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No Longer Worth The Hassle, Baseball Can Die Now

“Another damaging labor mess, amid trying times in America, is chasing away the most important demographic — diehards — as bad-faith owners push baseball to the brink.”

Jay Mariotti

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First baseball lost the millennials, who wondered why 3 1/2 hours of sitting in a hard plastic seat might net 10 minutes of perceptible action. Then baseball lost the families, the dads and moms tired of explaining scandals to their kids. It already was losing Black America — big-league rosters that averaged six to seven African-American players in 1975 are fortunate to have one today — and anyone under age 20 is too occupied with selfies to appreciate Mike Trout.

But now, baseball has lost me.

It has lost the diehard who once assumed all scars heal, regardless of outrageous wrongdoing and inevitable turbulence, only to realize in 2020 that the bleeding is interminable. Even in our Year From Hell, amid racial unrest and a killer pandemic and rampant unemployment, the owners and players are so bent on feuding over billions that they apparently prefer to kill the game than trying to save it. We’ve never had time for their greed and hostilities, but with the world suspended in dire uncertainty, these labor confrontations have become obnoxious, tone-deaf, brain-dead and no longer worthy of our attention.

Let it be?

Manfred Twitter Trend : The Most Popular Tweets | Canada

Actually, let it die. Perhaps baseball has to go away, for a long time, before it can return in a reimagined, streamlined, labor-sensible form and be functional again — let alone relevant in a changing America. I trust the chances of an honest, clean presidential election more than I trust the men who’ve steamrolled the sport into oblivion, with no one more inept than commissioner Rob Manfred, who only days ago said, “Unequivocally, we are going to play Major League Baseball this year … 100 percent.’’

Like the Steroids Era, like the electronic sign-stealing scam, like the juiced and unjuiced balls, like Pete Rose, like the Black Sox and like most of what baseball has represented through time, Manfred’s promise was a lie. With the sides deadlocked as they’ve been for weeks, Manfred now says there might not be a 2020 season, which should prompt us all to run into the streets — masks on  — and celebrate that we won’t have to deal with these buffoons much longer.

“I’m not confident. I think there’s real risk; and as long as there’s no dialogue, that real risk is going to continue,” Manfred said on an ESPN special, “The Return Of Sports,’’ that made baseball look especially bad in that at least three commissioners appearing with him — the NBA’s Adam Silver, the NFL’s Roger Goodell and the NHL’s Gary Bettman — remain on possible tracks to resume play.

As this was happening, MLB was playing dirty pool, leaking a letter to the Associated Press that “several 40-man roster players and staff’’ have tested positive for COVID-19, “(increasing) the risks associated with commencing spring training in the next few weeks.’’ Making sensitive medical information public casts a poor light on the owners, who don’t seem to have much interest in playing a season, but it also sounds sirens about the elephant in the room: Regardless of their youth and virility, athletes, too, can contract the coronavirus, as football’s Ezekiel Elliott and carriers throughout all leagues realize. It’s why NBA players are having second thoughts about resuming play in the Florida bubble, along with concerns about maintaining momentum for the Black Lives Matter movement, and it’s why sports in general should re-examine whether the mad rush to return is worth the health risk.

MLB Commissioner Says Season Could Be Called Off - WSJ

That said, shame on MLB for using positive tests as a weapon. When asked how baseball’s labor debacle looks given the condition of the country, Manfred finally said something truthful. “”It’s just a disaster for our game, absolutely no question about it. It shouldn’t be happening,’’ he said, “and it’s important that we find a way to get past it and get the game back on the field for the benefit of our fans.’’

Please don’t. I have lost all faith and patience, measures of which I once had in abundance.

I was a young columnist in Cincinnati when Rose impugned the game’s integrity, yet I came back. I was in Chicago when Jerry Reinsdorf howled, “I’m going to be a hawk’’ — the owners’ rally cry in an impasse that wiped out the 1994 World Series — yet I came back. I spent a phony summer in press boxes watching Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa reduce the Great American Home Run to a steroids-swollen freak show, yet I came back. I’ve seen plummeting TV ratings, graying demographics, foul balls that killed or permanently injured fans, elaborate schemes, continued PED use, games that grew longer instead of shorter, coordinated ball-juicing that created disproportionate-to-reality power numbers and an institutional failure to market a breathtaking generation of young stars.

And yet, I stayed loyal, fighting an hour of freeway traffic for another night at Dodger Stadium, just as I once zig-zagged through neighborhood streets in a rush-hour swirl and reached Wrigley Field in time for Kerry Wood’s 20th strikeout. I’ve always been a ballpark aficionado, savoring the ambience and architecture of stadia old and new, but more importantly, while football and basketball were blowing past Mr. Magoo (aka former commissioner Bud Selig) in the express lanes of American life, I enjoyed simply sitting in a seat with a beer and hot dog and watching a game.

Until I didn’t.

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What’s driving me away is the audacity of these people. The owners are not dealing in reality, deluding themselves that MLB can: (1) either cancel the season or play an illegitimate regular season of 50 or so games, which bastardizes the very historical standards that distinguish it from other sports; (2) wage another wintertime war by colluding against Mookie Betts and other jackpot-worthy free agents; (3) deal with another coronavirus-threatened season in 2021; and (4) threaten a lockout in 2022 after the collective bargaining agreement expires — and STILL expect fans to be there in the end. Memo to Manfred and all other management space cadets: The fans will not be there this time. The last one will have shut off the lights, closed the door and padlocked it. Baseball can absorb only so much damage before its inherent joys are completely stripped away.

We have reached that dead end. The sport is broken.

Said Players Association executive director Tony Clark: “Players are disgusted that after Rob Manfred unequivocally told players and fans that there would `100%’ be a 2020 season, he has decided to go back on his word and is now threatening to cancel the entire season. … This latest threat is just one more indication that Major League Baseball has been negotiating in bad faith since the beginning. This has always been about extracting additional pay cuts from players, and this is just another day and another bad faith tactic in their ongoing campaign.”

All of which is hard to fathom, in that MLB continue to be enabled by broadcast networks still trying, for some reason, to prevent the sport’s mercy-killing. Turner oddly sees enough value to invest $3.29 billion into an MLB extension, which comes after Fox did a $5.1 billion extension two years ago. If ESPN goes the same route, the owners are looking at more than $2 billion in annual television revenues. The network bosses, who seem to have lost their minds, are ignoring the trouble signs and dreary ratings and administering an IV to the fallen beast.

But what good is financial sustenance if the owners lie about it and chase the union away? They insist on crying poor when obviously, after generating $10.7 billion in revenues last year, they’re rolling in the green. The players see those windfalls — the Turner extension was leaked over the weekend — and understandably ask why their average salary has fallen since 2017 while owners brag about record revenues. Normally, fans side against athletes in labor stalemates, and, given the current jobless rate, many don’t grasp why the players didn’t take a deal weeks ago and play for America’s spiritual well-being. But reasonable and smart folks realize the owners are using an opportunity — COVID-19 — to extort the players. Good faith bargaining, this is not.

Bill Dewitt Jr. talks ahead of Cardinals 2020 seasons | Full ...

St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr., whose team is valued at $2.1 billion, had the gall to say on local station 590 The Fan, “The industry isn’t very profitable, to be honest … don’t think for a minute that the reduced payroll added money in the pockets of the owners because it didn’t.’’ So where did the money go? “It’s a bit of a zero-sum game. A lot more is put into training, conditioning, promotional work, front office, analytics,’’ said DeWitt, who bought the Cardinals for $150 million in 1995.

The … industry … isn’t … very … profitable? Do the math. In the last six years, according to the Washington Post, the average value of an MLB franchise has ballooned from $811 million to $1.852 billion. Not only is the industry profitable, it can more than sustain the larger mission of playing baseball during a pandemic, especially when players would be assuming the virus risks, not the owners hiding in bunkers with their accountants. By comparison, the NBA is desperate to complete its season in a Florida bubble and avert more than $1 billion in losses. One hopes the details of a Wall Street Journal report are a clerical oversight and not a five-alarm fire, but a landlord is alleging that the league’s Manhattan retail outlet has not paid its rent. MLB teams, trust me, can more than pay the rent.

DeWitt’s remark was mocked by numerous players, including Brandon Crawford, who tweeted: “”ThE iNdUsTrY jUsT iSnT tHaT pRoFiTaBlE.’’

Andrew McCutchen added, “bUT bAsEbAlL iS dYiNg!’’

Tom Ricketts Says Cubs Didn't Spend Big Money on Free Agents ...

That hasn’t stopped other owners from spreading more propaganda, whether it’s Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts saying, “The league itself does not make a lot of cash,’’ or Arizona Diamondbacks general partner Ken Kendrick echoing the nonsense, calling it a “falsehood that continues to be perpetrated.’’ The players are outraged, knowing Ricketts has used Cubs profits to build a ballpark village in Wrigleyville. The union also wants the owners, who say they’d face losses of $640,000 a game in empty parks over an 82-game schedule, to open their financial books. But the owners prefer to hide the books, which makes players, media and fans suspicious of the numbers in a sport that does nothing but lie anyway.

Allow me to list the most recent valuations of elite major-league teams from Forbes, as of April: New York Yankees, $5 billion; Los Angeles Dodgers, $3.4 billion; Boston Red Sox, $3.3 billion; Cubs, $3.2 billion; San Francisco Giants, $3.1 billion. And the net worth of select owners: the Washington Nationals’ Ted Lerner, $4.8 billion; Charles Johnson, the San Francisco Giants’ principal owner, $4.5 billion; the Detroit Tigers’ Marian Ilitch, $3.8 billion; the Los Angeles Angels’ Arte Moreno, $3.3 billion; John Middleton of the Philadelphia Phillies, $3.3 million; and John Henry of the Red Sox, $2.7 billion. Rounding out the billionaires club: Joe Ricketts of the Cubs, John Fisher of the Oakland A’s, Ray Davis of the Texas Rangers and Reinsdorf of the White Sox.

So here is baseball, in the crapper once again. The ESPN documentary, “Long Gone Summer,’’ was a syrupy waste of time, hardly mentioning until the final few minutes that McGwire and Sosa had duped a fawning nation with PED use. But the most maddening recurring theme was how the 1998 home-run chase, four seasons after the World Series shutdown, somehow had re-energized the sport.

It did not. Rather, it just delayed the inevitable. Baseball, as always, cannot get out of its own way, to the point we’ve stopped trying to catch its fall. I want to see a full-on face plant. I want to see them eat dirt, or some other substance.

BSM Writers

Beyond The Mask: Henrik Lundqvist Embraced 2nd Career in Sports Media

“It’s not a coincidence you see a lot of goalies working [on] panels and analyzing the game because that’s a huge part of playing in goal.”

Derek Futterman

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Plucking the strings of an acoustic guitar, Henrik Lundqvist found himself beneath the bright lights once again, poised to put on a worthy performance. Just as he aimed to stop pucks from going in the net as the star goaltender of the New York Rangers for 15 seasons, Lundqvist sought to captivate viewers as half of a musical duo featuring former NHL forward Paul Bissonnette.

Their performance of “Good Riddance” by Green Day was in tribute to Rick Tocchet, a former NHL on TNT studio analyst who recently departed the network to serve as interim head coach of the Vancouver Canucks.

Lundqvist serves as a studio analyst for TNT’s coverage of the NHL, breaking down players and teams throughout the broadcast and bringing his own unique style to the set. His pursuit of a post-playing career in sports media was no guarantee from the moment he retired in August 2021; in fact, he never intended to stop playing the game and competing for a Stanley Cup championship at that time.

During the 2019-20 season, Lundqvist had lost playing time to young goaltenders Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev, and by the year’s end, his deal was bought out by the team. In an effort to continue playing, Lundqvist signed a contract with the Washington Capitals – marking the first time in his NHL career that he would not step between the pipes for the Rangers.

Lundqvist never played a game for the team though, as it was discovered in a medical exam that he would need open-heart surgery to replace his aortic valve while also having an aortic root and ascending aortic replacement. One month after the successful five-hour operation, he was back on the ice rehabbing and attempting to make a full recovery – but a few months in, he began to feel unexpected chest pain. Following a medical checkup, Lundqvist was told he had inflammation around his heart caused by exertion. It was a significant setback that required him to step off the ice, take off his goaltender equipment and rest for several months.

After discussions with his family and friends, Lundqvist determined that the risk of taking the ice outweighed the rewards and officially stepped away from the game. Rather than conjuring hypothetical scenarios wherein he did not experience the misfortune and played for the Capitals, Lundqvist looked to the future amid the ongoing global pandemic and thought about how he could best enjoy his retirement.

“I was just mentally in a very good place,” Lundqvist said. “I didn’t have a choice; I guess that makes it easier sometimes when the decision is made because you can’t go back-and-forth – ‘Should I?’ ‘Should I not?’ Yeah, I wanted to play but it was just not meant to be for me.”

Before any definitive resolution on his future endeavors was made though, the Rangers announced that the team would retire Lundqvist’s No. 30 in a pregame ceremony during the 2021-22 season, making him just the 11th player bestowed that honor in franchise history. As a five-time NHL All-Star selection, 2011 Vezina Trophy winner, and holder of numerous franchise records, Lundqvist had the accolades to merit this profound distinction.

Moreover, he was an important component in growing the game of hockey and contributing to the greater community, serving as the official spokesperson for the Garden of Dreams Foundation and founder of the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation. He also was a two-time recipient of the organization’s prestigious Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, honoring the player “who goes above and beyond the call of duty.”

Throughout the night, attendees regaled Lundqvist with chants of “Hen-rik!” and were treated to flashbacks of some of his memorable career moments. The night was of monumental importance for Lundqvist, during which he expressed his gratitude to the Rangers’ organization, former teammates and fans. Then, Lundqvist — referred to as “The King” — promptly took his place among team legends beneath the concave ceiling of “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”

“When I look back at my career, I know, to me, it was all about preparation; how I practiced and how I prepared for each game at practice,” Lundqvist said. “There’s no regrets, and I hope people, when they think about how I played, [know] that it was 100% heart and commitment to the game.”

Before this ceremony though, Lundqvist and Rangers owner James Dolan had held several meetings with one another. The purpose of these conversations was to determine the best way for Lundqvist to remain involved with the team, its fans, and the community. In the end, he was named as a lead studio analyst on MSG Networks’ broadcasts of New York Rangers hockey before the start of the 2021-22 season: the start of his foray in sports media.

This past summer, Lundqvist negotiated a new deal with Madison Square Garden Sports and Madison Square Garden Entertainment in which he maintained his in-studio responsibilities while increasing involvement in other areas of its sports and entertainment ventures. In this new role, Lundqvist supports the business operations for both companies, assisting in digital content development, alumni relations, and partner and sponsor activities.

When Lundqvist is not in the studio or the office, he can often be found at Madison Square Garden taking in New York Rangers hockey, New York Knicks basketball, or one of the arena’s renowned musical performances. Usually, when he is in attendance, he is shown on the arena’s center-hung video board as an “NYC Celebrity” and receives a thunderous ovation from the crowd.

“The network is just part of it, but it feels great to come there,” Lundqvist said of Madison Square Garden. “Every time I go there – to see the people that I’ve known for so long – but also I love that place; I love The Garden. I think the energy [and] the variety of things that happen there is something I really appreciate. It feels really good to be a part of that.”

Sitting alongside former teammate and studio analyst Steve Valiqutte and sportscaster John Giannone, Lundqvist appears in the MSG Networks studios, located across the street from the arena, for select New York Rangers games. From the onset, he brought his allure and expertise to the set and appealed to viewers – so much so that national networks quickly began to take notice.

“I enjoy watching hockey [and] talking hockey, but the main thing to me is the team; the people that you work with,” Lundqvist said. “The guys on the panel [and the] crew behind. I really enjoy that part of it and having a lot of fun off-camera.”

One month later, Lundqvist was on his first national broadcast for the NHL on TNT where he and Bissonnette famously performed a cover of “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica that went viral on social media. It had been known that Lundqvist was a musician, famously performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in his Rangers uniform to celebrate the end of the 2012-13 NHL lockout.

In fact, during his retirement ceremony, the Rangers gifted him with a custom-made guitar painted by David Gunnarsson, the same artist who used to paint Lundqvist’s goalie masks.

Aside from occasional music performances, Lundqvist brings an esoteric base of knowledge to the NHL on TNT panel as its only goaltender. Whether it be through player breakdowns, interviews, or dialogue with other analysts, Lundqvist has a perspective to which few professional hockey players can relate. There are various goaltenders among local studio panels surrounding live hockey game broadcasts, and Lundqvist is in a unique situation with MSG Networks in that he and Valiquette are both former goaltenders. Yet on Turner Sports’ national coverage, he is the only voice speaking to this different part of the game.

“It’s not a coincidence you see a lot of goalies working [on] panels and analyzing the game because that’s a huge part of playing in goal,” Lundqvist explained. “Yes, you need to stop the puck, but a huge part of being a goalie is analyzing what’s going on. We can never really dictate the play so you need to analyze what’s happening right in front of you.”

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NHL ON TNT STUDIO

In broadcasting at both the local and national level, Lundqvist is cognizant of the differences in each network’s studio programs. Lundqvist says appearing on the MSG Networks studio panel is more about being direct with the viewer, whereas the NHL on TNT views its panel as being conversational in nature. With Turner Sports, Lundqvist also asks his colleagues about the different teams around the league since he is most familiar with the Rangers both as a former player and studio analyst.

“I’m closer to the Rangers; I see more of what’s going on,” Lundqvist stated. “When you work [national] games, maybe you focus in on teams on the West Coast or [part] of the league you don’t see as often. You try to talk to the other guys on the panel and the crew and figure out things that are interesting about those teams.”

Hockey is a team sport, and Lundqvist felt grateful to play with his teammates and face his competitors over the years. Now as an analyst though, it is his job to analyze their games and critique them when necessary; however, he does not try to be excessively critical.

Lundqvist knows the trials and tribulations associated with the sport and can relate to scenarios many players face on a nightly basis. Therefore, he thinks about his own experience before giving an opinion, especially a critique, instantiating it with comprehensible, recondite knowledge and/or by recounting a similar situation.

“I’d much rather give them positive feedback obviously because I know it is a tough game,” Lundqvist said, “and sometimes it might look like an easy mistake, but if you can give the viewer a better explanation of why he did that, they might have a different view of that mistake.”

Now metaphorically being beyond the goalie mask, Lundqvist’s vision of the game has evidently shifted. He discerns just how intense the schedule is and the rapid pace of the game, axioms he was aware of while playing but inherently avoided thinking about. He has implemented his refined viewpoint of the game accordingly into his analysis, simultaneously utilizing the mindset and savvy he cultivated on the ice. It is, quite simply, a balancing act.

“I think people can be pretty quick to jump on guys and critique them,” Lundqvist said. “That’s where maybe you take an extra look and try to understand why it happened and give those reasons. I think that’s where it helps if you played the game [for] a long time and just love the game [because] you have a pretty good understanding of why guys react a certain way.”

The challenge tacitly embedded in the jobs of most studio analysts – Lundqvist’s included – is in presenting the information to the audience in a manner through which it learns without being confused. It is a delicate craft that takes time and genuine understanding to master, especially related to promulgating hockey analytics as Valiquette does on MSG Networks and within his company, Clear Sight Analytics.

“There’s a lot of educated viewers out there, but there’s also a lot of people that maybe don’t watch as much hockey,” Lundqvist said, “so you want to find that middle ground where you kind of educate both sides.”

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By broadcasting both locally and nationally in addition to working in a specially-designed business operations role, Lundqvist is staying around the rink in his retirement while facilitating the growth of hockey. Despite the profusion of young talent, dynamic action and jaw-dropping plays, viewership of the sport on ESPN and TNT’s linear channels has dropped 22% from last season, according to a report by Sports Business Journal.

For Lundqvist though, he does not feel much has changed from playing regarding his responsibility to advance the reach and appeal of the sport. He played professionally for 20 years, beginning his career in his home country of Sweden, primarily in the Swedish Elite League (SEL). In the 2004-05 season, his final campaign before arriving in New York City, Lundqvist had won the award for most valuable player. Furthermore, he was recognized as the best goalie and best player, leading Frölunda HC to its second Elitserien championship in three seasons.

His NHL debut came five years after he was selected in the seventh round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers but unlike many rookies over the years, he came polished and prepared to embrace the lights of Broadway. Following an injury to starting goaltender Kevin Weekes, Lundqvist was inserted into the starting lineup and, from that moment on, virtually never came out.

By the end of his first year, he had been named to the NHL All-Rookie Team and was a Vezina Trophy finalist for best goaltender. Additionally, he remains the only goaltender to begin his NHL career with seven consecutive 30-plus win seasons.

“I think the league is doing a great job of growing the game,” Lundqvist said. “In the end, it comes down to the product and right now, it’s a great product. I feel really good about, the best way I can, to promote the game [by] talking about it, but… it feels like I’ve been doing that for 20 years.”

One means through which Lundqvist attempts to grow the game is within the studio demos he performs with the NHL on TNT, displaying different facets of the game in a technical manner. The show also embraces the characteristics of their analysts and implements them in lighthearted segments, such as zamboni races, putting competitions, Swedish lessons and, of course, musical performances.

“I’m huge on mindset and the pressure,” Lundqvist said. “I love to talk about that type of stuff and give the viewer a better understanding of what goes through their heads. In terms of personality, I don’t know if I can say [that] I’m a serious guy because I love to have fun and laugh and do fun things.”

Lundqvist thoroughly enjoys what he is doing both locally and nationally, and he ensures he surrounds himself with people he wants to be around. There are plenty of other broadcast opportunities for former hockey players, such as moving into the booth as a color commentator or between the benches as a rinkside reporter. At this moment though, he is more focused on being immersed in his current roles, performing them to the best of his ability while ensuring he allocates time to spend with friends and family.

“I see myself more as an analyst in the studio more than traveling around and being in the rink,” he said. “I think that’s another thing with the schedule; it works really well with my schedule to have one or two commitments with the networks, but then I have other things going on in my life that I commit to.”

Plenty of comparisons can be drawn between playing professional hockey and covering the sport from the studio in terms of preparation and synergy. Yet the end result is not as clearly defined since “winning” in television is quantifiably defined as generating ratings and revenue. Undoubtedly, Lundqvist is focused on doing what he can to bolster hockey’s popularity; however, he also wants to enjoy this new phase of his career being around the game he loves.

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“In sports, you win or you lose,” Lundqvist explained. “With TV, you want to be yourself [and] you want to get your point out – but at the same time, if you do it at the same time you’re having a good time, I feel like that’s good TV.”

Once their careers conclude, many athletes think about pursuing a post-playing career and oftentimes end up taking on a role in sports broadcasting. On MSG Networks alone, there are plenty of former players who take part in studio coverage on live game broadcasts, such as Martin Biron of the Buffalo Sabres, Bryce Salvador of the New Jersey Devils, and Matt Martin of the New York Islanders. At the national level, Turner Sports employs Paul Bissonnette, Anson Carter, and Wayne Gretzky for its studio broadcasts, while ESPN’s top studio crew includes Mark Messier and Chris Chelios.

All of these former professional hockey players had an obligation to regularly speak with media members, answering questions about games and the season at large. Lundqvist maintained a professional relationship with journalists and beat reporters, and he most enjoyed taking questions when the team was doing well. Regardless of what the end result of a game was though, he had a responsibility to divulge his thoughts and, in turn, be subject to criticism and/or negative feedback.

His stellar career and persona all came from emanating a passion for the game – and it continues to manifest itself beyond the television screen. Listening to those passionate about the game discuss it usually engenders euphony and lucidity to viewers, analogous to the sound of the puck hitting the pads or entering the glove. It is a timbre Lundqvist created 27,076 times throughout his NHL career (regular season and playoffs) in preventing goals, and one he now aims to explain en masse.

“The reason why I kept going to the rink and put all the hours in was because I really enjoyed it,” Lundqvist said. “If you decide to go into media or whatever it might be, I think the bottom line is [that] you have to enjoy it and make sure you have good people around you.”

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BSM Writers

Should the NBA Nationalize Local TV Rights Like MLS?

The NBA’s upcoming rights negotiations will be this transformational idea’s first testing grounds.

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Diamond Sports has been anything but a diamond in the sports world. As subscribers leave cable and satellite for streaming services, companies are dropping RSNs nationwide because they are too expensive to carry. This has caused an impending bankruptcy for the company, which owns the local rights to dozens of sports teams nationwide. It is also putting the NBA, NHL, and MLB at major financial risk. 

In the short term, it is known that teams will still broadcast on their RSNs even if they aren’t getting the paychecks they were promised in previous rights deals. This will affect teams’ ability to pay players and could even create an unfair advantage among the haves of the sports world like the Yankees and Lakers and the have-nots. The NFL doesn’t face the same problems that the other leagues are facing because its rights have been nationalized.

With the NFL’s continued television dominance, college conferences also bundling up games together for more money, and the MLS guaranteeing themselves television revenue after packaging local and national rights together, could we see the other leagues follow suit? It is an option that is much easier said than done but it seems like we are moving closer to it becoming reality. 

The NBA’s upcoming rights negotiations will be this transformational idea’s first testing grounds.

The biggest problem the NBA and other leagues would face are that the local rights to all of its teams don’t expire at the same time. If the league were to sign a deal that included giving all local rights to a streamer, the amount which the league was getting paid would be very unique year after year. It would be crazy for a streamer to pay a huge chunk of money to the NBA all at once if the number of teams they have local rights to changes every year.

It would also be insane to pay an astronomical amount if the streamer is only getting the local rights to small-market teams like the Cavs and the Pistons. A major market team like the Lakers doesn’t renew their local rights until 2032. We’re still in 2023. How does that affect the league’s operating costs? 

The NBA would also have to figure out whether teams whose rights don’t expire yet deserve to be included in the pot of money garnered from selling local rights to a streamer. Whether they are or they aren’t, does it put each team at different competitive advantages and/or disadvantages when trying to acquire free agents or front-office personnel?

One of the most interesting puzzles to figure out is what influence a league owner like Washington’s Ted Leonsis has in this potential measure when all is said and done. Leonsis just acquired complete control of the regional sports network — currently named NBC Sports Washington — that broadcasts Wizards and Capitals games for millions of dollars, although the exact amount remains undisclosed.

What does Leonsis do with his network if his team’s games can no longer air there? Can his team opt out of participating in a potential league offering? Or if the games continue to air on his network but are simulcasted locally on the streamer that wins local rights on a national scale, does the streamer have the ability to pay less money for rights?

If so, does that make the deal as lucrative for the NBA? And what does that mean for retransmission fees that cable companies like Comcast pay to Leonsis and other RSNs they’re still carrying?

The league will face a similar problem with the Lakers, Bulls, Knicks and other franchises that either wholly own or partially own a part of the RSNs where they broadcast their games. 

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions which is why they are written here in this column. Unfortunately for the leagues, they don’t have the answers either. But if the NBA figures out a way to nationalize their product even more and make streaming games more appealing by ending local blackouts, it’ll benefit the game more than it hurts the game. 

NBA, NHL, and MLB games are still some of the highest-rated programs locally in many markets when you look at how they rate vs. other cable and broadcast offerings. But at this point, the ability to charge everyone for a program that only ten percent of subscribers are watching is a losing business proponent.

The leagues should start from scratch and sell a mass package of games for maximum profit. It gives fans a more centralized location to watch their favorite teams and puts the leagues on a much more steady path than where they could be headed sooner rather than later.

Diamond in the rough to sparkling jewel of light? Only time will tell.

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BSM Writers

Do You Have Affirmations Of Gratitude?

“We are told to be grateful for what we have and remember it could be worse. That feels like a really low bar, right?”

Jeff Caves

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Having gratitude for your life is all the rage. If you, like me, have trouble starting your day with positive affirmations and maintaining a positive outlook about your job, read on! 

We are told to be grateful for what we have and remember it could be worse. That feels like a really low bar, right? Here is another version. Try a few affirmations of gratitude instead.

“I HAVE A JOB.”

With interest rates rising, inflation increasing, and spending down; corporations are laying people off. PayPal laid off 7% of its entire workforce. Amazon let 18,000 go. Alphabet (Google) said goodbye to 12,000 jobs. Radio sales managers need to hire people like you – experienced sellers with a track record of bringing home the bacon. 

I AM A PROBLEM SOLVER.”

You solve a problem for your company when it comes to revenue. You know people, and you sell advertising better than anything they can come up with…so far. 

Yes, they are trying to replace you, but Zoom Info reports iHeart’s self-serve spot buying service,  AdBuilder, is doing under 5 million in business. You have time to solidify your value. Be happy you are the rainmaker. 

I WORK IN THE PEOPLE BUSINESS.”

Sports talk radio is the ultimate companion to millions of listeners. They aren’t robots, and your stations improve their lives by talking about what they care about 24/7. Celebrate selling access to callers, Twitter followers and FANS who go to games. You also get to work with local celebrities that everybody knows but you know best. We all need a connection to other people and want to be seen and heard. 

“I GET TO CHANGE HOW I FEEL ABOUT MYSELF.”

In this job, you determine your value, feelings about your work, and who you work with. You get to set a strategy and talk to the businesspeople you want to help and do business with. It’s like running your own business with a tremendous support staff. Try to do it independently, and you will appreciate accounting, traffic, production, and sales assistance. Those wins produce deposits in your bank account.  

I HAVE COMPETITION!”

That format competitor across the street does things differently and sometimes better than you or tries to imitate you and looks terrible. They motivate you to beat them to a new account or put a moat around your best clients so they can’t be touched. They keep you sharp and willing to try new things. Good competition schemes to take money from your station, and your management needs you to protect them. And they also provide a place for you to work one day. The FTC wants to eliminate non-competes so you can walk across the street this year.  

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