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Posts from March 2024.

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. 

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