Other Sports



with Jamie Swimmer & Tanner Simkins

1.Wrapping up the 2017 NFL regular season, viewership numbers were down for the second straight year. According to SportsBusiness Journal, viewership was down across the NFL by 9% this season, marking a 20% drop for the league overall over the past two seasons. Media rights holders and broadcast partners all saw declines in their numbers when compared to 2016, with even worse ones when comparing numbers to 2015. Primetime packages – Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football, and Thursday Night Football – all turned out disappointing numbers, yet still drew significantly more viewers than traditional scripted television shows. NBC’s Sunday Night Football (SNF) averaged 18.175 million viewers per game over the course of the season, beating out FOX’s second place average of 17.659 viewers per game. SNF “remains on pace to be the most-viewed primetime show for the seventh straight year, which would be a record for all TV dating back to 1950.” Despite an exciting finish to Sunday’s Panthers-Saints game and a close one in Kansas City, nothing in the overall lackluster NFL playoffs so far suggests that viewer numbers will trend any direction but down.


2.A new ESPN report cites New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady, and owner Robert Kraft having “serious disagreements.” According to the report, the New England dynasty has won five Super Bowls together, yet some serious differences have been undermining the trio as of late. The three most powerful figures in the organization “differ on Brady’s trainer, body coach and business partner Alex Guerrero; over the team’s long-term plans at quarterback; over Belichick’s bracing coaching style; and most of all, over who will be the last man standing.” Those interviewed as part of the report have noted serious tension rising within the organization, with many calling this the last year that all three men will be together in Foxborough. Kraft, Brady, and Belichick were supposed to meet in late December to “clear the air,” but the meeting never happened. Outside of New England, the NFL is facing a serious case of Patriots fatigue. While the purported end of the road for the triumvirate won’t be good for the team, it might in fact be excellent for the league.


3.The Australian Open begins on January 15, with or without some of the world’s best players. According to the London Telegraph, numerous notable players have withdrawn from the Grand Slam event in Melbourne, including World No. 1 Andy Murray. The British star “reluctantly made the call to pull out of his second successive Grand Slam with a long-standing hip injury.” Serena Williams, 23-time Grand Slam winner, also withdrew from the tournament, noting that “Although I am super close, I’m not where I want to be. I can compete – but I don’t want to just compete, I want to do far better than that and to do so, I will need a little more time.” Williams was eight weeks pregnant with her daughter Olympia when she won the tournament last year. Spaniard Rafael Nadal and six-time Aussie Open winner Novak Djokovic are both questionable, leaving tournament organizers “sweating over which marquee players will actually turn up and be fit enough to see out the fortnight.” While global ratings for tennis’ first slam of the year will likely be down due to all the top-level withdrawals, look for some fresh faces – aka new brands – to emerge in Melbourne this year as a result, which will boost the long term health of pro tennis.


4.     As Tiger Woods confirms his first starts of 2018, reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia has signed a multi-year endorsement deal with Callaway. The agreement, made official on January 1, will see the Spaniard use 14 Callaway clubs, Chrome Soft balls, and display the company’s logo on both sides of his hat. Garcia began testing new equipment last year after ending his 15-year partnership with TaylorMade. The deal sees Callaway add to its impressive roster of golf stars, which already includes five-time major champion Phil Mickelson and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson. Meanwhile, Garcia has extended his longstanding apparel and footwear deal with adidas, which has also confirmed new tie-ups with PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Woods will make his 2018 debut at the Farmers Insurance Open later this month, his first official PGA Tour event since he missed the cut at the same tournament a year ago. Woods has won the event at Torrey Pines near San Diego seven times, the last in 2013. He also announced that he will be playing the Genesis Open at Riviera, run by the Tiger Woods Foundation, in February. Woods looked impressive in the Bahamas last month, and if he sticks around for the weekend at Torrey, look for his sizeable fan base to show up, in person and in Nielsen numbers.

5.As we head deeper into the NFL playoffs, sponsors, marketers, and branding agencies alike have their eyes set on the Super Bowl to create the most memorable commercial. According to Variety, NBC’s broadcast of Super Bowl LII on February 4th is quickly approaching for companies that are spending millions of dollars on 30-second ads. “The Super Bowl is a very big deal for us,” said BMG Senior Vice President/Marketing, Commercials, Film & TV Alex Flores. The going price for a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl tops $5 million, prompting companies to wait until closer to game time to reveal any details regarding their commercials. Last year, Ad Age reported that 51 advertisers paid a total of $385 million to reach an estimated 112 million viewers, “representing 2.3% of total U.S. broadcast network TV ad spending for the year.” To increase overall engagement with agencies, NBC has been offering package deals for the Super Bowl and PyeongChang Olympics, for which it also holds media rights.


6.Lithuanian pro basketball team Prienu Vytautas, the new home of brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, has "withdrawn from the Baltic Basketball League this season. The team will instead play in the Big Baller Brand Challenge, a series of five 'friendly' games intended to get the brothers extensive playing time," according to ESPN. The team "announced it will show each of the games on Facebook." A source said that Prienu expects the Balls "to generate" about $120,000 in revenue for the team, "including an undisclosed amount" Facebook is paying to show the Big Baller Brand Challenge games. The Ball brothers’ only significant accomplishment – including Lonzo, now playing for the Lakers – is selling out Chino Hills high school basketball games for multiple seasons. But it’s clear that father LaVar Ball will not let up in his efforts to be a disruptor and build the Big Baller brand on an international stage. As such, the Ball family will continue to be a must-watch in 2018.


7.The new home for the Los Angeles Chargers and Rams is beginning to take shape, slowly and steadily. According to the L.A. Times, the two NFL teams’ Inglewood stadium is more than a quarter complete. An unexpected series of heavy rains pushed the opening date back from 2019 to 2020, so an irrigation system was added to the site in order to prevent any further delays related to rain. The stadium will be one of the most technologically-advanced and integrated stadiums in the world, designed to accommodate virtually any team or event on the fly. “This is going to be basically digitized to the point where, you flip the switch, and it’s all branded Chargers,” said Chargers Chair Dean Spanos. “Flip another switch, it’s branded all Rams. Flip another switch, it’ll be two colleges playing here.” The stadium is projected to cost $2.6 billion, though that number could balloon if any unexpected obstacles or problems arise before the expected 2020 opening date.


8.After factoring in the three rules to deem an NFL team eligible to appear on HBO’s Hard Knocks, only six teams are eligible: The San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, and Washington Redskins. Initially, it seems to be an interesting list, but two of the teams have made it clear that they want nothing to do with the show. San Francisco 49ers General Manager John Lynch spoke to NBC Bay Area about the prospect of being selected for Hard Knocks: “I love the show, but I think some things are best left behind closed doors. I fundamentally have a problem with cutting players and things of that nature on camera. It’s not something we’d be thrilled about.” The Baltimore Ravens told HBO that their facility renovation last year would make it a logistical nightmare to be on the show, and again want to be left out of consideration this year. My money’s on the Cleveland Browns. With the top draft pick and fans devoted enough to turn out for a 0-18 “victory” parade in bitter cold, the franchise seems deserving of the HBO “honor.”


9.With UCF wrapping up an undefeated season after topping Auburn 34-27 in the Peach Bowl, the College Football Playoff could be headed toward an expansion in the coming years. According to ESPN.com, the Knights’ 13-0 season was the only undefeated one in FBS, yet the team was left out of the CFB semifinal. UCF’s schedule was cited as a main reason for the university not replacing Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, or Oklahoma. “UCF is an excellent team, but you still have to take into account who each team played and defeated during the regular season,” said CFB Executive Director Bill Hancock. Sources close to college football believe that No. 12 UCF’s perfect season could be used as a reason to expand the playoff to eight team, which many think will inevitably be the case. Regardless, UCF is proud of its season and has already made plans for a parade back in Florida. UCF has good reason to be proud of its season, but an eight-team playoff is going to be a difficult argument to make with university administrators. While it may eventually happen, the short term requires better thinking about how to ensure a quality team like the Knights gets in despite not playing in a Power Five conference.


10.The Oakland Raiders now have a new head coach in ESPN’s Jon Gruden. According to the S.F. Chronicle, former head coach Jack Del Rio announced his own firing immediately after the team’s season-ending loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. A disappointing 6-10 campaign in 2017 came on the heels of a surprising 12-4 year in 2016, giving the franchise Super Bowl hopes and expectations coming into the new era. Gruden previously coached the Raiders from 1998-2001 before moving to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so he already has ties to the Bay Area franchise and owner Mark Davis. With the Raiders set to move to Las Vegas in the coming years, the team is looking to build some excitement with fans. Commenting on the prospect of convincing Gruden to hang up the microphone in exchange for a whistle, ESPN’s Mike Golic said, “It will certainly be a splash going back to Oakland if this comes to fruition to keep the fan base hyped there.” Hype is good, but W’s are better. Gruden has a short ramp to get back in the swing of the grueling head coach job after his years in the booth.


11.On the heels of cutting around $36 million in player payroll over the past few weeks, new Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter is projecting an “enormous profit” in 2018. According to the Miami Herald, Jeter also expects the team to record sizeable profits for the three years following 2018. The Marlins – and every other MLB team – will receive a one-time payout of $50 million as a result of MLB’s sale of BAMTech to Disney. Jeter’s confidential document that he distributed to potential investors, called Project Wolverine, includes “ambitious revenue goals for tickets, sponsorship and television rights.”


12.The Las Vegas Golden Knights continue to build their fan base and develop their home ice advantage well into their inaugural season. According to LVSPORTSBIZ.com, the NHL club is now starting a waiting list for fans who want to buy season tickets, with deposits starting as low as $100. The team currently has around 14,000 season ticket holders, but is intent on growing that number. While some expansion franchises have faltered on the ice, court, or field in their first seasons, that has not been the case in Las Vegas; as of the first week of January, the Golden Knights boasted a 27-9-2 record, including an impressive 17-2-1 record at home.


13.The South Korean government is starting to crack down on hotels that are charging visitors excessive prices ahead of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. According to USA Today, price-gouging hotels have faced heavy criticism for “ripping off customers.” The Olympics begin with the opening ceremony on Friday, February 9, so the South Korean Ministry of the Interior & Safety plan to conduct an “intensive price clampdown through January 31.” According to data from a Yonhap report, the average price of a hotel in PyeongChang during the Olympics recently spiked to more than $460 per night, “more than triple the normal peak-season prices.” The moves come as part of the government's effort to boost ticket sales for the Games, which have been sluggish and well below the organizing committee’s projected numbers. Local hotel trade groups and the provincial government in Gangwon Province, where the event sites of PyeongChang and Gangneung are located, are also “pressing to get hotels to clean up their acts.” Hotel price gouging is par for the slalom course at the Olympics, just like most other sports mega events.


14.The South Korean Olympic organizing committee in PyeongChang is preparing for a potential late entry from the North Korean delegation in the upcoming Games. According to the Korea Herald, a recent speech following the New Year from North Korean leader Kim Jung-un called for talks with South Korean officials regarding some of the country’s athletes being allowed to compete. Lee Hee-beom, head of the 2018 Olympic organizing committee, said PyeongChang had been “preparing for a long time” for the possibility that North Korea would take part in the quadrennial event. “We’re making preparations in case North Korea sends its athletes, cheering squad and support staff,” commented Lee in a New Year’s address he gave at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium. “The International Olympic Committee has also said several times that it would support North Korea’s participation.” Talks have since been conducted regarding North Korean athletes playing under the country’s name, or forming a joint team with South Korean athletes. While the announcement of North Korean participation will draw national media attention, it will clearly not contribute to increased ticket and hotel room sales in the South.


15.The United States and South Korea have agreed not to hold any joint military drills during the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. According to a CNN report following a Korean presidential office announcement, U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korea President Moon Jae-in came to a mutual decision on the subject. The joint military drills have been conducted on the Korean Peninsula, prompting North Korean leader Kim Jung-un to call them “a direct threat to Pyeongyang (North Korea).” The move to stop these joint drills is supposed to give South Korea more freedom to speak directly to North Korea about peace talks and the potential inclusion of North Korean athletes in February’s Olympics. The decision coming from South Korea and the U.S. was “announced a day after contact between the two Koreas was initiated in a major diplomatic breakthrough.” Security leading up to the Olympics has been a major concern for fans and visitors, though organizing officials have done their best to reassure a safe and secure event.


Power of Sports 5


1.  Jacksonville Jaguars gave 1,000 playoff tickets to refugees. The Jacksonville Jaguars hosted their first playoff game at home since 1999, and the team is using this rare event to partake in an act of generosity. According to an announcement posted on the Jaguars’ website, 1,000 tickets will be dispersed to refugees in Florida. Puerto Ricans who fled the island in the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria and are in North and Central Florida, will receive half of the available seats. The remaining 500 seats will go to refugees from other parts of the world who are currently in northern Florida. Per an NBC report, as of Nov. 30, over 200,000 individuals migrated from Puerto Rico to Florida, and between 500,000 and 750,000 will be forced to resettle over the next four years. Though it has been over three months since Maria first struck, 55% of the island’s residents still lack electricity, per Puerto Rican authorities. The governor’s office estimated that they will not meet their goal of restoring power to 95% of homes until February at the earliest.

2.  Art exhibition ‘Game Recognize Game’ explores how play inspires change. “Game Recognize Game” art exhibition is on display at the SOMArts Cultural Center in San Francisco.  Representing a deep inquiry into the power and potential of sports as a cultural platform for social change, educator Dania Cabello curated the exhibition in partnership with the Oakland Castlemont football team, Soccer Without Borders, and Senda Athletics. In an effort to create an immersive, experiential environment for intergenerational hands-on activities within the exhibit, audience members of all ages were encouraged to play inside the gallery walls. The works from Cabello and fellow artists Arjuna Sayyed, Cece Carpio, Ed Ntiri, Yonas Tesfai, Miguel “Bounce” Perez, and Yvan Iturriaga explore the historical precedents and contemporary context for athletes like Colin Kaepernick who are leveraging sports as a platform for social change. Interactive installations, such as basketball hoops and soccer setups, invite gallery visitors to discover how play can transform public spaces and break down barriers that keep people separated. From the walls of a gallery to the border wall, Cabello wants visitors to imagine play as a physical language that can create space for greater freedom

3.    Gus Kenworthy will be the first openly gay athlete to Compete In The Winter Olympics. Since coming out, Kenworthy has earned sponsorships from Visa, Procter & Gamble, United Airlines, Deloitte, and has been honored by the Human Rights Campaign. In February, Kenworthy plans to compete in both slopestyle and halfpipe skiing at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. “The thought of being the first openly gay male ever to compete in the Winter Olympics — I totally embrace that,” Kenworthy told Time. “I so badly want to inspire that community and do well for them. It’s f****ing cool.”While Kenworthy is proud to represent his country in the Olympics, he plans on skipping the traditional Team USA trip to the White House. “I have no interest in faking support,” Kenworthy said. A major reason for his decision is Trump’s attempts to ban transgender people from serving in the military.  “It shows more courage to leave the house as a trans person than Trump has ever had to show.

4.    The V Foundation continues the Cancer Fight 25 Years Later. Nearly 25 years ago, legendary college basketball coach and broadcaster Jim “Jimmy V” Valvano delivered his stirring and emotional speech at the first-ever ESPY Awards in 1993. Despite being weakened from cancer, which took his life less than two months later, Valvano arrived to receive the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award, and his energetic, passionate speech inspired the sports and medical communities to come together to fight cancer. As Valvano’s V Foundation for Cancer Research celebrates its 25th anniversary its leadership is looking to the future. More than $200 million in research has been awarded in research grants, and more than $1 billion in additional funding has been leveraged to create measurable results in the lives of those affected by all types of cancer. One hundred percent of the V Foundation’s donations are put directly towards research programs at leading cancer centers and research facilities nationwide.


5.    Turkish Government threatens New York Knicks player With 4 Years In prison. Enes Kanter of the NY Knicks is Turkish.  He has  been exiled from both his country and his family after calling out Turkey’s dictator, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, for his history of repression and brutal human rights violations, describing him as “the Hitler of our century.”Recently, Turkish prosecutors announced they would seek a four-year prison sentence for Kanter in response to a series of comments posted on social media that were critical of Erdoğan. Previously, Kanter was detained at an airport in Romania and had his passport seized. An arrest warrant was issued a week later.  We will be following this storyline as Kanter continues to use his playings status as a platform for positive change.


Top Tech 5


1.GameSense sports offers hitters drills to help with pitch recognition.  gameSense, which draws on research that began in the late 1970s into anticipatory behavior based on early visual cues, showing a clear distinction between the abilities of experts and novices at quick-reaction tasks. “They were using this video-occlusion method to try and study what seemed like super-human ability…to be able to read these pitches and do what, by all breakdowns, really shouldn’t be possible,” gameSense chief science officer and co-founder Peter Fadde said. Fadde co-founded the application with Tom Pardikes, a sport science psychologist who received his Ph.D. from Virginia Tech and now serves as company president. The program has a bare-bones sensibility in which hitters can choose various pitchers and and see only a fraction of the ball’s flight from the release point before having to select the type of pitch (such as fastball, curveball, changeup, etc.) and whether it would ultimately be a ball or strike.


2.FanDuel sets bitcoin as prize for NFL Playoffs. FanDuel is offering thousands of dollars worth of Bitcoin to users competing in its upcoming NFL fantasy sports playoffs, in what the company says will be the first fantasy football contest to award Bitcoin to winners and the first sports tech company to award cryptocurrency in a consumer promotion. During Week 2 of the NFL Playoffs, FanDuel will host a free, single-entry contest called The Bitcoin Bowl Free Play that will offer one user the chance to win one Bitcoin. It will also offer a multi-entry $3 tournament called the Bitcoin Bowl Tournament with a tiered payout structure of two Bitcoins for first place, a half Bitcoin for second place and a quarter Bitcoin for third and fourth place.


3.Minnesota Vikings first in NFL to launch virtual reality app for Oculus. The Minnesota Vikings’ home, U.S. Bank Stadium, can seat exactly 66,655 fans. That might sound like a gigantic number, but it’s actually in the bottom-third of all NFL stadiums. Knowing that the team’s following is much larger than that 66,655, the Vikings have come up with a new way of bringing fans “inside” the stadium. They are becoming the first NFL team to launch a VR application for Oculus. In creating the app, the Vikings partnered with the Silicon Valley-based Zeality, which specializes in 360 VR and has previously partnered with the San Jose Sharks on an Oculus app. Downloadable in the Oculus store (compatible with Oculus Rift and Gear VR), Vikings VR allows the user to explore U.S. Bank Stadium through 360-degree video and pictures. Footage from every home game played since the stadium’s opening in 2016 is available in the app.


4.How real-time data, insights, emotion can enhance UFC storytelling. UFC’s partnership with HEED hosted a live demonstration to explain how the company uses AI IoT (Internet of Things) to revolutionize the way fans watch fights. A demo was conducted with two UFC athletes, Marc “Bonecrusher” Diakiese and Edson Barboza, participating in a staged sparring match that could generate 70 different insights. The data accumulated from sensors in the gloves and the mat can create a more engaging experience for fans. Artificial intelligence can measure the emotions of the fighters, cornermen and even fans including family members sitting near the octagon.“We want to tell a story,” Kochavi said after the scripted demo. “We are not about statistics of the fight, we are about the story of the fight.” The fighters are to wear sensors inside of their gloves. This way when a punch is thrown, users can be informed of its significance. Data can tell if a punch is within the top-10 percent for a certain weight class, triggering a unique story.


5.No TV? watch sports on 90-inch screens in augmented reality. Imagine watching LeBron James dunk up close via a 90-inch television that’s hanging 10 feet from your seat on the couch. Now imagine if you could watch seven other NBA games on big screens at the same time without having to cover your wall with flat screens. A new augmented reality headset from a company called ThirdEye Gen Inc. that seeks to change the way people consume sports is set to be unveiled next month at the Consumer Electronics Show. Something that separates ThirdEye’s glasses from others is the wide 45-degree diagonal field of view, which he said is the equivalent to watching a 90-inch high-definition screen from a distance of ten feet. That’s significantly wider than, say, Google Glass, which had a 10-degree field of view and wasn’t designed for the long-term consumption of augmented reality content.




  1. In March Madness’ biggest upset ever, 16-seed University of Maryland-Baltimore County shocked the nation in its lopsided 74-54 win over No. 1 Virginia. UMBC became the first 16-seed to beat a No. 1. In other Cinderella stories, 11th-seeded Loyola upset third-seeded Tennessee 63-62 Saturday night and on Sunday, seventh-seeded Texas A&M stunned No. 2 North Carolina, the tournament's reigning champ. While UMBC lost to Kansas State in Sunday’s Round of 32, UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski was "thrilled about the attention the school is receiving from around the country." Hrabowski told the Baltimore Sun, "People began to Google us and to see the academic achievements… from a potential employer like Amazon to other university presidents to elected officials." UMBC's official athletics Twitter account "had about 5,400 followers" before Friday's game against UVA and now is up to over 92,000. Meanwhile, because a 16-seed knocked off a 1-seed, Little Caesars is offering a free lunch combo to all comers on Monday, April 2, National Championship day. During March Madness, apparently there is such a thing as a free lunch.

  2. If your bracket is busted, you’re in good company. The 21st ESPN Men’s Tournament Challenge collected 17.3 million completed brackets, the second-most ever behind only last year’s explosion of 18.8 million, which surpassed the previous mark set in 2016 by nearly 6 million, according to the network. At the peak period of entries shortly before the start of Thursday’s first round games, fans registered 33,472 brackets per minute. ESPN also set new all-time records for fan sign-ups and completed brackets on a tip-off Thursday. On Wednesday, ESPN set a new all-time record for completed Tournament Challenge brackets in a single day, with more than 5 million. At the end of ESPN’s Tournament Challenge Marathon on Tuesday, ESPN had collected more than 8.2 million brackets, as well as two of the top six sign-up days in the 21-year history of the game. While the network had not announced how many of those eight million brackets were busted as of late Sunday night, with massive upsets over the weekend including Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Michigan State, you can bet it is the majority.


  1. The Pac-12 task force has revealed its recommendations to reshape college basketball, most notably stating that the NCAA should end its one-and-done rule. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the task force was created in the wake of the ongoing FBI scandal that has shaken up college basketball this season. The task force stated that changes should be made to the recruiting process and championed the adoption of college baseball rules, where players either turn pro right out of high school or commit to staying in college for at least three years. These recommendations will only be implemented with the support of the NBA and the NBAPA, but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has supported the need for change in wake of the scandal. One of the biggest current problems with the notion of paying players is AAU basketball and its impact on recruiting. The task force “recommends to start making recruits, and their families, aware of the rules early in high school” while removing the AAU system entirely. Dispensing with the AAU system also includes the side benefit of giving the shoe companies that fund the tournaments a lot less sway over basketball and its players.


  1. University administrators are beginning to voice their opinions on the current state of college basketball and the NCAA. According to SportsBusiness Journal, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, NCAA President Mark Emmert, and Stanford Athletic Director Bernard Muir joined NCAA.com’s Andy Katz for an interview regarding the ongoing FBI scandal that has ripped through college basketball. “To hear this type of thing going on in the game itself gives us pause and concern, and we want to, hopefully, eradicate it as quickly as possible,” said Muir after hearing news of the FBI’s involvement. Emmert’s comments were more directed toward player marketing and how student-athletes can make a name for themselves: “If you’re a college basketball player with professional aspirations, whether it’s in basketball or just whatever your profession is going to be, I can’t think of a better marketing device than playing in the NCAA tournament.” The panel agreed unanimously that it would be “pure chaos” if players were allowed to sign individual endorsement deals. With so much support at the top levels of the NCAA and the NBA it is clear – major changes are likely coming to college basketball during the off season.

  2. Tiger Woods is once again showing his value to the PGA Tour and its partners. NBC drew a 5.1 overnight rating for the final round of the Valspar Championship, which saw Woods finish one shot behind winner Paul Casey. That number is up 183% from a 1.8 rating for the final round last year, and marks the best overnight rating for any regular PGA Tour event or major, excluding the Masters, since the 2015 PGA Championship. The 200 brands that aligned themselves with the Valspar telecasts generated 1.3 billion TV impressions in U.S. households – nearly 1 billion more than the 275 brands that advertised during the 2017 event on NBC and Golf Channel, according to data from iSpot.tv. Meanwhile, ticket sales for this weekend’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, in which Woods competed for the first time since 2013, "were up" more than 50% from 2017 according to the Orlando Sentinel. Woods tied for fifth place, eight shots behind winner Rory McIlroy; tournament COO Marci Doyle said was likely "the largest event in the 53-year-history of our tournament." With Tiger ascendant and McIlroy netting his first PGA Tour win since 2016, the countdown to The Masters officially begins.

  3. Quarterback Kirk Cousins’ new deal with the Minnesota Vikings has the potential to revolutionize the way NFL teams negotiate player contracts. According to the Washington Times, the three-year, $84 million deal is fully guaranteed, marking a huge break from the traditional way executives have negotiated contracts with players over the years. Normally, “teams routinely pull the plug early on players and contracts deemed cost-ineffective,” which will not be the case for Cousins in Minnesota. News of the deal sent shockwaves through the league, with many players commenting on the change. “Now we need more players to bet on themselves until fully guaranteed contracts are the norm and not the exception,” tweeted Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin. Critics of the deal say that guaranteeing contracts will “diminish” the game, meaning that players will not have the same incentive to earn their paychecks as they do now.


  1. With the Dallas Cowboys set to host the NFL Draft in April, plans for events at AT&T Stadium have been announced by the team. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the draft will be held from April 26-28 in the NFL Draft Theater, which will be built on the stadium’s field. More than 250,000 fans have already registered for a chance to win free seated tickets inside the space at AT&T Stadium. Last year’s NFL Draft weekend in Philadelphia was considered a massive success, and also marked the first Draft to be held outdoors, but the 250,000 registered fans “represents a 50% increase over last year” at this point. A State Fair-like setting is expected to be set up to complement the Draft itself, with the Cowboys offering “a cornucopia of attractions outside of the stadium that they hope will keep fans occupied throughout the three days.” While “everything is bigger in Texas,” the 2018 Draft also continues the NFL’s ever-growing ambitions to make the sport a year-round appointment event and provide entertainment to everyone in the family.


  1. MLB has created a new two-day FoodFest in New York that will feature food items from all 30 major league ballparks. The first-ever MLB FoodFest will be held April 21-22 near New York’s Bryant Park, with each club selecting one concession item to represent the franchise. The event will also feature interactive exhibits and art celebrating baseball’s ties to popular concession items such as hot dogs, and incorporate MLB sponsors Nathan’s and Coca-Cola. Among the more notable club items featured will be the D-backs’ churro dog -- a churro inside of a donut topped with frozen yogurt, chocolate sauce, caramel and whipped cream -- the Astros’ chicken waffle cone that features popcorn chicken and mashed potatoes inside of a waffle cone, and the Royals’ brisket nachos. Tickets will be priced at $25 for food only, providing samples of all 30 club items, and $40 for food and beer. Development of the MLB FoodFest was led by the league’s internal marketing and social team with logistical assistance from New York-based agency MKG. The FoodFest sold out in just two days, and is already proving so popular that MLB is taking names for a waiting list for future locations.

  2. Acting USOC CEO Susanna Lyons told the IOC that three American cities are interested in hosting the 2030 Winter Olympics. According to SportsBusiness Daily, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Reno/Tahoe, respectively are the three parties that have expressed a desire to be included in talks going forward. While none of the cities was noted to have an interest in hosting the 2026 Winter Games, which has a bid deadline of March 31, the IOC is considering awarding both the 2026 and 2030 Olympics simultaneously – similar to what the international governing body did this past Fall when it awarded the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics to Paris and Los Angeles at the same time. The Salt Lake City bid group did note that the city could be ready in 2026 “if called upon,” but 2030 remains the preferred cycle to host. Meanwhile, the Utah bid leaders “don’t believe Colorado can produce top-flight Olympic facilities for anywhere close to the cost of what Salt Lake City can provide.” Another factor in Salt Lake’s bid may be the recent relocation of Mitt Romney to the state – Romney served as the savior CEO of the 2002 Games held there.


  1. Former NFL COO Tod Leiweke is expected to join the Oak View Group in Seattle as a top executive to help bring an NHL expansion franchise to the Pacific Northwest. According to the Seattle Times, KeyArena is currently being renovated by OVG in Seattle with the hope of landing both an NHL and NBA team in the coming years, though neither has been announced by the respective leagues. An NHL team would likely begin play in October 2020, but a decision is not expected on that until a league Board of Governors meeting in June. Leiweke served as CEO of the Seattle Seahawks from 2003-2010, “doubling their season-ticket base” and advancing them to their first-ever Super Bowl following the 2005 season, so he has prior success in the region with professional sports teams. As noted by a city sportswriter, “He is quite simply the most successful sports executive Seattle has ever known.” If anyone can successfully bring at least one of these pro sports back to Seattle it’s the brothers Leiweke – Tod and his brother and OVG founder Tim, long the AEG CEO.


  1. The Canadian government has officially announced its support for the joint North American World Cup bid for 2026. According to the Toronto Sun, the bid from the United States, Mexico, and Canada faces opposition only from Morocco, yet the North African country’s bid is “making a late charge” to win the elusive bid. Canada’s official support is a last push to “coax the FIFA Congress away from selecting Morocco.” “It’s good for our athletes, it’s good for our communities, our economy, our reputation as an international sport leader,” said Canadian Minister of Sport Kristy Duncan. The competitor’s bid proposes a more compact tournament, with stadiums and venues within driving distance from each other, as opposed to the North American bid that would require flying between almost all potential host cities. The Moroccan bid is also being viewed as more favorable for viewership in the European market due to the time zones it encompasses – the European region clearly drives the majority of TV revenue for FIFA.     


  1. In the wake of some of the NBA’s biggest stars acknowledging personal struggles with mental health, the NBA and NBAPA have decided to create an independent mental wellness program. According to NBA.com, the two entities are on the precipice of naming a Director of Mental Health & Wellness, a new role that will be jointly funded by the league and the union. Most recently, Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love have publicly stated that they were dealing with mental health issues while playing this season, prompting the league to take official steps to help. The new program, which is the result of almost a “year of discussions” between the two sides, “will allow players to seek treatment and counseling outside of the framework of their individual teams.” The mental outreach program will extend beyond the NBA, as it will also be part of the Junior NBA World Championships in Orlando in August. Player health and safety is a key tenet of all pro sports leagues, including mental health. It’s great to see the NBA and its players association take this important step.


  1. MLS and Liga MX have officially announced the first stage of a strategic partnership between the two North American soccer leagues. According to Pro Soccer USA, MLS and Liga MX clubs will begin competing in the Campeones Cup, the first competition solely between U.S. and Mexican soccer clubs since SuperLiga ended following the 2010 season. “The Campeones Cup is only the first step,” said Liga MX President Enrique Bonilla. “It’s a big step, as [MLS Commissioner Don Garber] said it’s going to be the Super Bowl of soccer in North America…We’re going to work with minor, we’re going to work with best practices …and we’re sure we’re going to have better football for great fans we have in the U.S. and in Mexico and in Canada.” The new partnership also has the aim of going beyond the sport, with hopes that the cup between the two nations will help ease any cultural divides that have arisen in the current political climate. Once again the healing power of sport should prevail, both on the pitch of the Campeones Cup matches and outside of it.


  1. As MLS continues to grow in size and popularity across North America, some of the league’s longstanding clubs have started to lag behind. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, MLS Commissioner Don Garber is not worried about the viability of Philadelphia as an MLS city going forward, despite lagging attendance numbers over the past years. “It’s a huge market,” said Garber. “It’s an influential market. We continue to have great faith in the club, its ownership and the market.” Since 2010, the Union’s attendance has declined steadily year over year, going from an average of 19,254 in 2010 to only 16,812 in 2017. As part of the club’s Talen Energy Stadium lease, “if after 10 years the team’s attendance is in the bottom 25% of MLS, the team can pay the county $10 million and leave the venue.” The team has insisted that this will not happen, but the club is running out of time to turn around its downward attendance trend. The team’s success in attracting fans now further impacts the city’s bottom line – expect to see the Philly government lending a subtle marketing hand.


  1. The 2018 World Cup in Russia this summer will not be attended by the British royal family or any government ministers from the United Kingdom. According to ESPN.com, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed the absence in wake of the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal. Moscow has refused to explain how the domestically-made nerve agent was used on a former Russian spy and his daughter, prompting U.K. politicians to directly address the country and its leadership. If Russian involvement in the poisoning is in fact proven, “it will be very difficult to imagine that U.K. representation at the World Cup will go ahead in the normal way…” The England national team remains a lock for this summer’s tournament, but should tensions escalate between the two countries, it will remain to be seen if further boycott action is taken by the British. This marks the latest example of how politics have had a direct influence on sport, as seen last month with North Korea’s positive inclusion at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics in South Korea.



Tech Top 5

  1. Turner and Intel deliver March Madness in virtual reality. Through the NCAA March Madness Live VR, Turner Sports this year is selling live virtual reality access to games throughout the NCAA tournament for $2.99 a pop. The app, which was developed in partnership with CBS Sports and the NCAA and built on Intel’s True VR technology, is offering VR games from the first and second rounds as well as the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four, and National Championship – 21 games in all. When accessing the games through the VR system, users can either pick a camera angle to watch a game or opt for “fully produced” coverage that involves multiple cameras and sounds from the arena. During the first and second rounds, audio included game commentary from the telecasts across TBS, CBS, TNT, and truTV. In addition to the VR games, the NCAA March Madness Live VR provides interactive bracket updates, full length game replays, highlights, and video-on-demand. Turner’s offering this year expands on the initial multiyear deal it signed last year with Intel, CBS, and the NCAA.

  2. Arlington to build America’s largest esports stadium. Arlington already has the largest local monopoly on professional sports with Globe Life Park, AT&T Stadium, and the University of Texas at Arlington's Maverick Stadium. Arlington officials last week announced a plan to build the largest esports complex in America, a $10 million, 100,000-square-foot facility called Esports Stadium Arlington that would transform the Arlington Convention Center into a space dedicated to housing competitive gaming bouts. "Being on the forefront of new ideas and setting trends is in our DNA and part of who we are as the American Dream City," Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said in a statement. "Esports Stadium Arlington will further cement our city's status as a national and international tourist destination." The project will be a joint venture of the city, sports architecture firm Populous, and Esports Venues LLC. The entertainment marketing firm NGAGE Esports will manage the new facility once construction is complete. Esports Venues will have a 10-year lease, with a 10-year renewal option, with the city. The city plans to recoup the money it will spend through lease payments, event revenues, and naming rights.

  3. Kevin Durant adds Suzy to tech portfolio. Kevin Durant is increasing his portfolio of tech investments beyond sports and health. In November, The Durant Firm invested in promoting startup Suzy as half of a bigger $5 million funding spherical for Suzy’s parent firm, Crowdtap, led by enterprise capital agency The Foundry Group. Suzy CEO Matt Britton informed The New York Enterprise Journal that the addition of Durant and associate Wealthy Kleiman is part of the company’s efforts to hunt likeminded companions and buyers who provide “a differentiated perspective on the enterprise panorama.” Crowdtap was previously within the enterprise of influencer advertising. At SXSW, the company shifted its focus by rebranding to Suzy. Now, as an alternative to selling its relationship with creators, it is specializing in synthetic intelligence that lets manufacturers construct surveys that may gain tens of millions of shoppers in seconds. Earlier this year, The Durant Firm invested in Yoshi, an app that delivers on-demand fuel and oil modifications for parked automobiles. Durant’s investments come as more Warriors players use their proximity to Silicon Valley to position themselves as tech influencers.

  4. Warriors partner with SyncThink to monitor concussions. The Warriors became the first pro sports team to work with Palo Alto-based SyncThink, producers of a virtual reality headset that uses eye-tracking technology. The SyncThink headset provides real time objective data on how a subject’s brain is functioning. The Warriors and SyncThink will use that data to determine if any of their players have concussion symptoms. Unlike the NFL, NBA teams do not monitor concussions on a near daily basis. But a handful of NBA players have suffered concussions in recent years, including Warriors guard Klay Thompson in the 2015 NBA playoffs. In 2011, the NBA passed a concussion protocol that required players to pass a series of tests symptom-free before returning to the court, including stationary bike, light jogging, running, jumping and agility drills, team drills with limited contact, and returning to the court without limitations. “We have a lot of really great return-to-play protocols and I think the NBA has done a terrific job in being overly safe,” Warriors assistant general manager Kirk Lacob said.

  5. New Jersey will implement replay for high school football. New Jersey high school football will experiment with voluntary video replay review in the 2018 season, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association announced Wednesday. Officials will be able to access replays using Hudl Sideline, an application that syncs live game film across devices, such as tablets or smartphones used by players and coaches, to review game tape and potentially reverse calls made on the field. Coaches frequently use the replay software to gain a competitive advantage during games. Replays are available on devices about four seconds after the whistle, quick enough to run a no-huddle offense and still see instant replays. NFL and college teams can use tablets to view still photographs but not live video. Previously, teams printed out photos for in-game scouting. State football officials will determine the policies to govern the review process by the end of the month, said Jack Dubois, the state’s associate athletic director.

Power of Sports 5


  1. Rickie Fowler wears Arnold Palmer tribute shoes. Although he didn’t pull off a win there this year, Rickie Fowler honored the life and legacy of Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill by wearing specially-designed PUMA AP Ignite Hi-Tops and a limited edition Arnie’s Army hat during play. Fowler has always been a huge fan of Palmer, and last year during the API he raised over $25,000 for charity. This year, Rickie is trying out something similar with shoes and hat with Palmer’s famous umbrella logo. "I feel privileged to have known Arnie and be able to call him a friend," Fowler said. "I wanted to do something to celebrate what he did on the course, and more importantly, how he used his platform to benefit others through his Foundation!" The shoes were created for Puma Golf by Dominic Chambrone, known as "The Shoe Surgeon." Puma is also giving one lucky golfer the chance to own the same shoes Fowler has in his possession. Currently up for auction on eBay, the second pair of Palmer-inspired spikes come signed by Fowler, with all proceeds from the auction going to support the Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation.

  2. Former MLB manager Tony La Russa hosts “Dinner of Champions” in Phoenix. Founded in 1993 after he saved a stray cat during a game at the Oakland Coliseum, La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) works to keep pets out of harm’s way in public pounds. The organization has also partnered with veterans and people with traumatic brain injuries to come together with service-related issues to create a happy and healthy lifestyle. “We have a great cause, and in this case, it’s bringing our dogs together with veterans who have PTSD,” La Russa said. Steak 44 in Phoenix hosted the gathering, and among the athletes in attendance were Hall of Famers Jim Thome, George Brett, and Arizona Cardinals coach Steve Wilks. A’s relief pitcher Liam Hendriks was also present, and he felt particularly strong about the cause at hand. Hendriks has six pets: three teacup Chihuahuas and three cats, including his “newest acquisition,” a displaced cat from Hurricane Irma. With roots in the Bay Area with the Athletics, La Russa underwrote a 37,700 square foot ARF shelter in Walnut Creek in 2003, and Hendriks has helped him with local events in recent years.

  3. Oklahoma City Thunder help fight hunger. Last week, the entire Oklahoma City Thunder organization spent the afternoon at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma packing meals for the second annual Thunder Day of Service. The full roster from the Thunder and Blue, as well as staff members, packed meals, packaged dry goods, and filled boxes with food to go to Oklahomans facing food insecurity. In total, the Thunder organization packaged 12,144 pounds of food, which will feed approximately 10,120 Oklahomans. The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, a member of the Feeding America network of Food Banks, is the largest hunger-relief charity in the state, providing enough food to feed more than 136,000 hungry Oklahomans every week, 37% of whom are children. In 2017, the Regional Food Bank distributed 52 million pounds of food through a network of 1,300 community-based partner agencies, charitable feeding programs, and schools throughout 53 central and western Oklahoma counties.

  4. MLB stars bartend for charity. Billy Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, and Dee Gordon were among ballplayers slinging drinks at the eighth annual Celebrity Bartender Night in Scottsdale to benefit Amyloidosis Support Groups and Cruz's Boomstick23 Foundation. They gathered to support Erica Brooks, whose firm Issues Concerning Athletes finds temporary housing for many Major Leaguers who spend February and March in Arizona, and whose father passed away from the rare disease amyloidosis. "It means a lot to me, it means a lot to Erica and her family," said Hamilton, who has been attending since at least 2014. Amyloidosis is an incurable disease in which an abnormal protein builds up in a person's organs. "I do housing for them, but this is where I get rewarded," Brooks said. Cruz added additional weight to this year's event by involving his Boomstick 23 Foundation, which focuses on youth sports and education. "Where we're coming from, we know the importance of giving back," said Cruz. "I learned it from my dad. Any cause that I can help, especially stuff like this, I'm glad to do it."

  5. Former NFL players help nonprofit. On April 7, members of the NFL Alumni group will host a clay shooting fundraiser for Champions for Champions. The Champions for Champions nonprofit offers activities for children and adults with special needs. Former Miami Dolphins Running Back Don Nottingham, Super Bowl VIII Champion in 1973, partnered with local resident Marisa Rodriguez, who has battled the effects of cerebral palsy and epilepsy. “Some people said I would never walk on my own, but I proved them wrong,” said Rodriguez. She has overcome the need to use a walker or a cane, which she had used from age 3 until her early teens. Rodriguez was one of several members of Champions for Champions of Ocala who gathered, along with Nottingham, for the group’s most recent Friday “Dance Like a Champion” session. The nonprofit Champions for Champions aims to “actively enhance the quality of life” for adults and children with “intellectual, physical or developmental disability,” such as autism and Downs syndrome, according to the group’s commitment statement. Champions for Champions formed in 2016 and now includes about 40 members and their families.

U.S. men's hockey pulls out win after entering 3rd period tied

U.S. men's hockey pulls out win after entering 3rd period tied

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Ryan Donato scored two power-play goals and Troy Terry dominated with his speed as college players led the United States to an important 2-1 victory over Slovakia on Friday at the Olympics.

Donato, who plays for his father Ted at Harvard, delivered the kind of offense USA Hockey wanted when it picked four NCAA players for its no-NHL Olympic roster. Donato, Terry and American Hockey League scoring star Chris Bourque were all additions to the U.S. after the pre-Olympic Deutschland Cup in November, during which the U.S. struggled to score, particularly against Slovakia goaltender Jan Laco.

Laco was on top of his game, stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced. Only this time, the Americans' young skill that coach Tony Granato hoped would bring energy and spark the team came through.

Goalie Ryan Zapolski made 21 saves for his first Olympic victory, which is crucial considering only the top four of 12 teams avoid the qualification round Monday. With the regulation win, the U.S. vaults to the top of Group B with four points. Slovakia was second with three, followed by Slovenia and Russia.

The U.S. faces Russia in each team's final preliminary-round game Saturday night.

The Americans didn't have a shot on net until six-plus minutes into the game when defenseman Noah Welch finally got the puck to Laco.

All it took to get the U.S. offense going was a Slovakia penalty that gave Terry and Donato some room to operate. Terry sped through the offensive zone and took two Slovakia defenders with him, dropping the puck to a wide-open Donato for his first power-play goal of the game to put the U.S. up 1-0 at 7:10.

Just 25 seconds later, Andrej Kudrna scored on a tip of a Tomas Surovy shot that slipped under Zapolski's right arm for a tying goal the 31-year-old goalie probably wants back.

Bobby Butler had a semi-breakaway late in the first and Laco got his blocker on it. A couple of second-period power plays yielded offensive-zone time but not a goal, and a borderline goalie interference penalty on Boston University's Jordan Greenway made penalty killers work hard to keep it tied.

After a too many men on the ice call on Slovakia, Bourque, another son of a former NHL player, fed Donato, who spun around in front and went five-hole on Laco to score the game-winning goal with 17:09 left.