Sports Bulls & Bears: Lowry, Raptors on the rise, Patriots deflating

 

 
 
 
 
Tom Mayenknecht, host of The Sport Market on TSN 1040 and the TSN Radio network, regularly rates and debates the Bulls & Bears of the sports business.
 

Tom Mayenknecht, host of The Sport Market on TSN 1040 and the TSN Radio network, regularly rates and debates the Bulls & Bears of the sports business.

Photograph by: Vancouver Sun graphics, .

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VANCOUVER — Sorting out the major winners and losers of this week — with a bottom-line twist — in the world of sports:

BULLS OF THE WEEK

This has been a very good week for Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors. The 28-year-old point guard was named a starter on NBA All-Star Weekend coming up Feb. 13-15 at Madison Square Garden. Lowry — and the voting public led by Raptors fans across Canada — rallied to erase a 100,000-vote deficit to leapfrog over Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat by just over 15,000 votes. It’s a testament to a strong online, television and social media campaign.

The response is hoops karma for Lowry, who re-signed with the Raptors instead of taking his free agency elsewhere last summer. He was quick to thank Canadian fans for making him an all-star and for “being able to play for an entire country.”

It’s an impressive turnaround for the Raptors in what they’re doing to cultivate fan interest across Canada, turning the negative of playing outside the NBA mainstream in the U.S. into the positive traction of the social media campaign #WeTheNorth, especially during the team’s 20th anniversary season.

Lowry’s first all-star appearance comes in a season in which he is averaging 19.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 1.6 steals, all career highs in his ninth season. It also comes in a week in which Forbes magazine reflected the palpable growth of the team’s brand footprint by estimating its franchise valuation at $920 million, 14th overall in the 30-team NBA. The Raptors are Canada’s third most valuable pro sports franchise, behind only the $1.3-billion Toronto Maple Leafs and $1-billion Montreal Canadiens and ahead of the $800-million Vancouver Canucks.

BEARS OF THE WEEK

It’s difficult to fathom how a team that routed the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Sunday could be anything but a bullish force heading into Super Bowl XLIX next week. Yet, that’s precisely the case, as mercurial head coach Bill Belichick and star quarterback Tom Brady find their sport business and reputational stock somewhat deflated as an NFL investigation into tampered footballs swirls around the New England Patriots.

Belichick and Brady — the most successful coaching-QB tandem in NFL history en route to their sixth Super Bowl together — have denied any knowledge or wrongdoing. Yet for Belichick, who has a reputation for pushing the envelope on NFL rules, this is where previous indiscretions such as SpyGate 2007 come back to roost. For Brady, it is severely testing the credibility of not only the most successful post-season quarterback in NFL history, but the most popular.

The problem is in this age of 24/7 sports television, radio and social media, everyone is an expert and no one is shy to share their opinions. It doesn’t matter that even members of the Colts admitted the Patriots would have won “playing with a bar of soap.” All NFL quarterbacks have their own preferences for how pressurized (or not) the football is. Brady joined Peyton Manning in a successful lobbying effort years back to allow visiting team quarterbacks access to their own footballs on game day. For Brady, there was at least one too many “I’m not sure” answers in his news conference.

Perception is reality for the media commentators covering the NFL and for fans on both sides of the border.

Tom Mayenknecht is host of The Sport Market on TSN 1040 and TSN Radio, where he regularly rates and debates the Bulls & Bears of sports business. He reviews the major winners and losers of the past week every Saturday in The Vancouver Sun.

 
 
 
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Tom Mayenknecht, host of The Sport Market on TSN 1040 and the TSN Radio network, regularly rates and debates the Bulls & Bears of the sports business.
 

Tom Mayenknecht, host of The Sport Market on TSN 1040 and the TSN Radio network, regularly rates and debates the Bulls & Bears of the sports business.

Photograph by: Vancouver Sun graphics, .

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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