To make money, Viks pay with pain
A few widely disparate observations from a busy week:
• Here we go again at Portland State. The play-for-pay march toward football devastation continues Saturday in Eugene where the Vikings meet the Ducks.
It's the third Division I opponent for the Division I-AA Viks this season, a scheduling hat trick that will net more than a million bucks for the school's financially strained athletic department. But at what cost?
You can take the money from big-time opponents in every other sport - because the game doesn't involve the physical well-being of your players. But football's different.
PSU's season turned bleak after California physically battered the Vikings earlier this year. When teams step up in class in football it's serious business. Players can get hurt when they line up against opponents bigger, stronger and faster than they are.
That's why I think one of these types of games a season is plenty. You put your players at risk when you do it even once. If your athletic department needs the money that bad, you really ought to be rethinking the direction of your program.
• Tony LaRussa's reaction to the pine tar on Kenny Rogers' hand was a little wacky. I mean, no doubt it was pine tar, no doubt Rogers was cheating, no doubt Rogers is a bit of a jerk and it was very possible making a big fuss about it could have thrown Rogers off his game.
My guess? LaRussa has a pitcher on his staff doing the same thing.
• You think not only boxing but all the sports world isn't a little threatened by the emergence of mixed martial arts as a spectator sport? Let me give you a few facts, courtesy of Bryan Alvarez and his outstanding Figure Four Weekly newsletter:
That big UFC fight on Spike TV last week between Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz did some monster numbers in television's key demographics. The fight lasted just two minutes, but the quarter-hour it played drew a 9.7 rating in males ages 18 to 25 and an 8.0 in males 18 to 34. A little perspective: According to Alvarez, the show drew more 18- to 34-year-old men than anything on cable or broadcast television the entire day.
And do you think the sports world didn't notice? ESPN, according to Alvarez, sent out this message to its affiliates the following Monday: 'Effective immediately, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) ads are no longer accepted on the Disney and ESPN family of networks. UFC ads are a direct violation of our Affiliate agreements. 'Affiliate shall not insert into the ESPN network advertisements or promotions of any sports program.' … ESPN is not accepting these ads on a national level and the same restrictions apply for our local affiliates.'
Basically, it means ESPN suddenly sees the UFC as an entertainment rival and is putting on the heat.