June 2, 2001

Today's sports sponsors have their headaches. In the first place, it's not a poor man's game. 30-second spots on the Super Bowl broadcast this past September climbed to two-and-a-half million dollars, or eighty-three thousand, and change, a second. And if you're the network charging such fees you're expected to give a good rate of return on each of those dollars, especially if you intend to charge even more the following year. Just ask NBC. Having made the decision to show the Olympic events from Sydney, Australia, during prime U. S. viewing hours, they had to broadcast delayed, taped versions and ended up being scooped by just about every news outlet under the down-under sun. About all that's left to do then is make grand pronouncements to the effect that it's the prestige, not the money, that counts. Yeah, right! Oh, for simpler times. Well, cheaper times anyway.

If Quaker Asa T. Soule had a resume back in the 1870s it would have listed his background in farming, real-estate sales, banking, hotel management and peddling cough elixirs. By the time he moved to Rochester, New York, he'd parleyed the latter sideline into a real cash cow. Reportedly a millionaire, due to phenomenal sales of his Doyle's Hop Bitters - the invalid's Friend and Hope (not to mention the brewer's friend and hope) - Soule began looking around for ways to repay the city that he now called home. Feeling a little publicity along the way would not be amiss, he looked for high profile product placement opportunities. The city short-sightedly declined the golden opportunity to found a Hop Bitters University, but the field of sports would prove more hospitable. Soon there was a local baseball team, imported from Albany and renamed the Hop Bitters, playing in Hop Bitters Park and displaying the words Hop Bitters on every player's handsome gray and scarlet uniform. Too bad they soon found a niche for themselves in the league cellar.

Oh, well, if hometown sports didn't turn out to be that lucrative, perhaps it was time to think on a global scale. Well, the U. S. and Canada, at least. The hardest part was to find a sport with enough universal appeal and pizazz. Basketball hadn't been invented yet. Foreigners didn't know how to play football or soccer like normal people did. Cricket? Too polite. Croquet, a big yawn. Boxing was too brutal for the ladies. There must be some sport that could combine fast-paced action, universal appeal (or at least Anglo Saxon appeal) and gentility with self-promotion.

It may have been a local rowing regatta on the Genesee River that gave Soule his inspiration. More likely it was a boat race in Québec the previous year, 1878. The race pitted Charles Courtney, a Union Springs, New York, carpenter who had won the amateur championship at Philadelphia two years ago, against Canadian Ned Hanlan, who won the professional championship at the same event. At Lachine, outside of Montréal, the two squared off on October 3rd. Local citizens had raised the official prize of $2500, adding another $6000 to the pot. As crowds from both sides of the border gathered at Lachine on race day, the smart money was on the New Yorker. But then, with slightly suspicious rapidity, the odds changed, 100 to 60, in favor of Hanlan. The starter, a local sheriff, hollered "Go". We'll see how they made out next week.

For Classical 91.5 and 90-point-3, this is David Minor



Ever look at an abandoned building and had the desire to ignore the "Keep out" signs, go in and get an idea what the place looks like; try to imagine it in its glory days. For all of you wannabe urban archaeologists, two URLs will give you chance to become a romote-control infiltrator. To visit Buffalo, New York's former Grand Central Terminal, and view photographs of the site in its heyday, as well as today's magnificent ruin, check out the beautifuly designed site at http://intotem.buffnet.net/bhw/terminal/ . Of special interest perhaps to those of you north of the Great Lakes, have a look at the Infiltration site located in Toronto, at http://infiltration.org/ . There you'll be able to explore the Hudson's Bay Centre, Canada Malt, the Spadina Transit Tunnels, the Royal York Hotel and St. Mike's Hospital. You'll even find a section on infilspeak and articles and tips on becoming an infiltrator. And, if Europe's your destination they have a link to the sewers of Paris, where you can explore the underground world of Les Miserables. So have some vicarious, safe fun. No flashlights or hard hats needed; no exposed asbestos to worry about.

The Game's Afoot ! !

©2001 David Minor / Eagles Byte