In the midst of last week's demon ride, the Timbers' attendance stats got tongues wagging across town. Okay, maybe not-but on mega-popular KPAM talk radio, no less! The Pamplin media empire's designated sports grumpasaur Dwight Jaynes, whose soccer credentials are, we're sure, impeccable, took the team to task for drawing an announced crowd of less than 3,000 to last Wednesday's game against Minnesota. Jaynes apparently has a theory that soccer is not a good spectator sport, a theory undeterred by global stadium attendance in the millions each week. For the record, the Timbers averaged 5,608 per game through this week, compared to an A-League average of 2,551. Meanwhile, Major League Soccer averaged 13,797 through last week.
The deathless debate over stadium bux takes to the cyberwaves this week, as the website Politalk.com hosts a forum on public ballpark financing. The moderated email debate, which began on June 11 and runs through June 22, includes four Portlanders: Business Journal editor Dan Cook, Drew Mahalic of the Portland Oregon Sports Authority, Tim Marttala of the Oregon Baseball Campaign and Ron Paul of City Commish Charlie Hales' office. Noted sports economist Andrew Zimbalist is slated to take part, as are sports journos Neil DeMause and Jay Weiner, both of whom have written books on the subject of stadium financing. According to Politalk chieftain Tim Erickson, the debate will likely deal with Portland's stadium controversy at some length. To sign up for the forum, visit Politalk.com.
Zimbalist, the Smith College policy wonk who brings a dose of the dismal science to the jockbiz world, has become a semi-ubiquitous figure in the Sporting Press in recent years. Zimbalist has authored a bunch of books on topics ranging from the plantation economics of college sports to the big leagues' stadium shell game. Shameless diamond slut Rudy Giuliani, who seems to have promised new ballparks to everyone from the Yankees to the Brooklyn Cyclones (look it up), has denounced Zimbalist by name. Which makes him a pal of mine, I figure. I called ol' A-Z this week to get some insight on the issue of baseball "contraction," the proposal to lop off a couple of big-league teams to cure competitive and financial woes. MLB commish Bud Selig has been talking up this auto-amputation option in the run-up to baseball's forthcoming, and surely gory, labor negotiations. Even though Selig is almost certainly using contraction as a red herring, there are those who take the idea seriously enough to wonder if dropping teams would jeopardize the Majors' curious exemption from U.S. antitrust laws.
"It most certainly would," Zimbalist said. "And, by the way, Portland could bring the lawsuit. So could fans or would-be owners in Virginia, or any city that loses its team to contraction." Gotcha. I'll have my lawyers standing by.
I have to declare a temporary halt to the bashing of the NBA and NHL's idiotic playoff structures. The Stanley Cup Finals series between the New Jersey Devils and Colorado Avalanche was sheer dynamite-playoff hockey at its bloody and emotional best. Yes, the Ray Bourque-finally-get-the-Cup story was overplayed, but his career-capping triumph was a truly great moment. As for the brewing brouhaha in the NBA Finals: Did you see the terrifying 1000-yard stare Allen Iverson threw on at the end of Game Two? Jesus Christ. For all of the Blazers-induced misery in PDX this year, we can thank our guardian gawds this year's soulless Portland team didn't collide with Iverson's gritty Sixers. Philadelphia will probably lose to the Evil Lakers in this series, but they would have feasted on the empty hearts of the Blazers, Temple of Doom-style.