The money pit: Maybe athletes aren’t such a solid investment any more

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By Eddie Pells
The Associated Press

Turns out, Tiger Woods wouldn’t really rather have a Buick. At least not anymore.

When Woods ended his nine-year relationship with General Motors Corp. on Monday — a mutual decision between a megawatt celebrity who doesn’t need the work and a teetering corporation that needs every penny — it offered yet another snapshot of how badly the American economy has deteriorated.

Woods is the world’s most marketable athlete with an estimated $100 million endorsements a year. If his agreement with one of the world’s most active sports sponsors broke apart, some experts to wonder if any endorsement or sponsorship deal is really ironclad in these tough times.

“The real story here isn’t Tiger,” says Marc Ganis, the president of Sportscorp Ltd., a Chicago-based sports consulting firm. “It’s the auto industry. … There are a lot of parties who are going to have some difficulties finding sponsors to substitute for what the auto industry used to provide.”

LeBron James ($28 million in endorsements according to Sports Illustrated’s 2007 figures), Peyton Manning ($13 million) and those in the top-circle elite don’t have so much to worry about because, like Woods, they have multiple deals spread over several industries.

As for everyone else — well, Ganis figures they will feel the pain. If money from the auto industry and financial world dries up, athletes and events that are lower in the pecking order will get thirsty.

“You’ve just got to be much more creative,” said Evan Morgenstein, an agent for gymnast Nastia Liukin, swimmer Dara Torres and other Olympic athletes.

Calls to the representatives of about a half-dozen top-name athletes and their agents by The Associated Press showed that Woods and those in his stratosphere will have very little trouble making endorsement money, even in a rough economy.

Manning is spread into a number of industries — cell phones, satellite TV, electronics, credit cards.

James and Microsoft have ended a two-year marketing partnership, though James’ manager, Maverick Carter, didn’t mention the Microsoft deal earlier this week when he responded to an AP e-mail asking if the economy might hurt James’ endorsements.

“We have long-term deals with great partners who aren’t going anywhere,” Carter said.

James was similarly upbeat.

“I know I have great relationships with the partners that I have,” he said. “All of them are long-term deals, so I can only comment on what I have. And looking forward there’s always going to be deals out there.”

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‘Disenfranchise’? What’s that, like a McDonald’s that’s been blown up?

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TVWeeek.com reports today (linked here) that the National Association of Broadcasters is issuing a warning to policy makers and Congress about the potential impact of ESPN’s winning exclusive rights to air most of the Bowl Championship Series. The new deal takes much of the series off broadcast TV and moves it to basic cable.

In a policy statement today, NAB’s board of directors said the move would “disenfranchise” millions of viewers.

“Broadcasters continue to support the rights of all Americans to have free access to telecasts of major sporting events, particularly those of publicly funded educational institutions,” the resolution said.

It directed the NAB staff to educate policy makers “on the importance of ensuring that no segments of society are disenfranchised from this highly valued programming.”

Last week, the BCS announced that ESPN had outbid Fox for the rights to the series of games and would begin airing the games starting in 2011. ESPN’s offer was said to be $500 million over four years. Fox bid $400 million, up from the $330 million it’s paying under its current four-year deal.

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Somewhat in the same area code, you can also check out Jason Whitlock’s latest take on what he thinks today of ESPN (linked here).
We’ll make it easy:
“ESPN is the enemy of the truth, and all who believe a pursuit of the truth is the lifeblood of a genuinely free society must stand against the Wal-Mart-ization of sports journalism. I reached this conclusion when trying to figure out why Ball State quarterback Nate Davis isn’t one of the top-five Heisman Trophy candidates and Ball State coach Brady Hoke isn’t the front-runner for national coach of the year.”
Aside from the fact Whitlock is a Ball State grad …
There’s more:
“ESPN is so financially tied to the organizations it covers and so devoid of basic journalistic ethics that it cannot properly analyze the sports world. ESPN just bought the BCS television package. It has a vested interest in promoting all things BCS. If you’re going to televise multiple Big 12 games in primetime on ABC and ESPN, you have every reason to promote the myth that the majority of Heisman Trophy candidates play in the Big 12.”
Thank you, and the closing comment:
“Sports media is dying by suicide and ESPN is Dr. Jack Kevorkian. You’re dying, too. ESPN just hasn’t told you yet.”

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DWTS scoreboard — WSapp, No. 2; BBurke, No. 1 hot mom

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The fact we’re finally getting around to mentioning this today, hours after Tuesday’s “Dancing With The Stars” finale aired on ABC, is an indication of where our interest went in Season 7.

Lukewarm at first, watching Warren Sapp bust a few moves, and Misty May get all dolled up. Then she got hurt, and Maurice Green was never on the radar, so we kept up with Sapp, enough to do a story on how he’s able to juggle his dancing along with appearing on the NFL Network on Sundays as well as “Inside the NFL” in New Jersey on Wednesdays, and it played out to the very end.

Sapp (above with Kym Johnson) was not the winner, as projected, but the fact he finished eight points behind winner Brooke Burke — and ahead of Lance Bass — was a victory in itself. Sapp’s technique was often criticized by the judges, but head judge Len Goodman said: “From the moment you start, you make me smile.”

Now Sapp can relax and stick to calling other network analysts femine names that rhyme with “itch.”

Sapp’s sappy performance ends a streak: The last four winners of DWTS had been athletes — Emmitt Smith, Apolo Anton Ohno, Helio Castroneves and Kristi Yamaguchi.

Although, Burke, the mother of four, may be considered a jock after this banana split move in the Monday final:

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Early Neilsen ratings released this afternoon show that the Tuesday finale had a 5.1 rating for the 18-to-49 demo, that’s 20 percent down from last fall’s final episode, and six percent down from the spring edition finale. It didn’t help that “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” was sucking away viewers on the other channel.

So how about one more look of another costume ensemble that Sapp and Johnson wore:

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Coming Friday: The Annual Dubious Dozen of the Sports Media on parade for all to oogle

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The 2008 list isn’t all that crazy. Not Marv Albert in a dress crazy, if that’s what you’re referencing. But a lot of female presence for some reason. Like Erin Andrews in a dress crazy.

And even more crazy chick stuff. Talking about lynching Tiger Woods. Invoking the name of Hitler. Boozing it up at a (supposed private) celebrity roast. Wearing something not appropriate to work (above).

Good never comes of those things.

Which is why they’ve made our twisted list again — some repeat offenders.
Why do we keep doing this? Boredom? An easy way to fill in a column during a holiday week? Because it’s the stuff that never gets old?

Check all three of those off, plus the fact people don’t seem to learn from their mistakes. Anyone who makes a reference on a sports program about another person’s ethnicity, religious belief, freedom of speech or (this list goes on) becomes fair game for targeting.

The Internet bloggers feast on this stuff, waiting for someone to trip over their tongue. But it goes far past that, which is why we’ve left No. 12 on the Dubous Dozen to all the other “foot meets mouth” instances where “gotcha” only goes so far. An apology usually follows. And it’s forgotten. But linked perpetually on some website for easy cross referencing.

Kelly Tilghman, Jemele Hill, Dana Jacobson and Erin Andrews (pictured above, in a dress she wore to a Cubs-Brewers game that caused Chicago manager Lou Pinella to ask if she was working or modeling), thanks for playing along in 2008. Jay Mariotti, Buzz Bissinger, Johnny Miller, Ric Bucher . . . you’re in there, too.

After Friday’s column, we’ll present a few others that didn’t make the list, but were nonetheless entertaining to an extent.

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L.A.’s college football TV schedule Week 14: There’ll be no GameDay for you

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You’d have thought the boys at ESPN’s “College GameDay” would make at least one more trip to L.A., following up on their excursion outside the Coliseum for the USC-Ohio State contest way back in early September. This Saturday’s USC-Notre Dame contest ain’t bad. It ain’t glamorous either, when you put it up next to …

Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State?

Uh, Okie dokie.

Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso and Desmond Howard found out late Sunday that’s where they’ll be eating cold turkey sandwiches, in Stillwater, Okla., outside of Boone Pickens Stadium, before the No. 3 Sooners, coming off their distruction of previous No. 2 (and now No. 7) Texas Tech, face the No. 12 Cowboys. Herbstreit sticks around to do the game that night at 5 p.m.

According to a post on AwfulAnnouncing.com, this could be the first time since 2003 that GameDay hasn’t setup at more than one USC game in a season. It could still make it out to the USC-UCLA game at the Rose Bowl next week (Dec. 6), but that’s pretty unlikely, since that day, Alabama probably links up with Florida in the SEC title game (which will be on CBS).

While ESPN2 hosts UCLA on Friday and ESPN has USC on Saturday, Versus has the game with all the Rose Bowl implications: Oregon at Oregon State at 4 p.m.

THE LOCALS:

==Friday, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: UCLA at Arizona State (with Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman and Rob Stone)
==Saturday, 5 p.m., ESPN: Notre Dame at No. 5 USC (10-1) (with Mike Patrick, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe)

Here’s the rest of the week:

TONIGHT:

== 4 p.m., ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Western Michigan at No. 15 Ball State (11-0) (with Todd Harris and Ray Bentley
==4 p.m., ESPN Classic and ESPN360.com: Navy at Northern Illinois (with Eric Collins and Shaun King)

THURSDAY:

== 5 p.m., ESPN and ESPN360.com: Texas A&M at No. 2 Texas (10-1) (with Chris Fowler, Craig James, Jesse Palmer and Erin Andrews)

FRIDAY:

== 9 a.m., Channel 7: West Virginia at No. 25 Pittsburgh (7-3) (with Dave Lamont and Brock Huard)
==9:30 a.m., ESPNU: Ohio at Miami (Ohio) (with Dave Ryan and Jay Taylor)
==10 a.m., CBS College Sports: UTEP at East Carolina (with Tom Hart and Brian Jones)
==11:30 a.m., Channel 2 and CBSSports.com: LSU at Arkansas (with Don Criqui and Dan Fouts)
==12:30 p.m., Channel 7: Colorado at Nebraska (with Ron Franklin, Ed Cunningham and Jack Arute)
==12:30 p.m., ESPN Classic and ESPN360.com: Bowling Green at Toledo (with Todd Harris and Shaun King)
==3 p.m., ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Fresno State at No. 9 Boise State (11-0) (with Joe Tessitore and Rod Gilmore)

SATURDAY:

==9 a.m., Channel 2 and CBSSports.com: No. 22 Georgia Tech (8-3) at No. 11 Georgia (9-2) (with Craig Bolerjack and Trev Alberts)
==9 a.m., ESPN and ESPN360.com: Virginia at Virginia Tech (with Dave Pasch, Andre Ware and Todd Harris)
==9 a.m., ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: South Carolina at Clemson (with Terry Gannon and David Norrie)
==9 a.m., ESPNU: NCAA Football Championship Subdivision: South Carolina State at Appalachian State (first round) (with Dave Armstrong and Larry Coker)
==9:30 a.m., FSN West: Kansas vs. No. 13 Missouri (9-2) in St. Louis (with Bill Land, Dave Lapham and Jim Knox)

==11 a.m., Channel 4: Bayou Classic: Grambling State vs. Southern in New Orleans (with Tom Hammond, Don McPherson, Charles Davis, Derrin Horton and Lewis Johnson hosting the telecast).

==12:30 p.m., Channel 7: No. 4 Florida (10-1) at No. 20 Florida State (8-3) (with Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, Paul Maguire and Stacey Dales)
==12:30 p.m., Channel 2 and CBSSports.com: Auburn at No. 1 Alabama (11-0) (with Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson and Tracy Wolfson)
==12:30 p.m., ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Maryland at No. 21 Boston College (8-3) (with Pam Ward and Ray Bentley
==12:30 p.m., ESPNU: North Carolina at Duke (with Doug Bell and Charles Arbuckle)
==12:30 p.m., Versus: Baylor at No. 7 Texas Tech (10-1) (with Ron Thulin, Kelly Stouffer and Craig Hummer)
==12:30 p.m., CBS College Sports: Houston at Rice (with Carter Blackburn and Aaron Taylor)

==3:30 p.m., ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Kentucky at Tennessee (with Mark Jones, Bob Davie and Erin Andrews)

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==4 p.m., Versus: No. 23 Oregon (8-3) at No. 17 Oregon State (8-3) (with Tim Neverett, Glenn Parker and Anne Marie Anderson)
==4 p.m., ESPNU: Vanderbilt at Wake Forest (with Clay Matvick and David Diaz-Infante)
==5 p.m., Channel 7: No. 3 Oklahoma (10-1) at No. 12 Oklahoma State (9-2) (with Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit and Lisa Salters)

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