Thursday, July 26, 2012

Can we Please Holdout for some Common Sense?

As the NFL is buzzing with the start of training camps in most places, Jacksonville is buzzing because Maurice Jones-Drew is not at training camp. He wants a new deal after he lead the NFL in rushing last season, which is understandable. But, as with most holdouts, this situation is much more complex than that. And that has made it very hard for people to understand what is going on, which is distorting what is actually going on, and changing opinions of the many when only a few should.

MJD got a brand new contract before the 2009 season when he wasn't even the starter. He got a 5 year, $31 million deal (frontloaded), and the Jaguars hoped he would live up to the money of the deal. He certainly has. He has 2 years left on his deal, and he is not a highly paid running back now by any means from the rest of his deal. It doesn't help that he's seen guys like Matt Forte, Ray Rice, and LeSean McCoy all get lucrative deals while MJD (only he thinks this) is left out in the cold. Shad Khan, the new Jaguars owner, will not give him a new deal at this time, especially when he has many expiring contracts of players the Jags will certainly want to look at keeping come up at the end of this season. He has a ton of cap space to work with, but he'll need it to sign most of those guys. All of this continues while MJD both publicly and privately digs in his heels.

MJD knows full well, that he cannot win this battle with team, and drumming up support from the fans of the Jaguars will be pretty hard. He doesn't have allies in the front office either anymore, considering most of them left with Wayne Weaver. His agent, Adisa Bakari, also represents the Jaguars back-up, Rashad Jennings, and Matt Forte, the man who held out for a near century to get a new deal. Jones-Drew has also not privately told the Jaguars his plans, as they've found out hearing only media reports. That's not going to endear you to anyone. So, he doesn't look good in this. He doesn't care about it, so why should we?

The football and business sides of the holdout have been distorted tremendously. They have to a point where a non-story has been turned into a story, but still acts like a non-starter (h/t Alfie Crow of Big Cat Country for that line). If MJD was going to be a free agent in March, this would make sense. But, he has 2 years left, and it's clear Khan is not going to do anything. It also doesn't make him look good when Darrelle Revis, the king of the holdout, has reported to camp when his contract is up at the end of the season. Giving MJD a contract now would set a bad precedent for the organization, and would put them behind the 8-ball on many player contract battles. He can't afford himself a mistake like that only 6 months into his ownership tenure.

On the football side, his impact on the Jaguars has been overstated as well. Yes, he is the Jags best player, and he did lead the NFL in rushing despite the horrific pass offense last season, but people saying that his loss would make the Jaguars somehow worse if Blaine Gabbert played better is nonsense. Rashad Jennings is a capable running back that has done big things and could even more. The Jaguars aren't now going to trade MJD either, especially at this point in time. It doesn't do them, or the team he'd go to, any good. And, the likelihood that he actually holds out into the regular season is just absurd, for more reasons than one (he drafted himself with the #1 overall pick in his fantasy league). Sure he is a major catalyst for the Jaguars on offense, but he's not their most important player.

I am a Jaguars fan, so this might have seemed a bit ranty, but none of the things that the media are saying makes sense to me, as a Jaguars fan, who it would matter to the most. If Jones-Drew is still holding out one month from now, then it would be time to worry. But since most Jaguars fans expected this to happen, at this point, this is a non-starter, non-issue, and non-worry for us now.

No one else needs to tell us what we should feel, and they also shouldn't change opinion from the status quo when it's not justified.

Friday, July 20, 2012

This Column was Brought to you by McDonalds

At the NBA Board of Governors meeting yesterday, it was revealed that the NBA is likely going to put small sponsorship patches on their jerseys starting in 2013. This was met with wide ranging reactions from people who have differing opinions on the issue. Everything from disregard of the patches to fear of sponsorships taking over for civic names was spewed out. Normally, this blog would have no NBA column, but this is not just an NBA issue. Every major league in the US and Canada will deal with this issue very soon, and it's surely a contentious one.

Since I am also a dedicated fan of a European soccer club, sponsorships on jerseys are no big surprise, and they don't bother me a bit. They are a major source of income for the clubs, and when the games actually go on, you barely notice the sponsor on the jersey. This has been going on in every sport on the club level around the world for 30 or so years, and the US leagues have always resisted. It does seem fitting that the money grabbing NBA would go for this first, but the NHL, MLB, and NFL will follow suit in due time. It's inevitable.

There are many issues that people have brought up about the patches, and all of them are valid, but rather irrelevant in the overall discussion. Issue #1: I won't buy the jerseys if they have a patch on them. Good point, but the leagues take jersey revenue overall, and that won't hit the pockets of the owners or players that hard at all. And, if you truly want a jersey, you'll buy it anyway, despite the patch and your objections to it. Issue #2: The sponsor will become more important than the name on the front of the jersey. Well, sports teams are already businesses, and it's no surprise that owners aren't willing to take huge losses on their teams just for their one moment in the sun. See past CBA negotiations for an example of this. Also, almost everything else surrounding a team is sponsored, so why not just sponsor the last area where there are none, since this is a pursuit for profit? Issue #3: We'll soon see team names like the Nike Knicks, or Adidas Lakers , since this will snowball. This hasn't happened anywhere else in the world with the sponsors being a common thing, and this certainly won't happen in the US due to the "civic treasure" status.

There is one issue I have with these sponsorships that no has brought up yet. It seems that each NBA team will have a unique sponsor, and therefore they will make vastly differing amounts of money from it. While the Lakers could make $5 million from a Staples patch, the Bobcats may only make around $500,000 from a similar patch. The gulf between the big market and small market teams will widen with this, unless the NBA has a league-wide sponsor that puts its patch on every team's jersey and each team gets the same amount of money. Since that won't happen, this is something to watch very closely. The NBA already has the smallest amount of parity of the 4 major sports league in North America, and this may only shrink it still. That is prevalent around the world with these types of deals, and that isn't something the American sports model needs right now.

In the end, you're still rooting for the team, not the sponsor. If it makes your team money so that they can get better players, why are you complaining? Even a slight buffing of the coffers can help. And besides...

We live in the United States of America. It's called Capitalism. If you don't like it, it's 90 miles from Key West to Cuba.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Paris must have Money Trees...

For those of you not familiar with a soccer club called Paris St. Germain FC, I'll try to explain them as succinctly as possible. They are the Ligue 1 (France's Premier League) club representing Paris. They had some great successes in the 90's when they last had money to blow, and now that they are owned by, essentially the Qatari government, they have even more money to spend. As of right now, they've spent 105 million Euros on transfers, which equates to around 128 million dollars. Last year, they spent 108 million Euros on transfers in total. On a total net loss on player transfers under the new ownership, they right now have one of over 201.3 million Euros. That's more than Manchester City, Chelsea, and Manchester United combined. Is this fair to soccer to have a team spending like this?

Financial Fair Play rules from UEFA are coming soon, which is in essence a way to tell clubs to reign in their player spending. But, these owners know a way to get around them, and this rampant spending will sure not stop. This PSG example is a great one of what soccer is now becoming: a play-thing for billionaires. There are many owners in soccer who are not billionaires, and are trying to fund their clubs only to a point where they don't debt themselves like Rangers and Portsmouth have. While many in Europe are worried sick about debt, clearly the Qatari owners of PSG and Manchester City really don't care. When will it come that this is not OK? Who's going to stop this?

This certainly is within the rules of soccer right now to spend money and take losses on it hand-over-fist right now. But, compare what PSG did in the transfer market to what Ligue 1 champs Montpellier did. They spent a grand total of 2 million Euros on ALL transfers last season. With the team PSG has now assembled by flouting their money everywhere, it wouldn't honestly matter how good Montpellier's scouting department was. Ligue 1 is now slowly becoming what La Liga in Spain is, a league dominated by the few with money and the rest are left in a cloud of smoke and burned contracts. Even Serie A isn't having these kind of problems with the big spenders.

PSG are the latest example of what endless money can do to soccer. Something has to stop the rampant spending. What will actually do that, nobody knows, but something will hopefully cause this to stop. Die-hard supporters will still be die-hard supporters, but watching soccer will become harder to stomach very soon.