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Bedfellows making a quick buck

by Dan Moscoe

The Yankees are sleeping with the devil. The Red Devils, to be exact.

The news last week that baseball’s New York Yankees and soccer’s Manchester United were forming a marketing alliance caused quite a stir. Within an hour of the announcement, United shares shot up 9 percent, and other sports organizations are sure to follow suit with deals of their own.

Man U, on the verge of winning its third straight English Premier League title and seventh in the last decade, and the Yankees, World Series champions four of the past five years, already rake in over $150 million apiece in annual revenues. By climbing into bed with each other, the two clubs are looking to make many millions more through cross-promotions, merchandise sales and, eventually, broadcasting.

So what if United director Sir Bobby Charlton was stumped at last Wednesday’s press conference when an American journalist asked if he could name the Yankees’ shortstop (Derek Jeter). Regardless of how unnatural the new alliance appears, it will increase the considerable edge the Red Devils and Bronx Bombers already hold over their rivals.

In soccer or baseball, building a championship team and keeping it together is an expensive proposition. Star midfielder David Beckham, whose jersey now hangs alongside Jeter’s in stores around the world, is due for a new contract with Man U. The amount won’t be as high as the staggering 10-year, $189 million contract Jeter signed last Friday, but the Spice Boy is certain to surpass Roy Keane, currently the team’s highest paid player at 50,000 British pounds ($75,000) per week. It’s natural that the club would look for new sources of revenue to pay the high price of winning.

So now that the New York Yankees and Manchester United are united, here are some other crossover business partnerships to look out for in the near future:

The National Football League and Court TV — This linkup would be an ideal way for the NFL to capitalize on all its players running afoul of the law. The league could sell television rights to an endless docket of high-profile murder, rape, assault and domestic abuse cases involving NFLers, past and present.

The XFL and the Jerry Springer Show — The upstart football league and the popular shock-talk show use the same formula to attract audiences: sex, violence and obscenity. Judging by the XFL’s drop in TV ratings this past weekend, the league could use a boost. In exchange for airing Springer commercials during its football telecasts, the XFL could provide trash-talking players and scantily clad cheerleaders to duke it out on Jerry’s stage.

Marty McSorley and the WWF — The veteran hockey player was banned by the NHL for one year after a stick attack last season. Then, last Saturday, in his first minor-league game since the incident, McSorley was suspended again for a dust-up. The brawler just can’t seem to keep out of trouble, so he should find another vocation for all that time he’s not allowed on the ice. Vince McMahon’s professional wrestling circuit would be a perfect fit. McSorley already has acting experience (an appearance in the movie “Con Air”), and in the WWF, swinging objects at opponents is not only allowed, it’s encouraged.

Boris Becker and Hustler Magazine — The former tennis star could use some extra cash after his recent divorce settlement, reported to be in the millions. Since the bitter breakup, Becker has admitted to a relationship with rapper Sabrina Setlur, voted Germany’s most erotic woman. Then came his admission last week that he fathered the 10-month-old daughter of Russian-born model Angela Ermakova. Becker is on the hook for more money to support the love child, who was apparently conceived in the broom closet of a Japanese restaurant in London. Larry Flynt’s porno publication would pay Bonking Boris top dollar for pictures and accounts of his sexual escapades.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Jimmy Carter — The Lakers could hire the former U.S. president and longtime peace negotiator to broker a truce between feuding superstars Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. The dynamic duo led L.A. to the NBA championship last year, but their icy relationship on and off the court this season threatens the team’s chances of repeating. If Carter could bring Israel and Egypt together, Shaq and Kobe should be a piece of cake.

FIFA and Jimmy Carter — If the Lakers don’t acquire Carter’s services, soccer’s world governing body should. The ongoing nastiness between 2002 World Cup cohosts South Korea and Japan over which nation’s name should go first is a controversy FIFA would like to end. Even with his experience, however, Carter’s hopes of getting the archrivals to agree on anything are slimmer than the chances of either country winning the tournament.