The New Bidder When It Comes To Talent

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Wayne RooneyPortland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson made some waves earlier this week in an interview in The Mirror saying “I think he would be a great signing for MLS – 100 per cent MLS would be attractive for him.” That ‘he’ is Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney. Paulson and MLS’s competition, China.

As we all now, China has been a rising force economically for the last 15 years or so. Over the last several years they have started making waves with their signings in the Chinese Super League. Drogba, Anelka, Hulk, and Robinho are some of the big names that have made the move to China (if only briefly).

With growing wealth comes investments overseas. The Guardian recently did a piece on the new Chinese owners breaking into the English football. It also means that there is money to spend. It sounds eerily familiar to the early days of MLS in a lot of ways with the signing of big names if for nothing else but the publicity and ticket sales but with the long range goal of building a competitive league.

Rooney BicycleRooney is a bit of a different animal. There is a lot of top level soccer left in him. While China may be able to offer an overly exuberant amount of money but MLS isn’t exactly sitting on it’s hands when it comes to spending money. Plus several of Rooney’s former England teammates have made successful moves to MLS (Beckham, Gerrard, Cole).

MLS is over the big name signing for the sake of doing it. Now it’s about how that player fits into what the team is already doing or what they want to do on the pitch. China may not have learned that lesson as of yet which could give MLS a key advantage over China when it comes to luring a player like Rooney.

Bottom line, could Rooney make his way to MLS? Absolutely but it will not be an easy decision to leave Manchester United no matter how much money someone like Paulson may throw at him. It’s also clear that MLS and other leagues have a new bidder at the table when it comes to top flight talent and that is China.

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Hope Less?

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Hope Solo. Where do we begin? Solo’s latest exploits were comments she made after losing to Sweden in the quarterfinals of the Olympics. She said, “We played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today. I strongly, firmly believe that.” It may not seem like much but it was enough to land her a six month suspension from US Soccer.

It appears that Solo’s comments were enough to break US Soccer’s back. Let’s be honest, it wasn’t these comment’s specifically but the culmination of all of Solo’s incidents. The domestic violence case, the DUI of her husband that resulted in a 30 day suspension, and the countless moments that made her a lightning rod for controversy.

She is also quite possibly the best female goalkeeper in history. Over 200 caps, over 100 shutouts, and 152 wins. Her on the field heroics kept her critics at bay but it appears that those days have come to an end.

Vice Sports brought up an interesting perspective on Solo’s suspension, they called it hypocritical and sexist.  That part is up for debate but the fact remains that Solo is one of the most recognizable figures in women’s soccer, the best keeper in the world and now suspended for six months.

Is this the end? Time will tell. But ironically, her talent’s may keep hope alive that she will take the field for the US National Team again.

Digital Consolidation

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


BAMIt’s been a busy couple of days in the digital sports world. First MLBAM (BAM) buy a part of Silver Chalice Ventures (SCV) who owns SportsLabs, ACC Digital Network and Campus Insiders just to name few. Then Fox Sports and SI decide to team up for an editorial/ad deal. Essentially, they will merge their traffic to sell. What does all this mean to you? Not much but it’s certainly interesting.

CampusInsidersThe SCV and BAM deal should, in the future, bring more confidence to the pessimistic folks who feel that live streaming isn’t stable enough. It also gives new BAM investors Disney another reason to possibly purchase all of BAM down the line.

The Fox/SI deal presents some interesting ideas. Two of the old media establishments partnering together in the new world. Funny because two of the better know personalities from these two organizations had a feud a few years ago.  

Consolidation is nothing new in business much less in media. It will interesting to see how this effects coverage, analysis and fans ability to see games on something other than their cable or satellite provider. Time will tell.

They Are Not Role Models Nor Should They Be

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


While the media (social and otherwise) chimes in and/or freaks out about Ryan Lochte and the swimming funky bunch and their robbery/non robbery/guns drawn/payoff story, it’s important to remember that the average age of the Olympians is 26 years old. That doesn’t excuse moronic behavior by any means but it should, in some small way, give people pause before putting these athletes on pedestals that they can’t in anyway balance on.

Breaking news: drunk Americans do dumb things while abroad. 

Ryan LochteThe Lochte story isn’t new. Back at the Seoul games in 1988, two US Swimmers were arrested for stealing a marble lion head from a hotel. Of course we are all aware of Michael Phelps transgressions outside of the games but somehow NBC spun that into story of redemption. The fact is that things like this are going to happen even thought they shouldn’t. And guess what? They are going to happen again.

Why do they happen? Well you put a bunch of youngsters in high pressure situations that they have been training for for years, put them on a pedestal and then it’s done. The moment has passed. The people at NBC have stopped calling you. Yeah, these folks are  going to blow off steam and there is a helluva lot of it. Does it excuse their behavior? No. But it’s not like they are the first ones to do something stupid while overseas.

Along the same lines, it’s also why they are handing out bags of condoms to athletes and tinder usage is through the roof.

In Lochte’s case, he should know better. He is 32 years old and unless you are a member of congress, you shouldn’t be acting like this.

NBC made these athletes role models to sell ad’s. Money which non of these athletes see. Not many of them asked to be on this pedestal to begin with. So everyone, take a breath along with a step back and relax.

Empty Seats And Empty Pockets

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


It’s been pretty obvious if you have been paying attention, empty seats at the Olympics. The Wall Street Journal ran a piece on it and from most accounts, it’s pretty bad. While people can point to various reasons why, it seems pretty obvious, cost.

According to the Journal’s article, ticket prices range from $88 a piece for the taekwondo to $434 for the women’s basketball gold medal game. Apparently 70% of the tickets went to Brazil for the games. A country with an impeached president, an economy that contracted 3.8% last year and where the average monthly income is $678. When you look at it that way, of course there are empty seats.

TICKETS

This is no knock on Brazil. They are only guilty of buying into the International Olympic Committee (IOC) hype. ‘Bring the Olympics and look at all the money you’ll make!’ ‘Showcase your city to the world!’

Big lies.

If you haven’t read Andrew Zimbalist’s ‘Circus Maximus’ then go read it now. The Olympics folks is not about the athletes and it’s not even about the economic benefits to the city. It’s about a couple of people making money. The really sad part is that the residents of the city that’s hosts the games are the ones picking up the bill for the cost overruns.

ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight posted an article called ‘Hosting The Olympics Is A Terrible Investment.’ They point out that the Rio games are only 50% over budget. 50%! They say only 50% because that is on the low end. Brazil has been hit hard economically and there is no disposable income to spend on rhythmic gymnastics.

Just to pour a little more gasoline on the fire, today an IOC executive was taken to the hospital after police carried out a raid at his beachfront house as part of an investigation into, essentially, ticket scalping.

Ticket prices are high to see Usain Bolt or Katie Ledecky fade their competition because the IOC needs to make the money. If the average person can’t afford it than the IOC will shrug it’s shoulders and say ‘oh well’. It’s not fair to the athletes to compete in half empty venues and it’s not fair to some of the fans who want to go but can’t afford it. But in reality, what does the IOC care when they have executives accused of selling tickets above face value and collecting 70% of the revenue from TV deals anyway?

And people wonder why there are empty seats.

New Faces In New Places

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


The Premier League kicked off today with a bang. The surprise champions of last season, Leicester City, lost their opening game to a team, Hull City, that wasn’t even in the Premier League last season. Leicester City’s odds of repeating are not even the biggest story of this new season, which new manager will be successful is the biggest question out there.

mourinhoOut of the five major clubs (Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea) all but one have a manager who didn’t start last season on the bench (Arsenal). Jose Mourinho takes over Manchester United while cross town rivals City have arguably the best manager in the world in Pep Guardiola.

Mourinho’s hire wasn’t without controversy. Manchester United essentially ran previous manager Luis Van Gaal out of town despite an FA Cup trophy because they were allegedly in talks with Mourinho since he parted ways with Chelsea.

Despite Mourinho’s success (2 Champions League cups and 3 Premier League titles just to name a few) some Manchester United supporters were not happy with his hire not the least of which is former United great Eric Cantona.

Regardless, Mourinho, Guardiola, Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea’s Antonio Conte were not with their current clubs when they started the 2015/2016 season. So in a very short amount of time they have to instill their philosophy and win hardware. Not an easy task no matter how much money your being paid.

NFL To Sling TV

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


SLING TVSling TV just did a mic drop today for cord cutting sports fans. They added NFL Network and NFL RedZone to their list of channels. Let that sink in for a moment. NFL RedZone is now available for an extra $5 a month and you can truly watch it anywhere on any device. Sling TV just hip-checked AT&T/DirecTV into the boards right in time for football season.

A few months ago the NFL Network was off of DISH (Sling TV’s parent company). Like many DISH negotiations, this one ended up being fought in public. The two sides settled and you can bet that part of that settlement was getting the NFL Network and NFL RedZone onto Sling TV.

NFL is not new to the OTT game. They have NFL Now (which I honestly can’t tell you what it’s supposed to be) on various devices but no NFL RedZone and no NFL Network. RedZone is really the key here. That is 17 weeks of live game footage without commercials during the season without having to spend a car payment for NFL Sunday Ticket on DirecTV.

Sling TV OptionsSling TV will continue to add channels but bagging the NFL is a game changer for the cord cutting sports fan. It’s an economical choice and one that they can take everywhere. This should force AT&T to make NFL Sunday Ticket a stand alone service (they already do in some place). Make no mistake, this is a game changer in the OTT-land of sports.

End Of The Freak Show?

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Timmy LincecumTim Lincecum was, at one point, arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Between 2008-2010 he was damn near unhittable. Winning two Cy Young awards and leading the National League in strikeouts for three straight years and snatching a couple of World Series titles to boot. Now he is just another minor leaguer hoping for another chance in ‘The Show’. A man whose career may be done at the tender age of 32.

Nicknamed ‘The Freak’ he’s a power pitcher with a small frame (5’11” and 170 lbs soaking wet). His career started to go sideways somewhere around 2011-2012. The control began to wander and the dominance wasn’t there each and every start. In 2015 he was diagnosed with degenerative hips and had a forearm injury. It took him nearly a year before he pitched in another major league game.

As much as it hurt the San Francisco Giants, Lincecum wasn’t resigned after the 2015 season. He was the face of the franchise for five or six years. He refused to quit though. He rehabbed his way back and worked out a deal with the Los Angeles Angels. While he showed promise in his first start (6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 SO). Since then it’s pretty much been downhill to the point that the Angels released Lincecum this past weekend. He is now heading to the minor leagues with the hope of finding his form and making it back to the majors.

This may sound a little like an obit for a former two time Cy Young Award winner but it’s not.

Can Lincecum find his old form? It’s doubtful but he’s not going to stop trying. All pitchers, in particularly power pitches, have to, at some point, transform from being a power pitcher to a control pitcher. Their control has to be flawless. Their off speed stuff needs to become strikeout material. They need to adapt. Lincecum is willing and trying to do that. The results are just not there as of yet.

It’s hard to say but it will be interesting to see if Linecum can become a major league pitcher again. He has to find the pitches and delivery that work for him. He might be able to do that in AAA baseball but then again the league where he will be going, the Pacific Coast League, is know to be a hitters league. Best of luck Freak.

The Digital Middle Ground

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


BallmerConsensus is that Steve Ballmer overpaid for the Los Angeles Clippers back in 2014. Considering that he is worth around $27 billion, spending $2 billion for an NBA franchise in the second largest TV market in the United States seems like a deal for someone in his position. Part of the reason that the NBA was more than happy to allow the former Microsoft CEO into the league was the fresh ideas he would bring. One of those is Ballmer’s push for the Clippers to have their own OTT channel which could open the floodgates for other teams, leagues and conferences.

Back in April the Sports Business Journal (SBJ) did an article about how Ballmer was cutting out the digital rights from the next regional TV package for the Clippers so they could start an Over The Top (OTT) channel where a user would authenticate with their regional TV subscription. This would not be a replacement of the live games but an addition to it.

Ballmer, like his time at Microsoft, is thinking logically but not necessarily radically. He is not refusing to see what is coming but he is unwilling to kill the cash cow and innovate into the next thing. Truth be told, the NBA may not be allowing him to go too far either.

Sound familiar? It should if you’ve read or listen to Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen and dove into his theory of disruptive innovation.

The fact is that sports rights are at their limit when it comes to rising costs and passing on those costs to the consumer. With the wage gap in the United States becoming such a major talking point this political season, it is becoming harder and harder for people to justify the monthly costs of a cable or satellite subscription to watch random games. The price may not be too high for just their local team though.

MLB.tv is doing something similar right now but it is designed for people outside of the TV foot print of the club. In other words, if you live in Seattle and don’t want to pay for cable then good luck trying to watch Mariners games online somewhere.

REMOTESeveral years ago when sports leagues begun creating their own TV channels like the NHL Network and the NFL Network, many people believed that it was only a matter of time before the league’s brought all of their games in house and cut out the traditional partners like NBC, CBS, FOX and ESPN. Well that hasn’t happened because of the billions that can be made by bidding out the rights to these partners. It appears now though that we are at a place where a league or conference can keep their digital rights and sell to a TV partner because that, in the end,is a win-win. It lowers the cost for the traditional TV partner but gives the league, team, or conference an avenue to grow revenue with their most valuable assets.

It’s one step back and possibly three steps forward type of scenario.

The Clippers are not going to walk away from a regional sports deal that pays them upwards of $50 million a year. Even Ballmer isn’t that crazy. However, retaining the digital rights can give him a lot more flexibility even if the Clippers are not going to be live streaming the actual games with their OTT channel. It’s a logical yet still a trailblazing move. Kind of wonder why the Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban didn’t do this already.

 

Avoiding Surgery With Stem Cells

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


A headline a few days ago caught my eye. It was how Los Angeles Angels pitcher Garrett Richards was shut down for the year with tear in his UCL and was undergoing stem cell therapy as opposed to Tommy John surgery. What? Come again? Turns out that he isn’t the first pitcher to try this. Not even the first on his own team!

Garrett RichardsAfter a quick search I found an article by the Los Angeles Times Pedro Moura. He wrote about the stem cell treatment being undergone by Richards and his teammate Andrew Heaney. Essentially, the doctors are taking stem cells from the bone marrow and injecting it into the affected elbow. The idea is that the body will heal itself and you can avoid a surgery that could put a pitcher out for a year or more.

A lot of questions come up with this. The most important is ‘how do you know it worked?’ If it didn’t and the pitcher has to have surgery anyway and that delays their return even more.

That’s not even the crazy part.

According to the article, the stem cells can have human growth hormone (HGH) add to them to speed up the healing process. HGH of course is outlawed by every sports league and by the FDA. So it’s ok to remove a healthy tendon from another part of the body (opposite arm or leg) or even take one from a cadaver to replace the torn tendon, but it’s illegal to boost the cells taken from your own body to heal the torn tendon without surgery.

Something seems amiss here.

There is a growing concern that kids are pitching too much and are requiring Tommy John surgery earlier and earlier to the point that some are calling it an ‘epidemic‘. Non-surgical options are not just needed, they are to the point of being required.

I recommend reading Moura’s article and draw your own opinion. The fact that stem cell therapy is already taking place at this level and there is a chance that a pitcher can opt to not have surgery leaves one to believe that this topic isn’t going to go away anytime soon. If HGH can speed up the healing process and allow a pitcher to not have to have surgery than perhaps this should be looked at by the FDA and major league baseball a little bit more.