NY Sports Day

Sports Beat “All business at the Open”

The prize remuneration at the US Open is certainly substantial but it’s basically coffee and cake money to the elite men’s and women’s players. Their big payday comes from corporate endorsements and sponsorships.

I asked Roger Federer about the large number of fans who wear his Nike-produced “RF”- logo hats and shirts. Federer said that he was surprised and delighted to connect with his fans that way but added that he did not know ow many units his line has sold over the years. “I guess that I could call Nike up and ask them.” I surmise that since he is well-compensated by Nike he can afford to be trusting.

Nike’s other key tennis endorsers are Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams. There was certainly a lot of hype about the budding rivalry/friendship between Williams and the up-and-coming Sloane Stephens going into the 2013 US Open. It reached a crescendo last Sunday when the pair met at Arthur Ashe Stadium with Serena winning in straight sets although the first one was very close and very well played.

Both Serena and Sloane are known for the colorful tennis fashions. Serena, as I mentioned, is a Nike endorser while Sloane was signed as a juniors player by its arch-rival, Under Armour.

Serena was a bit startled when I asked her in the press room following her victory over Stephens if she expected Nike CEO Phil Knight to call and congratulate her on beating Under Armour’s key tennis endorser on the biggest stage. She was somewhat surprised by the question and then broke into a huge grin. “I guess it was a big win for Nike.”

Sloane was upbeat in spite of her loss and said that she was quite happy with her arrangement with Under Armour and did not see leaving them anytime in the foreseeable future. She was looking ahead to playing mixed doubles at the Open with her fellow American and American Express endorser, Jack Sock. Stephens said that they do not share an agent.

The greatest men’s double team of all-time, Californians Mark and Bob Bryan (better known simply as the Bryan Brothers), expressed disappointment both Los Angeles and San Jose lost their annual pro tennis tournaments. They cited that tennis is a global game and that Europeans and Asians want to see the best players in the world as the chief reason as to why the US is hosting fewer tournaments. They did not think that the decade-long futility of American men’s tennis had an economic effect on domestic tournaments.

The Bryans did not have a rejoinder when I told them that I don’t see any PGA Tour golf tournaments leaving the US for overseas.

*****

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson was correct when he said that all baseball teams have to deal with the adversity of losing a star player such as Matt Harvey to an unfortunate injury. The problem with the Mets is that it seems that every bad trade, free agent signing, or injury seems to set them back for years. The Cardinals on the other hand always seem to face adversity and find ways of shrugging it off.

The day after Alderson announced the Harvey bad news he returned to the Citi Field press conference room to announce that the team had traded slugging outfielder Marlon Byrd and catcher John Buck to the Pirates for a 19 year-old second baseman prospect Dilson Herrera and Triple-A relief pitcher Vic Black.

This is exactly the kind of “hope for the future” trade that Sandy his staff are great at; namely dealing name players for inexpensive prospects that may or may not ever pan out. I am not saying that the Mets were wrong to make the trade but there is going to have to come a time in the very near future when the team will have to start acquiring some big names in trades in order to keep their fan base from becoming extinct.

Unless the Mets lose their last 20 games it’s a safe bet that manager Terry Collins, whose contract expires at the end of the season, will be back in 2014. Alderson said that Collins will be evaluated on things other than wins and losses after announcing the Byrd trade. Mets ownership likes Terry, as do most of the media. Despite the Mets’ perennial woeful won-loss record, there have been very few calls to WFAN shows from frustrated fans calling for his dismissal.

The late Marty Glickman was a seminal New York sports radio and television sports voice for baby boomers in that he called Giants, Jets, Knicks and Nets games as well as numerous high school games including the annual Iona Prep-New Rochelle High School game on Thanksgiving mornings on WPIX.

A documentary simply titled “Glickman,” debuted on HBO last week with no less a luminary than Martin Scorcese serving as its executive director. While it was fun to hear Astoria native Bob  Costas, Marv Albert, Mike Breen, Jerry Stiller, and Giants co-owner John Mara pay tribute to him, in my opinion Marty was a competent though not an outstanding broadcaster. He certainly painted a vivid picture but was a bit dry. One humorous exception was when he was broadcasting a then New York Nets playoff game against the Virginia Squires in Norfolk and the Nets were losing by 50 points. “If I were a Nets fan I would change the channel!” Glickman commanded. I listened to him.

Another documentary worth catching if possible is ESPN’s “Branded,” which examines whether women have to be beautiful as well as athletically gifted for anyone to care. Former Association of Volleyball Professionals CEO Leonard Amato plays the Simon Cowell role by stating that the only female athletes who make serious money are the most attractive. Track star LoLo Jones, basketball legend Lisa Leslie, and volleyball great Gabrielle Reece are interviewed. I would like to have seen golfers Paula Creamer and Natalie Gulbis as well as skier Lindsey Vonn interviewed as well as some less than statuesque female athletes however.

Woodside native and veteran sports business journalist Evan Weiner was a guest panelist on MSNBC’s Sunday morning show, “Up With Steve Kornacki” last week. Evan, who was writing about the NFL’s looming problem with the health issues of its retired players way before anyone else was, believes that school districts across the country who are already facing budget shortfalls  will have to cut athletics programs because of the skyrocketing cost of liability insurance.


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