New Looks, Old Reasons
We have a plan for the NBA to implement next season: different uniforms for every game! Can't you see it? On opening night the Orlando Magic, having cut a deal with Disney World, trot out in, say, orange uniforms with a Mickey Mouse logo. The concession stands do a land-office business, and anticipation only builds for Game 2, when Shaq and Penny sport purple unis with a squawking Donald Duck smack in the middle of the jersey. By season's end each team has about seven dozen different uniforms—not to mention special playoff editions—all of them pumping loot into the pockets of the NBA, its teams and its players.
Don't think it couldn't come to this. Over the last two seasons five NBA teams have changed their home and away uniforms, either because team apparel was not selling at a satisfactory clip or because the team wanted to sell even more of it. That practice has become commonplace in other pro sports as well in recent years, but the NBA has added a new wrinkle. By next month 10 franchises will have adopted a revolutionary haberdashery concept known as "secondary road uniforms." Understand that teams don't really need two road uniforms. An extra uniform is just more grist for the NBA marketing mill. "It's another opportunity for marketing licensed products," says Sal LaRocca, the NBA's director of adult apparel. On the day the Bulls debuted their new black secondaries on Nov. 14, they were being loaded onto shelves in Chicago department stores.
Over the last 13 years the NBA's gross from the sale of team merchandise has increased from $10 million to approximately $3 billion. Enough already. The league constantly sacrifices tradition and taste—most of the new uniforms are uglier than Don Nelson's fish ties—in its quest for marketing dollars, and everyone knows it. Says Bull forward Scottie Pippen of his team's new look, "O.K. with me. It's just another way to raise money."
Meanwhile, the uniform issue the NBA should be most concerned about—the black-and-white being worn by replacement referees—goes unresolved. According to the referees' recent four-year proposal, it would cost each NBA franchise about $20,000 this season to meet the locked-out referees' latest contract demand. At its going retail price of $42.99, about 14,000 Jordan secondaries would cover the entire cost.
MSL Chief No Know-It-All
Major League Soccer last week introduced Doug Logan, 52, of Sarasota, Fla., as its first commissioner, even though Logan, who has been active in sports facility management and entertainment promotion, has no experience in the sport. Perhaps he will follow the trail blazed by Gary Bettman, who is doing a solid job as NHL commissioner despite his lack of a hockey background. And we certainly hope that the words of a Logan family member will not dog the commissioner. Said his 11-year-old soccer-playing son Philip when Logan told him of the offer, "But Dad, you don't know anything about soccer."
College football pointy-heads have been accused of many things, but inattention to niggling, bureaucratic detail has rarely been one of them. Yet, after creating the theoretically new, improved bowl alliance system last winter, the architects of the revised postseason format overlooked the absence of a tiebreaker in the Big East and the ACC, two of the five conferences whose champions will attend alliance bowls.
That oversight has left big-bowl darling Miami as a leading contender to land an Orange Bowl berth. "They're a strong candidate," says Orange Bowl Committee chairman Ed Williamson of the Hurricanes. And what's wrong with that? Well, the Hurricanes lost 13-7 to Big East rival Virginia Tech on Sept. 23 and have one more loss than the Hokies. The only stats that matter, though, are the teams' 6-1 conference records. Without a tiebreaker, the final decision on which school goes to the Orange Bowl, instead of a lesser bowl, rests with alliance officials. Given the possibility of a made-for-TV Miami-Notre Dame showdown and the Hurricanes' status as the hometown team, the Orange Bowl will be sorely tempted to take Miami. An official of another bowl says, "I'm glad we don't have to deal with it."
Being slighted by the alliance would be an especially cruel blow for Virginia Tech, which has not been to a Jan. 1 bowl since 1947 and whose fans are among the most loyal in the country. But Miami, which stands to gain a hefty $3.5 million windfall from an Orange Bowl appearance, refuses to apologize for its apparent good fortune. "It's not our fault that we've been in 12 consecutive bowl games and won four national titles," says Hurricane coach Butch Davis. "When the bowl people choose, believe me, they take a lot of things into account: tradition, viewer preference, marketing."