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Take your gun to the ballgame in one of America’s foreclosure capitals

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In Florida, it’s against state law to bring a concealed weapon to a professional sporting events, even though at a Marlins game a string of automatic gunfire wouldn’t hit anybody.

However, the law doesn’t specify that you’re banned from bringing a gun to a youth sporting event, which is a bit more crowded. So the commissioners in Lee County, Fla., had no choice but to overturn such a ban, thus allowing fans to pack heat in the sort of emotional, hair-trigger environment that makes you think, “You know what this crowd needs? Armaments.” Especially in an area that’s a bit stressed out, what with its one-in-95 houses foreclosure rate being among the highest in the country, a place with a court notorious for its “rocket docket” of speeding through such foreclosures in 10 seconds or less, a place with an area, Lehigh Acres, that has become Exhibit A in how the foreclosure crisis has turned once-thriving exurbs into ghost towns.

“What was that call again, ump?”

One Lee County commissioner spoke about lobbying state legislators to change the law so youth sporting events were included in the gun ban. But, its legal hands tied, the commission voted unanimously to lift its own ban, and signs noting the ban are already coming down.

From the Naples (Fla.) News:

“I’m not against anyone’s right to bear arms nor to have a concealed weapons license, I just find it deplorable that it would be allowed at a youth sports event,” Mert Leeman, Florida’s district 9 Little League administrator.

Howard Gold, president of the South Fort Myers Little League, said the organization goes to great pains to ensure safety, such as doing background checks on coaches and safety checks on equipment.

And sometimes Gold has had to come between parents in heated arguments about calls on the field.

“I’m fortunate to say we have not had any serious situations in 10 years, but that possibility also exists,” Gold said.

No other commissioners commented on taking the issue to state legislators.

Deleting the ordinance language that restricted firearms is expected to settle a lawsuit filed by Amanda Buckley on Aug. 13.

The lawsuit was filed by Buckley’s attorney husband, who apparently had gotten tired of hearing his wife complain about the inconvenience of leaving the Glock behind when catching a kid’s ballgame. A hearing is scheduled Nov. 1 on the lawsuit, but it appears likely the case will be done now that permitted conceal-carry owners can take their gun to the ballgame. So in Lee County, Fla., you can pry houses from people’s warm, live hands, but not guns from their cold, dead ones.

Written by rkcookjr

October 26, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Suzy Kolber, I wanna kiss you for making this video

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…Though Joe Namath says he doesn’t care about the youth sports parents’ strug-a-lin’.

Kolber and ESPN Radio morning jock/sports parent Mike Golic are co-hosting a freshly produced video, put out by the Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors, meant for coaches to use during parents’ meetings. It’s meant to show parents how not to be such fucking assholes.

The presence of the two ESPN personalities lends an air of authority and professionalism to a video that otherwise looks like it should have an intro from Troy McClure. But I’m stunned that Golic, the suddenly ubiquitous pitchman, didn’t break out some ad copy, or at least explain how he can get away with endorsing high-fat food and a workout plan at the same time.

Written by rkcookjr

October 25, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Lawsuit claims softball coach was Bernie Madoff wanna-be

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Experts on Ponzi schemes will tell you that the victims are often preyed upon by a trusted person in their inner circle, such as a church member, a neighbor, or someone with whom they share an ethnic tie. However, until now, I had never heard of that trusted person being your daughter’s high school softball coach.

Even for Ponzi scheme victims, these softball parents, if a recent lawsuit is to be believed, set new standards for being what Bugs Bunny would call gulli-bulls. If Louisville, Colo., Monarch High coach Richard Dale Mott had an $11 billion fortune and a mansion stocked with expensive cars, why the hell would he be coaching girls’ high school softball? For the investment contacts? To give back to the community? (Boy, if he said that last one, that REALLY should have been a tip-off.)

Technically, what Mott is accused of doing is loan fraud, because he allegedly didn’t even get far enough to “invest” proceeds anymore. But the dynamics are the same.

From the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colo.:

Randy Davenport, who was president of the Monarch Fastpitch Softball Club and whose daughter plays on the team, sued Richard Dale Mott after he said he was unable to recover $80,000 he loaned Mott to fund a supposed gypsum mining operation in Wyoming.

Davenport alleged in his suit that Mott, who resigned as coach from the Louisville high school in December, had promised him a $50,000 interest payment on the loan and had guaranteed the loan with a promissory note.

Mott also got loans from “numerous members of the Monarch High School parent community” that he never repaid, the suit states.

Davenport claimed that Mott, who was hired by the Boulder Valley School District in the summer of 2008, made off with $185,000 total from four or five investors, including himself.

“It’s an expensive lesson and one that I will be paying for,” Davenport said Thursday. “I want to see that guy suffer some kind of consequences for what he’s done.”

According to the Daily Camera story, Davenport said Mott told the parents he had set aside $25 million for each of his children. In reality, Mott lived in a rented house and was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and had settled numerous breach-of-contract cases in the past. (The newspaper called various Richard Motts, but it could not find the one in question.)

We can agree that Richard Mott, if he did what Davenport said he did, is a bad person. So is Bernard Madoff. So is Allen Stanford. And so is Nicholas Cosmo, who at least plowed some of the $375 million he apparently swindled out of suckers in his Ponzi scheme back into youth sports.

But jumpin’ Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick, how greedy and/or dense do you have to be to hand $80,000 over to your daughter’s softball coach to invest in some bullshit you don’t understand, even if the coach is Charles Fuckin’ Schwab? Did the Monarch parents ever, oh, stop by his mansion to check it out? Do a Google search on Mott? Check the Forbes 500 to see if Mott’s name was in it? (At $11 billion, it would have been.) Get statements on the potential investment and run them by a financial adviser? Ask themselves why their daughters’ softball team was coached by a billionaire who needed to hustle parents for money? Find out what gypsum was?

Ponzi scheme experts will tell you that the scammers know what they’re doing, that their delivery is smooth, and that peer pressure can take over good judgment, especially if your friends are getting statements back about how fabulously their investments are doing. As the old saying goes: If it sounds too good to be true, it is. And, if your daughter’s softball coach approaches you with a hot investment, ask why, if the coach is so smart, he or she still can’t figure out how to teach players how to field a ground ball cleanly.

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And if that isn’t enough to help you avoid investment scams, perhaps this video will help. Ahem, her face is up there.

Your kid's cellphone: a youth sports parent's best friend

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You might have seen over the weekend that the New York Times put up a blurb about the growth of cell phone use by six-to-11-year-olds, a group that back in my day (insert old man voice) would still have been playing with pretend land lines. However, I see nothing disturbing at all in kids having cell phones, not with my 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter having had them for about two years. I’m also guessing a lot of parents who are shuttling kids to multiple events, sports or otherwise, feel the same way.

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“Oh-hoh! I’ll send Goofy to pick you up at the field, Billy!”

The Times, quoting a study released Jan. 4 by Mediamarket Research and Intelligence, said that in 2005 11.9 percent of six- to 11-year-olds had their own mobile phone. In 2009, that number was up to 20 percent. The most dramatic increase, according to the market research company, was 10- and 11-year-olds, whose phone ownership was up 80.5 percent.

These numbers might be disturbing if you believe cell phones cause brain tumors, or if you imagine your 6-year-old now having the power to send naked pictures of himself all over the virtual world. And, yeah, when I put it that way, even I’m starting to freak out a little bit. Let me check my kid’s phones, and I’ll be right back. …

(OK, nothing untoward there. Whew.)

Or maybe you think merely that a post-toddler or preteen is too young to have a phone.

The New York Times item on this survey, being a blurb, left out a key part of the 5,000-child survey: why they use their phone.

The overwhelmingly No. 1 reason why kids use their phones is to call their parents. Now, as a child — and I was a good kid (really, I was) — my worst nightmare was that my parents could have some sort of tracking device on me that would always reveal to them where I was at any given moment. But my experience with my own children is that both sides like the security of being able to get in touch, anytime. Certainly, a cell phone would have been helpful so I could go from one park to another without having to make a detour home first so I could ask my parents if I could go.

The survey said 88.1% of the kiddie cellphone wielders use the device to call their parents. This is where the phone as youth sports parent’s best friend comes in. There comes a time, when the number of kids you have and the schedules they keep outflank you ability to be everywhere at once, that the phone is a necessity for making sure that your child isn’t left stranded after practice or a game — or that you can talk to your child and the parents of whomever has offered to bring him or her home, preferably via a postgame ice-cream shop stop.

My 12-year-old’s phone certainly comes in handy for his frequent, hours-long in-line skating jaunts, so I can call him home, or he can call me in case there is a problem. I feel safer with him having the phone, though my concern for his safety does not extend to making him wear a helmet and pads.

Over the summer, when we were visiting my family in Carmel, Ind., my son bladed over to the nearby Monon Trail (a conversion from a rail line upon which a parent threatened to send up Hickory basketball coach Norman Dale after hidestrapping his ass to a pine rail), which runs south to downtown Indianapolis. I was running the trail myself, so I saw him as we entered at about 146th Street, and I saw him again as I ran south from the trail’s end at 161st Street in Westfield, with him heading north. His phone in hand, I let him keep going after I was done running.

About 90 minutes later, not having heard from my son, I figured I’d better call him to see if he was OK. “Yeah, I’m fine, Dad,” he said. “Where are you?” “I’m not exactly sure.” “What was the last street sign you saw?” “I think it was… 96th Street.” (96th Street is the border between Carmel and Indianapolis.) “96th Street? Where the heck are you going?” “I wanted to go all the way downtown and back.” “Uh, no.”

Hey, my 12-year-old son may be old enough to have a cell phone, but I wasn’t going to let him traverse by himself to downtown Indianapolis and back. I might let him skate with no pads and no helmet — and an iPod going full-blast — but I have my limits. (I did let him skate back, though.)

By the way, second in the survey was calling friends (68.1 percent) and emergency purposes (55.7 percent). Mediamarket says much of the rise in cell phone use has to do with more kid-friendly phone offerings.

Left totally unsupervised, with no cell phone pads and cell phone helmet, can mobile technology welcome your 6- to 11-year-old to a world of sexting, cyberbullying, tumor-iffic, airtime-charge-sucking ne’er-do-wells? Perhaps. When we got our kids phones, my wife and I gave long lectures about what they were to be used for — and not. We haven’t gotten our 7-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter their own phones yet, but they’re not moving about independently enough to need them.

Anyway, I think the results of the Mediamark survey show that children — and parents — want that electronic tether to make sure they’re never out of reach; what was once my nightmare, now a child’s and parent’s dream.

Written by rkcookjr

March 9, 2010 at 4:42 pm

An app that satisfies the demand for real-time T-ball action

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Have you ever driven by a Little League baseball field and thought, “Where’s the GOT-damn scoreboard? How am I supposed to know what’s going on in this game?”

Well, now your worries are over, thanks to the Gamechanger!

It’s, well, a game changer for how we follow youth sports. No longer do you have to ask some other parent, “What inning are we in? Is this ever going to be over?” Now, thanks to this smartphone app, you can look and say, “Fucking shit. It’s only the third inning. I’m never getting out of here.”

Developed by former Cleveland Indians single-A minor-league pitcher Ted Sullivan, the Gamechanger allows a scorekeeper at the game to update statistics, which are then accessible by mobile phone to anyone who logs into the Gamechanger network. It’s the perfect gift for guilt-ridden parents who aren’t able to make it to their kid’s game because they’re working late and/or banging the secretary.

“As a busy father, I have always wished that I could follow my sons’ games even when I couldn’t be there,” said Steve Hansen, the CEO of Weplay, a celebrity-endorsed youth sports portal, in a Jan. 27 statement announcing Gamechanger’s availability to any league that uses Weplay services.  “With GameChanger, Weplay now is on the field on an iPhone, broadcasting and sharing youth sports memories with the people who care most.” (For the record, I would never mean to imply that Steve Hanson has ever banged his secretary. I don’t even know if he has a secretary.)

The Weplay deal is a coup for the Gamechanger — a game changer, if you will — because otherwise Sullivan was looking at, league by league, trying to sell $2 per month subscriptions to parents whose leagues might or might not be feeding data to the application.

Now, even George Clooney in “Up in the Air” can know that little Johnny is 2-for-4 with an error in his 9-year-old Little League game. Grandma in Spokane can see how little Sasha in Fort Wayne is playing. Then she can call her parents and ask them why Sasha sucks so hard.

2498619968_ce16a78dd51Scoreboard update!

To me, as a coach, the best thing about the Gamechanger is that parents stop asking me what inning it is, or what the score is. (I’m annoyed because usually I don’t know without looking at the scorebook.) Better yet, the dad that would call my 10-year-old daughter’s softball manager during games to get details on score, inning and how his hotshot travel-team daughter was doing could look at the app and find out, leaving the poor manager alone with his thoughts and the incessant cheers of a 10-year-old girls’ softball team.

There are many other constituencies for tracking games with the Gamechanger. Such as:

– Ice cream truck drivers, so they know when to show up to a game and park and play their grating song OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER until you HAVE to buy FUCKING SPONGEBOB ICE CREAM BARS just to GET THEM TO GO AWAY, GODDAMNIT.

– Coaches who think they’re running a friggin’ major-league team and want to use it for “scouting.”

— Parents pounding shots at the bar, wanting a sure signal on what time they should start sobering up to pick up their kid.

— Commissioners and owners of youth-league fantasy baseball team.

— Gamblers.

– Pervs.

When youth sports die, they can take a school and city down with them

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I think we can all agree that organized youth sports are not 100 percent essential to the school or growing-up experience, in that plenty of people grew up to be productive, non-prison-occupying citizens without them. However, a major change in how a school or locality treats youth sports can be a symbol of that school or locality’s falling into the abyss.

Much has been written about the impact of the South-Western City School Board in Columbus, Ohio, dropping all extracurricular activities after voters failed to pass a tax levy, and how that has further drained the energy of the district. In May I went to Elkhart, Ind., to write about youth sports in America’s poster child for sudden employment, and I found the dividing line between whether someone thought themselves as out-of-work middle class or poor depended a lot on whether they could still scrape together a few nickels for youth sports. After all, if they didn’t have the money to spend anymore on something they believed benefited their children, they didn’t have money for the basics, either.

But today’s city and school on the edge of the economic abyss is Elk Grove, Calif., where the school system is looking at cutting out all freshman and junior varsity sports, and even some varsity programs, across nine high schools, thus filling about $1 million of a projected $42 million budget hole, and resulting in one-third of the athletic budget gone. The next meeting to discuss sports is scheduled for Oct. 19, with a decision expected in November. Unlike in some other districts that have cut sports but brought them back, Elk Grove doesn’t seem keen on having local boosters raise money to “buy back” teams on the chopping block.

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Elk Grove, a former dairy town, in 2006 was declared by the U.S. Census the fastest growing city in America, peaking at 136,000 residents. Average values that year were riding their highest, $458,000.

Now they’re at $227,000 — about a 50 percent drop in three years. Elk Grove was the first new megasuburb to realize its fast growth was a mirage, built on loans its residents couldn’t afford, particularly once they started losing their jobs. Instead of a suburban paradise, Elk Grove is watching presumed inner-city crime problems move in as squatters and renters take over what were once pristine McMansions.

While that is certainly more than enough to shake Elk Grove’s images among its own citizens, the final nail in their soon-to-be-repossessed coffin is the slicing of sports. Like in Elkhart, it’s the difference between down on your luck and down for the count. In Elk Grove, the varsity sports most likely to be cut are the likes of water polo, recently added sports that spoke to the town’s growth and affluence, and whose demise speaks to Elk Grove’s decline.

Not to say that the community is taking this change of status lightly. John Tuttle, the volunteer water polo coach at Elk Grove’s Franklin High, told the Elk Grove Citizen the only towel that should be thrown in is one that a player of his used.

“Putting sport aside, I find this unacceptable and disturbing,” he said. “Teaching our kids about responsibility, accountability, and the fact that you have to work for what you want should be a high priority – and we are staring right at a real life situation that could easily accomplish this. Tossing it aside as too difficult and potentially inequitable suits leaders we can’t afford to be in charge in these tough economic times. “

Unfortunately for Tuttle and others like him, tossing things aside is the rule when your city suddenly becomes a basket case. Maybe some of the citizens of Elk Grove will respond by starting private programs to make up for the athletic loss. But with no sign of an economic turnaround, Elk Grove is going to be hard-pressed to keep any symbol of its former glory — especially sports.

The greatest youth sports commercial ever, damn it

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Don’t you hate when you see a really good ad that you know is trying to manipulate you, and you’re powerless to resist? One that makes you hate yourself, the company, the advertising agency and anyone who’s in the room seeing you weep? Well, the folks at the Florida-based supermarket chain Publix — well, probably its ad agency — have come up with such a spot.

It’s called “First Game,” and it’s designed to tie in with Publix’s sponsorship of youth soccer. Judging by the YouTube posting date, the ad has been around for nearly a year, but I just caught it the other day thanks to a post by Fatpickled.

Yes, the gender roles seems retrograde, with Mom handling all the groceries. Yes, it is a grocery chain handling the ad, so the family has bought enough postgame food to feed every soccer team from Pensacola to Plantation. Yes, the light piano music is incredibly manipulative.

But damn if the ad agency (I’m still looking to see which one it was) didn’t capture the essence of a child’s first organized game. The nervous parents, the kid who may or may not be adept or paying attention, the dad who isn’t sure what to think when it’s clear his kid isn’t getting the game right away, the parent who’s not sure how the child is going to react when the game is over, the relief when it appears the kid has had a good time. It’s a lot of emotion squeezed into one minute and a shitload of grocery shots, but the ad does it right.

Prepare to be moved, and to hate yourself for being moved.

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Written by rkcookjr

October 6, 2009 at 12:09 am

And now a word from our school sports sponsor…

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…Boogie Down Productions

The Volusia County (Fla.) School Board on Tuesday night is scheduled to vote on whether to open its school sports teams, as well as its classrooms, to naming-rights agreements and other forms of corporate sponsorship. Are you shocked?

You shouldn’t be.

The corporate sponsorship ship sailed a long time ago, even before today’s desperate budget times made schools more willing than ever to sully their missions with dirty business money, instead of sullying it the usual way, with stupid politics.

Texas schools began offering naming-rights deals for sports in 1990, the same year schools got new TVs and A/V equipment in return for showing their students the ad-supported news program Channel One. Mississippi found that nearly two-third of its largest high schools had sports sponsorship programs — as of 2004. This column in a Rhode Island newspaper was a big wet kiss to all the corporate sponsors of high school sports. Less nakedly capitalistic countries like Canada, Jamaica and Sri Lanka have corporate-sponsored school sports as a matter of course. Back to Texas, perennial gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman has bringing more corporate sponsorship to scholastic sports as a part of his platform. It seems that outside of the usual keep-commercials-out-of-school-crowd, the biggest complaint about corporate sponsorship money is when it appears a school district is whoring itself out too cheaply.

The consensus is that even with all the corporate sponsorship of school sports, it is a market that as unexploited as the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. The beauty of school sports sponsorship is that as a company it buys you not only exposure but also corporate good will, and as a school district it buys you not only some cash but also perhaps a little extra services off the field as well.

Take the school districts immediately to the east and west of my old district, Carmel, Ind. To the east, the equipment company that last year bought naming rights to the two high school football stadiums at Hamilton Southeastern schools in Fishers got to crow about how it was supporting a community effort ($400,000 out of $1.4 million for turf fields), in a district where the owners went to school. To the west, at Eagle-Union schools in Zionsville, the district in July not only got a local hospital system to buy naming rights to the high school field, but it used that perk as a way to get a deal on using that system to provide nursing and health services to students and staff.

Yes, with corporate money, there is the great risk of overt corporate influence in the schools. And advertisers could well take advantage, as they have with Channel One, of the fact school students, with attendance being compulsory, are the ultimate captive audience.

But until schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber, it behooves districts to at least take a look at these deals, and hopefully construct them in a way that is most advantageous to the schools and their students. A naive hope, I admit.

But the recent economic crisis has made the search for corporate sponsors more intense than ever. Schools throughout California are checking them out. And so is Volusia County.

What anti-corporate types might term the wolf in sheep’s clothing in Florida is a woman named Nancy Holman. The Daytona Beach News-Journal refers to Holman as a longtime schools supporter who this spring helped lead a $100,000 drive that got junior varsity sports and academic competitions restored to the budget, and who in 2001 successfully spearheaded a tax increase for the Volusia County district.

According to the News-Journal, Holman in mid-2008 pitched her company to sell naming rights to district facilities and ad space on the district’s Web site, marketing materials and elsewhere. Volusia County has taken her idea more seriously since Florida’s diving real estate values took property taxes, the main school funding source, down with them. Florida’s property taxes are revised annually based on the the prices paid for property in January. You can imagine how quickly that has sunk the tax base, especially because one of the state’s fastest-growing districts is now among the state’s fastest-declining, thus giving it less state funding.

Volusia County is one of the many districts nationwide introducing pay-to-play for sports. More than that, the district has cut teachers and staff, and is forcing others into retirement.

With all of that going on, you can’t blame the Volusia County schools for seeking a little extra scratch from other sources. You can say the district is selling out its students by using them as a market to be exploited. But you also could say the district would be selling out its students if it didn’t explore every funding source available. The superintendent is endorsing Holman’s naming-rights proposal, and more than likely it will pass. Hey, people have been comfortable with using their Little Leaguers as billboards for years. What’s with the scruples for other athletes?

By the way, the district’s biggest risk might not be making its students even more brand-concious than they might already be. The biggest risk might be that companies are too strapped to contribute. Jonathan Dayton High School in Springfield, N.J., has a program under way to raise money for its new turf field, with packages available from $250,000 to buy stadium naming rights to $5,000 to sponsor a flagpole. Takers so far: Zero.

Written by rkcookjr

September 14, 2009 at 11:46 pm

Canadian kids aren't so much into hockey, eh?

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Native Ontarian Jack Kent Cooke, who brought the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings to life in the 1960s, thought he would have a strong fan base because of the estimated 500,000 Canadians who lived in southern California. When the Kings continued to struggle at the gate in the 1970s, Cooke groused those Canadians moved to Los Angeles “because they obviously wanted to get away from hockey.”

Times have changed. Not that Canadians in Los Angeles are more into hockey. It’s that Canadians in Canada are less into hockey.

Yes, a shocking development from the Great White North. According to a study from a Canadian professor, young Canucks are losing interest in the NHL. What’s next, Canadian teens turning up their noses at poutine and backbacon?


Poutine: the answer to the question, why does Canada need universal health care?

The study, by University of Lethbridge (Alberta) sociology professor Reginald Bibby, actually looked at Canadians teens’ interest in all pro sports, and finds it waning in a big way because of three factors: an enormous explosion in the number of entertaiment opportunities, a growing number of teens whose families emigrated to Canada from non-hockey playing regions, and the ineptitude of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Really, he said that about the Leafs, who since their 1967 Stanley Cup victory have had the resources of the New York Yankees and the management acumen of the Los Angeles Clippers.)

The results for hockey would have Canadian chauvinist and sartorial disaster area Don Cherry rolling over in his grave, if the coach-turned-broadcaster were dead.

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Don Cherry still thinks Russian hockey sucks.

According to Bibby’s survey of 5,500 Canadian teens, the interest in the NHL fell to 35 percent in 2008 from 45 percent in 1992. The decline in Ontario was 40 to 28, with only 20 percent of Toronto teens following the league. (Thus, the effect of the Leafs.) Of those teens whose parents, and themselves, were born in Canada, 40 percent followed the NHL. Of those teens who were born (and whose parents were born) outside of Canada, only 20 percent were interested in the NHL. Those non-native born teens were mostly likely to follow the NBA (31 percent) and soccer (30 percent). Programs such as Punjabi Sports have popped up in Canada to sate recent immigrants’ taste for coverage of such sports as kabaddi.

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The effort under way by Jim Balsillie, founder of Research in Motion, the makers of the Blackberry, to get a seventh NHL team in Canada is based on the idea that southern Ontario, his chosen locale, is full of hockey fans who would enthusiastically support the league. Bibby has a separate take: “These findings suggest the NHL needs to add teams in Canada in order that more Canadians – starting with young people – will fall in love with hockey.” (Emphasis is Bibby’s.)

This survey is interesting to me as a native Hoosier, what with Indiana rightly considered a place where basketball is practically in the DNA. Of couse, Indiana, whether it likes it or not, is subject to the same cultural trends as Canada, except that it’s the Indiana Pacers and Indiana University men’s basketball sucking instead of the Leafs.

In 2000, I drove my old high school buddy Mike Penn around Indiana as he reported a story for the Chicago Tribune about Indiana basketball tourism. One of the messages we got loud and clear was that Indiana high school basketball wasn’t what it used to be, and not just because the Indiana High School Athletic Association instituted class basketball in 1997.

In Anderson, the problem was that the demise of the auto industry had severed the connection between town and team, with the next generation no longer imbued in the necessity (or even around) to of fill a 9,000-seat gym, the nation’s second largest. (New Castle, Ind., is first, with 9,200 seats.) The coach said that every time he read the obituaries, there went another season-ticket holder.

In Huntingburg, Ind., a town of 5,500 with a 7,000-seat gym, a local sportswriter said the problem started with “girls’ basketball.” Beyond the crass sexism, his remark spoke to the fact that Indiana baskeball became big because it took hold in small, farm towns with nothing else to do. Once schools offered other sports and activities (heck, once cable television arrived), no longer was everything focused on boys’ basketball.

I would suspect that if Reginald Bibby polled the teens of Indiana, he might get similar results. A generation is growing up football fans, thanks to Peyton Manning, whose influence is so great he even has a children’s hospital named after him. High school basketball used to be a big deal only in Indiana, but now that so many are trying to track the top fifth-grader that someday might play for My Old U., it’s a bigger deal everywhere.

Plus, Indiana, for the first time since the Ku Klux Klan pulled the strings in the governor’s office in the 1920s (in an age where the Klan’s political influence was powerful nationwide), has had a major wave of immigration. More than 5,000 (and growing) Burmese refugees live in Fort Wayne, the highest concentration of such a population anywhere in the United States. Enough Latino immigrants have come to the state for a Mexican consulate to open in Indianapolis. Thanks to meatpacking operations and other industrial jobs, small cities like Logansport went from zero Hispanics in 1990 to having them represent more than 10 percent of the population 10 years later.

I’ve often wondered: would those new arrivals get involved in the basketball culture? Given this Canadian study, the answer appears to be, not likely.

Written by rkcookjr

August 9, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Posted in Business, Sports

Tagged with , , , , ,

Just in case you weren't sure whether youth sports was a business

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I could talk about multiple cities’ plans for multimillion sports complexes, the franchising of youth sports leagues, Little League’s reliance on its televised World Series coverage for a large bulk of its revenue, and the kids’ section at Dick’s Sporting Goods as signs that youth sports is not a fun activity, but a business.

But no sign is quite as clear as this notice from Sports Business Journal about a special issue:

Youth sports have received more scrutiny as a business opportunity as companies look to develop new revenue streams. The increased attention garnered by young athletes increases the viability of youth sports as a media property. However, the fractionalized nature of youth sports and concerns over exploiting young athletes poses significant hurdles for those wanting a piece of the market. Publishing Date: August 17 Close: August 3 Materials Close: August 5.

For information on advertising, contact National Ad Director Julie Tuttle at 212-500-0711 or

Written by rkcookjr

July 21, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Posted in Business, Sports

Tagged with , , ,