Two commissioners walk into a bar. . .
What would we do without sports’ commissioners? They deadpan the darndest things. And they make great targets. Some favorites:
In a 1994 interview with Bob Costas on NBC, NBA commissioner David Stern scoffed at Costas’s question about on-court taunting causing on-court fights. Stern smugly and dismissed Costas as wrong.
The next NBA season, a rule was added: “There will be stricter enforcement of taunting rules that could provoke a fight.”
In 2009, before the opening game in New Yankee Stadium, YES’ Michael Kay conducted an on-field interview with MLB commissioner Bud Selig. When asked about the steep cost for seats — beginning at an obscene $2,500 per seat, per game — Selig said:
“You know, people talk about ticket prices, and I think the Yankees have been treated somewhat unfairly because I broke down all the ticket prices of all the seats, today, and they are affordable.”
Selig spoke a few feet from tickets being sold for $850 per. Similar seats the season before went for $250, up from $90 in 2007. And those “affordable” seats have remained conspicuously empty since this stadium opened.
Then there was Roger Goodell’s good-faith pledge on a trip to Wisconsin, where he told Packers fans that he stands for only one thing: “It’s all about our fans.” Soon, Packers games would be “flexed” for TV money from early afternoon to night games — in the midst of winter.
Back to Selig, who in 1997 explained the start of interleague play as “baseball’s gift to fans.”
It wasn’t. It was a gift to team owners who quickly jacked up the prices for tickets to interleague games as well as to games featuring records-smashing, mass-muscled steroid sluggers who had escaped his attention.
Three years ago, Selig’s successor, Rob Manfred, declared MLB’s “top priority” is to embrace kids as future players and lifelong fans.
MLB then returned to ridding the majors of 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon games and flexing — shameless baiting-and-switching — Sunday afternoon games, many of them family promotion dates, to late Sunday nights, both for TV money.
In 2016, as pressure increased on the NHL to address mounting concussions, commissioner Gary Bettman met the dead-serious topic by declaring it’s not so much a medical issue as it is a public-relations problem.
Bettman blamed the media for “fear-mongering” leading to a “widely publicized misinformation” campaign “relating to a supposed casual connection between concussions and CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy].”
So, according to Bettman, to even consider that blows to the head — often delivered at top speed by elbows, sticks and fists — and headfirst falls to the ice as anything beyond accidental and incidental is foolish. Hockey doesn’t cause life-altering head trauma.
“The trainer has been escorted to the ice. He’s applying smelling salts! Johansen appears very groggy. He’s bleeding from the head. A gurney has been summoned. Uh-oh, could be another NHL public relations problem!”
And, of course, there’s Goodell’s classic tout that “PSLs are good investments,” which has led to those who spent $30,000 seated at games beside those who spent 10 bucks on a secondary ticket sales site.
Now the kicker: Recall Dr. Gene Budig? In 1995 he was named president of the American League. Soon he’d become the last president of the AL. But he did leave us with an impressive quote about his perceived position, stating he feels he represents “the public’s trust.”
Perhaps that’s why the position was eliminated. He had nothing to do. Public trust! That’s a good one!
Rudy: Give me Liberty!
Rudy Giuliani made me chuckle late Tuesday afternoon. As a guest host on WABC Radio, he finished his interview with Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Virginia’s Liberty University, a fundamentalist Christian college.
Giuliani concluded with, “You do a great job, down there at Liberty University.”
Giuliani being a sports fan, I’d have thought he’d know better. Liberty is so desperately eager to become a big-time sports college that in late 2016 it hired Ian McCaw as its athletic director.
McCaw was available as he’d been fired as the AD at Baylor. It was on his watch that Baylor, the country’s largest Baptist college, became the rape capital of college football. Two of Baylor’s players had already been convicted of rape with many more outstanding charges. The claims against Baylor football players of rape and sexual assault from 2011-15 was 54, including one charged with multiple rapes.
McCaw even allowed the recruitment of players tossed from other schools for serious misconduct.
And in Ian McCaw, Falwell found his man!
“Ian’s success really speaks for itself. You look at what Baylor was able to do during his tenure, it fits perfectly where we see our sports programs going.” Yikes!
As for McCaw, he said his new mission is “to develop champions for Christ.”
Recently, Falwell had trespassing arrest warrants issued to two journalists who exposed the school’s alleged negligence in responding to the virus pandemic.
Yep, Rudy, they’re doing a fine job, down there.
In fight for ticket refunds, don’t forget tack-on fees
Why in some places is it easy? You paid for your tickets, the game wasn’t played, and now here’s your money back — all of it.
But here it takes forever, including ticket rep songs and dances — if the phone calls or emails are answered.
Reader David Oniffrey: “I bought two tickets for a Red Sox game [in Boston], was refunded the full amount, the $17 processing fee per ticket and $7 order fee — the entire amount.”
That’s nice. But $24 per ticket in highly dubious tack-on fees makes for the kind of greed that makes financial fools sports’ best customers.
Relief from this malodorous practice in the form of elimination of tack-on charges and the return to face-value only ticket costs would be a good-faith demonstration by all sports on behalf of their fans.
I take that back. What do fans have to do with sports?
Last week Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless were delighted to have on their FS1 show, “The Undisputed,” rapper Lil Wayne, extensive police record and all.
Neither Fox host, however, addressed LW’s unprintably vulgar, women-degrading, N-worded recordings. Why not? What’s the problem, fellas? Lost your nerve or caught promoting and pandering to the inexcusable?
John “JJ” Jastremski could use the kind of guidance WFAN apparently doesn’t provide. Though his enthusiasm and eagerness to be enjoyed are obvious and admirable — he’s ready to go, go, go — like Chris Berman, he seems happy to paint himself into a clown corner.
His loud, “hey, dude,” shtick on his “JJ After Dark” show is often heard as “JJ Past His Bedtime.” He can win this game with a plan that doesn’t only target the easy. And he knows too many who have had gambling addictions to continue as the sports gambling voice of WFAN. No upside.