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Beckham and Lampard together in LA?

23 Jan

Beckham and Lampard in LA together?

It'd be an exciting midfield in Hollywood.

David Beckham and Frank Lampard are keeping the Los Angeles Galaxy in the news this MLS offseason, one with his new deal, the other with  the idea of a new deal.

Beckham has signed a new two-year contract with the Galaxy to ensure his family can continue living in LA, while Lampard is reportedly planning a move to LA following interest from the Galaxy, where his family can potentially emulate the Beckhams’ Hollywood lifestyle. A midfield with Beckham and Lampard roaming the centre of the park would be intriguing, one distributing and finding spaces, the other probing and always pushing forward. It’d be a formidable attack with an abundance of creativity.

The two seem unlikely to join forces before 2013, however, due to Lampard’s current contract. Further inhibiting the scenario is that MLS clubs are only allowed three “designated players” who are exempt from the normal pay structure of MLS clubs. Beckham, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan occupy those spots for the Galaxy, who were clearly harmonious enough in combination that they led the club to a championship. Lampard, for all his talents and leadership, would be an expensive addition. He currently earns around $250,000 (US) a week.

Galaxy fans might be best to stick with Beckham jersey purchases for the time being.

Becks was interviewed by Google recently to talk about his decision to stay on in LA. See the video below:

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Why American sports need to stay American

12 Mar

The Big Four sports leagues thank you for your support over the years  – you’ve been great!

But out of interest, have you got any wealthier, better looking, easily pleased friends – preferably with a cool foreign accent? Just a little routine check – the head honchos back at league HQ are putting out the feelers because while things are extremely good right now, well, you know, they can always be better.

Contrary to what you might think, multiple revenue streams in the billions, enormous fan bases, mass cultural appeal, and the general economic influence that comes with being one of the primary entertainment products in North America, just isn’t enough. No way. Not in this restless, attention splintered era of BlackBerry and Twitter.

For the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL there’s always the prospect of more. They suffer from a serious George Clooney Complex: there’s a leggy Italian brunette in the bed (the current fan base), but she’ll never be wife material. After all, nbody’s wife material when your always dreaming about the next conquest (the potential global fan base).

Like our pal George, the Mega Sports Brands have another customer around the corner, up the street, across the border or over the ocean, in somebody else’s bed. As far as they’re concerned, people around the world are so dissatisfied with their own local sports entertainment that they’d be crazy not to fork out money for a piece of the American sports pantheon. It’s this arrogance and sense of entitlement from pro sports big cheeses that threatens to ruin the very thing that makes American sports leagues so great…they’re American!

The perpetual journey of major sports leagues in the United States reminds me of the early settlers who were determined to expand, no matter the cost. Their desire not only built a prolific and powerful economy but redefined the term “superpower”, to the point that global competitors started looking meek.  This drive began to shape the nation’s psyche. It became in essence, what is to be American, and set apart a burgeoning nation from all others forever.

But let’s get some perspective: we’re not talking about a something as admirable as the birth of a nation. We’re talking about expanding pro basketball or football competitions, simply because capitalism calls for it.

It all begs the question, at what point does this hunger for sporting monopoly – to acquire more than your share, and to conquer the global market – start becoming, well, something akin to the mission statement of a Bond villain?

Sure, there’s always room to improve or tweak even the very best products. I mean Halle Berry didn’t really start flooring the greater male population – and I mean Johnny Gill type leveling – until the mid-Nineties. It only happened for Team Halle when she cropped the hair and leveraged the assets. It’s now safe to say that her level of market penetration has maxed out.

The Big Four aren’t far behind Halle. While they may not have reached global market saturation, they’re still world beaters. They’re the sports industry’s version of BMW, Apple and Coke. In other words, the benchmarks in their field.

So why risk such unparalleled success?

Come on. It doesn’t matter how many new types of Cokes you concoct, or whether you sell 53 different colors of the iPod, the original offering is still leaps and bounds ahead of anything else. The product at its height, is like Halle in Swordfish – it doesn’t get any better.

But sports commissioners always stare beyond the horizon, don’t they. Forget steady growth and maintaining customer satisfaction; they view sports administration with a sort of Starbuckian principle of multiplication. More locations = more customers = greater market share = another house in the Hamptons.

But how do we the fans see it?

Two ways:

1. We don’t want more teams or more games

The trouble  is, many of the Big Four’s potential fans – the ones they’re targeting in places like London, Mexico and Beijing – simply aren’t interested. They’re just not. You only needed to see the ho-hum Nets – Raptors extravaganza that recently played out in London’s O2 arena to realize that. And when it comes to more games, the reasons have been covered ad nauseam – chief among them the risk of increased injuries and therefore a weakened on-field product.

2. International fans don’t need more sports

The mere assumption that foreign fans are desperate for more American sports, or at least should be, only deters them further. It’s the Krispy Kreme Donuts effect: it doesn’t matter how many dozens of stores you open in North America, the desire for heavily glazed donuts doesn’t necessarily translate outside of the country. That’s why you’re seeing stores close up shop in other regions.

The same thing goes for NBA basketball. Many foreigners are intrigued – even in awe of the NBA and its many talented stars. But they won’t return to the game with the same commitment as American fans because they don’t have an appetite for it. They already have soccer, rugby, cricket, handball, motor racing, golf, tennis, table tennis, surfing, field hockey, their own versions of football and yes, even their own basketball, hockey and baseball leagues.

Where does it end? Does it end?

The entrepreneurial egos of pro sports tycoons won’t relent. In true corporate fashion, they see more jersey sales, bigger stadiums and whopping TV deals in their futures. They won’t be satisfied until every last suburban duplex, high-rise one-bedder or island retreat around the globe has the tube locked into their games and the Twitter screen ticking over with news from their leagues.

Planetary sports dominations is not unique to the US of course. England’s been flogging its Premier League overseas for years. As such, the EPL has registered and succeeded in all corners of the globe. The major difference, however, is that we’re talking about soccer, a sport that appeals to, and is played by all levels of society on just about every continent. It already has a ground swell in the allies of Naples or the ghettos of Argentina. And perhaps more to the point, soccer doesn’t face the issue of teaching new fans the merits of going for it on fourth and one with the game on the line. Nor does it depend on specialized facilities like basketball courts or ice rinks. Soccer broke down borders, overcame language barriers and thrived without infrastructure a long, long time ago.

More simply, I want the big sports leagues to stay North American because globalization is watering down cultural independence. Case in point: when I was growing up I loved watching Magic and the Lakers, despite living outside of the US. He was perpetual motion – freewheeling and thrilling. Watching a Lakers – Bulls game was about the best thing I could imagine taking place in the sports world at that time. Heck, at any time.

But what made it so attractive to my ten-year old eyes, thousands of miles away from the Great Western Forum, was that Magic was a Hollywood basketballer. He was an untouchable American superstar, like Arnie or Sly diving from a giant explosion across the silver screen. It was, and still is, the best reality TV ever. Magic belonged on my crappy 16-inch NEC  or recorded to on one of my dusty VHS tapes – a sporting fantasy, a legend. That’s what made him so appealing to me as an outsider. He wasn’t in my backyard and thus, I had even greater appreciation for his hardwood exploits.

Listen, international fans are well-versed on US pro sports. We read Sports Illustrated, we watch Stuart Scott. We know what “booy-yah” means. We don’t need to be pandered to by the respective league commissioners with their grandiose ideas about expanding brands abroad. We don’t want the NBA to include a London Rain, or a Shanghai Surprise. Why should it? It’s the National Basketball Association. If I want to watch international basketball, with its plodding pace, inordinate amount of perimeter shooting and remarkably flat inside play, then I’ll tune into the Olympics.

Further, why would I want to watch NFL football, which is so intrinsically American, being played by Germans? Or Brits? Or in Britain, even? If I’m a Packers or Niners or Chiefs fan, why do I want my club to travel over an ocean for a single game, turning up bleary-eyed, uninterested and struggling to digest a duck confit, in front of a vaguely interested group of foreigners – most with no emotional connection to the team?

I don’t.

Americans don’t want it either. And any well-informed, self-respecting fan abroad is okay with that. Give us the Seattle Seahawks against the Oakland Raiders at Quest Field, snow falling like it’s the apocalypse, Collinsworth riffing about perfect routs and some crazy local flashing his frozen belly to the nearest camera and onto my cable-burdened flatscreen, any day of the week.

That’s the product. That’s what makes it work. Leave it the way it is – and where it is – and stop trying to mix in vanilla flavoring and shipping crates of it to places and people who are too busy absorbing a five-day cricket match.

You’ve already bedded the leggy brunette, isn’t that enough?

Baron Davis isn’t Lebron, so what?

6 Mar

The thing is, I like Baron Davis. He’s one of my favorite NBA players and I’m pretty tired of everybody ragging on him. Yeh, you heard.

After some erratic play, interspersed with regular injury periods, supposed issues with weight, and or fitness, and finger-pointing from the media that the guy has no heart, B-Diddy finds himself in the latest NBA wasteland, Cleveland.

So is this move meant to be punishment for the former all-star, the player that so often reminds me of a smaller – albeit heavier – Magic Johnson? Or rather, as many will have you think, was this the NBA’s way of kicking the Cavs while they were down?

Believe it or not, Davis still has some petrol in the tank. No, he’s not LeBron James, but by blowing up the New York Anthonies last week – something James can’t seem to do – he showed the so-called experts he still has some moves. More moves than the so-called King, anyway. He took over in the fourth at MSG and in just 26 minutes of play, dismantled the NBA’s newest triumvirate. (It’s all about triumvirates these days. Triumvirates win championships, haven’t you heard?)

Davis is only 31 for crying out loud! Are we already putting him out to pasture because of one or two bad seasons? Have we already forgotten the scintillating playoff work he logged for the Golden State Warriors in 2008? The man single-handedly turned Oracle Arena into a crazed, cultish stupor with his dazzling flips, behind the back deliveries and ridiculous baseline jams.

How did “Recent Achievements” so easily slide into irrelevancy on the NBA resume? Wouldn’t you be mildly agitated if a potential employer today shrugged off your best Powerpoint deck from 2008? “Ah, sorry Mr. Johnson, we’re only interested in what you’ve done in the last sixty seconds. That’s as far back as our brains will compute, I’m afraid.”

To all those who aren’t convinced, who think Davis’ is unreliable and overpriced, maybe his 18-point surge last Friday, which included 4 of 7 three-pointers, three rebounds and five assists, will make you reconsider. Maybe the old man and the beard has some juice left.

Sure, there’s only a slim chance we’ll see the freewheeling Golden State Baron in Ohio, but the Buckeye State Baron may just find a golden opportunity on his new team to prove the columnists wrong, one last time.

I’m rooting for you Diddy.

NFL owners should try trading places with us

3 Mar

We’re really talking about a measly one dollar out of nine.

That’s what’s the NFL owners are fighting for and threatening to cancel our beloved pro football season over. From a fan’s perspective, it’s unreal.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, we’re at this awful juncture because the current owners are now unhappy with the labor deal that was set-up in 2006 – which is obviously so recent that many of today’s owners signed-off on that very deal. Terrific. Look, I’d like to see the Star Wars prequels remade but it ain’t going to happen.

The Huffington Post reported the situation rather succinctly this week:

Now, the NFL’s owners are threatening to scrap the coming season if the players, who currently receive 50 percent of the $9 billion revenue pie, don’t cede $1 billion of that revenue. The owners say they need the money for stadiums, but the players union is skeptical because the owners have refused to open their books to show how they spend the cut of revenue they already receive.

Money for stadiums? Really? Four and half billion not covering the bill for urinal cakes gentlemen?

What’s most frustrating about this whole situation for us fans, is not that many local economies will be potentially damaged by a lockout (though that is clearly a major concern), but that the owners seem oblivious to the fact that football fans will miss the game.

It’s that simple. We love NFL football. We don’t want even a single game to be cancelled. We don’t care what the deal is, as long as football happens. That’s it. That should be their bottom line. Nothing should impede this goal.

But of course, when millionaires and billionaires are involved, a single dollar becomes oddly important.

Jets flying home to Winnipeg?

12 May

winnipeg jets logoIt’s true – the Winnipeg Jets are being wished back into existence, remarkably after being exported to Arizona as a potential “cash cow” (or, er, coyote).

So much for that idea. How much was the Phoenix Coyotes’ bankruptcy price, $140 million? And according to The Toronto Star, the club is now a further $20 million in the hole after this season. We give you Gary Bettman ladies and gentlemen – a man with a dream.

Incredibly, the idea that Canuck teams are too small time to make good money, is now being shunned by pundits because Canadian locales are surely better off than struggling post-GFC American cities, as Randy Turner explained in The National Post this week.

And there’s the moral of the story. How can anyone, in any pro sport, seriously contemplate relocating a popular team again for the sake of a few bucks? It’s nuts. It doesn’t matter which way you slice it – fancy new TV deal, the promise of more bobble head sales, or potentially robust attendance figures – loyal fans always deserve to keep their team, and in the end, will stand by them.

When the chips are down, do the ambitious movers and shakers of business really believe fans in the desert, on the beach or cruising the bayou will really be enamored with hockey – on ice? These people have football, basketball and baseball. They prefer ice in their lemonade to ice in their arenas. It’s just common sense.

Hey, nobody’s disrespecting the fans that do support the Phoenix Coyotes, or the Nashville Predators for that matter. In fact, we tip our inflatable hockey hats to you. But the way in which the Winnipeg-Phoenix saga has played out needs to be a lesson for all: tradition and passion count for more than the bottom line (at least in Any Town, North America). As long as us – the fans – are happy, who cares about the league’s desire for expanding markets?

Following a sports team isn’t a game for us, as it is for many owners. It’s an emotional relationship, in which nobody wants their heart broken – especially not for a few dudes wanting a better lining in their pockets.

Hopefully the potential re-relocation of the Jets reinforces this message. And while we’re at it, maybe there’ll be some recognition that you don’t mess with a classic sports brand. The Jets logo, after all,  was – and maybe is – one of the best to ever grace a rink.

Sounders refund for unsound soccer

11 May

seattle sounders

The Seattle Sounders big wigs have announced that after the team’s 4-0 drubbing to San Jose Saturday, season ticket holders will be refunded their money. In a rare act of generosity by a pro sports club, credits will be awarded to fans against their 2011 season tickets for the Sounders poor showing on the field. Well played Drew Carey. Well played.

LeBron to New York, assumes NY Mag

10 May

LeBron James New York MagNew York Magazine has a great feature this week entitled, ‘Hey LeBron, Welcome to New York‘, which lists the top reasons why King James is destined for Broadway. Amongst the best is a proposed LeBron sandwich at The Carnegie Deli, “The MVP”.