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11-09-2001, 10:52 AM
Friday, November 9, 2001

The Last Word
Contracting sports leagues might seem like a drastic move, but it might be the only way average fans can get back in touch with games that are meant for them.
By STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun
The truth on fans, though, is that long ago they stopped mattering. Professional sports has become less about ticket sales and the paying customer. Governments made it that way by enabling companies to purchase tickets and private boxes and write off the expenses in the name of doing business.

Unknowingly, governments have marginalized the sports fan in the process, removed the games and athletes farther from the paying customer.

Explain another business operating this way. The Blue Jays lost in the $40 million dollar range for the past season but paid Carlos Delgado and Raul Mondesi more than $20 million between them.

Is there another business anywhere that would operate so foolishly?

And at a time when sponsorship money is drying up, when the companies whose names are on arenas and stadiums are laying people off in record numbers, when more Canadians and Americans lost jobs in October than in any month in recent history, all of sport should be contracting and correcting.

Salaries should drop and so should ticket prices. Somehow, professional sports has to find a way to get the game back to the fan. Or at least, pretend that it is.

Losing two major league baseball teams isn't the answer, but it's a start. It is a hopeful beginning for those who still believe professional sport can be salvaged and once again brought back to the paying customer.

The men and women who still care about it even after being trampled on.