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HIT OR MYTH
On Dec. 26, ESPN, the cable sports network, tried something new. It set out to telecast all nine opening-day races from Santa Anita. Nice idea, right? That's what the people at ESPN thought, until they began getting phone calls from an assortment of individuals and publications, all insisting that it's illegal to air more than two races on one broadcast—that two races are news but a full card is disseminating gambling information.
Since the broadcast, which was finally cut to eight races for lack of time, ESPN's lawyers, who had already conducted two searches for legal impediments, have instituted yet another. Nevertheless, they have come to the conclusion that no such regulation exists. "There's a lot of folklore and myth connected with horse racing," says Eric Kemmler, assistant general counsel for ESPN. "It's a different subculture. This myth of only being allowed to broadcast two races a day, we can't find it anywhere."
The only reference to the matter that Kemmler could find, he says, was an FCC report that stated that the regulatory body would consider the broadcasting of horse racing on a case by case basis if there were complaints about it.
ESPN intends to telecast more racing eventually, although it has no specific plans so far. "We think it's a nice, distinct feature," says Kemmler. Meanwhile the scuttlebutt from Las Vegas is that the bookies concur. On Dec. 26 their business was up 50% and more.
CHALLENGING A CHALLENGE
In a letter published in SI's 19TH HOLE on Nov. 23, Jim Miller, the NFL Management Council's director of information, complained that an earlier letter (SI, Nov. 9) from an official of the NFL Players Association had greatly overstated profits earned by the league's 28 teams. Charging that the union official's estimates were "grossly incorrect" and based on "nebulous" sources, Miller's letter said that according to a league-commissioned audit, NFL clubs had turned an average profit of $836,000 in 1979 and that, by the best available estimate, profits had declined to barely $400,000 per team in 1980.
Shortly after Miller's letter was published, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, testifying before a congressional subcommittee, cited the same audit in asserting that NFL teams had averaged a $1.75 million profit in 1979 and an estimated $1.4 million in '80.
Asked about the discrepancies, Miller replied that ticket receipts in 1980 had averaged $300,000 more per team than had been realized when he wrote his letter. Beyond that, Miller said, his figures had reflected profits after taxes while Rozelle's were pre-tax figures. "We haven't resolved whether we should use pre-tax or after-tax figures," Miller said. "We should be more consistent."