Isiah Thomas Still Making News…

The hiring of Isiah Thomas as the head basketball coach at Florida International University continues to draw “less than fully positive” reviews from columnists around the country. Here is an item from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald – a local paper for FIU:

“FIU athletic director Pete Garcia reportedly did not even bother to speak to anyone from the New York Knicks when considering whether to hire Thomas. It is believed to be the most thorough vetting process since John McCain introduced Sarah Palin.”

In case you think that only “local papers” took note of this personnel move, consider this item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times – hardly a local paper for FIU:

“Isiah Thomas, having run the Continental Basketball Association and the NBA’s Raptors and Knicks into the ground, has been named head coach at FIU.

“FIU, in case you’re wondering, stands for Flubbed It Up.”

You just have to know that Messr. Perry had to think carefully to come up with the phrase “Flubbed It Up” because the more obvious word to use for the letter “F” would never have gotten past the editors in his fine family newspaper…

ESPN will part company with Stephen A. Smith; his contract expires in May and reports say that ESPN will not renew the deal. Smith is a controversial figure and his verbal style is easy to parody. Nevertheless, I have always thought he was a good reporter with good sources inside the NBA. When he wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer, I used to look specifically to see if he had written anything on a given day. I have not yet seen any speculation as to where he will go next but I hope he surfaces somewhere very soon.

ESPN also announced that they have a deal with Matt Millen and that he will be part of the MNF programming. Most reports say he will replace Emmitt Smith for the studio portion of the programming along with Stuart Scott and Steve Young. Make all the jokes and nasty comments you want about how Millen was a disaster as GM of the Lions; Matt Millen is excellent on TV as an analyst and he will be so far above Emmitt Smith in that role that you can give him a new nickname – – Stratosphere.

There are some other reports that he might be in the booth for the game telecasts on MNF with no subsequent rumor as to which of the three incumbents might not be invited back. I like the MNF announcing crew as it is; I think Matt Millen has shown he can be excellent as a color analyst; so from my perspective, ESPN has an embarrassment of riches situation on its hands. I must say, however, that I hope they do not try to make it a four-man crew to do the games. That would not be fun to listen to…

By the way, if Millen does wind up as the studio analyst for MNF as most reports have it, what is the ESPN plan for Herm Edwards? From everything I ever heard from Herm Edwards, he is insightful, analytical, and articulate on the subject of football. It would seem to me that ESPN would want to highlight him on NFL programming and an MNF slot seemed to be so logical. Stay tuned…

Given that I firmly believe that the NFL schedule is coordinated to a large degree with the four “network partners”, I have to conclude that NBC must love the NFC East. I do not think they got the following line-up of games by accident for Sunday Night Football:

    Cowboys/Giants on 20 September
    Cowboys/Eagles on 8 November
    Cowboys/Redskins on 27 December

Some people think that I am unduly harsh on the Washington Nationals when I say things like they are a AAA team playing for major league prices in a new $612M stadium that is nice but nothing more than that and they cannot come close to filling it because Washington fans basically don’t give a rat’s patootie about baseball. Well, here is the headline from a column by Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Nationals’ Blunders Vaults Team Into A New League – Comedy”

You should read the entire column – – it really is excellent – – to see what other observers think about this farcical franchise.

Both NY baseball teams have seen that the current economy will not allow them to fill their new stadiums at the outrageous prices that they seek to charge. Last Saturday, the Yankees played a home game on a day with nice weather here on the East Coast. They had more than 7,000 unsold tix and more than a few of those were the expensive ones right behind home plate – – assuring that every time the centerfield camera was on, the viewers stared at those empty blue chairs. On the same weekend, the Mets had more than 5,000 empty seats at CitiField.

New stadia should sell out for decent weather dates in their first year unless the teams stink (not the case with the Yankees or the Mets) or the fan base is indifferent (not the case in NYC but certainly the case in Washington DC). The problem in NY is that the prices for tickets would be exorbitant in good economic times and are over the line and into the range of “obscene” in these bad economic times.

Meanwhile, when you want to think about a franchise that just does not get it, consider the Atlanta Braves. Reports from Atlanta say that the Braves will add a surcharge of $2 on every ticket purchased by a fan who walks up to the ticket window and buys it on game day. The Braves are nowhere near selling out their stadium but they are going to provide an economic disincentive to fans who might make a last minute decision to come to see the game? How is that a good idea?

Once the game starts, those unsold tickets are worthless – as in worth not a single farthing. If anything, the Braves should reduce the prices for people who walk-up – – although that would make for logistical problems, so I understand why they might not do that. However, adding to the cost of a ticket at 5:00PM which will be worthless at 7:45PM makes no damned sense – particularly in a place notorious for being a bad sports town.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald regarding tickets to another sporting event:

“UM [University of Miami] played host to the Atlantic Coast Conference track and field championships this past weekend. Admission was free, approximating public interest.”

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

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  • Rob  On April 22, 2009 at 9:31 am

    How is it that the exceptional, if bombastic, Stephen A. Smith is leaving ESPN but Skip Blayless, who looks and acts too uptight to be a real sports fan, stays?

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On April 22, 2009 at 10:44 am


    Excellent question. I have always preferred Smith to Bayless – – in print and on TV.

  • JJC  On April 22, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    I’m still bugged by the concept of getting insight from Matt Millen. Not just because his team went 0-16 under his leadership but because it always stunk under his leadership. If he had any real insight wouldn’t his team not stink?

    If MLB, or any team in it for that matter, sees empty seats behind the catcher as a problem they should fill them with those who brought kids to the game and fill them from the cheapest seats first. Send some employees to walk the bleachers and nose bleeds with upgrades to anyone with a youngster there after the second inning or so. They will not lose a dime on the proposition, perhaps even make some in extra concessions from the goodwill it fosters and builds long term relationships with the future fan base.

    Sure, if someone comes to those seats late there might be a problem that can be fixed with some reshuffling and free nachos. They will still come out ahead in the long run.

    From that article, the Nats considered punishing someone for being 5 minutes late to pre-game noise because he was signing autographs for the kids? This is something that MLB, not the players union mind you, should end right now. Take the GM or Owner or Coach or whoever did that into a room and not leave until they come to an understanding. I can’t stand lateness as a rule but all good rules have some bend to avoid the idiocy that is the Nationals.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On April 22, 2009 at 3:59 pm


    Somehow, I don’t see the Yankees moving kids from the nosebleed seats (or the obstructed view seats either) down to the $900 seats behind home plate. It might be a good idea; it might be good marketing; I just don’t see them doing it.

    Regarding Elijah Dukes being fined $500 and benched for a game for being 5 minutes late, it is worse than that. He has spent hours working with a suburban Little League showing kids some baseball fundamentals and signing autographs and playing with them. He then got caught in traffic. He was not late for the game; he was late for the time the team sets for getting to the park before the game.

    Dukes has had more than a couple of anti-social events in his past. He allegedly left threatening voice mail messages on the cell phone of his “significant other” regarding her and their child. He is trying to repair his image and to do some socially positive things. And for that, he gets fined.

    The Washington Nationals would find a way to break a crowbar…

  • Ed  On April 22, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    The idea of bringing people down to unsold seats has been rejected – for fear of the backlash of the people who spent up to $2625 (yes, 2K+!!!) for Yankee tickets then get people who paid $30 owed next to them.

    Reduced prices for day of game tickets is an idea used very successfully for Broadway shows, who have average prices higher than even the Yankees. The TKTS booths are a fixture in NYC. Day of performance tickets heavily discounted.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On April 22, 2009 at 9:52 pm


    In financial terms, a ticket to a specific baseball game – – or to a Broadway show – – is a wasting asset. There is a fixed future time when it has zero value. Whatever its current value is, it will waste away to nothing at some future “date certain”.

    Broadway shows figured out long ago that they could sell full price tix AND allow unsold tix to be sold on the day of a performance at a significant discount. They make more money selling a hundred half-price seats than they would selling zero full price seats. That is a mathematical certainty.

    I guess that kind of thinking – – and that NYC experience – – has not made it as far south as Atlanta yet.

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