Analysis of Sports Law Stories to Watch for 2011

So it is always interesting to take a step back and look at what we believed would be the Ten Biggest stories for 2011.  I think we had a pretty good hit rate on these but we take a look in greater detail.

They certainly did not all make our Top 11 Stories for 2011 because I don’t think that anyone could have envisioned some of the things happening at Ohio State, Penn State, Syracuse and beyond.

  1. Agent regulations–HIT
  2. Concussions–HIT
  3. Conference realignment–HIT
  4. LA luring professional football teams–SWING AND MISS
  5. Lance Armstrong federal investigation–SWING AND MISS
  6. MLB use of instant replay–FOUL TIP
  10. Roger Clemens–FOUL TIP
  11. Social Media–HIT
  12. Tiger Woods–FOUL TIP

Agent regulations              HIT

We hit this one pretty squarely on point.  There was finally some movement non this landscape to look into the issues of agent regulation and for the first time to really consider whether a national regulation would be appropriate and what measures would be needed to accomplish better regulation.

Concussions       HIT

This one was easy, just as it will be for the next 10-20 years.  You can put this one in the permanent list and enshrine it into the Hall of Fame.  As we said in our preview,

It is probably the biggest health related issue in sports (and not just football) in over 20 years.   While people pointed to steroids and other types of performance enhancing substances, concussions impact everyone that plays collision sports, not only those that voluntarily take banned substances.

Conference realignment              HIT

Another busy year as schools moved all over the place, in many instances making the geographic and numeric conference designations meaningless. 12 teams in the Big 10; Ten teams in the Big 12; Pac 10 to Pac 12; And now we have teams from the west in the Big East, Missouri and Texas A&M in the Southeast Conference and more crazy moves potentially on the horizon. 

LA luring professional football teams                     FOUL TIP

It was a story and the stadium construction was a big story.  Might not have been big enough to warrant being in the Top 11 but was definitely a relevant story

Lance Armstrong federal investigation                  SWING AND A MISS (SWUNG WAY TOO EARLY)

This investigation still goes on in the background. Reports from sources that I trust a lot indicate that there are still potentially serious consequences ahead for Lance Armstrong.  But we were probably a year premature given the slow pace of federal investigations.

MLB use of instant replay            SWING AND MISS

MLB continues to be absurdly slow in adopting proper replay rules.  An ongoing process that needlessly prevents getting the calls right.  Still relevant but not a top story for the year.

NBA CBA                              HIT

You cannot get more relevant than the lockout which claimed the early part of the NBA season preventing fans from getting any games until Christmas Day

NFL CBA                               HIT

The NFL labor dispute got a lot more coverage and publicity than the NBA, in part because only baseball was still going on.  But certainly the lockout and the deal that was put in place for the next ten years dominated the middle part of the year.

MLB CBA                             SWING AND MISS

The MLB labor situation never materialized to be a big story in 2011.  With the NFL and NBA dealing with actual labor stoppages, lockouts and lawsuits, MLB did its work behind the scenes and appears to be in a solid position.  While the accomplishments may have been very important they did not merit inclusion in the Top 11 Stories

Roger Clemens                 FOUL TIP

Roger Clemens trial on perjury charges was pretty weak.  The government failed to get the verdict that they were looking for and Clemens did not receive the degree of punishment that the government hoped to use as an example.  Not surprisingly, they failed similarly with Barry Bonds.

Social Media                      HIT

Twitter, Facebook and a variety of rapidly developing tools continue to plague/benefit professional and college sports (depending on what perspective you want to take).  For fans, the social media access is great because it allows us to hear directly from:

  • Ochocinco telling us about his escapades
  • Barry Sanders congratulating Montee Ball on his records and attempts to break Barry Sanders own incomprehensible accomplishment
  • Dan Marino congratulating Drew Brees moments after Brees had shattered Marino’s season yardage passing record.
  • Media covering the event in a more personalized style than they are allowed to express in their formal” written pieces
  • Teams and universities making announcements available directly to the public rather than having to have all statements filtered through the (sometimes) jaded perspective of long time reporters.
  • College and professional athletes sharing their thoughts and interests with us

For the teams, schools, leagues and conferences, the social media is a terrific tool, but one that can create great harm when not managed properly or when an employee or athlete make off-the-cuff remarks that are now reported as mainstream news on the ESPN ticker.  The ability to monitor, teach, guide and explain the process to the athletes is one that will be ongoing and challenging.  But it is one the teams will have to face to survive.

Tiger Woods                      FOUL TIP

Tiger Woods is no longer relevant in the way that he was prior to the disclosure of his adulterous lifestyle.  Will he ever reach that magnitude again?  Everyone watched and waited and Tiger did display some signs of brilliance, but he was not able to gain any ground on Jack Nicklaus’ record, his inclusion on the President’s Cup team was controversial (rather than a given) and he kept himself out of most of the limelight.  Our bet is that we will start seeing A LOT more of Tiger in 2012.


Hits                                                        6

Foul Tips                                              3

Swing and Miss                                 3

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