World Series and MMA Today

When I put the baseball powers-that-be into “Tuesdays With The Sorries” yesterday, I thought I might have been over-reacting to the situation. Based on listening to folks on ESPN Radio and reading commentaries from baseball writers around the country, my apprehension was uncalled for. Most everyone seems to agree that having the World Series decided in a truncated game would be suboptimal and I have yet to hear from or read about a single person who thought that the players should have soldiered on under the prevailing weather conditions. I thought the game should have been called after the completion of the fifth inning; several people who were at the game wrote that the field was in horrible condition and the rain was coming down horizontally as early as the top of the fourth inning.

Bud Selig is obviously a well-meaning person but he clearly did not pull the trigger on the decision to get the tarp onto the field and the players into the clubhouse quickly enough. Selig will ultimately be remembered for lots of good things that he did for baseball; but to tell the truth, this guy could not market a pay raise. If he walked into the offices of MLB and announced to the staff there that everyone would be getting a pay increase of 10% starting tomorrow, I suspect some people would walk out of the meeting pissed off that the raise wasn’t 15%.

Let me make a couple of observations about the Phillies/Rays series from over the weekend. First of all, the Phillies’ management must have taken the outrageously awful National Anthem rendition by the Backstreet Boys in St. Petersburg as a challenge. They had to have decided to see if they could have come up with one that was equally dreadful. Once again, the anthem was subject to “creative interpretation” with regard to trivial things such as the lyrics and the melody; at a few junctures in the rendition, noises akin to primal screams were inserted into the performance; it went on … and on … and on …

    Memo to Phillies’ and Rays’ Execs: Do not get into a contest here to find the ultimately awful singer for the National Anthem. Do not turn this into an ego battle. Declare a truce here and spare the auditory systems of those Americans who tune in to the games to be sure to see the first pitch.

I think that the umpires have not had a great World Series to date – - and I am not referring to calls of balls and strikes made by the umpires that are “disputed” by the Fox Tracker. In game three, Jamie Moyer made a great play on a bunt down the first base line and flipped the ballot Ryan Howard who caught it with his bare hand; the runner was out; the ump was not in a position to see the ball as it was caught; he called the runner safe; that led to a rally that had an effect on the game. In game four, the Rays caught a Phillies runner halfway between third base and home plate; in the rundown, the runner dove back to third base and Evan Longoria tagged him on his butt; the umpire had a clear view of the play and called the runner safe. I don’t read minds; so, I’ll never know for sure; but that sure looked like a “Maybelline” call – - aka a “make-up call”.

Philly fans take a lot of heat for booing their hometown players and for a historical series of stadium incidents that are very anti-social. But those same fans deserve some measure of praise and respect for their persistence when the start of a game is delayed until 10:00PM local time and virtually every one of them stayed on until the end of that game around 1:00AM in less than comfortable weather conditions. In similar circumstances, I suspect that Dodgers’ Stadium would have been 20% empty by the top of the fifth inning.

There shouldn’t be much of a debate over the fact that the sport of boxing is in a moribund state. Many people believe that MMA – Mixed Martial Arts – is the event that will take over for boxing and restore fighting between two human beings to a level of prestige similar to what boxing enjoyed 40 – 100 years ago. That might happen, but I would not be too quick to make a categorical pronouncement there. One of the MMA promotion companies has just gone under – - and it was not the nation’s financial crisis that took it under.

EliteXC – the company that promotes and features Kimbo Slice – and its parent company, Pro Elite Inc announced plans to file for bankruptcy. A fight card for November 8 in Reno, NV has been cancelled. According to reports, Pro Elite, Inc. lost $55M between January 2007 and September 2008. If MMA is “the next big thing” and on the verge of taking over the sporting niche where boxing used to be, one has to wonder how one of the two biggest MMA promotion companies can manage to lose that kind of money. Of course, when a last minute substitute fighter – Seth Petruzelli – knocked out EliteXC’s biggest star, Kimbo Slice, in about 15 seconds, it sort of put a huge damper on any promotional momentum they nay have had.

Interestingly, the guy Slice was supposed to have fought that night is billed as “The World’s Most Dangerous Man”. If a substitute from the undercard took out Slice in 15 seconds, imagine what “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” would have done to him…

Petruzilli also implied in post fight interviews that he had been encouraged to fight a “stand-up fight” with Slice instead of taking Slice to the mat. Petruzilli said he inferred that there would have been some extra money in his bank account if he did that. Such a claim brings the specter of “taking a dive” to MMA and that is not going to enhance its image even a little bit. Pro ‘rassling is very popular but it is not recognized as a sport nor is its popularity such that one can equate it with what boxing used to be 50 years ago. If MMA’s image drifts even a tad toward pro ‘rassling – or to the place where boxing exists today in terms of questionable integrity – then MMA’s projected rise to glory will be truncated quickly.

The other major MMA promotion company is UFC – Ultimate Fighting Championship. Recognizing that UFC and EliteXC were competitors and should not be in the business of building each other up, here is a comment about the people who ran EliteXC from the President of UFC:

“No one in that business [EliteXC] has a clue how to do MMA. These guys don’t know the difference between MMA and thumb wrestling.”

To give you a potentially less biased perspective, here is a summation of the situation from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“Kimbo Slice’s fighting group, EliteXC, went out of business. By doing so, EliteXC avoids explaining why Seth Petruzelli, after slicing and dicing Slice, said on radio that promoters paid him to keep Kimbo upright. Here’s today’s lesson: If you have an important secret, never trust it with a guy who gets kicked in the head for a living.”

While speaking about fighting, there was a report in the Philadelphia Daily News about two weeks ago that there will be another Celebrity Boxing Federation event involving José Canseco. You may recall that Vai Sikahema knocked Canseco out in a fight last summer. This time, Canseco will fight Danny Bonaduce. I wonder what the promotional tag for this “event” will be – - maybe ‘Roid Rage Rules?

Finally, here is another comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald pertaining to LA Dodgers fans:

“But maybe it’s just as well the Dodgers didn’t get in. Those are some mighty laid-back fans out there in L.A. I understand they sing, ‘buy me some latte and Cracker Jack’ during the seventh-inning yoga.”

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

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  • Rich  On October 29, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    The Backstreet Boys are not as bad as they sound….

  • JJC  On October 29, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Via Sikahema had the advantage of having actual boxing credentials. But I do believe that the UFC will eventually trump boxing as the medium to watch one man pummel another just because of the nature of the bouts. MMA will never regain the popularity that boxing had in the 50′s. There are too many ways to entertain youself that such promotions just can’t get the mass appeal any more. They should be happy if they can regain the mass following that existed during the Tyson era. That is era and not ear as my fingers fought my brain to come out with the right word.

    The World series, in as much as I care about it (very little), should be decided in full games only. The only debate is when they should have stopped it. Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t think there was a “right” decision to be made but plenty of wrong ones and it doesn’t seem like there was a wrong one that was made in an objective standard. Except when Bud Selig tried to explain himself. Just looking at the facts I said “good enough I suppose.” Watching him I said “idiot.” He looks bumbling so he is bumbling.

    Kimbo slice was trying to put the bum back into bum-fights. That is all. Let him fade back into obscurity.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On October 29, 2008 at 11:31 pm


    The Backstreet Boys rendition of the National Anthem last week was an abomination. I do not pretend to be a musician or a music critic. I cannot sing even a little bit; I play no musical instruments – - I’m lucky to be able to play the radio. Having said all of that, their rendition of the National Anthem last week stunk!


    It seems to me that UFC and EliteXC both had TV deals and pay-per view revenues to keep them afloat. Nonetheless, EliteXC claims to have lost $55M in about 20 months. How the hell can that happen?

    Perhaps UFC will emerge as a strong promotion and turn MMA into a mainstream sport; they will get little resistance from boxing in 2008 and in years to come.

  • Rob  On October 30, 2008 at 12:10 am

    I went to a minor league ball game once. They played some orchestral rendition of the National Anthem that felt like it was at least 15 minutes long and had more melodrama than the 1812 Overture and Beethoven’s Ninth combined! At some point I didn’t even recognize the melody anymore, it was just chord progression after chord progression. All of this, for a ball game!

    My take on Kimbo is that he is similar to a college football player who dominated, but is now having some difficulty in the pros. MMA fighters are exceptionally well-trained; he can’t just overpower his opponents anymore.

    The UFC has been around for a very long time. I think they are the more credible organization than EliteXC. Also, I think they may have pinned their hopes on the wrong star in Kimbo. They should’ve marketed Gina (Crush from American Gladiators). From what I’ve seen, she is a much more entertaining fighter. And she wins her matches.

  • Peter  On October 30, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    EliteXC’s failure shows that MMA is following the pattern of most major sports. With rare exceptions, there is room for only one top-level league in each sport. The NFL reigns supreme in football, MLB in baseball, the NBA in basketball, and so on. Such minor leagues that exist make no presense of competing with the big boys. In MMA, it’s becoming clear that the UFC rules the roost, and other leagues that try to compete with it on its level are bound to fail.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On October 30, 2008 at 2:49 pm


    From your comments, you clearly know more about MMA and follow it far more closely than do I. Therefore I agree with your positions.

    My point is/was that EliteXC lost a huge amount of money even with a TV deal and pay-per-view events in place. Maybe it was total mismanagement of cost control – - but if there is an endemic problem there with regard to the sport itself, then that would not bode well for a surviving UFC.

    Also, there was/is a whiff of “less than full integrity” in one of the EliteXC fights. If any of that spills over to UFC – or any othere MMA promotion company – they are dead meat.

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