Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Drugs and Curling

I do not know very much about how drugs affect athletes' performances. But I really don't see how the use of any kind of drug would give a significant advantage to one player or team in curling. In the absence of any compelling evidence that drugs create an advantage in curling, why have drug tests for the sport? Why not let the curlers do whatever they want and save all the time, money, and hassles of drug testing? Leave drug-use enforcement to the law enforcement authorities and get thecurling sanctioning bodies out of testing and enforcement.

If there are drugs that can give curlers a significant advantage, I guess I would like sanctioning bodies to test for them. But I must confess I have never heard of anyone bulking up on steroids or practicing blood-doping so they can sweep better, harder, and faster.

A commenter on an earlier posting on this topic suggested that the banned substances list is not sport specific. If so, this one-drug-policy-fits-all concept seems terribly inefficient.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Monopoly, Monopsony,
and the Parallels between the NCAA and CCA

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)in the U.S. and the Canadian Curling Association (CCA) have two important things in common: monopoly and monopsony.

The NCAA controls the U.S. college play-offs in the major sports of football and basketball (along with many others); and the Canadian Curling Association controls the Brier (Canadian men's championship) and the Scott Tournament of Hearts (Canadian women's championhsip), and the winning teams earn the right to compete in the world championships, representing Canada.

Both the NCAA and CCA have seen their monopoly powers challenged. The NCAA has lost its complete monopoly over the sale of television broadcast rights, and the CCA is being challenged by the World Curling Tour in a battle to attract viewers and sponsors. Also, if the CCA keeps buggering up its television broadcast contract negotiations, people will soon be frustrated enough that they demand a Herculean cleansing of the Aegian Stables.

But these challenges are just nibbling at the edges of the monopoly power of these two organizations because they still control the big events. In fact the NCAA just bought out its main tournament challenger, the NIT. (see the update at the end of that item; as Skip Sauer says, "Looks like pure monopoly folks!")

At the same time, the two organizations have worked assiduously to suppress the earnings of the athletes under their purview. While some athletes have been able to side-step the NCAA unholy alliances with the professional leagues, for the most part college level athletes in the U.S. are not paid anything like their market value. King Banaian at SCSU Scholars is a fine economist with a strong interest in sports economics. He quotes Robert Barro:
The NCAA is impressive partly because its limitations on scholarships and other payments to athletes boost the profitability of college sports programs. But even more impressive is the NCAA's ability to maintain the moral high ground. For example, many college basketball players come from poor families and are not sufficiently talented to make it to the National Basketball Assn. Absent the NCAA, such a student would be able to amass significant cash during a college career. With the NCAA in charge, this student remains poor. Nevertheless, the athletic association has managed to convince most people that the evildoers are the schools that violate the rules by attempting to pay athletes rather than the cartel enforcers who keep the student-athletes from getting paid.
In curling, one reason the World Curling Tour has emerged was that many curlers were disappointed with the amount of money they could earn from curling in tournaments organized by the CCA. As I have speculated before, it is conceivable that the World Curling Tour could outcompete the CCA tournaments most of the time. But there are four major barriers to this competition: the Brier, the Scott, the right to go to the Worlds, and the Winter Olympics, all controlled by the CCA.

It is at least conceivable that the Brier, the Scott, and the Worlds could be out-competed by the World Curling Tour. If the WCT offered big enough prize money and appearance fees, those tournaments would disappear in the matter of just a few years. And like collegiate basketball in the U.S., we would almost surely see a merger (but this assumes the CCA would not remain intransigent, as it seems to have been in so many of its recent decisions).

But the big kicker -- the hammer, so to speak --- is that the CCA controls the Winter Olympic selection process. That control gives them considerable power in negotiating with players (Note Colleen Jones' remark that she might not appeal a fine levied by the CCA because the CCA controls the olympic selection process). The World Curling Tour (and its Canadian counterpart) would have to receive the nod from the Canadian Olympic Association for selecting the olympic curlers, and that would not be at all easy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Favoured Canadian Broadcast Team

Provinciality Warning. (Relevant only to Canadian TV-watchers), which was cited in the previous post about television coverage, is running an online poll asking about the favourite broadcast crew.
I thought I should vote, and was terribly disappointed to find myself agreeing overwhelmingly with the great majority of other voters. Dear me, I am not just normal, but common.
Try it yourself here.

Hockey Settlement Spells Doom for CCA-TSN Deal is reporting that one reason TSN was earlier enthusiastic about a deal with the CCA but has recently cooled considerably is that they now have a deal to televise at least 65 NHL games.

According to Ottawa Sun reporter, Rob Brodie, TSN has officially removed its broadcast offer from the table. With the clock ticking and the CBC holding steadfast to its position that it has a legal binding contract, TSN was seeing no upside. What it saw was the prospect of a protracted court fight, one it would be caught in the middle of.

What is strange is that it took TSN six weeks to realize the inevitable. A contract is a contract. But then, six weeks ago TSN was perhaps more worried about its Canadian content commitments to the CRTC than it is today. Brodie reports that TSN has now acquired a slate of at least 65 NHL games.
Once again, the CCA seems to have no idea what is going on across the table as it negotiates with broadcasters.

My prediction: Watch this site for live-blogging of the Scott, which is being held in London, Ontario. Alan and I will almost surely be there, and maybe we'll smuggle in laptops with cell-cards for blogging. And with any luck, maybe we can get webcams, too, and real sponsors. And.... hey, maybe the CCA will negotiate a deal with us!

The CCA:
An Exemplary Death Wish?

In his previous four postings, co-blogger, Alan Adamson has noted a number of questionable decisions made by the CCA over the past month or two. In the most recent one, he asks, "Huh? Is the CCA Nuts?"

My answer: Yes.

Back during the Brier and the Scott tournaments, I suggested several times that either the CCA or its legal representative(s) were negligent in negotiating their contract with the CBC.
My take: It looks as if the CCA should consider suing its lawyers for lack of due diligence if, in fact, the CBC made decisions that the CCA would have opposed but were not covered in the terms of the contract. That, or it should be asking serious questions of its own negotiators.
A commenter on that piece said that the CCA went into that contract with its eyes wide open and knew full well what they were negotiating. Given the silliness that has ensued, I am inclined to believe him.

Recent comments at In the Hack suggest that even though the CCA has promised that they will have a new, better deal signed, it appears they are struggling. The other networks are hesitant/reluctant to sign a deal until the CBC-CCA contract dispute is settled, and with the CBC managers running the network during its lockout, who knows how much time they have to work on a deal with the quirky CCA? This comment says the quotation below is from the Trono Globe and Mail, but I was unable to find it there:
The curling television mess just got a whole lot messier. TSN has walked away from a potential TV deal with the Canadian Curling Association because of concerns over a possible lawsuit.

Sources say The Score television network also has withdrawn as a potential curling broadcaster.
The networks are backing off because CBC has threatened to sue the CCA over the association's decision to terminate its deal with the network after only one year.

...If the CBC and CCA can't make peace, it is unlikely curling's big events will be seen on Canadian television during the 2005-06 season -- a season that will include the added bonus of Olympic qualifying tournament later this year.
I hate to say this, but I wonder if the CCA is on the verge of death. It has buggered up television coverage; it has fought change; and it (essentially) has tried to deny autographs to kids.

Meanwhile the World Curling Tour is growing in popularity.

If the Tour held a big money tournament at the same time as the Brier or the Scott, which would you rather watch? My preference (for nostalgia's sake) would be the traditional tournaments. But I can readily imagine that if, increasingly, the better teams were competing in other tournaments, the old stand-bys would lose their lustre.

Perhaps the days of the CCA are numbered. At the very least, their management needs to wake up or be shaken up.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Huh? Is the CCA Nuts?

I am trying to get keyed up for the Trials in the fall and looking everywhere for news items. I did not have to look far, and this is disturbing me!

What do I find at TSN but this amazing article - Colleen Jones' team is fined for signing too many autographs!
The Halifax Chronicle-Herald reports Jones received written notification of the fine on Monday. The CCA says she and her foursome lingered just a little too long following a game at the Scott Tournament of Hearts last February and continued to sign autographs for fans while failing to take direction from a CCA official.

An official with the association confirmed the fine.

It appears from the articles it was mostly children seeking autographs:

"I'm all for obeying officials and respecting people who are organizing the event, but come on," said Mary-Anne Arsenault. "These were little kids. We're trying to grow the game here."

Well, amen, but what is going on? Do the CCA also sell autographs and worry this devalues their product? What possible sense can this make?

Friday, August 05, 2005

It Seems we will have some place to watch the key events

The good news is that some networks have made proposals to the CCA.

My concern is that the CCA will have scored an own goal on this recent contract activity, and we will get worse curling TV coverage next year than we had last year; this seems to me entirely possible, as last year's problems were at least for me mere matters of convenience.

I don't really know the economics of curling coverage. As a potential bum in seat, I am probably not of much value, as I just want to watch all the curling I can. My past experience with the advertising is that Tim Horton's is the key advertiser; I spend about as much there already as I can.