Saturday, January 1, 2011

Top 10 Predictions For 2011

Hey, far be it for me to pass up a gimme column. Or a chance to make my eyes do that. On to the soothsaying!

10) The Oakland A's will move to Portland.

With the team hovering near .500 in perpetuity and the Giants taking the permanent pole position in both marketing dollars and on-the-field performance, they are the second option that very few people care about in a one-team area. And with the state's stadium situation in pure private or bust mode, with a tanking real estate market and questionable long-term financial waters, there's even less reason to think that they will stay. Look for them to pack the bags for Portland, and they'd be well-advised to do it with a quickness, before some other troubled MLB- team (Florida, Tampa, Kansas City, Pittsburgh) beats them to the last best new market.

9) Blogfrica will consolidate.

With Fox taking over YardBarker, ESPN grabbing local share and voices (TrueHoop being the best predictor) and Bleacher Report taking care of all of the stragglers for link engine bait, the top 100 sports blogs of 2011 are going to strongly resemble the top 100 sports blogs of 2010. (And no, this means nothing for your truly. So far as you know. All Hail Unkie Rupert! I'm going to the Super Bowl!)

8) The NBA's influence in China will tank.

The reason, of course, is Yao Ming, who became the latest too big for health tragic figure in the Association's history. Now that the big man is no longer a threat to win championships and influence youth, look for more of the home-grown talent to stay there. Especially with their economy on the rise, and ours? Not so much.

7) The BCS will go away.

The lack of a college football playoff is still the single most perplexing thing about the nation's sports system. Yes, I understand that inertia is a powerful force, but since the men's and women's basketball game is relevant only due to March Madness, it boggles the mind how the lords of slave football are OK with missing this payday. I guarantee you that if there were a bracket for college games, interest in the sport would spike huge, especially in the regions of the country (Northeast) that don't have traditional powers.

6) The Hornets will leave New Orleans.

I don't care that All-Father Stern is committed to the city; there are just better places to be than a small-market with stadium issues where pro ball has failed twice, despite the presence of legendarily exciting guards. Move this team to Las Vegas and make them a free agent magnet for all of the guys who will, well, put those dollars back into the community. With a quickness.

5) Athlete Twitter feeds will become passe.

Well, OK, that's true of just about everyone's Twitter feed, but especially the ones from guys that aren't on the A-List. Just like it took some time for players to get used to speaking in cliche to reporters, now they'll do the same thing to the public. Besides, how many times do we need to learn that these people should be seen and not heard before we finally get the message?

4) Someone will begin a passable alternative to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

For one basic and incontrovertible reason that the mainstream sports media does not seem to be able to accept: only the writers (aka, the older generation that's finding it harder and harder to be employed full time to talk about sports) cares about steroids. It's something you use to mock the opposing team's player, assuming he hasn't texted scrotum shots, held a city hostage to discuss his free agency, or gotten arrested. Otherwise, it's a non-story... but not for the people who vote on new folks to Cooperstown, which is becoming like Vienna. Important historically, and less so every day. And far too lucrative to go unchallenged, especially if they want to make themselves irrelevant.

3) The NHL will rise.

I don't personally care about hockey, and haven't for decades, but the league has got some movement on its side. Unlike baseball, it's got a cap situation where there are no perpetual doormat franchises. Unlike basketball, it's got superstars that people don't find personally repugnant. And unlike football, it's not in danger of an imminent labor lockout, concussion-altering rules that infurite the purists, media saturation from an every-night schedule grab, or just the laws of gravity, since the league has just been an unstoppable killing machine for something like 25 years now. The fans of this sport love it more than any other, and their demographics are better served to keep on keeping on in bad times. Look for their major network presence to continue to go up.

2) The NBA will take it outside.

The idea that the Association would just sit idly by and let the NHL get all of the PR is just kind of nuts, really. Why haven't the Nets or Knicks gone for a game at the US Open stadium? Or the Mavs to scheudle a double-header in the Jerruhsoleum, maybe with a concert or prize fight? Or Miami or Orlando to lord up their warm weather winter advantage for a Knicks game in a baseball or football stadium? There's money to be made here, in small doses and moments, and nature abhors a vacuum.

1) Widespread sports book betting will rise, further invalidating the reluctance of leagues to put a team in Vegas.

Now that you can place your bet in Delaware (State Motto: Yes, Our Highway Tolls Are That High), there's a reason to go there for gambling thrills. And now that they are competing for those thrills with any number of states, especially the increasingly desperate state of New Jersey... well, the toothpaste is our of the tube. Within five years, you're going to be able to bet the spread as part of your state's tax on the stupid, aka the lottery. We're all living in the casino now, folks.

Add your own in the comments, if you are so moved. And happy new decade...

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