A Regular Roundball Roget

Believe it or not, some college students have actually based a drinking game on Walt Frazier‘s analysis during Knicks telecasts. Every time the poet laureate of the MSG Network starts rhyming or dropping 10-cent words, everybody chugs. Geez, by halftime on most nights, entire fraternities must crash to the floor as though they were flagrantly fouled by Karl Malone.

Frazier cuts loose with fancy words like they’re bounce passes and every telecast is his seventh game against the Lakers in 1970. Take Friday night’s Knicks-Suns broadcast. When he wasn’t busy rhyming (“doom and gloom,” “dishin’ and swishin’,” “hackin’ and whackin’,”) Clyde found a way to work in bona fide, obliterated, prolific, scenario, continuity, indicative, meandering, lethargic, echelon, resounding, exploitation, and forte. And that was before the end of the first quarter! By the final buzzer, he’d also made room for omnipresent, perennial, percolating, calamity, dubious, conversely, quintessential, bedeviled, invigorating, indomitable, epitome, savvy, catapulting, tumultuous, amplified, and cantankerous. Funk and Wagnall would be proud.

It’s an impressive vocabulary. That is, when it’s used correctly. (At one point on Friday, Frazier told us, “The Suns have an uncanny blend of offense and defense.” Uh, what’s uncanny about a balanced team?) Do us a favor, Clyde. Sit down with Alanis Morissette one day so somebody can explain to both of you the meaning of the word ironic.

Why does Frazier’s verbal self-indulgence play so well with the MSG brass? (The Knicks media guide describes him as a “unique phrasemaster.”) Because Clyde is Clyde, that’s why. So you’re left with two choices: Turn down the sound on the TV or have a dictionary alongside you on the couch. If you choose the latter, keep the pages flipping while the sage is quipping. Define as you recline.

SportsCenter and the Second Sex

A national survey released last week revealed the top 10 greatest moments in women’s sports history. Conducted by ESPN, the poll put the passage of Title IX at number one and Billie Jean King‘s “Battle of the Sexes” win over Bobby Riggs at number 10. Though such lists are designed to start arguments, we do not have a quarrel with the events picked or their particular placement. Instead, we here at Jockbeat are sitting around scratching our heads over how—or, perhaps, whether—the venerable sports network that conducted the poll would cover these sporting milestones.

If it were to follow recent form, ESPN would give hardly any airtime at all to these important sports happenings; after all, they were accomplished by women. Broadcast time for women (and we’re not just talking about Linda Cohn) is a rare thing on the Worldwide Leader in Sports. We know this because SportsCenter will give us 20 solid minutes of NFL preseason highlights before even mentioning the results of the WNBA playoffs. But now we’re sure of it after the release of a new study by the Amateur Athletic Foundation, Gender in Televised Sports: 1989, 1993, 1999. According to the AAF, a mere 2.2 percent of SportsCenter is devoted to women’s sports. This in the age of professional leagues for women’s basketball, soccer, softball, volleyball, and even football. Oh, there’s also that women’s tennis thing and the LPGA and all the college sports that the fairer sex takes part in. But if Duke’s men’s team is playing Marathon Oil in a basketball exhibition, you’ll be sure to know about it (and see hightlights of it) long before the score of a WTA final is flashed (briefly) upon the SportsCenter screen.

ESPN isn’t the lone culprit in the underreporting of women’s sports, of course; it’s just the worst. The sports report on local TV news shows devotes only 8.7 percent of its airtime to women according to the AAF, for a men’s-to-women’s-sports-story ratio of 6:1 (SportsCenter‘s ratio is a whopping 15:1). And you have to wait a while to get to those few-and-far-between women’s sports reports: Only 3 percent of local news programs featured a lead story about women’s athletics, while not a single SportsCenter program looked at during the course of the study lead with a piece about women.

But now that we have Mia and Venus and Sheryl on the scene, things are surely better than yesteryear, right? Not according to the AAF: “The percentage of stories and airtime devoted to women’s sports on local news programs remains almost as low as it was a decade ago.” So much for progress.

And so much for the revolution in women’s athletics if SportsCenter doesn’t catch en fuego for the ladies sometime soon. In these situations, the no-one-cares excuse is usually trotted out by producer types. But it’s all so much hooey when the WNBA averages 10,000 fans per game in only its third year; it took the NBA nearly three decades to hit that figure. Is it really asking too much for a regular “boo-yah!” from Stuart Scott and company when women do their thing on the various fields of play? As they say, stay tuned.

Field of Schemes (Cont’d)

If you want a glimpse of what Mayor Giuliani‘s long-threatened stadium-financing plan might look like when and if it’s ever formally proposed, just look at what Rudy’s Pennsylvania alter ego—with the emphasis on ego—Philadelphia mayor John Street, has been up to in his town.

Last week began with the startling announcement by Street that he was abandoning his long-held proposal to drop a new Phillies stadium on the edge of Chinatown. Residents and local business owners, who had waged a five-month campaign against the project, were overjoyed at no longer having to worry about thousands of baseball fans tromping through their front yards on their way to boo Scott Rolen. Two days later, Street had a new proposal: two new stadiums for the Phillies and Eagles at a total cost of over $1 billion, including an estimated $400 million in city money. The finances of this boondoggle would require an entire bank of telestrators to map out: The Eagles will put up more cash but only the Phillies will pay operating expenses; teams will pay no rent but will put money into funds for neighborhood and children’s services; the teams will keep all revenues but will give the city 25 percent of the profits on any sale of the teams in the next five years—but only after deducting operating losses and debt service payments, which could leave little or nothing for taxpayers to share. And while construction cost overruns will be paid by the teams, land costs will be borne solely by the city—and with two of the five parcels in question being owned by real estate baron pals of the mayor (did we tell you this guy was like Giuliani or what?), those costs could be substantial.

If you find this confusing, you’re not the only one: A spokeswoman for Street’s office suggested to Jockbeat that a $54 million gap in the financing package could be filled by the sale of naming rights, though under the deal, the teams are already guaranteed all such proceeds. Philadelphia city comptroller Jonathan Seidel, meanwhile, was waiting for more figures from the mayor’s office before trying to calculate whether this was a good deal for the city. “In the end, I’ve got to make sure this doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg,” he told Jockbeat. “Dead presidents is what this is all about.”

Contributors: Jeff Ryan, Ramona Debs, Neil deMause
Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman

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