Wednesday, February 29, 2012

From the experts in Sports and Entertainment Law:

I attended this week a sports law seminar sponsored by the Sports and Entertainment Law society at Widener University, an organization of which I am proud to say I was once a member.

Two of the featured speakers on one of the day's panels were Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman, and Andrew Brandt, ESPN's sports business analyst and former Green Bay Packers officer.

I thought I would pass along some of the more interesting commentary from the seminar, particularly in relation to the recent NFL season that just wrapped up. If you remember, the 2011 season almost did not happen, as the NFL owners' lockout went right up into the start of NFL training camp.

Andrew Brandt said that when the 400 or 500 page Collective Bargaining Agreement comes out, they (salary cap executives like he was) just go to the 4 or 5 pages that matter -- the salary cap and free agency provisions. They don't care about things like pension provisions for the players.

Howie Roseman agreed, adding that when he gets his hands on the CBA, GMs also start looking for loopholes (in the cap and free agency).

Brandt, as founder of, and author for, The National Football Post (, said that writing about the NFL labor situation last year was not fun. He described it as "messy." But, he added, matter of factly, "it was a negotiation," as if to say that negotiations are, by their nature, messy.

Brandt did most of the talking during the seminar. Not because he was intent on dominating the discussion, but more than once, the Eagles' general manager, Roseman, said that he was unable to discuss certain player-personnel issues. The seminar's moderator, player agent Christopher Cabott, said not-entirely-jokingly that while Roseman would take questions, we should not bother asking the Eagles GM about free agency, the upcoming draft, or the status of Eagles star wide receiver, DeSean Jackson.

So why was it that Philadelphia Comcast SportsNet's Neil Hartman thought he could get Roseman to talk about free agency, the upcoming draft, and the status of Eagles star wide receiver, DeSean Jackson?

Hartman showed up at the sports law seminar with a camera at Widener University in Wilmington, Delaware, about 1/2 hour outside Philadelphia. Later in the evening, Comcast SportsNite's roundup program featured the first of a series of reports of their "exclusive" interview with Roseman, which was done at the law school following Roseman's appearance on the Sports and Entertainment law panel. Hartman, a distinguished sports reporter in the area, asked Roseman about the very things which Roseman said he was unable to discuss during our Sports Law panel discussion. And Roseman's answers to the interviewer were, as expected, non-specific.

Why Hartman felt it necessary to chase Roseman all the way down to Philadelphia is unclear to me. Is the Eagles General Manager not accessible in his Philadelphia office, which is just blocks from the studio where Hartman works?

Back to the panel, Andrew Brandt managed to narrow down the issues in the recent NFL labor environment. He said that lately, escalating player costs were outpacing revenues, fans weren't willing to pay for new stadia, and those facts are what the owners presented to the players. So, in the recent negotiations, some of the financial risk was shifted from owners to players. That shift comes in the form of the types of revenue now subject to the players share. On the players side, they wanted a shift in injury risk from players to owners. So as a result, players will now practice less, get hit less at practice, and work out less in pads.

Moderator Christopher Cabott then summarized what each side wants: Owners want more revenues going to the clubs in the revenue sharing arrangement with the players, an 18-game season, and a rookie salary cap.

The players, according to Cabott, want revenue divisions similar to the last CBA, a 16-game schedule, and to maintain post-career benefits.

As expected, there would be some good-natured needling and disagreement between the player and ownership reps on the panel. Player agent Cabott stated that an average NFL player's career is 3.4 years on grass, but only 3.2 for those who play home games on artificial turf.

Cabott was trying to make two points. First, that a player's career is short, and secondly, that home-turf players careers are shorter. I'm not so certain that a .2 years (6.3 percent) difference in career length is statistically significant. But the panelist on the owners' side had another problem with Cabott's statistics.

Roseman said that Cabott's numbers may have covered all NFL players, including those on an NFL roster that never play, and players that may be cut before playing a down. He said that if you go by just players who actually play in The League, the average years for a career rises into the 4's.

As for the revenue streams that were part of the contentious negotiations last year, Brandt made the point that the percentage that was thrown back and forth for player compensation was just part of the equation. Under the previous CBA, players were getting 60% of revenues towards the salary cap that teams could spend. That percentage was based on "Total Football Revenue," or TFR.

But Brandt made the distinction that the percentage received by players is not the only factor, but instead, it matters "OF WHAT" the percentage is from.

If you remember last summer's mess, the players and owners went back and forth on a lesser base percentage. Owners wanted players to get less than 50%, the players proposed something along the lines of 52% -- still less than the 60% the players has been getting under the previous CBA. But those percentages were of TOTAL revenues, not just football revenue, as per the previous CBA. So, under the new deal, players will get 46-48% of all revenues generated by the teams, which is a larger pool than just football revenue. This larger pool might thus include merchandising, concessions, and corporate sponsorships, which may not be covered under just "football revenue."

If you are interested in sports and entertainment legal and business issues, I recommend you research local Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs or American Bar Association programs in your area. While these seminars can be expensive, you can usually just walk in and take a seat. Just don't tell them that I said so.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

THE NFL STORY: The Super Bowl

So the Super Bowl went off without a hitch. Too bad we can't say the same about the halftime show.

NY GIANTS (13-7) 21
New England (15-4) 17
THE STATS: Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning 30-40-296-0-1 TD, 103.8 rating.
THE STORY: Elite quarterback? Who's laughing at that now?

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

DID YOU NOTICE? The Super Bowl edition

Why was Kelly Clarkson singing the national anthem? Does she have a show coming up on NBC?

I was so sure about this, but I was wrong about one thing about the Super Bowl production. During Clarkson's rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, I told my wife to wait for it....

.... the fly-by.

Oh, sure, I know they were playing the Super Bowl in a dome, so a military fly-by would have seemed ridiculous. But that didn't stop the NFL from arranging for a fly-by during the 2008 Phoenix Super Bowl -- even though the roof had been closed.

I was wrong. There was no fly-by over the dome in Indianapolis.

For the pre-pre-game show, NBC broadcast a retrospective of the 2011 NFL season, narrated by Tom Selleck. It was a good way to kick off 6 hours of football coverage -- and that's not including the time it took to play the game.

In the closing credits of the program, the NBC "Road to the Super Bowl" show featured media credits to just two entities: One was probably a film production company of some kind called ITN, and the other credit was to "".

I wish I had made that prop bet on whether there would be a safety in the Super Bowl.

What we learned from the pre-game interview of various players who want to be playing in the Super Bowl again, but aren't: one player said the Super Bowl players each get 15 game tickets and 2 hotel rooms. By my calculation, that's about 1350 tickets just for the participating players. Add in coaches and team officials, and I'll bet we're over 2000 tickets just for team commitments. And other NFL teams get about 1% of the seating capacity of the stadium. Each NFL player gets the chance to purchase 2 tickets. That covers another more than 1000 tickets. Don't worry, I'm sure fans can purchase a few tickets, too.

It took nearly 30 minutes of their live 4-hour pre-game show for NBC to trot out the first of the stars of their television series. The honor went to Katherine McPhee of NBC's new series, SMASH. And so, the NBC self-promotion was off to a good start. Before the hour was over, NBC promo'd another series with one of their stars, and then Parks and Recreation star Amy Pohler was featured in a comedy segment.

Later, NBC's pre-game show featured a completely non-football related promotion for a movie, "That's My Boy" and brief face time with its stars, Andy Samberg, Adam Sandler, and another of the SNL guys. I assumed the movie was connected with NBC-owner Comcast's Universal pictures division, but I couldn't find a connection to Universal. That left me with the feeling that the interview with the stars of the movie was nothing more than a not-so-subtle paid advertisement for the movie.

Later, the upcoming Marvel Avengers movie and its star also got a segment during the pre-game show. That movie is produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. Again, no Comcast / NBC / Universal connection. Yeah, definitely a paid commercial.

Can you say Product Placement? As the pre-game show wore on, Ritz crakers were highlighted by feeding the pre-game show hosts various toppings on Ritz crackers, complete with a large Ritz cracker logo on the on-air video boards. Guess those FCC laws against too many commercials per hour of TV doesn't count for in-show commercials.

NBC's pre-game show timing was well done. NBC slowly transitioned each hour of the pre-game show towards move football-related content. The first couple hours featured completely non-football-related product placements and in-program commercials. By 4:00pm, they still weren't talking much football, but did turn to the entertainment part of the Super Bowl. That's when NBC interviewed Madonna about her halftime show.

During the Madonna interview, she was asked if there would be a "wardrobe malfunction" during her 12-minute set. Madonna said, unequivocally, that she "guaranteed" there would be no wardrobe malfunction.

I think the better question to ask Madonna would have been "So, do you guarantee that none of your talentless, media-craving, publicity-seeking guest stars will try something totally insulting, stupid, obscene, and in violation of FCC rules, just to advance their careers and street cred?

Was it me, or was the Lucas Oil Stadium field devoid of that ridiculous and embarrassing scene of teenagers jumping up and down around the stage during the halftime show? Usually the NFL rolls the kids in -- and then herds them out after the halftime show -- to give the feel and excitement of a concert. Then again, with a cast of thousands, Madonna did not need extra bodies around the stage.

NBC's pre-game show also added a story about New York Giants' wide receiver Victor Cruz' unique touchdown celebration, which is a salsa dance.

BUT WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? After Victor Cruz's touchdown early in the game, NBC cut from the receiver doing his patented salsa touchdown celebration. They cut to a shot of quarterback Eli Manning trotting off the field, never returning to Cruz' TD celebration. Nor did NBC show it on replay, in spite of making a big deal of the dance on the pre-game show.

After the game, who knew that it would take longer for 78-year-old former NFLer Raymond Berry to walk the Vince Lombardi trophy from the sideline to the presentation stage at midfield, than for Kelly Clarkson to sing the national anthem?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Super Bowl 46 -- I mean, The Big Game 46-- preview


Cities virtually step all over themselves to get big conventions, sporting events, and of course, The Olympics to come to town.

So what goes into getting The Big Game? This story from The New York Times gives a little insight into the process of landing a Super Bowl for your hamlet:

In summary, a city gets a Super Bowl by what the Times characterizes as:

"Build or improve your stadium. Run a good franchise. Play well with others. Beg a little."

I was waiting to hear the article mention "Give us 2000 free hotel rooms."

I've always suspected that the NFL either required thousands of hotel rooms to be handed to them, or to just black out EVERY hotel room within a 50 mile radius of the host city, so the NFL could control every room. That's why my research a few years ago for The Sports Bar found that it was impossible to get a hotel room within 75 miles of the host city well before The Big Game. And if you didn't mind staying an hour or so away, it would cost hundreds per night just for a 2-star hotel room.

But while it is short on specifics of my pet research project concerning hotel rooms, the article reveals that building a new stadium (read: getting taxpayers to filter millions of dollars to NFL owners) can land you the biggest one day prize in sports.


This is the part of the show where we first recognize that nothing could be more parochial than discussing how much we hate this Super Bowl matchup.

Everyone reading this has a different viewpoint on each of the two teams. Many factors go into how you feel about the Patriots and Giants, much of it based on geography.

My neighbor's family got together to watch the AFC title game last week. Oh, how nice, I thought. A family from the Washington, DC. area, gathering to cheer on their regional foes from the other conference, the Baltimore Ravens. Not so, grandma-from-next-door told me. They were rooting AGAINST the Ravens.

Whatever your feelings about this year's game, I know that for me, I might have a hard time finding a matchup that I loathe more, or that bores me more.

It would be different if I just hated one team. That would be an easy Root-Against. But I can't stand either of them.

On the one hand, you've got a sideline that is nasty, disrespectful, and cheaters. And that's just the coach. On the other side, you've got New Yorkers.

Come to think of it, the New Yorkers aren't much different than the other sideline.

So I set out to try to determine what is the absolute worst game I could imagine seeing in the Super Bowl. Is there a game in which I could possibly be less interested?

I sat down with the NFL standings, and I went through every possible AFC v. NFC matchup. That's 16x16, or 256 possible game combinations. And here's what I came up with:

Super Bowl game I'd most like to see: Eagles against anyone.

Only Super Bowl game I hate more than New England v NY Giants: New England v. Dallas.

Most boring Super Bowl matchup (no root-for nor root-against interest): Arizona v. Houston.

Lesser of two evils Super Bowl: Oakland v. Dallas

Can't find lesser of two evils, because they both are the incarnation of blood-sucking vampires Super Bowl matchup (think Jerry Jones/Bill Belichick): Dallas v. New England

Best Super Bowl to take a nap: Buffalo v. Tampa Bay

Most overhyped Super Bowl: New York v. New York. Game played in New York.

Super Bowl that even that guy who's been to every Super Bowl would consider not showing up for: Jacksonville v. Seattle

Worst owners in the NFL Super Bowl matchup: Irsay family v. Jerry Jones.

Most sentimental matchup: (teams never to play in a Super Bowl) Cleveland v. Detroit.

Best Natural disaster matchup: New Orleans v. Tennessee (Nashville)

Old School Super Bowl: Oakland v. Green Bay

New School Super Bowl: Houston v. Carolina

Most winners of most Super Bowls matchup: Pittsburgh v. Dallas

Most losers of Super Bowls matchup: Buffalo v. Minnesota (duh!)

The Undefeated Super Bowl: Miami vs. New England (an all AFC Super Bowl).

THE NFL STORY: Conference Championships

So I guess Mr. and Mrs. Harbaugh don't have that difficult decision to make, after all.

Baltimore (13-5) 20
NEW ENGLAND (15-3) 23
THE STATS: New England: 1 penalty, 1 turnover. Baltimore: 6 penalties, 3 turnovers.
THE STORY: Patriots won in spite of a 57.5 passer rating by Tom Brady. You think the Giants can hold Brady to under 60?

NY GIANTS (12-7) 20
San Francisco(14-4) 17
THE STATS: San Francisco 1-13 3rd down conversions.
THE STORY: So the NFL got to use those wacky playoff overtime rules. I still haven't figured out the rules, but at least they got to use the rules.

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