King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

The NHL lockout is over. Hey, you. Wait a minute. Come back here! Plus: Fox comes up with yet another way to insult fans.


Sports fans’ lack of interest in the hockey lockout was transformed Wednesday back into indifference to hockey itself as the league and the players union reached an agreement, though that’s sort of like saying USC and Oklahoma reached an agreement in this year’s Orange Bowl.

The owners won in a rout. The players, who started this process refusing to negotiate on a salary cap and refusing to have salaries tied to league revenues, agreed to a salary cap tied to 54 percent of league revenues. Plus a 24 percent across-the-board rollback of salaries.

All this after losing a season, which makes up a pretty hefty percentage of the lifetime earnings of even a player who has a long career. If the players union were a team, it would have to improve a hundredfold to be the 1974-75 Washington Capitals.

The details of the new six-year collective bargaining agreement won’t be made public until it’s ratified by the NHL Board of Governors and the players, which is expected next week. Various publications are reporting that it will include a salary cap of about $39 million and a floor around $21 million. Individual players’ salaries will be limited to 20 percent of team payroll, or about $7.8 million.

According to reports, the top 10 teams will share revenue with the bottom 10, owners will be able to choose salary arbitration, not just players — a huge victory for owners — and teams will be able to buy out contracts at two-thirds of their value. There will also be new, lower limits on rookie salaries.

On the plus side for players, they’ll be able to become unrestricted free agents earlier, though they won’t be able to make nearly as much money as in the old system, and a higher minimum salary will help marginal players. These are tiny items.

We’ll just have to wait and see about the big changes fans care about, alterations to the game itself. Everyone seems to agree that the NHL, lagging behind lawn darts and candlepin bowling on the sports landscape even before the lockout, had better do something to improve the product.

Even with the pro-offense rules changes that are likely coming down the pike, the owners and commissioner Gary Bettman may have won a hollow victory. They’re standing astride the fallen NHL Players Association, arms raised, but of what value is it to gain total economic control over the burning husk of a once regionally popular niche sport that in the last 300 days has lost metric tons of fan goodwill, billions of dollars and a television contract?

We’ll find out, I guess. My hunch: not much. As Wayne Gretzky, who owns the Phoenix Coyotes, put it, “At the end of the day, everybody lost.”

But on the other hand, remember what Forbes magazine said the last time it looked at the NHL’s finances, in November: Owning a hockey team, all by itself, isn’t a great investment. As part of a larger business plan, though, it can be a gold mine.

One thing this resounding victory for the owners tells us is that the owners, for all their claims of poverty that led to the lockout in the first place, were strong enough economically to overpower the players and win the dispute without giving an inch.

Conciliatory ideas the players threw out in negotiations became part of the framework of the agreement. That doesn’t happen unless one side is holding all of the chips.

When hockey players stop playing hockey, their revenue stream dries up. Not so for the owners, who can turn to other sources of revenue if their businesses are diversified, as most if not all of them are. The very process by which they won the labor struggle is the one that made their claims that they were going broke bogus.

A few weeks ago Flyers star Jeremy Roenick admitted that the players had made a mistake by underestimating the strength of the owners. In other words, their blunder was believing the owners when they cried poverty.

Even the ’74-75 Capitals never screwed up that badly.

Now, if the owners can run their business as well as they ran this lockout, there might be hope for the NHL. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that they can do this. In fact, they don’t even believe it themselves. The whole point of the salary cap is to police their own poor management behavior by forcing them to not offer players contracts they can’t afford.

With that problem solved, it remains to be seen if they can solve the other, towering problems consigning their sport to the margins. The effort begins as soon as the six-year agreement is ratified, probably next week.

The sports world will (not) be watching.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

Another Fox slap to fans’ faces [PERMALINK]

Did you see that banner that was draped over a billboard advertising a car at the All-Star Game Tuesday? It was supposed to look homemade, though it was suspiciously professional looking, and it had a URL on it. Fox’s cameras lingered lovingly for a few moments, which if you were paying attention would have clued you in that the “homemade” banner was in fact an advertisement.

TV networks don’t focus on banners showing nothing but a URL. What if it’s a URL for a porn site, or a white-power site or a site about how much the TV network sucks?

The British Web site the Register reports that the banner was an ad for the very car company whose billboard was being partially covered.

So, OK. Fine. A little faux-guerrilla advertising. Nothing wrong with that.

What’s wrong is Fox having its announcers lie to the audience about it.

“Somebody just unfurled a big banner behind left field,” said Joe Buck, innocently enough as the broadcast returned from commercials for the bottom of the third inning. He then spelled out the nonsense-acronym URL. “Tim [McCarver] will have to tell me what that means, I’m not sure. But someone went to a lot of trouble, obviously, to put it up.”

Buck then described the first couple of pitches by Roy Oswalt to Johnny Damon before McCarver chimed in.

“I don’t know what that sign means,” McCarver said, “but ‘hooray’ is the first thing that comes to my mind.” The acronym was semi-close to being a word-jumble of “hooray.” Damon’s infield hit on the next pitch effectively changed the subject.

Buck and McCarver both knew full well who put the banner in left field. This was Fox’s latest attempt to hide advertising within coverage of the game, a particularly insulting move it pretty much perfected with last year’s in-game interview with a character from a beer commercial.

I don’t think baseball fans begrudge Fox or anybody else making money. But must we be slapped in the face at every turn? When Fox isn’t busy insulting people we admire, it’s lying to us.

Is it so difficult to just treat the game and its fans with a modicum of respect and dignity?

Previous column: Fox insults Ernie Harwell

- – - – - – - – - – - -

  • Bookmark to get the new Kaufman column every day.
  • Discuss this column and the sports news of the day in Table Talk.
  • Send an e-mail to King Kaufman.
  • To receive the Sports Daily Newsletter, send an e-mail to

  • More Related Stories

    Featured Slide Shows

    • Share on Twitter
    • Share on Facebook
    • 1 of 11
    • Close
    • Fullscreen
    • Thumbnails

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
      Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
      Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Here by Richard McGuire
      A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
      The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
      This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
      For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Over Easy by Mimi Pond
      When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
      You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Shoplifter by Michael Cho
      Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
      This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

    • Recent Slide Shows



    Comment Preview

    Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>