NetWorks Sports Two-Mintue Drill: Week of January 1, 2012


Log on to the NetWorks Sports blog every Sunday as we succinctly recap our Top 5 list of events that caught our eye during the week in sports in The NetWorks Sports Two-Minute Drill.  Take two minutes out of your day to get our view on what’s going on both on the field (or court) and in the front-offices!

Top 5 Topics from the Week of January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!  As 2012 officially rolled in last Sunday, the world of sports remained the focus of many of our attention.  As I rang the new year in down in Scottsdale for the Fiesta Bowl, it was evident that 2012 would start off where 2011 left off…with several intriguing sports stories that promise to make this leap year another phenomenal year comprised of 366 magical days of sports.  Football fans were able to finally enjoy some competitive BCS Bowl games, the NFL playoff picture came into focus, and after a week of lockout affected NBA hoops, fans were enjoying (thanks to a free preview of NBA League Pass) the return of the best basketball players in the world to packed arenas around the country (except in a few markets, those poorly managed markets we speak of often). Here are the 5 topics in sports that topped our list this week:

5. Mike Tomlin proves that winning isn’t everything: While this is tough for Steelers fans to digest hours after a tough playoff loss to a lower-seeded Broncos team, in a culture & era where “winning is everything”, Coach Mike Tomlin continues to impress with his compassion for his players and view of the big picture. Defensive Back Ryan Clark, who has Sickle Cell trait, could have put his life in jeopardy if he opted to play in the high elevation of Denver.  In fact, unknowingly, doing so caused tremendous health issues for Clark a few years ago (in 2007), so Tomlin & the Steelers brass made the decision that Clark would have to sit this game out this week, despite it being a huge playoff battle on the road.  Clark stated this week that he wanted to play in such a huge game, but understands AND appreciates Coach Tomlin making his health a priority.  As witnessed late Sunday evening, Clark’s absence from the Steelers’ defensive backfield (along with solid play by Denver’s offensive and defensive units…and yes, 361 passing yards by Tim Tebow) may have cost the team dearly as his replacement struggled to make critical plays down the stretch.  There’s no doubt that Clark would have loved to have been on the field to impact the outcome of a huge playoff game, but in an age where many subscribe to the win at all costs method, it is refreshing to see why the Steelers organization and its leaders, such as Tomlin, are so well-respected across the sports industry.

4. Clippers continue to fight unwanted perceptions: This week, Blake Griffin (who actually coined the term Lob City when he initially heard about CP3 trade to Clippers being official) and Chris Paul attempted to distance themselves from the term by strongly stating that they are much more than just a team centered on lobs and dunks in transition.  Fearing that Lob City will imply that there is more style than substance (which arguably is a characteristic found in many Los Angeles based situations), the pair have taken to the media to further define what this new Clippers team is about…winning games & competing for Championships.  Seems like there is an identity crisis for LA’s newly appointed trendy team.  Based on the not-so-flattering nicknames fans of NBA hoops have used on the Clippers in the past, you’d think that they actually would be ok with embracing the fact that the Lob City moniker caught on so quickly and is a first step to changing the perception of a downtrodden franchise that had been the laughingstock of the league for years.  Personally, many fans find themselves tuning in to Clippers games because their Lob City exploits and charismatic players are exciting to watch.  More exciting than many of us can even remember!

3. A sports discussion falls back on a debate about race: Terrell Suggs (Ball So Hard University grad) vs. Skip Bayless on ESPN First Take this week!  Ding, Ding, Ding.  In what has previously been a rather mellow back and forth banter during Suggs’ occasional appearances on ESPN’s First Take, this week’s interviews took on an entirely new dynamic when Suggs brought up religious agendas involved in the current obsession with Tim Tebow when they debated Joe Flacco vs. Tim Tebow.  This debate, one of many, furthers the divide many feel in this complicated conversation based on the presence of a religious undertone.  Unfortunately, on the heels of this heated discussion, others began to allude to racial biases involved in the love/hate relationship many have with Tim Tebow.  We discussed it on a recent Game Changers Live radio show and undoubtedly will continue to discuss this very difficult topic.  Ultimately, at least we are having a dialogue about two very sensitive issues: race & religion.

2. She doesn’t “Love this Game”: Serena Williams divulged that she doesn’t love tennis or working out.  ”It’s not that I’ve fallen out of love; I’ve actually never liked sports, and I never understood how I became an athlete,” she said, according to the website. “I don’t like working out; I don’t like anything that has to do with working physically.”  We won’t see an NBA-like commercial where Serena says “I Love this Game!”, but don’t let this statement diminish her will & desire to be great and/or to win majors.  A lot has happened in Serena’s life, from the death of her sister to serious injuries, but through it all, when the lights & cameras of a major tennis tournament are on…she tends to bring out her passion for winning better than most.  Her display of honesty and candor should not have any impact on what we have come to expect when she laces up her Nike’s, puts on an outfit that will be critiqued, and stares across the net at her opponent.  If that ankle she injured last week heals properly, we should all tune in to the Australian Open to witness her greatness.

1.  “We Are Penn State” and we want to be heard: Amid the ongoing debate surrounding the Penn State scandal, proud alum of the PSU Football program took to the airwaves to air the utter frustration with the “new” direction the administration is taking.  LaVar Arrington, who has a unique platform to air his disdain on a DC-based radio show, was the loudest of many alum voicing their opinions on the hire.  At a time when every move made by the Penn State brains trust will be scrutinized, it was especially alarming when the pride and unity that this university has displayed for decades began to crumble over yet another decision that was perceived as disloyal.  Administration should certainly have appeased powerful alums by at least involving a committee of former players in the interview process (just based on the situation). Dallas Cowboys linebacker and Penn State alum, Sean Lee (a soft spoken leader), put out a statement on Sunday acknowledging that he (along with the others) had hoped for a member of the PSU family to have the opportunity to follow in Paterno’s footsteps, but ultimately encouraging his fellow alums to support the new regime.  That along with Bill O’Brien’s letter to the alum should help to calm down the madness and allow those who care the most about this program to start moving forward during a difficult time.

For a “New View from the Sidelines”, tune in to Game Changers Live Wednesday’s at 1:00pm ET/10:00am PT on BlogTalk Radio as the co-hosts cover important topics in the sports world.

Follow NetWorks Sports on Twitter!

NetWorks Sports Poll of the Week: Should Serena Williams be Fined and/or Suspension for her outburst at the U.S. Open?

In what many thought would be an easy victory for her on her way to her next majors win, Serena Williams got caught in an emotional outburst aimed at the chair umpire that forced officials to whether or not they would fine and/or suspend her for her actions on Sunday.

As was reported around 3:30pm ET on Monday, September 12th, Williams was fined $2,000 but has NOT been suspended according to this LA Times article.

This is the second infraction by Williams at the U.S. Open, but Patrick McEnroe did not feel it warranted a suspension. Months after a profanity-laced tirade at the 2009 U.S. Open, Williams was fined a record $82,500 by the Grand Slam Committee.  She was put on probation through the 2011 season & if involved in another incident, had the potential to receive another fine and/or be suspended.

Knowing that the Grand Slam Committee didn’t rule on her 2009 fine until December of that same year (yes, 3 months after the Open), the verdict is still out on what they will do this time.

What do you think the USTA’s actions should have been.? Vote here:

[polldaddy poll=5497837]

Thanks for voting!

Follow NetWorks Sports on Twitter @Networks_Sports to join us for more polls!

NetWorks Sports Industry News – Girls Who Run the World (Sports World, that is)!

Girls Who Run the World (or Sports World)
Written by Angela Taylor

This goes out to all my girls
That’s in the club rocking the latest
Who will buy it for themselves and get more money later

Who Run the World? Girls!

This goes out to all the women getting it in,
Get on your grind
To the other men who respect what I do
Please accept my shine

Well, there’s no doubt that Beyonce Knowles is certainly one of the entertainers who is running the world these days as is evidenced by her latest hit song (lyrics listed above) Girls Who Run the World.

Hope Solo

Following in her footsteps, it seems like several female athletes have taken Beyonce’s lyrics to heart and are trying to put their own stamp on the sports world.

While the sports industry remains a male-dominated industry and the support for women’s sports (team & individual) is modest at best (but growing), a few women have leveraged their athletic skills to demonstrate their marketability, which may eventually allow them capitalize financially.

The summer of 2011 has seen two injured stars re-acquaint themselves with the winner’s podium (Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova), a young hoops star captivate the attention of the best to have ever played (Maya Moore & MJ), a tennis star captivate a country (Li Na), and a team (USWNT) compel Americans to actually enjoy watching more than one soccer game in a week.

As a result, corporate marketing departments are opening up their vaults to a group of athletes who had only seen modest endorsements opportunities in the recent past.  Now, not to get ahead of ourselves, because the market & ability for female athletes to garner the eight figure endorsements that their brethren make is no where near, but we are making progress.

Here are a few of those individuals who are leading the charge and dancing to the beat of Beyonce’s hit song.

Maya Moore

In May, the #1 Draft Pick in the WNBA Draft, Maya Moore, signed an endorsement deal with Brand Jordan.  Moore, handpicked by Michael Jordan and his Brand Jordan team, was the 1st women’s basketball player to sign on to the brand.  That fact didn’t go unnoticed around basketball circles.  The WNBA and Maya’s representatives are hoping that such a commitment from the legend himself will provide her with an extraordinary platform to build her brand on a global basis.

Women’s tennis has had a huge boost to its portfolio, as the Top 3 highest earning female athletes (according to Forbes) are all tennis players.  The top earner is Maria Sharapova who, it is estimated, earns approximately $24 million per year in endorsements & prize money.  Serena Williams, who is reportedly #3 on the list, is making a bit of a comeback on the tennis circuit after missing a year due to multiple medical issues.  She recently won the championship at the Bank of the West Tournament in Stanford, CA, which could propel her back to the top of the tennis world and certainly carve into that ranking over 100.

The person who recently leapfrogged Serena to take the #2 spot of the list of highest earners is Li Na, who after winning the French Open earlier this summer has had her phone ringing off the hook with endorsement opportunities.  According to her agent Max Eisenbud (also Sharapova’s agent), she has signed 7 deals worth about $42 million over the life of the deals.  These deals include contracts with Mercedes-Benz & Taikang Life Insurance Co.

Yani Tseng

Then there’s newcomer & relatively unknown, Yani Tseng the 22 year-old Taiwanese golfer who has quickly burst on the scene in what is promising to be one of the most dominant golf careers (male or female) that we’ve seen in decades.  With her recent victory at the British Open (winning that title for the second straight year), etched her name in the history books as the youngest golfer – male or female – to win 5 majors. These praises had been reserved for Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam, and Michelle Wie.

But probably the biggest story to follow will be Hope Solo’s.  In her two weeks since the Women’s World Cup Final loss to Japan, Solo was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, has driven the pace car at the Brickyard 400, has been on what has seemed like a continuous media tour, had her Twitter followers multiply 30x, and secured multi-year endorsement deals with companies Gatorade and Bank of America.

Solo’s teammates, Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan, have also capitalized on the momentum.

Undoubtedly, more stars will shine as we are a little over a year from the 2012 Olympic Games in London.  The Olympics always has a way of generating a few household names.  Maybe even putting them on boxes of Wheaties…just ask Mary Lou Retton!

All in all, this is certainly good news for women’s sports.  The added attention & increased dollars being spent marketing these athletes should help to bolster attention & support for their sports here in the United States and around the world.

Who runs the world…for the time being, these five girls (or women) are doing their best to make sure that future generations of female athletes will have the chance to take their talents to the biggest stages in sports!


Follow NetWorks Sports on Twitter @NetWorks_Sports and Angela Taylor @AFTaylor22