Tag Archive | "basketball"

The Day The Olympics Stood Still

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The Day The Olympics Stood Still

I attended my niece’s 2nd party party yesterday.  When I went over to my brother’s  home and they had the Olympics on.  Other than newscasts this was the first live Olympics coverage I had seen since the games began.  I was on a self imposed boycott of Olympics coverage.  I had begun to lose interest in the Olympics every since the “Dream Team” won their  basketball gold in the 1992 games.   The problem is that I am stuck in the 80’s.  I remember sitting in the television room of my dormitory at Penn. State University in 1980. I was cheering wildly as the undermanned, unknown and all amateur United States Hockey Team convinced me that miracles do happen.  At the time I did not realize that at least from a United States standpoint, the age of Olympic miracles would soon be coming to an end.  In 1989 the Olympic committee voted to allow professionals to compete.  Interestingly the United States voted against it.  That was the day at least for me that the Olympics stood still.

I have no idea whether the Winter Olympics were all about money and ratings in 1980.  I was to young and naive to care. I know they became a slave to politics later that same year.  I was even younger and more innocent in 1972 when the  world was riveted to their televisions watching the United States men’s basketball team take on the more experienced Soviet team. They took the Soviets to the wire in a wild controversial loss that almost caused the breakout of war.   What I do know is that after 1989  I began to  see professional athletes playing for countries they have not lived in for years. I began to watch athletes who make millions playing for pay turning the Olympics into the NBA/Europe summer league or the NHL/Europe Winter League while the “miracle makers” of the future sit at home and watch along with me.  I now put in my dvd of the 1980 Olympic Hockey team and reassure myself that at one time I was young enough to be deluded that it was about miracles and the hope that we could stick it to the Russians and other countries who had been using their professionals all along. I never cared that they were doing that because it meant so much more when we beat them. Do those rivalries even exist anymore?   Most people old enough to have watched the Winter Games in 1980 can recite the coach and many of the players on the 1980 hockey team.  How many people can name the coach and players on the last mens basketball  gold medal team in 1996?  Probably not as many who can name the Olympic Bomber.

There is no question that stories such as Michael Phelps are great Olympic feel good stories that makes us all feel patriotic although it is a different type of patriotic feel than the battle against the evil Soviet empire in 1980. Never underestimate the power of a good “cold war” to bring the masses together.  There are still sports in the Olympics that have not been distorted by million dollar mansions and Mazarattis. I hear Donald Trump has purchased the naming rights to the next Summer Olympics.

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Can Professional Sports Govern Themselves?

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Can Professional Sports Govern Themselves?

Another sports figure is ratting out to the government and turning the sport he represented on its head. Former NBA referee and current convicted felon, Tim Donaghy continues to spill his guts to the federal government like water flowing over Niagara Falls. Donaghy has previously pleaded guilty to federal charges that he shared inside information on NBA games with gamblers. He is now alleging that there was a conspiracy between certain NBA referees working during the 2002 NBA playoffs to assure that a series presumed to be the 2002 Western Conference finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings would go to a seventh game. He has also made allegation regarding the “targeting” of players by the refs in the Dallas Mavericks 2005 playoff series against the Houston Rockets. Denials have flown from every angle, crisscrossing with reckless abandon. Other referees involved have disputed these allegations.

Sports media outlets are ablaze with debate on whether Congress should step in and hold hearings on whether the Donahy allegations represent an isolated instance or whether the integrity of the game as a whole has been flagrantly compromised. NBA Commissioner David Stern accurately and understandably points out that Donaghy is a convicted felon who would say anything to reduce his sentence. That does not necessarily mean his allegations are not true. Has the public confidence in the integrity of the outcomes of all NBA games been compromised? Should we just all chalk this up to a vindictive guy about to hit the prison hoops circuit getting his last digs in?

There certainly is plenty of precedent for Congress to step in and hold hearings when there is a loss of public confidence or a perception that the event going consumer is “being scammed”. It often does not even have to rise to that level. Public outrage over one particular incident is often impetus enough

In the aftermath of the on-track euthanizing of the filly Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby , under strong pressure from PETA, The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection will hold hearings entitled “Breeding, Drugs, and Breakdowns: The State of Thoroughbred Racing and the Welfare of the Thoroughbred Racehorse.” Safety issues in the sport will be examined.

As if the subject had not been beaten to death, the same subcommittee again recently invited testimony on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports. Representative Bobbie L. Rush(D-Ill) and others are seeking to establish uniform testing and punishment in the four major sports.

Just when we thought New England Patriot turncoat Matt Walsh had finished glomming his 15 minutes of fame and Spygate had died the unceremonious, irrelevant death it deserves, congressional media hound Arlen Specter rears his ancient head. It now appears that the ugly “spector” of Congressional hearings will no longer hang over us like bats in the night ready to suck the life out of every red-blooded football fan. Arlen Specter has finally realized that no one cares and has dropped his call for an investigation.

How can we not talk about the Congressional steroid hearings that started with the tell-all memoir of Jose Canseco and ended with the startling revelations of Mindy McCready with Roger Clemens caught right in the middle. (Does that qualify as a threesome?) These hearings were called “Restoring Faith in America’s Pastime: Evaluating Major League Baseball’s Efforts to Eradicate Steroid Use.“ Ironically one of the dignitaries calling for these hearings was Republican Presidential candidate John McCain.

In 2005, after the murder-suicide involving professional wrestler Chris Benoit, Rep. Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Tom Davis, its ranking minority member, asked WWE to provide documents giving the committee a detailed look at WWE’s drug-testing policy and drug test results. Hearings went forward in February 2008; It is unclear at this point if anything further will be done.

There is also precedent outside of sports for such investigations when it was felt that there was a loss of “public trust or confidence” in the integrity of a certain industry. I am referring to the Quiz Show Scandals and the Comic Book Hearings of the 1950s.

Is Congress wasting its time and our money on such mundane issues as steroids and alleged game- fixing? After all, Congress did not see fit to involve itself in one of the most egregious instances of game fixing in the history of professional sports, the 1919 Blacksox Scandal. Would Congress have invovlved itself had baseball not taken aggressive steps to clean up the gambling?

In the grand scheme of things, there are certainly more emotional issues at our doorsteps. American soldiers dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. People having to choose between a gallon of gas and a month’s rent, or feeding their kids.

Does the fact that we have these terrible issues mean that we should ask our elected representatives to ignore these seemingly trivial issues? If we were not at war and the economy was booming, would we still view these sports issues as trivial? More importantly, is the lack of public trust in an industry really trivial? There is so much more at stake. Billions of dollars in jobs, revenues, public tax concessions, public stadium financing etc. These all have a significant impact on our economy.

What should the standard for intervention be? There is a huge difference between isolated acts of dishonesty and acts so integral to the proper functioning of the industry that all is compromised. Spygate is a perfect example. These were isolated acts They did not undermine public confidence in the integrity of the outcome of professional football games as a whole.

What are the players’ reactions to the possibility of Congress butting-in in their respective sports Should there be a governing body that oversees the 4 major sports?

Patrick Johnson is a wide receiver for the Toronto Argronauts of the Canadian Football League. He has also played for the Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars and the Washington Redskins. He earned a Super Bowl ring when the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV.

Pat had this to say:

“I would be in favor of congressional intervention depending on the into sports scandals. “We are considered “role models” to the many youth and others who only dream to have the jobs we have. We should not have to hide behind the “perception” that we have created to shape and mold the minds of those who watch every week. We as pro athletes are perceived to be fair and honest when it comes to taking drugs that may illegally alter, or enhance the performance of an individual.

I am in favor of this because with the latest developments in our world and in MLB, something has to be done by our federal government. Are our leagues corrupted at the top? Are these leagues letting their premier players skate by drug testing because of their bottom line? We have no idea of knowing. Are our strings being pulled? These are some of the things I think about when thinking of the NBA scandal. How can a guy throw games for over a decade not be found out about? Is it still going on now? How would even know if it was? If government intervened, it would bring to light what the underbelly of pro sports is really about in some cases. Here in the CFL we don’t have any testing in place and as far as I can see, we don’t have a widespread issue with illegal drug use.”

Jim Leyritz is a former MLB player. He played for several teams throughout his career. He was best known as a member of the New York Yankees and for his home run off Atlanta Braves closer Mark Wohlers in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series.

Jim had this to say:

Professional sports need some type of outside monitoring. Is congress the answer? All the professional sports have shown at one time or another they cannot monitor themselves. Football and Baseball with the drug polices, hockey with the abortion of a strike and of course now the NBA with the refs. Let us not forget the Tour De France controversy and our Olympic Athletes. All of these sports should have an outside governing body. We have given all sports enough rope in the past. They all have proven monitoring from a third party would be beneficial to Players, teams, owners and most of all the Fans.”

Should Congress step in to the NBA situation or any professional sports scandal? Should we leave it to them in investigate their own? There is a strong argument that if something is amiss, market forces will be all that is needed to correct the problem. No one will attend events. Revenues will drop drastically. Action will be taken. Should there be an independent governing body for the four major sports? What should the standard be? Can we ever truly know that all is on the up and up? Should we make an effort to know or is ignorance bliss as long as we are entertained and the Las Vegas line is thriving? Who has the job of getting to the truth? Can an entity investigating its own be truly objective?

Who will be looking for the blue dress?

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Why Athletes Go Broke

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Why Athletes Go Broke

The “Real Deal” is broke.

Former Heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield is playing the real life game of Deal Or No Deal. It has been reported that his $10 million estate in suburban Atlanta is under foreclosure, the mother of one of his children is suing for unpaid child support, and a Utah consulting company has gone to court claiming the boxer failed to pay back more than a half million dollars for landscaping. Just one more high profile athlete having to scale back his lifestyle to the level to which you have I have been accustomed. Why is it that athletes who seem to have everything are often completely unable to control anything related to finances?

We all played our violins to death when we heard of Latrell Sprewell’s financial troubles. On Halloween 2004, Sprewell, who was in the final season of a $62-million five-year contract with the New York Knicks, said he was insulted by the Minnesota Timberwolve’s offer of a contract extension that was reportedly worth between $27 million and $30 million for three seasons. Sprewell stated, “I’ve got my family to feed.” That quote become a national moniker for the public perception of athletes as greedy, out of touch individuals. Apparently, Sprewell still can’t feed his family. His yacht was recently repossessed and his multi-million dollar mansion is about to be foreclosed on.

While there is certainly the stereotype of the financially irresponsible NBA athlete, no professional sport is immune.

Let’s take a look at some high profile athlete financial sob stories over the years:

1. No one my age can forget Jack”The Ripper” Clark , star player for the Boston Red Sox who filed for bankruptcy in 1992 in the middle of his second year of a three-year, $8.7 million contract with Boston; he listed $6.7 million in debts. Jack was a master of financial planning and prudent asset acquisition. His bankruptcy petition listed assets such as 18 automobiles, including a 1990 Ferrari that cost $717,000 and three 1992 Mercedes Benz cars costing between $103,000 and $143,000. He owed money on 17 of the automobiles and was liable for about $400,000 in Federal and state taxes. He had also lost about $1 million in a drag-racing venture. Sounds like Jack would have been more at home in the NBA. You can read about it hereMike Tyson\'s Bentley

2. Johnny Unitas, Hall of Fame quarterback for the Baltimore Colts, filed for bankruptcy in 1991 citing numerous failed business ventures in his petition These failed bits included bowling alleys, land deals and restaurants. He filed forChapter 11 bankruptcy in 1991.

3. Mike Tyson The name speaks for itself. Mike’s bankruptcy was highly publicized. Despite earning hundreds of millions during his boxing career, Mike kept it simple. His bankruptcy petition simply stated: ” I am unable to pay my bills”.According to federal court records, his liabilities totaled about $27 million. You can read that story here.

4. Dorothy Hamill, the women’s figure-skating gold medalist in the 1976 Winter Games, filed for bankruptcy after a series of financial setbacks. Hamill said she has experienced financial setbacks as a result of poor financial investment advice and management.

These are just a few of many athletes’ tales of woe. It is not a phenomenon limited to professional sports — just ask M.C Hammer. Prior to his declaring bankruptcy, it was made public that his day to day living expenses far exceeded his income of $33 million. If I am going to veer off to celebrities, I certainly have to mention Kim Basinger and Michael Jackson.

When the Toronto Star ran an article alleging that a shocking 60 percent of NBA athletes “go broke” five years after retiring, did we not all pull out that very tiny violin we have reserved for such occasions? The NBA players union and the NBA have both disputed that assertion. The article goes on to talk about all the people taking advantage of and “scamming” these athletes. While I have no doubt there is truth to this, I can also understand how such a generalization would make the NBA uncomfortable. It leaves you with the impression that 60 percent of NBA players are not only financially inept but also idiots in general. This is simply not true. While good business sense is often lacking, I view many of their mistakes as being more mistakes of trust, credibility and lack of life experience than anything else. Smart, busy people who can afford it, hire people with targeted expertise to help them. This allows them to focus on their expertise. Sometime mistakes are made and bad judgment is used in who we hire and hang out with. That is not unique to the NBA or professional sports. This happens to everyone. That is life. It happens all the time. It just does not make front page when we screw up. If there is any question at all as to how badly we as the general public screw up, just look at the personal bankruptcy filing statistics.

In order to get a perspective from the inside, I contacted Jordan Woy, a highly respected sports agent and a principal in the sports marketing/management firm of Schlegel Sports. Jordan has represented numerous high profile athletes

Here is what Jordon had to say:

I think there are several reasons why so many athletes “go broke”. First, whether it is a lottery winner, an athlete or a star entertainer, if they are not equipped with the knowledge on how to make and save money they are in trouble. When they didn’t earn it through disciplined business practices and they don’t have those skills they usually go through it quickly. Most lottery winners or athletes make a great deal of money in a short period of time. They start spending it on things that only go down in value (cars, jewelry, partying, entourage, etc) and start to evaporate the money they do have. They can carry this off until they stop earning big money. This is when the trouble starts. It is hard to believe that MC Hammer, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and now Ed McMahon are broke. These are people who earned hundreds of millions over time and it disappeared. Lavish spending and entourages were probably the downfall for the first three for sure.

Most athletes play for four to ten years if they are lucky. After they pay taxes (can be 40 to 50%) and agent fees and buy their first homes, cars, outfits, jewelry (plus, cars, clothes and jewelry for friends and family), they are left with very little. When they first “strike it rich” all of their longtime friends and family expect help. Most athletes feel obligated to help everyone out at first then they wise up. They also want to keep up with their teammates. If someone buys a Bentley, they have to buy one; if someone buys a $75,000 watch, they have to buy one to keep up the appearance. Then, of course, when the career ends and they are still living in a multi million dollar house, driving 3 expensive cars (and insurance), traveling in private planes and taking Limo’s when they go out on the town, reality sets in. The money dries up very quickly.

However, if athletes educate themselves, learn money management skills and make smart, safe investments along the way, they are usually in very good shape. After representing athletes for over 20 years, we call this our “life plan”. We take out clients on working vacations in the off season to places like Las Vegas, Cancun and on a cruise to the Bahamas to learn business networking. We have people from industries such as real estate, oil and gas, financial planning, credit repair, asset protection/estate planning, etc come to educate the players and their wives so they can learn about these business and also determine if they are interested in any of these industries for life after sports. One of the financial planners who comes always says most people die coming down from Mt. Everest not going up. The goal is for these athletes to get to their Mt. Everest AND to get down safely.

So, what do you think? Are the financial mistakes that athletes make any different than your mistakes or mine? They are certainly mistakes made with a higher downside. When we hear these stories are we just unable to comprehend that someone could have that much money and spend it all? Can we learn lessons on how to live our lives from their highly publicized financial gaffes? Do we even care at all?

With all due respect to Latrell Sprewell, we have our own families to feed….

©2008 Brian Cuban

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I Will Miss Avery Johnson

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I Will Miss Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson has been let go as head coach of the Dallas Mavericks. I will miss him and it has nothing to do with basketball. I would not write on it or comment about if it did. My brother Mark Cuban’s basketball decisions as owner of the Dallas Maverick are his own for his team I have zero credibility to comment about it on any level.

I will miss Avery Johnson the person. I liked him a lot. He and his wife are by far two of the nicest, classiest individuals I have met or will probably ever have the pleasure to meet. In all of the basketball hub bub, it is easy to forget all of the great things they did for Dallas and surrounding communities as well as their hometown of New Orleans giving so much of themselves personally and financially.

In the world of professional sports the only certainty for a coach is that he will one day resign or be asked to leave. It a 100 percent certainty. Some get to do it on their own terms but those are few and far between.

Avery may no longer be the coach of the Dallas Mavericks but in my mind he will always be a class act

I wish he and his family the aboslute best in their future.

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