Sports

CAPITALIST PIGSKINS

Call Fisher & Sons: The stadium boom of the '90s is officially dead. With such bastions of "urban revitalization" as Camden Yards and Jacobs Field half empty, and state budgets swimming in red ink, it's easier these days to put Rich Garces through the eye of a needle than to pry loose a few billion nickels from a state legislature.

Witness the stunning events of last month, when Major League Baseball, looking to comparison shop for the best stadium boodle for the footloose Montreal Expos, instead got slapped upside the head by two prime markets: first, the Washington, D.C., council told MLB there'd be no stadium bill without a firm commitment to move the Expos there; then the county board in Arlington, Virginia, took itself out of the running for a ballpark, saying the proposed site could generate triple the tax revenue with non-baseball development.

If the stadium well is at last running dry, we can expect to see more haggling over the existing spoils by revenue-starved team owners. Witness the spectacle of New York's (in name, anyway) football teams: While the Jets continue to hitch their wagon to New York deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff's increasingly tenuous Hudson Yards plan, the Giants last week issued an ultimatum to the state of New Jersey, threatening to sue if their current abode isn't kept "state of the art." Jints honcho Robert Tisch says the team will front the cost of a $200-million-plus renovation that would snazz up the concourses and add club seats—but only if the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority turns over full control of the stadium. The effect, says sports economist Rod Fort, would be for the Giants to buy all future stadium revenues with a one-time investment of cash: "$200 million in the bank for ten years at 6 percent is just over $358 million. Since he could always put the renovation funds in the bank, it is reasonable to assume that Tisch thinks the new revenue stream will be greater than $358 million."

With his agency sitting on $160 million in existing stadium debt, George Zoffinger, the president of the Jersey sports authority, is unlikely to let that revenue go without a battle. "If he is foolish enough to sue us, we will fight, and we will win," Zoffinger tells the Voice, all but audibly licking his chops. "The rich are different. They're used to getting what they want, and when somebody tells them no, they can't believe it. Well, I'm telling 'em no. We're not in the business of subsidizing billionaires." Somebody alert Dan Doctoroff. —Neil deMause


THE FUR-LINED BULLPEN

The Yankees' recent purge of Armando Benitez and addition of Jeff Nelson are just the latest moves in their inexorable search for pitchers who are capable of holding a three-run lead, and it has left the team with the most expensive bullpen ever assembled.

Based on the average annual salaries of Chris Hammond, Sterling Hitchcock, Jesse Orosco, Antonio Osuna, Mariano Rivera, and Nelson (plus the injured Steve Karsay, Gabe White, and José Contreras), the yearly price tag for the entire group is in excess of $48 million. This figure is actually higher than the payrolls of four other teams, including the Kansas City Royals, who are fighting for a playoff spot. Royal reliever Jason Grimsley is earning an average salary of $1.95 million, but every other member of the Kansas City bullpen makes less than Orosco, who, at $800,000, is the low man on the Yankee totem pole. The next lowest Yankee is Osuna, at $2.3 million per year.

This obsessive collecting of talent is the signature of George Steinbrenner's management style, and it becomes pronounced when he panics, like when the Yankees traded for Benitez in the first place. It allows them to quietly bury someone like Hitchcock in the role of $6 million mop-up man—an option only they can afford.

The archrival Red Sox have been portrayed lately as matching the Yankees move-for-move in terms of personnel, but the cost of the Red Sox relievers is around $18 million, which means that comparisons between the two bullpens' respective talent levels cease to be of much relevance if you consider that Boston is being outspent by $30 million. —Sinclair Rankin


IF TYSON WERE A LAWYER . . .

Mike Tyson's August 3 bankruptcy filing in Manhattan federal court is remarkable not only for its list of debts but also because it's the closest to an autobiography that we're ever likely to get from the guy. Though lawyerly and unembellished, the document is delivered in a first-person voice that is positively eerie. You hear a Tyson from another universe calmly describe utter ruin and wreckage. There's no barely suppressed rage, only depressing facts.

"I am a professional boxer and a former heavyweight champion of the world," the filing's key section begins. "I was born on June 30, 1966, in Brooklyn, New York, and began boxing at the age of 13." What follows are six pages of events like his turning over his business affairs to Don Kingin 1988, his rape conviction in 1991, his fight with Evander Holyfield in 1997. One key figure is missing: Cus D'Amato. But then, if Tyson's original mentor had lived past 1985, maybe there wouldn't have been this horror bio. —Ward Harkavy

 
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