Sports Law Roundup – 8/4/2017

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I used to write the sports technology roundup at TechGraphs, an internet website that died, and now I am writing the sports law roundup at ALDLAND, an internet website.

Here are the top sports-related legal stories from the past week:

  • NBA fan assault: After declining a plea offer in June, Charles Oakley, a former member of the New York Knicks who was arrested and charged with assault after an argument with Knicks owner James Dolan during a game at Madison Square Garden, accepted a similar offer today. While Oakley’s earlier decision appeared designed to force Dolan to provide public testimony at a trial, Oakley, through his lawyer, now says that he “will be pursuing all civil remedies against Mr. Dolan based on this incident.” Pursuant to the terms of today’s agreement, prosecutors will drop the criminal charges against Oakley if Oakley stays out of MSG for one year and otherwise avoids criminal trouble for six months.
  • ESPN parody: The parody sports website NOTSportsCenter.com, which appears to exist today mostly as a Twitter account, defeated a challenge by ESPN that sought the transfer of the NOTSportsCenter.com web domain to ESPN because, ESPN complained, the parody website was confusingly similar to ESPN’s registered “SportsCenter” trademark and operated in bad faith. The arbitration panel found that the owner of the NOTSportsCenter.com domain, Will Applebee, was not using the domain in bad faith, was not attempting to disrupt ESPN’s business, and does not keep people from visiting ESPN’s website. Finally, the arbitrators noted that ESPN’s “delay in taking action against [Applebee] nullifies its arguments,” finding the Worldwide Leader’s decision to wait six years to challenge the domain registration to be a material piece of evidence. Attorneys from Greenberg Traurig, an international law firm with more than two dozen offices around the world, represented ESPN. Applebee represented himself.
  • Daily fantasy sports: On Wednesday, Delaware and Maine became the latest states to legalize daily fantasy sports. The Maine law prohibits DFS contests based on collegiate athletics. Legislative action in other states suggests that Pennsylvania, Illinois, and California could be next in line, while Massachusetts appears to be moving in the other direction.

Sports court is in recess.

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The Sound of Madness

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Hello Madness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again,
because a vision loudly creeping
left its seeds while I was sleeping,
and the aural vision that was planted in my brain
still remains
within the sound of Madness.

Last night, Fox Sports Live teased us by announcing a late-March appearance on their program of the great Gus Johnson, the Detroiter who rose to prominence as a college basketball announcer for CBS, working the NCAA men’s basketball tournament from 1996 to 2011. If you don’t recognize his name, surely you’ll recognize his voice. In short, Johnson was the genuine article, calling wild tournament games with pitch-perfect passion. None were better. None could be better. Cry while you while away your day with the Gus Johnson Soundboard.

Cry because, in 2011, Fox Sports hired Johnson away from CBS, and CBS let him leave, but CBS retained the broadcast rights to the tournament. Fox’s attempt to convert Johnson into the American voice of soccer did not work.

In Johnson’s absence, CBS appears to have tabbed Bill Raftery as Johnson’s spiritual replacement, a role for which he is ill-suited because 1) Johnson himself is irreplaceable and 2) Raftery is not a good broadcaster. That second point is an Unpopular Internet Opinion, so you have to read another paragraph on the subject.

Raftery seems ok enough in one-on-one settings away from a basketball broadcast, such as this segment on last week’s episode of Garbage Time. Get him on an NCAA tournament broadcast, though, and he is the worst. In a word: unlistenable. I’ve never heard anyone work so hard to consciously fabricate an air of spontaneous passion. Raftery is the unintentionally funny kid in high school who became self-aware, realized why people liked him and thought he was funny, and then actively tried to replicate his past affect to gain popularity, something that’s even more tortured to witness than this sentence is to read. Raftery is Tony Montana, who becomes a reckless wreck after buying too deeply into his own product. I’d rather hear Brian Collins call a tournament game than Bill Raftery.

The present situation is untenable. There can be no missions accomplished, no peace in our time without a reunification of Gus Johnson and the NCAA tournament. Messrs. Berson and Shanks: Tear Down This Wall.

And the people bowed and prayed
to the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning
in the words that it was forming.
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
and tenement halls
and whispered in the sound of Madness.”

#FreeGusJohnson

The (Walking) Death of Sports on Earth

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Last month, in a story that was poorly reported to the then-staff of the site Sports on Earth, to say nothing of the general public, it snuck out that, in some order, USA Today had pulled out of its partnership with MLB that supported the site and ninety-five percent of the site’s staff had been let go. The soldiering-on of “senior writer” Will Leitch (which is far from nothing) aside, SoE exists today at best as a sort of undead shell of the vibrant self Leitch and its former staff had built in what I called an important “second chapter” of the site’s history.

As David Roth, Keith Olbermann, and even Leitch himself have commented, the whole thing came as a surprise even to the writers, many of whom found out about the great “unwinding” for the first time on Twitter.

We have tracked the rise of Sports on Earth since its birth, and we’ve highlighted plenty of their many well-done stories in the past. From a technical standpoint, SoE was designed for optimal reading on a tablet, and, for me, it held the position of go-to breakfast-table reading for a long time.

I was just a reader. For The Classical’s David Roth, the whole thing was more personal, as he was friends and colleagues of many of the dispatched writers, many of whom also had written for The Classical. I learned about Sports on Earth’s demise from Roth’s extended obituary, which also expounds upon the challenges of sustaining and supporting interesting sports writing in today’s media landscape.   Continue reading

Book Review: Paul Finebaum’s Conference has Beaten Your Conference (Probably)

IMG-20140814-00138For someone who spends twenty hours a week on national airwaves as the host of an eponymous radio show, now simulcast on cable television, and makes regular television appearances on a major network, Paul Finebaum sure does manage to keep himself hidden.

I am not a longtime listener of Finebaum’s show by any means. I first remember hearing about him when I moved back to SEC country during the 2012 football season and he was still broadcasting on Birmingham’s WJOX. Due largely to my own preconceived misconceptions, I was surprised when I first heard the show following its move to ESPN Radio in 2013 to find that it was an extremely caller-driven show, to the point where Finebaum rarely asserted his own voice for purposes other than briefly sparring with or otherwise egging on his admittedly bombastic callers. At that time, the majority of those callers remained Alabama-based, and the Alabama-Auburn football rivalry served as nearly every item on the host’s go-to menu.

While a lot of this struck me as fairly standard cheap talk radio tactics, I remained intrigued by this person, who had risen to such prominence and reported influence, despite, I thought, hardly taking active steps to exert much in the way of influence. I therefore read the then-recent and still-surprising long feature on Finebaum in The New Yorker with great interest and anticipation. I found the piece to be more an introduction for Manhattanites to the other SEC and its attendant culture than a deep dive on Finebaum himself. Finebaum as access point, rather than Finebaum as subject. (A long Deadspin feature from the same year had a similar effect.) It’s a worthwhile read if you like college football. Still, I did not feel like I knew or understood this man, though, or why he was so widely regarded.

Fast forward (the lazy blogger wrote) to August 14, 2014. The SEC Network, an ESPN entity, launches (on Tim Tebow’s birthday, naturally), and Finebaum’s book, My Conference Can Beat Your Conference: Why the SEC Still Rules College Football, arrived in my mailbox.

Continue reading

ESPN’s “Sources,” explained

It’s hard for the average sports fan to get worked up about the squabbles inside the sports media world. If you have ever wondered what’s going on with all of ESPN’s “Sources,” though, we finally have a substantive, authoritative development on that issue, courtesy of Steve Peresman, the news editor and coordinating producer of ESPN Los Angeles, via some forceful prodding by Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer and Dan Patrick Show producer Paul Pabst. If this is the sort of thing that interests you, Awful Announcing sets up the whole exchange here. (Take special note of what they call “a nuanced point, but a significant one.” I’d also say it’s the main point, the central theme to this everlasting spoof.)

The U.S. Open golf tournament turned interesting shortly after it ended

Maybe obviously, I am not a big fan of golf. I did play it yesterday, though, which is but one of the many things I prefer to watching it.

As luck would have it, there actually was an interesting moment at the U.S. Open, though fans had to wait for the trophy presentation to see it. That was when someone named Jungle Bird— apparently an anti-deforestation activist– involved himself in said trophy presentation. Awful Announcing has some details and video.

If there was one thing I hated more than golf, it was deforestation. Added to the list of things I hate more than golf: golf without Jungle Bird.

ALDLAND Podcast

Here we are with yet another edition of the ALDLAND Podcast.  Chris Cunico is off making bad decisions in Nola, so the task falls to blog founder AD to talk about a wide variety of sports-related topics with me, from the exciting finish to the English Premiere League season to the impending change to the college football postseason.  So take thirty minutes out of your work day and check out this awesomeness.

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