World Cup and the NBA’s Sterling put sizzle in summer sports
The LA Kings winning the NHL Stanley Cup and LeBron’s Miami Heat being dethroned by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals typifies the run-of-the mill, ordinary sports headlines in the month of June. Life in the Donald and Shelly Sterling household as well as on the streets of Brazil offer a heck of a lot more entertainment for mainstream sports fans. Even the eventual outcome of the Ed O’Bannon antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA and speculation of the big five conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) forming their own association drums up more interest than a few pro championships won every summer.
The common denominator for all three feature stories centers around MONEY – and lots of it.
First of all, Mr. Sterling is a bit upset about his lifetime ban from the NBA, his $2.5 million fine, and the fact that Mrs. Sterling sold the family’s LA Clippers for $2 billion to a former Microsoft executive without her husband’s consent. At least, Shelly saved NBA Commissioner AdamSilver from rounding up the remaining 29 franchise owners who were highly likely to vote on a forced sale of a team headed by someone who says things more characteristic of a wealthy plantation owner during the Civil War era than a modern-day business man.
Actually, the sale of the team belonging to the Sterling Family Trust is on hold until a few legal snafus are dealt with. One is Sterling’s $1 billion lawsuit against the NBA for accepting evidence from a tabloid show that illegally recorded and publicized his private cell phone conversation with a former mistress. The dialogue reeked of racism and bigotry.
Certainly the NBA Commissioner was applauded for responding quickly and assertively to clean up the public relations mess in lieu of a racist owner’s latest tirade eluding to banning blacks from attending games at the Staples Center, but Silver was pretty much void of any ammunition or strategy to fix any of Sterling’s personal issues.
As much as Dandy Don is upset with the NBA infringement upon his personal freedom, he also has a beef with his wife for conjuring up two neurologists who declared him mentally incompetent, which cleared the way for her to sell the Clippers for a hefty price tag only FOUR TIMES the value of any previous franchise sale. As for the Mrs. Sterling, she isn’t too keen over the girlfriend who has supposedly received a Ferrari, two Bentleys and a Range Rover from her husband, whom she separated from a while ago. In fact, the Mrs. filed a tidy little lawsuit of her own in late April against the former model who has used six aliases and allegedly has four arrests on her record.
On to Brazil
Brazil is where team USA almost pulled off an upset over Portugal, which tied the World Cup qualifier game in dramatic fashion during the final 30 seconds of extended play. Thankfully, a 21-year-old scored the go ahead goal for Team USA to beat Ghana in their first game, which keeps the Americans in the hunt for the next round. If USA advances through the “Group of Death” to reach the stage of 16 teams, it stands to earn $8 million (the eventual winner will be awarded $35 million). Multi-million dollar pay-uts are possible because FIFA, the international soccer or “futbol” federation, is expected to rake in at least $4 billion in revenue, which is twice the money generated when Spain reigned victoriously in South Africa back in 2010.
What a difference four years make. Actually, what a difference over six decades make considering Brazil last hosted the World Cup in 1950. From politics to economics, Brazil has emerged from being labeled as a third-world country to becoming one of the world’s top 10 financial leaders. Despite the advancements, the South American country is plagued with pockets of poverty so deplorable, the connotations to third world conditions still are prevalent.
Click on Google to find out why the Internet search provider with more than 3.3 billion daily hits is a creative genius for marketing the World Cup. Recently, Google posted a small link to street views of the painted roads in Brazil personifying the vibrant and colorful culture of the 2014 host country. Those painted streets are a far cry from the more famous street scenes broadcast from Rio in the months preceding the Cup. Streets sometimes have been filled with hundreds if not thousands of local rioters protesting government funding for sport venues (Rio also will host the 2016 Olympics) instead of financing improvements for the deteriorating and desperate humanitarian conditions throughout the country. Thankfully, the media have focused greater attention to actual World Cup competition rather than politics and the plight of the poor in South America.
The media for the World Cup is headed by ESPN, which reportedly paid $100 million for the broadcast rights to the 2010 and 2014 competitions. That amount has supposedly quadrupled with Fox Sports allegedly forking out more than $400 million for media rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup in Russia and Qatar, respectively.
Incidentally, it might be remembered that Qatar has striking similarities to the 1998 Salt Lake City Olympic bribery scandal. An independent investigation by a U.S. attorney’s office on Qatar’s alleged bribery acts (due to be released in July) has thus far prompted FIFA to suspend a former executive board member for failing to cooperate with a federal prosecutor. The pending consequences for the nation of Qatar will be at the sole discretion of soccer’s international federation. Doubt is plentiful that reigning powers in the full light of blatant corruption will prevail in deciding to award the 2022 Cup to another country.
Why? Because politics and money also are powerful forces in the world of megasports. FIFA and the IOC simply need to demonstrate more transparency in processes and procedures, especially when selecting host cities.
As for the Ed O’Bannon vs NCAA case and the big five conference dilemma, that is a story for another month.
Congratulations again to local athletes who advanced to the OHSAA track championships this month including Calvert’s Austin Ball, Shane and Ren Boehler and Tyler Long who won the 2014 Division III title in the 4×100 sprint relay and finished second in the 4×200. Clyde high school also had a state champion with Paula Wollenslegel winning the Division II high jump. Calvert’s Olivia Smith deserves a huge shout out as a two time state champion in the 800 who is off to run for the Buckeyes in the fall. Teaming with Morgan Smith, Danielle Kontak and Katie Tiell, Olivia Smith anchored the state-qualifying 4×800 relay and finished 4th in the 800 to cap off an incredible high school career. Other local athletes competing at Jesse Owen’s Memorial Stadium included Hopewell Loudon’s 4×200 relay team of Elancio Velasquez, Patric Gase, Noah Breidenbach and Eli Tooker in addition to Seneca East’s Zach Gregg (second in the high jump) and Jason Willman (seventh in the 3,200).
Stay tuned next month for more entertaining sports stories from around the globe to our corner of the world in northwest Ohio.
Bonnie Tiell is the associate professor of sports management at Tiffin University