The OJ Mayo Situation

I have no idea at all as to whether or not OJ Mayo is guilty of taking under the table payments from a guy who presumed to represent him while Mayo was in high school or while he was pretending to be a scholar-athlete at USC. Even if he were proven guilty here, I have no idea if any of the coaches or administrators at USC were knowledgeable of these arrangements or parties to any of them. The interesting thing about this particular set of revelations is that there seems to be a paper trail with regard to some of the money that allegedly changed hands. “Follow the money” is a tried and true way to get to the heart of scandalous behaviors; “paper trails” often make that journey simpler and less ambiguous. In this case, we shall see…

Having said that, am I surprised even a little bit by the possibility that OJ Mayo may have been involved in some kind of “payment scenario” that would be orthogonal to the rules of the NCAA? Not even slightly surprised.

The NY Knicks seem to have snagged their preferred coach in the time-honored tradition of NY sports. They offered to pay him more than any other team would be willing to pay him. Now before anyone gets himself or herself into a froth that this is some kind of denigration of NY sports in general, it is not. I would like, however, to point out that the Knicks roster is made up of a large number of players who are taking down salaries that are way above what any other team might be willing to play those players and that such a strategy seems not to be working out all that perfectly. So maybe there is some consistency here. If Mike D’Antoni has to try to coach a group of overpaid players who do not have the credentials to justify their salary, why should he not also be overpaid?

Why do I consider him overpaid? I am already on record that I think he is a good coach and that he presents to the fans an interesting/exciting style of play. Nevertheless, I think he is overpaid in this case because guaranteed contracts worth $24M normally go to coaches who have won a championship or two; he has not. Perhaps, a contract of that magnitude might go to a coach who has taken a team to the NBA Finals a couple of times only to lose to an opponent thought to be dynastic; he has not.

The Knicks will be more exciting to watch if they play D’Antoni’s preferred style of basketball. However, with the roster they have at the moment, I do not expect them to be hugely successful. In a racehorse basketball game, I do not see Jerome James or Eddie Curry flourishing in any way; Stephon Marbury will never be confused with Steve Nash. It should take the Knicks at least two years if not three to generate sufficient turnover in this roster to accommodate D’Antoni’s preferred style of play. D’Antoni’s contract runs for four years. It will be interesting to see if the NY fans and the NY media have the patience to see if the team can make this change over the life of that contract.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have won 7 of their last 10 games and are approaching a .500 record. If they were to finish the season below .500 this would be the 16th straight season that the Pirates have done that; it would tie the major league record for consecutive losing seasons now held by the Phillies. Considering baseball futility records, here is a Quick Quiz for today:

    What is more difficult to do?

      a. Go 16 straight seasons without a single winning record.

      b. Go 100 straight seasons without winning a single World Series.

An adage says that when you go to a baseball game and there is always the possibility you will see something happen that you have never seen before. Well, the following has certainly happened before, but usually it happens in Little League games or in “Beer League” games. The Cincinnati Reds batted out of order last weekend. Granted, there had been an earlier double-switch in the game that may have caused some confusion, but manager Dusty Baker said that he had the correct line-up on the wall of the dugout. Shameful is the word that first comes to mind…

By the way, am I the only one old enough to remember a time when “DH” in baseball referred to a double-header and not a designated hitter?

Previously, I suggested that the value of sports franchises could not continue to spiral upwards indefinitely. At some point, the values here have to hit a plateau if not undergo some kind of “correction”. A political event in Florida might be a signal that such a plateau is closer than one might think. In the budget for the State of Florida for 2009, there is a provision that will withhold state sales tax monies that were previously pledged to bonds and loans for stadia/arenas built for professional sports franchises. That will not immediately drive such bonds into default, but it has to affect adversely the credit rating of those instruments and the credit rating of the organizations that issued the bonds. Moreover, that means future borrowing for such expenditures will likely cost the governmental entities more than it does now.

Will there be a ripple effect outside Florida? Perhaps not – - unless and until some other state follows suit and leads bond investors to believe that such borrowings are not worth the risk. Florida’s sales tax assistance to local entities that borrowed money to build stadia/arenas has been in place for about 20 years; now it is not there and that means it will be a bone of contention in future budget wranglings in the Florida Legislature. Obviously, some of the folks who are involved in the issuance of such bonds or holders of such bonds have cried foul. They think this is a violation of some kind of “contract” that the state has with the people who bought the bonds. Good luck with that kind of argument…

I have no idea where this is all going, but this could be a significant event in terms of owners’ abilities to get new playpens for their teams at taxpayer expense – - because the expense to those taxpayers could increase significantly if the Florida model spreads widely to other states. Stay tuned to this one…

Finally, Greg Cote had this cogent observation in the Miami Herald recently:

“Baseball has its owners meeting this week in Milwaukee. The first order of business is expected to find owners grappling with the obvious question: Why on Earth would we meet in MILWAUKEE!?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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