Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New Ballparks, How People Don't Get It

Recently I was in Miami for a family function. Now while this city has never been one of my favorites, you can’t deny that a March trip to any place where shorts and a tee are the daily dress code is an improvement.

But Miami rose a tad in my personal esteem department, when it was announced that the city fathers were tearing down the Orange Bowl, a New Year’s day landmark and home of Florida’s answer to the Grandaddy out in Pasedena.

I produced quite a few Orange Bowl games. Several of them were National Championship games, long before the BCS. I spent a lot of time in that stadium and although it was a number of years ago, even back then the stadium was a dump. It only got worse; in fact it was so bad that the committee moved the Orange Bowl game up I-95 to the more modern Dolphins Stadium while the Orange Bowl was still standing.

As bad as the stadium was, the neighborhood was worse. If you left a game shortly after the bulk of the crowd and was not fortunate enough to get one of the limited spots on the grounds, you walked through the streets with significant trepidation.

Fast forward to last week. Word came out that those same city fathers had approved some a half billion dollars to build a new stadium for the baseball Florida Marlins, who ironically have played in that same football stadium that houses both the Dolphins, Orange Bowl, and now the University of Miami, the last surviving tenant of that old dump.

And where is that stadium going up? You guessed it, right on the same spot as that aforementioned dump in that seedy neighborhood.

Here in New York, we are building two new ballparks. Another is going up across the Hudson. Lots of dough being spent, lots of construction work, and while the stadiums are basically caddy corner to existing structures, they retain their biggest attribute, accessibility. Yes, CityField, will still have the noise of the airplanes taking off from la Guardia, that noise has become a personality of Shea, and the New Yankee stadium will still be in the south Bronx, where the neighborhood is undergoing a renaissance. And most important, you can still take the 7 train to see the Mets, and the 4 or D to see the Yanks

Not the case in Miami, while a half billion seems like a lot of cash, in terms of stadium construction, it’s a mere pittance. And while the new digs may look nice, not word one about improving the neighborhood. Once the sheen of the park wears off, given the financial track record of the franchise, the crowds will once again be smaller.

The Marlins have one of the worst attendance records in MLB. It still amazes me that the “brains” behind keeping this franchise in South Florida really don’t have a clue

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Post Season College Basketball Fiasco

Welcome to Championship Week in College Basketball. The first of the such sponsored weeks, thanks to the good folks at that four letter sports network designed to make them money.

And while we chastised those folks in the Nutmeg state for making a pile of dough off those Play Hoops For The Fun Of It kids, the truth is that they only take their place in a long line of those who take advantage of those that Play Hoops For The Fun Of It.

And the head of the line begins with the NCAA, which is the colleges themselves.

I'm not talking about the D-II and D-III institutions who hold their post season in conference tournaments. There is very little financial reward to be reaped. For those kids, it's one more chance to put on the sneakers for a game and keep playing.

But for those big boys in D-I, as Casper Gutttman said in "The Maltese Falcon", "it's a matter of loot". And big loot.

And as always, the kids get the short end.

You can make a case for the big conferences. The Big East which holds it’s post season bash at the Garden offers a last chance for a bubble team like Syracuse to make the Big Dance. And the same is true for the other majors.

But what about the small conferences like the Metro Atlantic, America East and the Colonial. There it’s one bid. That goes to the post season tournament winner. Are you following? You can go through the regular season, win 23 games, get to the Post Season Tournament Championship Game, your star player gets into foul trouble, and you end up losing. Your dream of playing in the NCAA tournament, the carrot at the end of a five months of hard work and sacrifice stick is dashed.

And why? Because your conference wants to take in some more dough with the Post Season Four Day Tournament. In a case like the Metro Atlantic, the home of locals like Iona, St Peter’s Fairfield and Manhattan, How much dough ? In some piece of misplaced inspired wisdom, the league holds their show in a big time arena in places like Albany, Trenton, and Buffalo. And unless a local team is playing, maybe as many as 3000 people show up, a drop in a 15,000 seat bucket. And the place sounds like an Islanders home game.

The Ivy League gets it. No Post season. No taking kids out of class. Win the regular season, you go to the NCAA. No, injustices to kids who work their tails off. No false sense of accomplishment. No reward for a season of missteps, culminated by three or four good days that pay off.

But for the rest of the money hungry college leagues it’s business as usual. Every nickel counts. Damn the Athletes, Full Greed Ahead.