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If you were wondering where last week’s edition was—allow me to put the rumors to rest. I was not at the tailor getting fitted for the Met Gala. I was not practicing my set for the Roast of Tom Brady—I thought about it, but apparently you had to be famous or gifted at sports (the ship on the latter has sailed, but the former…). Instead, I was at my firm’s attorney retreat meeting, getting better acquainted with and forming a rapport with teammates located across the country. So, in the spirit of the word “retreat,” I guess I pulled back. Next week, I’ll be out of the country taking another retreat of sorts, recharging my batteries and taking the week off.  But this week, in the spirit of the word “treat” I’ll provide you with just enough decadent mind morsels to tide you over. Read it again until I’m back and you’ll be re-treated. 

    • The honor of holding the first ever (official) alcohol sponsorship of a college football bowl game will be held by some guys who know a thing or two about money and bowls as the Arizona Bowl will be branded “The Snoop Dogg Arizona Bowl presented by Gin & Juice by Dre and Snoop.” 

    • NBA Hall of Fame and former Seattle SuperSonics point guard Gary Payton appears super interested in owning a piece of a potential Seattle expansion team (years after the Seattle franchise relocated to and rebranded as the Oklahoma City Thunder. The investment would be fitting for Payton—you might say like a glove. 

    • Just ten days after retiring from the WNBA, highly decorated Candace Parker shuns the shuffleboard courts in favor of a boardroom, landing at Adidas as the President of Women’s Basketball. 

With so many recent headlines of high profile individuals finding themselves in high risk, low reward situations, this week I’d like to take a step back in hopes of recalibrating everyone’s cost-benefit meters. At the risk of sounding too fatherly (appropriately so--I do have two scamps of my own and have been known to crack a dad joke from time to time) what were these guys thinking?

Just a few months removed from an impressive rookie season capped by a Super Bowl victory, Kansas City Chiefs Wide Receiver Rashee Rice caught a case, putting himself in legal jeopardy for his role in a hit and run on a Dallas highway after the Lamborghini he was racing caused a massive pile-up.  Having nothing to gain and everything to lose (his football career, endorsements and even his life) was not enough to overcome the untouchable mindset.

Then there’s the case of Toronto Raptors two-way player Jontay Porter, who this past week found himself receiving a lifetime ban from the NBA after he was found to be involved in gambling on NBA games. Most egregiously, Porter checked himself out of a game due to “illness” so as to allow gamblers to cash-in on so-called “prop bets” that he would underperform his projected stats. Porter was also found to have placed numerous bets on his online Sportsbook account, including wagering against the Raptors—generating a $20K profit. For an average Joe, $20K seems like a nice take, but when you’re a professional athlete on the precipice of a multimillion dollar contract—that risk sounds like a head-scratcher. Porter now finds himself disgraced and on the unemployment line (though if he learns Japanese, I hear the Los Angeles Dodgers have an opening for an interpreter…).

Lucky enough, you’ve bucked the trend and made a low-risk, high reward choice in reading the Spotlight. 

    • Taylor Swift’s new album “The Tortured Poets Department” comes out today. If you’re looking for the Dead Poets Society, it’s the down the hall, first door on your left.

    • Major League Rugby continues to show signs of growth in popularity with increasing sponsorship coming in for teams such as the Western Conference League Table leader Seattle Seawolves (who happen to be sponsored by a law firm by the name of “Foster Garvey”) and Washington D.C.’s Old Glory. Both seem appropriate because the US is hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2031, but the latter is that much more so since our Nation’s Capital is increasingly filled with scrums amongst oddballs.

    • The rags to riches story for Wrexham A.F.C. rolls on, with securing a second consecutive promotion, positioning the squad just one rung below the English Premier League. Raising ample capital to make the jump poses a challenge that may require owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney to sell minority holdings of the club, but for now, sponsorship deals such as the recent one from Gatorade should be enough to quench their thirst.  

If you’re joining me as a reader this week, kudos to you for having used proper eye protection for the solar eclipse. This week, between the college basketball season coming to an end, and the NBA and NHL’s regular season winding down, I wanted to focus in on the young baseball season—namely, my beloved New York Yankees. It’s early, but something about this year’s team is special and exciting. Newcomers (Juan Soto, Alex Verdugo and Marcus Stroman) have stepped seamlessly into the lineup alongside other big names like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and have already contributed remarkably not only on the field but to the team’s culture. 

Meanwhile, young prospects Oswaldo Cabrera and to a greater extent, Anthony Volpe have become rising stars. The team chemistry and energy is palpable and has already propelled these “DAWGS” to a a handful of come-from-behind victories en route to the best record in the MLB. The established talent and star power (and yes, substantial payroll) of the Yankees roster—as in years past—has never been in doubt. Yet, the Yankees have consistently underperformed for a decade. The lesson? You can have all the talent in the world on your team (an agent, a business manager, a lawyer), but without quality people around you to support and motivate you as a family would (in good times and bad), you’re unlikely to reach the heights you aim to achieve. Through the first few weeks of the season, the Yankees appear to have something.

    • eBay purchases major sports memorabilia auction house Goldin Auctions from Collectors Holdings. Not only was the transaction motivated by an apparent desire to compete with Fanatics, but also free shipping and a 99.8% Feedback Score.

    • This week Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara was charged by U.S. Attorney’s Office for bank fraud, allegedly stealing $16 million from Ohtani for illegal gambling (talk about surrounding yourself with the right people!). In uncovered text messages to his bookie, Mizuhara damningly says “technically I did steal from [Ohtani]. It’s all over for me.” To my chagrin, there was no text reading “Ohtani boyyy, the Feds, the Feds are calling.”

    • Step aside pickleball, the sport professional curling (essentially an icy version of shuffleboard with large kettle-sized stones and brooms) may be taking a move into the mainstream with a strategic acquisition by an investor group with lofty ambitions for the sports. But with the amount of ice dwindling on the planet, it might be a better investment to put the big bucks behind sports that can be played on barren wastelands. 

Suffice it to say that the Women’s basketball revolution was indeed televised, as this past week 12.3 million viewers tuned in to watch Caitlin Clark’s University of Iowa Hawkeyes take on Angel Reese’s Louisiana State University Tigers in a rematch of last year’s national championship game. This year, it was Clark who had the upper hand, powering her team to victory and on to their second consecutive Final Four appearance. Both stars, propelled into American households in no small part due to their talent and availing themselves of name, image and likeness (NIL) deals, are certain to square off again in the WNBA (endorsing rivaling chocolate and peanut butter candy bars would be a layup, too). But let’s get back to the numbers. 12.3 million viewers is more than any other ESPN televised college basketball game ever, more than any other women’s college basketball game ever, more than any MLB, NHL and MLS game last season and more than nearly all other NBA basketball games and College Football games last season. Oh and the average ticket price of this year’s Women’s Final Four is about double that of the Men’s Final Four. Seems *oh so* reasonable given that media rights and pay for women’s sports is in parity with men’s sports…right??? (Checks notes…sighhh…) Never mind. But hey, there’s no time like the present for a change! 

    • Beyoncé’s Country Album “Cowboy Carter” spurs a rewriting of the history books, becoming the most single day streamed album in Spotify history.
    • The premiere of Season 3 of Ryan Reynolds’s and Rob McElhenney’s “Welcome to Wrexham” is being delayed from April 18 to May 2 for reasons currently unknown. In other words, if you had plans to host a viewing party on April 18, this news wrecks ‘em. 
    • Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Center Joel Embiid was well-received in his return to action this week, notably sporting Skechers basketball sneakers. In so doing, Embiid joins Snoop Dogg as a high profile endorsement partner. For those keeping track at home, there’s two “I’s” in Embiid, two “G’s” in Dogg, no “T’s” in Skechers and I before e, except after c. 

I write this piece still licking my wounds from a rough week that saw my alma mater University of Wisconsin Badgers lay an egg against James Madison University in the first round of the Men’s NCAA basketball tournament (we’re still unquestionably the superior Madison) and come up one goal short against Ohio State University in the Women’s NCAA Hockey National Championship. That misfortune is to say nothing of my utterly destroyed NCAA tournament brackets.

But no matter.

Just ahead this early Spring weekend is a full slate of opening weekend Major League Baseball games, where I can once again rebuild my hopes (perhaps only to have them dashed in a few months’ time) while digging into Cadbury Mini Eggs (only the U.K. version will do). But before that sheer Easter candy bliss, I share the following with you: my Peeps.

    • Tennessee becomes the first of these United States to pass legislation entitled the ELVIS Act, that is targeted at Artificial Intelligence (AI) imitations of musical acts. Quite the bit of hypocrisy from the Volunteer State. They turn a blind eye to fat guys with long sideburns, rhinestones and gyrating hips to impersonating an artist, but when a machine gets in on the act, all bets are off. 
    • Iowa Hawkeyes Guard Caitlin Clark has been a TV ratings machine over the past few months of college basketball. Advertisers and sponsors have already taken note, but now Ice Cube is offering $5 million for her to play 10 games for his 3-on-3 basketball league, Big3.  Somehow that offer isn’t as shocking as the approximately $75,000 base salary she stands to make next year in the WNBA.
    • The NFL is planning to take a regular season game on the road to Brazil, to be streamed exclusively on Peacock. I guess Amazon carrying the game would have been a little too on-the-nose.

With the billions of advertising and media rights dollars invested, the nearly $3 billion in legal bets that are estimated to be wagered (not including the bracket pools run by your colleague’s second removed cousin that will inevitably be won by someone who knows nothing about sports but who picked winners based on the teams’ mascots) and the gazillions (give or take) of dollars in lost worker productivity, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s College Basketball Tournaments is poised to once again capture hearts, minds and wallets across the country. But due to the degree of upheaval in college sports, many observers suspect that future iterations of the Tournaments may be irrevocably altered. I hope not. Each year, the Tournaments bring with them compelling storylines (whether it be Caitlin Clark continuing her historic career or Long Beach State University’s coach Dan Monson, fired before his team’s winning an automatic bid to the Men’s Tournament, coaching his squad with nothing to lose) and Cinderella stories made even more improbable by the consolidation of talent through NIL recruiting at wealthier schools. It would be a shame for any of that to go away. For now, let’s enjoy what we have this year and hope for the best for next. Oh and let’s go Badgers. 

    • There is a vacancy to be the interpreter Los Angeles Dodgers dual threat weapon Shohei Ohtani, as his former interpreter faces allegations he stole $4.5m from Ohtani. It must have been an awkward moment for the interpreter when he had to break the news in two languages.

    • Dunkin’s next phase of its “DunKings” Super Bowl ad campaign that featured Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Tom Brady is to pivot to regally named menu items including “Short King Spring” meant to celebrate smaller sized men and small iced coffees. Now that’s something I could get behind…on my tippy-toes.

    • Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions is riding the success of its Netflix documentary series “Quarterback” to produce a follow-up series following NFL wide receivers and tight ends entitled “Receiver.” If Omaha continues down this road, there is a glimmer of hope that “Referees” or “Punters” may not be all that far off. 

Happy Ides of March to all who celebrate—apologies to Julius Caesar who was famously assassinated for his tyranny over the Roman Empire in dictating that people’s salads be topped with anchovies (…or something like that). I would also be remiss if I did not wish my readers Ramadan Kareem. For those looking to raise a pint (or five) this weekend, may you have a Happy, sham-rockin’ St. Patrick’s Day and end the day more clothed than John Cena at the Oscars (we can see you, John) and less shame than Jonathan Glazer at the Oscars (we refute you, Jonathan). And for the mathletes out there—a belated Happy π (3.14) Day! Unlike π, I will not keep going on and on but will instead wrap with this:  

    • French footballer Kylian Mbappé is threatening legal action against a French kebab vendor, taking issue with an unauthorized use of his name in the description of a menu item that is made with “baker round bread, as round as Mbappé's skull.” Meanwhile, I take issue with the lack of creativity – how about “bread so fresh it will make Kylian introduce himself as “Mmmmkebabappé?”

    • This past week, Senator Ted Cruz oversaw a panel on the issues in college athletics that proposed legislation seeks to address by providing antitrust protection and regulation to the multibillion dollar industry. Cruz put the chances of legislation passing at a 50-50 shot—which is not all that different from saying that whoever scores the most points in a football game will win.

    • Wrexham AFC owners (along with a whole host of other titles) Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds announce that Ally Bank is sponsoring its stateside summer tour, by way of a commercial produced by an arm of McElhenney’s newly formed, multifaceted company, “More Better Industries.” Now that’s setting the bar high for ambition and low for grammar!

If it’s March, that means I’m ever-confused about what type of outerwear I am supposed to wear outside, my allium bulbs (or as I like to call them: “Bloomgarden’s garden blooms”) are awakening and making their journey up from beneath the ground (I see you, my precocious little beauties) and college sports are front and center. However, while most years, it is not until later in the month that history books are written through the NCAA Basketball Tournaments, this year we have some super important entries.

First, Iowa Hawkeyes basketball star Caitlin Clark broke the NCAA all-time scoring record set by “Pistol” Pete Maravich, and as an encore, entered into an exclusive endorsement agreement with trading card and collectibles company Panini—becoming the first female athlete to do so. On the (digital) football field, EA Sports’ NCAA Football video game—the first of its kind in the NIL era—boasts over 10,000 players who have opted in to appearing in the game (and receiving the modest license fee of $600 for doing so).  And going back to the hardcourt, in a move that could have major implications not just in college basketball, but for the entire collegiate athletic programs landscape (did I mention my bulbs?), as the Dartmouth Men’s basketball team voted to unionize, rendering themselves employees of Dartmouth and allowing them to negotiate the terms of their employment (including wages, hours and benefits). So there you have a few tidbits of trivia as you roll into the cold/coolish/cool/not quite warmish weekend to tend to your respective gardens.    

    • Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions is said to be courting two football coaches with legendary careers—Bill Belichick and Nick Saban – to host an alternate broadcast of Monday Night Football tentatively called the “GOATcast.” If the production goes forward, it will undoubtedly bring some interesting insights (not to mention confused farmers) into the fold.

    • A prominent player in music catalog acquisition, Hipgnosis Songs Fund announced that an independent valuation of the fund found its value to be overstated by 26% (about $690 million). Clearly someone in the mix had a pocket watch swinging in their eyes.

    • LeBron James’ media empire is not only spinning off its “The Shop” television series to launch as a line of men’s grooming products, but is also going to debut a United Kingdom version of the series to be hosted and produced by actor Idris Elba, or as I like to call it, “The Shoppe.”

    • McDonald’s is nearing a deal to be a title sponsor for France’s top tier football league, Ligue 1. Perhaps that will help temper French arrogance over their cuisine.   

Welcome back to the Spotlight! In case all eight of you missed me last week while I was out, I will do my best to show that I am coming back a better version of myself. What does that mean in my situation?  Well, we’ve recently witnessed impressive range and reinvention from familiar faces and names. Beyoncé is topping the charts--certainly not an all that surprising revelation on its own but for the fact that she’s branched away from her familiar R&B/Pop category into Country Music. In so doing, Beyoncé has made history as the first black woman to hold the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 with a country song.  Charting her own course through history, former Disney Channel star and recording artist Bridgit Mendler (who’s since earned a Masters degree at M.I.T. and her J.D. at Harvard Law) has herself reached out to the stars, founding a satellite data startup. Then again, newness does not always translate to something better. Major League Baseball found that out when it was revealed (in more ways than one) that their new Nike uniforms that are being rolled out this year are sheer/partially see-through—back to the drawing board there (though I might have considered leaning into this one as a way of attracting an audience).  In any event, instead of reinvention, I just plan to see through my best laid plans to pepper you with wordplay, dad jokes and shenanigans all the while (maybe?) informing you about all things sports and entertainment – not unlike these:

    • Hip hop artists Kanye (“Ye”) West and Ty Dolla $ign and their controversial album, Vultures I already under the threat of litigation from Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne for use of a musical sample of a Black Sabbath performance of “Iron Man” (for which approval was withheld by Osbourne due to Ye’s hateful antisemitism) are now being sued by Donna Summer’s estate for an unauthorized sample of the late singer’s hit entitled “I Feel Love.” I’m reminded by an old proverb: the titles of songs you take, does not a better person make.
    • Kansas City Chiefs’ superfan “ChiefsAholic” could be going to prison for nearly a dozen robberies, or as it’s called in the criminal justice system, being a “ThiefsAholic.” 
    • The New York Jets’ flagship radio station will no longer be ESPN New York as the latter is choosing to part with its FM signal – but shed no tears for ESPN New York – they are well-acquainted with Jets losses.
    • LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne unveils a billboard in New York’s Times Square as part of her endorsement deal with apparel brand Nautica. An occurrence that without name, image and likeness (NIL) opportunities for collegiate athletes could not have been done. 

Welcome back to the Spotlight! I really wanted to open this week talking about the football game. I wanted to talk about Usher’s performance at the halftime show. I wanted to talk about the commercials. I even wanted to be the lone voice among us to talk about Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce (did you hear that they're dating?!). Instead of reflecting on the uniquely American sports and entertainment spectacle that is the Super Bowl, I find myself obliged to address the uniquely American experience of living in a country in which gun violence continues to be commonplace. A day that was supposed to be a celebration of the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2nd Super Bowl victory in as many years has instead been marred by a mass shooting that killed a local radio DJ and left at least 20 others—many of whom being children—injured. In the wake of these tragedies there is always a curiosity about the motive, as if understanding why it happened brings comfort. While undoubtedly important for law enforcement and criminal justice, the reason for why a gunman acted is less important than the fact that it did happen and preventing it from happening again—just ask victims or their family members. As of Wednesday, there have been more mass shootings in the US in 2024 (49) than there have been days in 2024 (45). We can do (and should demand) better. 

    • This year’s Super Bowl was the most watched US broadcast since the 1969 moon landing. Great—more fodder for the tinfoil hatters. 

    • Speaking of moonwalks, the rights to Michael Jackson’s music catalog were purchased by Sony at a $1.2 valuation. 

    • NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo launches his endorsement relationship with Starry, the lemon-lime flavored official soft drink of the NBA, WNBA and G-League. A fitting partnership because I get parched every time I say “Giannis Antetokounmpo.”

    • Tiger Woods officially announces his apparel brand in conjunction with TaylorMade Golf. Its name is a homage to Woods’ decades-long tradition of wearing red for the final round of golf tournaments: “SUN DAY RED.” Of course, that’s not to be confused with my lifestyle brand for working parents with young children: “AL WAYS TI RED.”

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