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NFL Attendance Could Drop to Lowest Levels in Over 10 Years

It’s the economy, right?  It has to be the economy.  What else could possibly keep fans from paying $150 per ticket, $35 to park, $9 for a beer, and $4 for a pretzel?  The second coming of the Great Depression has to be the reason NFL attendance could drop to its lowest levels since 1998, right?  It could be that.  It also could be that people are tired of ticket costs increasing while the in-home experience is on the rise.

Eric Grubman, the executive vice president of NFL Ventures and Business Operations, told the USA Today that he predicts league-wide ticket sales will drop 1%-2% this season, with season ticket sales slipping a whopping 5%.  It’s the third straight year ticket sales have declined since the NFL set a record high back in 2007.

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Breaking Down America’s 50 Highest-Earning Athletes

Sports Illustrated has released its seventh annual “Fortunate 50″ list, which gives us a sense of the type of money American athletes made last year based on salary, winnings, endorsements and appearance fees.  Despite the epic downfall of his image, Tiger Woods remained at the top of the list with nearly $30 million to spare.  Phil Mickelson held strong at No. 2 on the list and can probably thank Tiger’s demise for any extra cash that may have been thrown his way over the past year.   Here are a few aspects of the list that stuck out to me:

Floyd Mayweather Jr.: Want an idea of how much money can be made in boxing?  Mayweather, who may or may not be ducking Manny Pacquiao, checked in at No. 3 on the list after not being ranked in 2009.  While most of the top athletes on the list rake in a ton in endorsements, Mayweather made only $250,000 in endorsement deals and the rest — $60 million — in salary and winnings.  A bout with Shane Mosley alone earned him $40 million.

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Niners Owner: Super Bowl and NFL Team in London is “Likely”

I sincerely hope Jed York‘s motivation for his latest comments was an attempt at boosting interest for this year’s NFL London game. His San Francisco 49ers will take on the Denver Broncos on Halloween in what has become a yearly event for the NFL. However, York not only expects the game to become more than an annual occurrence, he believes a Super Bowl will be held in England in the future.

What a disaster that would be. What’s next? Resurrect the NFL Germany game plan? If they want to try starting a team, I’m all for it. The NFL has been talking about it for a while now and I suppose it’s one of those situations where you won’t know until you give it a shot. I’d feel bad for the players who were drafted to London, but it would be an interesting experiment. As for the biggest American game of the year being held overseas — I’m not sure I like the sound of that. Here’s what York had to say during his recent trip to London, courtesy of ProFootballTalk:

There is easily enough of a fan base over here to stage two games a season. I think eventually there will be a Super Bowl outside the U.S. I couldn’t tell you when that would be. I can see it both ways. I’m not sure what will be first, a Super Bowl over here or an NFL team, but they both seem likely to happen.”

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MSG Stock Soars on LeBron James to Knicks Rumor

Reports surfaced on Wednesday night that LeBron James would have a one-hour show on ESPN to announce where he’s going to sign in free agency. Details have emerged that James’ announcement will take place in Greenwich, Connecticut, outside of New York City, making people believe he’s going to sign with the Knicks. On top of that news, Reds Army brought it to my attention that both Ocho Cinco and Jared Dudley have said on twitter that LeBron James is going to the Knicks. Even though nothing is official, the speculation has already resulted in heavy financial implications.

CNBC business reporter Darren Rovell pointed out that MSG’s stock was up towards the final hour of trading on Wednesday because of the rumors that LeBron’s going to NYC. MSG is Madison Square Garden, the cable company that airs Knicks games. As if the stock rising 6.5% for the day wasn’t enough, the trade volume has been up almost six times its normal average. Additionally, the options market for MSG was buzzing with thousands of calls contracts being purchased, all in anticipation that MSG’s stock will go up in the future.

If I were the SEC, I would be taking an extra careful look at the buys on Wednesday to make sure there was no insider trading going on based on the LeBron rumors.

Sources:
Did Ochocinco and Dudley just ruin LeBron’s “Look At Me” party? [Reds Army]
Market Bets LeBron Will Be A Knick? [CNBC]
MSG Stock [Yahoo! Finance]

Most ESPN Zones Are Closing

I guess the proverbial “writing was on the wall” with the news that most ESPN Zones will be closing down. The LA Times cites a source familiar with the matter when they say all locations but those with a direct tie to a Disney property will be closed down, meaning the Anaheim location that is part of Downtown Disney is likely to survive. Slightly less than a year ago, Disney closed down its Denver ESPN Zone location while they shut down the Atlanta location about eight months ago. On Tuesday, it was announced that the Chicago location would be closing down. Most of the locations have struggled due to the economic downturn, not unlike many other businesses.

The remaining ESPN Zone locations likely to close include New York City, Baltimore, Las Vegas, and Washington D.C. The Anaheim location will likely remain for the aforementioned reason, while the location at L.A. Live is a franchise location and somewhat independent. As someone who’s been to a number of these locations, I have to say that it’s unfortunate they’re shutting down. While the menu was unquestionably pricey, ESPN Zone was always a fun place to go watch games and screw around in the arcade area. I guess the problem, aside from the prices, was that not too many people think about going to the ESPN Zone to watch a game rather than their local bar.

Sources:
Disney is said to be closing most of its ESPN Zone restaurants [LA Times]

Lakers Should Pay for Parade, Not City

After the Lakers took a 2-0 series lead, the city of Los Angeles already began making plans for a championship parade celebration. There was a question whether or not the city could afford to put on a parade given the current economic issues facing the city (translation: the state going bankrupt). In the end, the team and the city agreed to each pay about a million dollars for the parade which includes the expense of renting out the LA Coliseum, and paying for several city workers to guard and clean up. The Police Protective League thinks what the city is doing is absurd:

“At a time of financial crisis, when the public expects, and quite frankly should demand city leaders to be good stewards of every tax dollar, it is foolish for elected officials to favor spending 1 million tax dollars on a three-hour parade,” league President Paul M. Weber said in a prepared statement Sunday.

Considering I have friends and family whose jobs and paychecks have been threatened because of a lack of funding, I think it’s ridiculous that the city is going to cobble together the money for this. This is a time when the team needs to step up and give back to the fans in one of the best ways possible, at a time when it’s most needed. Why not have the players kick in some bucks to make up the difference? They certainly can afford it. I know one thing — the city sure can’t. This is just like execs from GM buying luxury private jets when the company’s requesting government funds. It’s ludicrous, preposterous, ridiculous! (but worth it if they bring back Mark Madsen for the festivities).

Cavs Dominate Local TV Ratings Game, Post Up Michael Jordan Numbers

One of the knocks against LeBron James early in his career was that despite all the hype, he wasn’t a big draw on TV. I guess all it took was a good team around him to change that because the Cavs posted the best local TV ratings the NBA had seen in a decade. According to Sports Business Journal, which has all the local numbers for every team in the league, the Cavs garnered an 8.76 average rating which translates to 134,000 homes in Cleveland. The Lakers were the only team to appear in more homes, averaging 250,000 homes per game. The Lakers earned a 4.43 share ranking them fourth behind the Cavs, Jazz, and Spurs.

The Hornets (64.7%), Hawks (38.6%), Heat (32.7%) and Blazers (29.4%) all enjoyed the greatest growth in ratings this year. The Kings (-40.6%), Warriors (-39.8%), Suns (-37.9%), Mavericks (-30.1%), Pistons (-20.6%), and Nuggets (-19.4%) all saw the largest drops in ratings. When you think about things, everything here makes sense; teams that had big dropoffs from previous years had poor ratings (with the exception of the Nuggets) and teams that improved saw their ratings correspondingly ascend.

Oh yeah, the Clippers (0.51%), Nets (0.52%), and Bobcats (0.56%) brought up the rear. Matter of fact, Bobcats were sadly only seen in an average of 6,000 homes a game. But if you want to know everything you need to know about the NBA, here it is: the Knicks with only a 1.18 rating still had almost double as many homes watching than the Jazz which had ratings almost five times higher. Unfortunately it’s all about the big markets. I’m glad that the Cavs and other teams are doing well locally — that’s a good sign for our business. Shows that the NBA still is a big ticket in some cities.