Are sports monopolies necessary?

The news that a district court judge has allowed a lawsuit to proceed against MLS and U.S. Soccer is worrisome for the league and federation. The details of the ruling (see the PDF) are downright disturbing. At issue: Is U.S. Soccer a legitimate overseer of professional soccer in the USA? Beyond that: Can any organizing body claim dominion over a sport? In the legal world, monopoly power is a serious problem. In the sports world, we take it for granted. Men’s tennis = ATP. Women’s tennis = WTA. U.S. college sports = NCAA (NAIA exists but is far smaller). Baseball … Continue reading Are sports monopolies necessary?

‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 12, Episode 3: Tyson for tea

Alex “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres is giddy after beating Jeff Lentz. He veers between complimenting Lentz on a good fight and pointing out all the ways he was vastly superior. Among the dubious claims: Lentz’s kicks just grazed his afro.

Spencer Paige, to the camera: “I gotta give props to Jeff for not stabbing Bruce in the eye.”

Then someone tells Caceres: “Are you still talking? I stopped listening 10 minutes ago.” (I thought it was Paige again, but MMA Junkie says this was Kyle Watson, and since he’s blogging for them, I’ll defer.)

GSP brings in former wrestling world champion Gia Sissaouri to work with his guys. It’s humbling for fighters to get taken down over and over, but it seems productive and fun.

Koscheck’s team has considerably less fun, straining to keep up with the pace of the workout and getting a lecture about their attitudes.

The fight announcement comes early. GSP picks Michael Johnson, the coveted top pick, against Aaron Wilkinson, the Englishman who has a better ground game than most Wolfslair products but clearly isn’t one of the highly touted guys. Koscheck says Wilkinson is a “sleeper.” That’s not high praise.

In the first ad break, we get a plug for Spike’s “Brocktoberfest.” No word on whether Lesnar will be digitally inserted into Star Wars films.

After a fairly dull segment in which we learn that Johnson really wants to get into the UFC, Koscheck pulls his first prank on GSP, as he and another coach park their cars right up against his, supposedly making it impossible for him to get in. This is supposed to get under GSP’s skin. GSP, though, manages to squeeze into the car and laugh about it.

Koscheck’s session with Wilkinson, though, seems productive. Wilkinson is supposed to keep his feet moving and circle away from the fence if pressed there. Wilkinson says he’d feel comfortable taking Johnson down against the cage, a message made clearer by the producers’ decision to subtitle Wilkinson’s words. Apparently, we only understand American, not English.

We see both fighters make weight. Then comes a change-up — GSP asks Dana White to bring Mike Tyson to talk to his team. White obliges. GSP and Tyson then try to out-polite each other, passing compliments back and forth like neighbors talking about their gardens.

Wilkinson’s from Manchester, England, so Koscheck counters by bringing Ryan Giggs to chat with his fighter. (No, he didn’t — trust me when I say White would have no idea who Ryan Giggs is.)

The fight starts at 10:35 ET. Three-rounder?

Continue reading “‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 12, Episode 3: Tyson for tea”

‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 12, Episode 2: Bruce Decoy

Last time on The Ultimate Fighter, we saw bits of 14 fights and learned that the “characters” on this show will be Alex “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres and Michael “No, Not The Olympic Sprinter” Johnson.

Or maybe not. Jeff Lentz has a nasty smoking habit and a bit of bravado, bragging about not tapping if he’s in a choke or armbar. If the arm’s broken, it’s easier to get out, he says.

Off to the important part of the episode: Team selection. Koscheck says he wants Michael Johnson #1, then Marc Stevens, who briefly wrestled for Koscheck when he was a college coach. GSP figures Koscheck wants to take Stevens, so he’s going to bluff and pretend that he has Stevens ranked #1. (Then Lentz, Sayers, Pham — all a ruse in neat, large handwriting.)

Kos wins the flip. Will he take first fighter in the draft or the rights to set up the first matchup? He opts for first fighter. He jokes that GSP might be bluffing.

But Kos falls for it! He takes Stevens. GSP immediately snags Johnson. “It works,” GSP says with a smile. And Dana White learned about the strategy somehow, congratulating GSP in a confessional.

The rest:

  • Kos: Sevak Magakian, who overwhelmed JJ Ambrose for a decision.
  • GSP: Jonathan Brookins, who has a win in Bellator.
  • Kos: Sako Chivitchian, whose judo national championships are greatly exaggerated but may still be a solid MMA fighter.
  • GSP: Spencer Paige, who won the best of the prelim fights against Steve Magdaleno.
  • Kos: Andy Main, who has a thin resume and barely got a few seconds of screen time in the prelims.
  • GSP: Caceres, who smiles and briefly removes the comb from his hair.
  • Kos: Nam Phan, going surprisingly low for someone with a lot of experience and an impressive prelim win.
  • GSP: Kyle Watson, also going surprisingly low for his experience.
  • Kos: Aaron Wilkinson, the Englishman with a surprising ground game for a Wolfslair product.
  • GSP: Cody McKenzie, another guy who might’ve been expected to go earlier given his uncanny ability to beat everyone by guillotine.
  • Kos: Lentz, who demolished Dan Head in the prelim despite GSP dismissing his chances.
  • GSP: Dane Sayers, who broods over being the last pick.

First training session, and GSP tells us he’s going to be a “training partner” and let his coach do the coaching. His coach is Greg Jackson, one of the most successful in the business.

Koscheck says he has the advantage, and he addresses his “heel” label. “Meet me in person, and you’ll fall in love with me,” he says. I’ve met him, and he is indeed a good guy, but my wife shouldn’t feel threatened.

Fight announcement: GSP picks Caceres, the kid, to go out first against Lentz. GSP says Alex wanted the early fight. Will youthful enthusiasm work against him? Or is the gap in talent between Caceres and Lentz as big as it appears?

Continue reading “‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 12, Episode 2: Bruce Decoy”

World Cup economics and skepticism

Journalists are supposed to be skeptical. Actually, all of us should be skeptical but not cynical. Big difference. A cynic dismisses ideas and arguments as a reflex. A skeptic checks them out.

So when the USA bids to host the World Cup, a bit of skepticism is healthy. It’s just due diligence. People have a right to ask how much the whole thing is going to cost.

University of Maryland-Baltimore County professor Dennis Coates wants to encourage people to ask these questions. He has produced a study claiming that the economic impact of a World Cup is either negligible or negative. Check the full PDF report or his op-eds. He is similarly skeptical of other sports development such as Baltimore ballpark Camden Yards.

Soccer fans may be naturally defensive upon hearing such things. We’re all prepared to spend some money on tickets if the World Cup doesn’t require a passport, long flight and awkward housing searches. So we should admit up front that we’re hardly disinterested parties. (Frankly, though, the BigSoccer discussion has been fairly reasonable.)

That said, from a purely logical perspective, I found myself with a lot of questions after reading the study. I asked Dr. Coates, and he was kind enough to respond.

I have a few comments in response, so what you’ll see here is my question in bold, his response in italic and my comments in plain text. It’s fair to say I find his argument unsatisfactory, but I shouldn’t have the last word — Dr. Coates is invited to leave comments here. And so are you.

On we go …

Continue reading “World Cup economics and skepticism”

‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 12, Episode 1: Fight! (x14)

Time for another season of recapping, deconstructing and dissecting The Ultimate Fighter!

We know the coaches — the venerated Georges St. Pierre and the vilified Josh Koscheck, subject of some guy’s USA TODAY profile today. Now we get to meet 28 prospective cast members in 40-some minutes of TV.

Let’s say this up front: I don’t like the current format of 28 guys trying to fight their way into a 14-man show in which two first-round losers will get another chance. In theory, the idea is that the prelim fights separate those who “want to fight” from those who don’t. In reality, an unlucky draw can eliminate a really good prospect.

What I’d rather see: Have 24 guys fight for 12 spots. THEN pick four “wild cards” to bring the field to 16. The “wild card” concept isn’t needed during the tournament because it forces someone to fight five times in six weeks. If a good fighter loses in the first round, chances are good that an injury will open a slot in the tournament. At the very least, they can bring him back to fight in the finale.

A 12-fight preliminary round would still be chaotic. With 14, it’s a mess. The only way to meet the fighters is to be a geek with misplaced priorities like yours truly, who has been rounding up info from MMA Junkie, the enthusiastic MMA Valor blog and the ever-helpful Sherdog fight finder. And Wikipedia.

Onward …

Continue reading “‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 12, Episode 1: Fight! (x14)”

WPS seasons change: Freedom advance, Scurry says goodbye, Antonucci out?

Updated below with Hope Solo comments, expansion news The Maryland SoccerPlex is a good bit cooler today that it was this summer. Rather than worrying about heatstroke, those of us in short-sleeve shirts wish we had brought jackets. As the seasons change, the WPS regular season ended as well, with a thrilling finale, a heartfelt farewell and worrisome news off the field. With the Washington Freedom possibly needing a win to reach the playoffs, depending on the result in the concurrent Sky Blue FC-Boston game, Becky Sauerbrunn and Abby Wambach found their timing in the 88th minute. Sauerbrunn’s ball put … Continue reading WPS seasons change: Freedom advance, Scurry says goodbye, Antonucci out?

Player ratings: Chicago-Toronto

Chicago 0, Toronto 0 Sept. 8, 2010 Summary: Toronto came out much more aggressive than Chicago, controlling play but not getting a lot of good chances out of it. TFC had a couple of shouts for a penalty on two close ball-to-arm plays, each of them a 50-50 call. Also, Toronto was whistled for 13 fouls before Chicago picked up its first two calls in first-half stoppage time. But Chicago created the only good scoring chance — only shot on goal, in fact — of the first half. In the second half, Chicago got an even better chance, but Freddie … Continue reading Player ratings: Chicago-Toronto