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New NHL already looking Better

Now Thats Hockey

Who could have imagined the Wild scoring six goals in their opener? That used to be a week's worth for them. This report was written by Tom Powers and appeared in The St. Paul Pioneer Press.

"We fooled you," defenseman Willie Mitchell said.

They did. Deep down, despite all the rules changes, I still expected to see a 2-1 game.

Scoring was up during the exhibition season. But I figured Wild coach Jacques Lemaire would unveil a "supertrap" or some other defensive monster Wednesday night against Calgary. Instead we saw a lot of up-and-down skating and plenty of scoring chances, especially during the first two periods.

I was afraid we would have to put poor Jacques on suicide watch afterward. But he actually appeared quite pleased by his team's performance. A little pale, but pleased.

Listen, if Marc Chouinard can record a hat trick, Marian Gaborik will score 15 goals in his first game back.

The second-most amazing feat of the night, behind Chouinard's unlikely scoring burst, was somehow cramming hundreds more than capacity into Xcel Energy Center. They squeezed 19,398 into a building in which attendance of 18,064 constitutes a sellout.

Perhaps the Wild are allowing fans to share seats by sitting in one another's laps - for a nominal fee. Ka-ching!

Other teams were not welcomed back so enthusiastically. The Chicago Blackhawks drew 4,000 fewer than capacity for their opener. The Buffalo Sabres came up 3,000 short of a sellout. The Washington Capitals had 2,000 empty seats.

Even perennial contender New Jersey couldn't sell out. And if the Devils can't sell out their opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins, what will they draw against the Nashville Predators in January - six people?

Still, there's hope. The "new" NHL holds promise. Cash customers expecting to see the same old drudgery probably were shocked. Frankly, I was stunned. In one first-period stretch of almost eight minutes there was just one whistle.

"We did a great job coming out of the gate," Wild goaltender Dwayne Roloson said.

"More skating, more speed," Mitchell said.

The absence of a red line didn't seem to have an effect. The increase in scoring chances came from the following:

* As everyone knew it would, the lack of obstruction opened up the game. The referees really, really want to call penalties in this area. Wild defenseman Scott Ferguson bumped a Flame into the boards. The player bounced off, got his feet tangled and fell. Ferguson got two minutes for holding.

The players know that the officials want to make a point and are keeping both hands on their sticks, and their sticks on the ice. It really made a difference in the opener.

* As a byproduct of the emphasis on calling obstruction, the front of the net has turned into a parking lot. A forward will set up shop in the slot and the defenseman has to play behind him, the way one basketball player guards another. He can't wrestle him out of there anymore.

The goaltenders are being screened more than ever. And with all the traffic, it's harder to sweep a rebound to safety.

* Moving the nets back and the blue lines out has given attackers more room to maneuver and created a bigger shooting area. How many times did a defenseman grab a puck right at the line and hold it in the zone on Wednesday? Up until this season, those pucks would have been out of the zone.

We should note that neither goalie was in midseason form. That, obviously, will change.

The Wild also gave us an example of another facet of the "new" NHL. They became tentative in the third period and nearly blew it. With the emphasis on puck control and skating, momentum is going to shift often. When a team gets out of sync, the way the Wild did in the third period, it likely will get steamrolled.

They stopped skating with the puck and started tossing it around as if it were a live grenade. The Flames seized the opportunity to take control and spend long periods in Minnesota's zone.

There were a few disappointments in the opener. I was hoping to see Derek Boogaard - the Boogey Man - tee off on someone. Also, playing Nick Schultz on the wing was a big waste. Schultz is developing into a very good defenseman. Against Calgary, he saw very little ice time as a fourth-line winger.

Other than that, opening night was a revelation. Keep your fingers crossed it stays this way. This report was written by Tom Powers and appeared in The St. Paul Pioneer Press.

A Stanley Cup For Everyone

As part of the National Hockey League's ongoing attempt to win back fans, the league is planning to give away miniature replica Stanley Cups to everyone who attends an opening night game in their 30 member cities. This report was written by Eric Duhatschek and appeared in The Globe and Mail

The massive giveaway - which will begin on 15 fronts, including Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver during Wednesday's opening night of play - was the brainchild of the league's marketing department.

"The notion here is, one, to thank the fans and two, to reinforce that we are in a new era and the opportunity for everyone to compete for the Stanley Cup is very real," said Ed Horne, the president of NHL Enterprises.

Horne said the idea for the giveaway "was developed internally. We spent a lot of time over the course of the last year, talking about how to come back in real and tangible ways to the fans. One nice idea, we believed, was to give every fan, the first night they're in the building, something that symbolized the new era.

"We believed that a five-and-a-half inch Stanley Cup that could symbolize the fact that each team truly had a chance to compete (for the Cup) - and that's what it's all about.

The league ordered more than 600,000 of the replica Stanley Cups, through an arrangement with The Marketing Store, which helped coordinate the process. The manufacturing, according to Horne, was done overseas.

The replicas themselves are plastic, but have a silver sheen. They will be distributed to fans as they exit the building on opening night and will include a written message from both the league and the players, thanking them for their support, after a lockout shut the NHL down last season.

It wasn't immediately clear if the giveaway would be limited only to opening night, but Bernadette Mansur, the league's group vice president of communications, stressed that the trophies would be distributed in every NHL city during the team's home opener.

Accordingly, Ottawa fans will receive their replica Cups on Saturday, while fans in Montreal and Calgary will have to wait for next week's home openers.

Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner, said the gesture was done to "thank the fans for sticking with us.

"Obviously, it was a long process," he said. "I think we all feel good about the fact that we were able to forge a new CBA with the players and move the game forward and put it on a stage that we haven't seen for quite some time."

Daly, along with members of the NHL's hockey operations, spent Monday running down a list of issues that the league will be dealing with before opening night, including the anticipated criticism towards the obstruction crackdown and the mechanics of the salary cap.

Under the new CBA, every NHL teams needs to operate with a minimum payroll of $21.5 million and a maximum of $39 million. Teams have until 5 p.m. Tuesday to submit their final rosters to the NHL, at which point they will need to in compliance with the cap figures.

According to Daly, enforcement of the salary cap isn't a major issue because "a club can't take to the ice unless they're in compliance."

Every player under contract to an NHL team is assigned a salary-cap value that is determined by dividing the players' actual salary by the years on the contract.

So, for example, someone like the Dallas Stars' Mike Modano is scheduled to earn $4.5 million this season in the first year of a five-year contract that he signed last summer, but his actual salary cap figure is $3.5 million ($17.5 million divided by five). Accordingly, even though the league only has a day to work with the numbers, Daly said it is a straightforward matter.

"It's just a question of pushing a button," he said.

As expected, there has been the usual backlash against the obstruction crackdown that took place in the exhibition season. On a per-game basis, penalties were up significantly over the 2003-04 pre-season, rising from 11 per game to 17. Goal-scoring was also, from 5.2 per game to 6.2.

Colin Campbell, the league's executive vice president and director of hockey operations, dismissed the criticism out of hand, suggesting that a proper evaluation cannot take place in the exhibition season, especially this year, when so many players have been out of hockey for a year or more.

"I don't think you're going to start seeing what the trends are until we start playing for real," said Campbell.

Campbell did say that the league wanted to introduce form-fitting goalie sweaters at some point during the season, but couldn't roll them out in time for opening night.

In another change, referees will wear microphones this season, so that both the television audiences and the spectators attending games live will have a chance to hear the official make the penalty call at the timekeeper's bench. The league also decided to prepare for the post-game shootouts to break ties by bringing the Zambonis back on the ice, for a dry scrape, after the overtime period. Even though that will add a few minutes to every game, Campbell said the short delay was worth it so that players can make a proper play on a breakaway, with less chance of the puck bouncing on them. This report was written by Eric Duhatschek and appeared in The Globe and Mail

Getting around the Track on Foot

San Jose's experiment with big-league racing turned into a frustrating treasure hunt for many fans Sunday as they searched for their seats with little help from signs, overwhelmed the bridges across the track and ran into maddening bottlenecks.

Midway through Sunday's Champ Car Grand Prix of San Jose, hundreds of fans waited impatiently to cross a bridge from inside the track to the outside. Some chanted, "Open the bridge; open the bridge," because crowds were being allowed at that moment to walk only one way -- from the outside in.

"They need more bridges," said Kyle Giambalvo, a 47-year-old race fan from Gilroy who was missing part of the action. "They need more signs to tell you where you're going and where you're at. I shouldn't have to wait half an hour to cross the track.''

Kim Simecek ran into a similar bottleneck while trying to go to a nearby hotel before the race to cool off.

"We tried to walk to the DeAnza Hotel but turned around and came back because it was so bad," the 36-year-old San Francisco resident said. "The traffic flow with the people is bad.''

Despite the troubles, most fans said they were enjoying what the organizers billed as a three-day festival of speed.

"I love it," Simecek added. "It's thrilling.''

"The first time of anything, there will be some problems," said Simecek's boyfriend, 39-year-old Stephen Pierce of Los Gatos. "They just need to address some problems next year.''

Organizers of the first-time race through San Jose's downtown streets said they were thrilled with the turnout and acknowledged problems did occur.

"Our numbers exceeded our expectations," said Bob Singleton, the general manager of the event. "We're not perfect. We made some mistakes. It's certainly not for lack of effort.''

Organizers said 62,371 fans watched Sunday's race, pushing the three-day attendance to 153,767.

That was great news for Champ Car and the city of San Jose, which gambled that racing would draw people to the downtown, shine a flattering spotlight on the city and prove a financial boon to businesses.

Singleton said organizers would review all aspects of the race, including how to make it easier for fans to walk around the track and how many more bridges would be needed next year.

"We'll work on the whole race," he said.

Veteran driver Paul Tracy, who finished second Sunday, said a street race in Long Beach -- the model for San Jose's grand prix -- had troubles its first few years. Now, the Long Beach race is the series' signature event.

"It takes time to get these events up and organized and running smoothly, " he said.

Drivers said they loved the fan support.

"First thing I want to say, thumbs up for the fans here in San Jose," third-place finisher Oriol Servia said.

And even with some speed bumps, most fans were grateful to see an international event come to the South Bay.

"It's kind of crowded but good," said Ed Aguilera, a 47-year-old who drove from Ceres (Stanislaus County) to watch the race but found himself stuck in a bottleneck at a track bridge. "They'll work on it.''

Robert Yates gets NASCAR sponsor extension

Car owner Robert Yates got some good news Friday when sponsor Mars' M&Ms division announced a contract extension with his team and with Elliott Sadler for three more years. Mars is a privately held company with $14 billion in annual sales. This was written by Mike Mulhern and appeared in The Winston Salem Journal

"I feel we're just beginning as a race team," Sadler said of his relationship with crew chief Todd Parrott. "It's only our second year working together.

"We learned a lot from the chase last year. We went into it with a nothing-to-lose attitude, and we were making some calls that were different than what we were doing during the season.

"I had the full-court press on way too early as a driver. I was worried about everybody else instead of what we were doing. I put myself in situations I didn't need to be in. People have to remember that was my first time actually running for a championship and running up front. That's a lot different mentality than just running 20th every week. So I had a lot to learn.

"I've learned, and taken advice from my teammate (1999 champ Dale Jarrett), and I've been trying to put that to good use this year. I'm a more mature driver, I understand what racing is all about: who to race, when to race, the whole nine yards.

"The day we put Todd Parrott back on the box was the day we became a legitimate contender for championships. He's already won a championship with Dale, and he's the winningest active crew chief in the garage. I want to make him one of the very few crew chiefs that can win a championship with two different drivers.

"His experience and the way he handles things offsets my youth and enthusiasm, so this works as a pretty good team. He can keep me calmed down and going in the right direction." This was written by Mike Mulhern and appeared in The Winston Salem Journal

The Old Indy Racing Frenzy

Less than a mile west of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a shop that sells model racing cars. This story was written by Theodore Kim and appeared in The Indianapolis Star

Such a store might once have drawn crowds of eager souvenir shoppers on opening day. The annual event marks the start of practices and pageantry at the track, launching the build-up for the 500-Mile Race on Memorial Day weekend.

But the drone of speeding cars Sunday, this year's opening day, generated little business or enthusiasm. Instead, Randy Blackledge, the 54-year-old manager of Indy Slots West, worked alone stocking boxes in the back of the store and smoking cigarettes.

The past decade or so has brought tough times to the businesses that subsist in the track's shadow. Though the race itself still draws throngs of fans, the mobs that once filled the track during qualifying and practice days -- critical to many businesses here -- have diminished. A few stores and eateries have closed as a result.

Blackledge clings to a hope shared by many shopkeepers here -- for a return to glory of the race that has defined this city for generations, and for the wave of new business that resurgence might bring.

Race officials have made a host of changes this year in a bid to recapture fans and boost TV ratings. Those include starting the race later, moving the popular Carb Day to Friday and allowing cars more chances to qualify.

Yet as another May of racing begins without the crowds, color and cachet of years gone by, Blackledge is among those whose expectations have hardened into a somber acknowledgement.

"Racing here will never be as big as it was," Blackledge said.

Some bars and restaurants have moved away from relying on the 500, turning instead to newer events at the track, such as NASCAR's Brickyard race.

The trouble began, of course, in 1996 when open-wheel racing broke into two confederacies: the Indy Racing League and Championship Auto Racing Teams. That split sent the 500-Mile Race, its television ratings and its status into a sharp decline.

As the sport suffered, so did track attendance -- especially at the pre-race qualifying and other events that helped anchor many businesses.

Dan Laycock and Wayne Leary, both racing buffs and regulars at Blackledge's shop, reminisced Sunday about old times at the track. They remembered, not too long ago, when masses turned out for practice and qualifying days. Opening day at the track always drew large crowds whose vibrancy spilled onto the nearby streets and neighboring shops and bars.

Before, those opening day crowds might be measured in the hundreds of thousands. Now, they are in the thousands.

"There were always cheers back then. You could always hear cheers from outside the track," said Laycock, 55. "Hey, Wayne, you hear any cheers today?"

"Nope," replied Leary, 66, a former race car driver. "I haven't heard anything but noise."

A mile to the east of the track on 16th Street, Nancie Cloe sits on a stool at an empty bar just after midday. She owns The Short Chute, named after the ends of the track's squared-off oval.

Race Day still brings crowds, though the celebratory pre-race atmosphere of the Indy 500 has faded. Cloe and others said that mood of revelry was once symbolized by the so-called "Snake Pit," a wild section of the track infield that, on race day, might be described as Mardi Gras North.

The night before the race, 16th Street would often be awash in party-goers and pedestrians. Along with the Snake Pit, that tradition has been tamed.

"We do try to keep the old traditions, but you're never going to have the Snake Pit again," said Cloe, whose business these days relies on year-round customers from the neighborhood.

Even so, Cloe and others are hopeful they will make it through the downturn. The race's prestige is rising again and the masses show signs of returning.

A block or so away on 16th Street at a long-time bar and restaurant called Mike's, owner Paul Brown stood on a ladder painting his storefront. His chosen paint colors are familiar in these parts -- black and white checkerboard.

"You're not going to go right back up to where you were," said Brown, 40. "It may take five years. It might take 10 years. But that doesn't mean you stop trying." This story was written by Theodore Kim and appeared in The Indianapolis Star

CBS keeps the US Open

The United States Tennis Association and CBS Sports on Monday agreed to a new contract that will keep the U.S. Open on the network though at least 2006.

The agreement according to various wire copy reports, will see CBS pay $33.75 million for the 2004 Open, and then $30 million each you until 2004. CBS, current agreement was set to expire after the 2004 Open. CBS will retain rights through 2006, and the USTA will have an option to extend the deal through 2008.

The deal also could usher in a new package of tournaments leading up to the Grand Slam event. CBS agreed to provide weekend coverage of the proposed U.S. Open series, a series of summer events that will lead up to the U.S. Open. The series is expected to launch with limited events in 2004 and then expand in 2005.

CBS will provide 48 hours of U.S. Open coverage each year, including six days of coverage over two weekends. The U.S. Open also has a cable deal with USA Network that runs through 2008. (source SportsTicker)

PGA Player of the Year, to be announced on live TV

The PGA Tour's player of the year will be announced on ESPN Monday, Dec. 8, during the 6 p.m. SportsCenter, the first time the winner has been revealed on live television. That and this report from the Florida Times Union's Garry Smits

ESPN hasn't decided on the format of the announcement.

"It's still a work in progress," said Nate Smeltz of ESPN's communications department.

The race for the Jack Nicklaus Trophy has never been more competitive since the Tour began the award in 1990. Among the players considered in the running are Tiger Woods, selected five of the last six years; Ponte Vedra Beach residents Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk; St. Simons Island resident Davis Love III; Mike Weir and Kenny Perry.

Woods has clinched the Tour's scoring average trophy and leads in victories with five, but must win this week's Tour Championship and hope Singh finishes below third to overtake him for the money title.

Singh has won four times, tied for second on Tour with Love. Singh has finished among the top 10 in 10 of his last 11 starts.

Love won The Players Championship by tying the final-round record of 64, and has added victories in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the Heritage and the International.

Weir and Furyk are the only contenders to have won a major championship this year. Weir won the Masters in a playoff with Len Mattiace of Jacksonville and Furyk captured the U.S. Open by tying the 72-hole scoring record.

Perry won three times this year and is contention this week in Houston.

In the past, the player of the year announcement has been made at banquets or luncheons at Tour stops early the following season, or merely released through the Tour's communications office.

The 1998 winner (Mark O'Meara) was announced at a luncheon held at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine.

There are 203 Tour players eligible to vote this year. They will be mailed paper ballots Monday. The deadline is Dec. 5. That and this report from the Florida Times Union's Garry Smits

Nike decides to sue FIFA

Nike sued soccer's world governing body Wednesday, saying it is entitled to use "USA 2003" to promote the U.S. women's soccer team despite claims it violates trademark rights. The Beaverton, Ore.-based company said it wanted to take pre-emptive action because FIFA threatened its own lawsuit. That and this an Associated Press report

FIFA, based in Zurich, Switzerland, organizes and promotes international soccer matches and tournaments, including the World Cup and Women's World Cup, which began last Saturday in the United States.

FIFA said in a Sept. 11 letter to Nike that it has successfully defended rights to World Cup trademarks such as "France 98," "Korea/Japan 2002" and "Germany 2006." FIFA said it considered "USA 2003" no different.

FIFA told Nike it was engaging in unfair competition and false advertising and was likely to confuse consumers, who might believe that Nike was sponsoring events staged by the association.

In its lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Nike disputed the claims and asked a federal judge to declare that its use of "USA 2003" does not represent unfair competition and false advertising and does not violate any laws or rights of the association.

The Women's World Cup was originally scheduled to be played in China but was moved because of the SARS outbreak. That and this an Associated Press report

Houston already psyched for Super Bowl XXXVIII

The Broncos' first touchdown of the season came in the same city where they hope to score their last. That and this report from The Denver Post's Adam Schefter

Late Tuesday afternoon, the Broncos' chartered flight touched down in Houston. Players stepped off the plane, looked around the city and likely were struck with a thought that hit them like the oppressive Gulf Coast humidity.

"The Super Bowl's in Houston this season, isn't it?" asked middle linebacker Al Wilson. Reminded that Super Bowl XXXVIII is set for Sunday, Feb. 1, at Reliant Stadium in Houston - the same place the Broncos will practice this week and open their preseason Saturday night against the Texans - Wilson nodded.

"Hey, that's great, man," Wilson said. "So here's what we're going to do. We're going to have a little fun, we're going to take care of business, but we're going to figure out what it takes to get back (to Houston). And hopefully it'll happen like that, for us to go to Houston in the preseason and then end up in the Super Bowl."

The Broncos are thinking as big as the city they are visiting through Saturday night.

But Houston has been thinking big since Nov. 1, 2000, when the NFL awarded it Super Bowl XXXVIII along with the right for a projected $300 million boost. Heat pulsates through this city, but so does the excitement.

"What we have found is an outpouring of public support," said Robert Dale Morgan, president and CEO of the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee. "The people here are proud to say the Super Bowl is in our town."

Numbers show it. By the time Super Bowl XXXVIII is over, Morgan said the Houston Super Bowl committee will boast 10,000 volunteers. It has 55 members on its board, 20 more on executive committees, 10 committees, 66 sub- committees and the manpower it needs to stage a game that is less than six months away. But until the Feb. 1 weekend, when the football world descends upon the country's fourth-largest city, where 1.8 million people are sprawled over 570 square miles, Morgan's organization has more work to do than any football team in training camp.

Even though Houston houses more than $1 billion worth of new sports facilities - Reliant Stadium, where football's Texans play; Minute Maid Park, where baseball's Astros play; and the Toyota Center, where basketball's Rockets will play - the city still is a veritable hard-hat zone.

The NFL's hotel headquarters, the Hilton Americas, is under construction and not scheduled to open until Dec. 7.

Houston's light-rail system, which will help link the city during the congested Super Bowl week, is not scheduled to be completed until Dec. 31.

The project Mainstreet Square, in which 60 fountains will be installed over a six-block area in downtown Houston, also is not set to be unveiled until Dec. 31.

"As we sit here, we are either right there or ahead of every critical point in our planning process," Morgan said. "But that's because everything in this city is timed to be ready when people show up. But that is the power of mega- events. Mega-events like Super Bowls give communities real deadlines to accomplish amazing projects.

"So, candidly, even up until the first of the year, you won't see a lot visually of what's going on preparing for the event. But this, in a lot of ways, is the rebirth of Houston."

It's not as though Houston had such mega-opportunities before. The last time Houston hosted a Super Bowl was Jan. 13, 1974, the day Miami beat Minnesota 24-7. Broncos offensive tackle Matt Lepsis was born that day. Only 19 of the 86 players on the Broncos' current training camp roster had been born. The Super Bowl has changed with the times, and the level of anticipation around Houston is high.

"I was down there a couple of days this offseason and I know there was a lot of talk about it," said Broncos guard Daniel Neil, who owns an offseason home in Houston. "They'll do a great job hosting the event. They're really excited about it." That and this report from The Denver Post's Adam Schefter

Bears are the hot ticket in Chi-town

Bears fans are bracing for their first big battle of the football season, and it's not the Sept. 29 game against the Green Bay Packers. That and this report from The Chicago Sun-Times' Stephanie Zimmermann

It's the day tickets go on sale.

Individual-game tickets will be available for purchase starting at noon Sept. 13.

With the drawing power of the new stadium, the inaugural game against the rival Packers (on a Monday night, no less) and the hope many fans hold for new quarterback Kordell Stewart, the approximately 1,000 seats available for individual-game tickets are expected to sell out in minutes, said Jeff Morander, director of stadium sales and services for the Bears.

Morander has heard that $50 end zone tickets for that game against Green Bay could fetch $1,000.

Tickets for the two preseason games in Champaign went on sale Saturday.

Some ticket brokers already are getting calls about Bears tickets, even though they aren't for sale yet.

"People are asking about them, but we're kind of holding them off. We don't pre-sell tickets," said Dale Soderholm of Front Row Ticket Service.

Workers are still installing seats in the new Soldier Field--and depending on how closely they stick to the plans, a few seats could be added or lost in various rows--so Bears officials don't have an exact seat count yet, Morander said.

Individual-game tickets usually go on sale in July, but without a precise number of seats, the Bears had to wait, Morander said.

All of which is making for some antsy fans.

The Bears sell two types of season tickets--PSL (permanent seat license) and non-PSL. Holders of PSL seats must pay a one-time fee in addition to the price of the tickets, which allows them to transfer or sell the PSL. A father, for example, would be free to transfer the rights to the seats to his children.

Season-ticket holders who made their way off the waiting list for non-PSL tickets are now being asked if they want to ante up for the seats.

But even after they pay, they won't get their preseason tickets for a few more days and won't get regular season tickets until September.

"It'll be like a Christmas present when I get them in the mail," said Bears fan Scott Eddy, a season-ticket holder since 1997.

Eddy, 42, of Oak Park, got non-PSL season tickets. He paid about $1,800 for the eight regular season and two preseason games and will likely be in one of the end zones.

Eddy's excited about his team--and he's ready for the new stadium.

"They definitely needed it. If you can get up and go to the bathroom in the third quarter and be back before the end of the game, it'll be worth it," he said. That and this report from The Chicago Sun-Times' Stephanie Zimmermann

Renovations at Churchill Downs

The box where Unbridled's trainer, Carl Nafzger, emotionally shouted to a near-blind 92-year-old Frances Genter that her longshot was about to win. ...That and this report from The Lexington Herald-Leader's Janet Patton

The seats where the owners of Fusaichi Pegasus, Silver Charm, Charismatic and Sunday Silence saw their horses win. ...

The green-painted rails where the crowd pounded home Triple Crown winners Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed as they took their first steps toward that goal. ...

The clubhouse were fans saw fillies Winning Colors, Genuine Risk and Regret dust the boys. ...

All will be gone in the massive Churchill Downs renovation that begins after the race meet ends on Sunday. The renovation is the second phase of a multi-million-dollar project to renovate the Downs. Last year, the famed Twin Spires were refurbished.

In this phase, history from the roof to the floor -- and beyond -- will soon be gone. The construction area stretches from the Twin Spires to the elevators.

When the original grandstand opened in 1895, it was considered a marvel. It had one almost unheard-of "fan-friendly" feature: toilets.

Historic seats under the Twin Spires will be preserved.

Going: the exclusive Eclipse Room, originally built in 1924; the Skye Terrace with "Millionaire's Row," built in 1965; the members-only mezzanine level Turf Club, refurbished in 1987 as Churchill prepared to host the Breeders' Cup for the first time. Parimutuel windows, where the hopeful plunked down millions in search of their dream (biggest payout ever: $114,156 at the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup) also will be pried apart.

The press box, where Red Smith, William Nack and Jim McKay tried to capture the magic that is the Kentucky Derby, also eventually will be buried. That and this report from The Lexington Herald-Leader's Janet Patton

Cellphones and other gadgets at the ballpark

As he watched the triple-A Buffalo Bisons mount a first-inning rally on a recent Saturday night, Fred Cilono got the munchies. Reluctant to duck out to the concession stand with runners on base, he picked up his mobile phone, punched in his seat location and then hit "11" for Buffalo wings (hot) and "14" for Pepsi (regular). That and this report from The Wall Street Journal's Carl Bialik

Twelve minutes later, a woman showed up with his order. "You can't beat that," says Mr. Cilono.

Every other entertainment venue is trying to ban cellphones these days, but not the ballpark. Around the country, teams are encouraging fans to use their phones to do more than just call up their buddy in seat F34 and wave. They are rolling out a variety of services, from dial-up food delivery to auctions that let fans bid on team memorabilia. Some services try to get fans to predict a player's performance by phone.

The minor leagues, which have soared in popularity amid a backlash against rising prices in the Major Leagues, are taking the biggest plunge. Twelve minor-league teams, from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) Red Barons to the Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Quakes, now let fans order food with their cellphones. At some Bisons' games, fans can bid on a jersey that a player is wearing. At the end of the game, the player takes it off, signs it and gives it to the winner.

This summer, in-seat ordering is getting a Major League tryout. Next week, the Seattle Mariners will launch the service in about 2,000 seats at Safeco Field, and plan to expand it to more than 75% of the stadium before the season is out. A sample menu item: Polish Sausage with Potato Chips ($7.50). And fans in seven sections at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves, can order hand-tossed pizzas by dialing the stadium kitchen.

Teams at all levels are feeling pressure to squeeze more revenue out of fans. Only two of the 30 Major League teams showed an operating profit between 1995-2001, according to the league. Meanwhile, attendance has dropped the past two years -- it's off 4% so far this year -- according to the league. In the minors, attendance is going up, but on average, the teams are only "very marginally profitable," says Pat O'Conner, chief operating officer of Minor League Baseball.

The new offerings are not only a way to boost revenues, but to distract fans now that Major League baseball games routinely run more than 3½ hours.

But some baseball purists say the proliferation of these cellphone-based services spoils the mood. "I'm there to watch the game," says M.S. Burton, a librarian in Seattle who gets annoyed when she sees people whipping out their cellphones to play interactive games. That and this report from The Wall Street Journal's Carl Bialik

The way in-seat ordering works at most minor-league parks, fans first have to register for the service by phoning a call center and giving their name, address and credit-card number. From then on, they give only their cellphone number and a password when they call, and then punch in their seat location and food selection to place an order. Menus, which have as many as 25 items, including memorabilia like pennants and minibats, are handed out at the gate and are available near the seats. Teams typically promise to deliver in about 10 minutes.

Because they don't have the big-name players, minor-league franchises often have to work harder to create a buzz among fans. As a result, they've been a breeding ground for brainstorms aimed at making baseball more entertaining. A number of those ideas have eventually been adopted by the big leagues, from themed food courts to video arcades to hot tubs overlooking the outfield.

One major limitation with the Mariners' planned in-seat food service: It will be available only to people with phones than can access the Web.

But even at minor-league parks, where the service is less cumbersome, it has been more of a curiosity than a fixture so far. In Buffalo, for example, only a few fans have ever tried it, even though it has been available since August. During the Saturday night that Mr. Cilono attended, the traditional walk-around vendors sold between $1,500 and $1,700 worth of food. The tally for in-seat ordering? Just $23, and that included this reporter's $2.25 hot dog, which arrived in 8½ minutes.

The Bisons say low attendance that night was to blame -- more people ordered directly from the concession stand because the lines were short, the team says. Attendance typically surges in the summer.

While the Bisons don't charge anything extra for the service, some teams tack on between 5% and 17.5% to the concession-stand price. (Tips are often included in this surcharge.)

Cellphone ordering is part of a wave of high-tech marketing innovations in recent years, not all of which have panned out. In the late '90s, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays let about 100 fans order up instant replays, alternate camera angles, and -- for spectators who were really bored -- games from other cities. The vehicle was a touch-screen-based laptop-like device that extended from the chair arms. But the Devil Rays found they couldn't make any money from the service, and discontinued it.

"We can throw so many things against the wall and see what sticks," says Mike Veeck, who owns five minor-league teams.

Mr. Veeck is planning some more cellphone-based experiments at his own ballparks. He promises that fans will soon be able to vote on the manager's next move (the results would be displayed on the scoreboard), and he wants to create an entire section of seating just for singles. That and this report from The Wall Street Journal's Carl Bialik

Mr. Veeck, also the senior vice president of marketing and communication for the Detroit Tigers, comes from a family of showmen: His father, Bill, once sent a 3-foot, 7-inch player to bat for the Major League St. Louis Browns (now the Baltimore Orioles); he walked on four pitches.

If the in-seat food service does take off, the hot-dog vendors won't be pushed onto the streets, many teams say. They will simply be offered new jobs as deliverypeople.

The Bisons' hot-dog vendors' jobs seem safe for now. For most fans in Buffalo, the cellphone services are still a curiosity that blends in with other promotions, like the between-innings scoreboard spot for Fichte Eye Associates, the "preferred provider of Lasik for the Bisons."

There are also the occasional technological bugs -- or rodents, rather. Some squirrels that live in the Bisons' ballpark acquired a taste for fiber-optics lines and disconnected the kitchen computer. John Rupp, controller at Bisons' owner Rich's Products Corp., jokes that he usually opens up the kitchen in four clicks. But until the lines were fixed, about six weeks into the season, Mr. Rupp's kitchen was in the Bisons' offices 50 feet away, where he would print out orders from a computer safely out of reach of the squirrels. Mr. Veeck's Saint Paul (Minn.) Saints, meanwhile, weren't able to launch cellphone-based food-ordering at their home opener late last month because they found they couldn't extend their high-speed Internet connection from their offices to the center of their food-vending operations, about 100 yards away, according to general manager Bill Fanning. So instead they set up a dial-up line, and will introduce the service at their next home game, on Friday.

At the recent Saturday night game in Buffalo, the team's wireless auction, of a jersey signed by the entire team, netted $85. (The bidding opened after the top of the first inning and closed after the seventh; it took about two minutes for this reporter to enter a bid into the automated system.) The team planned to have the winner go onto the field after the final pitch, with the public-address announcer reading off his name and urging fans to come back for future auctions. One hitch: The winner was already on his way home. That and this report from The Wall Street Journal's Carl Bialik

The Stanley Cup Latest

At a conference in New York earlier this spring, leaders of the sports business community sometimes talked about the three major professional sports.

Those three did not include the game of ice hockey. That and this report from The Philadelphia Inquirer's Larry Eichel

On the day the Stanley Cup Finals are set to begin, the NHL is a troubled organization, with a number of franchises in financial distress and a future clouded by the threat of a damaging work stoppage after next season.

Compared to other sports, hockey sometimes seems to have the worst of everything: high ticket prices, stagnant attendance, a lack of salary restraints, low franchise values, too many teams, and not enough television money.

The picture isn't all grim. Even with a soft economy, NHL attendance this year nearly matched that of the NBA and was substantially higher than a decade ago. Total revenues have soared over the years, a core group of fans remains utterly loyal, and several teams have already cut ticket prices for next season.

But hockey's right to be considered in the same breath with football, basketball and baseball seems increasingly tenuous. This season, the game suffered from a scarcity of marketable new stars and the early ouster from the playoffs of marquee clubs such as Detroit and Colorado.

"I've always felt that the NHL has a cult following," Jerry Colangelo, owner of baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks and the NBA's Phoenix Suns, said during that conference. "Their economics have to change dramatically for them to keep going, let alone move forward."

Now come the Stanley Cup Finals matching two teams, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and New Jersey Devils, that usually don't even get top billing in their own markets. The national television audience figures to be modest.

"It's unrealistic to think that as many people would be watching as if the New York Rangers were playing the Detroit Red Wings," said ESPN/ABC hockey analyst Bill Clement. "But there'll be more than people think."

The big stories in hockey during the regular season had little to do with what was happening on the ice. Rather, the focus was on the bankruptcies of the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators and the dismemberment of the Pittsburgh Penguins, done in the name of fiscal survival.

Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis saw his club play before thousands of empty seats, lose an estimated $20 million, then get eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. When it was over, he told reporters: "We're certainly not going to increase our payroll because there doesn't seem to be a correlation between wins and losses and attendance."

Bob Goodenow, executive director of the players association, has pointed out that the Ottawa and Buffalo bankruptcies were the result of franchise-specific issues, not the overall economics of the league. He's said that owners wouldn't be paying the salaries they're paying now if they couldn't afford to do so.

But if you step back from the labor-management sparring, the picture isn't pretty.

This year, hockey TV ratings were down slightly during the regular season and more during the playoffs. Paid attendance fell about 1 percent league-wide, according to the official numbers, with anecdotal reports suggesting a high number of no-shows as well.

There are the structural problems, too. As much as two-thirds of the revenues generated by the game goes to player salaries, more than in other team sports. This is true even though the average salary of $1.7 million is less than in either baseball or basketball.

On the Forbes magazine list of team-sport franchise values, the NHL gets 16 of the bottom 20 spots. The Flyers, by the way, are ranked the third most-valuable franchise in hockey behind the Red Wings and Rangers - and 59th out of 121 pro franchises overall. That and this report from The Philadelphia Inquirer's Larry Eichel

Bears surprise their season ticket holders

When Bears season-ticket holders began receiving their bills this week, they got a little more than they bargained for--an extra charge for the two exhibition games to be played at the University of Illinois. That and this report from The Chicago Sun Times' Ron Rapoport

Tickets for preseason games are regularly a part of season-ticket packages, but Bears' season-ticket holders have two gripes. One is being forced to drive more than 100 miles to see meaningless games. The second is not being told about the extra cost for exhibition games in advance.

The Bears may be a victim of the concession they made last year when they did not require season-ticket holders to buy seats for games in Champaign to keep their seats in the future. This may have made fans assume they would be excused from the two exhibition games there this year as well. But they were wrong, and some aren't happy about it.

''We paid $13,260 for the right to buy season tickets,'' one season-ticket holder said. ''Fine. We were advised that our tickets would cost $75 per game and that for the 2003 season that would be for eight games as the stadium would not be ready for the preseason. We were advised our season-ticket cost would be $2,400. Then the invoice arrives and, lo and behold, there is the $2,400 charge plus a charge of $520 for four tickets to two preseason games at Memorial Stadium. And just in case we weren't irritated enough, they have the audacity to add a $4 handling fee to our $2,920 season tickets.''

The Bears, who admit they have fielded a number of complaints, say they did not intend to deceive season-ticket holders. They say nothing was said about this year's exhibition games when PSLs were being sold because their preseason schedule had not been determined.

''They were not included in the brochure because we didn't know if we'd have two home exhibition games this year,'' Scott Hagel, the Bears' director of public relations, said Thursday. ''We thought we might have an international game or four road games. To make the automatic assumption you don't have to buy preseason tickets when nothing was said is kind of a big step.''

Hagel said anyone who inquired once the games in Champaign were scheduled received the latest information. He also said he hoped Bears fans who weren't required to travel to Champaign last year to keep their tickets would be understanding.

''I appeal to all season-ticket holders who don't like that drive to realize we spared them 10 games last year,'' Hagel said. ''I don't think any team has ever told season-ticket holders they didn't have to buy them for an entire season. Nothing was ever said about preseason tickets in coming years.'' That and this report from The Chicago Sun Times' Ron Rapoport

Expect to see Japanese at All-Star Game

The arrival of Memorial Day means it's time to begin looking ahead to the All-Star Game. It's always fun trying to figure out who should be on the team. (source Cincinnati Enquirer)

It's pretty safe to say there are going to be some Japanese players at U.S. Cellular Field on July 15. Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki started slowly but has played great in May. The Yankees' Hideki Matsui is doing enough to earn consideration in his rookie season.

Hideo Nomo and Kaz Ishii are two reasons the Dodgers have the best pitching in the majors. Monreal's Tomo Ohka is contributing.

But the guy we would like to make an early push for is the seldom-noticed Shigetoshi Hasegawa, whose outstanding work in middle relief (1-0 with a 0.35 ERA in 22 appearances) has helped Seattle play at a 106-win pace.

"He has been wonderful. I can use him in any role," Mariners manager Bob Melvin said.

Nomo blazed the trail for Japanese players. He was named the All-Star Game MVP in his first season, 1995. None of the other Japanese players has been active longer than the 34-year-old Hasegawa, who arrived in 1995.

"All the (Japanese) pitchers are doing well," Hasegawa said. "I would like to see another 10 or 20 more come over and pitch at a high level." (source Cincinnati Enquirer)

Aikman, Staubach Dig In with NASCAR

Not many people could attend a NASCAR-related function and upstage Jeff Gordon, but former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman is hard to top at any event in this part of the world. That and this report from The Dallas Morning News' Terry Blount

Aikman and business partner Bill Saunders were the top draw of a star-studded show Wednesday for the annual Texas Motor Speedway Media Day.

They are moving forward with building the Hall of Fame Racing team, which Aikman is starting with former Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach. They hope to have many of the key components in place within the next three months.

"We're pretty stubborn, and we feel we can make a run at this thing and make it work," Aikman said. "We're not tiptoeing through it. We're going to jump right in."

Saunders, the managing partner of the team and a former Trans-Am racer, said they hope to announce an agreement with a car manufacturer within 30 days.

Saunders also believes they will have a sponsorship announcement within 60 to 90 days, along with an agreement with an existing NASCAR team and an expert to run the operation.

"That's doesn't mean we are going out and buying a team," Saunders said. "It means we will have a director of race operations that is an existing NASCAR guru, let's call it."

Saunders said they plan to lease engines from an established engine program. He is confident that the name recognition of Aikman and Staubach will enable the team to secure the funding needed of a major Winston Cup sponsor.

"A sponsorship package today for a single car of a successful front-running team is between $17 and $18 million," Saunders said. "That's what it costs to compete at the highest level. We've had conversations with major, legitimate sponsors that are interested in the value of Troy and Roger."

Saunders said the team turned down one potential sponsor that didn't fit the wholesome image Staubach and Aikman want to portray.

"Cigarettes, beer and alcohol are things we can't do," Saunders said. "They're great companies, and they help a lot of teams, but it's something we're not interested in."

Aikman emphasized that he and Staubach don't plan to be figurehead owners.

"We are committed to this," Aikman said. "We aren't doing this just because we thought it would be fun to attend a few races. I can assure you of one thing: Roger Staubach is not getting involved in anything unless it's going to be a success, and I'm of the same mind-set." That and this report from The Dallas Morning News' Terry Blount

PGA to players - speed up, or pay

Slow players are going to pay the price this year on the PGA Tour, and it won't just come from their bank accounts. That and this report from The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Doug Ferguson

In its ongoing quest to improve the pace of play, the tour has devised a penalty scale that gives players only one warning for slow play before rules officials assess a one-stroke penalty which goes along with increased fines.

Even getting timed for being out of position could be costly. In the biggest change of all, anyone who gets put on the clock 10 times during the year will be fined $20,000.

"This will get their attention," said Henry Hughes, the tour's chief of operations.

It already has. Players were talking about the new policy as soon as they arrived at Kapalua for the season-opening Mercedes Championships.

Most of them were hopeful it would work. "It's about time," Vijay Singh said. "The only problem with that is, are they going to enforce it? I think you need to put in a no-warning, one-stroke penalty. They know who's slow out there."

Until this year, the tour's penalty scale allowed for two warnings before players were assessed a one-stroke penalty for taking too long. Players are allowed 40 seconds for each shot, with an extra 20 seconds for the player who goes first.

Under the new policy:

- One bad time during a round is a warning.

- Two bad times is a one-stroke penalty and a $5,000 fine.

- Three bad times is a two-stroke penalty and a $10,000 fine.

- Four bad times means the player is disqualified.

"Our goal is to enforce the pace of play regulations and to draw attention to the pace of play regulations," Hughes said.

What has some players concerned is the accumulative policy for being put on the clock, even if a player hits his shot within the allotted time.

When a group gets out of position - defined by an open hole ahead of them - each player in that group is considered to be on the clock. The 10th time a player is put on the clock during the year results in a $20,000 fine.

That means if a fast player keeps winding up in groups with notoriously slow players, he could get put on the clock 10 times and face a big fine, even though he's done nothing wrong.

The reason for the accumulative policy is that slow players, once warned that they're on the clock, tend to speed up and never suffer the consequence. Still, that led Nick Price to wonder, "If I'm in a convenience store when it gets robbed, does that make me guilty?"

Rules official Jon Brendle said players can always appeal, and Hughes doesn't see fast players put in that predicament.

"It's possible, but when you look at it historically, it's not probable," he said. "We think peer pressure will be a factor."

Whether the new policies make a difference remains to be seen. The onus falls on rules officials to be willing to assess a one-stroke penalty, even to the point of disqualification. Twenty-two tournaments were decided by one stroke last year.

Singh remains skeptical. "They can do whatever they want, but it's not going to do any good," he said. "Guys will start off like a greyhound, and finish like a poodle." That and this report from The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Doug Ferguson

Hootie and the Blowhearts - Targeted companies speak out

Companies accused of supporting discrimination because their executives belong to all-male Augusta National Golf Club appeared to pay little heed to the charge. That and this report from The Atlanta Journal Constitution's David A. Markiewicz

Some of America's biggest and best-known corporations, including Bank of America, General Electric and United States Steel Corp., rejected the criticisms of the National Council of Women's Organizations which posted its "Hall of Hypocrisy" on the Web site, www.augustadiscriminates.org, late Tuesday.

The site features separate pages on 30 companies and Harvard University. Each page typically has a photo of the executive who is an Augusta National member. In many cases, the pages also contain the company's policy on diversity, the products and services it sells, and a link for site viewers to contact the company.

All 31 organizations were contacted Wednesday by the Journal-Constitution. Of the 15 that responded, most said that club membership was a private matter to be decided by the executive in question, and was not a corporate issue. Others cited their companies' efforts on behalf of women in the workplace. Several declined to comment, including IBM, Ford and CBS, which broadcasts the Masters tournament at Augusta National. Others, including Harvard, Coors and Exxon/Mobil, did not respond to telephone inquiries.

"Bank of America is not associated with the Augusta National Golf Club. (It) is a recognized corporate leader in workforce diversity and social equality in general, and the advancement of women in the workforce in particular," the banking company said in a statement issued by spokesman Scott Scredon.

Bob DeFillippo, spokesman for Prudential Financial, said its president, chief executive and chairman Arthur F. Ryan, another Augusta National member, "personally opposes any form of discrimination. Everybody knows what Prudential Financial stands for, and what Art Ryan stands for."

"It's unfortunate they've drawn a conclusion about the organization when it's a personal decision," said Thomas Johnson, a spokesman for JP Morgan Chase, whose chairman and chief executive, William B. Harrison Jr., is an Augusta National member.

Eileen Connolly, a spokeswoman for AT&T, said that while the company has a "longstanding commitment to diversity and treating individuals with dignity and respect . . . individual employees clearly have rights as well, and we cannot govern the choices individuals make outside the workplace as long as those choices are legal."

Like the other companies that responded, AT&T said it does not pay for the Augusta National membership of its executive.

Martha Burk, chair of the NCWO, dismissed the responses.

Of the claim that membership is an individual decision with no connection to the company, she said, "These men were not asked to join Augusta National as private citizens. They were asked to join because of their positions in corporate America. "

The site does not urge consumers to stop purchasing products or services from the companies listed, but Burk said, "The best consumer is an educated consumer. We trust the American consumer and think they can make decisions that are in their best interest."

At least one company plans to ask Burk to remove its logo from the site. Franklin Templeton Investments will soon send a letter with that request, said spokewoman Lisa Gallegos.

Burk said the NCWO will comply, but will post the request letter on the site.

Two companies that are not posted on the site are American Express and Citigroup. The top executives of those firms have said they support women membership in the club, and have said they will work to bring it about.

"That's the reason" they weren't on the list, Burk said. "If they are trying to work from the inside, they should be given a reasonable period of time to do it."

Augusta National spokesman Glenn Greenspan said the Web site is "not news," and called it "political activism 101." That and this report from The Atlanta Journal Constitution's David A. Markiewicz

Hootie and the Blowhearts -Internet Wars

The debate over the all-male membership at Augusta National Golf Club has a new battleground: the Internet. That and this report from The Atlanta Journal Constitution's David A. Markiewicz

Supporters of the club's position fired the first shots with a couple of Web sites going online in recent weeks. The National Council of Women's Organizations, which advocates accepting a woman member, is set to return fire this week with its own site.

Ron Pontiff, founder of golfersforarealcause.org, said he was "tired of the one-sided coverage" of the issue, feeling it was supporting the NCWO and its leader Martha Burk. He hopes to divert attention from the group and its well-publicized stance.

So the 34-year-old resident of New Bern, N.C., created a site with a twist. He is asking visitors to donate money to the fight against breast cancer.

"Fight a fight worth fighting," Pontiff urges. "Let's make a statement and show Mrs. Burk and the NCWO how much money we can raise for a more important issue.

"We're not anti-woman," he adds. "We are fighting for women."

Pontiff said his site received 3,000 to 5,000 hits in the first week, which has been "extremely positive."

He admits to a bit of self-interest: Resulting publicity could help promote a line of golf accessories he is developing.

Tampa resident Todd Manzi has two sites dedicated to the issue. Theburkstopshere.com posts a collection of links to other sites opposed to Burk and the NCWO.

The other Web site is more combative, featuring Manzi's position on the issue, plus copies of letters he said he's sent to NCWO members including the YWCA and the American Nurses Association urging them to reconsider their membership.

Among other things, he asks those organizations whether the NCWO represents members' views

"I don't want this to be a debate over the gender ratio of a private golf club," Manzi said. "I'm trying to shift the debate to the role of Martha Burk and whether she speaks for women. I'm going after her members."

Manzi is working full time -- 60 to 70 hours a week, he said -- on his sites. He generates income through the sale of shirts and caps that bear the site's name.

Manzi said that he is in favor of having women members at Augusta National. "But I'd rather they do it because they want to, not because they're being forced to."

Manzi said it bothers him that the NCWO claims to represent women, and said the campaign against the corporate executives who are Augusta members will hurt the U.S. economy by threatening their companies' business.

The NCWO's site, augustadisÂcriminates.org is scheduled to go up this week. Its intention is "to educate consumers and other interested individuals as to which CEOs and corporate board members are members of Augusta."

The site says it will post names, companies, products, corporate codes of conduct and contact information. There also will be information on how to contact CBS, which intends to broadcast The Masters golf tournament in April.

"We hope this Web site is useful," it says, "and that you will make your feelings known to the individuals involved." That and this report from The Atlanta Journal Constitution's David A. Markiewicz

Violence and College Sports - the issue of the day

Two minutes before kickoff of the Ohio State-Michigan game Saturday, Jerry M. Lewis told a friend that a Buckeyes victory would be the last ingredient needed to set off a "sports riot." Lewis, a Kent State sociologist, was sorry to be proved correct. Hundreds of people started fires, overturned cars and scuffled with the police early Sunday on the streets of Columbus, Ohio. That and this report from The New York Times' Joe Drape

As the police reviewed videotape yesterday trying to identify more people beyond the 49 arrested during the violence, athletic officials across the nation tried to find out why the violence broke out, and how to prevent another incident.

With top-ranked and undefeated Miami playing at Syracuse on Saturday, coaches and administrators say they are prepared to ensure the safety of players as well as fans.

"We will take a look at every aspect of our game-management plan," said Mike Tranghese, the Big East commissioner. "But we also seem to have a societal problem where fans pay for tickets and believe they can do anything they want, which is not the case."

Jake Crouthamel, the Syracuse athletic director, said that history showed no reason to expect an incident, but he acknowledged that security officials could do little to keep fans off the Carrier Dome field if the Orangemen upset the Hurricanes.

"I don't know of a place that can prevent a storming of the field," Crouthamel said. "You can probably guard the goal post, but that's all you can do."

And sometimes not even that. Goal posts were torn down and injuries or arrests, or both, were reported at Clemson, North Carolina State and Cal.

Clemson will review whether fans should be allowed on the field after games, Terry Don Phillips, the Clemson athletic director, told The Associated Press yesterday.

"We will work to preserve our traditions, but we will take the necessary steps to maximize the overall safety for our fans and personnel who work the game," Phillips said.

At Washington State, fans rained debris on the visiting players from rival Washington.

"I feared for my life," Barbara Hedges, the Washington athletic director, said after the Huskies' 29-26 triple-overtime victory, which was decided by a call against Washington State. That and this report from The New York Times' Joe Drape

In Columbus, the fires were set and rocks and bottles were thrown in a 10-block area of bars and off-campus housing east of the stadium. The Buckeyes, who were playing for a berth in the national title game, outlasted Michigan in a tense 14-9 contest.

Lewis has studied violence by sports fans for 27 years. "It was a classic celebration riot," he said. "It unfortunately was predictable because five factors were in play: a natural urban gathering place was available, it had easy access, a championship was at stake, it was a close game and the home team won."

Some college athletic administrators expressed relief that the disruption happened away from the stadium and said they were vigilant about incidents in stadiums. The National Collegiate Athletic Association leaves security matters to individual institutions but indicated it was willing to take up the matter.

"If the member institutions believe the association should oversee these kinds of activities on a national basis, then they can recommend that authority be given to the N.C.A.A. through our governance structure," said Laronica L. Conway, an N.C.A.A. spokeswoman.

The violence at Ohio State, which prompted Karen A. Holbrook, the university president, to apologize, went beyond situations outlined in game-management manuals distributed to member schools by most major athletic conferences.

The Southeastern Conference's manual contains guidelines to protect visiting teams, recommending that the student seating section be opposite the opponents' bench. If that is not possible, students must be seated from the 30-yard line to the goal line.

"Our primary goal is to keep the players, coaches, staff and cheerleaders safe," said Charles Bloom, a spokesman for the S.E.C. "Do fans have the right to storm the field? It's my opinion that they don't."

Lewis and others question the recent trend of security officers' using pepper spray and dogs - as they did in Connecticut's final game at Memorial Stadium this month - to protect the goal posts.

"Why is this Custer's last stand?" Lewis asked. "It has symbolic value, but it often irritates and makes the crowd more mad."

Crouthamel said protecting the goal post was simply about preventing injuries. At Clemson, a reserve sheriff's deputy and a student were injured when fans rushed the field and tore down a goal post after the Tigers defeated South Carolina, 27-20.

In Raleigh, N.C., one person broke a leg and two people had knee injuries when fans tore down goal posts after North Carolina State's 17-7 victory over Florida State.

"We are protecting people from themselves," Crouthamel said.

Perhaps the key to prevention is getting the word out to students long before games that violence will not be tolerated. Miami Coach Larry Coker says he worries about the safety of his players and staff and is troubled by the incidents.

"There's a fine line between excitement and joy of savoring a victory and burning private property," he said. "That doesn't belong with sport. That's criminal." That and this report from The New York Times' Joe Drape

Hootie and the Blowhearts - Locals fear their party will be ruined

Dusty Avery has a big, beautiful house, but no one to party in it.

By this point last year, Mrs. Avery, the wife of a rich dentist, had rented her home for thousands of dollars to Coca-Cola to use during the Masters golf tournament in April. Executives feasted in her dining room, smoked on her patio and, at the end of the night, crashed in her bedroom. That and this report from The New York Times' Jeffrey Gettleman

But this year, there are no takers. No soft-drink suits. Nobody.

"We don't need the money like a lot of people do," Mrs. Avery said as she passed through her butler's pantry. "But it's the tradition we'll miss. It felt right to have Coke here."

Over the years, the Masters tournament has evolved into one of the most extravagant parties in sports, a weeklong Chanel and caviar fest. Augusta plays host, thoroughly and happily.

But this spring, Augusta may get a different taste of the Masters, and it may not be so sweet. Instead of Coca-Cola executives showing up along the banks of the Savannah River, it may be angry women in green burkas.

The Augusta National Golf Club, the fabled course that has been the site of the Masters since its inception in 1934, does not accept women as members. The National Council of Women's Organizations has been threatening to protest. This week, William Johnson, the club's chairman, who is known as Hootie, said there was no way a woman would get in this year.

"Maybe one day," he said.

In this showdown, the people of Augusta will be the ones to lose. Most members of the super exclusive club, which once put Bill Gates on a waiting list, are not from here. Neither are the professional golfers or corporate executives.

But the busboys are. And the caterers. And the drivers and the teenagers who sponge up the floors, and people like Mrs. Avery, who seems anxious about the idea of spending the tournament at her four-bedroom house, which for the last 10 years she has vacated during Masters week.

"Isn't it a shame?" she asked.

Although some Augusta officials are bullish about the tournament, there are signs that business is off. That and this report from The New York Times' Jeffrey Gettleman

Citigroup, I.B.M., American Express, Georgia Pacific and Coca-Cola have canceled their plans. In years past, many of these companies had rented some of the city's nicer homes for as much as $25,000 a week to entertain clients. Party planners are logging fewer orders.

Vera Stewart, who founded the Very Vera catering company, said 40 percent of her business was "Masters-based."

Mrs. Stewart glowed for a moment when she recalled soirees last year, especially the Southern-themed ones complete with rocking chairs, shrimp dishes and "tons and tons of azaleas."

But then she stopped cold. "I've already lost several contracts," she said. "I cannot believe, after all these years, this is happening to us."

Augustans have come to depend on Masters week, which attracts thousands of well-heeled visitors (it is a golf tournament, after all). More than 2,000 families vacate their homes. Schools close. Teachers, bus drivers and workers of all stripes take jobs as waiters and servers, earning $500 a night in tips.

The area's 6,000 hotel rooms are booked solid, at jacked-up rates. The West Bank Inn, with its expansive views of a parking lot, usually charges $39.95 a night. During the Masters, it's $200.

"The economic impact is immeasurable," said Barry E. White, executive director of the city's convention and visitor bureau.

Augusta National is like Graceland for golfers, a beacon that attracts die-hard fans year round to this city of 200,000 on the Georgia-South Carolina line. Because of this, most residents feel immensely loyal to the country club, even if they will never be allowed to set foot inside. The club is secretive, not even disclosing the number of tickets it issues for the Masters. It did not accept any black members until 1990.

Brave is the soul who will walk the streets of Augusta and utter a word against Augusta National.

"Maybe I shouldn't be saying this because I'm from here," said Robert Morris, seller of building supplies. "But that club is pretty elitist. I think they're getting their due."

Augustans say they are not angry at the club but at those who are pushing it to accept women, like Martha Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations. She started the campaign by writing a letter in April to the country club, asking it to accept women.

An alternative weekly newspaper here, The Metropolitan Spirit, called Ms. Burk a "shrill whiner," a "feminazi" and a "male-bashing nut."

Ms. Burk said the animus was misplaced. "I understand how people in Augusta must feel," she said. "But they need to direct their frustration against those who have the power to change things."

Ms. Burk also said the protests were out of her hands.

Already, she said, dozens of women's groups had volunteered to go to the Masters and demonstrate. One group said they would don burkas, the full-body shawls worn by women in Afghanistan.

The burkas will be forest green, like the ceremonial blazer given to the golfer who wins the tournament.

Despite the tensions, Ed Presnell, president of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, said, "It's going to be another great Masters year." Hotel and rental bookings were up from last year, Mr. Presnell said, though he acknowledged that last year's business was down because of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Mark Gibbons, a City Hall aide, said the controversy might actually help the local economy.

"Hey, protesters got to eat, too," he said. "And they need somewhere to stay." That and this report from The New York Times' Jeffrey Gettleman

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