Friday Grab Bag: Everest site of new wing suit record attempt

If imitation is the highest form of flattery then Felix Baumgartner, the man who jumped from space, must be very flattered that his action is being imitated by climber Joby Ogwyn who will do a similar stunt, this time from the top of the world’s highest peak.

If all goes as planned the Discovery Channel will be broadcasting the feat on live TV this May as it covers the last stage of Ogwyn’s climb and subsequent jump. It is expected to cover five miles and feature three stages. It will be covered by 15 cameras including some that are mounted in the wing suit.

Tim Tebow to be face of A-11 League?
There is a new spring pro football league forming called the A-11 FL that is planning on starting to play this year with first games slated for May. Initially the league will have eight teams at its formation that will span cities across the United

Now there are reports that one of the teams, not surprisingly based in Tampa, is looking to give Tim Tebow a shot at redemption by selecting him as its quarterback. A league official said that Tebow would become the face of the league.

New Thursday & Saturday NFL games this year
If you had CBS as the station that would win the bidding war for new Thursday Night Football games step up and accept your prize! The channel will be airing eight games this upcoming season, which will be simulcast with the NFL Network broadcast. The NFL Network will also exclusively show eight late season games.

Then there is the expansion to Saturday, where the league will show two games on Dec. 20, Week 16 of the season and after all of the bye weeks have passed for the teams. The kickoff times and teams are still being determined.

1904 Olympics must have been something
While the current Olympics in Sochi are getting a good deal of grief prior to the opening ceremony you have to wonder what people would be saying if the games imitated on that took place over 100 years ago?

The Smithsonian has an interesting piece on the games that took place in 1904 in St Louis, Mo. and specifically on the top event, the Marathon. One feature was that they intentionally allowed the athletes to become dehydrated during the run to see what effect that would have.

Baseball Corporate Sponsors: A History
It appears that all but eight stadiums in MLB have a corporate sponsor, and with the Texas Rangers selling the naming rights to Globe Life and Accident Insurance Co. there are now only nine without an extended title that just rolls off of your tongue.

Yet just 20 years ago, according to the Consumerist, there was only one that had a sponsor name while most were simply named for their location and one, San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium, was even named after a sports writer of all things. Take a look at how some of the names have undergone change in the last two decades.

The UFL Started Play Last Week-I Think

When news of tremendous import breaks often lesser stories are lost in the mix so you may be excused that amid your rejoicing about the return of the regular referees for National Football League games you missed that the United Football League has launched its latest season.

At least I missed it. Then again if you went by the leagues’ web site you would have thought that the season started a week earlier even though a press release on the site on a different topic does have the correct day.

Its Facebook page says that it is having Internet issues and that currently the only way to follow the teams and the league is via twitter. However a quick look around at newspapers based in cities that have teams shows it is having issues with the print media as well.

The league has a broadcast partner, having signed a deal with CBS Sports Network which promises to broadcast two games a week for the course of the leagues eight week season, one each every Wednesday and Friday. It will also broadcast the Championship game on December 1st.

I actually root for the UFL to succeed. I just see huge challenges facing an upstart league that has a tradition of money problems really getting heard above the noise of the NFL and NCAA. It seems now that one or the other plays almost every day from mid-week on, and with the huge following for the two it is hard to play third string.

I imagine that it has talked with the NFL about serving as a minor league of sorts, which seems to make sense on a number of levels. A pool of players ready for games that NFL teams can call on in case of injuries and the reflected glory of being associated with the NFL and possibly even attached to an individual team could be the ticket to longevity.

The minor league approach is what the rival USFL is trying, and it has not appeared to make any headway yet but with a spring schedule it still has time. The UFL might not.

USFL Showing Signs of Life-Still No Proof We will See Games Next Spring

A while back we mentioned that the United States Football League had risen like a phoenix from the ashes and thanks to an investor was seeking to establish itself as a viable spring football league. At the time there was scant information about the USFL’s plans but the league has been slowly releasing information about its plans so it seems an update is in order.

An entity called EndZone Sports Management purchased all of the rights to the league from Michael Dwyer, who held the rights. EndZone was founded by Jamie Cuadra who is also the President and Chief Executive Officer of the USFL. The deal did not include any of the old teams, and new ones are in the process of being created.

A tour has started to evaluate potential cities and the USFL said that it wants places that teams will want to stay and establish themselves rather than engage in the migratory pattern that has plagued other startup football leagues. At the same time it is evaluating owners for the teams.

It plans to operate in much the same manner as Major League Soccer does, which in part means that the players and the coaches are under contract to the league and not to the individual teams. I also believe that MLS soccer has a semi-hard salary cap and that the bulk of the players salaries come from advertisers, particularly Adidis, which has a huge sponsorship deal with the league that it signed a few years back.

The league’s advisory board includes Jim Bailey who was executive vice president of the Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens for 21 years who heads up the business operations side. Former pro footballers Marshall Faulk and Jeff Garcia along with athletes coach and trainer Terrell Jones join Bailey. On the Football operations side there is former Raiders great Fred Biletnikoff, who was also a coach for two teams in the original USFL

The overall goal of the league is to launch a 14 game season starting in the Spring of 2013 with eight teams playing and a championship event game in June. It is hoping to establish relationships with other leagues (read NFL) and will use the NFL rule book for its games.

It has also refreshed its web site to look much more professional and created a new logo so that it has a clean break from the past and a new image to brand itself to. The leagues logo will be “Real. Fun. Football.” I guess that is better than the No Fun League.

We will check in again in a few weeks to see how things have progressed. Hopefully it will have cities, team names and possibly a broadcasting and/or live streaming deal in place as well.

Football (The US Version) Applying for Olympic Recognition?

I caught an interesting piece in ProFootballTalk that said that the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) was applying for Olympic recognition and looking to promote the game on the international stage at some point.

According to a piece at NFL.Com the application will be looked at next year and the article compared how the US once dominated basketball and now others have caught up. Really it often seems that the loss 2004 had other issues that cause the defeat and ultimate disappointing bronze.

I had never really considered football as a sport that fit well in the Olympics format, or one that would do well if selected, and that is not because of the possibility that it is not accepted by other nations. Rather the problem is that it seems to me that with all of the qualifying rounds and matches (assuming they do it like soccer), the sport would continue on from the end of the NFL season until the start of the Olympics.

Then once the Olympics started they would have to play a number of games within a two week period, unless they had already weeded out all of the teams but the final four. That just seems like it would not do for the players with the much higher risk that would entail.

Yet there is a much larger body of people playing football around the world that I had imagined as well. In perusing the IFAF web site I was astounded to see how many national federations there was in the organization. With 62 on six continents it is spread from Kuwait to Uruguay to New Zealand with Europe having by far the most nations represented.

They have an 19 and under league, a women’s league and a seniors league, and have played for at least four championships, one played every four years and the next one scheduled for play in Sweden in 2015.

Apparently football was played once as a spectator sport in the Olympics, back in 1932 at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles seniors from three schools, California, Stanford and USC played a set against seniors from three schools from the East Coast, Harvard, Yale and Princeton. The West won 7-6.

While I have seen many people complain that one reason that the Olympics would never accept football is because of US domination and point to the dropping of baseball as an example, I think that reasoning is at least in part misguided.

Major League Baseball is never going to stop playing for several weeks in the middle of the season to allow its players to go to the games. The lost revenue, the impact on playoff games and a host of other issues would make that move a terrible idea.

If you look at the last 5 Olympics that allowed baseball, the US won the gold once, in 2000, along with two bronze medals while Cuba has won three gold medals and South Korea one. Without the top athletes, which it does not look like they will get, the US probably would not be considered the favorite if other nations managed to get their top people in.

Much the same logic can be applied to the NFL’s reaction. Lose players for a number of weeks at the start of training camp? Well they actually did that last year, and I am pretty sure that no one is happy with that or wants to repeat it.

The only way I could see the US participate is if they took one of the other leagues, the reborn USFL or the UFL and used the championship team from that league. While an all star team might make more sense to some it seems to me that a team that has already played a season together has a better chance of shining in an event such as this.

Will the UFL Morph into USFL?

I mentioned the apparent resurrection of the USFL to a friend a few days ago and he said “Well they played last year, didn’t they?” It took me a second to realize that he was referring to the United Football League (UFL), and what did happen to that league.

I have to admit that I did not follow the UFL, and was only vaguely aware of it when I would see the odd score posted someone and have to consciously realize that no, the NFL does not have a team in Virginia and this is not a college game.

So I went looking at it appears that the league was bleeding money, ended its season short and had a championship game. Is this the end of the four team, three year old league? It started out with such aggressive goals, once listing 21 cities that it could build franchises in. It had high profile people such as Mark Cuban saying they would invest (he backed out).

Starting with four teams in 2009 it expanded to 5 and it played an eight game schedule, up from the previous year’s six. Then last year appears to have been a series of setbacks. One team folded, it lost its sole broadcast partner and two that it was in talks with declined to jump on board. The season was cut short after four games and a championship game was played.

Many of the links at the official UFL web site do not work, although the one asking if you want an expansion team in your town does. No statistics from last year are up and the latest news is about its upcoming playoff game. (Played on October 21, 2011) The only new posts on its Facebook page appear to be from fans wondering what is up.

There are reports that the league is still trying to remain a viable sports effort, even after its commissioner and much of the teams infrastructure has apparently departed. It is looking at playing in the Spring, which would put it head to head with the USFL.

So will the league make a go of it? I doubt it. I do wonder if the owners will reach out to the USFL and seek to combine the two groups’ efforts. This makes a lot of sense since one league is looking for team owners (USFL) and the other is looking for a league. I think it will be hard to make a go of it as a Spring Football league, but it will be impossible if there are two leagues competing for investors, players and hopefully NFL recognition.

One note I did find it interesting is that the UFL changes a few rules from the NFL’s official ones. No tuck rule, four down defensive linemen required on each play, no more than six men rushing the passer to name a few. I wonder of the USFL will also have slightly different rules?

Looks like the USFL is for Real

We reported a few months back, on April Fool’s Day to be exact, that there were rumors that the United States Football League was about to resurrect itself as a spring football league and it now appears that the rumors were not a joke and that you can expect to hear more about the league in the coming months according to a piece at NBC Sports.

At the time of the report there was a web site for the league as well as at least one news story that claimed it was true and that they had interviewed the new owner of the league. Now we have seen a second piece that said that the league was for real.

It has now started to fill out a bit of its top management with the reported hiring for ex Oakland Raider great Fred Biletnikoff as an advisor for the league. The league also has James Bailey, a former executive for the Cleveland Browns and then the Baltimore Ravens for 21 years, on the USFL’s board of advisors.

The league intends to model itself after Major League Soccer and that it will have the players and coaches under contract to the league, rather than individual teams and said that it views itself as a minor league source for the NFL.

It has no plans to try and steal away, or even sign, players that are drafted by the NFL and will instead look to fill its ranks with both undrafted players and those that did not make the grade in their first try with NFL teams.

It has said that there have been no talks yet with the NFL but that it expects to have talks within the next 60 days and said that it will keep all of its practices and games open to NFL personnel. It is the process of gaining owners with ties to the areas where t hopes to locate teams and is creating a board of directors.

The USFL plans to be a summer league with initially eight teams. While no schedule has been announced I wonder how well non-drafted college players will be interested in going here instead of waiting for NFL minicamps and trying to catch on there instead. If the NFL gives its official blessing to the USFL’s role as a minor league that might help draw in these players. Also just a footnote, the web site I listed as the league’s in the first article was incorrect and the correct one is listed in this article. Sorry.