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Archive for Saturday, March 4, 2006

Simons: Money-driven sports resort to blackmail, bullying tactics

March 4, 2006

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A growing number of individuals are beginning to wonder how much longer the blackmail and bully tactics of many in collegiate and professional sports will be tolerated. It is likely a large percentage of the public favors healthy competitive sports. Healthy athletic competition among schools, states and professional franchises provide a great deal of enjoyment to many.

However, this competition has reached a level in collegiate and professional sports that money is the controlling name of the game. Unfortunately, the richer the school or professional club, the better the chances for these teams to win the championships. Winning and making money are what count.

Earlier this week, a spokesman for the Kansas City Chiefs told the public that unless Kansas City voters approve a tax increase to help pay for improvements at Arrowhead Stadium, team officials are likely to consider building a new stadium at another site and relocating the team.

The Chiefs have been good for Kansas City, and Kansas City sure has been good for the Chiefs. The Chiefs may sell the largest number of season tickets in professional football, and they are likely to have the longest string of sell-out crowds. Add to that the massive revenue from concessions and parking and the Chiefs fiscal position in Kansas City must be very healthy.

Arrowhead Stadium is one of the most attractive in professional sports. Granted, the arena has aged and could benefit from some improvements, many of which could mean added profits for the owners.

Kansas City, Mo., voters soon will determine whether added tax dollars will be spent on the renovation project and the addition of a large movable roof to cover the field.

It is likely to be a close vote, and in an effort to sway voters, the Chiefs spokesman issued the threat about moving the team.

Talk about blackmail. This same tactic goes on at many universities. You, the public; you, the taxpayer; you, the loyal alumnus; and you, the average fan who has supported the teams, bought tickets regardless of whether the team was winning or losing; you either give us additional support, additional money, or we either won't let you buy tickets or we'll take our game elsewhere.

Loyalty and long-time support mean little in the eyes of those who are obsessed with money. At the same time, this is bound to catch up with those who control both the professional and so-called amateur collegiate sports scene. Here in Kansas, there are signs this arrogant attitude is starting to cool the thinking of many - including state legislators - about the university.

What will happen in Kansas City if voters turn down the tax increase? Will the owners move the team and, if so, will they enjoy the same fan support in another city? What happens if the fans call their bluff?

It will be interesting to see the outcome in Kansas City. Will those in the sports scene become even more brazen in how they work with the public? Again, the same reasoning applies to the college scene.

Sadly, the public's appetite today for sports seems to be insatiable, and, in this environment, it appears sports czars will continue to flex their muscles and give little care or attention to those who are unwilling or unable to come up with the extra bucks to curry the favor of team owners or college athletic directors and chancellors.

Sports are great in many respects, but when does the time come to say enough is enough?

¢ Reflections on the just-completed Kansas University basketball season in renovated Allen Fieldhouse:

¢ There are many appreciated improvements such as far better lighting, long-overdue enlargement and modernization of restrooms, a new interior paint job, the massive new scoreboard with the sharp video screen and the outstanding Booth Family Hall of Athletics.

All of these features make a visit to the 51-year-old Allen Fieldhouse a very special event.

There is one matter on the "to do" list, however, that still needs attention. There is a major, major oversight in the video shown before each game outlining the history and tradition of Kansas basketball. It is a well done film clip, but due to carelessness, insecurity, egos or smallness, only four KU coaches are pictured in the video: Dr. James Naismith, Dr. Forrest "Phog" Allen, Larry Brown and current coach Bill Self.

Where is Roy Williams? Who is it at KU who continues to try to deny the greatness and accomplishments of Williams? As the official KU basketball guide points out, "He won more games in the first 15 years of a coaching career than any coach in Division I history, and he is the second-winningest coach of all time at KU, trailing only Phog Allen."

It's time some at KU knock the chips off their shoulders and appreciate all Williams did for KU - for the university, as well as the basketball program.

¢ Athletic Director Lew Perkins may have gotten himself in a bit of hot water with many of the women in Wednesday's Allen Fieldhouse crowd when he greeted senior members of the KU cheerleading and spirit squads and senior members of KU's knock-out basketball pep band.

Perkins greeted each female cheerleader and spirit squad member with a kiss on the cheek. For some reason, however, he didn't bestow the same affectionate greeting on the female members of the pep band. Some may wonder why.

¢ Long-time KU announcer Max Falkenstien deserves all of the accolades he has received as he steps aside after 60 years of broadcasting KU football and basketball games.

However, there is reason to wonder whether it was appropriate to hang a banner with his name and the number "60" alongside banners honoring past KU basketball greats.

Falkenstien has enjoyed a long career as an announcer, and it may be entirely appropriate to hang a banner in Allen Fieldhouse to recognize his career. But might it have been best to place this banner in a location other than among the players' banners? There already has been extremely emotional debate in recent years concerning why some players' jerseys have not been hung along the south end of the Fieldhouse. Now a banner honoring a nonplayer has been placed in this honored location.

The banner is appropriate, but in this location?

l It was a great season for the Jayhawks and Coach Bill Self. Best wishes for this afternoon's game against Kansas State and the upcoming post-season conference and NCAA Tournament games.

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