#360USA: New York Yankees and NYCFC must learn to live together, NBA can’t avoid payout

Steve Brenner 12:17 16/03/2015
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The New York Yankees (bottom right) are currently sharing Yankees Stadium (top) with New York City FC.

There will come a time when everything connected with NYCFC runs smoothly. For now though, the teething problems associated with a brand new franchise operating in a shared stadium which isn’t used for soccer continues to pose a myriad of problems and difficulties.

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The Frank Lampard fiasco has now taken its place on the back burner with the MLS season underway. Yet ahead of last night’s opening match at Yankee Stadium, a pitch battle was brewing.

While the 27-time World Series winners were in Florida preparing for the start of a baseball campaign which stretches over six months with over 80 home matches on the hallowed Bronx turf, the moans of discontent over the state of their playing surface were getting louder.

“It’s going to suck, but you have to deal with it,” said first baseman Mark Teixeira without a drop of understatement. “It’s going to tear up the infield, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

You could almost hear the howls of delight surrounding this new found collaboration between the Premier League and MLS powerhouses pouring out of their mouths.

He, and the rest of the Yankees are going to have to get used to it though. With NYCFC pencilled in for a three-year stay, it’s probably a decent idea to jump on board and deal with the inconvenience now rather than allow it to fester.

Such was the paranoia of stadium staff, windows looking out to the pitch were blacked out to ensure any pesky reporters weren’t allowed to see the carnage below during the club’s media day on Wednesday.

Finding a soccer-specific stadium is an ongoing, yet vital, part of the franchise’s hopes of becoming established in MLS. Orlando City showed Jason Kreis and co last Sunday just how important it is to have a solid home base, one not shared with one of the biggest sporting institutions on the planet. The Citrus Bowl, sparkling after an impressive $200 million refurb, will ensure Adrian Heath’s side have a hostile base from which to build from before they move into a brand new one in around a year’s time.

Meanwhile, City still have the feeling of being a work in progress. Yes, it will erode as the season wears on. Yet until they find a place they call their own – and who knows how long that will take in a city with barely an inch of central real estate available – it will not dissolve completely.

Playing the beautiful game in The House That Ruth built isn’t new. Celtic became the first football team to play at the ballpark way back in 1931, while England took on the US in 1953, exacting a modicum of revenge following the infamous World Cup defeat in Belo Horizonte three years earlier. And in 1976, the New York Cosmos – who at the time boasted the superstar talents of Pele – spent a season in the Bronx (the Yankees moved into their current home in 2006) before moving to the equally unsuitable Giants Stadium.

Back then, the dirt infield wasn’t covered. This time however, sod will cover great swathes of it. Yet while it will give the groundsmen more headaches than anyone else, the quality of the surface itself will severely come into question.

It is, unfortunately, ever thus when it comes to sharing stadia. The pitch in Seattle, which the Sounders share with the city’s NFL team, was so uneven it resembled corrugated iron last weekend. The synthetic grass in Orlando certainly seemed to stifle the creative talents of David Villa so it’s no wonder aspersions are being cast.

It will take three days to change from baseball to soccer and then back again and when you consider NYCFC will play 17 home games, that’s a lot of chopping and changing.

Naturally, the ever aggressive New York tabloids were very keen to pour scorn on an arrangement which has been stalled by the freezing East coast temperatures. ‘SOD COUPLE’ snapped the Daily News.

Kreis said: “My mother told me not to worry about what I can’t control, and I don’t think they’ll put me on the grounds crew.”

As time wears on, this uncomfortable alliance will work together to the best of their abilities. Yet the fear is the surface will never be perfect for a club which needs all the help it can get.

NBA

When you look at the riches which lie ahead, it was no surprise to see the National Basketball Players Association reject the NBA’s efforts to avoid a serious spike in the salary cap for 2016/17. The NBA were hoping to ‘smooth’ the cap because of the huge new $24bn TV deal struck which will come into play next year.

The salary cap projections for next season are about $67.4m, up from $63.065m this season. Then it will soar almost $23m to $90m in 2016/17.

The players know exactly what they are doing.

Take LeBron James. The Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star structured his contract when returning last summer from Miami to make sure he cashed in – he will be a free agent after the 2015/16 season and is set to make $31.5m in 2016/17 when the new TV riches are pumped into the cap.

Boxing

As Floyd Mayweather strolled down the LA red carpet with his million dollar smile, the world was waiting for that stereotypical arrogance to land the first blow. Yet those in attendance told me they were surprised to see Manny Pacquiao, and not Mayweather, taking the early lead with a series of uncharacteristic verbal sideswipes in-between thanking God for giving him this chance in the first place.

Mayweather was said to be quite subdued. Perhaps he was dumbed into silence by Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza insisting the man they call ‘Money’ had made his clash with the Filipino ‘his priority for the last five years.’

If that really was the case, why have we waited so long?

NHL

Ice hockey stars are constantly playing through the pain barrier – and now the fans are following suit. Chicago Blackhawks fan Alexis Bovard won’t forget her first game in a hurry after she was smacked in the head by some shattered plexiglass which flew off during a typically routine huge smash into the boards.

“If I even remember correctly, I was watching the game, and you know the big hits come to the glass, and the next thing I know the glass is on my head and blood is everywhere and people are all around me and I make it up the stairs and hear all this applause, which was nice to hear,” she said after the incident during the Blackhawks’ win over the Edmonton Oilers.

“I’m just bummed it happened so early in the game. It’s quite a first game. First NHL game. First Blackhawks game.”

First…aid, perhaps?

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