Are the Yankees planning to stay in the Bronx after all? That’s what Jockbeat hears from well-placed political staffers and City Hall reporters, who have suggested that the plan to build the Yanks a West Side billion-dollar behemoth is now a ruse.
The real deal, according to these sources, has Rudy Giuliani and George Steinbrenner “conceding” to popular uproar and backing a Bronx ballpark, thus honoring the team’s history, the Boss’s wishes, and the mayor’s political goals— but still necessitating a huge public contribution. It would also raise questions over whether the Manhattan stadium proposal— which seemed too crazy to be real— was ever real at all.
With the Bronx scenario, all the parts fall into place. Steinbrenner would continue on his path of redemption by declaring that he’s staying put. And any legitimate questions about the Boss’s boondoggle— why should taxpayers foot the bill for George’s private profit? does the team really need a new facility?— would probably be lost in the jubilant shuffle over keeping the Bronx Bombers in the Boogie Down.
“I’m not sure that Steinbrenner ever expected to get Manhattan,” says Baseball and Billions author Andrew Zimbalist. “He won’t get a stadium there.” But, explains Zimbalist, echoing much off-the-record chatter, “If the public puts $500 million into the Bronx, and Steinbrenner is seen as a hero for conceding to that plan, then all of that is terrific for him. It’s all worked to Steinbrenner’s advantage.”
“I wouldn’t hire Patrick Ewing to plan a picnic.” So says Stephen Woods, an Atlanta-based sports agent, of the president of the NBA Players Association.
While superagent David Falk has been the subject of much lockout hand-wringing lately (witness Mike Lupica’s hyperventilating column on Sunday), Woods, whose clients include Raptors center Kevin Willis, was involved in a lower-level labor flare-up. Woods filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in mid October, accusing the union of failing to represent the interests of its players. Attempting to drive a wedge between the players and their union, Woods claimed that the membership was being led blindly down a path to the destruction of its livelihood.
But after attending the player-unity powwow in Las Vegas, Woods withdrew the complaint. Why the sudden change of heart? Was it an impromptu encounter with a couple of beefy union agents in a dark alley? No, Woods decided that the players weren’t being misled, only that they were “acting stupid.”
“They don’t care about the sport,” continues Woods. “Most of these guys don’t even understand how to pay their cellular phone bill.” And NBAPA executive director Billy Hunter, concludes Woods, is “heading up a day care center.” Hmmm. At least Falk speaks well of his client base.
Jock With A Beat
“There’s always potential for humiliation in my life,” jokes Alexi Lalas, “on the soccer field, onstage, or walking down the street.” And now that the summer of on-field dishonor is complete for Lalas— both in the World Cup and the MLS— he’ll put his dignity on the line as the opening act for Hootie and the Blowfish’s European tour.
The eclectic Lalas is hitting the road in support of his latest CD, Ginger, which was dubbed a “promising musical debut,” by Billboard magazine. He’ll meet his futbol-friendly headliners in Amsterdam on Friday.
The transition from soccer to rocker is a welcome one for Lalas, especially after the U.S.’s flop in France and the commonplace chaos experienced on the MetroStars. After Europe, the nowclosely-cropped crooner will hit the East Coast, with several shows in the Big Apple area.
Contributors: Joanna Cagan, Sarah Smith, Denise Kiernan, Andrew Hsiao, Peter Gambaccini
Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman