Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

You Picked the NCAA Winner

So let us be real for a minute, did you really have these four teams coming out of their brackets?

Genius, I say, or a fan of VCU or Butler?

Does the appearance of VCU validate the NCAA’s decision to expand the number of teams that enter the tournament? Can they expand more, and if so will the tournament go through April? The four stations involved in the showing of every game might salivate over having more games to show. Hey, CBS and Turner paid over $11 million for the 14 year contract.

Television ratings for the men’s NCAA Tournament are 15 percent higher than last year and the best since 1993, CBS and Turner Sports said in a news release Monday.

Over the course of the tournament, the upset-filled, down-to-the-wire drama has been watched by 6.8 percent of American households across the 56 largest media markets, according to Bloomberg.

Read more:

This year there are many unhappy college hoops fans. Certainly, the supports of Duke, Kansas, Texas, North Carolina all have gone home. What effect will that have on the television ratings for the last four games. UConn and Kentucky certainly have fan bases of considerable size and maybe the Cinderella nature of the smaller schools might attract the fans. But no college can match Duke’s national pull, or even that of University of North Carolina with its Jordan heritage.

Most intriguing thing I hears was what will Butler’s coach do after getting his team to the final four for these two years? Will he go off to bigger pastures and bigger snatch? Will he stay and keep constructing this program into a monster for years to come?


Save Yusani: Ecuador’s Amazon

The word spread tonight about the need to save the Yusani National Park. Washington DC’s environmental film festival screened the documentary, Yusani: Two Seconds To Live at the Ecuador Embassy.

Yasuní and oil exploitation
Scientists from all over the world have qualified Yasuní as the zone with the highest biodiversity of the world. Within one hectare of Yasuní, 644 different species of trees have been identified. There are as many different species in one hectare of Yasuní, as there are in the whole of North America.
Yasuní has been declared a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO.

This biosphere reserve is also the territory of the indigenous Huaorani people and some tribes who live in voluntary isolation. These are the last free human beings of Ecuador, true warriors who live in the so-called society of abundance, because they only produce the minimum to satisfy their own needs.

The foreseeable impacts of oil exploitation in the park are: contamination, deforestation, destruction of the social fabric, extinction of cultures etc.

Hollywood stars are supporting the initiative, particularly Leonardo DiCaprio and Ed Norton.

Watch a clip here:

This area must be saved. If the ITT initiative works then this type of plan can be used in other countries to preserve environments that benefit the entire world.

I have been to the Amazon in Peru and it was an amazing experience. I can’t imagine that this kind of place with its amazing life could be gone in a generation.

Going Green

What an interesting St. Patrick’s Day. Didn’t see anybody stumbling out of the local bars to puke on the sidewalks.

Going green for me meant seeing a movie at the Environmental Film Festival. Washington, DC has one of the largest environmental festivals in the world, showing movies for twelve days in locations around the city.

Embassies usually show movies that are made in their home country so this one was at the Netherlands modernist building in a ritzy part of DC.


A group of Greenpeace pioneers look back on their lives as environmental activists. Once they belonged to the crew of the famous ship Rainbow Warrior and took part in a series of successful actions until a bomb attack put an end to it…

The movie had a lot of remarkable history about the attempts to stop whalers in the North Atlantic Ocean, to stop the transport of nuclear waste, and to stop the testing of nuclear bombs in the Pacific Ocean.

Most amazing was what these people did to save the natives living on the Pacific Island of Rongelap.

American Public Wants

Public Says No To Republicans’ Slasher-Movie Economics

Scott Walker feels the heat as public opinion polls show very low favorable ratings

Are most people sick and tired of losing their jobs, or watching neighbors take pay cuts

Meanwhile, it’s great to be on Wall Street. It must be glorious. You crash the economy, get a taxpayer bailout and hand out record bonuses.

People are marching on banks in cities across the nation complaining about their record bonuses.

From a person who was there:

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This was a very promising beginning, my friends!

For those who weren’t there other chants included:

“We’re not going away! We will make you PAY!” and “Bank of American You Can’t Hide, We Can See Your Greedy (or Evil) Side!” and “The Banks Get Bailed Out / The People Get Sold Out!”

And the top six banks in the US pay on 11% of their tax share instead of the 35% that they should pay because of tax loopholes. They also have not been loaning money out to help out small businesses in the country.

Movies, History, Critics

Did you grow up watching Siskel and Ebert? Ever wonder about the power of critics to make or break a movie?

Go see For the Love of Movies an excellent documentary about the world of film criticism from the beginnings of the silent movie to today’s multiplex.

The movie informs you about the people and the scope of the opinions that they wrote in the major newspapers, magazines, fanzines and finally in emags and on blogs.

It is particularly fun seeing clips from movies and learning more about Hollywood publicity. Would have liked to know more about how much money, time and resources is spent on wooing “critics” to come see movies before they are even released to the regular movie critics?

Hollywood has always had its publicity hoopla and its Hollywood bohemians who were promoted in order to sell movies and the movie industry.

Critics lose their mojo and their audiences and new approaches to reviewing movies rise up. This happened in the late 1960s and again in the 1990s. Beside editing like music videos what else changed in the style of movies in the early 1990s that led to a new way of reviewing movies?

Kennedy Center: India

Go take a day this month and go down to the Kennedy Center. There are a ton of plays, panels, talks, and art exhibits to see focused on India.

Saw play last night about a 19th century actress Nati Binodini who flourished as an actress after overcoming her start in prostitution.

One of the most interesting things was Reena Saini Kallat’s art piece Falling Fables.

Made of rubber stamps that carry the names of monuments and sites considered historically important that are decaying or eroding, the piece raises issues about loss, architecture, history. 

The government of a country can only have so much to spend and its private citizens can only contribute so much cash as well, choices have to be made about what kind of effort needs to be made to save buildings. India also needs to save its tigers and they cost money to keep the habitats available to them. How much money ought to go to each.

New Delhi Travel article that discusses the loss of monuments follows:

Basketball, NBA, New Business

Last week, Jason Whitlock  predicted a housing-bubble-type collapse for the NBA if the league doesn’t enact dramatic changes to the basic rules governing player compensation and the structuring of rosters.

He thinks the four major professional sports leagues — NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB — would benefit from a player-compensation system that tied a significant portion of player salary to wins and losses. The NBA, because the league is dogged by the perception its players do not compete hard in the regular season, would benefit the most from this radical change.

Also, because the NBA is composed primarily of African-American players, many of whom have embraced the style, demeanor and flamboyant lifestyle of hip-hop artists, the league is most vulnerable to an unforeseen, rapid decline in popularity among its primarily middle-aged, white paying-customer base.

Here’s my take: what about the new fan: the one who doesn’t care much about nor root for a team but instead roots  for that ultra cool player. Or they are a fantasy sports guy and they root for individual players on their team to tote up the points so that they win their league? What sport fan is paying to go see these games at the arenas?

In this new era of enormous contracts, limitless access and analysis of athletes’ personal lives and the methods (performance-enhancing drugs) they use to soar to new heights, there is a love-hate tension between fans and professional athletes.

The love-hate tension is at its highest in the NBA. Other than loving hoops, the paying customers believe they have almost nothing in common with the tattooed millionaires who entertain them. Many fans believe they care more about winning and the team than the players do.

This perception — fair or not — can’t go on forever. There’s going to be a breaking point.

Last week, the Detroit Pistons pretty much quit on their coach, John Kuester. Rip Hamilton and Tracy McGrady allegedly arranged a protest that led to close to half of the roster skipping or being late to a shootaround practice. During the subsequent game, several Pistons were shown laughing when Kuester was ejected.

The whole ordeal was a black eye for a once-proud franchise. And it underscored an obvious point: Pro athletes are spoiled.

Brett Favre hated training camp, so he skipped it. Roger Clemens didn’t have to travel on selected road trips. Allen Iverson hated to practice. After having his every whim, including roster moves, catered to, LeBron James decided he’d rather be in South Beach than Cleveland. Carmelo Anthony’s wife wanted to live in New York. Farve certainly tainted his career with his egomanical behavior.

The attitude at the top of the athlete food chain eventually filters down to the rank-and-file millionaires. It’s human nature. The players are not bad people. They’re reacting the way you or I would if we were coddled throughout our teens, undereducated and showered with millions of dollars and a thousand sycophants by age 21.

Rip Hamilton can’t force a trade or take his talents to South Beach. He doesn’t have that kind of juice. He does have enough to undermine a guy he believes is a bad coach. Spoiled, wealthy famous people are going to act like spoiled, wealthy famous people. Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch begat Charlie Sheen sitting across from Piers Morgan on CNN. Jumping on that coach really hurt Cruise’s career, didn’t it? Mission Impossible III grossed less than its production costs of $150 million. Then Lions for Lambs made $15 million.

Lions for Lambs Poster

Stars can get their careers damaged if they act too much like a jerk.

The rules governing the games must be changed to restore the integrity of the leagues.

There are idiots who believe there should be equality between the owners and the players. These idiots love to say: “Why is everyone upset because LeBron and other black men are taking control of their destiny and playing where they want to play? It’s OK when the owners trade or cut a player.”

These idiots do not grasp the big picture. These idiots likely have never owned anything in their lives.

Owners and employees are not equals in America’s capitalistic system. They can be partners. We should demand fairness between employer and employees.

But it is foolish and bad business for David Stern to allow a system that gives the players as much leverage as ownership and management.

It is appropriate for players to look out for their own best interests. It is appropriate for ownership to look out for the best interests for the teams and the league as a whole.

The overall health of the league is what allows LeBron James to make $15 million from the Heat and untold millions from Nike. He’s young. He can’t see it. Like most 25-year-olds, LeBron just wants to do what’s best for LeBron.

And I’m not arguing his move to Miami was bad for the league. In the short term, his Decision has been good for the league.

It’s what he set in motion that is the problem. “The Decision” was Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch. Carmelo, Deron Williams, the Pistons and God knows what’s next is Charlie Sheen.

The players are tweaking the razor-thin, love-hate line between themselves and their paying customers.

If the customers believe the players have too much power and they’re using that power to sabotage the home team or the coach, the thin line between love and hate is going to be crossed with damaging impact.

For mainstream America, its passion for sports is fueled by the games’ connection to traditional values such as discipline, order, patriotism, sacrifice, unity, team and gambling. Mainstream America won’t pay $2,000 to sit courtside and watch Hot Sauce and the And1 Tour. Won’t happen.

The players don’t want to play for And1 Tour money. But that’s what the league would look like if the players were in control.

Ownership must think big picture and institute dramatic rules changes. The time is right. Sports fans are frustrated with the NBA, its impact on college basketball and NCAA hypocrisy. American basketball is broken. With the NBA collective bargaining agreement set to expire, why not pursue radical change?

What I’m going to suggest will sound crazy. Staying the current course is crazier.

1. Come up with a pay system that is 60 percent controlled by the individual teams and 40 percent controlled by the league. Teams would control a player’s base salary. The league would dispense money based on team and individual performance. This makes the NBA even more like the National Football League with centralizing finances. It does what major league baseball needs to do with its revenue tax, and that is to reward teams that actually play well by giving out the money based on performance not some other wacky criteria.

2. Reach an agreement with the NCAA that allows the top 100 college players/prospects to play in the NBA summer league. Pay the players as interns. Freshman get $25,000, sophomores $50,000, juniors $75,000 and seniors $100,000. Structure the summer league as a playing and educational experience. Teach the players about the history of the league and their responsibility to take care of the league and represent it in a way that grows the value of the league. Always a great idea to teach history, manners and both self respect and to respect others!

3. Register and monitor high school prospects, give them a standardized academic test upon graduation that — depending on the score — would qualify them for a financial boost should they later earn a spot on an NBA roster. This would provide an incentive for kids (and their parents) to compete academically.

4. Devise a first-four-years pay scale that pays a player extra money based on how many years of college he completed. A boy enters the league at 18, fresh out of high school, he earns less than a 22-year-old man with a college degree or even a 21-year-old who developed in college for two or three years. A kid can enter the NBA straight out of high school, but there are financial consequences for the decision. This offers athletes an incentive to stay in college and to earn a degree. However, how are athletes supposed to earn a degree when so much of their time is taken up playing and practicing the sport.

5. Develop a compensation system that slots players 1 to 20 on the roster. Stick with me. I know the roster limit is 15. The team-controlled portion of player salaries will be fixed on a 1-to-20 basis. The No. 1 player on a roster (Kobe Bryant, for instance) would receive a base salary of, let’s say, $10 million. A player slotted at No. 2 would earn $8 million. No. 3 $6 million. If you’re the Sacramento Kings, you might not have a player worthy of a No. 1 contract. The Kings’ top player might be slotted at No. 4 and be assigned a base salary of $5 million. Maybe the Miami Heat don’t have players worthy of being 5, 6 or 7. The Heat might slot Mario Chalmers and Juwan Howard at 17 and 18, which would qualify them for base contracts between $400,000 and $750,000. Also, maybe Dwyane Wade and LeBron James won’t want to play alongside each other if one of them is going to have to settle for being a No. 2. This is a great idea. It is similar to what is done with rookies in the NBA already. See the salary chart below. Then know that the NFL spent $160 million more on its draft choices!

1st Year: Guaranteed
2nd Year: Guaranteed
3rd Year: Team Option
4th Year: Team Option
Qualifying Offer

This kind of system is coming to the NFL once they eventually agree to a labor contract. In a year probably. And it makes sense that a guy who plays longer in the league deserves to be paid well, probably better than  a person who has not proved their self in the league yet.

6. This might take a team of MIT graduates, but figure out how to cut up the league-controlled portion of player salaries based mostly on regular-season wins and then on playoff success. If Kobe leads the Lakers to 65 victories and the title, he should earn approximately an additional $6.5 million in bonuses. Pau Gasol, the Lakers’ No. 2, would earn an additional $5.5 million. I’m not smart enough to tell you how much Kobe should earn per regular-season victory or playoff series win, but there are people who can do the math. The league-controlled victory bonus would be slotted, too.

7. I’d come up with a no-tattoo bonus. Yeah, I know that ticks some of you off. Basketball is the ultimate television sport. Tattoos are not TV friendly. I’d give young players an incentive to not graffiti their bodies before entering the NBA.

8. I’d contract two to four teams. I’d make the remaining teams play four games per season in a satellite home city. The Lakers would partner with Las Vegas. The Clippers would partner with San Diego. The Pacers could play in Cincinnati, the Cavaliers in Columbus.

What teams are going to be contracted? Remember that MLB wanted to get rid of the Minnesota Twins and the Expos, who became the Washington Nationals and now both teams are doing very well. Are you going to take the bottom teams in the conferences or are you going to look at finances of the teams, the ownership? Cleveland, Toronto and Washington are the bottom feeders in the Eastern Conference and Minnesota and Sacramento and the bottom in the Western Conference. Each of these teams serves a unique market with no other team particularly close to their area. Would the other owners be willing to pay the $300 million a piece to the owners of each contracted team?

Implement these suggestions over a five-year period and the NBA is fixed and challenging the NFL for supremacy by 2017.