The Business & Pleasure of Sports


Category: NFL (181)

Kosar: Treatments in Florida helping relieve head trauma


The same day it was revealed that former linebacker Junior Seau was suffering from degenerative brain disease when he committed suicide, Bernie Kosar said he has finally found some relief from the numerous concussions he suffered in football.

Kosar, the former Miami Hurricanes and Miami Dolphins quarterback, held a news conference near Cleveland to talk about treatments he has been receiving from a doctor near Tampa that he called “a gift from God.”

The treatments by Dr. Rick Sponaugle, which involve intravenous and oral medication intended to increase blood flow to the brain, have dramatically reduced the headaches, mental buzzing and insomnia that Kosar said he has endured for more than a decade.

A radio interview in early December, in which Kosar was incoherent and emotional, raised concerns about his well-being. After undergoing 15 treatments as the Sponaugle Wellness Institute, Kosar said he feels 20 years younger. He said he was speaking out in hope that other athletes suffering from head trauma can get help.

“I actually think there are hundreds if not thousands of guys dealing with issues and pain that I was describing, and I think many of them are losing hope,” Kosar said.

Continue reading "Kosar: Treatments in Florida helping relieve head trauma" »

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Miami Dolphins' Dansby, 3 Jets among 'most overpaid'


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Think NFL players are overpaid? Four of the 10 most overpaid will be on display in Sunday’s Miami Dolphins-New York Jets game at Sun Life Stadium, according to Forbes magazine.

Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby, due to make $10.7 million this season, is the second-most overpaid player of 2012, behind Jets linebacker David Harris, who is set to make $12 million in salary and bonuses.

The Jets were the only team with multiple players on the list: Wide receiver Santonio Holmes ($9.25 million) is fifth, cornerback Antonio Cromartie ($8.25 million) is seventh.

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Manning back on top in jersey sales, ratings, corn fields


Confirmation that Peyton Manning is all the way back to prominence after missing a season to injury came in the surge to the top in sales of his jersey during the first week of the NFL season.

Manning, who debuted with the Broncos by leading a victory over the Steelers, had the No. 1-selling jersey and fueled a 131-percent increase in sales of his new team’s merchandise in Week 1. That was based on sites administered by Fanatics.com, but not including NFLshop.com.

It has been a spectacularly impressive comeback for Manning, whose career appeared in jeopardy after a neck injury kept him out of 2011 and the Colts dropped him. The Broncos-Steelers game tied a ratings record for NBC's “Sunday Night Football,” with 27.5 million total viewers and was the most-watched regular-season game in 16 years. That landed Manning on the West Coast cover of Sports Illustrated this week.

In addition, Manning is the subject of an elaborate corn maze by Fritzler Farms in LaSalle, Colo. The farm’s annual corn maze has previously paid tribute to the likes of The Wizard of Oz, Elvis and Ray Charles.

Continue reading "Manning back on top in jersey sales, ratings, corn fields" »

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Nike not radically altering look of NFL uniforms; Dolphins standing pat


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NFL teams are getting new Nike uniforms, but the look is about the same for most teams.

Linebacker Karlos Dansby modeled the Miami Dolphins’ familiar aqua primary jersey at a gala unveiling Tuesday in Brooklyn, N.Y., and it was difficult to discern any difference.

The team had said that no change to the logo or look of the uniforms was planned for 2012. Some tweaks to the logo are planned for 2013, according to a team source.

Continue reading "Nike not radically altering look of NFL uniforms; Dolphins standing pat" »

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TimSanity, New York supreme test for Tebow


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Move over, LinSanity. Now in the flash of a news cycle it is TimSanity that has the City That Never Sleeps buzzing around the clock.

No city is better equipped to handle multiple obsessions than New York. The question is, can Tim Tebow handle New York?

He has already ridden viral waves of TebowMania and Tebowing. He has been the constant center of attention, acclaim and controversy since he was being recruited to the University of Florida.

Continue reading "TimSanity, New York supreme test for Tebow" »

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Sparano's Davie mansion marked down $100,000; other NFL personalities desperate to sell


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Success in the NFL can be a burden. That is, when it becomes necessary to unload the mansion that seemed like a good idea when the big bucks started to roll in.

As a Super Bowl special, Realtor.com last week featured 13 mega-homes that NFL figures are attempting to sell, some significantly marked down from their purchase price or original listing.

Curiously, the list of owners included a dozen players and former Dolphins coach Tony Sparano.

Continue reading "Sparano's Davie mansion marked down $100,000; other NFL personalities desperate to sell " »

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Nike pushes for dramatic change in NFL uniforms; Dolphins not altering look in 2012


The NFL will have a different tailor next season. It remains to be seen whether players will look radically different in their new Nike threads.

There has been speculation, since Nike wrestled the role of uniform provider away from Reebok more than a year ago, that NFL teams will resemble something out of a bizarre video game. Or the other-world look of the Oregon Ducks.

Nike brand president Charlie Denson fueled that expectation in an interview with CNBC soon after the five-year deal with the NFL was announced in late 2010, saying, “We plan on changing the NFL jersey dramatically just like we’ve done with the college programs.”

Continue reading "Nike pushes for dramatic change in NFL uniforms; Dolphins not altering look in 2012" »

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God's hand in Tebow's success? 43 percent in poll say yes


It pays to Tebow, in the view of many Americans.

A sizable portion of those surveyed in a national poll said divine intervention is at least partly responsible for the string of improbable Denver Broncos victories directed by Tim Tebow, including the overtime thriller over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Continue reading "God's hand in Tebow's success? 43 percent in poll say yes" »

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Tebow's triumphant TD triggers $250,000 bonus, shatters Twitter record


Tim Tebow had another reason to get down on one knee and give thanks after The Broncos’ wild playoff win over the Steelers on Sunday.

His winning touchdown pass in overtime reportedly triggered a $250,000 bonus. According to ESPN, Tebow’s contract stipulates he receives that amount for each playoff victory, provided he has participated in at least 70 percent of the Broncos’ plays that season.

Continue reading "Tebow's triumphant TD triggers $250,000 bonus, shatters Twitter record" »

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Ndamukong Suh's antics taken to extreme in Taiwanese animated video


Ndamukong Suh’s stomp of the Packers’ Evan Dietrich-Smith will go down as the costliest Thanksgiving meltdown since Tiger Woods took a late-night detour into a tree.

It also took Suh’s reputation as the NFL’s dirtiest player global. That was cemented by a Taiwanese animation video that depicts the volatile Detroit Lion’s opponent-bashing tendencies in the absurd extreme.

Continue reading "Ndamukong Suh's antics taken to extreme in Taiwanese animated video" »

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Video: Lions turn Tebowing on Tebow; it's least of QB's concerns


It was inevitable as soon as the Tebowing fad went viral that an opponent would get into the act inspired by Tim Tebow’s habit of dropping to one knee in prayer.

Sunday was a much better day for Tebowing than for Tebow, and at least two Lions offered their rendition during a 45-10 rout of the Broncos. After sacking Tebow, linebacker Stephen Tulloch struck the pose that inspired the website Tebowing.com. Tulloch’s celebration was included in the “Nuttiest Moments of the Week” video on NFL.com.

Continue reading "Video: Lions turn Tebowing on Tebow; it's least of QB's concerns" »

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Tebowing latest photo fad on the Web, so get down on one knee and strike the pose


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The endless silly season fostered by the Internet has provided plenty of amusing nonsense.

Recently the fad of Planking flourished with people posting photos of themselves stretched out like a board in unusual places. That inspired Owling, which involves sitting in a perched position.

In the spirit of football season, are you ready for some Tebowing?

Continue reading "Tebowing latest photo fad on the Web, so get down on one knee and strike the pose" »

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Football fans can change channel, pop open beer with one handy device - fight off zombies too


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The end of the NFL lockout means that fans will soon be able to get back to the basics of enjoying games on television.

One enterprising company wasted no time offering to lend a hand. About the time NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith was confirming the players’ acceptance of the deal early Monday afternoon promotional material was going out touting a dual-purpose gadget to celebrate the return of football.

Continue reading "Football fans can change channel, pop open beer with one handy device - fight off zombies too" »

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Super Bowl advertising fails to reflect diversity of audience, study shows


Super Bowl television commercials, and the advertising agencies producing them, remain out of step with the diversity of the audience for the nation’s most popular sporting event, according to a study released Wednesday at the University of Central Florida.

White men continue to dominate advertising agencies, and the lack of women and persons of color as creative directors in Madison Avenue agencies is reflected in the commercials that aired during Super Bowl XLV, according to the study by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.

In addition to the continuing use of gratuitous sexual content, this year’s ads managed to depict some women in an antagonistic manner featuring a number of ads portraying men attempting to appease their overbearing girlfriends, TIDES reported. There was also a lack of people of color featured as main characters in the advertisements. Of the 66 ads, only eight featured a person of color in the lead role.

According to Nielsen demographic data, there were 12.5 million African-American viewers and 10 million Latino viewers of the 2011 Super Bowl, up from 11.2 million and 8.3 million, respectively, in 2010. Also, there were 51.2 million female viewers, up from 48.5 million female viewers in 2010.

Meanwhile, TIDES found that only four Super Bowl ads had a person of color as creative director. That was an improvement from zero in 2010. The gender breakdown of creative directors remained the same from last year at 94 percent male, 6 percent female.

Continue reading "Super Bowl advertising fails to reflect diversity of audience, study shows" »

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Dolphins owner included in NY Observer Power 150


Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross ranks No. 33 in New York Observer’s annual Power 150 ranking of New York’s most powerful people.

It’s a list that ranks Mayor Michael Bloomberg No. 1, Lady Gaga No. 150, and includes politicians, journalists, actors, athletes, fashion designers and restaurateurs in between.

Other sports figures include New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (111); New York Knicks power forward Amar’e Stoudemire (85); New York Jets Coach Rex Ryan (84); NBA Commissioner David Stern (79); Yankees manager Joe Girardi (66); Cablevision and Madison Square Garden directors, The Dolans (52); New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov (38); and Yankees co-owner Hal Steinbrenner (29).

In May, Ross topped the publication’s "Power 100" ranking of "The Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate."

Here’s what the publication says about Ross, chairman of the Related Cos., for the Power 150:

“Perhaps the single most active developer during the market's downturn, Mr. Ross builds mega-hotels and amusement parks while others put up "For Sale" signs. He'll probably snatch up those properties, too. The Miami Dolphins, which he owns, aren't so bad either.”

The publication date is Dec. 21, obviously before the Dolphins had their colossal meltdown against the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Sun Life Stadium.

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Tebow endorsing FRS Healthy Energy


Denver Broncos and former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow didn't go with Gatorade, but is instead endorsing FRS Healthy Energy.

Tebow joins the FRS Healthy Energy Team, which also counts Lance Armstrong among its athletes.

Tebow will serve as an ambassador for the company, appearing in ads and marketing campaigns. The partnership also kicks off with FRS donating 25 percent of the purchase of Tebow’s favorite FRS products to the Tim Tebow Foundation. Read more about the partnership here.

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Dolphins Club LIV ticket deal with yarmulke


yarmulke2.jpgThe Miami Dolphins and Society of Young Jewish Professionals have partnered on a unique ticket deal that includes a yarmulke giveaway.

With SYJP, Jewish dating service JDate and Sleek Medspa presenting the 24th annual Matzo Ball gathering for Jewish singles on Friday night at Club LIV at the Fontainebleau Hotel, SYJP and the Dolphins are hoping to capitalize on partying Jews.

They’ve partnered on a ticket to Sunday’s Dolphins-Detroit Lions game that is 60 percent off entry into Sun Life Stadium’s Club LIV – the team’s new nightclub experience overlooking the game – and a snazzy Dolphins yarmulke.

The ticket still costs $110.25, but the team is promising yarmulkes to anyone purchasing the ticket. It’s part of the team’s effort to connect with its many Jewish fans and to take advantage of the timing of the game right after Matzo Ball.

During Hanukkah, the Florida Panthers gave out a Panthers yarmulke to fans who purchased a special Jewish Heritage Night ticket.

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Dolphins to hold Ford Fiesta drawing at Sunday’s game


This summer, the Miami Dolphins and Florida Lottery launched a $5 per ticket scratch-off game offering cash and prizes, including tickets and merchandise discounts. During halftime of Sunday’s Dolphins-Buffalo Bills game at Sun Life Stadium, the team and Lottery will give away a 2011 Ford Fiesta.

The scratch-off game included the Dolphins Fan Experience Second Chance promotion that allowed fans with losing tickets a second opportunity to score prizes. The second chance promotion resulted in the distribution of 500 pairs of tickets to Sunday’s game. Of those, 10 finalists will be chosen to participate in a ceremony at halftime, in which they will scratch oversized scratch-off tickets. One will win the Ford Fiesta; the others will receive cash prizes of $100 to $500.

The scratch-off program was launched by the Lottery with the Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars. The teams each receive a licensing fee and the dollars raised from the ticket sales go to the state's Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which provides money to public schools, scholarships, community colleges and state universities. Read the story I wrote about the program when it first launched here.

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Miami Dolphins enhance social media programs with Fan Appz


The Miami Dolphins and Fan Appz, which develops social media marketing applications, announced a new partnership today aimed at expanding the way the team communicates with its tech-savvy fans.

Fan Appz, of Santa Monica, Calif., helps sports and entertainment companies extend and engage their customers and fans through a variety of programs.

With the Dolphins, the company is rolling out opportunities to involve fans more with the team and its sponsors. For example, the company has developed an engaging Facebook page for Dolphins fans “Finatics” that encourages them to watch videos and participate in polls about the team and its rivals. Polls have included “Which Former Jets Player Did You Enjoy Booing the Most?” with choices that include Joe Namath, Wayne Chrebet and Brett Favre.

Monday’s question advances Sunday’s home game against the Buffalo Bills by asking “Which Of These Games Is Your Favorite Dolphins’ Win Over The Bills?” with choices from 1970 to 2005.

Continue reading "Miami Dolphins enhance social media programs with Fan Appz" »

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Ticket specials for final two Dolphins home games; Panthers & Marlins holiday offers


Duffy’s Sports Grill and the Miami Dolphins have sweetened their ticket deal for the team’s final two homes games of the 2010 season.

The Palm Beach Gardens-based sports grill chain is offering up lower corner end zone seats for $79 each – down from $124 – that include express bus service to the game, pregame tailgate at Sun Life Stadium, a Dolphins cap and 50 Duffy’s MVP Bonus points. The buses leave from 10 locations from Fort Lauderdale to Melbourne. The deal is available for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills and the Dec. 26 game against the Detroit Lions. Find the deal at duffysmvp.com.

Meanwhile, other South Florida pro teams are offering holiday ticket specials:

The Florida Panthers are selling tickets to the Dec. 27 game against the Boston Bruins, Dec. 31 game against the Montreal Canadiens and the Jan. 2 game against the New York Rangers starting at $10. The team is also selling Holiday Growl gift cards for $49 good for upper bowl seats and $99 for lower bowl seats at BankAtlantic Center – both for regular season games from January to April. Find the specials at floridapanthers.com.

The Florida Marlins are selling special Holiday 10-Packs of vouchers that can be used for any 2011 games and in any combination. They start at $85 -- $8.50 a ticket – for Fish Tank seats up to $350 -- $35 a ticket for infield box seats. The first 25 buyers each week of the holiday season receive a special gift. That’s a game-used bat this week; an autographed helmet from Dec. 20 to 26; an autographed baseball from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2; and an autographed Rookie Stars poster for Jan. 3 to 7.

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LeBron, D Wade, Williams sisters make Forbes best-dressed list


We’re already well aware of Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade’s fashion sense – he’s been applauded for it repeatedly and was included in Esquire's Style Blog last month.

Now Forbes has included Wade in its list of Best-Dressed Athletes that includes the likes of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, soccer star David Beckham, tennis stars Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova, and Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones (who makes his own bow ties).

Wade’s teammate forward LeBron James also made the list.

As did Miami Dolphins limited partners and tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams.

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NFL owners following NHL owners into a lockout?


Among the reasons the NFL Players Association believes NFL owners are bracing to lock them out when their contract expires in March is the league’s decision to hire labor attorney Bob Batterman to represent the owners.

Batterman represented NHL owners when they locked out players in 2004 leading to cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season.

When asked if the NFL’s decision to hire Batterman was giving the NHL credit for a lockout, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman hesitated and then chuckled.

“Oh boy. I’m not commenting on anybody else’s negotiations,” Bettman said after the conclusion of the NHL Board of Governors meeting at The Breakers in Palm Beach on Tuesday. “Bob Batterman is a terrifc labor lawyer and I hired him so I can understand why other people would too.”


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FanVision to be used at three BCS games, rollout continuing


Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross bought the company now known as FanVision, when he realized the handheld devices that show different camera angles, games and stats, might help combat the stay-at-home-watch the game on TV mentality.

FanVision is now in use in a dozen NFL stadiums and at University of Michigan and University of Miami games. In January, it will be used at three BCS games – the Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and BCS National Championship game. Read the SportsBusiness Journal piece on the agreements here.

At the Discover Orange Bowl on Jan. 3 at Sun Life Stadium, 500 of the devices will be provided to fans in the premium seating areas and to the media.

Continue reading "FanVision to be used at three BCS games, rollout continuing" »

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NFL Players union reaches out to politicians (UPDATED with response from NFL)


Concerned NFL owners are planning to lock players out when their contract expires on March 4, the NFL Players Association sent letters Monday to politicians in every NFL market to warn what the loss of football could mean to their states and local communities.

NFLPA President Kevin Mawae’s letters state that each NFL city could lose more than $160 million in jobs and revenue if football shuts down.

In Florida, NFLPA President Kevin Mawae’s letters were addressed to Gov. Charlie Crist, Governor-Elect Rick Scott and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez and mentioned the loss of jobs for workers at Sun Life Stadium and in the surrounding community.

Continue reading "NFL Players union reaches out to politicians (UPDATED with response from NFL)" »

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Player Appearance: Meet Ronnie Brown


Miami Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown will help AT&T open its new store in Coral Springs on Tuesday.

The store is holding another “grand opening” and Brown will be signing autographs (one item per customer) from 6 to 7 p.m. at the store at 4240 North State Road 7 (Turtle Crossing location in the Target Shopping Center). Prize giveaways, too.

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NFL Network showing Dolphins-Bears and Parcells documentary


When the Miami Dolphins host the Chicago Bears at Sun Life Stadium tonight, the game will air nationally on NFL Network.

Although the network still isn’t available everywhere, the league reports its distribution grew 31 percent last year and is now in more than 57 million homes. (Comcast customers in South Florida get the channel.)

Judging from the comments Dolphins owner Steve Ross made at the SportsBusiness Journal’s Sports Media & Technology conference this week, that number could grow significantly, if a deal really can be worked out soon for Time Warner and Cablevision to include the network.

Continue reading "NFL Network showing Dolphins-Bears and Parcells documentary" »

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Dolphins owner irks players union with comments on 18-game season


What might have seemed like innocuous comments Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross made about the league’s interest in expanding the regular season to 18 games, were anything but to NFL players.

Speaking at the SportsBusiness Journal’s Sports Media & Technology conference in New York this week, Ross said fans dislike paying for preseason games and that two preseason games – rather than four – should be enough combined with practices and scrimmages for coaches to analyze talent. But perhaps most irksome to players were his comments about injuries.

“They’ve done studies … the additional games, the studies show will not really increase injuries,” Ross said. “We’re still playing 20 games. We’re eliminating two preseason games and adding two regular season games, which is really what helps with the revenues, and make the fans a lot happier and those games will be a lot more meaningful. But in terms of the players, they’re still playing 20 games.”

George Atallah, assistant executive director of external affairs for the NFL Players Association, took to his Twitter account shortly after Ross’ comments to remind that two Dolphins quarterbacks – Chad Pennington and Chad Henne – were injured in Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans.

Continue reading "Dolphins owner irks players union with comments on 18-game season" »

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Dolphins owner talks NFL expansion, labor and the Super Bowl


Although he wouldn’t talk about his team’s front office or rath of injuries, Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross was pretty chatty about a variety of topics Tuesday, when he was the featured interview speaker at the SportsBusiness Journal’s Sports Media & Technology conference in New York.

He was invited to speak about his ownership of the team and of FanVision, the company that makes the handheld devices fans use at NFL games to watch replays, other games and get stats. Representatives of FanVision including former Kansas City Chiefs president and general manager Carl Peterson joined Ross at the conference. Ross stressed that Peterson does not have a role with the Dolphins.

He said FanVision will be available on smartphones next season.

He said he still believe his team will make the playoffs and he dismissed concerns about injuries rising if the NFL moves to an 18-game season.

Other topics he addressed:

Labor: On whether the NFL and its players association will be able to reach a new contract, Ross was optimistic.

Continue reading "Dolphins owner talks NFL expansion, labor and the Super Bowl" »

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Ricky Williams re-elected union rep; Dolphins vote to decertify union


The Miami Dolphins became the latest team – and last of Florida’s three NFL teams -- to approve decertifying the union, if a new players’ contract is not forged with NFL owners by March 3, an NFL Players Association spokesman said.

Decertification, approved unanimously by Dolphins players on Thursday, is just one method the union is considering in its battle with owners for a new contract. Decertifying the union would prevent owners from locking out players because they would no longer be represented by a union, and the players could sue the league under antitrust laws.

The Dolphins also re-elected Ricky Williams as their players union representative and voted approved Chad Pennington, Brandon Marshall and John Denney as alternates, the union spokesman said.

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Ronnie Brown, Frank Gore endorsing Rawlings protective apparel


Rawlings Football – yes, football – has signed up two NFL running backs with ties to Miami to endorse its Skeletal Responsive Gear (SRG) protective apparel.

Miami Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown and San Francisco 49ers running back and former Hurricane Frank Gore are Rawlings' new endorsers. Brown is representing the PORON XRD line and Gore, the Zoombang line. The players will appear in print and digital advertising to promote the lines. Check out the video below, where the two players show off the gear.

More than 200 NFL players are wearing Rawlings’ protective gear, the company says.

“Enhanced by PORON® XRDTM and ZoombangTM, Rawlings SRG protective apparel is faster, lighter and stronger than the competition, and we receive weekly validation of its performance capabilities throughout the football season,” Mike Thompson, Rawlings senior vice president of marketing said in a statement. “ We’re excited to add Ronnie and Frank to our Football Advisory Staff as we continue our commitment to develop equipment and apparel that fully meets the protective needs of today’s athlete at all levels.”

Rawlings is most known for its baseball equipment, but has a long history with football, as well, launching a set of football shoulder pads in 1902. The company stopped making football helmets in 1989, but has decided to re-enter the football helmet market.

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Rapper Birdman, a Miami Dolphins limited partner to be? That’s news to the Dolphins


Rapper Birdman, whose non-stage name is Bryan Williams, says he’s close to getting approval from the NFL to become a limited partner in the Miami Dolphins. That’s what he told Angela Yee's Morning After show on Sirius satellite radio.

But that’s news to the NFL and Dolphins majority owner Steve Ross:

"I have NEVER spoken to him or any representative," Ross said in an email Monday evening. "Not considering or looking for any celebrity limited partners."

Birdman is co-founder of Cash Money Records and has collaborated with Lil Wayne. According to reports, in 2007 he was arrested and charged with marijuana possession.

On Yee’s radio show, Birdman says he wants to join the Dolphins’ array of musical and celebrity limited partners.

“We’re waiting. You have to get the clearance from the NFL,” Birdman is heard saying. “We’re waiting on the clearance. Once we get cleared, we’re good.”

But he also says he’s interested potentially in baseball and basketball teams.

Hmmmm.


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Miami Dolphins players and dogs launch charity dog calendar -- UPDATED WITH PHOTOS & VIDEO


It wasn’t just Miami Dolphins players walking the red carpet at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood on Monday night.

The players were joined by VIPs – Very Important Pooches – from the Humane Society of Broward County to launch the “That’s My Dog” calendar. The 2011 calendar includes current and former Dolphins and their dogs – or shelter dogs, if they didn’t own a dog.

Players, including Channing Crowder, whose mother Pauline Crowder came up with the idea for the calendar; Chad Henne; Brandon Marshall; Davone Bess; and Karlos Dansby, autographed the calendar, which costs $20 with proceeds benefiting the Humane Society and the Sun Sentinel Children's Fund. Check out a photo gallery here.

For more information, or to purchase a calendar, visit humanebroward.com/calendar.html.

Watch a video from the launch below:
 

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Sun Life Stadium tranformed from baseball to football for tonight’s game


They always say the grounds crew at Sun Life Stadium is the masterful – and it’s certainly the busiest as one of only two pro stadiums left in the country to host baseball and football on natural grass. The other is Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, home to the Oakland A’s and Raiders. Sun Life also hosts UM football, the Orange Bowl and the Super Bowl.

The feat the crew pulled off between yesterday afternoon’s final Florida Marlins game of the 2010 season and tonight’s Monday Night Football game between the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots – including covering the infield dirt with sod for the second time in 10 days – was captured by WeatherBug’s InstaCam here. Hit rerun and adjust the speed to your preference.

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NFL goes pink for breast cancer awareness -- with mouthguards, too


mouthguard2.jpgIt would have been hard to miss the NFL fields and players awash in pink yesterday for the start of the league’s celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Players donned pink cleats, wristbands, chin straps, helmet decals and the quarterbacks had pink towels. The game balls featured pink ribbon decals. Game-worn pink merchandise will be autographed and auctioned at nfl.com/auction. All NFL Auction proceeds collected this month will go to the American Cancer Society and team charities. The league and its teams are also selling special pink merchandise.

Meanwhile, a Minneapolis company called Shock Doctor has donated pink versions of its Gel Max mouthguards to all NFL teams. No word yet whether any Miami Dolphins players will be wearing them for tonight’s game.

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Miami Dolphins field, parking issues


slsfield.jpgThe Miami Dolphins won't decide until late Friday at the earliest whether they will replace the infield dirt at Sun Life Stadium with sod for Monday night's game against the New England Patriots -- as they did for Sunday's game against the New York Jets. (See photo of workers taking the sod back out Sunday night).

Team officials will monitor the weather during the next few days and determine whether there's enough time to replace the dirt infield.

Last week, the grounds crew had about four days to cover the dirt with sod. They wouldn't be so lucky this time because the Florida Marlins wrap up the 2010 season Sunday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The sod is grown in Alabama on pieces of plastic in sand so that it's thick and durable and doesn't turn to mud in the rain. It comes in such big heavy rolls that it can withstand the play of big NFL linemen.

Stay tuned ...

Meanwhile, the team is altering procedures for parking at Monday night's game after some fans complained lots surrounding and adjacent to the stadium were full and they were turned away even though they had parking passes, said George Torres, spokesman for Dolphins Enterprises. The team will work to give priority to fans with parking passes and limit the number of fans, who pay cash, from entering lots immediately surrounding the stadium.

Fans with parking passes, who are shut out of the stadium lots, can have their passes honored at parking lots at Wal-Mart and Norwood Elementary, Torres said.

Torres said priority will be given to season ticket holders with parking passes. He said radio broadcasters will give regular updates on which lots are closed and more staff will be on hand to help with traffic flow.

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Miami Dolphins game parking woes


Couldn’t make it to Sun Life Stadium for Sunday night’s Miami Dolphins’ 2010 home opener?

Neither could Fred Sorentrue. But it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Sorentrue, of Plantation, said he’s been a Dolphins season ticket holder for more than a decade and he’d never had a problem parking at the stadium. Until Sunday.

He arrived at the stadium about an hour before game time with tickets for his two seats at $82 each and a $20 parking pass. But at each gate surrounding the stadium, he says, he was turned away and told to continue to the next gate.

Sorentrue said he eventually gave up and went home to watch the game. He said he was told part of the problem was the number of fans without tickets to the game, who arrived early just to tailgate. He said driving to an auxiliary lot at Calder Race Course, for example, wasn’t an option for him because he’s 67 and has a bad leg and couldn’t make the walk between Calder and the stadium.

He said he heard others went to park at Calder with their parking passes, only to be charged an additional $15.

“It’s just not right for them to sell the parking pass and double and triple dip,” Sorentrue said. “Gaining other money [from people without tickets] and not giving people with parking passes a chance to get in. I had to basically eat $184.”

Meanwhile, there’s only so much monitoring the Dolphins can do, Dolphins Enterprises spokesman George Torres said.

“The lots did get full and some people had to park elsewhere. This could happen when we’re at total capacity in terms of attendance and if fewer fans carpool,” Torres said.

Torres said when the lots around the stadium fill up, season ticket holders are referred to other lots at Wal-Mart and Norwood Elementary, where they should be able to park for free with their parking passes.

“We may have had some fans without game tickets tailgate but it’s hard to tell since we don’t require game tickets in order to park in our lots,” Torres said. “Some fans without tickets will tailgate and try to buy tickets from the stadium box office or from other fans.”

Did you - or anyone you know - have a similar problem?

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Infield dirt to be covered for Dolphins-Jets game


stadium1.jpgThe infield dirt for the baseball diamond that remains on the football field when the Miami Dolphins’ and Florida Marlins’ seasons overlap has been a complaint of the Dolphins for years. The Dolphins have decided to do something about it for Sunday’s 2010 home opener against the New York Jets.

The infield dirt will be covered with sod for the Jets game.

Sun Life is one of only two stadiums left in the country that host both baseball and football on natural grass. The other being Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, home to the Oakland A’s and Raiders.

The Marlins finish up their 2010 season at Sun Life Stadium on Oct. 3, but a Dolphins spokesman says it’s possible the infield dirt might be covered in time for the following night’s Monday night game against the New England Patriots. However, several factors need to be considered, in particular weather conditions.

It’s not just the grounds crew working overtime at the stadium this week: construction crews are working around the clock – three shifts – to finish Club LIV at the stadium. That’s the brand new, first-of-its-kind sports club debuting Sunday on the club level in the west endzone. The 10,000-square foot two level club modeled on Club LIV at the Fontainebleau Hotel will feature couches, cabanas, DJs, entertainment, nightclub lighting and drinks that can be purchased by the bottle.

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Tebow jersey still No. 1; Brandon Marshall up to No. 15


Denver Broncos and former Gator quarterback Tim Tebow still holds the top spot for NFL jersey sales during the past six months, but Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall’s jersey is now up to 15th.

That’s according to sales figures from NFLShop.com covering the period of April 1 through Sept. 15. Marshall’s jersey sales ranked 16th in May. Meanwhile, the Dolphins merchandise is up a notch, too, to eighth for the time period – up from ninth in May.

Behind Tebow are New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb. The top-selling team gear is that of the Dallas Cowboys, who have four players among the top 25 best-selling jerseys, but are 0-2 so far this season.

Here are the full lists from NFLShop.com:

Top 25 best-selling jerseys

1. Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
3. Donovan McNabb, Washington Redskins
4. Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings
5. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis colts
6. Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers
7. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
8. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
9. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
10. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
11. Eli Manning, New York Giants
12. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
13. Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys
14. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
15. Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolpins
16. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
17. Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers
18. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
19. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
20. Chad Ochocinco, Cincinnati Bengals
21. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
22. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
23. Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs
24. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
25. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans

Top 10 best-selling team merchandise

1. Dallas Cowboys
2. New Orleans Saints
3. Denver Broncos
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
5. New York Giants
6. Minnesota Vikings
7. Washington Redskins
8. Miami Dolphins
9. New York Jets
10. Chicago Bears

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Player/Owner Appearance: Meet Venus Williams


Tennis star and Miami Dolphins limited partner Venus Williams is now an author, too, and she’ll be signing copies of her new book at Books & Books tonight at the Bal Harbour Shops.

The event for autographs of the book, “Come to Win: Business Leaders, Artists, Doctors, and Other Visionaries on How Sports Can Help You Top Your Profession” takes place at 7 p.m. at Books & Books, 9700 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour.

Williams will only be signing copies of the book and you must buy a copy at the store ($25.99). There is no limit on the number of books she will sign, but she does not have time to personalize the signatures or pose for photos – although photos can be taken from the autograph line.

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Taxpayers on hook for sports teams’ former homes


A front page story in today’s New York Times details how New Jersey taxpayers are still on the hook for $266 million in bond payments that remain on the Meadowlands Sports Complex, despite the fact that Giants Stadium has been torn down and the New York Giants and Jets have moved into their new $1.6 billion new Meadowlands Stadium. The debt includes what’s left on the Izod Center, which is no longer home to the New Jersey Devils and Nets.

The bill comes to $35.8 million this year, and the bonds won’t be retired until 2025, the article says. The piece goes on to detail a number of locales where taxpayers are still paying off bonds on buildings that no longer exist: Seattle residents in King County still owe $83 million, scheduled to be repaid in 2016, on the Seattle Mariners’ former home, the Kingdome, which came down in 2000.

South Florida taxpayers seem only to be on the hook for sports venues in use – even though at least two – the Orange Bowl and Miami Arena – have been torn down in the past couple of years. The city of Miami made sure Miami Arena was off the city’s tax rolls in 2004 when it sold the pink oval arena – where the Miami Heat, Florida Panthers and UM men’s basketball team once played -- to Glenn Straub at auction for $28 million. And a $50 million general obligation bond approved by voters in 2004 to renovate the Orange Bowl has instead been applied to the Florida Marlins’ under-construction ballpark.

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Miami Dolphins, Florida Marlins and a water park


The release of financial documents showing the Florida Marlins were profitable in 2008 and 2009 couldn’t have come at worse time for … the Miami Dolphins.

That’s right, the Dolphins. As the Dolphins continue their behind-the-scenes planning to ask the public to help pay for renovations to Sun Life Stadium to keep it competitive to host future Super Bowls, the baseball team’s finances can’t have helped the football team’s cause.

The Marlins’ financial records, obtained by Deadspin.com, show the team had net operating income – before factoring in taxes, interest, amortization and other items – of nearly $50 million combined during the two years covered. With much of the fallout from the documents' release focusing on the team's ballpark deal, politicians are wary.

Miami-Dade County Commissioners, who opposed putting $347 million mainly in tourist taxes into the ballpark deal, say the county should have pushed harder to see the team’s financial records during negotiations. Even one of the team’s staunchest supporters, County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, asked County Mayor Carlos Alvarez to study whether the team could be required to pay more – and the county less – for the ballpark.

Alvarez says the county doesn’t see a need to reopen the ballpark contract – he says county negotiators were aware the team was profitable, which gave them comfort the team could meet its debt obligations to the ballpark’s construction costs. And besides, the team wouldn’t allow it. The county, team and city of Miami would have to agree to reopen talks.

But the raw feelings and distrust of the team are palpable.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, were already going to be fighting an uphill battle to convince politicians to support contributing to stadium renovations that could include a partial roof covering over the stands and seats closer to the field. Now how likely are pols going to be to chip in taxpayer dollars?

It remains to be seen what the Dolphins' pitch looks like. The public already knows Dolphins owner Steve Ross paid $1.1 billion for the franchise and stadium and it now knows he plans to privately finance a water park south of the stadium as a way to generate revenue after the Marlins leave for their new ballpark in 2012.

Dolphins officials say the water park plans are unrelated to stadium plans. Dolphins CEO Mike Dee has said Ross cannot foot the bill for stadium renovations himself. He said under NFL rules, the team can’t take on any more debt, which again raises the question of how stadium renovations will be financed.

“We have challenges with the current structure the NFL provides for franchises,” Dee said last month. “We’re maxed out at our debt capacity. We can’t take on any more debt. We have $235 million on our books from the last expansion. We’ve invested another $50 million in the facility in the last 18 months. We have the maximum amount of team debt allowed by the NFL … Our hands are somewhat tied with respect to the stadium and more investment by the team into the stadium.”

Under league rules, NFL teams can borrow up to $150 million.

“To borrow more, the club would need a special waiver approved by the other teams, which generally has only been granted to a team in connection with the construction or renovation of a stadium,” an NFL spokesman said.

Stay tuned…

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Truly Nolen warns of tailgate pests


recluse1.jpgJust in time for tailgating season with college football getting underway Thursday night, Truly Nolen wants college football fans to be aware that tailgating should be about food and fun, not critters.

The pest control company says tailgating fans should be particularly aware of Crazy Ants, Mosquitoes and Brown Recluse Spiders.

“Each of these insects has the ability to cause problems for food, guests and pets under the right conditions,” Bob Hartley, Truly Nolen of America vice president of technical services and tailgating guru, said in a statement.

Avoid crazy ants with “properly sealed food containers.” “Drain sources of standing water” to avoid mosquitoes. And if you take off your shoes at your pre-game picnic, shake them out before putting them back on because brown recluse spiders like to nestle in them, the company warns.


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Miami Dolphins: NFL's biggest loser, Forbes says


The value of the Miami Dolphins has remained a steady $1 billion, but the team jumped up to 16th from 18th last year, according to Forbes’ annual list of NFL team values.

The Dallas Cowboys and their grand new football stadium palace top the list with $1.8 billion in value and operating income of $143.3 million. They’re followed by the Washington Redskins ($1.55 billion) and New England Patriots ($1.367 billion). Even the 32nd team -- the Jacksonville Jaguars are valuable at $725 million and operating income of $25.9 million – this for a team that had most of its home games blacked out on local television last season.

What’s of interest in the rankings is the Dolphins are one of just two teams – the other being the Detroit Lions – to record an operating loss. Forbes says the Dolphins operating loss is the most -- $7.7 million; the Lions’ is $2.9 million.

It’s unclear from Forbes’ numbers what the loss is attributable to – I was hoping to ask team owner Steve Ross about the figures last week when he was scheduled to meet with the media, but the team said he had to postpone due to business commitments.

So we’re left to ponder. To be sure, it’s difficult to lose money in the NFL. Of course, owners say costs keep rising and they want to reduce the percentage of revenue shared with players as part of their labor negotiations. But national TV money typically covers team payroll (before benefits), before a ticket or sponsorship is sold.

We do know – as he keeps reminding us – Ross overpaid for the team and Sun Life Stadium when he agreed to buy both from H. Wayne Huizenga for $1.1 billion. (By the way, Forbes identifies a photo of Ross as Huizenga -- and did the reverse in the 2009 rankings). That figure included the debt on the stadium particularly for the $250 million in renovations. Ross has also updated concession areas, added new seating areas and this year’s “The Experience,” modeled on the Fontainbleau’s Club LIV. But that debt shouldn’t be figured into operating numbers.

Perhaps that $7.7 million can be attributed to the millions Ross has spent on signing bonuses and making Karlos Dansby and Brandon Marshall the highest paid players at their positions. Last year, Ross spent more upfront money on re-signing players and attracting free agents than any team in the league and had the second highest payroll. Additionally, the team fell short of its goal of selling at least 50,000 season tickets -- ending with 49,415 last season.

Here’s Forbes’ note on the Dolphins:

The Dolphins took two key steps to improve their finances during the off-season. The team sold the naming rights to their stadium to insurer Sun Life for $4 million a year (an additional $1.5 million a year from the deal is paid to charities), replacing the temporary, soft-dollar deal it had with Jimmy Buffett's Land Shark Lager. More importantly, the Dolphins refinanced $235 million of stadium debt in a deal that includes a $159 million letter of credit that backs taxable municipal bonds sold through a government conduit but for which the stadium corporation is responsible. The deal, arranged by Goldman Sachs, contains a credit reserve that is significantly bigger than it otherwise would have been to account for the possibility of a work stoppage in 2011.

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Miami Dolphins scratch-off tickets best-selling; plus game ticket discounts


The Miami Dolphins scratch-off tickets have sold the most among the state’s three NFL teams since they were unveiled late last month, Florida Lottery officials said.

Through last weekend, $5 million worth of Dolphins scratch-off tickets had been sold, compared with $4.97 million worth of Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ tickets and $2.37 million worth of Jacksonville Jaguars’ tickets.

The $5 scratch-off games are a partnership between the Florida Lottery and the NFL teams to raise money for the state's Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which provides money to public schools, scholarships, community colleges and state universities.

The tickets include a dozen chances to win cash prizes from $5 to $100,000. Losing tickets can be entered into second-chance drawings at flalottery.com for team themed-prizes such as tickets and stadium tours.

The lottery partnerships were approved by NFL owners in spring 2009 as a way to generate more revenue for teams.

In addition to being available at regular lottery ticket retail locations, the Dolphins tickets are also for sale at Sun Life Stadium. Tickets can be purchased seven days a week – even at Florida Marlins’ home games – at a Lottery Instant Ticket Vending Machine in the Gate G Team Store, and on Dolphins’ game days at six customer relations/advance ticket sales locations on the 100, 200 and 400 levels.

And the Dolphins are offering discounts of $5 off lower level tickets and $10 off upper level tickets to four regular games this season, through its partnership with the lottery. Click on partner offers at flalottery.com for discounted tickets to games against the Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions.

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Miami Dolphin Brandon Marshall new Warren Henry spokesman


brandon1.jpg
Add new Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the list of famous Warren Henry Automobiles spokesmen.

Marshall’s now an “Official Brand Manager” for the luxury car dealerships, meaning he’ll appear in ads and will make appearances for the company. He’s also driving a new gray 2011 Jaguar XJ from Warren Henry Jaguar in Miami. (See Marshall above with a 2011 Jaguar XJ, photo courtesy of Warren Henry).

“I am thrilled to partner with Warren and his family of dealerships,” Marshall said in a statement. “The Jaguar XJ that I am now driving is super hot, super charged and I can’t wait to ‘Unleash the Best.’”

Over the years, Warren Henry has partnered with a number of South Florida athletes, including Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, Dolphins running back Ricky Williams and speedskater Jennifer Rodriguez.

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Favre drives ticket prices, but game against Dolphins not among highest priced


favreeffect1.jpgSay what you will about his wavering and his on-again, off-again retirement, but Brett Favre moves ticket prices.

Ticket search engine FanSnap.com put together this nifty graphic charting average ticket prices based on Favre announcements and developments last year and this year. Tickets were up to an average of $240.82 this week after Favre’s definitive return announcement and demand has pushed average prices up more than $50 a ticket, FanSnap says.

As you might imagine, the home game against the rival Green Bay Packers – Favre’s former team – is the highest at an average of $230. Tickets for the game against the Miami Dolphins in Week 2 (Sept. 19) are averaging just $98.

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Boca Raton, Miami Dolphins team up for road game parties


During the Miami Dolphins’ first pep rally in advance of the 2010 season, the team and the city of Boca Raton announced a unique program to make away games a party in the city’s downtown.

Dubbed the “Fins’ South Florida’s Biggest Away Game Party” in Downtown Boca, the partnership is aimed at providing a free party atmosphere in which fans can join together to watch away games on large screens. The Super Sundays will also include activities such as question and answer sessions with Dolphins alumni, performances by the Dolphins Cheerleaders, football-themed games and giveaways.

“We are humbled and excited that the City of Boca Raton has chosen to designate Downtown Boca as Finstown and enter into a truly innovative public/private partnership with the Miami Dolphins,” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said in a statement. “South Florida’s Biggest Away Game Party is a special way for our fans in Boca and throughout South Florida to come together to cheer for their Fins while the team plays away from Sun Life Stadium.”

In addition to offering fans a party while the team's on the road, the partnership is aimed at continuing to bring people to the city's downtown.

“The City of Boca Raton is pleased to team up with the Miami Dolphins to present our own away game tail-great parties in our Downtown Boca so that fans of all ages can cheer on our South Florida home team,” Boca Raton Mayor Susan Whelchel said at the event. “We invite Dolphins fans to come early and stay late to discover all that is Downtown Boca as we rollout the aqua and orange carpet, complete with fresh new activities each away game event.”

The road game parties start an hour before kickoff. These are this season's Dolphins road games and the party start times:

Sept. 12: Dolphins at Buffalo Bills, Noon
Sept. 19: Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings, Noon
Oct. 17: Dolphins at Green Bay Packers, Noon
Oct. 31: Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals, Noon
Nov. 7: Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens, Noon
Nov. 28: Dolphins at Oakland Raiders, 3 p.m.
Dec. 12: Dolphins at New York Jets, 3 p.m.
Jan. 2: Dolphins at New England Patriots, Noon

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Monday links: Catching up, more Heat hotel deals, radio interview, junk food & more


+ Perhaps it’s not enough these days to live like a “king” in a Miami hotel. Kimpton’s EPIC Hotel is getting in on the excitement of new-look Miami Heat, offering “king-sized savings” as well as “king-sized accommodations” to season ticket holders. Season ticket holders, who book through heat.com can take advantage of the savings during the 2010-11 season, and receive a free appetizer at the hotel’s Area 31 restaurant, and a complimentary upgrade when available with proof of season ticket holder status. EPIC, at 270 Biscayne Blvd., and not far from AmericanAirlines Arena, has 13 rooms featuring extra-long beds for its especially tall visitors. I’m told that even those season ticket holders who live nearby might want to take advantage of the offer. And if you’re not a season ticket holder, you can also book through the Heat’s website for 20 percent off the best available rate.

+ More on the business of the Three Kings: A little late, but here’s a link to a radio interview I did on the business of the new-look Heat with Greg Linnelli at Fox Sports Radio WBGG-970-AM in Pittsburgh. The interview starts after the commercials.

+ As Dallas gears up for the 2011 Super Bowl next year, two South Florida businesses that got contracts from the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee are being recognized in Texas for being part of the Super Bowl’s Emerging Business program, which gives a boost to local small, minority- and women-owned businesses: Coral Springs printing company TypeStyles Inc., and McCray’s II Backyard BBQ in West Palm Beach. Read more here.

+ Love this ode to junk food from Sunday’s New York Times, with stadium staple Cracker Jack being first on the list. I’m not sure the Big Gulp qualifies, but in my book, a Slurpee definitely does.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @sarahtalalay

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Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Reggie Bush help kick off celebrity Facebook messaging


You could just post a birthday message on a friend’s Facebook page or send a virtual birthday cake or card. Cameo Stars is hoping you’ll want Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees to help deliver the message. Or his teammate, running back Reggie Bush. Or perhaps Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

The three NFL stars join Carmen Electra and other athletes and celebrities in launching Cameo Stars, which allows you to send video messages from the stars to friends’ Facebook pages. They can also “poke” your friends.

Many of the items are free, others cost Facebook credits. According to a New York Times story on the company, a video of Brees holding a birthday cake and sharing a message can be sent to a friend for $3.

“Cameo Stars has been a great experience, as it allows us to add a little more personality and life to people’s social media pages that never existed before,” Brees said in a statement. “Fans are always looking for ways to feel closer to their favorite players and celebrities and Cameo Stars is an ideal way to do it.”

Bush, in a statement, said, “It always amazes me what new products come into the market to have fans feel one step closer to being on the field with us. Cameo Stars offers a unique way to touch fans while taking advantage of the social networking phenomenon which has helped us stay more connected all year round.”

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Dolphins & Heat try to assure season ticket holders their venues' food is safe


Since ESPN's Outside the Lines’ exhaustive report on food vendor safety at North America’s 107 pro sports venues was released last weekend, the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Heat have sent letters to their season ticket holders ensuring their venues’ food is safe.

Executives from both the Miami Dolphins and AmericanAirlines Arena took pains to point out what they say are inaccuracies in the ESPN report. Despite scoring among the worst percentages of vendors with “critical violations” in the report, the executives say none of their vendors failed any of their inspection tests and none was shut down.

Our followup on the ESPN report, which you can read here, detailed the state of Florida’s strict food safety inspection standards and assured that none of the concessions stands at South Florida’s three venues – including BankAtlantic Center – had failed inspection tests.

The Dolphins called the reports “misleading and inaccurate.” Calling the report and subsequent stories “inflammatory,” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said Sun Life Stadium has passed all of its inspections and its food is safe.

The Dolphins' note also included a link to a letter from Centerplate, the concessionaire at both Sun Life Stadium and BankAtlantic Center.

AmericanAirlines Arena pointed out – just as we did – that their violations were not related to food preparation, but had to do with equipment issues, such as wiring, and all were fixed immediately. “Fans can be assured that when they visit our venue for a sporting or entertainment event, all of the food is prepared within the cleanest, safest environment possible,” the note said.

Read the full AmericanAirlines Arena letter from arena general manager Kim Stone, here.

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Tim Tebow to sport Jockey


Jockey International announced today that former Gator and current Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has signed on as the underwear company’s newest spokesman.

Tebow, shown here in a Jockey Classic T-shirt, will promote several of Jockey’s lines, including the “Staycool” collection that is scheduled to be released in the spring. He’ll also be in the company’s catalog, TV, print and online ads.

"I'm excited to represent the Jockey brand,” Tebow said in a statement. “I've long been a fan and consumer of Jockey and I'm looking forward to a great relationship with such a respectable and innovative company."

Added Jockey Chairman and CEO Debra S. Waller: “Tim is a highly gifted athlete with a positive attitude and an admirable character. We at Jockey see a very bright future with Tim, and believe that he is an excellent representative for the brand. Tim is genuine, smart and driven and those qualities align well with Jockey. We look forward to building a long and collaborative relationship with him in the coming years.”

jimpalmer1.jpgI'm guessing Tebow isn't likely to model -- or pitch -- his Jockeys in quite the same manner as Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer did in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Don't forget to follow me on twitter: @sarahtalalay

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ESPN report: Sun Life Stadium, AmericanAirlines Arena among worst in food safety violations (UPDATED with stadium response)


Florida's pro sports venues -- particularly those in South Florida -- scored record high numbers of food vendor safety violations, according to ESPN's Outside the Lines’ exhaustive report that examined the health inspection records of all 107 pro sports venues in North America.

Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins, Florida Marlins and University of Miami Hurricanes; and AmericanAirlines Arena, the Miami Heat’s home, were tied for third worst with 93 percent of vendors scoring critical violations.

Only St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays, and Washington D.C.’s Verizon Center, which is home to the Washington Wizards and Capitals, scored worse. Both showed 100 percent of vendors with critical violations.

An excerpt from the inspection report for Sun Life Stadium says: In June 2009, an employee complained anonymously that small insects and other debris were blended into frozen alcoholic beverages at a stand where equipment wasn't being cleaned. When inspectors checked, they issued a critical violation for a buildup of slime inside the frozen drinks machine.

Centerplate, the stadium's food concessionaire released the following statement:

"Centerplate takes the topic of food safety and the well-being of our fans seriously, and works with the local health department to actively manage safe food service operations. Employees are trained and operations are routinely inspected to ensure that they meet standards for safe operation. Any deficiencies that are identified during the course of an inspection are immediately corrected, usually in the presence of the inspector," Bob Pascal, Centerplate senior vice president of marketing, said in a statement.

"The Florida state health department system has a rigorous and stringent approach to inspections, and evaluates stadiums based on whether they have met standards for safe operation--which Sun Life Stadium has done in 100% of its inspection reports for 2009 (ESPN's sample) and to-date in 2010."

The stadium, too, addressed concerns fans might have:

"It is important to note that the stadium has passed every health and safety inspection," Todd Boyan, the stadium's senior vice president of operations, said in a statement. "In fact, because the State of Florida is more strict than most states and demands more detailed and frequent testing, the stadium and its concessionaire are required to be more publicly diligent in meeting safety requirements. Any past inspection infraction has been corrected and we expect our concessionaire to meet every health and safety recommendation made by the appropriate local and state inspectors. Nothing is more important to us than the health, safety, and entertainment experience at Sun Life Stadium."

Meanwhile, the AmericanAirlines Arena report says: Critical violations included several safety issues related to electrical wiring and such equipment as gas boilers.

Just 67 percent of the vendors at the Florida Panthers' BankAtlantic Center recorded critical violations. The report said: Inspectors issued several violations for soiled ice bins and coolers.

Read ESPN’s full venue rundown.

According to the report, Florida’s venues “scored among the worst when it came to violations cited by inspectors. Inspections are performed by a state agency, and officials say that makes their standards more uniform and stringent.”

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Miami Dolphins individual game tickets on sale Saturday


Individual game tickets for the Miami Dolphins 2010 season go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday, but fans can get a jump on the on-sale time by stopping by training camp at 9 a.m. for a special one-hour pre-sale.

Individual game tickets start at $45 a game and can be purchased through MiamiDolphins.com, Ticketmaster.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000 or 1-888-FINS-TIX.

Fans who stop by training camp in Davie can buy tickets there between 9 and 10 a.m.

“We welcome our fans back to football and invite them to bring their families this Saturday for a special family day at Dolphins Camp,” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said in a statement. “For the first time ever, we’re also offering our fans an on-site pre-sale opportunity to buy single game tickets to any home game before they go on sale to the general public.”

The Dolphins home opener is against the New York Jets on Sunday, Sept. 26. In addition to games against the other division rival New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills, the Dolphins also host the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions.

Season tickets are also still for sale and start at $34 a game.

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Dueling athlete $$ lists: James, Wade in SI top 10; top 30 in Forbes


They left millions of dollars on the table to sign with the Miami Heat, but LeBron James and Dwyane Wade made the top 10 in Sports Illustrated’s Fortunate 50 ranking of the highest earning American athletes.

The list takes into account salaries, winnings, endorsements and appearance fees for the athletes’ most recent playing year.

Tiger Woods tops the list with $90.5 million. New Miami Heat star LeBron James ranked 4th with $45.8 million. Wade rounds out the Top 10 with $27.8 million.

Up the road in Orlando, Magic star Dwight Howard is 12th with $27.2 million.

Other athletes on the list with South Florida ties – having played here previously: Shaquille O’Neal – No. 6, $36 million; Jermaine O’Neal – No. 22, $23.3 million; Vince Wilfork – No. 38, $18.9 million; Josh Beckett – No. 43 $17.5 million; and A.J. Burnett – No. 50, $16.8 million.

Meanwhile, Forbes released a list of the world’s 50 top-earning athletes with slightly different figures because they take into account different time frames. Woods tops that list at $105 million.

James comes in at No. 7 with $42.8 million, and Wade at No. 28 with $26.8 million.

Forbes also ranked the world's 50 Most Valuable teams with Manchester United topping the list. The only South Florida team to make the rankings is the Miami Dolphins at No. 23 and $1.02 billion.

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Dolphins owner Steve Ross could get tax breaks


While the Miami Dolphins’ quest for public dollars to upgrade Sun Life Stadium is considered an uphill battle, team owner Steve Ross might be getting a tax break … in New Jersey.

As he continues taking on distressed and complicated development projects, Ross could be in a position to benefit from the equivalent of a sales tax rebate from the state of New Jersey, according to the Bergen Record.

Ross’ Related Cos., is working on how to salvage the stalled Xanadu retail and entertainment complex in the Meadowlands Sports Complex. Related began negotiating to become a partner in the project earlier this year. Related has already changed the complex’s name to Meadowlands.

According to the Record story, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s administration is examining the possibility of granting the project $180 million in taxpayer dollars that would come from allowing the project to keep 75 percent of the sales tax revenue from the project for up to the first 20 years it’s open. The report even speculates Ross might give up on the project without the state tax incentive.

Meanwhile, last month, a panel of the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee recommended the Dolphins pursue public money to help upgrade Sun Life Stadium to keep it competitive to host future Super Bowls. The Dolphins are working on a plan to pay for renovations and expect to unveil it later this year.

In January, the team revealed renderings of possible upgrades, including a partial roof canopy covering the seats and a new seating bowl. The work is estimated to cost $187 million. The team said it cannot make the investment alone, but needs some help from the public.

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More on the economic impact of Super Bowl XLIV


The news from last week's release of the economic impact from this year’s Super Bowl and Pro Bowl was that the Miami Dolphins plan to continue pursuing public dollars for renovations to Sun Life Stadium to keep it competitive to host future Super Bowls.

Even though the economic impact study by West Palm Beach-based Sport Management Research Institute showed the two games this year generated less for local businesses than the 2007 Super Bowl alone, Super Bowl Host Committee and Dolphins officials still said they were pleased and will use the figures to help bolster their argument for public support.

According to the SMRI study, the two games this year pumped a total $333 million into South Florida businesses. The 2007 Super Bowl, held when the economy was healthy, brought local businesses $463 million, SMRI’s study of the 2007 game showed. Differences were blamed on the economy and that the Indianapolis Colts were the AFC team in both the 2007 and 2010 games, meaning the novelty had worn off.

That figure was also markedly less than the $396 million SMRI said the 1999 Super Bowl generated for the region.

SMRI studies show direct spending by Super Bowl visitors was $141.5 million this year; $279 million in 2007 and $239 million in 1999. Direct spending is what visitors actually spend in hotels and restaurants and on other goods and services. The larger figures include indirect spending – the dollars spent for businesses to prepare for the game – and induced spending or the re-circulation of dollars made from the Super Bowl back into the economy.

This year’s Super Bowl drew 109,059 visitors – down from the 112,403 in 2007. They spent less -- $401.44 per day down from $668.60 a day in 2007, according to the study. They also stayed a shorter time -- 3.12 nights this year, compared with 5.11 in 2007 – which also reflects that some New Orleans Saints fans drove -- rather than flew -- to the game. The visitors reported an average annual income of $220,323 down slightly from the $222,318 reported in 2007, but significantly higher than typical non-Super Bowl visitors, who average salaries of $46,000 to $80,000. Room rates fell this year, but hotel occupancy rates rose.

“It’s a sign of the times,” said Kathleen Davis, SMRI president. “We didn’t do anything different from the last time we did this. The story is the consumer sentiment is not where it was.”

Davis said she thinks the study shows South Florida was a successful host for the Pro Bowl, since that generated a total of $99.3 million, including $59.9 million in direct spending.

The SMRI study also bears out that Broward County serving for the first time as host location for the NFL headquarters and Super Bowl media center, meant a greater economic impact than for Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. Broward realized direct spending of $57.6 million compared with $39.6 million in Miami-Dade and $12.2 million in Palm Beach, the report shows.

Critics routinely say Super Bowls generate far less than impact studies report because they don’t take into consideration many of the dollars don’t stay in the community, but instead go the corporate headquarters of local hotels, and fail to consider that Super Bowl visitors displace tourists who would otherwise come to destinations like South Florida.

But South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee and Dolphins officials said the fact that this year’s figures for two games are considerably smaller than for one game in 2007 should prove the numbers are genuine

“This came at a really good time,” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said of the two games. “The fact it was less, for those who think those numbers are fuzzy, these numbers are real.”

Dick Anderson, the former Dolphin who chaired a panel studying whether the region should host future Super Bowls, said the numbers should show the event is valuable to South Florida.

His panel's study shows stadium improvements are “absolutely necessary for future Super Bowls, Pro Bowls, and other large scale events that differentiate the South Florida region from other regions throughout the country." The report goes on to say: "Each year that improvements are not made makes them more urgent and more expensive in the years to come as the community competes for future Super Bowls…Engaging the public in a meaningful dialogue to demonstrate the economic and ancillary benefits to our community is important in this effort.”

In January, the Dolphins unveiled renderings of potential renovations that include a canopy-style roof covering seats, but leaving the field open to the elements, replacing the lower bowl and moving seats closer to the field. The work is expected to cost $187 million.

Team officials are working on plans to finance the improvements and expect to unveil them later this year. Among the arguments for public financing are expected to be that the Sun Life Stadium has received no public dollars for football. A recent $300 million upgrade was paid for by the team.

Anderson’s panel’s research shows that since 1995, 25 NFL stadiums have either been built or renovated – not including the New York Giants and Jets New Meadowland Stadium, which opens this year – to the tune of $8.8 billion. The public portion of those dollars varies from team to team, but averages 63 percent of the total. Sun Life Stadium is the only one that has not received public dollars for football.

Expect to see those figures repeated.

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Miami Dolphins & Sun Life team up to provide student scholarships


When Toronto financial services and insurance company Sun Life agreed to put its name atop the Miami Dolphins’ home stadium in January, the company also agreed to donate to the team’s foundation. Together, the company and team also vowed to work to benefit the community.

They’ve agreed to provide $50,000 grants to four local non-profit organizations that work with needy youths and another $5,000 each in scholarship dollars to a high school senior involved with those organizations.

The Sun Life Rising Star Awards program is accepting applications through July 23 from the local organizations, which are also to nominate a deserving high school senior active in their program, who plans to continue his or her studies after high school and shows leadership qualities. The non-profits must work with children under 21 and to improve education for at-risk children.

Sun Life has launched the program in six other cities – Detroit, San Diego, New York, Seattle, Boston and Philadelphia – and plans to award $1 million in grants and scholarships to a total of 22 organizations and 22 students. Those winners will then compete for an additional $50,000 grant and $50,000 scholarship that will be awarded to one of the organizations and one of the students.

The South Florida applications are to be judged by a group that includes Dolphins limited partners Venus and Serena Williams; Jeanette Sparano, wife of head coach Tony Sparano; wide receivers Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo; and Sun Sentinel’s Society Scene Publisher Stacy Ostrau. For more information and an application, visit sunlifestadium.com/risingstar.

The winners will be announced later this year.

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Miami Dolphin Karlos Dansby buys Southwest Ranches home



New Miami Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby has purchased a house in Broward County from Indianapolis Colts wide receiver and former UM Hurricane Reggie Wayne.

According to Broward County property records, last month Dansby and his wife Tynesha paid Wayne and his wife Peta Gay $3.4 million for the house in Landmark Ranch Estates in Southwest Ranches. Dansby, who was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 2004, signed a five-year, $43 million contract with the Dolphins in March.

Wayne purchased the home on Stratford Court for $4.1 million in 2007.
Read more about the specifics of the home purchase in the South Florida Business Journal.

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YET Center in Miami gets new wing as part of Super Bowl legacy


BrianHartline1.jpgBeyond the millions of dollars organizers and tourism officials say the Super Bowl bring a community, the NFL promises a legacy, too.

The NFL’s Youth Education Town (YET) centers are one of the NFL’s major Super Bowl legacy initiatives. YET centers are designed to provide academic and recreational programs for area youth. South Florida, which has hosted a record 10 Super Bowls, has two – one at Gwen Cherry Park in Miami and one at the Lester H. White Unit of the Boys and Girls Club in southwest Fort Lauderdale.

Rather than build new YET centers each time the league’s championship game comes to town, the NFL has been adding to the existing ones.

On Wednesday, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline along with team and Miami-Dade County officials and kids who attend the center broke ground on a 5,000-square foot annex to the center in Gwen Cherry Park. (See photo by Kelly Gavin, Miami Dolphins)

The annex will include two classrooms, media rooms, and offices. The project’s $1 million cost is being covered by grants from the NFL and county’s Safe Neighborhood Parks interest fund.

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Miami Dolphins address not addressing player conduct


With four players arrested this offseason, the Miami Dolphins have been facing the “character” question a lot lately. After all, it was Executive Vice President of Football Operations Bill Parcells who said during his first press conference when he was hired by the Dolphins in 2007 that “character” was one of three criteria he uses to evaluate players.

So it’s not a surprise that people are wondering about that criteria after two DUI arrests (Will Allen and Ronnie Brown) and two for domestic battery (Tony McDaniel and Phillip Merling).

In March, prior to Merling’s arrest, team owner Steve Ross said: “You certainly don’t want to see it happen. It doesn’t make us happy. It’s a concern. The coaches and Parcells are disappointed, and concerned, and they are addressing it.”

The situation with Merling, who was charged last month with aggravated battery against his pregnant girlfriend, was muddied when he was back on the practice field in mini-camp a day after posting bail.

At the time, Coach Tony Sparano acknowledged frustration over the four arrests, but didn’t address questions about Merling’s return to the field head-on. Instead, he deflected the issue to the NFL.

"We're going to let the process play itself out and see what the league decides down the road," Sparano said at the time.

None of the other members of Dolphins brass has addressed the question of player conduct since Merling’s arrest. Attempts to ask team owner Steve Ross were quashed on two occasions during the Dolphins Foundation’s FinsWeekend of charitable events – one colleague was told he was not allowed to ask about the issue; I got the question out, but before Ross could answer, a team spokesman said, “we’re not dealing with that.”

Attempts to reach Ross’ limited partners, including Gloria Estefan, Venus and Serena Williams and Fergie, either went unanswered or were referred back to the Dolphins. A further request to the Dolphins to speak with the limited partners, was answered by Dolphins CEO Mike Dee, who said he and Ross speak for the team.

Dee said he couldn’t speak to the specific arrests: “It’s a league matter or a legal matter.”

As for the team, he said, Parcells, Sparano and General Manager Jeff Ireland do keep player conduct top of mind.

“We have great guys on this team, They do a lot for the community both on their own and on behalf of the franchise,” Dee said. “Bill, Jeff and Tony put a tremendous emphasis on character and makeup when they put this roster together. We’re proud of the team that we have and I know it’s an important priority as we move forward as well to continue to put the emphasis on the character and makeup of our guys. We’re really happy with the team that we have, and think they represent this franchise well in the community.”

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2014 Super Bowl fix was in post-mortem


South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman Rodney Barreto’s glib pronouncement last month that he wasn’t surprised the New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey was awarded the 2014 Super Bowl didn’t go unnoticed, but committee members are trying to move on.

“I was not surprised,” Barreto told reporters at the time. “I think the fix was in for New York.”

Barreto was called out by members of his own committee and even caught the attention of some media, including ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio, who wondered how NFL owners will feel the next time South Florida bids for the game.

“The NFL gets uncomfortable when terms like that are bandied about, even if it’s true. The fix can be in. They can do whatever they want to do,” Florio told Joe Rose on WQAM (560-AM) last month. “If 17 owners were bound and determined to give this thing to New York, it doesn’t matter what Miami does, and sometimes you’ve got to be discreet about that and depending upon when Miami makes another bid, they’re going to have to do some serious tapdancing to get past those comments that were made.”

Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau President Nicki Grossman called Barreto’s words “inappropriate” and said she was “embarrassed” by them.

Barreto, who calls himself a "blunt guy," said it might have been “a poor choice of words,” but otherwise stood by what he’d said. He said he thought a preference for the New Jersey bid was shown when NFL owners waived the daily temperature requirements so the New York Giants and Jets could bid. Barreto said he spoke with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after the vote and congratulated the Giants on the winning bid.

On Monday, when the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee held its final meeting, Dolphins CEO Mike Dee tried to put the comments to rest, saying executive committee members had differing views on the 2014 bid.

“You obviously heard Rodney’s the 'fix was in' comment that was splashed all over the newspapers,” Dee told the group. “I respect that point of view.”

Grossman, however, said she wanted to make clear South Florida’s bid was genuine.

“When South Florida gets [the Super Bowl], it isn’t because the fix was in and when we don’t get it, that doesn’t mean the fix was in,” Grossman said. “It was a tough sledding … We had a decent shot at it. I hope we didn’t just go through the motions.”

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Catching up: Panthers rename practice facility, Blackhawks ice for sale & more


Catching up after vacation:

+ Last week, Florida Panthers’ parent company Sunrise Sports & Entertainment announced Saveology had won the rights to name the team’s practice facility. SSE launched a contest last fall for businesses to get a shot at naming Incredible Ice for a season by buying four lower bowl season tickets for the 2009-10 season. Incredible Ice, which underwent a $10 million renovation that included adding a third NHL-sized sheet of ice, will now be known as the Saveology.com Iceplex. SSE values the name at more than $300,000. Saveology is a comparison shopping service and already a Panthers sponsor. The company already agreed to extend the deal through the 2011-12 season, too. Saveology will get exposure through a variety of advertising platforms and will pay for new signage at the practice venue, where employee uniforms will also bear the new name.

MM2.jpg + Plantation-based Dreams Inc.’s Mounted Memories division has created special limited edition Chicago Blackhawks collectibles to commemorate the team’s first Stanley Cup win in nearly 50 years: a shawdowbox with photos and some of the ice from the Stanley Cup finals. “This is a new product from our innovative line of memorabilia,” Mounted Memories President Mitch Adelstein said in a statement. “As an NHL licensee, we worked closely with the National Hockey League who was supportive and cooperative with our needs, and we captured portions of the ice from the arena. Our designers created an exciting way for hockey fans to recall this victory for which Chicago fans waited almost half a century.”

+ The New York Times’ piece on Dolphins limited partner Marc Anthony, although it mentions nothing about his sports investment.

+ People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called on the Marlins to reconsider their plans to install two-custom designed saltwater aquariums on either side of home plate in the team’s new ballpark.

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Will Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross benefit from NJ Super Bowl?


Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross’ habit of investing in distressed and complicated properties continues.

Ross’ Related Cos., is working on how to salvage the massive stalled Xanadu retail and entertainment complex in the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Last month during the annual International Council of Shopping Centers in Las Vegas, Related invited potential tenants to view renderings and videos of and talk about taking up residence in the $2 billion, 2.3 million-square-foot complex.

The Mills Corp. planned the complex to contain 200 retail tenants and attractions, including movie theaters and an indoor snow park, but the project ground to a halt after payments were missed and funding ran out.

Related began negotiating earlier this year to become a partner in the project. Already Related has planned a big move – changing the complex’s name from Xanadu to Meadowlands.

Related developed the Time Warner Center residential and retail complex in Columbus Circle in Manhattan and has the development rights to Hudson Yards on that city's west side.

Ross, CEO of Related, hasn’t said much publicly about his involvement in the Meadowlands project, but confirmed his company is seriously investigating how to make it successful.

“We’re right now working on the feasibility and trying to put it all together to make sure it works,” Ross told me. “But we have a deal to really be the developer of Xanadu and now it’s a question of how we put it together and get it financed.”

If his company can pull it off, the complex could open well before the neighboring New Meadowlands Stadium hosts the Super Bowl in 2014. Ross' Sun Life Stadium was an unsuccessful bidder for that game, but Ross could still benefit from the NFL's first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl. A completed formerly-named Xanadu could see a windfall with so many visitors in the area for the NFL’s championship game.

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(Steve) Ross Field; 2010 Miami Dolphins season expectations


Two giant puddles covered much of the practice field at Miami Beach Senior High School Saturday morning, underscoring the need for refurbishments that are coming thanks to $164,000 in donations from the Dolphins and team owner Steve Ross.

Ross took the official ground-breaking for the field, which was officially named Ross Field, as an opportunity to put his team on notice that he’s expecting a big year in 2010.

“I think in February we’ll be playing in the Super Bowl,” Ross said.

When it was suggested he might be putting pressure on head coach Tony Sparano, Ross said, “Put it this way, he thinks that, too. So does every player on that team. I don’t think there’s any pressure on it, we’ve just got to go out and do it.”

He also told the crowd at the field ground-breaking that he hopes Chad Henne “goes down as the greatest quarterback in Miami Dolphins history.”

With training camp still ahead before the 2010 season’s start, the Dolphins tried to focus on FinsWeekend – three days of golf, fishing, and awards dinners that benefit the Dolphins Foundation.

Ross, a 1958 graduate of Miami Beach High who played tackle for the school at Flamingo Park, said after he purchased the Dolphins, he received a letter from Miami Beach High Principal Rosann Sidener asking if he’d help with the field. The request perfectly matched Ross’ desire for the Dolphins to be more involved in the community. He donated $82,000, which was matched by the Dolphins.

“It was really a no brainer, I had just bought the team, got this letter, knowing we want to participate in the community and be very active,” Ross said. “Coming from your high school, is something I couldn’t say no to as being the first one. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of letters from almost every high school and I’m sure we’ll do our share. We want to keep active in South Florida.”

The field refurbishment is to be completed in September.

“I look at the field now and say 'hey it really does need a little bit of rehabilitation.' But I also remember when I was playing football, down in Flamingo Park, and I couldn’t wait for those days to have the field flooded so we didn’t have to practice,” Ross said with a chuckle.

Ross was joined by Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower, team executives and players, including Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano and his wife Jeanette; quarterback Chad Henne, running back Tristan Davis, safety Nate Ness, fullback Rolly Lumbala, defensive back Ross Weaver and cornerback Nolan Carroll; and Dolphins alumni, Nat Moore and Dick Anderson.

“It’s pretty exciting," said Ross, who was given a red and white Beach High jersey. "It’s something I never would have anticipated in my life."

Ross wore No. 71 at Beach High, when the uniforms were black and gold, not red and white. No matter, his heart is still with his high school, but he cautioned that the field naming had nothing to do with his success at the school.

“They didn’t name the field after me for my athletic feats or my scholastic feats,” he said.

Ross was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame last year. The University of Michigan's Business School was renamed for Ross in 2004, after he made a $100 million donation to the school.

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Brandon Marshall has 16th top selling jersey in the NFL with … No. 19


Brandon Marshall’s Miami Dolphins jersey with a No. 19 on it was the 16th best-selling jersey in the NFL for the past two months, based on sales at NFLShop.com.

As recently as two weeks ago, Marshall said the No. 19 he was wearing at OTAs was only temporary and he hadn’t yet settled on an official number.

“This’ll be my number for now,” Marshall said on May 19. “We'll have one in stone before camp.”

At the time, fans could order Marshall’s jersey online, but it wouldn’t be shipped until the number was official. A disclaimer on NFLShop.com read: “The player's number is subject to change and the jersey will not ship until the official number is issued.”

According to both the NFL and the Dolphins, Marshall is wearing No. 19 – yep, Ted Ginn’s old Dolphins number. That’s the number Reebok is printing and NFLShop.com is shipping. The online listing now reads that the jersey is in stock and ships in one to two business days.

“As of this point, he’s wearing No. 19,” Dolphins spokesman Harvey Greene said.

Players can, of course, change their numbers.

Marshall had hoped to secure No. 15 – the number he wore with his previous team, the Denver Broncos, but his new teammate wide receiver Davone Bess, who wears No. 15, has told Marshall the number isn’t for sale. Bess reiterated his plans to hang onto No. 15 as recently as Friday.

The NFL sales rankings are based on sales at NFLShop.com from April 1 to May 31. Denver Broncos quarterback (and former Gator) Tim Tebow still has the top-selling jersey, followed by Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

The Dolphins ranked ninth in team merchandise sales. The Broncos were the top-selling team, followed by the Super Bowl Champion Saints and the Dallas Cowboys.

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New York/New Jersey gets 2014 Super Bowl


It took four ballots, but New York/New Jersey prevailed. The New Meadowlands Stadium is to host the first ever northern cold weather Super Bowl in February 2014.

NFL owners eliminated South Florida on the second ballot leaving New York/New Jersey and Tampa to fight out on the last two ballots. With no region receiving 75 percent on each of the first three votes, New York/New Jersey won with a simple majority on the fourth ballot.

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South Florida out of 2014 Super Bowl host bidding


South Florida is out of the bidding for the 2014 Super Bowl in the second round of voting among NFL owners.

None of the three bidders - New York/New Jersey, Tampa or South Florida -- got a 75 percent majority in each of the first two rounds of voting. But with South Florida getting the lowest number of votes in the second round, the region was dropped from the voting.

NFL voters are considering New York/New Jersey - considered the favorite - and Tampa in the third round of voting at their meeting in Dallas this afternoon.

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US Supreme Court ruling against the NFL could impact labor negotiations


The NFL disagrees, but experts say the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling today in the American Needle case could bolster the NFL Players Association in its ongoing labor negotiations with the league.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously the league could not be considered a single entity, but rather must be treated as 32 separate competing businesses when it comes to the licensing of branded products, such as caps and jerseys. The court agreed with American Needle, an Illinois hat maker and former NFL licensee, which sued the NFL claiming the league violated antitrust laws when it gave Reebok an exclusive 10-year license for hats in 2000.

“Although NFL teams have common interests such as promoting the NFL brand, they are still separate, profit-maximizing entities, and their interests in licensing team trademarks are not necessarily aligned,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in the decision.

The Supreme Court’s decision sends the case back to the district court.

The NFL downplayed the decision.

“The decision will simply result in American Needle’s claim being sent back to the federal district court in Chicago, where the case will resume in its early stages,” the league said in a statement. “We remain confident we will ultimately prevail because the league decision about how best to promote the NFL was reasonable, pro-competitive, and entirely lawful. The Supreme Court’s decision has no bearing on collective bargaining, which is governed by labor law.”

The Players Association, however, lauded the ruling. In a statement, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith called it, “not only a win for the players past, present and future, but a win for the fans.”

While the league says the decision has no bearing on labor negotiations, experts disagree.

Barry University law professor Marc Edelman said while bargaining is governed by labor laws not antitrust laws – if workers are represented by a union – the ruling strengthens the players' argument, if the union were to decertify and challenge the league under antitrust laws.

“If they decertify, they can’t be a union. If they decertified, the NFL would be allowed to put in place any terms they wanted,” Edelman said.

If the union decertified, and the league set wage and draft rules players didn’t like, players could challenge the league under antitrust laws. “The Players Association now has this sitting in their back pocket, the threat of decertification,” Edelman said.

Some observers suggest the decision may increase the pace of labor negotiations, which the players association says have been going slowly.

Gary I. Blackman, a partner in the sports law practice at Levenfeld Pearlstein LLC in Chicago, said in a statement that the ruling affects “all dealing by the NFL and leaves open the possibility of an antitrust claims and the scrutiny that follows in whatever it does, including in its dealings with its players. Antitrust laws have been a tool for the unions. The players union has always had the threat, for example, that it would disband and sue the league if ever it was locked out. Now, that tool is still in the toolbox."

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Plantation sports memorabilia co. extends memorabilia deal with Peyton Manning


Plantation-based Dreams Inc. announced today that its memorabilia manufacturing division, Mounted Memories, has extended its exclusive autographed memorabilia contract with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. The deal has been extended for another three years and Steiner Sports, of New York, will help manage the marketing of Manning-signed items.

“Peyton Manning is the most recognizable face in the NFL today,” Dreams President and CEO Ross Tannenbaum said in a statement. “He is a gem, both on and off the field. We are thrilled to be continuing this important business relationship with him.”

The news is an opportunity to share my favorite Manning skit from Saturday Night Live:

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Brandon Marshall’s Miami Dolphins jersey number still a mystery


While the big news out of OTAs today was new Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall’s surgery for an undisclosed injury, Marshall’s jersey number also remained undisclosed.

There was some hubbub that Marshall had settled on Ted Ginn’s old No. 19, which he was sporting in Davie today, but he says that’s not a certainty.

“This'll be my number for now,” Marshall said. “We'll have one in stone before camp.”

Davone Bess, who wears Marshall’s favored No. 15, didn’t stop to talk to reporters, so no word yet on whether negotiations for No. 15 are continuing.

Fans can order Marshall’s jersey now – it’s for sale at NFLShop.com for $79.99 for replica versions – but it won’t be shipped until he has his official number. The items listed online come with a disclaimer that reads “The player's number is subject to change and the jersey will not ship until the official number is issued.”

Neil Schwartz, director of business development for the SGMA or Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association in Jupiter, said Marshall waiting to pick a number isn’t likely to cause a dip in jersey sales.

“I don’t think these OTA situations necessarily represent a huge selling opportunity," Schwartz said. "I think once camp starts, I think then if he hasn’t settled on a number, he might be missing a little bit of sales momentum.”

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Things I learned behind the scenes in sports


In another plug for my stories on going behind the scenes in a variety of sports jobs, here are some details that didn't make the package:

Pit crew: Hours spent at the track go by in a flash – there’s so much work to be done. Constant work on the cars, meeting race fans, signing autographs, cleaning the trailers, and, of course, keeping the frigs stocked with water and Gatorade and snack trays filled with chips, granola bars, fruit. Seconds really do make a difference - as I learned the hard way. Everyone has a job. The time between pit stops gets filled with snacking and watching the race on pit box monitors. As the “deadman” you really are thatclose to the gas – you’re standing under a 55-gallon drum suspended on a metal scissor stand. I just didn’t think about my proximity to the gas.

Grounds crew: What this very busy crew at Sun Life Stadium does can’t be overstated. These people work hard to create a pitch perfect field for both baseball and football. As one of only two professional stadiums left in the country that host both football and baseball on natural grass, these people are busy. The grass gets mowed every day. There are the summer rains. The endzone and center logo replacements between Dolphins and University of Miami games. Lowering and raising the pitcher’s mound when football and baseball overlap. And the difference between football and baseball is stark, head groundskeeper Alan Sigwardt explains: football is all about the grass and how it holds up against the different players – the 350-pound lineman versus the speedy receivers. Meanwhile, baseball is about the dirt – with only three players doing their job on the grass, the vast majority of the work is done on the infield dirt. “It’s two totally different sciences,” Sigwardt says. Watch video of my turn at the job below.

Zamboni driving: Top speed is 9 mph, but you’re typically driving slower than that. In a giant contraption with a sensitive turning radius. The red line at BankAtlantic Center is dotted with prints of Panthers paws – which you can see when you’re on the ice, but they’re difficult to make out otherwise. Driving the Zamboni satisfies both sides of head ice technician Graham Caplinger’s brain. He’s a perfectionist, fascinated by the science and math of the job. But he’s also a musician – a drummer – so he has learned to let go. He knows he creates a perfect sheet of ice only to see the players mess it up with their skates. “Everything’s as best as I know how to do it, I’ve checked and checked and rechecked and checked and checked, then it’s up to the players, the artists, if you will, to go out carve up their masterpiece,” Caplinger says. He also says the iPod is the greatest invention – it helps him pass the time spent on the slow-moving Zamboni.

Mascots: It takes a special person to be a mascot. There’s a mascot creed and rules. Never reveal your identity. No talking. Don’t seek permission – ask forgiveness later. Have fun. Grown-ups become big kids as soon as they see a mascot – they cheer, they yell, they pose for photos, they high five, they act silly. And the mascot loves it – he, too, acts silly with no – or few - consequences. “It’s like Batman Superman status. Nobody knows who you are. They think they’re laughing at me, but I’m actually laughing at them. I’m getting them out of their character,” Burnie the Heat mascot says.
 

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New York-area Super Bowl in 2014 looks stronger than ever


The New York-area has been the favorite to land the 2014 Super Bowl for weeks now - and that effort gotten even stronger today when New York Giants and Jets representatives signed off on their bid and held a press conference embracing the prospect of cold wintry weather, rather than worrying about it.

It was cold enough today too – overcast and in the mid-40s – when the press conference that featured Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez kicked off.

The teams made their bid public – and details included the possibility of the commissioner’s party being held at the American Museum of Natural History and a Super Bowl float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

South Florida and Tampa are also bidding for the game, but their bids have clearly taken a backseat to New York/New Jersey. South Florida isn’t conceding defeat, but without the promise of renovations at Sun Life Stadium, locals knew their bid could be in jeopardy. The Dolphins put the potential renovations on hold, rather than rush to try to gain public funding for the improvements in the still slow economy.

It’s unclear when a push for renovations will resurface. In the meantime, South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee officials are scheduled to make the trip to Dallas for the May 25 vote of NFL owners on the 2014 game site.

“I take the position, you’ve still got to be in it to win it,” South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman Rodney Barreto said. “We could still win by default. Remember, you’re invited to bid.”

Barreto reminded that South Florida was awarded the 2010 Super Bowl – even before it had hosted the 2007 game -- after the game was initially promised to New York contingent on the New York Jets receiving government approvals to build a stadium on Manhattan’s West Side. When state funding didn’t come through, the NFL put that game back up for bid.

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Jacksonville Jaguars hold conference calls with season ticket holders


Almost all of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games were blacked out on television last season because they didn’t sell out. At 7-9, the team didn’t make the playoffs.

Perhaps that’s why the team did something unusual: it invited season ticket holders to two fan forums – one with GM Gene Smith before the draft and a second post-draft with Coach Jack Del Rio.

Season ticket holders were told they’d receive a call at a certain time and they could choose to listen in on the conference calls – and ask questions – and they were also given a phone number to call in.

“These were part of our efforts this offseason to strengthen the connection with our fans and reach out to season ticket holders,” team spokesman Dan Edwards said in an email.

Edwards said about 9,700 fans total participated in the two calls and another roughly 3,200 followed the second forum on a webcast on the team’s website. Read about this week's call here.

That’s a pretty bold move, especially given how secretive some teams can be and how much criticism there was of some of the team’s draft picks.

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FedEx drops title sponsorship of Orange Bowl game


After 21 years – and the longest reign as title sponsor of a BCS game -- FedEx is dropping its moniker from the Orange Bowl college football game.

Kevin Demsky, FedEx Director of Sponsorship Marketing, said the express delivery and logistics company decided it was time to focus on its other sports marketing partnerships, including the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup, and relationships with the NFL, NBA and NASCAR's Joe Gibbs Racing.

“Obviously it was a very difficult decision, one we labored over long and hard,” Demsky said. “We made the decision it was probably best for us to begin focusing on some of our other investments.”

ESPN, which will begin broadcasting BCS games in January under a four-year contract that runs through 2014, is working on finding a new corporate naming partner for the game played at Sun Life Stadium.

"We are in active discussions around the Orange Bowl, which is a premier property and presents a tremendous marketing opportunity,” ESPN's president of customer marketing and sales Ed Erhardt said in a statement. “FedEx remains an important client and we continue to be engaged with them in other areas."

ESPN declined further comment.

The Orange Bowl Committee, which promotes the game and its surrounding events, is not involved in title sponsorship negotiations, committee spokesman Larry Wahl said. The network and the BCS are responsible for bowl payouts, not the committee, he said.

“We’re going to fulfill our BCS agreement commitment and continue to work with BCS leadership and ESPN,” Wahl said. “We’re confident the network will secure a name sponsor that’s beneficial to all of us. What we do know is ESPN had an exclusive period to negotiate with FedEx. That exclusive period recently expired and ESPN has now actively expanded its conversations with other interested parties.”

Demsky said the decision to drop out as title sponsor was made earlier this year and the company is not sure if it will continue as a more limited sponsor of the Orange Bowl.

“Obviously, the Orange Bowl has been a long time partner and friend and we have some very deep seated relationships. From that perspective I think the Orange Bowl and the entire Orange Bowl festival and all the events that surround that BCS game are a very important part of the community for South Florida," Demsky said. "We’ll look at opportunities that might be available, but for right now, it’s probably much too early to speculate.”

Demsky said the decision had nothing to do with the matchups in recent Orange Bowl games, which have been criticized for their lack of luster, when the Orange Bowl isn’t hosting the national championship game.

“We don’t really get too involved in game matchups, that’s something that has to be worked out by the BCS and the bowl committees," he said. "Our focus has always been creating marketing programs around us that promote the Orange Bowl.”

The Orange Bowl committee announced FedEx as its game title sponsor in 1989 for the 1990 game -- before the Bowl Championship Series was formed in 1998. The Orange, Sugar, Rose and Fiesta bowls each host a BCS bowl game and the fifth BCS game is the national championship game, which rotates among the four bowls. The Orange Bowl next hosts the national championship game in 2013.

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Friday links: Heat twHEATup, Jason Taylor merchandise purge; and more


+ The Miami Heat's first twHEATup sold out -- 50 tickets for $50 each to sit in section 307 at AmericanAirlines Arena during the team's Game 3 first round home playoff game against the Boston Celtics a week ago. TwHEATup attendees got a halftime meet-and-greet with the Heat dancers and postgame meeting with Tim Hardaway. Read more here. Yes, the team plans future twHEATups. Stay tuned.

+ Fans have unusual ways to show love for their favorite players. The "Paul & Young Ron Show," heard on BIG 105.9 and The Gater 98.7 FM hosted a funeral of sorts at Clear Channel South Florida in Miramar on Monday for Miami Dolphins Jason Taylor memorabilia. Now that Taylor has signed with the arch-rival New York Jets, the station sealed up and buried a “time capsule/casket” stuffed with JT-signed jerseys, photos, footballs and other items. “The items will stay forever buried, or at least until Taylor is no longer with the Jets and is inducted into the Dolphins "Ring of Honor." (When/if that happens, the casket turned time capsule will be unearthed and people can get their stuff back),” a release announcing the event said.

+ Meanwhile, fans have pledged more than 25,000 volunteer hours to the Dolphins’ new Special Teams volunteer corps.

+ Topps announced a multi-year licensing agreement with the NFL and NFL Players Association this week. The first Topps 2010 NFL product is to launch just before the season starts and is to include opportunities to win prizes.

+ Even if it’s not clear where it came from – is it a ripoff of Maryland’s "Fear the Turtle"? – gotta love the first-round playoff leading Milwaukee Bucks’ “Fear the Deer” slogan.

+ Gregory A. Jones Architecture in Boynton Beach has been advertising that the firm along with B&M Building have been hired by Heat forward Udonis Haslem and former Heat guard Keyon Dooling, now with the New Jersey Nets, to provide architectural services for their homes in Southwest Ranches. This follows, naturally, since my colleague Ira Winderman wrote a story last weekend about several Heat players moving to Southwest Broward to shake the South Beach nightlife.

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Some Miami Dolphins individual game tickets and mini-plans on sale Saturday


The Miami Dolphins will begin selling individual tickets -- to games against the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, and Tennessee Titans -- and four-game packages earlier than ever -- starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

The early ticket sale is part of a Mother’s and Father’s Day and graduation promotion that ends on June 20. The four-game packs are available for $100 a game on the lower level and $65 a game on the upper level at Sun Life Stadium. The packs allow you to choose one game from among games against the New York Jets (Sept. 26 home opener), New England Patriots (Oct. 4), Pittsburgh Steelers (Oct. 24) and Chicago Bears (Nov. 18); and three from among the Bills (Dec. 19), Browns (Dec. 5), Lions (Dec. 26) and Titans (Nov. 14).

Last year, the team didn’t make mini-plans and individual tickets available until late July. To purchase tickets call 1-888-FINS-TIX or visit MiamiDolphins.com.

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Player Appearance: Meet Reggie Wayne


Indianapolis Colts wide receiver and former Hurricane Reggie Wayne will be helping to promote Gatorade’s new G Series Pro products at GNC on Miami Beach on Saturday, which has been dubbed “G Series Pro Signing Day.”

Fans can meet Wayne and check out the new G Series Pro products from noon to 2 p.m. at GNC, 622 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach. For more information, visit Gatorade.com.

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Former Miami Dolphin Zach Thomas buys Broward beachfront digs


Former Miami Dolphin Zach Thomas has been busy the past week. Soon after lashing out at the Dolphins for their handling of his brother-in-law Jason Taylor, who signed last week with the New York Jets, Thomas bought a new beachfront mansion in Hillsboro Beach, according to the Daily Business Review.

Broward County property records show Thomas, who has retired from the NFL, purchased the six-bedroom, six-bathroom, 6,347-square-foot Spanish/Mediterranean-style home at 989 Hillsboro Mile for $3.9 million. There’s even a dock with room for a 100-foot yacht. Read the Daily Business Review’s item here.

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Miami Dolphins returning to original Spanish radio partner


The Miami Dolphins are returning to their original Spanish language radio partner WQBA (1140-AM) under a new multi-year broadcast rights agreement with Univision Radio announced today.

WQBA will broadcast Dolphins exhibition and regular season games in Spanish. Sister stations, WAMR-FM, WRTO-FM and WAQI-AM, will run team promotions.

The Spanish language play-by-play announcer and color analysts have not yet been announced.

The Dolphins have most recently had Spanish language radio broadcasts on WSUA (Radio Caracol, 1260-AM).

Univision and the team’s recently created Dolphins Integrated Media Group will jointly sell the advertising for the programming, which will include a live, two-hour weekday broadcast of Dolphins news and the week's matchup during the season.

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NFL draft tidbits from the first round


+ More than 3,800 people attended Thursday night’s Dolphins draft party at Sun Life Stadium, where they waited for player and cheerleader autographs, played interactive games, got to see TD and cheerleaders perform, and watched the new Dolphins radio partner 940 WINZ-AM broadcast live. Among the most popular attractions was the Dolphins garage sale, in which hardhats, jackets, jerseys and highlight films (on film in canisters) were selling for $5 to $20.

The party was scheduled to end at 10 p.m., but after the Dolphins traded their No. 12 pick to move down to 28 -- meaning their pick would come after the party's end -- team officials allowed fans to stay. Those that did were pleased with the trade down and a bit dumbfounded when the team picked Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick, especially when Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle was still on the board.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins’ new volunteer corps called Special Teams signed up fans, who pledged more than 14,200 hours to the new program during yesterday’s draft-a-thon.

+ Passing this on a little late, from Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal -- a look at how teams overspend on top draft picks compared to their performance on the field. Perhaps it’s not so surprising teams trade down.

+ Draft analysis in Haiku! How can you not love this from the John Harris Football Blog?

+ And what’s not to love here – first round draft picks and Subway endorsers Ndamukong Suh and C.J. Spiller rendered entirely in sandwich fixings, including pepperoni, olives and cheese, by the folks at Subway. Read Yahoo’s Shutdown Corner blog item on the meaty sculptures.

+ “Tim Tebow Broncos jersey” is currently registering as the sixth most popular search term on Google. Probably all those Tebow fans getting ready for his homecoming when the Jacksonville Jaguars open the season on Sept. 12 against, you guessed it, the Denver Broncos.

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Miami Dolphins drafting "Special Teams" of volunteers


special1.jpgWith such a large and loyal fan base, the Miami Dolphins have found a way to tap into the hearts and minds of their fans by offering them a chance to be part of a corps of team volunteers.

Called “Special Teams,” the initiative is aimed at encouraging Dolphins fans to pledge hours volunteering with the team across South Florida - and beyond - in events and programs ranging from this morning’s Treemendous Miami Earth Day tree planting and tonight’s NFL’s draft parties to the Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run later this month to helping out during emergencies, such as hurricanes. Future opportunities could include cleaning parks and painting schools.

The volunteer corps allows fans to become involved in a community project alongside Dolphins players and executives without having to write a check. They’ll get a “Special Teams” T-shirt to wear at volunteer events.

“This is a terrific opportunity to really put volunteerism on the map,” Dolphins Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Adam Grossman said. “We want to be a resource for people. The goal is for us to be everywhere at all times.”

The effort borrows from the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee’s volunteer program, which drafted thousands of volunteers, who helped staff events leading up to and during Pro Bowl and Super Bowl this year. Leslie Nixon, who oversaw volunteer services for the host committee, is serving as manager of the volunteer program for the Dolphins Foundation.

With this being National Volunteer Week and the NFL Draft starting tonight, the team picked today to launch a volunteer-a-thon “draft” with broadcast partner CBS4 and Neighbors 4 Neighbors. CBS4 is hosting a phonebank from 5 to 7 p.m. for fans to pledge volunteer hours. Call 305-597-4404 to pledge hours. Fans can also sign up at draft parties the team is hosting tonight at Sun Life Stadium, Duffy's Sports Grill in North Palm Beach and Johnny Malloy's Sports Pub in Bonita Springs. The team is also offering gifts - such as team gear and tickets -- depending on the number of hours pledged.

“People can pledge any amount of hours they feel comfortable doing,” Nixon said in a statement. “We’re hoping to collectively reach at least 10,000 pledged hours on draft day.”

Grossman said the idea is not only to increase volunteerism in South Florida, but also to give fans a deeper relationship to the team.

“We want to connect people with the team,” Grossman said. “There’s also this grass roots element. People feel great about giving back. That’s the fundamental commitment of our organization as well. We want as many people as possible to come along for the ride.”

For more information and to check out volunteer opportunities, visit MiamiDolphins.com/SpecialTeams.


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Miami Dolphins fans burning up NFL draft war rooms


Miami Dolphins fans have always found ways to chatter about their favorite NFL team. The NFL is just helping to make it even easier for them to find each other with the draft starting Thursday night.

Visit the Dolphins warm room on NFL.com and you’ll find plenty of fans debating Earl Thomas at No. 12? Sergio Kindle? Starting Pat White? You’ll also find out Dolphins fans are in a “hopeful” mood and have been the most active posters among all 32 teams. As I write this, the Dolphins page has logged more than 37,200 comments. The next closest? The Detroit Lions with more than 28,600. The least active? Fans of the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills with fewer than 3,300 each. More than 329,000 comments total have been posted so far.

An interactive map shows you each NFL market identified by its logo along with a color to show its draft mood and live comments as they pop up across the country.

NFL.com launched the war rooms in a more limited fashion last year and received more comments than the league had expected, NFL.com General Manager Laura Goldberg said.

“We decided this year to make them a little deeper, if you will, in terms of features and functionality,” Goldberg said. “We really want to cover the draft in a way that is highly interactive with our fans.”

As for why Dolphins fans are ruling the comment “airwaves,” Goldberg speculates that’s because the team’s fans are well organized and excited about the off season moves the team has made (Brandon Marshall, Karlos Dansby). (Note: I spoke to Goldberg before Jason Taylor officially signed with the rival New York Jets, but Dolphins fans were the second happiest when I spoke with her and now are ranked fifth happiest).

“I think the last year … new ownership, the celebrity coming to the team, I think there’s a lot of excitement around the Dolphins,” Goldberg said.

Meanwhile, at nfl.com/nfldraft, NFL.com is aggregating Twitter messages tagged with the hashtag #nfldraft. You can scan across pages of tweets to gauge how people are commenting on the draft, expressing their enthusiasm and concerns. Tweets by NFL officials, including Commissioner Roger Goodell, are among the messages. Goldberg describes the page as being “like a cool scrapbook. Maybe you find someone you want to follow.”

The key to the NFL’s online social media draft strategy was recognizing that “conversations are happening in a lot of different places,” Goldberg said. “We want to make sure we’re aggregating comments no matter where they are.”

They endgame, of course, is to build more loyal fans. “The more we engage fans, the longer they spend on our site, the more pages they look at, the more videos they look at,” Goldberg said. “It’s also great for our advertisers. The more someone is engaged, they’re much more likely to look at an ad, to notice an ad.”

Goldberg would love it if fans watching the draft on television are also checking nfl.com to get updates, to comment and converse with other fans, and to watch video of the draftees. Oh, they could also be checking the real-time draft tracker and live video feeds on NFL Mobile on their Verizon Wireless phones.

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Tim Tebow-mania inspires PR “flash mob” in Jacksonville


When the North Florida chapter of the Public Relations Society of America was planning a “flash mob” to underscore the power of public relations professionals in Jacksonville, members began thinking about what would make their public display meaningful.

For the uninitiated, flash mobs are those well-planned public displays – a dance, a song, a pillow fight – that are meant to look spontaneous. So these PR mavens were trying to come up with something to generate a lot of attention, said Bonnie Upright, the North Florida PRSA board member, who organized the event.

Tim Tebow.

Of course, Jacksonville’s current favorite son, former Florida quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner, NFL hopeful. The idea that Tebow could be the theme of a flash mob further cements his reputation as highly marketable at least until we learn where he's taken in the NFL draft, which starts Thursday night.

Secretly, the group planned a dance number to Ke$ha’s "Tik Tok" to perform the Saturday before the NFL draft at Jacksonville Landing, the shopping and dining complex on the St. John’s River. (This was planned well in advance of Ke$ha's appearance as musical guest on that night's "Saturday Night Live," Upright said.) The complex would be celebrating Earth Day, ensuring a big crowd for the PR stunt. The group contacted the complex to secure use of its sound system and find a 10-minute spot for its “impromptu” performance.

“Public relations professionals are on the forefront of social media,” said Upright, president of Upright Public Relations in Orange Park. “We want businesses that need public relations to go ‘Wow.’ We want them to contact members of this organization.”

The group would don No. 15 Tebow jerseys – donated for the cause, of course; jeans shorts (I’m told this is a Gator thing…or perhaps only in North Florida); and eyeblack. (Check out photos courtesy of the North Florida PRSA).

They recruited friends and family members, but told them only to wear jeans shorts and comfortable shoes. Upright said she encouraged FSU fan friends in the group to view wearing Tebow shirts "as mocking Timmy, having fun at Tim’s expense, while the rest of us were honoring him.”

The eyeblack, needed to have a message a la Tebow. So the group planned a charitable component too, adding 1millionshirts.org to the eyeblack to promote an organization aiming to collect 1 million used and new T-shirts to send to the needy in Africa.

The group of about 70 gathered Saturday morning, spent two hours rehearsing – and there’s even a Heisman pose incorporated into the dance.

Then they stunned the complex that was swarming with customers. At the end of their dance, group members hung around to talk about 1millionshirts.org. FSU fans donated their Tebow jerseys to the cause, Upright said. Other performers also donated their shirts.

“Maybe Timmy will stumble upon them,” when he’s doing missionary work, Upright said.

She’s also hoping footage from their display will somehow make its way into broadcast coverage of the NFL draft. Watch the raw footage here:

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Player Appearance: Meet Darius Butler


New England Patriots cornerback and Fort Lauderdale native Darius Butler is helping to reopen the remodeled Nike Factory Store at Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise this weekend.

The upgraded store, which has gotten a modern look, reopens on Friday and will host a variety of special events on Saturday and Sunday. The first 200 customers on Saturday will receive a free gift; customers can enter a contest to win a $1,000 shopping spree.

Butler will host a question and answer session from 1 to 2 p.m. Sunday at the store in the mall at 12801 West Sunrise Blvd., Sunrise.

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Preliminary bids to host 2014 Super Bowl due today


South Florida’s preliminary bid to host the 2014 Super Bowl was sent in a few days before today’s deadline, South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman Rodney Barreto told me today.

The region may have hosted a record 10th Super Bowl on Feb. 7, but it has really big and formidable competition this time. The new New York Giants' and Jets' Meadowlands Stadium opening in New Jersey this month is considered the favorite to host the 2014 game, despite the potential for frigid and snowy weather. The owners waived the requirements of an average 50-degree temperature or domed stadium to allow the region to bid. Tampa is also bidding.

“New York is an exciting city, very dynamic, the NFL is based there, I know [Mayor Michael] Bloomberg is working very hard with others to secure it,” Barreto said. “I think it would be an incredible game, like a how do you call it? One-fer. Like in Jacksonville. If we can do it in Jacksonville, we can do it in New York.”

Jacksonville beat out South Florida for the 2005 game in a vote by the owners in 2000.

But Barreto still believes South Florida has a shot and says it doesn’t make sense not to bid. He reminded the 2010 game came South Florida’s way after it was initially promised to New York contingent on the New York Jets receiving government approvals to build a stadium on Manhattan’s West Side. When state funding didn’t come through, the NFL put the game back up for bid to the three runners-up, including South Florida, passed over for the 2009 game, which was held in Tampa.

“From our perspective, you never not bid or walk away,” he said. “Let’s be in it to win it. The beautiful thing is you can win the consolation prize. You’ve got to participate. Do we win them all? No. There’s more newer stadiums to compete with.”

As of May 1, Barreto said the bidders will go to New York to go over their proposals with league officials. The owners will vote at their meeting May 24-26 in Dallas.

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Catching up: Tuesday links


It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to catch up -- March is a busy month, as always -- so here are some current links, as well as some I should have posted a while ago:

The Real Deal details Miami Heat radio broadcaster and former player John Crotty’s success in the real estate business with Colliers Abood Wood-Fay. Check out the story here.

Three locals were among the SportsBusinessJournal’s Forty Under 40 business executives honored in Los Angeles earlier this month: Miami Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt, who calls becoming AD at The U his “greatest achievement”; Florida Marlins vice president and general counsel Derek Jackson, who labored with others to get the team’s ballpark financed; and Max Eisenbud, vice president of IMG Tennis, who is agent for tennis star Maria Sharapova.

UM TV’s Sports Desk held a panel discussion during Communications Week called “Miami – A Sports Media Haven” - and included Emmanuel Munoz, Florida Marlins director of broadcasting; Jason Jenkins, Miami Dolphins director of media relations; Joe Pujala, Miami Heat and Miami Hurricanes Spanish language broadcaster; and me. We covered a number of topics, including the fickle nature of the South Florida fans and Miami’s role in sports. The piece aired March 12. If you want to check it out, It’s here.

From last week’s NFL owners meeting in Orlando, my colleagues who attended told me it looks even more likely the New York region will be awarded the 2014 Super Bowl over South Florida and Tampa. We’ll find out for sure at the owners meeting in Dallas in May.

dolphgameday1.jpgAnd a little more on Dolphins owner Steve Ross pitching his “GameDay” Vision handheld TV device to the rest of the league’s owners: The SportsBusiness Journal reported Ross quietly purchased Kangaroo TV in December and not only is he expanding the number of Dolphins fans who will get the devices for games in the upcoming season (one for every two tickets in each season ticket holder account instead of just club and suite holders), but he’s offering devices to the other 31 team owners. In return, the Journal story explains, the teams would need to market the devices to their fans.

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Player Appearance: Meet Tim Tebow


Former Gator Tim Tebow is scheduled to sign autographs, pose for photos and do the "Gator Walk" at an appearance at Palm Beach Autographs in Palm Beach Gardens on Saturday.

The NFL hopeful, 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and two-time BCS champion quarterback will be participating in a free event with activities, raffles and giveaways. The autographs and photographs will cost you because they’re for a fundraiser for the Tim Tebow Foundation, which seeks “to bring hope, faith and love” to the needy.

Tebow, who has an exclusive memorabilia contract with Palm Beach Autographs, is scheduled to appear from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Palm Beach Autographs store at Downtown at the Gardens, 11701 Lake Victoria Gardens Ave., #3108, Palm Beach Gardens. His appearance at the Palm Beach Autographs store in Jacksonville on March 6 drew more than 2,000 people and ended up extending Tebow’s visit with fans.

Tickets are limited. Photographs are $75 and allow you to get your photo taken with Tebow and the Heisman Trophy. Autographs cost $160 to $185 depending on the item and inscription: $160 covers typical items such as 8 x 10 or 16 x 20 photos, footballs, or mini-helmets, and personalized autographs with “God Bless,” “Go Gators” or a short Bible verse of your choosing. It costs another $25 for large items, such as full-size helmets or jerseys, and for inscriptions that include “07 Heisman,” “06/08 Champs” or “08 BCS MVP.”

For more information on the event and to purchase tickets, visit palmbeachautographs.com.

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Miami Dolphins raise some ticket prices, freeze and lower others



More details on Dolphins 2010 ticket prices than I was able to include in today's story:

The Dolphins are increasing prices on more than half the seats at Sun Life Stadium next season, but offering significant cost-savings and extras to fans who buy season -- rather than single game -- tickets.

In the first major price restructuring in three years, the team is raising prices on 56 percent of seats, and freezing prices for 31 percent and reducing 13 percent. Six new categories show an eye to pricing seats in the shade and closer to the 50-yard line higher than those in sunny and endzone locations.

Season ticket prices range from $34 a game in the “Phan Zone” on the 400 level of the east end zone -- $31 for fans who renew by March 31 – up to $120 in the Lower Prime South -- 100 level seats on the shady, home side between the 20-yard lines. On a single game basis, Phan Zone seats rise to $45 and Lower Prime South to $150.

New season ticket holder benefits: Game Day Vision -- handheld devices that show replays, different camera angles, other games and fantasy statistics -- available only to club and suite holders last season will be given to all season ticket holders – one for every two seats in an account. Other amenities include priority sales for concerts at the stadium and booklets of buy one-get one concession offers.

“We’ve said the season ticket base is the lifeblood of a successful sports franchise, and we need to walk to walk, not just talk the talk,” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said.

The team hired consulting firm, Analysis Group, to evaluate ticket prices and demand as the basis for devising the new pricing structure.

Renewal packets were sent to season ticket holders this week.

The Dolphins sold 49,415 season tickets last year -- up 7 percent from 46,131 in 2008. Dee said the team hopes to reach 55,000 in 2010.

The average ticket price for early season ticket renewers is $70.54 compared to an average $92.69 for single game tickets. Frozen and reduced seats are in 400 level: Upper Corner Endzone seats remain $42 apiece for season ticket holders and $52 for individual game buyers; Upper Sideline seats are dropping from $70 to $60 for season ticket buyers and from $80 to $70 for single game tickets.

The team has also altered prices on the club level, taking into account that endzone tickets aren't as desirable as sideline ones. East endzone seats, which dropped from $262 per game to $92 last year during construction on the Dolphins offices, will be $125 this year, but include only limited access to club amenities. The west endzone club seats also will have limited amenities and will cost $150 per game down from $262.50 last season.

Parking prices will be frozen at $25 to $28, team officials said.

Dee reiterated team owner Steve Ross’ mantra that the team must create an entertaining game-day stadium experience to entice people off their couches.

“One of the biggest competitors to growing our season ticket base and attendance in general is how good the family room experience has become,” Dee said. “Football in high definition is perhaps as good as anything in high definition that you can get on television, so we have to be better than we’ve been in the past, we have to offer new amenities.”

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High schoolers who support legal drinking age can win scholarship, NFL player school visit


The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, the NFL Players Association and Discovery Education have launched a program to encourage high school students to abide by the legal drinking age of 21 -- and get rewarded for it.

The venture, called “It’s 21. Just Pass,” includes a quiz testing students’ knowledge of drinking laws and consequences of underage drinking. Entrants are eligible to win a $5,000 scholarship. The school that submits the most entries, wins the school prize of a visit by an NFL player. Students ages 13 to 19 are eligible and can submit one entry per day during the sweepstakes period, which ends April 15.

There’s also a video contest, in which students can enter original videos of up to two minutes that reinforce the legal drinking age message for a chance to win two tickets to an NFL game.

“By partnering with the NFLPA and Discovery Education, we’ve leveraged high-profile sports personalities and a very credible educational resource to help us develop an innovative campaign that demonstrates our ongoing commitment to become an industry leader in social responsibility,” Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America President and CEO Craig Wolf said in a statement.

Added George Atallah, NFL Players Association Director of External Affairs: “The NFLPA proudly supports all of its players in their community service endeavors. Ventures like ‘It’s 21. Just Pass’ give these player role models an invaluable platform to spread a positive message.”

For rules, to enter and more information, visit its21justpass.com.

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New York-area Super Bowl in 2014? South Florida not conceding


The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee decided this week to drop its bid to host the 2014 Super Bowl, leaving the New York-area, South Florida and Tampa in the running.

Arizona’s decision to bow out has speculation rising that the new Meadowlands Stadium opening in New Jersey this year now has a lock on the 2014 game. NFL owners, after all, agreed to waive the temperature requirements for the game – a 50-degree average daily temperature or a domed climate-controlled venue – so the New York Jets and Giants could submit a joint bid to host the game.

Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sounded bullish on the idea of an outdoor game in New York during his session with reporters during Super Bowl week earlier this month.

“I think there are real benefits to the league considering this as an option. I think the idea of playing in the elements is central to the way the game of football is played. I think being able to do that and celebrate the game of football in the number one market could have tremendous benefits to the league going forward,” Goodell said. “I think you will see that – I think our two co-chairmen are here, Woody Johnson and Jon Tisch – they will put together a very aggressive bid, one that will demonstrate the value of playing in New York and they will be competing against some great cities also. It will be an interesting vote, but I will stand on the sidelines and watch.”

Of course, a snowstorm wasn’t pounding the region then as it was Friday, when I asked South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee officials about Arizona dropping out and New York’s bid. South Florida hosted its record 10th Super Bowl on Feb. 7.

“They’ve got a real snowstorm going through New York right now. Planes can’t get in and out. It’s a great place for a Super Bowl,” said South Florida host committee member and former Miami Dolphin Dick Anderson, who is chairing a committee examining potential renovations for Sun Life Stadium to make it competitive for future Super Bowls. “In all seriousness, when you eliminate one competitor, there’s three instead of four. We still believe this is the best place to hold a Super Bowl.”

Anderson’s committee – a subcommittee of the host committee – is studying whether it makes sense for South Florida to continue hosting Super Bowls and if so, how to fund renovations that could include a partial roof over the seating stadium’s areas and replacing and reconfiguring the stadium so seats are closer to the field. Goodell has told South Florida officials the stadium needs to be kept state-of-the art to compete with newer, glitzier stadiums, such as Dallas' Cowboys Stadium, which is hosting next year’s Super Bowl.

“I think a cold weather stadium that has a dome would certainly have a much better chance than an open air stadium,” South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman Rodney Barreto said. “However, I don’t have a vote.”

NFL owners vote on the 2014 Super Bowl host site at their meeting in May.

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American flags from Super Bowl XLIV up for auction


Two American flags that flew over Super Bowl XLIV at Sun Life Stadium are being auctioned with proceeds going to the Miami Dolphins Foundation and Flags4Vets, an organization that raises money to buy flags to put on veterans' graves.

Current bid: $700. Auction ends on Feb. 22. The flags come with a certificate of authenticity signed by …. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. One has to assume he’s authenticating that the flags flew over the Super Bowl, not that they’re legitimate American flags. Find the auction here.


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Post-Super Bowl/Pro Bowl tidbits, wrap-up


+ Super Bowl XLIV wasn’t just a huge event for TV, it – along with the Pro Bowl – helped Sun Life Financial score from its brand new naming rights deal with the Miami Dolphins’ home stadium, according to Joyce Julius, which measures sponsor exposure. The Michigan firm says the two games helped the Toronto-based financial services and insurance company, which signed the naming rights deal Jan. 20, realize more than $27 million in exposure in TV broadcasts and media coverage. CBS’ telecast of the Super Bowl was responsible for 36 percent of Sun Life’s exposure with ESPN’s Pro Bowl broadcast adding another 5 percent. Combined, Joyce Julius reported, the Sun Life logo got 17 minutes and three seconds of airtime and was mentioned 25 times. The company measured the exposure against what advertising during the broadcasts would cost and added in exposure from other media coverage.

+ Saints QB and Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees already went to Disney World for the post-championship ad and was part of the parade in New Orleans last night that some estimates say attracted as many as 800,000 people. His marketability should skyrocket, experts say. In his Super Bowl XLIV Sports Marketers’ Scouting Report, Bob Dorfman of Baker Street Advertising, wrote before Sunday’s game that Brees “has the most marketing potential of any Super Bowl XLIV player, and a win in Miami could vault him into the upper echelon of athlete endorsers.” Dorfman placed only Colts QB Peyton Manning higher on his endorsement list, but said this about Brees: “articulate, comfortable on camera, a genuinely nice guy, better looking than Peyton, and his cheek birthmark adds a distinctive touch.” Brees, the father of a toddler, is already starring in an online ad for Pampers, so Dorfman believes he’s a good bet for Gerber or Fisher-Price. He’s also in the running for the cover of Madden NFL 11. Since Brees is already known as "Breesus" around NOLA, Dorfman suggests “a Bank of America ad headline ‘Breesus Saves.’”

+ The Super Saturday Night concert on Fort Lauderdale Beach was so successful that some wonder whether the city’s lifting of its ban on open containers just for the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl should be extended. Watch my colleague Brittany Wallman’s video montage from the concert here.


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Indianapolis Colts championship gear to get new life -- in Haiti


zambiabears.jpgT-shirts, caps and towels touting the Indianapolis Colts as Super Bowl XLIV champions were boxed up and shipped Tuesday to a distribution center near Pittsburgh where they will be sorted for eventual delivery to Haiti.

There was a moment Sunday night, when the gear sat in four Reebok athletic bags on the Sun Life Stadium field. But when it became clear in the closing minutes of the game that the New Orleans Saints would be champions, the Colts' gear was returned to the "secret room" in the bowels of the stadium. The four bags of Saints gear was rushed onto the field at the end of the game and shared with victorious Saints players.

For years, the league would destroy the losers’ items after the game.

“We would literally incinerate it or shred it,” said David Krichavsky, NFL director of community affairs. “Then it dawned us, it probably wasn’t the best use because others around the world could use it.”

The NFL now designates the losers’ product for a new assignment. International relief organization World Vision has been sending the gear to needy populations in developing countries since 1994. Product is also collected from the retailers, such as Sports Authority, which order it to have on hand once the game is won.

patsnica.jpgWorld Vision typically receives about $2 million in donated NFL apparel from the Super Bowl and conference championship games, organization spokeswoman Karen Kartes said.

This year, the league and World Vision had chosen Haiti -- the poorest nation in the western hemisphere -- before the Jan. 12 earthquake rocked the country. In the next few months, as the post-earthquake needs in Haiti grow less critical, palettes of shirts and caps will make their way to the country.

Last year, Arizona Cardinals product went to El Salvador. Those New England Patriots 19-0 shirts and caps? To Nicaragua. In 2007, Chicago Bears’ merchandise went to Zambia. (See photos courtesy of World Vision).

The NFL gets a tax deduction and avoids putting the product into landfills.

“It helps us meet really critical needs,” Kartes said. “A lot of these children and families, literally haven’t had a new item of clothing in their lives. It’s really touching. They don’t care what’s written on it.”

Major League Baseball partnered with World Vision three years ago. “The Phillies merchandise started arriving in Indonesia in December,” Kartes said.

In all, World Vision, which works with 100 countries, takes in $400 million in donated corporate product each year, including the sports gear and pharmaceutical and school supplies, Kartes said.

Kartes said while the inaccurate product could end up somewhere that someone notices it, “the benefits outweigh the risks.”

But some wonder if it would make more sense to sell the inaccurate gear for big money -- like a collector's item -- and send the money to the needy countries instead. The leagues don't want incorrect gear floating around the United States, but the idea is an interesting one. Check out Dan Shanoff's "You Lost, They Win" concept here.

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44 and counting...


This evening, four gentlemen will take their seats at Sun Life Stadium for their 44th Super Bowl.

Yes, 44th.

Don Crisman, sporting a blue shirt with the inscription “Never Miss a Super Bowl Club, 44th Anniversary,” was snapping photos at the Super Bowl Media Center this week. He explained how they all found each other.

Crisman, 73, of Kennebunk, Me., started making the journey with friend Stanley Whitaker, who’s now 84 and dropped out two years ago for health reasons. It was at Super Bowl XII or XIII, they discovered they weren’t the only ones. Tom Henschel’s been with them since XIV. The baby of the group at age 68, Henschel splits his time between Pittsburgh and Tampa.

By Super Bowl XXXIII – in South Florida – the NFL included their stories in the game program and that’s how they discovered Larry Jacobson of San Francisco, who’s now 70. Oh, and now the NFL reserves tickets for them so they don’t have to search for them. They do still have to pay.

At Super Bowl XXXVI, they found Bob Cook of Wisconsin, who is 79.

“It was 36 or 37,” Crisman says. They now visit each other’s homes and attend regular season NFL games together. Crisman, for example, has gone to a Patriots-49ers game in San Francisco with Jacobson.

They have other streaks, too. Crisman attended 25 Daytona 500s in a row. Jacobson’s been to about a dozen summer Olympics games, Crisman said.

They each have responsibilities for the Super Bowl trip – one books hotels, another arranges a luncheon for the group. They typically back different teams in the Super Bowl, but this year, they’re all rooting for the Saints, Crisman said. “What the area went through, those people deserve some good in their lives.”

As for future trips, Crisman said: “I’m hoping to make it to 50, then I’ll be 80 and it’s OK to stop.”

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Eating on Super Bowl Sunday


With the USDA naming Super Bowl Sunday the second highest food consumption day of the year -- after Thanksgiving -- plenty of people this Super Bowl week were hawking messages about the dangers of -- and alternatives to -- gluttony.

Jared Fogle, the Subway Guy, has a few recommendations.

“We’re trying to encourage people to do things in moderation,” said Fogle, who was making the Super Bowl rounds this week to promote Subway’s “Footlong Nation Appreciation” to reward the public for making Subway’s footlong subs so popular. “People have New Year’s resolutions they stick to in January, but on Super Bowl Sunday, people easily fall off the wagon.”

Fogel suggested Subway’s fruit and vegetable trays or its eight sandwiches with fewer than 6 grams of fat, including his personal favorite, sweet onion chicken teriyaki. Fogle still eats Subway sandwiches two to three times a week.

The Footlong Nation Appreciation website went live Thursday at SubwayFreshBuzz.com, where the public has the opportunity to win a year's worth of footlongs. The public can also vote for its favorite footlongs -- the community that casts the most votes will win 500 sandwiches for a local food bank.

Fogle, 32, will also be at Sunday’s game at Sun Life Stadium, just as he was in 2007 to root on his hometown Indianapolis Colts. “I know stadium food is not always the healthiest either. I’ll probably end up eating before I go to the game. I may even eat a Subway sandwich.”

Meanwhile, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has been lobbying CBS to air the non-profit organization’s PSA about the heart attack risk of game day gorging. Watch the ad here.

“ As the nation’s most talented athletes compete on the field, fast-food companies are working overtime to make sure fans at home are overindulging in buffalo wings, pepperoni pizza, and other high-fat fare. The NFL encourages these unhealthy eating habits by running Web ads for KFC hot wings and by pushing high-fat foods in the Taste of the NFL recipe archive,” Susan Levin, PCRM director of nutrition education, wrote in a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and CBS President Les Moonves.

Levin cited a 2008 New England Journal of Medicine story showing the number of heart attacks doubled in a major city during a big sporting event. She also wrote, “High-fat tailgating fare will cause an average fan’s triglycerides (a measure of fat in your bloodstream) to increase 60 percent by halftime and 150 percent before the evening is over. By the end of the game, blood flow to the heart can decrease by more than half.”

And the organization put out a report listing the details of five Super Bowl foods: Quiznos Tuna Melt (1,793 calories, 28 grams of saturated fat); two slices of Papa John’s The Meats Pan Crust Pizza (920 calories, 56 grams of fat); Muffuletta Potato Skins (601 calories, 26 grams of fat); KFC’s Honey BBQ Hot Wings (590 calories, 35 grams of fat); and Papa John’s Cheesesticks and garlic dipping sauce – four sticks (520 calories, 33 grams of fat).

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NFLPA campaign: Players are more than just their numbers


players1.jpgRecent visitors to South Florida arriving at Miami International Airport have been greeted by larger than life posters featuring NFL Players sharing tidbits about their lives off the field.

The banners, which cover the columns at baggage claim include Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen sharing this wisdom: “The mullet isn’t just a hairdo, it’s a lifestyle.” And New Orleans Saints safety Darren Sharper saying “I’m a jokester. I like to keep people laughing.”

The idea is to show players out of uniform, living every day lives. The banners, which went up on Jan. 15 in time for last Sunday's Pro Bowl and this Sunday's Super Bowl, will be up through Feb. 15. They are part of a multi-platform campaign in collaboration with mobile marketing company, Mogreet Inc., to show the players as more than their jobs on the field or as the campaign states “as normal guys with a great job.”

Other players featured include New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and Green Bay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk. Visit nflplayers.com/real to learn more about the players, watch videos, check out photos and even email player postcards to friends.

Fans who text “NFLPA” to 21534 will get a video sent to their phones and an entry to win a trip to the 2010 NFL Players Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles. You can also enter the sweepstakes here. Those who enter the sweepstakes can also receive a gift from the Players Association.

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Super Bowl partying, auction, predictions and other tidbits


MOVES2.jpg
+ MOVES Magazine, the Hollywood-based magazine about and for athletes, hosts its annual Red Carpet Super Bowl Gala at Christine Lee’s at Gulfstream Park on Wednesday night with hosts Ray Lewis and Ludacris.

The latest issue of the glossy magazine that features high end advertising and articles both about athletes and that are meant to interest athletes, has LeBron James on the cover. That’s after the magazine had already planned its edition with Tiger Woods as cover boy.

The magazines were distributed to NFL players at the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl team hotels and is being made available at parties and events across South Florida this week.

+ Also on Wednesday, Hunt Auctions opens its preview of items for its Super Bowl XLIV Live Auction on Sunday at the Hard Rock Café in Bayside Marketplace in Miami. The preview, which includes more than 280 football-related items such as a Joe Namath game-worn jersey and 1972 Dolphins team-signed football, runs Wednesday through Saturday at the NFL Fan Zone on South Beach. There’s also an appraisal fair, where fans can bring any kind of sports collectibles – not just football items – to learn how much they may be worth.

Sharp-eyed Sun Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor Steve Svekis noticed a problem with one of the items listed in the auction catalog: a model Washington Redskins home jersey for running back John Riggins from the 1980s features No. 42. Riggins wore No. 44.

+ There’s still time – until 1 p.m. Wednesday -- to buy raffle tickets for four tickets to Super Bowl XLIV and two rooms for three nights at the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami, where the New Orleans Saints are staying this week. Raffle tickets are $2 each, but you must buy at least five. The package doesn’t include airfare. Proceeds go to the Heath Evans Foundation, which is dedicated to healing children and families affected by sexual abuse, and the Drew Brees Dream Foundation, which raises money for cancer research, cancer patient care, and rebuilding schools, parks, playgrounds, and athletic fields. Buy tickets at heathevans.org.

+ And just in case you forgot that Super Bowl is rife with unusual and wacky pitches, releases, and often suspect connections to the big game: Veterinary Pet Insurance Co., which insures some 475,000 pets, checked its database of pet names and says the New Orleans Saints just slightly edge the Indianapolis Colts when it comes pet owners naming their pets for their favorite team and its players. The company included pets named Drew, Brees and Drew Brees; Manning, Peyton and Peyton Manning and a variety of other Saints’ and Colts’ names – even Saint and Colt – and the tallies were 230 Saints-related names to 227 Colts-related names. How’s that for pet equity?

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Dunkin' Donuts celebrates Super Bowl XLIV


DD3.jpgStarting today, Dunkin’ Donuts locations from Miami-Dade County to Indian River County are selling Super Bowl XLIV-themed doughnuts.

Donuts with vanilla frosting and blue sprinkles will celebrate the Indianapolis Colts and ones with maple (gold) frosting and a black marble design honor the New Orleans Saints. The two teams face off in Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday at Sun Life Stadium.

You’ll also find a Boston Kreme donut with white “football laces.” The stores are selling two dozen for $9.99.

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Don Shula's statue, award and address


shula1.jpgJust before the 2010 Pro Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday, Miami Dolphins officials put a signature touch on their new 35,000 square feet of office space on the east side of the stadium, unveiling a statue of Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history.

The statue depicts Shula being carried on the shoulders of Nick Buoniconti and Al Jenkins after the Dolphins won the Super Bowl in 1973 completing the team’s -- and the NFL’s only -- perfect season. “Perfect Moment in Time” is printed on the statue.

The statue unveiling came less than a month after Shula celebrated his 80th birthday and was attended by a who’s who of Dolphins greats, team owner Steve Ross, coach Tony Sparano and general manager Jeff Ireland, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and local and state politicians, including Gov. Charlie Crist.

Dolphins CEO Mike Dee didn’t miss an opportunity to remind Goodell – and everyone else in attendance – of South Florida’s record-setting 10 times hosting the Super Bowl – “more than any other city in America.” Jimmy Cefalo added “We’re fortunate to have the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl and we hope many, many more in the future.”

South Florida is bidding for the 2014 Super Bowl.

Shula’s ceremony came complete with Bob Griese and Shula teasing each other – “I look over at Bob Griese and think ‘I was a hell of a coach to win with talent like that,’” Shula said.

Hall of Famer Dan Marino showed up late for the ceremony to which Jimmy Cefalo said, “Shula just fined No. 13.”

Kidding aside, Shula said he was humbled. The NFL announced the creation of “The Coach Shula Award” to honor an NFL coach each season who displays excellence, integrity and achievement.

And then the Dolphins gave their new offices a new address: 347 Don Shula Drive – in honor of Shula’s 347 wins. That’s the address for the team’s offices. Don’t worry, Marino fans: the stadium’s address remains 2269 Dan Marino Blvd.

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on NFL Experience, other Pro Bowl tidbits


Miami Dolphins Ronnie Brown, Chad Henne, Vontae Davis, and Davone Bess were among the NFL players scheduled to appear today at NFL Game Day Fan Plaza – the football activities area adjacent to Sun Life Stadium.

The Fan Plaza area, which is open to the public for a few hours today, and only to Super Bowl ticket holders next Sunday, is part of the league’s answer to the NFL Experience – the giant football-themed activities area that’s become a signature of Super Bowls.

With the Super Bowl just in South Florida three years ago, league officials were looking for ways to vary the experience for local fans. They shelved the NFL Experience and brought the Pro Bowl and some of its trappings instead, including Fan Plaza, the open Pro Bowl practice yesterday at Lockhart Stadium, and free concert on Fort Lauderdale Beach next Saturday.

“We designed a calendar of events that was specifically designed to recognize we were just here three years ago, and we didn’t want to do all of the same things, so that’s part of the reason the Pro Bowl is here this year,” said Frank Supovitz, NFL senior vice president of special events. “Pro Bowl is the key fan engagement opportunity and provides our fans with the opportunity to see the players all in one place that they’re looking at only in posters and décor around NFL Experience.”

Still, the move didn’t sit well with a number of fans, whose favorite Super Bowl activity is the NFL Experience.

“To be honest with you, I’m glad they miss it, that’s a good sign, that means we had a great event, that was meaningful to the community,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “So we’ll take all that into consideration, and see if there’s a role for both of those, where we could play the Pro Bowl and the NFL Experience. It’s something we’ll certainly address as we go forward.”

The NFL Experience will be back when the Super Bowl is held in North Texas at the home of the Dallas Cowboys next year.

For more from Goodell, read my Q&A with him in the Sun Sentinel’s Outlook section here. He addressed the Pro Bowl, future Super Bowls in South Florida, labor and other issues.

And, you know how everything is sponsored – Pepsi was all over at Lockhart Stadium yesterday; McDonald’s is the Pro Bowl sponsor. Even the parking lot at Sun Life Stadium where the media is parking for the Pro Bowl has Snickers as a sponsor – says so on our parking passes.

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South Florida's Pro Bowl


The Pro Bowl isn’t until Sunday night, but the NFL’s experiment of moving the league’s All-Star game to the same city as – and a week before – the Super Bowl has already accomplished at least some of its mission.

It’s created a buzz. It’s not all good – in fact, some of it is downright contentious – some have grumbled about missing out on Hawaii and the requirement that Super Bowl players named to the game must attend to receive their Pro Bowl pay. Others, however, love the atmosphere and brought their families to vacation in South Florida.

But if the idea was the raise interest in the game that is often considered an afterthought -- that has happened.

You can’t go more than a few feet these past few days without bumping into a current or former NFL player. They’re practically everywhere. (See a Pro Bowl photo gallery here.)

On Wednesday, Pro Bowl players including Kevin Mawae, Brian Dawkins, Greg Camarillo and Sinorice Moss, helped encourage students at Carol City Elementary School to eat healthful foods and be active. They led the kids in activities and donated $5,000 to the school’s vegetable garden, which includes raised beds of lettuce, celery, parsley, red cabbage and hot yellow peppers.

“We have players who went to this school and went to schools in this area and to me it reminds players, reminds executive directors, of while we’re involved in a great game and a really, really big business, we all have our starts at schools like this,” NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said after visiting the garden.

“We have to be strong members and strong contributors to our community. That’s what we need to be doing. We have a gift and an opportunity to play football and guys like Brian [Dawkins] play this game because they can do things ordinary humans can’t do. But you see them taking time, coming back, not because they think it’s anything special, this is a part of their lives."

On Thursday, players, including Mawae, Dawkins, Donovan McNabb, DeMarcus Ware and D'Brickashaw Ferguson along with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell joined with Bank of America employees to build a playground at RISE Academy in Lauderhill. They put up swings, painted murals, and raked mulch.

It was just one of a series of events in the daylong NFL Play 60 Community Blitz that included projects in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, all aimed at encouraging kids to be active and healthy.

“It shows how great our players are and what they do off the field,” said Goodell, who raked mulch and suffered a nosebleed during the event at RISE Academy. “So many people see them on the field and all the great contributions they make on the field, but these are great men and they do great things in the community, and … it shows how much the NFL cares about their community, and we have the Dolphins here, but we’re also here with two of our biggest events, the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl. And it gives us a chance to really give back to the community.”

Bank of America also saw the NFL’s commitment to South Florida as a way for the bank to help as well. The bank forged a partnership with the league for the events and for a program to feed the hungry.

More than 200 Bank of America employees helped out across South Florida.

“Our company is committed to finding opportunities to give back to the market,” said Lori Chevy, Bank of America market president for Broward County. “When Bank of America saw the opportunity to partner with the NFL, it made sense for us to be able to create this new opportunity.”

Bank of America is also donating $10,000 to Feeding America for every touchdown scored during the Pro Bowl.

And this morning, the NFL held an open Pro Bowl practice at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale – attended by a few thousand fans, who snapped up Pro Bowl visors, caps and T-shirts, cheered the league’s mascots and cheerleaders and waited patiently for autographs. While the mascots and Goodell were generous with their time, not all the players were made available for autographs disappointing some fans.

The Pro Bowl has certainly gotten attention – both good and bad.

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Pro Bowl decision still roiling; more on Super Bowl matchup and the Williams sisters


As 2010 Pro Bowl players descended on South Florida for practices, community events and other obligations, debate continued to rage about as much as the rosters changed.

At an NFL Players Association event at Carol City Elementary in Miami Gardens, where players encouraged kids to eat well and keep active and provided a $5,000 check for the school’s budding vegetable garden, union representatives put on their best face, but didn’t hide their frustration.

“It’s great for South Florida, great for the Miami area. It brings more programs, things like this where players can get involved,” NFL PA President Kevin Mawae said Wednesday. “It’s going to be good for the community and the players that are here are happy to be a part of it.”

But Mawae, who plays center for the Tennessee Titans and is a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, also ticked off a number of reasons players are concerned. He says the union should have had more of a role in the decision.

“We really wish we had a bigger say so. I think it’s something we could have given a little more insight to,” Mawae said. “Part of the lure of the Pro Bowl is going to Hawaii as well. So it’s kind of a mixed bag of feelings there.”

Meanwhile, Mawae and union Executive Director DeMaurice Smith aren’t pleased about the requirement that selected players who are in the Super Bowl can’t play in the Pro Bowl, but still must attend the game to get their Pro Bowl pay.

“A whole lot of obligations without a whole lot of input. I also think that’s not lost on our fans,” Smith said. “I talked to a person who was fortunate enough to make it to the Pro Bowl again this year, and he said, ‘you know De, it’s great and it’s still an honor, but there was something about knowing the Pro Bowl was after the Super Bowl, knowing it was a game about the players, knowing it was an honor to be selected to play a game that’s always been traditionally in this spot. And to not have it this year, It feels a little bit less’.”

The NFL says the union was involved in the discussions for years before the decision to move the game’s time and place was announced in December 2008. Smith wasn’t named union executive director until March – after the Pro Bowl decision was announced.

The move before the Super Bowl is also controversial.

“There are fans, once the Super Bowl is over, they lose interest,” Mawae said. “So I understand that aspect of it, but then it cheats guys out of the opportunity to play in the All-Star game, like the 14 guys from the Colts and the Saints. Again, you’ve got to decide which one’s more important, the players’ feelings versus, at the end of the day, the financial aspect of Pro Bowl.”

The Pro Bowl returns to Hawaii in 2011 and 2012. After that, it could rotate.

“We’ll see. We’re testing it out this year,” Mawae said.

Negotiations for a new labor contract continue to get interesting. (More on this in future posts).

+ Meanwhile, as workers continue their Pro Bowl and Super Bowl preparations across South Florida, experts are still debating the merits of a Colts-Saints Super Bowl matchup, compared to what could have been, had the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings advanced.

Tickets on the secondary market are averaging about $2,600, whereas a Jets Super Bowl would have started at $2,500, experts predicted.

“It’s not good for tourism in South Florida. If the Jets and the Vikings had gotten in, you’d have more people flying in and more of a corporate fan base,” Robert Tuchman, executive vice president of Premier Global Sports, told my colleague Doreen Hemlock. “With New Orleans, you’ll have more people driving in, and you don’t have that corporate fan base. Some will drive in on Saturday. They won’t spend as much as New Yorkers would.”

With the Colts just in the Super Bowl in South Florida in 2007, Tuchman, whose company arranges corporate and group travel to sporting events, said, “Some have already paid for that once in a lifetime experience at the Super Bowl.”

Tuchman estimates the losses to businesses at 30 percent to 40 percent. The difference, he said, “is millions and millions of dollars for South Florida. There will be less hotel rooms, restaurant reservations and golf reservations. It’s not a great matchup.”

But that’s not to suggest South Florida won’t be putting on a big show during the next 10 days. The Pro Bowl is officially sold out at 70,500 seats, although a few club and single seats remain for sale.

Tuchman, after all, is a big fan of the region. In his book, The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live, he ranks Miami as No. 1 in his list of top 10 cities for hosting a major sporting event.

+ Tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams are skipping the Feb. 6-7 Fed Cup because they say they have roles with the Super Bowl as part owners of the Miami Dolphins. A Dolphins spokesman said there is no formal obligation for the Williams sisters to attend any Super Bowl activities. There’s an owners meeting the day before the Super Bowl, but owners with tiny percentages aren’t in the room for those. Venus is, however, hosting a party at the W South Beach on Feb. 5 to launch the new laundry detergent Tide plus Febreze Freshness Sport.

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Super Bowl matchup, gear, ball kid, stadium renovations and more


+ It might not be the matchup South Florida businesses had hoped for – New York Jets v. Minnesota Vikings would have been more lucrative, some say – but officials recognize they’d better be embracing this year’s Super Bowl teams, the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints.

And it might not be as slow as some worried, judging from a story Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau President Bill Talbert told my colleague Doreen Hemlock. A volunteer for the CVB was in New Orleans Sunday and reported to the CVB’s board meeting Monday that the Big Easy is excited about its team’s first-ever trip to the Super Bowl.

"They're all coming, whether they have tickets, whether they have a room,” Talbert said the volunteer reported. "This is a dimension you don't often see. This seems to have gone beyond football fans to the entire community. They all want to celebrate the ultimate victory at the Super Bowl... This is driveable. It's a short flight. It's off the charts."

Talbert added: "You better clear the roads: Here come the Saints."

+ Fans interested in snapping up AFC, NFC champion and Pro Bowl and Super Bowl gear can now shop at the NFL’s Pro Bowl and Super Bowl XLIV Store in parking lot 2 at Gate E at Sun Life Stadium. The store opened Monday morning and will be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. It'll be open the same hours next week.

+ Meanwhile, at least one little Saints fan couldn’t be happier that Drew Brees is in the Super Bowl. Wesley Warren, 7, of Metairie, La., a suburb of New Orleans, won the NFL’s Play 60 Super Kid contest and will deliver the game ball to the officials on the field at Sun Life Stadium on Feb. 7.

Here’s part of Wesley’s essay where she explained which player inspires her to stay fit: “Drew Brees because he has done so much to help my city New Orleans. The Saints have made me realize how important team work is and how sometimes you have to work really hard for a long long long time to get what you want. My mom and dad think the Saints will go to the Superbowl and with Drew Brees I think so too. He is Saintsational (my mom told me to say that.)”

+ And just because you haven't heard about it officially since the Dolphins unveiled proposed renderings for Sun Life Stadium earlier this month, doesn't mean the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee hasn't been hard at work. The committee on Monday named former Miami Dolphin Dick Anderson chairman of the subcommittee exploring proposed stadium improvements. The committee also includes Talbert and his counterpart from the north, Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors' Bureau; Bruce Jay Conlan, chairman of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce; Beatrice Louissant of the Florida Regional Minority Business Council; and Adam Grossman, Dolphins senior vice president of public affairs.

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Super Bowl teams, wagers, merchandise and other random thoughts


+ There are plenty of opinions on which teams in Super Bowl XLIV would be better for South Florida’s economy and those differ from which would be better television matchups.

As unseemly as it sounds, lots of hotel and tourism officials have been happy to talk about the New York Jets being the best team for local businesses because of the influx of well-heeled fans, who will be happy to plunk down lots of cash if their team makes it. There are concerns the Indianapolis Colts aren’t good for business because they were just here in the game in 2007.

CNBC Sports Business Reporter Darren Rovell explains why CBS would prefer the Jets not make the Super Bowl here.

Some just want the Minnesota Vikings in because of superstar quarterback Brett Favre.

“I think the best thing that could happen would be Brett Favre,” Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau President Nicki Grossman told me.

But it just so happened Grossman was spending the weekend in New York, to make the bureau’s winter tourism pitch in one of its favorite target markets. It’s been chilly in New York, where the bureau has ads on 250 taxicabs and is making the rounds of TV shows to promote South Florida.

“Timing is everything,” Grossman said. “It turned out to be fortuitous on the Super Bowl.”

The bureau is running TV ads during both the AFC and NFC championship games today.

+ Meanwhile, CEOs of the official airlines of the Colts and Jets have placed a wager on today’s AFC Championship game. AirTran Airways (Colts) CEO Bob Fornaro has wagered a steak lunch from Indianapolis steakhouse St. Elmo’s if the Jets win, while JetBlue Airways (Jets)
CEO Dave Barger has promised a pit barbecue lunch from New York’s Blue Smoke restaurant if the Colts win.

“With the Colts being such a great team and the game being at home, it’s only fair that I put up a steak against a pulled pork platter,” Fornaro said in a statement. “Seriously, does anyone think the Jets can really stop Peyton Manning and the rest of the team on the fastest turf in the league?”

Barger said “I like my steak medium rare and make sure there are plenty of fries to go with it.”

+ If you just look at merchandise sales, the Jets rank third among the four teams playing today in gear sold this month compared with a year ago, according to figures from NFLShop.com. Those figures show sales of New Orleans Saints gear are up 650 percent from last January, Vikings up 533 percent, Jets up 252 percent and the Colts up 189 percent.

From April through Jan. 18, however, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the top selling team in the league followed by the Dallas Cowboys, and then the Vikings. The Saints ranked 6th, Colts 7th and Jets 11th. And the Vikings had two of the top four selling jerseys during the same period – Favre at No. 1 and Adrian Peterson at 4. Colts QB Peyton Manning’s was second, followed by Saints QB Drew Brees at third. New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez’s ranked eighth.

+ Is it me or has the number of Pro Bowl and Super Bowl billboards in South Florida quadrupled in the past week?

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Steve Ross' first eventful year as majority owner of the Miami Dolphins


The one-year mark of Steve Ross taking control of the Dolphins from H. Wayne Huizenga didn’t pass quietly this week. Ross was overseas, but on Wednesday his stadium got its second new name of the year: Sun Life Stadium.

It’s been an eventful –- emphasis on the event -- year for Ross’ Dolphins and his stadium. Remember, it was Jan. 20, 2009 when Huizenga made sure the papers finalizing the $1.1 billion sale were signed just hours before President Barack Obama’s inauguration -- as something of a symbolic gesture in case Obama raised capital gains taxes.

Ross promised he’d jazz up the entertainment experience for fans at the stadium then called Dolphin Stadium. In May, he began that transformation signing a cash-less naming rights/marketing partnership with Jimmy Buffett’s Land Shark Lager for the 2009 season. The announcement came complete with a short Buffett concert, hundreds of Parrot Heads and a new version of Buffett’s hit Fins written specifically for the Dolphins. Bringing brand new meaning to “Fins to the Left…”

This week, the stadium got its second new name in a year – make that three, if you count the two weeks it reverted to Dolphin Stadium between the Orange Bowl on Jan. 5 and the Sun Life announcement on Wednesday.

So, a short by the numbers:

6 World Baseball Classic games: the stadium was host to round two games in March

6 limited partners: Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Marc Anthony (and by marriage his wife Jennifer Lopez), Venus and Serena Williams, Fergie. (Asked whether more limited partners could be brought on board, Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said, “I wouldn’t say it’s an active pursuit. We continue to keep an open mind toward additional partners. But it’s not a high priority.”)

2 stadium names: Land Shark, Sun LIfe

2 press conference concerts: Buffett’s to introduce Land Shark in May; KC & the Sunshine Band’s booty shaking serenade to introduce Sun Life on Wednesday. (Dee said KC wasn’t likely to become a limited partner, but “he could be a promotional partner.”)

1 new (much maligned) fight song: Can you forget T Pain’s autotune version of the old song?

1 new theme song: Buffett’s revamped Fins, which is played every time the team scores -- and then some. (Dee said Buffett’s song is here to stay. “What was important about the Land Shark involvement wasn’t necessarily the name on the building, but the vibe, if you will, in the stadium, the theme areas.”)

1 artist: Romero Britto’s neo pop art graces the helixes and gates at the stadium.

0 playoff appearances: Both the Dolphins and Marlins missed the postseason.

1 World Cup finalist site: The stadium was included this month among 18 in the U.S. bid to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022.

2 (at least) stadium dissings by the NFL: Both NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Senior Vice President of Special Events Frank Supovitz told the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee and community leaders the 23-year-old venue needs upgrades to keep it competitive with other stadiums across the country vying to host future Super Bowls.

Stay tuned….

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Home of the Miami Dolphins now officially Sun Life Stadium


SunLifeStadium_Logo1.jpgJust in time to host the 2010 Pro Bowl and Super Bowl XLIV, the Miami Dolphins reached a long-term agreement with a corporate naming rights partner to rename their multi-monikered home, Sun Life Stadium.

Sun Life Financial, a Toronto-based financial services and insurance company, has agreed to put its name on the Miami Gardens venue for at least five years.

Financial details weren’t disclosed, but a source said the deal is initially five years with multiple options that could stretch the deal to 20 years. The Dolphins are to receive roughly $5 million a year but that could rise to the $7 million range if the certain incentives occur, including securing another Super Bowl and team playoff appearances.

The Dolphins and Sun Life officials from the company’s U.S. headquarters in Wellesley, Mass., announced the deal on a stage on the field inside the stadium. A medley of songs about the sun, including Sheryl Crow’s Soak up the Sun, Smash Mouth’s Walking on the Sun and Katrina and the Waves’ Walking on Sunshine, helped introduce the name.

“Boy does it feel good under the sun,” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said before sharing the name with invited season ticket holders, Super Bowl Host Committee officials and volunteers and students from American Heritage.

Sun Life officials said what attracted them to the Dolphins home stadium was that it is home to football, baseball, the Orange Bowl, Super Bowl and other events and exposes them to lots of new potential customers. It will also help the company overcome the fact that many people in the U.S. aren’t familiar with what they do.

“It really has been about building our brand in the United States," said Wes Thompson, president of Sun Life Financial U.S. "We’ve got great presence in Canada, great presence internationally, but we’ve really lacked brand presence in the U.S., as you’ve seen we’ve with our most recent commercials, our efforts are to really get our name out, so sooner or later you’ll know our name. This is another step in that journey to build our brand.”

And just as they have been doing in their recent advertising campaign launched in November, Sun Life Financial called on KC & the Sunshine Band to help spread the word about its brand. In the ad campaign, two Sun Life representatives try to convince KC to change his band’s name to the “Sun Life Band.” KC still hasn’t done that, but did perform a medley of Shake Your Booty and Get Down Tonight.

Sun Life also agreed to contribute $250,000 annually to the Dolphins Foundation and the team and Sun Life together established “Sun Life Miami Dolphins Haiti Relief Fund” with $200,000 and will match contributions made at sunlifestadium.com two to one.

Priscilla Brown, senior vice president and head of U.S. marketing for Sun Life, who attended the announcement, and Sun Life Financial President Jon A. Boscia, are no strangers to football stadium naming rights deals. Brown served as chief marketing and brand officer for Lincoln Financial Group, where Boscia was CEO. In 2002, Lincoln National Corp., struck the $139.6 million, 20-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles to name the team’s new stadium Lincoln Financial Field.

Brown said what made the two deals different was the Lincoln Financial used the Eagles Stadium as a way to announce the company's entry into the Philadelphia market, but the Dolphins' stadium allows the company to make a statement both nationally and internationally.

"Here the primary objective was to make this really big given that we don’t have most of our employees in this area," Brown said. "We want to make sure people around the globe knew about it."

Dee said he didn't think the dollars from the Sun Life deal had been earmarked as yet, but were intended to be used to continue to build a winning franchise. He said he hoped the naming rights deal, which marks the first one in more than a decade that will generate revenue for the team, lasts well beyond the initial five-year term.

"We’ve made clear we want a partner for the long haul," Dee said. "We hope this is the last name this building ever has."

The Dolphins’ home venue, which opened in 1987 as Joe Robbie Stadium, has had a series of name changes. For the 2009 season it was known as Land Shark Stadium, after Dolphins owner Steve Ross struck a cash-less marketing deal with Jimmy Buffett’s Land Shark Lager. That deal was only through the 2009 season.

From 1996 to 2005, the stadium was named Pro Player after then-team owner H. Wayne Huizenga struck a deal with sports apparel maker Pro Player. In 1999, Pro Player’s parent company, Fruit of the Loom, filed for bankruptcy and the Pro Player brand was shuttered. The team regained the naming rights in 2000, but never struck a new corporate deal. The stadium was called Dolphins Stadium in 2005; the ‘s’ was dropped in 2006. The Land Shark deal was announced last May.

Thompson said he hopes the lack of a consistent name for the stadium helps fans remember the Sun Life Stadium name going forward.

“In a sense no one’s established a beachhead because of that," Thompson said. "It’s not as if we have to fight a 20-year nomenclature of any type that may have existed before. So we kind of view that as an advantage for us, and we are in this for the long term per the agreement we have with the Dolphins.”

Here’s the stadium name chronology:

Aug. 16, 1987-Aug. 25, 1996: Joe Robbie Stadium
Aug. 26-Sept. 9, 1996: Pro Player Park
Sept. 10, 1996-Jan. 9, 2005: Pro Player Stadium
Jan. 10, 2005-April 7, 2006: Dolphins Stadium
April 8, 2006-May 7, 2009: Dolphin Stadium
May 8, 2009-Jan. 5, 2010: Land Shark Stadium
Jan. 6, 2010-Jan. 19: Dolphin Stadium
Jan. 20, 2010: Sun Life Stadium

Watch a video from the announcement here:

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Lingerie (Football League) Bowl VII in South Florida, too


lfl1.jpgApparently, it’s not enough to have our own entry in the inaugural season of Lingerie Football League. South Florida will be hosting the LFL playoffs and championship game, Lingerie Bowl VII, at Seminole Hard Rock Live in Hollywood the night before Super Bowl XLIV.

Our local team, the Miami Caliente (2-1 on the season), is even vying for one of two open playoff spots. Stephon McMillen, media director for the league, reminds us the Caliente is “South Florida's only pro football in the hunt for the Playoffs.” The Caliente’s final game of the season is against the Tampa Breeze at 9 p.m. Jan. 22 at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.

In case you've somehow missed this, the Lingerie Football League launched last fall with 10 teams, whose players play 7-on-7 full contact tackle football dressed in bikini tops and short shorts. Check out photos here.

Prior to the league's launch, the Lingerie Bowl was held as an exhibition game and has become something of a fixture of Super Bowl halftime – offering a diversion from the NFL’s official halftime concert performance.

But you can catch the game in person – seats are $55 to $225 – on Feb. 6 at Hard Rock Live. There’s even an after-party hosted by LFL models for Lingerie Bowl ticket holders, celebrities and VIPs at One Bal Harbor Hotel on Miami Beach.

As it has in previous years, except last year when it was “canceled due to a conflict with a Florida nudist resort,” the game will be broadcast on pay per view.

Hard Rock Live is also hosting the LFL conference playoffs on Feb. 4 with the Western Conference playoff at 9 p.m., followed by the Eastern Conference playoff at 11 p.m.

Tickets for the Caliente's final game of the season, conference playoffs and Lingerie Bowl are available at Ticketmaster.com.

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Orange Bowl gifts; Super Bowl ticket prices; RIP TWT Sports


Iowa Hawkeyes and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets players visited the Orange Bowl “gift suite” last night to pick out items ranging from clock radios to iPod docking stations to mountain bikes and luggage sets.

Also among this year’s gifts for playing in the 76th FedEx Orange Bowl on Jan. 5 at Land Shark Stadium: a Tourneau watch, New Era hat and an Ogio backpack.

+ Meanwhile, ticket prices have been set for Super Bowl XLIV, which will be played Feb. 7 at the same stadium, known then as Dolphin Stadium. They’re topping out at $1,000 – just as they did this year in Tampa for Super Bowl XLIII.

The NFL is doubling the number of $500 seats reserved for fans of the two competing Super Bowl teams to 2,000 – up from 1,000 this year. Of the roughly 74,000 seats at Dolphin Stadium, 50 percent will cost $800; 35 percent cost $900 and 13 percent cost $1,000.

Face value for tickets to the 2007 Super Bowl in South Florida? $600 and $700.

Looking for a less expensive alternative to see some of the NFL’s biggest stars, who won’t be playing in the Super Bowl? Tickets to the Pro Bowl on Jan. 31 range from $50 to $195 with most priced less than $100. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com, NFL.com or by calling 800-745-3000.

+ With sadness: The sports business reporting ranks weren’t that big to begin with, so it always hurts to lose another member – particularly as part of the newspaper industry’s slow painful death march. The Washington Times publishes its last sports section Friday. Good luck to sports business and media writer, Tim Lemke, whose last TWT blog post can be found here.

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Former UM star Andre Johnson - budding endorser?


Houston Texans and former Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Andre Johnson isn’t known for his sparkling personality. He even pokes fun at his lack of loquaciousness in a 2007 ad for the NFL’s fantasy football game – saying “Actions speak louder than words, so I don’t do a lot of talking…”

But some wonder why the star player, who is among the NFL’s top receivers and whose Texans face the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Land Shark Stadium, hasn’t gotten the attention of advertisers. In his only ad thus far – a Dick’s Sporting Goods spot that broke this fall – Johnson’s a tad stiff and looks like he’s reading cue cards, but the spot is well-done and amusing. He’s showing off Nike vapor trail gloves and how they can help you catch anything. “It’s ridiculous,” he says with a grin. See the spot below.

“It was my first time doing something like that so I didn’t really know how to go about doing it. The guy who was directing everything did a great job with helping me and telling me how to say things, the expressions and things like that,” Johnson told reporters Wednesday. “It was actually a lot of fun when I got the hang of it, my lines memorized and everything.”

Johnson said he hopes his star turn will lead to more deals.

“Hopefully that commercial has opened up something for me,” he said.


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Office Depot offering "That's Me" personalized sports jersey photos


TALALAY-Football1.jpgJust in time for the holidays, Boca Raton-based Office Depot is offering up personalized photos of sports jerseys hanging in a team’s locker room. Yes, like the one at left with my name on a jersey and locker between Miami Dolphins Joey Porter’s and Ricky Williams’.

You can have your name or a friend’s or relative’s -- of course -- printed on the back of a jersey from any NFL, NHL or Major League Baseball team. About 15 college team are available, too, including Florida, LSU, Ohio State and current No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Alabama.

Called “That’s Me Sports Prints,” the photos are all 8 x 10 and available at Office Depot locations for $39.99 unframed or $49.99 with a frame.

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Catching up on Tiger, Super Bowl ads, Friday links etc…


Sorry for the delay in catching up on news since vacation, but well, it’s been another busy week. And in case you didn’t know, the Super Bowl will be here in 58 days… but who’s counting?

Some thoughts and links:

+ Starting with Super Bowl, CBS says it’s 90 percent sold out of advertising spots for the Feb. 7 big game and ads are hitting $3 million. More from the LA Times here.

+ Baseball teams switching to healthier food, care of the Wall Street Journal here.

+ Olympic merchandise fun… got to read a story from the Vancouver Sun that starts: "Faster, stronger, higher — but not that high." Here.

+ Tiger and more Tiger: Plenty of fallout from the ongoing Woods crash/sexcapades story. Sponsors ponder their deals with the world infamous golfer. Gatorade says its decision to drop Gatorade Tiger unrelated to recent events.

+ Gotta love that sales of John Gribbin’s book Get a Grip on Physics, which was found in Woods’ wrecked car have skyrocketed. Here.

You can file this in the bulging "people with too much time on their hands" category, but there’s something catchy about Woods’ voicemail message Slow Jam Remix.

Bill Plaschke’s sportsman of the year award goes to “Sleaze.” Read his nicely-done column on the issue in the LA Times that includes gems like this: "Strong work, Sleaze. You made us forget about that awful beauty of baseball and focus on how the philandering third baseman got to second base. You made us ignore the sappy serenity of golf to watch the hound-dog champion play through his protesting wife to drive over water and into a tree."

Plaschke says our appetite for these kinds of stories seems insatiable, but the Poughkeepsie Journal reports on a Marist Poll that says more people think Woods should deal with the events privately and most don’t think the news will impact decisions about buying Woods-endorsed products.

+ City of Miami delays issuing bonds for parking lots at Florida Marlins ballpark: Bloomberg and The Miami Herald fill you in on this one here and here.

+ And speaking of the Marlins, as we know, team President David Samson is a man of many talents. He’s added playwright to the list. Penning a one-act play that is included in this Sunday’s soldout Miami Stories show at the New Theatre in Coral Gables. Samson is also to act in his own play. Read more here.

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @sarahtalalay

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NFL Commish kicks off Pro Bowl, Super Bowl; pushes stadium upgrades; plus Miami Dolphins season tickets up


With just two months until South Florida hosts its record-setting 10th Super Bowl, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was in town today for the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee's kickoff luncheon. (Billboards counting down the days until both the Jan. 31 Pro Bowl and Feb . 7 Super Bowl are now up on I-95).

While he praised the region's hospitality and track record for hosting the big game, he also warned -- again -- that the Super Bowl won't be back unless Dolphin Stadium (currently Land Shark) stays current. A $250 million renovation that vastly spruced up the club level isn't enough to compete with newer, glitzier venues in Dallas, Indianapolis, Arizona, the commish said.

"I think the key thing, it’s a great community, they've done a great job hosting Super Bowls in the past, so I think they have that as an advantage," Goodell said of South Florida. "The key thing is making sure this stadium is state of the art and that it can compete with the stadiums in some of these other communities. They are moving to another level some of these stadiums."

It's not Goodell that makes the decision about Super Bowl host locations - it's the 32 owners. But you can be sure he knows the clubs' marching orders. Sure South Florida has its advantages, but without the lighting needed to high definition nighttime broadcasts and other amenities, the dual-purpose stadium won't be at the top of the owners' lists. Goodell and South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman Rodney Barreto say the Florida Marlins' move to a new ballpark, expected in 2012, presents a perfect opportunity to make what Dolphins owner Steve Ross calls "fine tuning" changes to the 22-year-old stadium.

Ross and Barreto say alterations and funding possibilities are being considered. While it's too early to say precisely what changes will be made and how they'll be paid for, it's quite likely we'll learn more soon since the region is bidding for the 2014 Super Bowl. The owners are expected to consider the 2014 site at their meeting in May.

Barreto said the community, which is awarded the game -- not the Dolphins -- needs to decide if it's worth the estimated $450 million to local businesses to host the game.

Meanwhile, Goodell said if the region successfully hosts the Pro Bowl on Jan. 31, that game could come back here regularly. South Florida's considered the test locale for the game being held prior to the Super Bowl and outside of Hawaii for the first time since 1980. So far, more than 45,000 tickets have been sold to the game. Goodell says he is hoping for a sellout and enthusiasm inside the stadium.

Ross, however, is hoping the Dolphins become the first team to both host and play in a Super Bowl at the same time. "I want to be the first city to host playing in the Super Bowl," he said. "That hasn’t happened yet and it should only happen in Miami. This year wouldn’t be soon enough."

Other topics Goodell addressed include the ongoing labor negotiations with the NFL Players Association, lengthening the regular season and replacing the NFL Experience. Goodell said the good news is the league and union are continuing to hold talks about a new contract. He said the regular season could be lengthened by shortening preseason. Goodell said fans don't like preseason games, but the league needs to be consider the impact on players.

He said the NFL Experience is being replaced in South Florida with a series of other community events since the region just hosted the Super Bowl in 2007.

+ The Dolphins just missed their goal of selling 50,000 season tickets for the 2009 season, Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said. Even so, the team sold 49,415 full season tickets up 7 percent from 46,131 in 2008. Plus, some 10,000 represent new season ticket holders.

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Humidors honoring Super Bowl XLIV


humidor2.jpgWith just 81 days until Super Bowl XLIV, the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee’s been pretty busy: volunteer recruitment rallies, meetings to discuss the game’s economic impact on Palm Beach County, the unveiling of the official humidor …

Yes, the Super Bowl has its own officially licensed humidor. Who knew? The Host Committee held an unveiling ceremony Tuesday at Bokampers in Plantation for both the commemorative poster (see below) for next year’s game by 3-D Pop Artist and 10-year veteran Super Bowl artist Charles Fazzino and the humidor (at left). Fazzino’s Super Bowl artwork, which is a colorful and playful illustration of Dolphin Stadium complete with sign-waving fans, also graces the inside of the limited edition humidor.

According to James Colucci, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Altadis U.S.A., which is manufacturing and selling the humidors, it’s the first Super Bowl humidor. There are 500 of these special humidors featuring Fazzino’s artwork. They’re already for sale across the country for about $750 each, Colucci said.

On hand, along with Fazzino, were Miami Dolphins defensive end Randy Starks, Miss Florida USA 2010 Megan Clemente, Mike Zimmer, president of the host committee and Rodney Baretto, chairman of the host committee.
poster1.jpg

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The Who to play Super Bowl halftime?


SI.com set off a spirited debate this afternoon when it reported The Who is to play halftime at next year’s Super Bowl in South Florida. Not to mention the short item on the Web site provided an opportunity to put up a photo of 2007 SI Swimsuit model Tori Praver, because her body-painted outfit featured a T-shirt with The Who logo. (Right, I’m not the demo).

No, it wouldn’t be the first time British Invasion senior citizens rocked the NFL’s big party. Paul McCartney did the honors in Jacksonville in 2005. The following year, it was the Rolling Stones in Detroit – a choice criticized for several reasons, including that the performers should have been Motown artists.

But overall, since the Janet Jackson nipple-bearing wardrobe malfunction in 2004 in Houston, Super Bowl halftime acts have tended to be less modern or as I said in a 2006 story “more American oldie than American Idol” although McCartney and the Rolling Stones would be “British oldie.” Same for The Who.

The NFL wasn’t talking about the choice today. “When we have something to announce, we will announce it,” a league spokesman said.

But the Twitterverse was buzzing:

The LA Times’ Sam Farmer wrote “SI.com reporting the Super Bowl halftime show is.... The Who. Excellent.”

However, John Halpin of FoxSports.com said “A band full of guys in their 60s? NO WAY!”

Or this from Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson: “Honestly, Janet Jackson's bare breast was the best thing that happened 2 bands formed B4 1990. They all became Super Bowl eligible again.”

Other tweets on the subject:

" jsquared021: "The Who" is doing the halftime show of Super Bowl 44?...r u serious?...what is the NFL thinking?"

"Soxy_T: I like The Who but playing Super Bowl halftime?! Zzzzzzzzz no wonder they call it the No Fun League"

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/sarahtalalay

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Steve Ross from NY; Miami Dolphins four-game pack


Sun Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde interviewed Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross in his 19th floor office at Time Warner Center in Manhattan on Friday. Time Warner Center is the mixed use residential and retail complex Ross’ Related Companies built that has transformed Columbus Circle. The piece ran today before the Dolphins defeated the New York Jets 30-25 at the Meadowlands – and completed a season sweep of their rivals. Read Hyde’s piece here.

Just a quick thought on today’s game: is there another team in the NFL that has worked so hard to be 3-4? Just asking.

And speaking of being 3-4, the Dolphins hope you’ll want to watch the rest of the team’s home games this season live. They’ve introduced a new four-game pack that features lower bowl tickets to each of the team’s final four home games of 2009 for $348. That’s to see the Dolphins play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots, Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers. It offers a savings off the individual ticket price and gives you priority for playoff seats. Check it out here.


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Miami Dolphins-colored Breathe Right strips: bringing new meaning to "game face"


Dolphinsbreathe.jpgWhen fans arrive at Sunday’s Miami Dolphins-New Orleans Saints game at Land Shark Stadium, they’ll receive an aqua and orange Breathe Right Nasal Strip.

Not eye black, mind you. A nasal strip. It looks something like a Band-Aid -- it's affixed just below the bridge of your nose -- but it helps you breathe easier, while you’re sleeping or exercising.

According to the strips maker, GlaxoSmithKline, NFL players are increasingly using the strips because they reduce the energy needed to breathe, while you’re working out or competing. NFL players have been using them since 1994, the company says.

GSK is planning to distribute 400,000 of the strips in the next month at five NFL games to introduce its Breathe Right Extra Nasal Strips, which are 50 percent stronger than the original version. The company is to give away 75,000 strips to fans attending Sunday’s Dolphins game and 80,000 at Sunday’s New York Giants-Arizona Cardinals game.

“Breathe Right has had a long relationship with professional football players using our products both on and off the field,” Breathe Right vice president of marketing Darren Singer said in a statement. “By sampling the new Extra strips at football stadiums nationwide, we’ll have an opportunity to help people understand that this is a product strong enough for high-performance athletes, but available to every day consumers.”

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Jacksonville Jaguars blackouts; NFL television maps


The Jacksonville Jaguars host the St. Louis Rams on Sunday and once again the game isn’t being aired on local television. Three home games; three blackouts.

That’s not news -- team officials have predicted they aren’t likely to sell out any home games this season in time to prevent local television blackouts. They’ve blamed the economy. There’s also that loss of 17,000 season ticket holders from last season.

But I think another telling detail is this: a co-worker is one of the Jaguars original season ticket holders. The team played its first game in 1995 and is celebrating its 15th season this year. To honor this milestone, the team sent its original season ticket holders 15-year commemorative pins. Here’s what the note that came with the pins says:

“As a token of our appreciation, we have sent you and 3,819 other special fans who have been with us since Day 1 a pair of 15-year commemorative pins.”

It’s not clear how many season tickets those 3,820 “special fans” account for, but to be at a number that small in just 15 years can’t be good for helping you avoid blackouts.

Meanwhile, here’s a way to tell which NFL games are being broadcast where -- someone’s done a lot of work to figure this out -- check out this site for NFL TV distribution maps. Thanks to Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for finding this.

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Ricky Williams adds restaurant to his resume


Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams is adding yet another job to his resume: restaurateur.

Williams and former Cincinnati Bengal Rudi Johnson have signed on as co-owners of PROOF on Ocean Drive, a health-conscious restaurant and lounge set to open next month in the Z Ocean Hotel South Beach.

“We are thrilled to have such highly-regarded, well-known backers as Ricky and Rudi in our new venture,” Douglas McAllister, president and CEO of the restaurant’s developers Hospitality Development Management Group, said in a statement. “Their leadership and determination on the field will translate just as well off the field, and will no doubt contribute to our commitment to making PROOF a major Miami Beach hot-spot and success.”

Read Ethan Skolnick’s blog item on the restaurant endeavor here.

Williams isn’t the only local athlete with ties to a South Beach restaurant. Last year, retired Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning joined a group of athletes, including retired Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis and the Denver Nuggets' Chauncey Billups, who together own about a third of Philippe Miami, the South Beach installment of the upscale Chinese restaurant Philippe Chow in New York. Philippe Miami is in the Gansevoort South Hotel.

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Miami Dolphins may add Fergie as a limited partner



Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross could be adding Fergie as his next limited partner in the team.

NFL owners meeting in Boston this week approved Fergie as a potential owner in the team, but the Dolphins have yet to complete a deal with the Black Eyed Peas' singer.

“The owners did approve Fergie’s application for ownership today but there is nothing more to announce at this time as a formal agreement has not been completed,” Dolphins owner Steve Ross said via e-mail.

Fergie’s on tour in Australia, so don’t expect a formal announcement until she’s returned. Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas already have a marketing partnership with the Dolphins – that’s why you see all those promotional messages from band members on the scoreboard during home games at Land Shark Stadium.

Fergie also sported a pink Dolphins jersey and recorded a public service message (see video below) for the NFL’s “Crucial Catch” breast cancer screening campaign in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The addition of Fergie would continue to spice up the already crowded orange carpet crowd that makes up Ross’ ownership group.

But Will.i.win?


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Miami Dolphins: orange carpet extravaganza


Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross' limited partners weren't the only Latin celebrities to walk the orange carpet Monday to help the NFL celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Sure Gloria and Emilio Estefan were there, as were Marc Anthony and his wife Jennifer Lopez. Anthony sang the national anthem; the Estefans helped out with the halftime show.

But there were lots of others: IndyCar driver Rafael Matos, who lives in Miami and competed in Saturday's IndyCar Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, attended his first football game. “I’m here to see Ronnie Brown and the Wildcat,” Matos said.

Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi and soap opera star wife Adamari Lopez wore matching No. 1 jerseys. Also on hand were: Lili Estefan (Emilio Estefan’s niece) and Raul de Molina of TV’s El Gordo y La Flaca; Mexican pop duo Jesse and Joy; Texas Rangers and former Marlins catcher Pudge Rodriguez; and artist Romero Britto.

Ross and ESPN President George Bodenheimer arrived together. Also walking the orange carpet were model Naomi Campbell; IndyCar driver and Boca Raton resident Ryan Hunter-Reay; Daymond John of TV’s The Shark Tank; and the Heat’s DJ Irie.

"It's an absolute spectacle," Irie said of the atmosphere. "This is the definition of Miami."

Legendary coach Don Shula, who served as honorary captain Monday night, arrived with his wife Mary Anne, to chants of "Shula! Shula! Shula!" As he was walking the carpet, so were some Victoria's Secret Angel wannabes. Shula posed for photos with the women.

The orange carpet has been evolving since it was unveiled at the team's home opener on Sept. 21. On Monday night, Lexus was sponsoring the orange carpet experience, so two Lexus cars -- an IS 250 and an IS 350 -- were displayed on either side of the carpet. At one point, the alarm on one of the cars went off...

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Miami Dolphins business, MNF v. Jets, bagels & Pro Bowl tickets


+ Wondering why the Miami Dolphins haven’t struck a sponsorship deal with the Florida lottery now that the NFL allows such arrangements? The Dolphins told me they didn’t think a deal could be reached for this season. The SportsBusiness Journal reports the Dolphins nixed a three-team sponsorship deal with the lottery that would have also included the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

The journal says the Dolphins felt they deserved more in the deal. According to the piece, which you can read here, 18 teams have deals with 20 state lotteries.

By the way, through yesterday’s games, Florida’s three teams are a combined 3-11 on the season.

+ But the Dolphins don’t play until tonight – their highly anticipated matchup against the New York Jets at Land Shark Stadium. The MNF game marks the NFL’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The Dolphins are wearing their orange jerseys; team owner Steve Ross’ Latin limited partners Marc Anthony and wife Jennifer Lopez, Gloria and Emilio Estefan will be out in force. Gloria’s MNF theme video with Hank Williams Jr. complete with lines in Spanish, such as “Estos listos para futbol” debuts. Anthony is to sing the National Anthem. Latin stars perform pregame and during halftime. NFLatino.com has even created a series of videos in honor of the matchup that pit a Hispanic Dolphins and Jets fan. There are four – one for each quarter – with the first showing a child in a Mark Sanchez shirt beating up a dolphin piñata. Thanks to Advertising Age’s Laura Martinez for finding these. Here’s the first one:

Watch the others here: second, third and fourth quarters.

+ The Dolphins are 2-0 when they’ve worn their orange jerseys, but just in case the Jets do win, Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company (14451 S. Military Trail, Delray Beach) reminds us, customers can get a free bagel the day after a Jets or Giants win. One bagel per customer who can share the winning score. Bagels are being given away today because the Giants beat the Oakland Raiders 44-7. If the Jets win tonight, same drill for customers who can recite the score.

+ Pro Bowl: Tickets for the 2010 Pro Bowl, which is being held the Sunday before the Super Bowl at Dolphin Stadium, go on sale at 7 p.m. They cost $50 to $195. Buy them at NFL.com, Ticketmaster.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000.

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Favre’s jersey still top-seller, Ronnie Brown makes top 50


It helps to be a 3-0 quarterback.

Brett Favre’s jersey remained the top seller between April 1 through Sept. 30, according to sales figures from NFLShop.com.

Fellow 3-0 quarterbacks Mark Sanchez (Jets); Eli Manning (Giants); and Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens) have all seen their jersey sales spike according to the latest figures. Sanchez is now up to 4 from 7; Manning is up to 7 from 10 and Flacco is ranked 14 from 17.

No Miami Dolphins jerseys ranked in the Top 25, but the NFL says Ronnie Brown is now in the top 50. And despite their 0-3 start, Dolphins gear is close to cracking the Top 10 in team sales. The league only releases the rank of the Top 25 players and Top 10 teams.

Below the Top 10 best-selling jerseys and team gear:

1. Brett Favre
2. Troy Polamalu
3. Jay Cutler
4. Mark Sanchez
5. Michael Vick
6. Tony Romo
7. Eli Manning
8. Tom Brady
9. Ben Roethlisberger
10. Adrian Peterson


1. Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Dallas Cowboys
3. Minnesota Vikings
4. Chicago Bears
5. New York Giants
6. Philadelphia Eagles
7. New England Patriots
8. Green Bay Packers
9. San Francisco 49ers
10. Washington Redskins

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Bagel joint gives free bagels for NY Jets & Giants wins


Got a hankering for a New York bagel? Bet on the New York Giants and Jets.

The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co., in Delray Beach is offering customers free bagels on Mondays following a Giants or Jets win on Sunday, if customers can recite the score of either game. One bagel per customer, even if both teams win on Sunday.

“We have customers coming in all the time in their Jets and Giants apparel and we wanted to find a way to thank them for their patronage,” Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co., owner Steve Fassberg said in a statement. “We’d love to give away hundreds of bagels each week as a result.”

On Sunday, the Giants face the Kansas City Chiefs and the Jets play the New Orleans Saints. “Fuggetaboutpaying!” a release about the promotions says, if either team wins and you remember the score.

The store, which makes fresh bagels using “replicated Brooklyn water from patented technology,” is located at 14451 S. Military Trail, Delray Beach.

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Miami Dolphins hoping to avoid blackout; offering value pack for Buffalo game


With the Miami Dolphins now 0-3 to start the 2009 season after a 23-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers this afternoon, filling up Land Shark Stadium for next Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills (1-2) could be a challenge.

The team hasn’t had a regular season game blacked out on local television in more than a decade.

But team officials were already anticipating avoiding blackouts this season might be tough given that season ticket sales dropped nearly 16 percent last season to 46,131 – the team’s lowest level since 1992. Season ticket sales are up and expected to exceed 50,000 this year. But the team must sell 62,133 upper and lower level seats at least 72 hours before kickoff to prevent games from being blacked out on local TV.

The team, which is scheduled to play the Bills at 4:05 p.m. Sunday, is offering a new “Fins Value Pack” for Sunday’s game – with help from Pepsi and Ball Park. For $45, you get an upper level corner/endzone seat, and vouchers for a free soda and a hot dog. That’s a $58 value.

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Beyond the Game, episode 2


Better late than never…. I was again part of the sports business panel on sports consultant Rick Horrow’s local show, Beyond the Game, on WPEC Ch. 12 in West Palm Beach on Saturday. (The show airs at 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays). Former Miami Dolphin Troy Stradford and Horrow Sports Ventures creative director Brian Finkel and I covered the Dolphins Monday Night home opener; games we were watching in Week 2; so-called “body bag games” in which lower level college programs travel to big-time programs for the cash payouts; and the Miami Heat’s staff pay cuts. Watch here.


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Miami Dolphins and Cisco upgrade technology at Land Shark Stadium


In addition to all the new celebrity limited partners, pregame concerts, Jimmy Buffett beer and rewritten Fins song, the Miami Dolphins are also enhancing the technology at Land Shark Stadium.

Before Monday’s home opener, which the Dolphins lost to the Indianapolis Colts, team owner Steve Ross and Cisco CEO John Chambers gave a glimpse of how upgraded technology across the stadium is improving the game experience for fans.

Did you wait in line for concessions? If so, you no doubt saw the new high definition menu boards which can also broadcast game action so you don’t miss a thing while you’re waiting for beer and snacks.

Chambers said the Dolphins are being proactive about reaching fans – the majority of whom – especially those under age 30 -- say they want their sports venues to be high-tech and offer the latest technological advances.

There are 2,000 TV screens throughout Land Shark Stadium that can be programmed together or individually, so you can watch the game and get important messages, if necessary. Suite holders can use the phone in their suite to program the TVs to show different camera angles or other broadcast feeds during the game. They can also use the phones to order food.

Need a place to hold a business meeting with someone out of town? The Dolphins can arrange it so you can visit your suite during business hours and even set up a teleconference with a colleague in another city. Sports consultant (and friend of Ross’), Rick Horrow, demonstrated the teleconferencing, beaming in for Ross’ and Chambers’ meeting with the media.

Ross has been stressing that it takes work to encourage fans off their couches and away from their TVs to attend games in person.

“Today with the competition for the sports dollar, it’s so important that you create reasons for fans to want to come out to a game, as opposed to staying home and watching the game on television on large screens,” Ross said.

Horrow echoed Ross’ mantra, saying sports teams “need to give the fan the opportunity to live the game. You can’t always win … but you can certainly entertain.”

Horrow continued: “A facility that can entertain will offer the ability to showcase Super Bowls, Pro Bowls, University of Miami, not just the Dolphins, but all the things Steve is trying to accomplish at Land Shark Stadium.”

“We’re just scratching the surface,” said Tery Howard, Dolphins vice president of information technology. “This is not only for the fans, but also for the business partners and sponsors.”

The TV screens can be altered to welcome new sponsors or visitors. And adapted quickly for a University of Miami or a Florida Marlins game.

Read more about the details of the partnership here.

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Are you ready for some Buffett…er…football?


The fun is supposed to start long before the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts take the field for Monday Night Football at Land Shark Stadium tonight. Pregame concerts, the “orange” carpet, the celebrity limited partners…

The pregame activities get started at 4:30 p.m. at the Grand Plaza at Gate G. At 5:15 p.m., Jimmy Stowe performs live at the Land Shark Tailgate Stage near Gate F – he’ll also be performing at 6:15 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. At 6 p.m. there will be a wakeboard demonstration near Gate H.

The celebrity orange carpet arrival is to begin at 7 p.m. by Gate G and yes, limited partners Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Marc Anthony (and wife, singer-actress Jennifer Lopez), and Venus and Serena Williams are expected. So are Bob Griese and Dan Marino, who will be honorary captains performing the coin toss before the game.

Oh, and at 7:45 p.m., don’t be surprised if the surprise guest performer is none other than … Jimmy Buffett. Surprised? Halftime is to feature 600 Parrot Heads dancing to Fins.

And in case you missed it, here’s today’s Two-Minute Drill interview with Dolphins CEO Mike Dee:

Mike Dee spent 14 years working in Major League Baseball, the past five as chief operating officer of the Boston Red Sox, before being named CEO of the Dolphins in May. Staff Writer Sarah Talalay asked Dee about moving from baseball to football and the Dolphins’ 2009 home opener against the Indianapolis Colts tonight, which happens to be Dee’s birthday. Dee grew up in Maryland, rooting for the Baltimore Colts.

Q. What’s the biggest difference between baseball and football?

A. You start to immediately recognize that every game [in football] is like the seventh game of a playoff series, the regular season is so important. And obviously it’s that way for the football team and the coaching staff and the players take that seriously, but it’s also important on the business side. You have to make sure you get everything right, If you misstep or don’t get something right one game of the year, that’s 10 percent of your schedule. And that’s coming from a place like Boston, where every game was a sellout, so every game was a big deal. But when you only have 10 games, eight in the regular season, it puts a lot of pressure on you to get it right.

Q. The home opener is on a Monday night and it’s against the Colts. What does that mean to you?

A. My team growing up. Isn’t that amazing? It’s actually eerie. My parents and I talked about this, like can you imagine on your 46 birthday all those things happen? I live a charmed life. At least I recognize it.

Q. Do you consider the Colts the team you grew up with even though they moved from Baltimore?

A. I do. Oh yes. They’re the team I grew up with. I became a Dolphins fan when I was 22.

Q. How did that happen?

A. The Colts left and I moved to South Florida [for a job in a family-owned paint company]. Two months after I moved here, I went to the Monday night game against the Bears [Dec. 2, 1985]. I was mad at the Colts for leaving, I was an independent, I had left my party. I was a free agent fan, and I walked into the Orange Bowl and the electricity in that game, just being here in South Florida, at the time, I remember wow. From that day forward I was a Dolphins fan. I’ve been described by some online bloggers as a quote unquote newbie … but I’ve been around for 25 years as a fan… and stayed with it, even after it was the Shula-Marino era that sucked me into it and got me excited. But I’ve stayed with it all the way through the good times and the bad times.”

Oh, and don't forget to follow me on Twitter: @sarahtalalay

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Beyond the Game debut - local sports biz show


Sports consultant Rick Horrow’s new local show Beyond the Game began airing on WPEC Ch. 12 in West Palm Beach on Saturday. Yours truly was on the sports business panel along with former Miami Dolphin Troy Stradford and Brian Finkel, creative director of Horrow Sports Ventures and a student in FAU’s sports management program.

We touched on what to expect at Land Shark Stadium on Dolphins game days; the Dolphins’ new AT&T sponsor patch on practice jerseys, and sports business news around the NFL. Watch it here. The show airs Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.

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Miami Dolphins sporting AT&T sponsor patch on practice jerseys


As of today, the Miami Dolphins have now joined 17 other NFL teams in sporting sponsor patches on their practice jerseys.

NFL owners approved putting sponsor patches on practice jerseys earlier this year, but until today – the first day of regular season practice – the Dolphins hadn’t had worn a patch. Today they’re wearing an AT&T logo on their jerseys.

“It’s a league-wide initiative that does now allow for sponsorships on practice jerseys during the regular season,” Dolphins spokesman Harvey Greene said. “We took advantage to provide additional values to one of our largest corporate sponsors.”

Greene would not disclose financial details of the deal, but AT&T is already a team sponsor. Regular season practices are closed to the public and only open to the media for short periods on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and on Mondays when a full practice is scheduled. That means there is some potential media exposure for the corporate logos.

Under NFL rules, teams had until Sept. 1 to finalize deals with one corporate sponsor for a patch on practice jerseys. Separate deals can be made for the playoffs, an NFL spokesman said.

Other NFL teams with practice jersey sponsors include the Buffalo Bills with Sanyo, Chicago Bears with Northshore University Healthsystem, Cincinnati Bengals with Spongetech, Dallas Cowboys with the University of Phoenix, Indianapolis Colts with Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, and the New England Patriots with Gillette.

Leagues have been softening their stance on corporate logos on jerseys this year. The NBA is now allowing sponsor patches on practice jerseys. The New Jersey Nets announced Tuesday they have become the first NBA team to strike a practice jersey sponsorship deal. The team will wear the logo for PNY Technologies Inc., a manufacturer and supplier of computing and digital imaging products. PNY will also own the naming rights to the team’s practice facility in East Rutherford.

The WNBA this season allowed sponsor logos on its regular season uniforms and two teams took advantage: the Phoenix Mercury struck a deal with LifeLock and the Los Angeles Sparks forged a partnership with Farmer’s Insurance. MLS players also wear sponsor logos on their jerseys during the season.

How long before sponsor logos appear on jerseys during the big four sports’ regular seasons?

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Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross answers fans' questions


Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross and CEO Mike Dee met with Sun Sentinel editors and reporters this morning. Here are some of their answers to some of your questions:

Q. A number of fans really don’t like the new fight song, they don’t like the T-Pain version. A lot of people don’t like hearing Jimmy Buffett’s Fins when the team scores.

A. Ross: A lot of people do like the Fins song. The thing is you don’t know what people like and you don’t get a feeling for impact until you try something. We’re experimenting. That ‘s what preseason is for. I think Jimmy Buffett will definitely be part of it, he’s not going away. We happen to like the song, we’ve gotten a tremendous amount of favorable comments with regard to that. I think the T-Pain version was controversial. You have to realize, people inherently don’t like change. Same old, same old.

Q. I’ve never heard so many people love that fight song until you changed it.

A. Ross: Isn't it unbelievable? The biggest surprise I’ve ever seen in my life. You have the same feeling I have, you have to look at change. We’re not done looking at ideas to do that, because there was so much negativity about the existing fight song before.

Dee: Basically T-Pain contributed that song, we played it at the first preseason game. Again it was a preseason game, we were experimenting and continue to experiment there are at least two other people I know of, who want to contribute their own version of the fight song, different than T-Pain’s. It wasn’t the old song out and T-Pain’s in. I think it was hey here’s a version that may appeal to a different listener and perhaps there will be two more that have a different flair as well. I think it’s fair to say we recognize the sacred nature of the original version.

 

Q. Old fight song, it’s not like it’s dead, you’ll still be playing it, but might be interspersing it with others?

A. Dee: It might have a different role. Before it was played exclusively after scores. And we’re still working on how it will be used.

Ross: But we want to start a ritual, we don’t know what song it will be, after the third period, there will be a song we’ll sing on a continual basis. I can’t tell you what that song will be. To inspire people, like the seventh inning stretch, and really inspire the team. You want to start that in football, you want to do after the third period in every game. We’re going to come up with one until we find the right song, that we sing and everybody’s ready for it at the end of the third period, kind of a ritualistic thing that I think will be interesting in football.

Q. Do you have plans to change the team colors and uniforms?

A. Ross: We haven’t even looked at that. I haven’t thought of it.

Dee: Not this year and we just missed the deadline for 2010, so not next year either.

Q. Would you consider selling pieces of the team to retired Dolphins player greats?

A. Ross: No.

Q. Why not sell a one share to the fans or season ticket holders? I don't think you can do that in the NFL.

A. Ross: That isn’t allowed in the NFL, you’re limited to I think 25 owners and it’s not the kind of thing [where] you want a public company. They don’t allow public companies. Someone has to be able to make all the decisions without going to a board or anybody else, which I think is good, because that way you get decisions made. You don’t have fights within different teams which certain sports have, you know divisions. I’m prepared to take all the blame, but still the fans we love them and they’re the most important thing we have. I want to make sure they feel good about the team.

Q. Is there any way you could make ticket prices cheaper? Is there an opportunity to offer a standing room seat? At the Cowboys new stadium, the cheapest seats are $25.

A. Dee: We’re one of the best values in the NFL. Our ticket pricing is in I think the lower third of all teams, we have currently 4,600 seats that cost $31, which is one of the lowest price points in the NFL. That’s per seat, not a standing room seat. We are looking at standing room, kind of irrespective of costs, we think standing room is good and is part of our evaluation of the facility moving forward. We’ll continue to be competitive with the South Florida marketplace and what entertainment experiences are out there and you know overtime we want to make sure we stay competitively priced, given the dynamic of our marketplace.

Q. Is there any ability or talk of moving some seats closer to the field? That’s what people miss about the Orange Bowl.

A. Ross: That’s one of the things we’re looking at. This year with the Sideline Club (passes that allow on-field access throughout the game, new this season) they’re going to be closer to the field. We are studying it. I think when we come up with a total package, I think we can really have a major impact on the stadium.

Q. Is there anything that can be done about the dirt infield, until the Marlins are gone?

A. Ross: We have two more seasons of that. There’s nothing you can do. Contractually we’re obligated.

Dee: We have made the effort over the last couple of years, our grounds crew has sodded the pitcher’s mound area, and we’ve sodded the west endzone corner, which used to be exposed on that terrible rubber warning track, we do that for preseason games, took the turf down. It’s pretty much what it is until they’re gone.

Q. What about a retractable roof at Land Shark Stadium?

A. Ross: We’re studying all that, I don’t think it would be a retractable roof, because I don’t think one, the cost. I don’t think the county, in these economic times has the money and I think the cost of acclimatizing a stadium is so expensive and for the amount of usage it would get it’s probably not feasible. It probably doesn’t need a retractable roof from a football standpoint or soccer. But one thing we’re looking at, is how to do we really improve the stadium and cover some of those issues, not having a roof.

Q. Does that mean some sort of covering over some areas?

A. Ross: Yes.

 

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Where do you watch your favorite NFL team on Sundays?


Pittsburgh Steelers fans gather at East Side Pub in Fort Lauderdale to watch their team on Sundays.

Philadelphia Eagles fans in Fort Lauderdale (Fort Lauderdale Eagles Army) meet at the Parrot Lounge. The Boyntondelphia Eagles will be frequenting Bru’s Room Sports Grill in Boynton Beach (last year it was Duffy’s Sports Grill, but they need more room, the group tells me).

New York Jets fans head to Gatsby’s in West Palm Beach; Chicago Bears fans to Capone’s Flicker-Lite Pizza and Raw Bar in Hollywood.

So where do you go to catch your favorite hometown or out-of-town team? Let me know -- and please indicate which team you follow and if you join other fans of that team -- in the comments section or email me directly: stalalay@sunsentinel.com

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Dolphins’ (organizational) depth chart


The Dolphins are beefing up the business side of the organization under new CEO Mike Dee. The team has hired two new executives, promoted some current ones and altered a few job descriptions.

The team, which announced the changes Thursday, called the moves “the first step in the eventual integration of the team and Land Shark Stadium businesses.”

Dolphins President and Chief Operating Officer Bryan Wiedmeier moves to the newly created position of senior vice president of NFL affairs & special projects. The team release says “Wiedmeier will work closely with Dee on NFL matters and a variety of special assignments.” Not entirely sure what that means at this point, other than it likely includes working more extensively on preparations for next year’s Super Bowl and Pro Bowl being held at Lank Shark Stadium, which will be known as Dolphin Stadium for the games.

Stadium President Bruce Schulze is to focus on the stadium’s operation and fan experience and Senior Director of Community Relations & Government Affairs Eric Knowles is to expand the team's government relations outreach, the team release said.

Dee, who previously worked at the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres, also hired two former colleagues: Adam Grossman, vice president of marketing at the Boston Red Sox, was named Dolphins’ senior vice president of public affairs, and Mark Tilson, who worked for the Padres and most recently as the Kansas City Royals’ vice president of sales & marketing, becomes Dolphins senior vice president of sales & ticket operations.

Other changes: Ilona Wolpin becomes senior director of community relations up from community relations manager; Matt Thomas adds vice president to his General Counsel and Football Administration title; Tery Howard, who oversees the stadium and team’s technology efforts, becomes senior vice president/Chief Technology Officer; and Danielle Sergeant was promoted to director of client services.

"We have made a commitment to build a tier one organization that will be equipped to execute the great vision and high expectations that Steve Ross has set for this franchise," Dee said in a statement. “We believe that these moves were essential to make at this time in order to begin the process of positioning the franchise for future growth and to maximum efficiency."

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Are you ready for some Super Bowl and Pro Bowl?


Dozens of volunteers for the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee were getting ready for the 2010 Pro Bowl and Super Bowl this afternoon at Land Shark Stadium. They were auditioning to be in an ad campaign promoting the two big games South Florida will host Jan. 31 and Feb. 7, respectively.

Ronin Advertising of Coconut Grove took headshots of the aspiring actors and actresses and then asked them to say three lines with all the “passion for football” they could muster:

“Are you ready for some football?”

“Come on down and hang out for the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl.”

“Will you own the moment, or will the moment own you?”

“I feel like Hank Williams Jr. here,” said Laurie Steele, of West Palm Beach, as she prepared to say her lines.

Ronin was looking for volunteers to represent the NFL’s 32 teams in TV, print and outdoor advertising. They’ll don jerseys and other NFL gear, such as a cheesehead hat for the Green Bay Packers fan. The fans will also be wearing shorts and flip-flops -- since the big game is returning to South Florida for a record 10th time -- and the Pro Bowl will be played here, too, rather than in Hawaii.

“Our goal is to get a cross-section of fans,” said Kristen Mathieson, a senior account executive at Ronin.

The ads are scheduled to be shot Aug. 11 and 12 and begin airing around the start of the 2009 football season. In the meantime, here’s the ad Ronin shot featuring Don Shula to promote Super Bowl XLI in 2007 – the last time the game was here.


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Bon Jovi reportedly wanted exclusive deal with Dolphins


Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross did try to recruit rock star Jon Bon Jovi to join his ownership group even entertaining him along with Heat guard Dwyane Wade in his suite at the Dolphins playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens in January.

But according to the SportsBusiness Journal, Bon Jovi’s demands were too rich. Bon Jovi, the trade publication reported last week, “insisted upon an exclusive arrangement during their talks late last year.”

That would have prevented Ross from adding the celebrities he’s enticed to join his ownership group this summer, including Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Marc Anthony, who was announced as a new minority owner today. Last month, Gloria Estefan and her producer husband Emilio Estefan agreed to buy a small stake in the team.

Ross forged a partnership with pop singer Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville enterprise in May that included re-naming the team’s stadium after Buffett’s Land Shark Lager for this season. Buffett has an option to purchase a stake in the team, but so far has not become a minority owner.

There are likely to be a few other names to come, Ross said today in a conference call from New York, where he and Anthony had announced their partnership. The pair were joined by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and ESPN President George Bodenheimer at a press conference at New York’s Time Warner Center, the Columbus Circle condo-retail complex built by Ross’ Related Cos. Enjoy this description of the event from The New York Times' Fifth Down Blog.

Ross said he always planned to add investors to his ownership group, but wants those partners to reflect the South Florida community. Adding the Estefans and Anthony, who is married to singer-actress Jennifer Lopez, help add to the Latin flavor of the ownership group.

“The Miami Dolphins want to really represent the community itself,” Ross said. “Having Marc and Emilio and Gloria is important for showing this community, this team is about them. They are great representatives of the Latin community.

“There will be a few more people who will join them,” Ross added.

Goodell and Bodenheimer attended the press conference to announce the league and network’s involvement in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. They will hold a series of special events around the Dolphins-New York Jets Monday Night game on Oct. 12 at Land Shark Stadium.

That night, ESPN, which is broadcasting the game, will debut a special version of Hank Williams Jr.’s “Are You Ready for Some Football” video featuring Gloria Estefan – in a Dolphins jersey – and some lyrics in Spanish. Anthony, meanwhile, will perform the National Anthem at the stadium.

As for Anthony’s additional involvement in the team, he and Ross said it’s too early to say, but they’ve already been discussing ideas. Ross said Anthony was brought in for his ideas, not just to perform.

“This is a business investment. To bring his ideas, his creativity,” Ross said stressing that Anthony is writing a check for his investment, although the amount was not disclosed.

Anthony, who has sold more than 10 million albums worldwide, said he can’t wait to get started.

“The most important thing now is Steve is open, he’s a great listener and a great visionary,” Anthony said. “I want to fly to Miami right now and sit at my desk.”

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Yahoo and NFL Players settle suit over fantasy stats


Yahoo Inc. has dropped its lawsuit against the NFL Players union over paying for the right to use players’ names and statistics in its fantasy football games. The two sides reached a settlement, but the details weren’t disclosed.

Yahoo filed suit in federal court in Minneapolis last month, following the lead if CBS Interactive, which sued the players union last year on behalf of Fort Lauderdale-based CBSSports.com. A federal judge ruled in CBS’ favor in April that the names and stats are protected by the First Amendment.

That ruling followed an earlier federal appeals court decision in a case involving Major League Baseball that said MLB players’ names and stats are in the public domain. Both CBS and Yahoo believed the baseball ruling applies to football games as well.

The players association has appealed the ruling in the CBS case.

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association has supported Yahoo and CBS in their legal action, but has contended repeatedly that the fantasy game providers and leagues should work together to promote the games.

Andrew Feffer, the union's chief operating officer and executive vice president, told the Associated Press the NFLPA and Yahoo "continue to explore additional opportunities to work together."


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Checking in with new Dolphins CEO Mike Dee


Had a chance to catch up a little bit with new Dolphins CEO Mike Dee this week.

The veteran sports team executive, who joined the Dolphins in May after five years as Chief Operating Officer at the Boston Red Sox, is as enthusiastic about enhancing the business side of the Dolphins, as his new boss, team owner Stephen M. Ross.

Dee shares Ross’ philosophy that owning and running a franchise is akin to being the steward of a community asset. The two want to be as inclusive as possible with all fans, Dee said: “We have a new saying that: no fan gets left behind.”

That partly explains the new partnerships with Jimmy Buffett and Gloria and Emilio Estefan. Dee reiterated that while Ross’ priority is winning, he wants to ensure an entertaining fan experience, too.

“We want to make sure everything we do is fun, looking through the lens of the fan,” Dee said. “Steve’s career and his success has been built on being avant garde. He’s a bold aggressive entrepreneur. That’s what attracted me to him. He lives outside the box. That’s what makes him successful and also what makes it fun.”

The changes being made are Ross putting his “own stamp” on the team,” Dee said.

And it’s the success of the business side, Dee says, that can help the football side make upgrades and sign new players.

Among Dee’s challenges is boosting season ticket sales. Season ticket sales dropped to 47,000 in 2008, from 54,465 in 2007 and 61,121 in 2006. Dee said he expects the team to sell about 50,000 in 2009, but he’s aiming for more than 60,000 in the next few years.

“Season ticket holders are the lifeblood of your franchise,” Dee said. “We have some work to do.”

The Land Shark Stadium concession stands are being upgraded. The 100 and 400 level concession stands are being equipped with 180 flat-screen digital menu boards – just like the 110 that were installed on the club level in 2007 during the stadium’s $300 million renovation.

He said the team is also evaluating the ticket pricing in the 100 and 400 levels.

Expect more announcements of enhancements in the coming weeks. Stay tuned...

Putting his money where his mouth is: Dee says he’s making a contribution to the Dolphins Foundation each time he references the Red Sox.

Reminder: follow me on Twitter @sarahtalalay

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Panthers fans “hire” Drew Rosenhaus to negotiate ticket prices? (UPDATED)


Got your attention, right? That’s the idea.

If he can negotiate the price of ESPN talent’s lunch in an ad for ESPN’s SportsCenter (see ad below), then why can’t super NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus help out the Panthers fan with his or her ticket prices?

OK, to be clear: he has not really been hired by fans to negotiate ticket prices – who, after all, is going to pay for that? -- but he is being used as part of the Panthers’ plans to market the team for the 2009-10 season.

He tweeted about it - in all seriousness - earlier today.

“As a longtime Panthers fan and a person who believes in giving sports fans the value and the atmosphere they deserve, I am absolutely thrilled to represent the Cats faithful at the bargaining table,” Rosenhaus says in a press release issued as part of the campaign. “That said, this a unique situation for me to represent the fans as opposed to professional athletes. But as a passionate Cats follower, I’ve got my finger on the pulse of the BankAtlantic Center faithful.”

Panthers President Michael Yormark said he's gotten just the kind of response he'd hoped: attention and national media calling to talk about the "negotiations."

"We wanted to create an out of the box, unique and different type of ticket marketing campaign," Yormark said late this afternoon. “It’s getting us top of mind, we haven’t even launched our campaign yet."

Rather than just send out a press release with new ticket pricing that might languish in emailboxes, the Panthers wanted to create a buzz. And figured, why not have Rosenhaus, a well-known South Floridian, help start it?

"What we’re trying to do is raise awareness for this announcement of our new pricing. We don’t expect Drew Rosenhaus to sell tickets for us, what we do expect is Drew Rosenhaus is going to help us introduce new pricing," Yormark said. "He opens up doors for us, we might not have been able to open ... You want people thinking about your product, thinking about the Panthers."

Rosenhaus will be appearing in TV, print and radio ads on behalf of the Panthers set to break next week. That's when we'll learn about the new ticket prices, too.

Apparently Rosenhaus is a Panthers fan, so does it make sense to have one of the region’s most recognizable figures in sports promote the Panthers? What do you think?


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Dolphins team with marketing company for travel packages


The new business developments keep coming from the Dolphins and Land Shark Stadium. OK, this one isn’t about a celebrity (Jimmy Buffett, Gloria and Emilio Estefan) or added technology (Kangaroo TV handhelds for premium seat holders).

It’s a multi-year marketing partnership with Premiere Global Sports to provide travel packages to Dolphins home and away games and special events. The company is designing packages for Dolphins away games that start at $245 and include two-night hotel stays, game tickets and a game-day souvenir. The packages for fans from out of South Florida for home games start at $345 and include two nights at the Courtyard Fort Lauderdale Beach, game tickets and a souvenir.

For more information and to book packages, visit sportstravel.com/dolphins.

The company has worked with a number of teams, including arranging trips for New York Rangers fans to Prague for the team’s opening series last year and is arranging trips for St. Louis Blues fans wanting to attend the opening series against the Detroit Red Wings in Stockholm in October.

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