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.

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.

The Real Winner in the ’09 Draft: Tom Condon and Ben Dogra of CAA

Much like the Dolphins did last year with top pick Jake Long, the Lions supposedly want to have their first pick in the draft already signed before making a selection. This makes a lot of sense because teams want to avoid contract holdouts during training camp, especially bad teams that need their top players on the field. Well it came out last week that the Lions had already begun negotiations with the agents of three players — Matthew Stafford, Jason Smith, and Aaron Curry. Here’s the catch: both Stafford of Georgia and Baylor OT Jason Smith are represented by the same agents — Tom Condon and Ben Dogra of CAA.

If the Lions were trying to decide between the top three guys on their board, price and ease of negotiations could be a critical factor. Unfortunately for Detroit, the luxury of bargaining is lost since CAA is holding two of the top three cards. Now one can argue that the pay scale for draftees is already set by the slotting system (the higher you’re picked the more you make), but contracts vary by position. Knowing what the Lions are willing to pay for Stafford (or Smith) will help the negotiations for the other player, and vice versa. Detroit won’t be able to play any hard ball. Their only leverage for now is Aaron Curry, and from the sounds of things, going with him would be the best option of all.

Incidentally, the Dogra/Condon combination also represented the first and third overall pick in last year’s draft, Jake Long and Matt Ryan. The only difference is the Dolphins weren’t too interested in Ryan whereas the Lions could go in any direction for all we know.

Terrell Owens: Being the Villain Has Cost Me Endorsement Dollars

T.O. sure has been the center of controversy in the football world lately, but what else is new? He was the subject of a report suggesting he was jealous of the Tony Romo/Jason Witten circle, one that T.O. has said was false. Owens even went so far as to call out Ed Werder for reporting that story based on an anonymous source. Then in an interview with Stephen A. Smith also of ESPN, Owens said that the league creates heroes and villains in order to generate more fan interest. T.O. says he’s a victim for being cast as one of the villains and even complained that the image the media has created of him has cost him endorsements:

“[The villain characterization] does bring a level of concern especially when I’m trying to market myself or brand myself. I’ve noticed over the years that I can’t get this endorsement or that endorsement because of the image that I have. And it’s tough to deal with because I know I am a marketable person … I’m very handsome but I’m not [a villainous] type of person.”

Alright, well at least the comment confirms that T.O. does have an agenda in creating his persona. He is working on a brand, he is trying to make himself marketable. It’s just not going well for him. Between Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and LaDainian Tomlinson, there isn’t much of a market left over for him to crack anyway. While I believe ESPN screwed T.O. last week with their tabloid reporting, Owens can only blame himself for drawing significant amounts of negative attention to his feet.

Nike, Oregon, Setting New Standard for Hideous Uniforms

I don’t typically post about team uniforms, but these are so ugly they warrant our attention. After watching Oregon State win a couple of CWS titles in a row, Oregon decided it was about time to start fielding a baseball team again. And if their new uniforms are any indication of team performance, they won’t be winning many games this season. As passed along by site contributor Andy.

OK, let’s just start with that “O” on the pants. That’s totally overdoing it. Doesn’t need to be there, so why have it there? Another thing, when did it become mandatory for jersey tops to be two pieces? Must sleeves be necessary? And do I even need to bother with that hideous green uniform that has the gigantic “O” in the middle? What are they doing, going for the thunder-labia appeal? Let’s just hope those are the alternates and that the team never wears em. Jeez, if that’s the future of baseball uniforms, I’m not so sure I want to be a fan. Of course, a post on ugly unis would not be complete without pics of some of the ugliest unis in sports. My boy Dayn Perry has the Top 10 ugliest uniforms in college football. Here’s a sample:

Economy Affecting Sponsorships: Buick Pulling Back with Tiger Woods?

With the exception of hockey which seems to have declined steadily (regardless of economic conditions), the overall health of sports teams seems to be fine. We haven’t heard much about ticket sales and attendance figures dropping, not to mention merchandise sales and money spent at games. We have heard that the economy may be preventing rich alumni from coming through on their promised donations to their alma maters, and now I’m reading that sponsorships of individual athletes could be waning. Evidence Buick with Tiger Woods:

GM may implement a round of cost cuts because a planned $15 billion in asset sales and savings won’t be enough to maintain its liquidity amid deteriorating sales, people familiar with the matter said. The company’s stock has dropped more than 74 percent this year, to $6.19 at yesterday’s close, and GM has cut 53,000 union workers since 2005.

Because of that, [Woods' agent Mark] Steinberg said in a telephone interview that he wants to find out if it “makes sense to continue” beyond 2009, when the contract expires.

In the coming year, [Woods' agent Larry] Peck said, Buick would be “trimming back” some of its spending on “back of the house” things, such as hospitality at sports events.

One of the problems might be that Tiger is out recovering from knee surgery meaning he’s not producing returns on investment. Buick is also a big sponsor of the PGA Tour in general, so they may choose to scale that back, if not Woods. Bottom line: if the money isn’t there, it’s going to be hard for Buick to advertise, right?