Saturday, April 30, 2011

Some New Info On NHL TV Deal

Courtesy of the SportsBusiness Journal, a few interesting bits of information have emerged regarding the new NHL TV Deal (here's my initial assessment):

(1) ESPN made an aggressive and expansive offer. ESPN proposed televising every Stanley Cup playoff game nationally. The network also said it would stream the games and guaranteed an international component as part of its offer. As well, the ESPN would air a game of the week. Rumours were the dollar figure was somewhere around $170 million per year. However, ESPN never made a formal proposal.

(2) NBC had to rally the troops after ESPN's offer, the strength of which was a surprise. However, remember NBC/Comcast had the right to match so they could afford to sit back and react.

(3) Ultimately NBC offered to telecast every Stanley Cup playoff game on NBC, Versus and at least one other national cable channel (E! channel anyone with Ryan Seacrest as PXP guy?). On top of that, NBC and Versus would get 100 exclusive windows each season for regular season games (old number was about 60). As well, NBC committed to broadcast a national game the Friday after Thanksgiving, "a day traditionally reserved for college football".

(4) The NHL believes that broadcasting every Stanley Cup playoff game nationally will create the same excitement associated with the NCAA tournament.

(5) Turner/TruTV did look at the NHL. However, it was concerned over the low ratings on Versus. TruTV averaged 1.1 million viewers in prime time, compared to 353,000 viewers for Versus hockey. Ultimately, Turner didn't make a formal offer.

(6) The NHL didn't sell off its international rights. This means they can sell these rights and make more money.

(7) After finalizing the deal, Gary Bettman said, “When we looked at the entire package and the relationship to us, it was clear that we were going to be with the incumbent. It’s nice to feel pretty.” (If the NHL is pretty, the NFL is drop dead gorgeous).

(8) Caps owner Ted Leonis on not feeling so pretty in 2005: “I remember at the time an ESPN executive being very dismissive of us. We were down as a league. And we were down as owners.”

Friday, April 29, 2011

NFL GetsTemporary Stay; Lockout Restored

Late this afternoon, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the NFL a stay of Judge Nelson's order that the lockout be lifted. So that means that the lockout is back on.

The Court granted the league's bid for a temporary stay of a judge's order lifting the lockout so arguments could be heard on whether that order should be overturned altogether.

"The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the Court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the motion for a stay pending appeal", the Court wrote.

So that means that this is a temporary stay, which means within a week or so the Court of Appeal will decide whether to impose a longer stay pending the Court's review of Judge Nelson decision to end the lockout.

With respect to the merits of the overall court case, history favours the players' position. However, as I noted on air on TSN Radio, 13 of the 16 judges assigned to this Court were nominated by Republican Presidents. Conventional wisdom suggests that these judges may be more likely to side with the owners.

In keeping with the constitution of the Appeals court, the decision to grant the stay was not unanimous. The vote was 2 judges to 1. The two judges who restored the lockout were appointed by a Republican President while the sole dissenting judge was appointed by a Democrat President: Kermit Bye (Clinton), Steven Colloton (George W.) and Duane Benton (George W.).

Still, don't forget this is a temporary stay and the Court may decide that a further stay is not appropriate.

NFL Stay, Kirk Muller, Scott Gomez, Andrew Ference & Joey Lawrence

There is a chance we will know today or early next week whether the Court of Appeal will grant the NFL a stay (or temporary postponement) of Judge Nelson's order that the NFL must lift the lockout. Right now the NFL is open for business. Expect a stay to be granted.

According to Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette, Habs assistant coach, Kirk Muller, is the next head coach of the Dallas Stars.

Hickey wrote, "Gauthier ducked a question about assistant coach Kirk Muller, but he'll be moving to the Dallas Stars. His appointment as head coach is on hold while the team awaits a new group of owners."

Joey Lawrence from the NBC hit show Blossom has thrown his support behind Donald Trump's presidential bid. The Donald must be pleased. Next up is David Cassidy. I give up.

Scott Gomez only scored 7 goals this year, or $1.14 million per goal. He admitted he didn't have a great season, although fans didn't need the centre to confirm the obvious.

Can Gomez be moved to another team? For next season, the answer is likely no. He will be paid $7,500,000 next season with a cap hit of $7,357,143.

However, it may be possible to move Gomez the season after that. He'll have 2 years left on his contract that will pay him $5.5 million and $4.5. million. The cap hit, which is key, will remain $7.357 million. That means that a team that needs to get to the salary cap floor and needs to artificially push its payroll up, could find Gomez attractive as they would be paying him less than his cap hit.

Alternatively, the Canadiens could bury Gomez in the minors, although that seems unlikely. Gomez is still a good player. The issue is not that of course - the issue is that he's not worth the $7 plus million he's getting and the very valuable cap space he's eating up.

Andrew Ference of the Bruins didn't get suspended for his hit on Jeff Halpern. The puck, however, was nowhere near Ference at the time of the hit, and as a result, arguably he may have intentionally tried to hit Halpern. It also looks like he saw him coming and turned into him. Not conclusive though. Still, on this basis, it would not be unreasonable to consider whether the hit constitutes a crime in the form of assault causing bodily harm. For that you need an intent to injure and contact that is not incidental to the game. Here's a more detailed review of the crime of assault in the context of hockey.

Here's a still of the hit - seems a bit late. Yes I know, Ference isn't that kind of player - he said it himself recently:


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Next Steps on NFL Labor Front (Feeling A Lot Like Law School)

You will be pleased to know that the NFL's labor law class is worth two credits.

So let's recap what's happened.

Last week, Judge Susan Nelson sided with the players and granted their request that the lockout be lifted and that the NFL re-open for business. Put another way, Judge Nelson granted the players' injunction.

The NFL obviously wasn't pleased with the outcome. So that same day, they requested that Judge Nelson stay her order that the lockout be lifted.

Seeking a stay just means that the NFL was asking the Judge to put her decision on hold while they ask the next court up, the Court of Appeal, to overturn her decision.

Agreed - not terribly polite.

However, to the dismay of the NFL, Judge Nelson said sorry the order stands - open your doors. Put another way, she denied the NFL's request to stay the injunction. If the NFL didn't comply, they could be found in contempt of court, which carries with it fines and possible imprisonment.

So what's next?

The NFL is now doing 2 things:

1) First they've gone to the Court of Appeal and asked the court to stay (or to put on hold) Judge Nelson's decision that the NFL must open its doors. That means the NFL is asking the Court to restore the lockout for now.

This should be heard within the next few days.

2) The NFL is also appealing Judge Nelson's ruling that the lockout is illegal because it violates antitrust laws. If the NFL can get the Court of Appeal to review the case on an expedited basis, we could have a decision in a few weeks. If it is concluded that this case does not warrant an expedited review, which is reserved for emergencies, then this case wouldn't be heard for 4 plus months. If history is any indicator, this case will receive an expedited review. Even if a stay is granted, the Court of Appeal could ultimately affirm Judge Nelson's ruling putting the NFL back in a tough position.

Up to this point, there haven't been any surprises on how things have unfolded. Further, as a result of recent victories, momentum is siding with the players. They won the television lockout insurance case involving the $4 billion dollars, they got their injunction and they got it to stick when the NFL was refused its request for the stay. So if I'm the players, I'm feeling pretty good. Remember if the lockout remains lifted, fans will have football this coming season.

So, for now, that's where we stand.

Make sure you get the NFL to certify those two credits when all this wraps up.


Legal Prep For NFL Draft

With Cam Newton set to go first overall, here's how the current legal situation affects the draft:

(1) Teams can trade unused draft picks up to 2014

(2) Team cannot trade roster players

(3) While team can draft players, they can't sign them

By the way, no free agency signings yet.

Radio Clip: TSN Radio Toronto - NFL Labor

Listen to my interview with Jim Tatti and Scott McArthur from TSN Radio in Toronto. We break down the basics on the NFL lockout and what's next.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

More Jets News

A potential move by the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg begs the question: can Winnipeg really support 2 NHL teams?

All kidding aside, today Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said that he did not think the Coyotes would move to Winnipeg:
"Do I believe the Coyotes are coming to Winnipeg? The answer would be no. I believe the Coyotes are staying in Phoenix. I think we should start looking at some of the other potential franchises."
As discussed on this blog before, the NHL will continue to do all it can to keep the team in Phoenix, the 12th largest TV market in the U.S. Agreed - they don't draw and the Canadian teams generate more revenue than most U.S. teams. Nevertheless, that's what the NHL is looking to do.

So I will say it again - don't count your Jets before they're hatched.

TSN also reported today that if the Phoenix deal falls through, the Thrashers could move to Winnipeg.

As reported by Offside in February, the Thrashers are in urgent need of financing.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Radio Clip From Sportsticket: I Get Cross-Examined by AJ for Double Dipping


AJ ruthelessly cross-examines me on double booking on the radio station that day. He broke me down with what was very effective questioning. He was Matlock meets Matthew McConaughey.

We also talk NFL Labor and my trip to see Charlie Sheen.

Radio Clip with Scratches: NFL Labor

Here's my clip with Steve Lloyd and Jason York from the Healthy Scratches on Team 1200. Little did I know this interview would come to haunt me when I spoke to AJ later that evening.

Radio Appearances Today On NFL Labor

Here's my radio schedule for today, where I will talk NFL labor (and maybe a bit about my experience at the Charlie Sheen Show):

5:00 - Healthy Scratches, Team 1200

6:25 - Sports Tickets, Team 1200

8:00 - TSN Radio Toronto

8:35 - 980 CJME

You can listen online. I will try and post clips as well.

I'm also happy to answer questions. You can post them in the comments section.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Radio Interviews: Coyotes & Canucks

AJ, Matt and I worked a couple of interviews tonight.

The first was with Gary Lawless from the Winnipeg Free Press. If you want to know the inside scoop on the Coyotes/Jets saga, he's your man. If even delights us with a scoop at the end of the call.

Click here to listen to our interview with Gary.

Second interview is with vet Dan Russell, who is the guy when it comes to Vancouver radio and by extension the Canucks.

Click here to listen to our interview with Dan.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Major Sports Exec Offers Fresh Perspective on NHL TV Deal

Wednesday night, I spoke with a high ranking sports executive for one of the major sports and he offered his take on the NHL TV deal.

Here's what he said:  
Bottom line on NHL/NBS TV deal: Americans will now be able to find a hockey game on their TV menu guide. Five times as many games per year broadcast in a way that Americans will understand.
NBC coverage instantly gives NHL credibility as a major professional sport in U.S....This deal is 100% about sampling NHL product to Americans with no hockey heritage. NBC will drive US sports fans awareness, education, trial, repeat of TV hockey. Growth in NHL viewership will also command more coverage from ESPN and the tipping point effect will begin.
If there are still 20 or more U.S. NHL teams in 2020, it will be because of this deal.
This is a different and interesting perspective. It characterizes the deal as an investment in the future of the game with a willingness to look long term.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lenny Dykstra's Bizarre Story Continues

by Graydon Ebert

Last Wednesday, former New York Met and noted chewing tobacco enthusiast Lenny Dykstra was charged with bankruptcy fraud for illegally selling off portions of his estate after filing for bankruptcy in 2009.

Los Angeles federal prosecutors allege that Dykstra hid, sold or destroyed more than $400,000 worth of items, including sports memorabilia and a $50,000 sink. Dykstra was arrested in California on Thursday on suspicion of trying to buy a stolen car but has not yet been charged in this investigation.

These charges last week represent an even further fall in Dykstra's life from what was a once promising post-baseball career. Dykstra, well known for his gritty style of play on the 1986 World Champion New York Mets and the 1993 National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies, built a lucrative business empire upon retirement.

He owned a very successful chain of car washes in California before selling the business to investors and famously bought an $18.5 million mansion previously owned by Wayne Gretzky. Dykstra took up investing in the stock market and even wrote a column for CNBC Jim Cramer's website, TheStreet.com.

Dykstra then developed a magazine called The Players Club, a glossy, luxury magazine targeted to ex-professional athletes. Extensive cost over-runs and Dykstra's extravagent lifestyle lead to the demise of the magazine and Dykstra's net worth culminating in his bankruptcy in 2009.

These new allegations are the latest in a long line of odd behaviour by Dykstra (see GQ profile from April 2009).

If the allegations are true and he is charged for trying to buy a stolen car, Dykstra could be in trouble. If convicted, he could face possible prison time.

Division Among NFL Players?

According to various Twitter reports, mid-tier NFL players are not pleased with the progress of negotiations, and want a seat at the mediation table.

The Sports Business Journal is reporting that a group of about 70 mid-tier NFL players as soon as this week may intervene in the Brady v. NFL antitrust case to ensure they get a seat at the mediation table.

A few comments:

1) Goodell's strategy of divide and conquer is beginnig to take shape as tweeted by @dkaplanSBJ. Not all players make the same money, and many players understand all too well that their careers may be short and earning potential limited. So now is their time.

2) In keeping with point 1, the NFL has staying power here, which can only help its position.

Overall, and as I've said before, there are obvious points of compromise. This is not the NHL pre-2005 where fundamental changes to the business model were required.

In the case of the NFL, it's about how to share the billion dollar pie. So ultimately, my expectation is that we will see settlement sometime in the summer, and further, I expect there to be football. If there is no settlement, but the lockout is lifted by way of the injunction, there will be football in the fall.

Breaking Down the New NHL TV Deal with Comcast

The National Hockey League has agreed to a 10 year, $2 billion U.S. broadcast rights agreement with NBC. The deal has been described by Gary Bettman as "the most significant U.S. media rights partnership". This is true, although the bar wasn't set terribly high with NBC not even paying rights fees last time around.

Running through the 2020-21 NHL season, the deal will see NBC remain as the exclusive network home for the NHL while related company Versus retains the exclusive cable rights.

A few points:

(1) The old deal with Versus was for $77.5M per year, while NBC had a revenue-sharing deal that did not involve a rights fee.

(2) The new deal provides for $200 million a year for 10 years. This translates to about $6.6 million per team every year.


(4) The deal marks the first-ever national distribution of all Stanley Cup Playoffs games, including, for the first time, exclusive coverage starting with the League conference semifinals. Every postseason game will be broadcast in entirety on NBC, Versus or "a major NBC Universal national cable channel."

(5) "The deal will also extend into digital rights-- a lucrative growth area for networks struggling to cope with new PVR technology. There will be integration of rights' deals permitting more access to highlights and games across platforms. But the league continues to control its NHL Center Ice and NHL Network properties."

While the deal is a good indicator of growth for the NHL, it pales in comparison to the other 3 major sports. The NBA generates about $930 million in television revenue, while MLB and the NFL (the latter being the Ari Gold standard) are in the billions.

To put it in perspective, the NFL was able to negotiate a deal worth $4 billion NOT to play football in 2011 (of course, Judge Doty has ruled that the NFL is not entitled to this money).

As well, each NFL team gets about $160 million a year from television revenue. The NHL figure is closer to $6 million (just enough to overpay Tomas Vokoun). Of course it's not fair to compare the NHL to the NFL, the latter being one of the best run and popular businesses in the U.S.

The deal does represent good forward momentum for the NHL. However, a few thoughts:

(1) By agreeing that NBC could match the offers made by other networks, the NHL undermined its own position as far as securing the most revenue possible. By being able to match, the NBC could start low, sit back and just match on a go-forward basis.

(2) What is the opportunity cost of NOT being on ESPN? Getting on ESPN was important for the NHL, and a number of owners preferred ESPN to Comcast. The last time around when ESPN didn't renew its hockey deal, NHL coverage on ESPN was spotty at best.

The exposure the NHL would get through ESPN would be highly beneficial for its brand. Not only games but also news coverage, which is a form of promotion.

And don't forget, ESPN also has the NFL through to 2023. That means lots of people will be watching the network (it has a subscriber of 100 million worth $6 billion). So being on ESPN gets the NHL lots of eyeballs.

Under the new deal, the NHL isn't on ESPN - and won't be for 10 years. That's an awful long time to not partner with the highly influential network.

(3) Many say that NHL hockey would have been on ESPN 2. So what? It's still available in hotel rooms and across America, along with ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Classics, ESPN Hopscotch and ESPN Watch Hosts Brush Their Teeth.

(4) Versus remains television by appointment. It is not available in a lot of hotels, and can be generally harder to find on television than an Oprah Show where she isn't screaming or talking about Gale.

(5) Ten years is a long time to be exclusive with NBC from a national standpoint. The NFL is on every major network: ABC/ESPN, CBS, NBC and Fox. Ideally, the NHL would have negotiated deals with more than one major national network in the U.S.

(6) Perhaps the NHL is hoping that in 10 years, the NHL brand will be far more attractive and that ESPN will want it then - and be willing to pay for it.

So for the NHL to be tied exclusively to NBC for 10 years, not to be on ESPN for 10 years, and to share $200 million a year among 30 teams for 10 years suggest that this deal is less than ideal.

One must wonder the impact of giving NBC matching rights on the final outcome.
One more point: wouldn't hockey on ESPN be good for hockey on NBC?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Could Coyote Players Sue if Team Moves to Winnipeg?

It has been reported that Coyote players may be able to sue to avoid relocating to Winnipeg. The reasoning would be that the player didn't agree to play in Winnipeg when he signed his contract.

Could players really walk away from their contracts if the team moved to Winnipeg?

Short Answer

NO.

Slightly Longer Answer

For the NHL not to account for relocation in its CBA and Standard Player's Contract would be as surprising as learning that Alan Thicke will play Spiderman in the reboot of the franchise with Tina Yothers as his love interest.

The NHL CBA includes a Standard Player's Contract (SPC) at Exhibit 1. In keeping with the wording of the contract, this is the standard contract, although a team and players can agree to add provisions.

With respect to relocation, Section 11 of the SPC provides that a team can assign a contract and that the player mus follow.

Here's the clause:
It is mutually agreed that the Club shall have the right to Assign or to Loan this SPC, and the Player agrees to accept and be bound by such Assignment or Loan, and will faithfully perform and carry out this SPC with the same purpose and effect as if it had been entered into by the Player and such other club.
The term "assign" just refers to the transfer of contractual rights from the old team to the new team.

What happens if a player won't report? Well, the SPC also covers that scenario - the player can be suspended:
It is further mutually agreed that in the event that this SPC is Assigned, or the Player's services are Loaned, to another club, the club shall by notice in writing delivered personally to the Player or by mail to the address set out below his signature hereto advise the Player of the name and address of the club to which he has been Assigned or Loaned, and specify the time and place of reporting. If the Player fails to report to such other club, he may be suspended by such other club and no Paragraph 1 Salary shall be payable to him during the period of such suspension.
According to Section 13.7 of the CBA, if a team relocates, a player gets $6000.00. On top of that, a player is entitled to rent/mortgage expenses and moving expenses as per Section 14.1 and 14.2 of the CBA.

Another point - if a contract expressly provides that a player can walk if a team relocates, then the player can walk. That, however, would be highly unlikely.

One more point - if a player has a No Movement clause in his contract, he still must relocate. A No Movement clause precludes a player from being traded, waived or sent down to the minors. It has absolutely nothing to do with relocation, which again, is addressed by way of the assignment clause in the SPC.

So if the Coyotes move to Winnipeg, all players under contract, including Shane Doan, Ray Whitney and Co. would have to play for Winnipeg (or retire).


Friday, April 15, 2011

From the "You Can't Make This Up Department"

Ontario Health Promotion Minister Margarett Best encourages Sheen to take advantage of the province’s special hotline number to access help to quit smoking:
“We would encourage him, given that he’s a smoker ... to call our hotline and to try quit smoking because that’s very important for his own health. We recognize smoking is an addiction."
Yes, that should do it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Legal Primer: The Curious Conviction of Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds has been convicted of obstruction of justice, but the jury could not agree on the three perjury charges. As a result, the defense and prosecution agreed to a mistrial on the remaining counts.

Charges Against Bonds & What Happened

Let's first remind ourselves of the charges against Bonds. There were 3 counts of perjury and 1 count of obstruction of justice:

- Two of the 3 perjury counts related to Bonds knowingly lying he took steroids and PEDs.

- The 3rd count (which is Count 2 in the indictment), however, referred to Bonds' denial that Anderson injected him. So this count, unlike the other 2, didn't require that the prosecution show that Bonds was injected with steroids. The prosecution just needed to show that Bonds was simply injected (who cares with what) and that he knowingly lied about it.

So what does this all mean?

(a) The jurors couldn't unanimously agree that Bonds knowingly lied about taking steroids and PEDs, or that he lied about simply being injected. That means that all the charges involving steroids, needles and PEDs failed.

(b) The jurors did unanimously agree that Bonds obstructed justice by giving evasive and misleading testimony. This may have been a compromise as we know on Count 2 the jurors voted 11 to 1 that Bonds was guilty.

Overall, Bonds was not convicted for lying under oath but rather was convicted for being misleading and evasive under oath.

What's Next

Bonds' defence team has requested that U.S. District Judge Susan Illston throw out the obstruction of justice conviction. To conclude that Bonds should be convicted felon on the basis that he was misleading rather than having lied is not something that will sit well with the defence. There is a hearing scheduled for May 20 to start this process.

Is Bonds Going To Jail?

If Bonds had been convicted on all counts, U.S. sentencing guidelines provide that he would have been facing 15 to 21 months in jail, although Judge Illston had the discretion to modify that.

Assuming the obstruction of justice conviction sticks, it is unlikely that Bonds will serve time in jail. This was not a violent crime. As well, Bonds has no prior convictions.

Bonds could get community service and maybe a fine.

Will The Prosecution Retry Bonds?

It's open to the government to retry Bonds on the counts that resulted in a mistrial. While it can retry Bonds, it's unlikely it will - even if the obstruction of justice conviction doesn't stick. 

This has been a a long and expensive trial for the government. There will be significant pressure to direct tax dollars elsewhere (you had your shot, now move on). The state of California is also heavily in debt, and the optics of another expensive kick at the can won't go over well.

As well, this case suffers from obvious weaknesses, including witnesses who lack credibility, Greg Anderson's refusal to testify and questionable evidence.

So unless the prosecution uncovers highly compelling evidence, which does not seem likely, retrying Bonds is an unlikely scenario.

How Did Bonds Get Off?

The prosecution struggled with its case. Bonds' trainer refused to testify thereby resulting in the exclusion of potentially compelling evidence in the form of drug ledgers and calendars that allegedly chronicled Bonds' drugs, doses and cycles. As well, the prosecution's key witnesses, Kim Bell, Steve Hoskins and Dr. Arthur Ting, contradicted each other's testimony and came across as lacking credibility.

Does This Mean Bonds Didn't Do Steroids?

No. The Barry Bonds trial was not a referendum on whether he did steroids. Rather, the issue was whether the prosecution made its case such that each juror believed beyond a reasonable doubt that Bonds was lying when he said he didn't knowingly take steroids and PEDs.

Put another way: it wasn't about any one person's personal belief that Bonds took steroids, but rather whether the prosecution proved he did and lied about it. The jurors could have believed Bonds did steroids but were nevertheless not convinced the prosecution made out its case.

Roger Clemens is warming up in the bullpen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Favre Massage Coordinator Asking Court To Dismiss Case Against Her

Lisa Ripi, the Jets massage coordinator, has brought a motion requesting the Court to dismiss the case against her.

Click here for my primer on the case.

Here's a copy of the motion or click here:

Barry Bonds Trial: Not A Referendum On Whether He Did PEDs

His skull allegedly grew. His foot went from a size 10.5 to 13.

At 34, an age when players typically enter the decline of their careers, his production improved - dramatically. Starting in 1999 and over a period of 6 years, Bonds had his best seasons and achieved what can only be described as exceptional offensive production. He went from great to immortal. 

He had his best season at the age of 40. He hit .362 en route to his second NL batting title, and broke his own record of 232 walks. He slugged .812 (4th highest ever) and had a career best .609 on base percentage. He hit 45 home runs in 373 at-bats, while only striking out 41 times. Few major leaguers have ever had more home runs than strikeouts in a season. Bonds won his fourth consecutive MVP award and his seventh overall.

He has admitted to taking steroids in the form of the Clear and the Cream but with a wrinkle - he thought it was something else.

There are calendars and ledgers allegedly tracking his drugs, doses and drug cycles.

According to Game of Shadows, early in the 2001 season, the calendars indicated he "tried trenbolone, a steroid created to improve the muscle quality of beef cattle. Within the year it would be the chemical foundation for a new formulation of the Clear".

There are positive urine samples from 2000 and 2001.

So shouldn't a conviction and jail time be a given for Barry Bonds?

No.

The Barry Bonds trial is not a referendum on whether he did steroids and PEDs. Rather, the issue is whether the prosecution has made its case such that each juror believes beyond a reasonable doubt that Bonds was lying when he said he didn't knowingly take steroids and PEDs. Put another way: it's not about any one person's personal belief that Bonds took steroids, but rather whether the prosecution proved he did and lied about it.

While it's always tough to know how a jury will rule, the prosecution struggled to make its case. The biggest problem for the prosecution was that its star witnesses, Kimberly Bell, Steve Hoskins and Dr. Arthur Ting, contradicted one another and left the impression they lacked credibility.

As well don't forget that the urine samples, drug ledgers and doping calendars chronicling Bonds' drug use were all excluded by the Judge. They were deemed inadmissible because the only person that could conclusively link them to Bonds was Greg Anderson, Bonds' trainer. Problem is that he refused to testify, and rather than spend time in the witness box, he sat in a jail cell.

It wasn't all bad for the prosecution. One highlight was Kathy Hoskins. She gave compelling and detailed testimony that she saw Anderson inject Bonds in the navel in 2002. By most accounts, Hoskins was believable and sincere. However, her testimony may only help the prosecution as far as Count 2, which is that Bonds knowingly lied about being injected - doesn't matter with what. The other 3 perjury counts accuse Bonds of knowingly lying about taking steroids. Since Hoskins can't say what he was injected with, her testimony is unlikely to help on the 3 perjury charges relating to steroids.

Some of the jurors may believe that Bonds took PEDs. Generally, many people believe that. However, personal belief aside, the issue is whether all jurors believe that the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Bonds is guilty of perjury.

And on that point, I have some doubt.

Looks Like Charlie Sheen is Looking Forward to Toronto

Here's his Twitter posting from earlier today (he hits Toronto for 2 shows later this week):

Monday, April 11, 2011

Twins Peaked: Facebook Prevails

The 9th U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that twins Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss can't back out of a settlement agreement they entered into as part of a lawsuit alleging that Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea for Facebook.

As part of the settlement agreement, the twins were paid $20 million in cash and $45 million worth of stock valued at $36 per share. Today, the estimated value of Facebook is $50 billion.

The Court wrote as follows:
 
The Winklevosses are not the first parties bested by a competitor who then seek to gain through litigation what they were unable to achieve in the marketplace

At some point, litigation must come to an end. That point has now been reached.

With the help of a team of lawyers and a financial advisor, they made a deal that appears quite favorable in light of recent market activity

For whatever reason, they now want to back out. Like the district court, we see no basis for allowing them to do so.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bonds Trainer Set Free; Jury Asks for Taped Recording

As the jury deliberates in the perjury case against Barry Bonds, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ordered the release of Bonds former trainer, Greg Anderson. The Judge ordered Anderson imprisoned at the beginning of the trial for his refusal to testify.

As well, jurors today requested the transcript of the audio tape recording between Steve Hoskins and Anderson, where the two speak about Bonds' use of PEDs. The jury then requested to listen to the tape.


As far as where this case is headed, prosecutors did have difficulty making out the case against Bonds. Remember - they need to convince ALL JURORS that Bonds knowingly lied about taking steroids and they must do so BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT (sorry for all the caps - sometimes I get too excited).

Looking back, a significant problem for the prosecution was its group of 3 witnesses in Kimberly Bell, Steve Hoskins and Dr. Arthur Ting, who contradicted one another and were undermined on cross-examination.

As I've said before, the prosecution's best bet is Count 2 (that Bonds knowingly lied he was injected - not with steroids - just injected). No one knows what the jury is thinking though. One thing is for sure - if I'm Bonds I'm a lot more optimistic this week than last week. Bonds could end up with a modest sentence or no jail time at all.

Should be interesting as this heads for the final act.


Radio Clip: Team 1260

Click here to listen to my clip with the guys from the morning show on the Team 1260 (Edmonton). We do quick hits on sports and pop culture. They also announce they will be linking to this blog off their theteam1260.com website. Thanks guys.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

EA Sports: It's In the Courts

The man who alleges he created the first version of the very successful Madden NFL Football video game is suing Electronic Arts over tens of millions of dollars in royalties owing and potentially billions in profits over the franchise. It has sold more than 85 million copies over 20 years.

Here's the story.

Here's a copy of the Complaint as filed in the Northern District of California.

Turco, Gambling on NHL Games & 14.2 of the CBA

It is being reported that Hawks goalie Marty Turco allegedly made several bets with a fan Tuesday night at the Bell Centre. A man claiming to be a Montreal Canadiens season ticket holder said he made several wagers with Turco while the game was in progress. Turco at the time was playing backup to Crawford.
The man said he was sitting next to Turco in the stands and said friendly wagering started after Habs forward Mike Cammalleri scored in the second period.

“I bet him, after the Canadiens scored, that Chicago wouldn’t score again. When they scored, I gave him five bucks - I slipped it through the glass - he took it with no questions whatsoever. Into the overtime, I went, ‘Marty, I’ll give you 5-to-1 the Canadiens win the game. He took the bet. When the Canadiens scored in overtime, he handed me back a wad of five-dollar bills.”

The NHL CBA at Exhibit 14.2 provides as follows: "Gambling on any NHL Game is prohibited."

Perhaps it could be argued that 14.2 prohibits gambling on the final outcome of a game rather than on any singular event during a game, such as whether a goal will be scored. However, this is a strained interpretation.

Look for the NHL to minimize the incident. However, given the gambling issues that have surfaced in baseball and basketball, look for a clear message to be sent to Turco and all other players that they can't engage in this kind of stuff. Period.

Here's the part of the CBA that applies:

Copy of Police Report in Arrest of LeBron's Mom

Lebron James' mother, Gloria James, was arrested early Thursday by Miami Beach police after she reportedly assaulted a valet worker at the Fontainebleau Hotel.

According to report, Ms. James slapped a valet in face and her James' breath smelled of alcohol and her eyes were bloodshot.

To view the police report, click here (the report is compliments of Steve Lloyd from the Scratches):


NFL & Brady Bunch: Why Did Court Decline to Rule Now

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Nelson said that she will take the NFL and the NFL players' arguments "under advisement" and that she will need "a couple of weeks" before she issues a ruling on the players' request for an injunction to lift the league-imposed lockout.

Judge Nelson also added, "This is a matter that should be resolved. A lot of folks are impacted."

So what does all this mean? Here's my translation:

It shouldn't take "a couple of weeks" for Judge Nelson to rule on this. She may well be looking at the NFL and saying that she's prepared to grant the relief the players are seeking now, which is lifting the lockout. However, if she does that, things could get a whole lot messier for the NFL. As you know, things are already pretty messy.

So by saying she needs a couple of weeks, she may be strongly encouraging the NFL to get back to the negotiation table. 

As well, by saying this matter "should be resolved", she is pointing out that there are obvious areas of compromise. That is difficult to argue with.


About Last Night: Your Sheen Update

Reports are that Charlie Sheen's show went well again last night. Another W in the Win Column.

Clearly, Charlie is Bi-Winning. Duh.

However, there was one awkward moment. A woman in attendance was apparently drunk and heckling Sheen. She was forcibly removed "kicking and screaming" from the auditorium.

Sheen went on to tweet, ""Tweeting from the stage of The Palace Theater (sic)...! I love you Columbus!! Just keeps getting better!! Winning."

Agreed.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Radio Clip: Team 1200 - Sheen, Bonds NFL

Listen to my radio clip with Steve and Jason of the Healthy Scratches of the Team 1200. We've set up an appointment for Easter weekend to talk Sheen. We also talk Bonds and Brady.

NFL & Players Do Battle: Reports from the Court Room

The USA Today reports on the arguments made by both sides complete with some direct quotes. As well, disagreeing with the NFL, Judge Nelson stated that her Court does indeed have the authority to rule whether a delay will cause the players irreparable harm. Translated, this means that she believes that she can grant the injunction (which is what the players want). Click here for USA Today report.

Boston Globe reporter Greg Bedard tweeted that Judge Nelson on the issue of irreparable harm said the players "appears players have strong case". Again that means that she may be leaning toward granting the injunction.

From the outset, this was an uphill battle for the NFL. Always tough to know how a Court will rule. If I'm a betting man, I say the players get their injunction. The NFL has to do a bit more reaching here to get their desired result.

Florida Panthers Sell Ice Naming Rights To Lexus

According to the Sports Business Journal, the Florida Panthers have sold the naming rights to the ICE SURFACE (and not arena) to automaker Lexus.

The only other deal in the major N.A. sports where a team has sold naming rights to its playing surface is in Minneapolis, where the Vikings signed Mall of America in 2009 to a 3 year deal.

Naming rights deals for playing surfaces are rare in sports because leagues have restrictions on how brands can be displayed on the "field, court or ice". For example, in the NHL teams are allowed to sell four advertising positions on the ice. A "space adjacent to the center circle can also be sold if the corporate brand is part of the building name".

Lexus won't have its name on the ice since the 4 spots are already accounted for. However, they have first dibs when one becomes available. For now, its brand will hang on a sign prominently over center ice.

No word if the LEXUS brand will be adversely impacted if the Panthers offence continues to stall.

NFL & Brady Brunch Go to Court Today

The NFL and the Players (Brady Bunch) are heading to Court today.

This is day 1 of the hearing, and the players are asking the Court to lift the injunction. Why? Once it's lifted, the NFL will have to set down a bunch of rules governing the players next season (e.g., franchise tag, draft rules, etc.), which will be challenged as antitrust or anti-competitive violations. This is because competitors can't get together and impose restrictions on the marketplace. The Courts have repeatedly concluded that the 32 NFL teams are competitors, so any restrictions they impose on the players open them up to antitrust litigation. The players would in turn sue for those violations. The prospect of catastrophic monetary damages being awarded against the NFL for these antitrust violations in turn gives the players tremendous leverage in CBA negotiations. Messy business.

Expect a quick decision from the Court.

Duh - Sheen Kills in Cleveland

Looks like after a rocky start in Detroit, where Charlie Sheen was booed, he is now WINNING. According to TMZ.com, Sheen "KILLED IT in Cleveland Tuesday night ... finishing a 2 hour performance with a STANDING OVATION!!!".

Spies in the audience tell TMZ the crowd went insane when Sheen first walked on to the stage and instantly began chanting, "F**K DETROIT."
 
Sheen once again "performed" with the help of a moderator -- who fired off some questions to the Warlock and even took suggestions from audience members ... who screamed out topics throughout the night.

We're told security was "extremely tight" throughout the theater -- especially in the backstage area.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Charlie Sheen Files 24 Trademark Applications; #Duh #Winning

Charlie Sheen, who has Tiger Blood coursing through his veins, has filed 24 U.S. trademark applications covering his various Sheen-isms. Some of the marks he's filed for include DUH, WINNING TIGER BLOOD, TORPEDO OF TRUTH and SURPRISE. THAT'S WHAT WINNERS DO.

Below is a list of Sheen's 24 pending trademark applications filed in the name of Hyro-gliff Corp.:

Negative Reaction to Rays Contraction Article in Forbes

Yesterday, I wrote that Forbes.com expected the Rays to be contracted. I called the conclusion a bit "hasty".

That's the strongest wording I'm allowed to use because I'm Canadian.

Today, others have reacted with less equivocal language, with one writer calling the prediction "nonsense".



Butler Coach Stevens: From Math Whiz to Coaching Whiz

In case you missed it, Mark Viera of the New York Times wrote a great article entitled, For Butler’s Stevens, a Career Change Paid Off.

Viera writes that Stevens had a very promising future with pharma company Eli Lilly as a marketing associate. An economics major, he was a whiz with numbers and showed the polish of a seasoned vet at a very young age.

“I just remember he had a lot of polish,” Philip Hutchison, a consultant in corporate finance at Eli Lilly, said in a telephone interview to Viera about a presentation Stevens gave in front of 400 people on employee compensation at the age of 25. “He was going through the slides, standing in front, without a lectern and without any notes.”

Viera goes on to write about Stevens accepting an unpaid job at Butler as an assistant coach:
The issue was simple: stick with his comfortable corporate job or go down an uncertain path to pursue his basketball dreams.

...Shortly before he resigned, Stevens pulled aside Kevin Hanna, who was two levels his superior, to discuss his intention to go into coaching. Hanna said recently that he posed three questions to Stevens.

Is being a coach what you think of when you wake up, something you want more than you want to eat and sleep? Stevens said yes. Are you going to be able to feed, clothe and shelter yourself? Stevens said yes. And finally, Hanna asked, do you understand the difficulty of what you are about to try to do?

New Bonds Secret Recording

Witness for the prosecution, Steve Hoskins, has revealed that he has a secret taped recording of his conversation with Dr. Arthur Ting.

Hoskins, Bonds' former business manager, found a previously lost 15-minute tape recording of a conversation he had with Dr. Ting, the player's physician, in 2003 or 2004. Prosecutors claim it will back up Hoskins' testimony that he discussed Bonds' alleged steroids use with Dr. Ting, who testified he didn't have any such conversations.

Hoskins' credibility was compromised on cross examination, so this tape could help revive it. Problem is that Judge Susan Illston is saying that the recording is "almost entirely inadmissible or irrelevant".



How MLB Teams Got Their Names

Great article by Jeff Edelstein for the Daily Times on how MLB teams got their names.

Like this one: "Houston Astros: Originally the Houston Colt .45s, name changed when they moved into the Astrodome in 1965 and references the space age."

Click here to read the article.

Radio Clip: NFL, Bonds, Meatloaf, Busey & Rays


We talk Meatloaf going all minced meat on Busey, Khloe & Lamar bringing it on the E! channel, Bill & Ted's third movie (was there a second movie?), the Slice Channel and how it helps us love, NFL Labor, Bonds, Rays contraction, and we end with the Shine Being Back on the Sheen.

After my segment, the show was cancelled.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Forbes.com Report That Contraction Looming for Rays Is Premature

Forbes.com has reported that contraction is looming for the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. Mike Ozanian writes, "what I am hearing, I doubt there will be any baseball at Tropicana Field after 2014 even though the team’s lease runs to 2027".

Ozanian adds that the team suffers from no fan support and that "high-revenue team owners tell me the Rays are a dead brand commercially that needs to be pulled from life support".

This is all a bit hasty. The Rays have been trying to get the city to build them a new stadium for some time. Historically, talk of contraction or re-location has helped teams achieve that goal. For now at least, this is what's going on here (see Twins as example or the Marlins). This is nothing more that pressure being put on the city to build a stadium.

So all is not dark in Tampa.

Sheen Rebounds

After a rough debut in Detroit, Charlie Sheen fared a lot better in Chicago. He even got a standing ovation. Read the story here.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Charlie Sheen's Show Bombs; NY Times Hits Sheen on the Head

Charlie Sheen's first show (in Detroit) didn't go so well. The cheers quickly turned to boos and a lot of fans walked out. Sheen then traded insults with the people still in attendance.

That is the technical interpretation of what happened Saturday. The show was no good, and the public protested. But then there is the cultural analysis, which in the end is only slightly more interesting. Mr. Sheen is hardly the first celebrity to mistake morbid, hysterical curiosity for adoration, or to think that he could extend his fame by finding the right alloy of self-mockery, bravado and false populism. His act, such as it was, vacillated between sentimental declarations of solidarity with the audience and reminders of his own superiority. “I have two goddesses,” he said to one heckler. “How many do you have?”
Of course the people in the seats — fans, rubberneckers, critics — were guilty of a complementary hypocrisy. We profess dismay at Mr. Sheen’s long history of drug abuse and violence against women, but we have also enabled and indulged this behavior, and lately encouraged his delusional belief that he could beat the toxic fame machine at its own game. The price of a ticket to one of his shows represents a wager that it is impossible to lose. The audience that walked out of the Fox could feel righteously ripped off and thus morally superior to the man they had paid to see, who seemed to feel the same about them. Win-win!
Hope the show is still on come the end of April, where I'm scheduled to go see Sheen. Agreed - I need two and a half shrinks. Still going though.

Weekend Quick Hits: Around the Web in 80 Seconds

As the Barry Bonds trial continues this week, the prosecution has had some issues with witnesses, and may only be able to make out Count 2 (that Bonds knowingly lied he was injected). No one knows what the jury is thinking though. One thing is for sure: if I'm Bonds I'm a lot more optimistic this week than last week.

Bonds had his best season at the age of 40. He hit .362 en route to his second National League batting title, and broke his own record of 232 walks. He slugged .812 (4th highest ever) and had a best .609 on base percentage. Bonds also hit 45 home runs in 373 at-bats, while only striking out 41 times. Bonds would win his fourth consecutive MVP award and his seventh overall.

Bonds, formerly a 5 tool player, built himself into a hulking, record-setting home run hitter at an advanced baseball age. Up until 1998,  when he turned 34, Bonds averaged one home run every 16.1 at bats. Between 1999 and 2007 (ages 34 to 43), which is alleged to be the start of his doping regimen, Bonds hit home runs at nearly twice that clip - one every 8.5 at bats.

MLB is projecting it will end its 3-year attendance slide based on preliminary ticket sales data for the 2011 season. After drawing 73.06 million fans in 2010, down 0.4% from 2009, this year’s total is projected to fall somewhere between 75 million and 78 million, an increase of 3 to 7%.

According to the Sports Business Journal, AEG is nearing a deal to develop a new $1.5 billion sports and entertainment complex in Moscow. Slated to open in 2016, it will host the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The NBA is also in talks with the developers regarding an NBA themed destination that could be part of the complex.

While the NBA is far behind the NFL in popularity in North America, is still has tremendous appeal abroad. One indicator: Of the top 10 Facebook and Twitter accounts worldwide in sports, the NBA and Lakers are 4 and 5. All others except for WWE are European clubs. The NBA does seem to have tremendous international appeal.

Speaking of the NBA, it's about to unveil a talking basketball to promote the playoffs. “Our strategy this year is to tell our playoff story in a different way,” said Danny Meiseles, executive vice president and executive producer of NBA Entertainment. “One of the constants is our game is the ball. We tell the story in a documentary style with the talking basketball going back and forth with actual highlight footage.”

No word if Wilson from Cast Away will make a cameo.

MLB comes into the season with a new sponsor head in Lou Koskovolis. Topping his to do list: renewing MasterCard, Bank of America and Chevrolet as sponsors.

Other MLB sponsors includes Procter & Gamble and Firestone, the latter which will sponsor balloting for the MLB All-Star Game.

As we approach the April 6 hearing, NFL players are reportedly feeling relatively comfortable that the Court will lift the lockout. That's a big reason they won't negotiate until after that date. If they win, momentum will swing to the players.

On replacing longtime Sunday Night Baseball broadcasters Jon Miller and Joe Morgan with Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine: “If you believe in reinventing organization and oversight, it’s incumbent upon you to reinvent the faces that are delivering it,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN’s executive vice president of production.

The San Francisco Giants have made several upgrades at AT&T Park to improve coverage for mobile devices and boost revenue at Centerplate’s concession stands. Its expanded the stadium’s distributed antenna system, and on the side of concessions, it will test 51 digital menu boards at 13 food and retail stands.

Why are sponsors threatening to walk out on major sports leagues as they wrestle with issues of violence and labor strife? Bottom line is, and always has been, that sponsors are risk adverse.

The highly visible rooftop sign across the street from Wrigley Field will have a new advertiser this season: United Airlines. This is part of a 3 year deal, which includes naming rights to Wrigley Field's Stadium Club along the first-base line.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is still looking at buying the Dallas Stars...The Los Angeles Dodgers are partnering with El Zarco Tequila for the 2011 season. El Zarco will be the Dodgers’ official tequila partner...The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission said it will receive $22.7 million from its insurer to replace the roof at the Metrodome...The New York Giants are the only team in the NFL not requiring season-ticket holders to buy tickets during the lockout...The Miami Heat have sold out season tickets for next season...Michael Vick is one of 32 NFL players participating in an online vote to determine who will be on the cover of Madden NFL 12.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

New York Jets File Motion to Dismiss Favre/Massage Therapist Claim

The New York Jets have brought a motion to have the case dismissed against it in the Brett Favre/massage therapist case. Here's a look back at the case. Basically, the Jets are claiming the lawsuit has no merit - at least as far as it concerns the organization.

"The relationship (with the team) they seek to portray could not be further from the truth," Jets lawyer Gary H. Glaser wrote in response to a lawsuit filed by the massage therapists.

The Jets have requested that the hearing be held April 12. Click here to read the Notice of Motion or just read it below:


Friday, April 1, 2011

NFL Players Ask For Big Money In TV Revenue Case

On Thursday, the NFL players asked Judge David Doty to award them monetary damages after the Court ruled last month that the NFL violated the CBA by entering into deals with television networks that would pay them $4 billion if there was no football.

Background

In June of this year, the NFLPA filed a complaint alleging that the NFL structured its contracts with broadcast partners, such as CBS and FOX, to ensure that fees would be paid even if there were no games played in 2011.

Why is this a big deal? In the event that football is not played in 2011, the NFL won’t be sharing television revenue with the players, and in securing a payout for not having a season in 2011, the Union is arguing that the NFL did not seek to maximize revenue in other seasons when the league would need to share that money with players. So for the Union, the deal violates an agreement between the parties that the NFL must negotiate in good faith with a view to maximizing revenue for players. The NFL took less in years it had to share revenue to guarantee that it gets paid if there is no football.

The NFL initially beat the NFLPA, but on appeal Judge Doty sided with the players. The next step is a hearing to determine the award of monetary damages. That is set for May 12. The players filed their brief on Thursday in advance of the hearing.

What are the Players Asking For?

The players have asked for revenue "left on the table" in 2009 and 2010 when the NFL re-negotiated broadcast contracts. The players have also asked for 3 times the total amount of compensation awarded by the Court. They argue that the NFL's attempt to tilt the balance of labor talks by rigging the TV deals was  "unconscionable", and that the breach of its obligation to bargain in good faith was "deliberate, contemplated and willful."

The players also asked for the lockout to be lifted. However, the players did acknowledge that Judge Susan Nelson has the authority to do that in the player's other lawsuit filed by the Brady Bunch, where they are trying to get the lockout lifted.

While the amount of money the players are asking for has not been disclosed, some have estimated that the number may be in hundreds of millions of dollars.