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Take NY cash into account

By Will McDonough, Globe Staff, 03/25/00

With apologies to Sports Illustrated, there are millions of reasons why the Red Sox won't beat the Yankees this year, or in the near future. About 75 million reasons. A recent confidential financial memo placed the Yankees' gross income in 1998 at $180 million. That was about $75 million more than the Red Sox grossed. As long as the New Yorkers have that kind of a financial edge, there won't be a level playing field.

The Yankees' financial printout the previous five years is interesting. In 1994, their gross was $85.7 million, and four years later they were at $180 million. Yet, in that five-year period, they had a net loss of about $3 million, which illustrates how ridiculous professional sports has become. The Yankees player payroll last year was $93.435 million. However, the way they are going to keep their edge on everyone else is in the farm system. They annually spend nearly $25 million on player development, which is about double what the Red Sox spend and can afford.

The Yankees have formed a new partnership with the NBA's New Jersey Nets, and the difference between the teams is laughable. The Nets have lost money the previous four years, including $45 million a year ago during the NBA lockout. Fans around here beef about the price of a Celtics or Bruins game at the FleetCenter. The average ticket price for a Nets game is $54.45. The average ticket at Yankee Stadium is $23.30.

What this all says is that until the Red Sox get into a new ballpark that can produce more revenue, they'll be chasing the Yankees in vain. Speaking of the new Fenway, we are told that a representative of House Speaker Tom Finneran had a good question when George Mitchell, the former senator from Maine, showed up at the State House on behalf of Major League Baseball. Why doesn't Major League Baseball put up money to help build new stadiums, like the National Football League is doing in Foxborough? I understand there was no answer.

Somehow, former University of Massachusetts coach John Calipari got dragged into the Bruiser Flint contract dispute last weekend, and he doesn't like it. Flint was Cal's righthand man at UMass and succeeded John when he left to coach the Nets. Calipari has been very supportive of Flint behind the scenes. When UMass came close to firing Flint last weekend, some spinmasters tried to save Flint by saying he saved the program after Calipari left.

"When I was at UMass, we never cheated, and for anyone to write that or say that, they don't know what they are talking about," said Calipari. "When I was there we graduated a great percentage of our players, much better than the average for the student body. We had a bunch of good kids. They tried hard. Our players didn't have cars. Why don't they write about these schools where all of the players are driving around in cars, and ask how that happens?

"We had one blemish. Marcus [Camby]. That happened in Hartford, not on our campus. We reported that [to the NCAA]. Our administration and our coaching staff were cleared completely by the NCAA. Now let me say this. I love UMass. I love the people there, but they will never compete at the highest level of basketball until they spend more money on the program. Connecticut spends twice the money on basketball that UMass does."

Said UMass athletic director Bob Marcum, "We have been No. 1 in our conference academically and athletically four of the last five years."

Calipari is settling in as the new head coach at Memphis University. "I wanted to stay in basketball, and I wanted something long term. I want my kids to be in one place, going to school for the next seven or eight years. You don't get that in the NBA. You last four years on a job in that league and you're ready for the Hall of Fame. I think we have a good chance to win here, and this is the right spot for me at this time in my life."

How odd is it that in a five-day span at the FleetCenter, two teams got robbed of a chance to win by referees choking on their whistles at the end of the game? Last Saturday, Maine and Boston College were tied, 1-1, in the closing seconds of the Hockey East championship when a Maine player hooked BC defenseman Mike Mottau to the ice, allowing a teammate to score the winner with two seconds left. Maine won because the official choked on his whistle, instead of the game going to overtime with BC on the power play.

Then Wednesday, the Celtics and Minnesota were tied, 106-106, with less than five seconds left. The Celtics' Paul Pierce is directly in front of Minnesota's Anthony Peeler, who is set to launch a 3-pointer to win the game. Peeler's teammate, Kevin Garnett, comes up behind Pierce and shoves him with both hands in the lower back and sends him to the floor. Peeler, with no one in front of him, has a clear look at the basket and sinks the shot. Again, the referees choked. If justice had been done, Pierce would have been at the foul line with two-10ths of a second left, with two foul shots, and the Peeler basket would not have counted.

Message to the officials in both games: If you don't have the heart to make the right call when the game is on the line, get out of the business.

It's not official, but Rodney Thomas of Walpole, formerly of Waltham, might be the first person this century to record two holes-in-one on the same day. Rodney was playing at the TPC course in Myrtle Beach, S.C., last week when he aced the 13th (160 yards, blind shot) on the fly in the morning.

In the afternoon, on the 130-yard fifth hole, he rolled his second one in, to do something that happens just seven times a year in the United States on average.

"I was lucky, because the pro didn't want to believe me after the second one," said Thomas, who has been playing seven years and is a 10 handicap. "On both of them, rangers just happened to be sitting behind our foursome when the ball went in. I didn't see the first one go in, but I heard it hit the pin. When I walked onto the green and pulled the ball out of the hole, the ranger was right there.

"By the time I finished the first 18, they already had my name on a plaque when I got to the clubhouse. I called my wife on the phone right away because I was so excited."

Thomas, who played basketball at Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, played 92 rounds of golf last year and acknowledges, "I'm a golf nut."

Nearly 25 years ago, what happened to Alan Cregg when he was playing for Yale prompted college hockey to have players wear face shields. Now Cregg is hoping that the same terrible accident that happened to Bryan Berard of the Toronto Maple Leafs will force the same kind of action in the National Hockey League.

"I was playing hockey at Yale and caught the tip of the stick in my eye," Cregg said. "That ended my hockey career and cost me 90 percent of the sight in my eye. The doctor at Yale at the time, Dr. Peter Jokl, petitioned the ECAC to have face shields mandatory."

Berard, a promising young Maple Leafs defenseman from Woonsocket, R.I., had his eye shattered by a stick and probably will never play again.

"It's a terrible thing to go through, especially for a young athlete," said Cregg, who is now executive director of Prevent Blindness Massachusetts. Cregg's group is going to conduct a fund-raiser at the Boston Billiard Club, 126 Brookline Ave., Monday night with the Bruins' Don Sweeney one of the participants in the Celebrity Billiards Challenge.

Sweeney, who played at Harvard, has always worn a face shield since his college days, and probably doesn't know that what happened to Cregg created the change.

Here are some words to remember about Jets coach Al Groh's statement that his team is not trading talented wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson. The words to focus on are "at this time." The words that weren't in the release but could prove appropriate are "franchise player."

Johnson, a truly great player, wants a $15 million bonus and $9 million a year. He has two years left on his contract. The Jets won't renegotiate. Even though they will deny it, if the right deal comes along, they'll make it. If they don't, they still have the franchise "tag" available and Keyshawn may be "it." Either that, or retire.

It appears Florida State's Peter Warrick is this year's Ricky Williams. Williams was pegged early as the first pick in the draft after coming off a record-breaking Heisman Trophy season a year ago. Then he got fat and slipped to the fifth spot in the draft. Warrick was the early front-runner for No. 1. Now he is sliding after running a 4.6-second 40-yard dash in his personal workout. Some of the Florida State linemen were nearly as fast. A wide receiver running that speed, who is not big (Warrick is 6 feet) won't go on top. Incidentally, Williams, who has been a flop on and off the field for the New Orleans Saints, paid back Woolf Associates of Boston the $65,000 he owed them for when they were his original agents. He is on agent No. 2, but reportedly is looking for agent No. 3 and the Saints to redo his contract . . . The NBA and Celtics have made a deal to return to UMass-Boston this summer with 10 teams. Last year, eight teams came with Summer League teams and put on a great show, coming close to selling out the gym every night. This is where the Celtics fell in love with Adrian Griffin and signed him. One of the hits of that week was Providence's Austin Croshere, who has become a very good player for Larry Bird's Indiana team. Speaking of UMass-Boston, good guy Johnny Parker, one of the best athletic trainers/strength coaches in the country, has volunteered to help aspiring trainers at the school. Parker is between NFL jobs after being let go by new Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Sadly, just as its wrestling program is on the way out, Boston College has its first All-American. In an incredible performance, sophomore Antonio Garay, also a football player, finished fourth in the NCAA championships in St. Louis. Garay lost his first match and then won six in a row before losing to the No. 2 wrestler in the country. Garay, I'm told, has a chance to be one of the best defensive linemen in school history if he continues to progress. Unfortunately, BC has decided to drop wrestling, men's lacrosse, and water polo after the 2002 season because of budget constraints . . . I must be dreaming. Thought I read yesterday where the Texas Con Man says he owes it to Dan Duquette that he's a Yankee. Didn't Toronto trade the former fat boy to New York? How did Duquette have anything to do with that? If Clemens wanted so badly to go to the Yankees, why didn't he sign with them when he was a `free agent' with the Red Sox? Know why? Because the money was bigger in Toronto, where, when he was traded to New York, pitcher Pat Hentgen said the other 24 Blue Jays were glad to see him go. Now look for this to happen: If for some reason the Yankees don't extend his contract, which expires this year, look for TCM to try to sell his Hall of Fame "hat" to some other team.

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