The Sports pages

Will the Hoosiers Re-Enact Hoosiers?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette floats the idea of bringing guaranteed contracts to the NFL. While guaranteed contracts are the norm in the NBA and MLB, the only guaranteed money football players receive is their signing bonus. When the player is cut or traded, the pro-rated portion of the bonus comes due and can kill a team’s salary cap.

But guaranteed deals might fix that problem. Take the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Jerome Bettis, who signed a six-year deal with a $6 million signing bonus. If Bettis retires after three years, the Steelers will take an immediate $3 million hit on their cap. But if they had simply guaranteed Bettis $1 million in each of those six seasons, and given him no signing bonus, the Steelers would take three $1 million hits over three years—a much more manageable figure. And Bettis would wind up with the same guaranteed money.

Management/labor: An article in Forbes explains why John Henry bought the Boston Red Sox, a team that claimed losses of $11.4 million last year. The purchase of the Sox included a stake in the New England Sports Network, which recently jumped from premium cable to basic cable. That means the channel will produce $90 million in revenue this year, and the value of the team will increase 26 percent to $425 million.

The Tampa Tribune’s Joe Henderson mounts a defense of Don Fehr, the leader of baseball’s players union. “Fehr wouldn’t show sweat if you strapped him to a furnace door. He knows that if he can just wait long enough, owners will do something stupid, allowing Jason Giambi to wind up with a spare Mercedes or two.” In what might mean trouble for the sport, Fehr warns that there are times when the “law doesn’t give you any other alternative” than to strike.

Safe at home: In an obvious but important column, the Los Angeles TimesJ.A. Adande underscores the importance of home-court advantage in the NBA’s Western Conference. Last year, the Lakers lost home court and still swept the Western Conference, 8-0. But this year, teams are tightly bunched and a few questionable calls from intimidated refs could make the difference. “Maybe the Lakers don’t get those calls if 35,000 fans in the Alamodome are ready to scream their displeasure. Perhaps a call in a critical game at Arco Arena in Sacramento would go the other way. The NBA schedule gave the Lakers the benefit Sunday [when they narrowly beat San Antonio at home]. Anything they get in the playoffs will have to be earned in these final three weeks of the regular season.”

Obligatory Final Four item: Thanks to coach Mike Davis, the Indiana Hoosiers are an upset win away from the national title. The Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon explains that Davis is loathed by a “percentage of the folks in Hoosier nation who feel supporting Davis while Bob Knight still lives and breathes is akin to committing treason. … [Davis] worked until Feb. 15 without a contract. Even the folks with an explanation for most stuff have a hard time explaining how it’s in the best interests of Indiana University to have the bookstore selling Texas Tech merchandise. … Mike Davis could go to bed Monday night as a champion, and still feel like the interim coach of Indiana University.”

Read a good column lately? Post a link in “The Fray.” The best entries will be mentioned in future columns.