Our Year in Sports

Benny, Timo, Fonzie. We knew them on a first-name basis and thought of them not as men, but as little kids playing the game for the love of the sport. Benny showed us that 250-pound Hawaiian outfielders given up for dead can wield magic wands, too (who could forget his pinch hit grand slam in Tokyo to deliver the team's first win of the season? His 13th-inning blast to end NLDS Game 3? Or that huge smash into the gap to win Game 3 of the World Series?).

Jersey's own Al Leiter—that warrior with the repertoire composed of cutters, groans, and guts—showed us that you needn't be a bat-throwing jerk to be a big-time pitcher and carry an entire team on your back. And Timo, Piazza, Fonzie, and Johnny Franco showed us that diminutive Japanese imports, egoless superstar infielders, and hometown relievers with pizza-vendor mustaches can come together and recapture the adoration of a city. In spite of its Hemingway-esque fallibility, this clubhouse full of good guys delivered a season of magic.

Hats off to the Yankees—they won it all. But 2000 was the year the Amazins let the dogs out, and brought pride and glory back to Queens. This season, the difference between Mets fans and Yankees fans crystallized as never before: Yankees fans expect. Mets fans believe. —Blake Zeff

Hold That Tiger

Tiger Woods needs the PGA Tour. That's something he must remember as he continues his very public posturing for a piece of golf's television revenue and gate receipts. True, more people watch golf, either in person or on the tube, now than ever before. And Reason No. 1, without question, is Tiger. He is by far the best player on the tour today. He is arguably the best ever. But would people, and corporate sponsors, pay as much to watch him on the driving range or the putting green? Obviously not. They want to see him compete against other golfers, of course, like those on the PGA Tour.

In the unlikely event the PGA denies his requests, there's talk of Tiger forming his own tour. But who's going to sign on to play the Washington Generals to Woods's Harlem Globetrotters?

Has Tiger had an incredible impact on golf's popularity? Yes. And he gets paid handsomely in endorsements, tournament winnings, and appearances. Even in an age in which sports marketers have put an I in words like team and league (Can we stop crying about the Jordan-less NBA and the Gretzky-less NHL now, please?), the PGA cannot place him on a higher pedestal than its other touring players. It would cheapen the game—turning every tournament into an episode of Tiger and Friends—and defy everything that sport is, allegedly, about. —Brian P. Dunleavy

Sports Business Journal

Pro sports, especially basketball and football, continued to suck in 2000. I don't begrudge any player getting all the dough he can, but I find no joy in watching businessmen playing anything. That commercial with what's-his-name berating opponents for their stock market ignorance says it all. Big—as in money—businessmen, in fact, are about the only folks who can afford tickets to pro sports events these days. And it isn't going to get any better anytime soon.

Which brings us to the real culprits—the owners, of course. Greedy whining bastards one and all. And NFL owners stand head and shoulder above all their confreres—the slimiest strong-arm extortionists in the history of sports. The old robber barons are whooping and hollering their admiration from the burning pit of Hell.

It's depressing. The only antidote is to start patronizing a pure sporting event, like lawn mower racing. Yeah, now there's some puuuure competition. —Michael Swindle

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