Most Likely to Succeed . . .
It has become something of a cliché to refer to David Beckham as
the world's most popular athlete. See, for example, the September
2003 Soccer Digest cover story and about 1,000 websites. A new study
conducted in China, Japan, and Korea by SPORT
+ MARKT, however, challenges the conventional wisdom. SPORT
+ MARKT's market research concludes that people in China, Japan
and Korea find Beckham's Real Madrid teammate Ronaldo to be more
"appealing" than Beckham. The study estimates that Ronaldo fans
outnumber Beckham fans by about 60 million in the three East Asian
countries. Who knows? If you take those 60 million and factor in
the 173 million people in Ronaldo's native Brazil who surely prefer
their home-grown hero, not to mention millions of other South Americans
who may not be particularly enamored of the Spice Boy, maybe Beckham
really is not Number One.
succeed . . . To
be honest, we are not sure what the phrase "world's most popular
athlete" really means, but we can tell you that Beckham is huge
in cyberspace. Google
that David Beckham was the most-searched-for athlete during June
2003. Anna Kournikova, Ronaldo, French soccer player Zinedine
Zidane, and Allen Iverson rounded out the top five. Beckham also
placed sixth on Google's June list of news story searches.
'em . . .
With the July 25th release of the
movie "Seabiscuit," the SportsLetter staff attempted to answer
the following question: Is "Seabiscuit" the book, written
by Laura Hillenbrand in 2001, the best-selling sports book of all-time?
The answer is complicated. Sports Illustrated in its December, 16,
2002, article titled "The Top 100 Sports Books of All Time," called
its number-six entry, John Feinstein's "Season on the Brink:
A Year with Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers," (1986), "the
best-selling sports book of all time." The
World Golf Hall of Fame, in St. Augustine, Fla., dubbed "Harvey
Penick's Little Red Book," (1992), written with Bud Shrake,
"the best-selling sports book in history." Meanwhile, sports
journalist Jason Levin notes that Jim Bouton's "Ball Four,"
(1970) has been in print for over 30 years. Indeed, Massachusetts-based
Berkshire Publishing calls it all together now
"the best-selling sports book of all time."
books . . . It
is hard to reliably track sales in the publishing industry. The
number of copies printed does not necessarily reflect the number
of copies sold. A title may be published by more than one publisher
and can be translated into other languages. Hillenbrand's editor,
Random House Vice President and Editorial Director Jonathan Karp
told SportsLetter there are "approximately 2.5 million copies (paperback
and hard-cover) in print," but he noted that sales figures are unavailable.
As for "Harvey Penick's Little Red Book", Simon & Schuster
publicity director Victoria Meyer says there are "over 1.5 million
of the hardcover in print, and just under 200,000 of the trade paperback."
Simon & Schuster also published "Season on the Brink",
but Meyer told SportsLetter, "Unfortunately, our records do not
go that far back. I can't get the in-print figures." Bouton, the
former New York Yankees pitcher who now owns the rights to "Ball
Four" and self-publishes the current edition via Bulldog Publishing,
told SportsLetter that the various editions of "Ball Four"
there have been four hard-cover and several paperback editions,
have sold "several million copies." But because three companies
that published the book no longer exist, Bouton says it is impossible
to determine exact numbers.
books . . .
"Seabiscuit" is the reigning champ for the sports book
with the longest stay on the New York Times best-seller list. The
hard-cover edition spent 30 weeks on the list; the paperback has
been there 69 weeks. Penick's book spent 55 weeks on the list, while
Feinstein's two editions lasted a combined 31 weeks. "Ball
Four" was on the list for 25 weeks.
I did see the movie . . . "Seabiscuit"
the film opened with July 25-27 weekend gross receipts of $20.9
million and certainly is in the running to be one of the biggest
sports movies ever. The
Movie Times website reports that 1998's "The Waterboy," starring
Adam Sandler, leads all sports movies in domestic box office sales
with a gross of more than $161.5 million, followed by "Jerry Maguire"
($154 million), "Rocky IV" ($127.9 million), "Rocky III" ($122.8
million), "Rocky" ($117.2 million), "Remember the Titans" ($115.6
million), "Karate Kid, Part II" ($115.1 million), and "A League
of Their Own" ($107.4 million). When those numbers are adjusted
for inflation, the 1976 movie "Rocky" leads all other contenders
in domestic sales.
movie . . . To become the highest-grossing sports film
worldwide, "Seabiscuit" would have to beat the figure of $300.5
million, racked up by Sylvester Stallone's "Rocky IV." Of course,
if you consider "Jaws" to be a fishing flick . . .
at mid-season . . . In
issue of SportsLetter, we reported on the opening of the Home
Depot Center in Carson, Calif., the new home of the Los Angeles
Galaxy soccer team and a key component in the effort to market soccer
in the United States. After seven Galaxy home games plus friendlies
between Guatemala and Honduras, and Mexico and El Salvador, what
does the report card look like? A review of newspaper articles,
chat boards (e.g. www.bigsoccer.com
, emails received by SportsLetter and personal observation by your
intrepid SportsLetter staff reveals a mixed bag. Everyone agrees
that the stadium is beautiful. The sight lines are great. There
is not a bad seat in the house. The acoustic design makes for one
loud spectator experience. HDC employees are friendly and welcoming.
Add HDC . . . The stadium, however,
has had some operational problems. A small number of season ticket
holders experienced problems getting their tickets delivered before
the season began. The Will Call operation can be an exercise in
patience. Food service is slow, although people seem to like the
food if they can make it to the front of the line. Galaxy publications
advise drivers on their way to the HDC to exit the southbound 405
freeway at 190th St. even though there is no 190th St. exit sign
on the southbound 405. The most serious complaint is about traffic.
Fans have complained about delays getting into the parking lots
and even longer delays getting out and onto the freeways. Following
the 4th of July game, some fans endured nearly an hour of frustration
getting from the stadium to the 405 freeway, a mere 2.5 miles away.
add HDC . . . Galaxy attendance at HDC at the All-Star
break is 4 percent ahead of last year's home attendance figures
for the same period, when the Galaxy played at the Rose Bowl. Through
July 30, the team averaged 20,612 a home game.
amateur . . . The HDC actually is much more than a soccer
stadium. The center is a 125-acre, multi-sport complex developed
by Anschutz Entertainment Group on the campus of California State
University, Dominguez Hills. Home Depot, the center's title sponsor,
on its website that the "Home Depot Center represents the largest
investment in amateur athletics ever made." AEG President Timothy
Leiweke has made the same claim. Numerous news stories and websites
have reported the claim as "fact." Home Depot and AEG have every
right to be proud of the new facility; it is very impressive. But,
why pretend that all of this is an investment in "amateur athletics"?
So far the complex has hosted professional soccer, professional
track and field, professional boxing, pre-season training by the
professional San Diego Chargers of the NFL and professional music.
Professional volleyball and professional tennis are scheduled for
the future. Many of the Olympic-caliber athletes who will train
there will be professionals too.
amateur . . . Look, if you want to get cute with the
words "amateur" and "investment," AEG's $140 million investment
at the Carson complex is not anywhere near the largest-ever private
investment. The majority of athletes at the 1984 Olympic Games were
amateurs. The Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, a private
entity, spent $546 million, in 1984 dollars, staging the Games.
The Games produced a $223 million surplus. The surplus was divided
two ways. Sixty percent went to the United States Olympic Committee
for athlete development, at a time when a higher percentage of Olympic
athletes and would-be Olympians were amateurs than is the case now.
Forty percent of the surplus was used to establish the Amateur Athletic
Foundation of Los Angeles, which since 1985 has expended $134 million
making grants and running youth sports programs. Adjusted for inflation,
the LAOOC's 1985 investment of $223 million in amateur sports would
be worth $381 million today.
add amateur . . . The NCAA administers amateur athletics
of a sort. Its budgeted
expenses for 2002-03 are
the horn . . . It has been
a while since a sports television program has been the object of
as much invective as ESPN's "Around the Horn." For one half-hour,
host Max Kellerman grills prominent sports reporters from around
the nation, including the Boston Globe's Bob Ryan and the Denver
Post's Woody Paige, and elicits their opinions on issues of the
day. While manning a desk full of mute buttons and joy-sticks, Kellerman
awards points to those reporters who score with cogent and/or stylish
horn . . . Sports-media reporters who have watched and
reviewed the gab-fest, however, think the show needs more than just
a mute button. According to Sports
Illustrated, ATH is "babbling panelists, an overcaffeinated
host: enough already." After L.A. Times columnist T. J. Simers
was fired from the show for calling it "awful," San
columnist Jay Posner wrote that, "It's not as if ESPN's decision
to eliminate T. J. Simers from 'Around the Horn' is going to cause
irreparable damage to the show. 'ATH' passed the point of no return
long ago the day it came on the air, actually." Cox
Mark Katz noted that, "it's just four . . . guys with lawn-mower
haircuts and bad clothes trying to be cute with something they've
already written down. So much for spontaneity." Leonard
Shapiro of The Washington Post gave it his "Worst New Show"
award. Bill Conlin wrote in the January 2, 2003, Philadelphia Daily
News, "There is a building consensus that ESPN's 'Around the Horn'
is the worst sports-panel show in history." Finally, Los
Angeles Times columnist Mike Penner wrote that, ATH is "30 minutes
of hell, orchestrated by a blathering self-important loudmouth named
horn . . . Professional journalists are not alone. A
writer on a fantasy sports web
board called the show "ill conceived, utterly annoying, and
ultimately stupid." Writing for the online student newspaper at
Minnesota State University, Mankato, Dana
Croatt, a member of the demographic group that ATH targets,
put it most succinctly: "This show sucks."
add horn . . . So does all this
mean that "Around the Horn" will not be around long? Of course not.
ATH is popular with young male viewers, so ESPN has renewed for
a second season.
of culture . . . It's a
busy time for actress-turned-director Leni Riefenstahl. On August
22, she celebrates her 101st birthday. In July, the IOC announced
that it had purchased the rights to "Olympia," Riefenstahl's two-part,
three-and-a-half-hour epic of the 1936 Berlin Games. "This film
. . . will truly be the pearl of our collection," said IOC
Rogge. "It is certainly the most famous film, that is the one
recognized as the most eminent film in the history of the Olympic
culture . . . Riefenstahl
used some 44 assistants to film the Games; it took her nearly two
years to edit the film. According to Time
film critic Richard Corliss, she ended up with 250 miles of
footage. The finished product was praised by critics and the IOC
alike: "Olympia" won the Grand Prize at the International Film Festival
in Venice in 1938, beating Walt Disney's "Snow White and the Seven
Dwarfs," and won the Olympic Award from the IOC in 1939. Writes
Corliss: "All televised sport is indebted to 'Olympia'; It pioneered
such techniques as cameras in balloons, in ditches, on a track racing
with the sprinters, underwater as divers slice into the Olympic
pool. More important, the film personalized the athletes: the glint
of confidence on [Jesse] Owens' face, the exhaustion of the marathoners
as each painful step leads toward the stadium."
culture . . . Controversy over Riefenstahl's ties to
Adolf Hitler and Germany's Nazi Party, however, continues to shroud
her artistic achievements. Many critics feel that her work - including
the documentary "Triumph of the Will" - glorified Hitler and the
Nazi agenda. In a Sports
Journal essay titled "Leni Riefenstahl's 'Olympia': Brilliant
Cinematography or Nazi Propaganda?", Robert Schneider and William
Stier note that "records show that the finances of 'Olympia' were
controlled by National Socialist Party Minister of Propaganda, Dr.
Joseph Goebbels." And, according to Time's Corliss, "Olympia" was
released on April 20, 1938, which was Hitler's birthday.
add culture . . . Riefenstahl
has denied rumors that she was Hitler's lover or a member of
the Nazi Party. She contends that "Olympia" was nothing more than
a ground-breaking documentary and points out that she didn't flinch
from spotlighting the success of African American athletes such
as Owens. She also highlighted the gold-medal run by Korean marathoner
Sohn Kee-chung, who competed for Japan because it was occupying
Korea. "Hitler had nothing to do with that film," Riefenstahl
told Reuters in 1999. "I always heard that he was bitterly disappointed
that I made it and wanted me to work on other films. At least at
first, Hitler was not interested in the Olympic Games. He didn't
like it that black athletes won top events."
I got a system . . . GamesBids.com
publishes an excellent website on the Olympic Games bidding process.
The site's credibility took a bit of a hit, though, when the IOC
selected Vancouver as the site of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
GamesBids.com has developed a model called BidIndex, "designed to
show how much potential a bid has to win." GamesBids.com published
its final rating of the 2010 bids the week before the IOC vote.
GamesBids.com stated that each of the three bids - Salzburg, Vancouver
and PyeongChang - was a "potential winner," but clearly portrayed
Salzburg and Vancouver as the front runners. The BidIndex scores
were Salzburg 66.82, Vancouver 65.31 and PyeongChang 60.05. In the
actual IOC vote, Salzburg was eliminated in the first round, with
PyeongChang getting more votes than Vancouver. The Canadian city,
however, won the bid in the second round, edging PyeongChang, 56
and rollin'. . . Rolling
Stone magazine's "50 Baseball Moments that Rock" awarded the
number-one spot to Paul Simon's hit "Mrs. Robinson," with the lyrics
"Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio/A nation turns its lonely eyes
to you." No problem there. But M.C. Hammer as the number-three "moment,"
just because he got his "Hammer" nickname for resembling Hank Aaron?
And Eminem and Kid Rock sharing the number-41 selection because
they have Detroit Tigers logos tattooed on their forearms? Puh-leaze.
rockin' . . .
The most glaring omission from the list? Jose Feliciano's "Star-Spangled
Banner," sung before Game 5 of the 1968 World Series. Accompanied
only by an acoustic guitar, Feliciano delivered a bluesy rendition
that is recognized as the first "alternative" Anthem ever performed.
"Up until then, people like Robert Merrill sang it in the traditional
way," says Towson University professor David Zang, author of "SportsWars:
Athletes in the Age of Aquarius," "with big sound, keeping
to the notes without variation. Jose's version was different and
provocative . . . Now the Anthem is part of the entertainment package.
The singers who perform it all feel compelled to stylize it in their
add rockin' . . . "Storm Rages over Series Anthem" screamed
the next day's front-page headline in The Detroit Free Press. More
than 2,000 callers jammed Tiger Stadium's switchboard with complaints,
and NBC-TV received hundreds of telephone calls. Citing Feliciano's
long brown hair and "mod" clothes, many observers believed that,
by turning the "Star Spangled Banner" into an expressive lament,
he was being disrespectful. One fan summed up the outrage in a letter
to the editor: "What screwball gave permission to have the National
Anthem desecrated by singing it in the jazzy, hippy manner that
it was sung? It was disgraceful and I sincerely hope such a travesty
will never be permitted again." You can listen to Jose Feliciano's
famous Anthem from the '68 Series by going to his website, at www.josefeliciano.com.
please . . . The Florida-based website www.sportsfeatures.com
is a news indexing service that boasts of its ability "to meet the
need of sports officials around the globe who must stay on top of
the latest information. Being informed means having an advantage
to make the best possible decisions for your working strategies."
Another website, www.olympicwomen.co.uk,
apparently buys into this marketing effort, calling the site "the
premier online news indexing site for breaking Olympic sports headlines."
The problem is that sportsfeatures.com also has a lot of breaking
news completely unrelated to sports. On a recent July afternoon,
a SportsLetter staffer clicked on the "Multi-Sport Games" category.
Of the first 40 articles listed under this category, more than half
had nothing to do with the topic. One was about SARS, Asia and jet
fuel; apparently, the search engine "caught" the name of expert
analysis Simon Games-Thomas. Another article was about the Pennsylvania
lottery. Curiously, in the following week, one sportsfeatures.com
top story had no sport or Olympic content whatsoever, but a discussion
of the word "piping" as it related to journalism and the recent
Jayson Blair story.
the summer intern . . . Manchester
United published a lengthy media guide in conjunction with its 2003
four-city tour of the United States. The tour includes Seahawks
Stadium, the Los Angeles Coliseum, Giants Stadium and Lincoln Financial
Field. The blurb about Giants Stadium, on page 91, is accompanied
by a photo. Unfortunately, it is a photo of San Francisco's Pacific
Bell Park. The description of the Los Angeles Coliseum informs us
that the Coliseum hosted the 1932 and 1958 Olympic Games. We are
pretty sure that no stadium hosted the 1958 Olympic Games.
to be amazed by the number of sports officials and unquestioning
reporters who claim that such-and-such a sport or event has been
added to the Olympic Games, or soon will be. A variation on this
theme is the athlete who claims to have been an Olympian in a sport
that never has been in the Games. False claims we previously noted
have involved ballroom dancing (excuse us - dancesport), bridge,
bandy, bodybuilding, rodeo, pankration, practical shooting and karate.
Now comes word
from Popular Mechanics
that paintball "missed being selected as a sport for the Summer
Olympics by one vote of the committee, a decision that will probably
be reversed next time." Not true on either count.