By Pete Mcentegart
January 20, 2005

1. An arbitrator has ruled that Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal's suspension should be cut from 25 games to 15, but upheld the bans on Ron Artest and two other Pacers. The NBA will appeal the decision in federal court, claiming that the arbitrator has no standing in the case. It's the league's official position that nobody should be able to touch the players but the commissioner and Detroit fans.

2. Alan Cohen, owner of the NHL's Panthers, spent more than $2 million for 10 mares and a 2-year-old filly. The horses were pleased with their new owner until they discovered his hard cap on oats.

3. Dennis Rodman will reportedly be the first athlete to pose for PETA's "I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" campaign. Rodman evidently prefers to stick with a tasteful wedding dress and subdued feather boa.

4. The Arena Football League Players Association has filed a grievance against the Tampa Bay Storm after seven players discovered that the diamonds in their '03 AFL championship rings are fake. The players, including six starters who left for other teams after the '03 season, say their rings contain cubic zirconia. The team has admitted that some of the rings do contain cubic zirconia -- part of a total order of 50 rings for $160,000 -- and that different players received more or less valuable rings depending on their contribution. The team denies the players' contention that those who left the team were singled out for the fakes. This raises two obvious questions. First, did anyone realize that the AFL champs receive diamond rings? Second, who knew that the AFL had a players union?

5. The Browns have been sending holiday cards to season-ticket holders. That's a lovely gesture, but the team didn't have time to make one significant change. The card features a smiling Butch Davis, who resigned as coach and left town three weeks ago. Let's hope the Browns don't send a card to the Davis household. 'Tis not the season to be piling on.

6. New York athletes have long been over-hyped but judging by a list of 2004's highest-paid athletes, they're overpaid as well. Four of the top 10 play for New York teams, and that doesn't count new Met Pedro Martinez at No. 8 (or Met target Carlos Delgado at No. 4). Actually, the word "play" overstates the case, since former Met Mo Vaughn took home $17,166,667 in 2004 to clock in at No. 9. Let's hope the Mets have a good insurance broker. Yankees stars Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are Nos. 3 and 5, respectively, but at least they're productive. The Knicks' injury-prone Allan Houston, now a sixth man, is tied for seventh (with Chris Webber) with a $17,530,000 salary, and the pair trail only overall No. 1 Shaquille O'Neal ($27,690,000) in the NBA rankings. Alas, the phenomenon of inflated pay doesn't appear to extend to New York-based Web writers.

7. The Jay Leno steroids joke of the week: "Today, baseball took some action against dangerous drugs. They've outlawed Celebrex and Aleve." Don't worry, the 10 Spot had a stern talk with its joke-writing staff for getting beat to that one.

8. NHL lockout update: The NHL board of governors will meet on Jan. 14, and speculation is rising that commissioner Gary Bettman will seek permission to cancel the season if a deal is not struck by then. For comparison's sake, the lockout during the 1994-95 season ended on Jan. 11, leaving time for a 48-game regular season. Interestingly, in a poll of Canadian fans conducted from Dec. 17-20, 59 percent said they side with the owners and just 16 percent with the players, down from 20 percent in September. That might give the owners even more incentive to hang tough on their demand for a hard salary cap. Consider also that the long lockout likely will depress revenues for the next season or two. The owners might feel that since they've held out this long, there's no sense going back without a cap because the stoppage will already hurt the revenue side of the ledger. Regardless, it looks like a long, cold winter for hockey fans, presuming there are still some left in the U.S.

9. The FCC has posted on its Web site all nine complaints about NBC's Olympic coverage that led to the ongoing investigation. Several actually focused on the commercials, including one for The Exorcist and another for the since-canceled Father of the Pride. Others mentioned erectile dysfunction ads. The troubling aspect is how low the bar seems to be set to start an investigation. When NBC airs 1,200 hours of Olympic coverage on its various channels to 203 million viewers, it takes just nine complaints to get the paper-pushers all riled up? And if erectile dysfunction ads are considered legally offensive, how does any sports broadcast escape unscathed? Then again, nobody would miss the flurry of ED ads, except perhaps randy fifty-somethings.

10. The 10 Spot would like to wish all readers a happy and safe holiday season. When we return in 2005, it will be from Miami for the Orange Bowl and the (so-called) national championship game.

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