For once John Elway came up short in the fourth quarter. Last week the popular website SportsLine.com severed its yearlong partnership with MVP.com, the sporting goods e-tailer whose investors include Elway, Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan, after MVP.com fell two months behind on a scheduled fourth-quarter payment. As MVP.com's struggles show, the crash of the high-tech business sector has hit the sports world hard.
Websites. Despite aggressive marketing, including TV spots starring Elway and Nick Price, golf-equipment vendor Chipshot.com filed for bankruptcy in October. Another highly visible sports e-tailer, Fogdog, agreed last month to be purchased at a bargain-basement price by Global Sports and plans to lay off most of its staff. The boom in sports jobs on the Web may be over, too: Sportshuddle.com, which builds and runs high school sports sites for more than 50 newspapers, laid off a third of its 75-person staff last month, and Broadband Sports, a leading supplier of online sports content, let go 20% of its 265 employees. Even cutting-edge Quokka Sports, which runs SaltLake2002.com and NBCOlympics.and CART, is suffering: The company's share price, which was close to $20 a year ago, was less than $2 on Monday.
Sponsorships. College bowls lost two dotcom sponsors this year when OurHouse.com pulled out of the Florida Citrus Bowl and HomePoint.com took its name off the Music City Bowl. In golf, financial troubles for Greens.com, a tee-time reservations company that was to back the PGA's Reno-Tahoe Open, left the tournament without a title sponsor. The plunging stock price of Sawis Communications, a high-speed Internet service provider, has meant a paper loss of $5.2 million for the St. Louis Blues; in August the team sold naming rights to the Kiel Center to Sawis for 750,000 shares of Sawis stock.
Owners. Although tech billionaires like the Mavericks' Mark Cuban and the Redskins' Daniel Snyder have sufficiently deep pockets and diversified portfolios to keep their clubs from feeling the pinch, the parlaying of Net earnings into pro franchise ownership may be over. As Cuban says, "The pool of potential dotcom owners has dwindled." No more Cubans or Snyders? At least league commissioners can be happy about the high-tech crash.