Column: Would You Pay $36 Per Month for ESPN?July 27, 2015

Growing up in the family business – wholesale meat and groceries – I was always looking for ways to improve operations. Every time I made a suggestion my father couldn’t or wouldn’t support, his standard response was “It sounds good.” I learned early on those were his final words on the topic. There was no discussion or explanation. Nor did he ever indicate whether he didn’t like the idea or had tried something similar in the past without success and didn’t want to hurt my feelings. This brings me to the concept of a la carte cable television, the option to purchase only those channels we want to watch. The cable industry prefers the concept of bundling where we are forced to buy a package of channels, most of which we never watch. It’s frustrating listening to a cable representative explain their offerings, none of which truly mirror our viewing preferences. If it was available, most of us would instinctively choose the a la carte option. But would that result in a lower cable bill? Maybe, or maybe not.

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Column: Coaches vs. Medical Personnel - Who Rules?July 19, 2015

With colleges on the cusp of pre-season football practice, there’s an off-field battle worth keeping an eye on: Coaches vs. medical personnel. Head coaches at a majority of the big-time college football programs insist on hiring, supervising and firing the doctors and athletic trainers that attend to their student-athletes. Not surprisingly, medical practitioners don’t believe the practice is in the best interest of the student-athletes. Two years ago, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, joined by five other medical groups including the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, issued a public statement along with a set of recommendations against the practice. In their words, “Freedom in their professional practice is ensured when neither the team physician nor the athletic trainer has a coach as his or her primary supervisor, and no coach has authority over the appointment or employment of sports medicine providers.”

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Column: MLB Underpays ScoutsJuly 13, 2015

Almost every group of MLB employees seems to think they’re underpaid. In the past two years the league has been besieged by complaints and/or lawsuits from clubhouse attendants, administrative workers, interns, “volunteers,” and Minor League players. They all complain that MLB violates the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) along with state wage and hour laws by failing to pay minimum wage and overtime. In some cases, the plaintiffs have also alleged that MLB’s practices violate federal and state antitrust laws. Now, scouts have jumped on the litigation bandwagon. Two weeks ago former Kansas City Royals scout Jordan Wyckoff filed a class action lawsuit in a New York federal court claiming that many MLB scouts make less than minimum wage and aren’t properly compensated for overtime, practices that violate the FLSA. In addition to his FLSA argument, Wyckoff also alleges that MLB teams conspire to keep scouts’ wages depressed in violation of state and federal antitrust laws.

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Column: Pete Rose Still Belongs in HallJuly 6, 2015

Here we are again, discussing Pete Rose. Does he deserve to be reinstated to Major League Baseball? Should he be eligible for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame? It seems to be a discussion without end, yet it shouldn’t be. It’s not that complicated. In 1989, as part of a plea agreement with then MLB Commissioner Bart Giamatti, Rose agreed to permanently be placed on baseball’s ineligible list. In return, MLB suspended its investigation into Rose’s gambling activities. The agreement came after John Dowd, a former federal prosecutor turned investigator, submitted a report confirming allegations that Rose had bet on baseball while managing the Cincinnati Reds. Two years later the Baseball Hall of Fame voted to exclude anyone who was permanently ineligible from appearing on a Hall ballot. While that decision covered a number of former ballplayers, it was clearly directed at Rose who was about to appear on the ballot for the first time.

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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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