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Lakers-Heat, Celtics-Magic Dominate TV Ratings on Christmas Day

Phil Jackson is sick of having basketball games get in the way of Christmas, but he shouldn’t look forward to any reprieves from the NBA until he retires. The ratings from Saturday’s blockbuster double-header on ABC are in, and let’s just say the NBA on December 25th has become a tradition like the NFL on Thanksgiving.

The Celtics-Magic and Lakers-Heat — the two games on ABC — saw a ratings increase of 45% compared to last year. Even the other three games on ESPN were up 20% from a year ago. The 6.4 rating for the Lakers and Heat was almost 50% higher than last year’s Lakers-Cavs game, proving the Miami Heat is one of the most intriguing teams in sports. In fact, only the 2004 Heat-Lakers Shaq revenge game on Christmas was rated higher during the regular season the past seven years.

Many people groused when LeBron, Bosh, and Wade all joined forces in Miami, forming a super team. I immediately said it was good for the NBA, and approved with a smug grin from Stern, because it would spark more fan interest. That has truly been the case, and these ratings only augment that point. Business is booming for the NBA, and you can thank the Miami Heat superteam for being the biggest reason why. It also doesn’t hurt that Kobe and LeBron seem to be legitimate rivals too.

Photo Credit: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Danny Woodhead Selling More Shirts Than Tom Brady, Wes Welker

Danny Woodhead has been a major factor in the Patriots separating themselves from the rest of the NFL.  New England is playing on its own level and setting its own standards, and believe it or not their 3rd down running back has helped get them to the next level.  Woodhead is a white running back that stands at about 5-foot-8 (on stilts) and weighs 195 pounds (soaking wet with cement in his cleats).  Needless to say, he doesn’t fit the prototype.

For that reason, Patriots fans love him.  Woodhead is the epitome of an underdog story, but you can’t compare him to Rudy because he contributes week-in and week-out and helps the best team in the NFL win games.  When we actually think about it, it should come as no surprise that he is outselling Tom Brady and Wes Welker in New England area sporting goods stores.

Modell’s Sporting Goods told the Boston Herald that Woodhead has sold twice as many $20 T-shirts in the past month as Brady and Welker, who are normally the team’s best sellers.  His shirts are also the third-best seller at the Patriots Pro Shop and managers have had trouble keeping up with the demand.

With Rex Ryan’s team reeling and looking like they could turn against him at any second, I bet he wishes he could take back cutting this guy.  Woodhead seems like a great locker room guy and his play speaks for itself.  You win some and you lose some, right Rex?

College Football TV Ratings Down Everywhere But Versus, ESPN

In a year where it seems like more and more people are watching sports on TV and ratings records are continuously being set, it’s surprising to learn that the ratings on most college football TV networks were down for the season. According to Sports Business Daily, ESPN’s average viewership was up 3.2% while Versus was up a whopping 27.6%. CBS, which airs SEC games, had the highest average viewership, but they were down 0.7%. ESPN2 was down 5.1%, ABC was down 8.6%, and NBC was down 15% thanks largely to a lack of interest in Notre Dame football.

The most viewed college football game of the year was the Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama which had 12.5 million viewers. The second most watched game was the SEC Championship between Auburn and South Carolina which was watched by slightly more than 10 million people. In all, six of the top 10 rated games were SEC contests, helping explain where they get the money to pay all their players. A few other interesting items of note — the Virginia Tech-Boise State game to open up the season was a huge success and the third most watched game of the year. Also, holidays are great — both the Iron Bowl and Oregon-Arizona were in the top 10 most watched games, and both took place the day after Thanksgiving.

I know I was watching many of these games this year but it looks like many sports fans were missing out. Why do you think that is the case? Were you watching? Is your interest in college football down? Were we lacking interesting teams, compelling stories, outstanding players?

All in all, I do think it was a down year in college football — the most interesting story was Cam Newton because he was great, and because he was investigated. It seems like there was a lack of star power this year and it didn’t help that many traditional powers had down years. And maybe another explanation comes from LBS correspondent Reyes who said once you get spoiled with the NFL, the level of play in college just isn’t good enough. What do you think?

Broncos-Niners Game in London Expected to Sell Out

It’s a good thing football is a little-known sport in Europe.  Otherwise, this year’s chapter in the NFL London series would probably draw the attendance of a Division 3 high school football season opener.

Generally speaking, fans in England make their way out to Wembley Stadium when the NFL comes to town because it’s a new phenomenon.  Europeans are passionate and informed about soccer but still learning about American football.  That’s probably why this weekend’s contest in Great Britain is expected to sell out, despite the fact that it’s a match-up between the San Francisco 49ers (1-6) and the Denver Broncos (2-5).  If you’d like to know more about either team, they’re both conveniently located in the bottom five of our Week 8 NFL power rankings.

It can’t get much worse than that.  In fact — given the way both teams have played lately — this game could be the worst of the weekend.  When the NFL first scheduled this game to be played in London, there’s no way they could have known the two would start out so poorly.  However, if they eventually achieve their goal of globalizing American football and expanding their fan base, they’ll need to send over a better product.

For now, just having a football game in London creates enough buzz.  Last year, 84,254 fans visited Wembley Stadium to watch the Patriots dominate the Bucs.  This year, another 80,000 are expected in attendance to watch the bottom of the barrel in the NFL.  With an increased knowledge of the NFL and the game of football, European fans will eventually figure out that the product their being sent is garbage.  That will either mark the end of this experiment, or force the NFL to put more effort into scheduling the right game for this annual event.

UFC Going to Network TV in 2011, Potential MMA Channel in Future

Though the popularity of MMA is growing immensely, there aren’t too many places to find coverage of the UFC on TV. There’s Spike, Versus, and of course pay-per-view for most of the big cards. Strikeforce has been on CBS and their cards are found on Showtime, HDNet airs Dream fights, and Bellator cards are seen on Fox Sports channels. But good news for the growth of the UFC in particular, Dana White says the organization is looking into network TV deals for 2011 with a UFC or MMA channel a possibility for the future.

He wasn’t able to get into many specifics during an interview with Broadcasting & Cable, but he said they’re in the process of working on several deals. FOX and NBC were mentioned as possibilities. As for a potential MMA or UFC channel? It appears as if one is forthcoming according to White, who said “Sports Business Journal just came out with a survey asking big names in the industry which sport could start its own network and 4 out of 5 said us. They are right. I agree. That will happen within the next couple years.”

There have been talks of the UFC going to network TV for the past few years and nothing has emerged, but Strikeforce did break that barrier debuting on CBS. The notable information here is the possibility that they start their own network, like MLB Network, NFL Network, The Golf Channel, The Tennis Channel, and all the other sports with their own channels. It’s probably just a matter of time before we see both items happen.

NFL Selling Photos of James Harrison’s Illegal Hit on Mohamed Massaquoi

We told you earlier about how the NFL has begun taking the right steps to minimize head shots by handing out hefty fines for brutal hits that occurred over the weekend.  We might be taking that back.  The fines are still a good idea, but is it morally correct for the NFL to be profiting from memorabilia that has to do with those same illegal hits?

Pro Football Talk has brought to our attention that the photo above is available in the NFL.com photo store for a price of anywhere from $15.95 to $249.95, depending on the size you’d like to purchase.  Huh?  So the hits are dangerous, illegal, and unacceptable, but it’s okay to sell them as wall ornaments?  Something’s not right here.

If the NFL is trying to send a message, they need to send it through all mediums.  Selling a photo of the an illegal hit is simply glorifying the play and implying that it’s an exciting part of the game.  If that’s the way the league’s going to treat the situation, they shouldn’t expect anyone to take them seriously.

Brookline Considering Hiking Meter Prices to $20 for Red Sox Game Nights

Everything about going to a ballgame has become expensive.  Everything about going to a Boston Red Sox game has become even more expensive.  Want to park close to the ballpark?  That’ll be $40.  Want a beer?  $8 please.  A bottle of water?  For you, $4.50.  However, if you’re somehow lucky enough to find one of those few and far metered parking spaces in the heart of Boston, you could just save yourself a solid chunk of change.

Not anymore.  One of the sub-cities of Boston, Brookline, is considering hiking meter prices from 75 cents to $22 on Red Sox game nights.  Keep in mind the people who park in these spaces usually have quite the walk ahead of them, but they accept a mile hike for a chance to save up to $40.  This would be highway robbery at its finest.

Imagine inserting a twenty or swiping your credit card at a parking meter?  The thought is almost about as frightening as that of having to pay $5 just to be a pedestrian in a Cleveland Browns tailgate parking lot.  What will they think of next?  By the time 2050 rolls around, going to a game will probably run you anywhere from $1000 to $5,000/person.