Column: Cardinals Hack AstrosJune 29, 2015

If it can happen to retailers like K-Mart, Target and Home Depot, and even the U.S. Government, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that it happened to the Houston Astros. But in this case, the perpetrators weren’t a criminal element in Eastern Europe or the Chinese government but apparently employees of another MLB team, the St. Louis Cardinals. In what is the first known case – security experts believe it has likely happened before - of computer espionage in professional sports, the FBI is investigating several Cardinals’ employees for allegedly hacking into the Astros’ computer system. The obvious questions are which employees are responsible and what was the purpose of the nefarious activity? Perhaps an answer to the first question will shed light on the second. What we know for now is that there is animosity tinged with jealousy between the two organizations.

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Column: Another Victory for TV ChoiceJune 15, 2015

Slowly but surely, fans are forcing sports teams and leagues to add to the limited viewing options they have historically offered us. In what can only be described as a huge victory for freedom of choice, the NHL and its broadcasters recently settled their portion of a class action lawsuit that has been lingering in the U.S. District Court for several years. MLB, also a defendant in the suit, is now left to singularly defend against allegations that they use blackouts to limit out-of-market games in order to protect local teams’ revenue.

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Column: MLB Fan Safety an Issue AgainJune 14, 2015

When the lead news story includes a photo of a female fan bleeding profusely from a gash on her head, it’s never good for business. That’s why MLB sprang into crisis mode immediately after a fan was struck by a shard from a broken bat during a game at Fenway Park on June 5, issuing a statement which said “Fan safety is our foremost goal.” But is it? Tonya Carpenter was sitting in the second row along the Red Sox’ third baseline with her son when a portion of Oakland A’s third baseman Brett Lawrie’s splintered maple bat went flying into the stands. Although Carpenter’s injuries were serious, she is currently on the mend. But who knows if the next victim will be as fortunate?

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Column: FIFA ScandalJune 8, 2015

The United States is one of the most backward countries in the world when it comes to playing, understanding and supporting the game of soccer, dubbed by the Portuguese as “The Beautiful Game.” But we sure know how to make an impact on the sport. Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted nine officials of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), soccer’s world governing body, along with five corporate executives on corruption charges. The 166-page, 47-count indictment alleges that over a 24-year period the defendants engaged in the crimes of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. The charges detail $150 million in bribes and kickbacks that were used to rig the selection of international soccer tournaments and the award of media and broadcasting contracts.

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Column: Who Will Win the NFL Battle for LA?May 31, 2015

The first week of the NFL’s off-season OTA’s – organized team activities – is in the books. You can be sure that battles for roster spots have already begun. While those battles are important for individual players and may portend the success of individual teams, there’s another contest taking shape in the league boardrooms that involves billions of dollars: The fight for the Los Angeles market. The NFL abandoned the LA market on two occasions, first when the AFL Chargers left for San Diego after the 1960 season and again in 1995 when both the Rams and Raiders left, the former to St. Louis and the latter to Oakland from whence they had come. The second largest media market in the U.S. has been without professional football for two decades. But that’s all about to change. League sources confirm that the NFL is likely to return to LA as soon as the 2016 season.

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Column: Will MLB Return to a 154-Game Schedule?May 25, 2015

In his first public interview earlier this year newly installed MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred mentioned a number of ideas he was willing to explore, including a return to the 154-game schedule that existed in the American League prior to 1961 and in the National League prior to1962. But hold on. It doesn’t take a financial genius to figure out that lopping eight games off the season is likely to cost someone – owners, players or both – some serious coin. Or is it? When MLB recently announced that it will conduct an economic impact study to determine the financial ramifications of a reduced schedule you knew the idea had gained some traction. This isn’t about the record books or stats. What really matters to the owners is cold, hard cash.

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Column: Isiah Thomas ReturnsMay 18, 2015

Two leagues, two different modes of operation. League A has imposed a four game ban – one-quarter of the season - on one of its premier players, a league icon and future Hall of Famer who has made more money for the league than virtually any other player in NFL history. That player has been a model citizen on and off the gridiron for 15 years. The player’s transgression was not ratting on other team employees who were messing with the game balls, a minor rule book violation punishable by a $25,000 fine. League B recently allowed one team to hire as its president and part owner a man who has failed miserably at every single basketball-related activity he has ever been associated with after winding up a Hall of Fame career as a player. This individual is responsible for running the Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks, Florida International University, Indiana Pacers and the Continental Basketball League into the ground while serving those organizations in various capacities including coach, general manager and president. And did I mention that while he was president of the Knicks, he was slapped with a sexual harassment suit brought by a team employee that resulted in an $11.6 million judgment?

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Column: Thoughts on Deflategate ReportMay 11, 2015

Thoughts and musings on the Wells Report and its aftermath. 1. Wells’ conclusion that it was “more probable than not” that low-level Patriots’ employees were playing fast and loose with the air pressure in the game balls used in this year’s AFC Championship game is typical NFLese. It’s the legal equivalent of the “preponderance of the evidence” used in civil cases. 2. The Report’s conclusion that Tom Brady was “at least generally aware” of the nefarious activity is more problematic. Throughout his career Brady has let it be known that he prefers footballs on the low end of the pressure scale allowed by the league. In an effort to please the star quarterback, it appears as if the employees took matters into their own hands and the result was right out of a Three Stooges playbook. If Brady suspected – or even if he knew - they were breaking the rules, was he obligated to snitch on them? If an umpire thinks a batter was hit by a pitch when he wasn’t, should the batter correct the umpire?

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Column: A-Rod and Yankees Dispute HR ObligationMay 4, 2015

If Alex Rodriguez and tranquility are an oxymoron, then A-Rod and controversy are a tautology; they mean the same thing. It would take a book to chronicle all the controversies A-Rod has spawned in his illustrious career. The latest occurred last Saturday when he clubbed a game-winning home run against the Red Sox. The homer tied him with Willie Mays for fourth place on baseball’s all-time home run list at 660. Not every game-winning home run is controversial, but A-Rod isn’t your ordinary baseball player.

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Column: Barry Bonds is Finally ExoneratedApril 26, 2015

The eternal and disturbing saga involving Barry Bonds may finally be over. Last week the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Bonds’ conviction on obstruction of justice charges, putting to rest - hopefully for good - a sad and frightening chapter in our country’s history. You may recall that Bonds was convicted of obstruction for a meandering, 234-word response to a prosecutor’s question during his testimony before a grand jury in 2003. The government said he should have responded with a “yes” or “no” answer, which he did when prosecutors repeated the question a short time later. But the feds claimed they were “inconvenienced” by Bonds’ initial response so in 2007 they charged him with obstruction along with three counts of perjury. In 2011 a jury deadlocked on the perjury charges but convicted Bonds of obstruction.

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