no limit for top draft picks.

While direct comparisons among the four can distort unavoidable inequities — for instance, baseball and football naturally have higher average attendance than hoops and hockey because of larger stadia — this gives a good once-over to the team-based major sports landscape. It’s especially useful for me regarding the NBA’s agreement: I was vaguely familiar with the changes from what they used to have, but I never did see a capsule version.

Again, this is just a snapshot look. A deeper dig might shed some light on how things like overall league revenue is calculated, and how salary/contract arbitration factors in.

Who’s got the best? Based on most measures of success, the NFL comes out on top (and Sporting News editor Paul Grant says as much in the “Is it working” notation). As I’ve mentioned before, a key reason for this is probably the nature of the NFL payroll: Composed overwhelmingly of non-guaranteed player contracts, it’s very easy for clubs to make payroll adjustments. In addition, each team’s cut of the leagues television money alone covers the payroll cap figure, so that guarantees success. I’m curious to see how the 2007 uncapped season will work (if they get there — the players and owners might work out a new CBA before then, which would supplant that final year).

I guess the similarities strike me more than anything. The NFL and MLB have comparable league revenues, for instance, despite starkly different schedules and labor setups. We’ll see how the next deals for the NHL and NBA change the makeup.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/26/2004 09:01:24 PM
Category: SportsBiz | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Thursday, December 02, 2021

That’s the sound of the SportsCenter theme song, in ringtone form. No doubt we’ll be hearing that coming out of scores of mobile phones soon, thanks to ESPN’s launch of ESPN Mobile, the sports network’s very own wireless phone service, which it hopes it can use as a springboard platform to sell all kinds of multimedia doodads.

ESPN (and parent company Disney) isn’t going whole-hog into the phone business. Rather than build or buy its own wireless network, it’s renting the infrastructure from Sprint (customers won’t see that, as all their interaction will be with ESPN Mobile-branded interfaces). This is the same arrangement that Virgin Mobile uses in the U.S., and I understand that it’s a common arrangement in Europe and Asia for setting up a branded phone service. It’s relatively low-risk, with potentially huge rewards.

The famed Disney synergy is going to be applied to this venture, big-time. As mobile phones become more powerful, there’ll be more opportunity to offer ESPN-originated video clips and the like:

ESPN executive vice president John Skipper expects to break new ground, saying the service could even show animated characters since “you could cartoonize our (on-air) talent.”

That shouldn’t be too hard; guys like Chris Berman self-cartoonized themselves years ago!

So, will anyone buy their phones from ESPN? Maybe, but not necessarily all the extras:

Roger Entner, wireless analyst at the research firm Yankee Group, estimates about 175 million Americans have cell phones, with about half having data-enabled phones — needed to get video and video games.

Entner notes “tremendous consumer willingness” to spend for sports-related cell phone services and suggests ESPN could land 3 million users in three years. Messaging users about big sports plays, Entner says, then letting them pay to see an immediate video highlight could be “a killer thing.”

Skipper says: “We’re investigating streaming the actual networks. But we’d have issues with (event) rights-holders and affiliates.”

And that might be a bit much even for supposedly insatiable fans. Says Adam Guy, a wireless analyst at the research firm Compete Inc.: “Highlights on your phone? Sure. But watching TV on your mobile device? Why?”

Why indeed? Although with the coming of television-enabled phones in 2005, it would seem the right factors are converging to give this whole thing legs.

I wouldn’t buy all this, but I’m sure there are plenty who would. Besides, if I really wanted to, I could always hack the SportsCenter theme onto my phone (there’s a project for a future weekend).

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/02/2021 10:18:50 PM
Category: Tech, SportsBiz | Permalink | Feedback

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