Diary Of A Sports Cord Cutter: Waiting On Local

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 8.26.2018


A week or so ago, Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reported that Hulu, Verizon and YouTube TV were among the suitors for DC United’s media rights. It’s not new that OTT providers are bidding on local rights but it does raise the question which is ‘when will established media, sports teams and leagues truly open the OTT doors to local sports fans? ‘

For the uninitiated, local/regional sports rights are the true money maker for sports franchises. Not ticket sales, over priced parking, merchandise sales or the $20 you have to pay for a craft beer at AT&T Park in San Francisco. This is why the sports teams, leagues and networks are so reluctant to move to an OTT model.

 

It is, however, inevitable that local sports teams will be available in an OTT package of some kind. What I mean by that is that eventually the teams, leagues and networks will figure out what their fans have already figured out, that delivering content on any device and service and making it easy to sign up for or cancel is the way of the future.

The teams, leagues and networks will also figure out that this is situation is like any sports game, you take what the defense gives you. And that doesn’t mean that you have to like it. The sports fans just hope that this happens sooner rather than later.

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What To Watch Fri. 7/3 – Sun. 7/5


All times are Pacific.

Friday July 3rd

SF Giants at Washington Nationals – 3pm ESPN: A rematch of last years NLCS. The Nationals Bryce Harper is having an MVP season and this is a chance to see him in action.

USMNT v Guatamala (Friendly) -4pm FS1: The final tuneup for both teams as they head into the Gold Cup.

Calgary Stampeders at Montreal Alouettes – 4:30pm ESPN2: Question in this game is the quarterback play. The Stamps Bo Levi Mitchell threw three INT’s last week in the Stamps come from behind win and the Al’s played three QB’s in week one.

Seattle Sounders vs DC United – 8pm UNIMAS: The Sounders look to get back on track against the top team in the Eastern Conference.

 

Saturday July 4th

Tour De France – 4am NBCSN: Cycling’s premier event gets underway in Utrecht, Netherlands of all places. GoPro Video.

Biking

Tampa Bay Rays at NY Yankees – 10am FS1: Toughest division in baseball. Good series to see who is really going to be there in September.

Toronto Blue Jays at Detroit Tigers – 10am MLB.TV: Two teams fighting for relevancy in their respective divisions. It’s also a battle of pitchers from middle Tennessee as R.A. Dickey (Nashville) takes on David Price (Murfreesboro).

Copa America Final – 1pm BeIN: Yes it’s the 4th of July but it’s Argentina vs Chilie.

NY Mets at LA Dodgers – 4:15pm Fox: The Mets send over hyped Matt Harvey to the mound against Zack Greinke. Not bad for a Saturday.

LA Galaxy vs Toronto FC – 4:30pm MLS LIVE: While some stars will be missing such as Michael Bradley, LA’s newest signing, Steven Gerrard,  will make an appearance.

 

Sunday July 5th

Tour De France – 4am NBCSN: Stage two gets underway.

Toronto Argonauts at Saskatchewan Roughriders – 12:30pm ESPN3: The Riders lost starting QB Darian Durant for the year after only a half of football last week. The Argos on their backup too. It’s should be a good one in Riderville.

FIFA Women’s World Cup Final – 2pm FOX: USA meets Japan in a rematch of the 2011 World Cup Final.

NASCAR Coke Zero 400 – 4:45pm NBC: NBC has Nascar now….probably why we have to wait until almost 8pm EST to watch a race on a Sunday night at the end of a Holiday weekend. #Fail.

SF Giants at Washington Nationals – 5pm ESPN: Not a bad way to cap off a long Holiday weekend.

What To Watch Thurs. 4/9 – Sun. 4/12

All Times Are Pacific.

Thursday April 9th

The Masters 1st Round – Noon ESPN: A tournament unlike any other….and it’s steaming online at themasters.com.

Frozen Four: Nebraska -Omaha vs Providence – 2pm ESPN2: Well since the hardwood Final Four is finished, let’s get on the ice.

Frozen Four: Boston vs North Dakota – 5:30pm ESPN2: Next!

LA Kings at Calgary Flames – 6pm NHL Gamecenter: The Kings need to win out if they want a chance at the playoffs. They have to win this one against a possible playoff opponent.

Portland TrailBlazers at Golden State Warriors – 7:30pm TNT: Two playoff bound teams just tuning up for the post season.

REMOTE-contrast

Friday April 10th

The Masters 2nd Round – Noon ESPN: It’s the Masters. Even if you hate golf you’ll still know who wins this. And it’s only the second round!

NY Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins – 4pm NHL Network: The Pens need to get their act together if they want to be in the playoffs.

 

Saturday April 11th

The Masters 3rd Round – Noon CBS: The cut is down and now it’s time to get down to business.

San Jose Sharks at LA Kings – Noon NBC: The Kings have to win out and get some help if they want any chance of defending their title. The Sharks would love nothing more than to prevent that from happening.

DC United vs New York Red Bulls – 4pm MLS Live: The top two teams in the East square off. Oh, and they don’t like each other.

Frozen Four Final – 4:30pm ESPN: Let’s find out who is college hockey’s best team!

 

Sunday April 12th

Manchester United vs Manchester City – 7:55am NBCSN: A Manchester Derby on a Sunday morning.

The Masters Final Round – 11am CBS: It’s the final round of the Masters. It’s usually pretty awesome.

Portland Timbers vs Orlando City FC – 2pm ESPN2: Kaka visits the friendly confines of Providence Park. Sure the Timbers Army will make him feel welcome.

LA Galaxy vs Seattle Sounders – 4pm FS1: Arguably two of the more entertaining teams in all of MLS. Neither is 100% but it’s still worth tuning in for.

Boston Red Sox at NY Yankees – 5:10pm ESPN: Well if you’re going to watch a baseball game this early in the year it might as well be between these two.

The Travels Of Adu

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Freddy Adu was deemed ‘America’s Soccer Savior’. He was supposed to be for soccer what Michael Jordan was for the NBA and what Wayne Gretzky was for the NHL. It hasn’t worked out that way. So what happened and where is he now?

FREDDY ADU

What happened? That’s tough to answer. No one really knows. Was it not enough nurture vs nature or vice versa? Either way Adu didn’t turn into the American soccer’s first Jordan or Gretzky. Once he left DC United (his original club) nothing ever seemed to stick including playing time. He’s appeared in less than 100 games since 2006.

Where is he now? Well Adu signed on with a Finnish club, KuPS (Kuopion Palloseura). Whether he will see any action at all is still up in the air. Since he was traded from DC United, Adu has been with 10 teams across eight countries. He only saw significant playing time with one club over that time. Ironically, that club (Philadelphia Union) was in MLS.

Where does Adu go from here? It’s hard to tell. He is only 25 years of age. That’s a good 10 years before he is ‘over the hill’ in the soccer world. The fact is Adu needs to get on the pitch. He needs to play and find that rhythm of being a starter. If he can do that then he may have a chance of winning back part of those initial (and unfair) expectations.

Grantland Article on Adu 

The Retirement. Part 1 of 2

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

All athletes retire. Some are forced to, others do because their bodies are breaking down, others lose the fire, and some do it to pursue something better. This past week Robbie Russell of DC United announced his retirement so he could pursue a career in medicine.

(L) Robbie Russell (R) John Frank
(L) Robbie Russell (R) John Frank

Russell is not the first professional athlete to retire and pursue a medical career. Former San Francisco 49er Tight End John Frank left football after 5 seasons and 2 Super Bowl wins to pursue a medical career. Frank retired after his second Super Bowl win and was on the field during a terrible injury to Cincinnati Bengals Nose Tackle Tim Krumrie in which Krumrie broke his leg. Frank is now a hair loss transplant doctor living in New York.

Russell did experience a lot of succes on the pitch. He scored the winning goal in the 2009 MLS Cup to give Real Salt Lake their first and only title. He played overseas from 2000-2008 and made 98 appearances in MLS matches. He’s had a solid career. One he can be proud of. And one where he is making the choice to walk away.

John Frank In Depth

The Great MLS Talent Drain?

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Right after MLS Cup 2012 we wrote about the bigger problem facing MLS which was that of Landon Donovan taking an extended leave. He still hasn’t returned but his manager at the LA Galaxy Bruce Arena recently said, “He’s definitely playing this year.” The Galaxy and in particular the MLS could really use his return too.

Andy-Najar

The January transfer window is rapidly coming to a close. In the last few days the MLS has seen the loan of striker Kei Kamara from Sporting KC to Norwich City in the Barclay’s Premier League, the selling of Andy Najar from DC United to Anderlecht in Belgium and the on again/off again situation of FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea who may or may not be moving onto Stoke CIty in the BPL.

This could prove to be a costly couple of days for the MLS. While Kamara may only be gone for 10 MLS games he also may end up signing with Norwich and stay in England leaving Sporting KC to search for another goal scorer. Shea is considered to be a rising star in US Soccer. While maturity can be an issue at times, that aside he is a tremendous talent and a future face of soccer in America and losing him to the UK is tough to swallow but not unexpected. The biggest loss is Najar.

Andy Najar was born in Honduras and his family emigrated to Virginia when he was 13. While a US citizen he chose to play for the Honduras National Team. He is a Homegrown player and is only 19 years old. Najar’s upside is somewhere north of Alaska. He has talent, plain and simple. Combine his skill, his background and the fact that he was playing for a 4-time MLS Champion club all the while down the street from the White House. Could someone have written this any better?

Najar Highlights

Najar will find success in Europe much like Kamara and Shea will but Najar has a chance to be something special. Possibly even a next generation Arjen Robben. He has that kind of explosive element to him. It’s something that shows up really well in highlights and could have put MLS routinely in places you don’t normally see it, like SportsCenter. 

This offseason has been one for the ages in MLS and it’s not even done yet. The regular season doesn’t kick off until March 2nd! Between now and then the MLS has to try and stop the flow of talented players out of MLS. From Beckham to Montero to Najar and possible Shea and Donovan. That’s a lot of good, marketable names to replace in one offseason. The league can only hope that names like Zusi, Gonzalez, Wondolowski, Pontius, and Keane stick around a little bit longer.

Trouble up North

Major League Soccer has been able to do something that several other major North American sports leagues have not been able to do with any success and that is break into the Canadian market. It doesn’t sound sexy and probably should be much simpler than it is however the MLS has been able to place franchises in three of the major Canadian markets (Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal). These clubs have been successful in just about all aspects of the business except for the most visibile one which is success on the pitch.

One of the reasons for the lack of success on the pitch is the amount of coaching changes these clubs have had. Toronto FC was the first Canadian club in MLS. Since coming into the league in 2007 they have had seven head coaches. Vancouver Whitecaps FC were the second club to break into the MLS. They came into the league last year and are already on their third coach and the Montreal Impact just finished their inaugural season and have already parted ways with the fairly successful rookie head coach Jesse Marsch.

That’s a total of eleven head coaches in six MLS seasons and a grand total of one playoff appearance between the three clubs.

Why can’t these clubs find a way to win? There have been several notable players to come through their ranks including Dwayne DeRosario, Maurice Edu, and Jay Demerit. All three are in great cities and all play in new facilites with great fan support.

This would lead to a look at ownership. Toronto FC is run by the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment group (MLSE) which also runs the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. Neither of these franchises made the playoffs since the Raptors did it in 2008. Toronto FC has yet to make a playoff appearance in 6 seasons. While management has come out said anything short of a playoff appearance is a failure they have yet to show the leadership to get the club there.

Vancouver has an ownership consisting of NBA All Star Steve Nash. They have made the lone playoff appearance for the Canadian clubs. While they did change head coaches they did take a chance and bring their head coach, Teitur Thordarson from their USL and USSF days over to try is hand in the MLS. He failed. They have now brought in Martin Rennie who is considered to be one of the best young coaches in all of MLS.

Montreal has been run by Saputo family which brought the team over from the USL and USSF where they had a lot of success. They have parted ways with their head coach Jesse Marsch after just one season. Apparently Marsch and management could not agree on a plan forward for the club.

If any club wants to be successful in MLS they have to look at the clubs at the top. There is a certain level of stability. Three of the four remaining playoff teams have a head coach who has been there for four years or more.  The one exclusion is DC United whose head man is Ben Olsen. He played his entire MLS career with DC and has been the man in charge for about a season and a half. All of the head coaches have either won MLS Cup as a coach or as a player.

There is also confidence with these clubs. They know what it takes to win and more importantly expect to win. The Canadian clubs don’t have that confidence. For as much  support as they get and for how successful they are off the pitch, they have yet to understand what it takes to win in MLS. They need a vision, stability and faith. Once they get these three things lined up they will be able to have success on the pitch.

 

The Games Must Go On

Superstorm Sandy threw a serious body blow to the Northeastern United States and in particular to the New York metropolitan area. The word “distater” is not overstating this. People have lost their lives and the region will never be the same. All the more reason for sports to stand up and provide relief.

This is a time when people need something else to think about instead of “when is the power going to come back on?” or “how am I ever going to recover from this?” Sports can give these people a brief moment of grace. For a few hours they can recapture a moment of that “normal life” and cheer on their team.

The storm has effected the teams as well. From the New York Giants changing up their schedule to their opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers, coming into New Jersey the day of the game due to their host hotel in New Jersey not having power. The Giants players have had their own troubles with some moving into hotels and others rooming with each other.

These two teams were not the only ones effected. The Green Bay Packers star WR Greg Jennings was to have surgery in New York on Tuesday but had to postpone due to the storm. This postponement pushes his possible return to the field back a few more weeks.

The MLS Cup playoffs have swapped cities with the New York Red Bulls playing game one of their two game set in DC instead of their home ground of Harrison, New Jersey.

The NBA has postponed games including the home opener of the Brooklyn Nets in their new digs of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the New York Knicks.

The teams are not the only ones effected. Just about everyone has an office in the New York area. The NFL pushed back their trade deadline by 48 hours mainly because it was going to be too difficult for the league, who’s offices were closed Monday and Tuesday, to get the necessary paperwork done.

After all the cancellations, delays and postponements it’s time for sports to take center stage again. It’s time for sports to take the people’s mind’s off the distater, even if for only a few hours, and give them some relief. It’s for fans, players, and workers alike to find some sort of normalcy in the midsts of chaos.

Let the games continue.

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