Thursday, May 10, 2007

Random thoughts from a random mind...

Who let the dog out...
Even with plausible deniability involved, it seems that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is seriously considering suspending Michael Vick anyway. According to a report from Don Banks at Sports Illustrated, Goodell essentially told Vick, "your house, your responsibility."

Personally, I have to admit, in my opinion - and let me stress that last word - Vick is guilty as sin in this, but will manage to avoid legal culpability. The suspension, given the fact that he has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately, I think looms as a very real possibility.

A suspension would certainly be a wake-up call for Vick. The question is, would it work?

Interesting conversation...
In light of Amanda Beard's decision to pose for Playboy, my wife and I had an interesting conversation...particularly in regards to gratuitous nudity and roll models. I won't go into the heavy details, but it lead me to an article regarding the marketability of athletes and women's athletics.

According to a poll of 65 businesses around America by Street & Smith released earlier this year, only Maria Sharapova breaks the top 10 (ninth). Other women to make the list, or be determined marketable:
Michelle Kwan (skating - retired)
Mia Hamm (soccer - retired)
Anna Kournikova (tennis - retired)
Chris Everett (tennis - retired)
Michelle Wie (golf)
Swin Cash (WNBA)
Heather Mitts (soccer)

In recent years others have made the list, such as Venus and Serena Williams, and Gabi Reece, but why such a short list? Is it tied to the lack of popularity of women's sports? Is it tied to something else?

The saying that everyone hears in regards to advertising is "sex sells," yet efforts of the WNBA to make attractive players such as Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson the faces of their franchises don't seem to help draw in the larger fan base that the WNBA has hoped to attract. Is it due to a long standing misperception that the women's locker-room is merely the jock "closet," a haven packed solely with athletic-minded lesbians and a homo-phobic United States stays away?

Is it that women's sports hasn't tried hard enough to market to a lesbian fan base that does indeed exist?

All of these are plausible explanations. But I have one other - it's the markets that women's team sports feel they need to be in. These Joanie-come-lately leagues insist on trying to compete with already established men's teams for the same dollar.

Look where the WNBA has situated their teams - New York, Seattle, Detroit, Houston, etc. Many of those teams are in markets where they are competing with Major League Baseball's longer established Yankees, Mets, Mariners, Tigers, Astros, etc, for the fan dollar. That's not a winning proposition. The reason - the NBA, the WNBA's parent corporation, wanted to be in the biggest television markets.

It might have been wiser, however, to move into the secondary markets. Pensacola, which is a top 45 television market, but has precious little in the way of professional sports, is the home town to the women's football team Pensacola Power. It is one of the few venues for that sport that regularly attracts over 4,000 in attendance for its games. By way of contrast, in their second seasons Pensacola regularly attracted several thousand fans and was covered by the local newspaper, Philadelphia, competing against the Sixers and Flyers (when the two made the playoffs), as well as the Phillies, were lucky to attract 1000.

Yes, the female athletes you see hawking products tend to be the prettiest - lord knows that Kournokova had moments, but was never at the top of the game, never won a major tournament and never ranked higher than eighth, but was at the time the most marketable face in tennis. Not just women's tennis - but tennis as a whole. Even sitting on the sidelines she continues to make millions.

Are there exceptions? Sure - Mia Hamm wasn't the prettiest of the pro-soccer players, but she's not unattractive and she was the best at what she did.

The question all this leads to is - what's the answer? How can women's sports be more marketable and draw bigger crowds? If I could answer that, I'd have a whole lot more money than I do now.

What is Clemens real impact?
Assuming Kei Igawa was still getting used to a new leagues, batters, umpires, etc., it's probably safe to project him for somewhere between eight and eleven wins over the course of the season and about a 5.00 ERA. With a maximum potential of about 23 starts and a move to a tougher league than he pitched in last season, chances are Clemens will produce between ten and fourteen wins with around a 4.00 ERA.

For an additional $26 million (figuring for luxury tax), that's really not much additional bang for the Yankee buck, if all the assumptions above are really true. Also, they can not figure that a 45 year-old pitcher who averaged six innings per game in the weaker National League is going to do the same in the American League...and isn't part of their problem right now their overtaxed bullpen?

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