Rockie smokescreen can't hide rocky nature of major-league attendance overall


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With the Colorado Rockies going crazy and a sure bet to draw 4 million fans and the Phillies turning them away in Philadelphia nearly every home game, baseball is sure to register another dramatic increase in overall attendance.

But underneath, several teams are just hanging on and, with no assured big check coming in once the new network contract starts next season, well . . .

* One of the most intriguing stories in sports is how Scotty Bowman continues to win no matter where he happens to be coaching hockey, which numbers everywhere. See, Bowman doesn't have many fans among his players, which gives indication of how important that is. Asked his assessment of his coach after Scotty and the Montreal Canadiens had won several Stanley Cups over a period of time, a veteran answered, "And we probably would have won three more without him."

* Imagine, if you have a strong stomach, how much worse the rioting, violence and looting would have been in Chicago had the Bulls wrapped up the NBA title at home.

* Subject for debate at the water cooler is this all-time NBA cast: Magic Johnson, Bob Cousy and Larry Bird because they made everyone around them better. Michael Jordan, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson because they were unstoppable. John Havlicek because he's the ultimate sixth man. Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar because of their numbers. And last but not least, Bill Russell and George Mikan because they won. OK, back to work.

* If the Orioles are justly proud of winning their last six series, the real key to a team's winning a division, check out the Phillies, who have won all their series at home to date.

* They would still be the Brooklyn Dodgers if politicians back in the mid-1950s took Walter O'Malley's complaints as seriously as New York City and the state are finally taking the grousing of George Steinbrenner and the Yankees. One of the plans on the drawing board is a $150 million redevelopment project being talked about for the stadium area. Unfortunately, a mere pittance considering the upper Bronx.

* So what's such a big deal that Abe Pollin has to call a news conference to announce we should all start calling the Capital Centre the USAir Arena now that he's swung a deal for $10 million with the airline? Thing is, the dough and the huge ticket price increase announced earlier won't help the plight of Abe's ,, beloved hoopsters because no one seems to know NBA talent down there.

* As soon as Payne Stewart showed up wearing the garb of the perennial runner-up Buffalo Bills for the final of the U.S. Open Sunday, the suspense was over. Attention! Lee Janzen, pick up your trophy. Janzen, by the way, required three trips to the qualifying school before making it onto the PGA Tour.

* All those folks even beginning to think that Charles Barkley might quit pro hoops, wrap a tissue around your next lost tooth and place it under your pillow overnight.

* You have to love the way they pick spokesmen for the President's Council on Physical Fitness: They go from Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is extremely fit but was known to dabble in steroids, to Tom McMillen, a guy to whom fitness was always so elusive.

* Guido Tognoni, spokesman for the world governing body of soccer FIFA, said: "We were very impressed with American organization" for the recent USA Cup '93 competition. Thanks, Guido, but we tend to organize big sports events quite well in this country, a far cry from the job your home country Italy did with World Cup '90.

* Wire strung along the top of the fences at Wimbledon for security reasons is the height of overreaction.

* Watching Michael Jordan launch about three dozen shots per game during the NBA Finals must have had Dominique Wilkins' mouth watering.

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