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Cloud9 Sports: Opinionated musing on the sporting world.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Global Game, Global Coin: Foreign Investors in English Footy

There is an epidemic in the United Kingdom. It's not black death or skinheads, but foreign ownership of English Football clubs. Before you close this tab... hear me out.

On the heels of rumors out of Toronto that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (owners and proprietors of all the major sports franchises in Toronto) is searching for a team to buy within the English football realm, I've become vexed by the demand for this particular asset class. You have to consider that painfully rich men are so because they know how to manage their money, hence their investments are typically sound. But is the driving force behind this phenomena purely economical or for sport? What happens to teams that fall under foreign ownership and what has brought about this superficially-peculiar trend?

As it turns out, the answer to why was sowed by the seeds of early English ideals: prosperous business endeavors fostered through free markets and product distribution. Specifically, the English Football Association decided in 1992 to allow capitalism to dictate their operations resulting in the sale of television rights to a satellite service for distribution. Viewed as sell outs by other European nations who initially turned their back on the opportunity, they're now faced with the collateral damage brought about by those decisions: the demand for capital and foreign ownership.

The ownership docket is stocked with grossly wealthy foreigners. In addition to the Canadian interest expressed above, add Dubai International capital to the list of those in search of a franchise. Additionally, more successful parties have already landed several notable franchises, namely: Chelsea (Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich), Liverpool (Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillet), and Manchester United (US tycoon Malcolm Glazer). We can be assured their interest in the game took a back seat to their investment concerns, but how do those with genuine fanatical interest in the beautiful game take to the invasion? For some insight, lets bring this scenario closer to home.

Imagine the riots in Indianapolis if Yang Huiyan purchased the Colts? You couldn't swing a dead cat in and around the Lucas Oil Stadium without hitting a Colts fan seething with outrage. Cries of, “why don't they stick to table tennis!” are echoed loudly, with others screaming, “...all the Chinese know is humping, Communism and dog eating! Leave the NFL alone!” The day the headline brakes every Chinese restaurant in the state of Indiana will be surrounded by angry, blood lusting crowds – a reaction this side of the pond might even deem rational (Ok, maybe just the Americans.)

Or maybe Canada too. What if the Montreal Canadians were purchased by Mukesh Ambani? You could bet your ass the province of Quebec wouldn't lie down quietly. They'd rightly fail to see the merits in allowing a cricket-loving billionaire the rights to control their franchise. And finally we've arrived at the krux of the issue -- clearly the owners money is good, but are their intentions?

Some owners make a habit of menacing with their teams day-to-day affairs: Al Davis and Jerry Jones come to mind (thankfully for Cowboys fans to differing results). Foreign ownership has the potential to put your organization on shaky ground if the person with the controlling interests has no prior knowledge of the sport, something these English teams seemed to overlook. Fortunately however, these wealthy owners know the value of winning. Even those rich enough to afford to lose millions would never tolerate it if things could be changed, which brings us full circle: allowing foreigners to invest and/or purchase franchises serves as a brilliantly orchestrated security blanket for organizations looking to secure future success.

When the new ownership plunks down a sizable chunk of their fortune, they do so with the intention of using the professional sports franchise as a vehicle to grow said fortune. Thus, winning as a model for growth, brand loyalty and positive return on investment becomes paramount to the guys who sign the cheques. Does this win-to-profit ideology suss out?

Yea. Chelsea just finished second in all of Europe, losing to Manchester United. Liverpool won the UEFA Champions League in 2005, won the FA Cup in 2006, and finished as runner-up in the UEFA Final of 2007. This success has ensured spots on the top 10 revenue-producing clubs in the world for Manchester United (4th) and Liverpool (10th) with Chelsea undoubtedly nipping on their heels. Finally, we've found the reason for the lack of outrage from the English: winning cures all ails.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Oprah tells NHL: Hire good people, be successful like me.

Oprah is a ludicrously successful person, but she didn't say that about hockey. /shock/ I think she might know it exists though. Regardless, this is how your NHL team can find success just like O.

This is an interesting time of the year for the NHL in which something incalculably vital to organizational success is going on under the guise of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This determinant of success is in reference to the host of managerial and coaching contracts being discussed and subsequently signed over the last few weeks.

The invaluable role that coaches and managers play in team success can too easily be overlooked. These types of decisions which influence your on-ice product so tangibly are becoming of increasing importance in an NHL rich with parity. Your teams' path is laid for the future through the executive restructuring ongoing throughout the Spring months currently upon us. How important are the decisions your team is making right now? Very.

In any walk of like, often people of superior talent and intelligence rise to the top – this is why the smartest guys on Wall St. are hedge fund managers, why infomercials feature the same people repeatedly, and of course, why Crosby, Zetterberg, Malkin and Datsuk are so much better than their peers (but, thats another topic altogether). This excruciating analogy speak to the collective desperation in which teams – from all sports leagues -- explore the Saharan pool of available world-class management.

Naturally, the off-season is a happy place where teams dream of a bright future often overlooking the 50% chance they have of finishing in bottom half of the standings. The rampant delusions around this time of year lends itself to the symbiotic shuffling of management and coaching. So you pull the plug on the old hack(s) and bring in the new miracle worker. Funny thing about that though....

There aren't many miracle makers in the business of orchestrating winning sports franchises. All the guys old enough to recall a legacy worth remembering are dating themselves back to the Battle of Queenston Heights (alright, maybe just back to hippies). My point remains: the value of good management is priceless.

Take a quick look over the dog-and-pony show that is the Maple Leafs GM search and you'll have to look no further. The media has obsessed endlessly because it so important to them! Just picture Trader Cliff on the blood pressure monitor 24/7 as he endlessly searches for an adequate solution. Other teams has since resolved their vacancies however, with Dallas, Colorado and Vancouver all putting the pieces in place recently in preparation for the draft.

The Stars locked up the incumbent Brett Hull and Les Jackson by ceremoniously removing their Interm tag, Colorado decided to go back to Tony Granato (who was the bench general from 2002-04), and Vancouver told coach Alain Vigneault that he can wait another year to be a lame duck. (I guess Van City GM Mike Gillis is the old ball breaker hes made out to be.)

Lest we forget the lengths that people and organizations go to in an effort to retain good talent. Several have gone so far as to deny the right to negotiate with an individual under contract (even if, contrary to the customary practice, that job was a promotion).

This is a ruthless business where cash-cow markets can take advantage of their dough simply because there are no salary limitations within the managerial ranks. It encourages the thought: Why are managers and coaches making Darren McCarty-type money, when sane rationality dictates they should be living like Crosby? Eventually, it will come to this, or market principles tell us it should. There will be a great deal of resistance from some owners, but over the course of time their dollar will get stretched by fielding poor teams manifest through poor decision-making executives. In time, it will force these owners to make it rain on someone capable of winning.

How can one deem a GM capable of delivering victories? I'm a strong believer in established team identity as a predictive measure of success (in all sports). Managing means developing this identity and exemplifying it on the ice with the players of the ilk required. It's like seasoning the perfect bone-in Rib Eye streak, or playing jenga – its all about balance and timing. Its about managing the right ingredients to fit the mold you deem most likely to produce championships. But, its not easy...

This is evident around this time of year when we see and hear all of the organizational restructuring (as the GM-types might say it) around the league. It reminds you how exposed and vulnerable they are in a position that always demands success – not merely from the fraternity of their peers, but the ravaging fanatics who pay their salary with ever ticket. Being a GM or a coach is all about risk-reward: thankfully for them, those who succeed are being increasingly compensated for their work. This is a trend, unlike the men themselves, with a termination date far out of sight.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

All-NHL Podcast #15- Finals are here...

I'm a pretty big fan of Sara Foster -- I think that means she digs me too? ---->>>

How does it feel to have but ONE series remaining? As few as four and as many as 7 games for whole summer?? Sad, but all good things come to an end. Enjoy a nice break from all the Pens-Wings blah-blah-blubbering from the MSM and listen here:

Topics: [Runs 18m]
  1. Hockey Headlines -- Not related to the Finals.
  2. Barnaby v. Milbury -- Punching bags turned windbags. TSN needs help.
  3. Finally, talk about the Finals: Yea, I broke it down just for you. Winguins in 3 games.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"Because Linkfarms generate traffic....

and one good turn deserves another!" -- Me.

Crazy Ol' Yank Sports:
  • A kinda famous guy reveals how stupid some University Student are...
  • Ahead of the Curve: Wickedgoodsports talks about Jon Lester making the back-to-back no-hitter club a duo..
Sexy and rich people in the news:
  • College Humors Hottest College Girl of '08 - Your gay if you read the Q&A...
  • Two of the most intruiging people in the USA come together: Buffett endorses Obama.
  • Tight -- Jessica Alba is married (and her career is now in jeopardy) --------------->>>>
Good, Bad, and, Simon in the NHL.:
  • Chris Simon is going to Russia (because his drinking will go over a little better there...
  • When Scotty Bowman speaks - You should listen... (athought the questioning line will dissapoint you.)
  • Flaky piece on the business of hockey -- I'll give Rovell a break because I'd kill a man for his job.
  • Sometime I like a little Old School -- Jim Kelley muses on the Stanley Cup

Crazy Ol' Yank Sports:
  • A kinda famous guy reveals how stupid some University Student are...
  • Ahead of the Curve: Wickedgoodsports talks about Jon Lester making the back-to-back no-hitter club a duo..

Reputation-harming desperation:
  • We all knew Jose Canseco was broke, but come oooonn man: A Whole New Low.
  • Slimey Corporate stun of the Month: Girl sleeps with Roger Clemens a 20 years ago. Girls may have been underage. Clemens integrity gets called into question when rumor re-surfaces in 2008. Former jailbate, former inmate, aformentioned underage, but now aging horrendously, Mindy McCready pimps her new song with reference to her unexpected attention. "Fucking skanks..."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Weekly Wed. All-NHL Podcast #14

Good Afternoon Sarah Shahi. ===>>>>>

Enjoy this weeks musings on all things related to the NHL [Runs 20min].

Topics include:
  • Is the Glow Puck is BAAACK? Clearly there are better ways to pimp the NHL, but is this, and focusing on Sidney Crosby all part of the problem and not the solution?
  • More vacancies than Detroit Motels: Who will be coaching your team next season?
  • The Tombstone Reads: Bye-Bye Philly and Dallas. Listen to why they will be golfing in a New York minute, and look forward to a final we've seen before (think NY Islanders dynasty beating the up-and-coming Edmonton Oilers in the 82-83 Final).

Cheers and thank for listening -- Derek.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Because Linkfarms generate traffic...

& honesty is the best policy!" - Moms.

To start: a photo of the woman I'd most like to punch in the face if I were a female =====>

  • A detailed chart showing games played for Stanley Cup Finalists over the past decade+.
  • Some good points regarding the next GM of the Toronto Makeme Laffs.


  • Remember Boating and Alcohol is fun, but potentially dangerous. Ex. Speed Boat docks on the wrong beach -- next to the 6th Green.
  • As much as corporate filth like this should anger you, this stuff is pretty funny.
  • Batshit Bill O'Reilly goes off in the day.

  • Megan Fox Topless, but covered... Intriguing, I know...

  • Best In-Game Dunks of the '07-'08 season: This is the only form of NBA I can tolerate.
  • Marvin Harrison: Mild-mannered Colts receiver has a very interesting story -- and potentially a addition to his wrap sheet.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Embracing the Human Element in Officiating

It's just too easy to rip sporting officials sometimes. We've always been taught otherwise, but when you're right your right, and when you're wrong... you're allowing goals to pass through the side of the net.

In yesterdays IIHF World Championship contest between Finland and the US, the latter finagled their way back into the game with a slippery snipe that clearly went through the side of the net. A queer feeling gripped the arena promoting the on-ice ref's to confer the with officials upstairs in hopes their use of video review could indefinitely solve the dilemma. So does the puck go through the side of the net? (Here is the video with added value in form of dirty Finnish commentary).

It could be the work of match-rigging henchmen, pure accidental negligence, or another case of the Newfies in the video review booth getting too ripped to decipher the coded message that you just watched – stranger (alcohol-related) things have happened in Halifax, trust me. Whatever the explanation, the result was an unprecedented blunder which allowed the Finnish squad to squeak out a 3-2 win.

We accept that humans are prone to error because we experience these mishaps daily. We've been in fender benders, mis-pronounced peoples names, or gotten poop on our hands during a rushed, errant wipe. Shit happens, indeed. And lighting can strike twice...

Case in Point. This image was taken during the first period of Game 2, when Sidney Crosby was hacking away at a lose puck at the side of the net. The end-result is clearly displayed – but the humans responsible for the outcome of this event once again made a mistake. Following a lengthy review, the inconclusive visual confirmation took a goal away from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

What is most frustrating is not the mistake itself, but the dogmatic adherence to a rule that offers no flexibility. Sports organizations and the NHL always pride itself on the quality of their officials and support any instances of bad officiating with the classic “we embrace the human element” mantra. Where the hell was the human element lastnight? Watching the replay determines pretty clearly that the puck crossed the goal line, as its momentum continued once Marty Biron smothered it with his glove (obstructing the visual proof of the puck crossing the line). In lieu of making the appropriate assessment, the NHL chose loyalty to a fault and threw the rule book at Michel Therrien and the Pens. No Goal!

Poll coaches, players and general managers on the most important quality of officials and they would overwhelming respond: consistency. Good, bad or otherwise, just be consistent so we (the players) know the guidelines. Embracing the human element whenever possible and these events become easily avoidable.

This unfortunate example caught the league talking out of both sides of their mouth, a phenomena of which the fans have grown tired. Are we in for the human element or not? I support intelligent people passing reasonable judgments – which why if you hire the right people for the job, these problems disappear. This applied to the Zamboni drivers, video review judges and beyond – up to the suits in New York and Mr. Bettman for his lack of confidence in the people who work for him. Pick a philosophy and follow it to the end, just ensure they don't cross paths during another NHL playoff semi-final or World Championship Game.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Weekly Wed. All-NHL Podcast #13

The Conference Finals start tomorrow, and here is everything you need to know in easy-listening form. [Runs 21mins.]

  • The Dumpster Fire Report: Leafs fire lame duck coach. So what???
  • From the Crapper to the Cup? Can Philly take down the Penguins in the East Conf. Final?
  • Detty Does Dallas? Either way, the battle between the Stars and the Wings will result in somebody getting screwed.

Enjoy and Thank you for Listening! -- Cheers, Derek.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Crime & Punishment: Marion Jones/IOC vs. NE Patriots/NFL

All those with aversion to parallels between sports and life need not continue reading, this one is just too rich for your blood. The turmoil surrounding the cheater, liar and fraud Marion Jones draws attention to the issues of performance enhancing drugs, human ethics, discrimination and justice.

Such weighty topics drench our moral conscience as the peoples of society and fans of athletics, and grip our emotionally-driven rationality. This scenario in particular epitomizes the phenomenal power of public outrage flipped on its backside: what happens when no one cares?

Marion Jones' story is simple. Essentially she cheated, got caught and forced the IOC to rule that she and her relay teammates will be stripped of their medals. Sad, yes. Unjust?

If we based the relative injustice on the public reaction (see: inaction), then we are to conclude that the seven non-doping members of Marion Jones' 2000 Sydney Olympic relay teams were indeed guilty by association. That no one cares is not surprising, but consider the follow:

What if, in a retroactive ruling courtesy of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the New England Patriots were deemed void of their 2004 Super Bowl Championship because Rodney Harrison was burned for HGH in 2007?

Too dissimilar to be relevant? Both are team sports heavily reliant on contributions from each and every individual (Harrison was All-Pro in 2004 and the anchor of NE's defense). Both rulings came long after the victorious were crowned. Both featured lengthy paper trails and longstanding associations with PED providers (see Balco & Jones, Wade Wilson and Harrison). Jones and her teammates were disgraced publicly and then shamefully stripped of their medals compounding their distress while Rodney Harrison received only a four game suspension.

The contrasting severity smacks of judicial bias and discrimination, but must be considered with the acknowledgment of the equally-contrasting tolerance of PED users within their respective organizations. NFL players are every bit the walking chemistry experiment personified by Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, Ben Johnson and others, who have tarnished the reputation of their sport, a fact that NFL fans don't care to notice.

However, these two scenarios highlight the respective philosophies towards cheaters and their perceived wrong doing. The NFL fears the wrath of the public, the negative media frenzy that might be associated with such harsh condemnation. Instead, they hope their wrist-slapping is echoed among the masses – which culminates in the form of moans and groans, but little else.

While noble and praiseworthy, the IOC is determined -- at the expense of their own bottle line -- to ruin the careers and livelihood of those who deviate from their accepted policies. It does little to promote future Olympic athletes, but unquestionably fosters a trusting and integral competitive environment.

It may be the insignificance of the Olympics or womans athletics that has allowed this story to fly under the radar. Assuredly, if the hypothetical ruling from Commissioner Goodell came down tomorrow, the shit would hit the fan in Boston and everyone would get hit with a piece. The public outrage would make the intensity of the L.A.-Rodney King riots look like an equestrian competition. Fortunately for the otherwise peaceful Massachusetts residents, the NFL doesn't care about cheaters, and it would never make a decision at the risk of jeopardizing their bottom line.

Does this have a reflection upon our collective moral consciousness in society? Should we alleviate the impetus to cheat by allowing PED's in sport? These issues and a host more like them will remain indefinitely unresolved, perhaps another article for another day. Thoughts?