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Morning Briefing

A Trend Athletes Strongly Endorse

August 30, 1987

The business of sport has long been with us, but the commercialization of sport is exploding at an amazing rate. Never have so many made so much for doing so little.

According to a recent article in Business Week magazine, more than 3,400 U.S. companies this year will spend $1.35 billion to sponsor sporting events. They will spend another $500 million hiring athletes to endorse their products.

Proctor & Gamble Co. spends about $5 million to sponsor five race cars, including a Tide car, a Crisco car and a Folger's car.

Hanes Hosiery Inc. spent about $1 million this year to have its Underalls panty hose logo on driver Sterling Marlin's stock car. As Underalls product manager Molly P. Hughes said: "Forty-three percent of the people who follow NASCAR are women. Why isn't this an appropriate way to advertise?"

Why not, indeed? If Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon can sell tacos, Chicago Bulls forward-guard Michael Jordan can sell burgers and New York Mets catcher Gary Carter can sell soap, a race driver can slap panty hose on his fender.

Here are the highest-paid billboards, er, athletes, and what they earned last year from endorsements alone:

Boris Becker--$5 million.

Jordan--$4 million.

Greg Norman--$4 million.

McMahon--$3 million.

Dennis Conner--$1.8 million.

Carter--$700,000.

Trivia Time: Who holds the record for the most games played in the World Series? (Answer below.)

Columnist Bob Verdi of the Chicago Tribune wasn't overly impressed with the debut last week of Joe Robbie Stadium, the new home of the Miami Dolphins. Nothing but a new playpen for his toy, is the way Verdi saw it.

Verdi wrote: "There were a few traffic glitches, because, we are told, the surrounding system of highways and byways are, like Dean Martin's lunch, still being poured. . . . Last but not least, when the field was cleared for the kickoff, there was nothing to kick off. The tee rested naked on the 35-yard line, and the game was delayed for the quaintest of reasons--no ball."

Soon after, referee Bob McElwee, whose microphone was mistakenly turned on, was heard to say, "I'm waiting for some guy to drop out of the sky with a football," a sky diver landed in the end zone, carrying a football.

Jimmy Connors has been many things in his tennis career, and honest has always been one of them. Now, with his 35th birthday coming up Wednesday, Connors is finding he's not so different from other men his age.

He told George Vecsey of the New York Times about the rough times in his marriage to the former Patti McGuire. It all changed, Connors said, when the couple had their first child, Brett.

"Being a father was something I wanted to do," Connors said. "But at first I would say, 'Here's your Mommy--go see her.' I found myself thinking about tennis while I was at home and thinking about my family while I was at the tennis court, and I would find I had just messed up two hours of practice."

Connors said that his stormy separation from his wife and family convinced him that his wife, "handles me very well. I don't want people to say 'You're right.' She'll say to me, 'What's wrong with you, boy?' I'm not easy to live with. I wouldn't want to live with me. But she handles me right."

The Connors live most of the year at their ranch in Santa Barbara, which, Connors says, helps his 8-year-old son keep his feet on the ground.

"Up to 5, he got a lot of attention, but he turned out OK," Connors said. "It's good for him to be close to school, to have his own pals, his own life. I want him to realize this kind of life is abnormal, flying the Concorde, taking a limousine.

"I realized it when we were in New York last year, and we went to see a show. Afterward, we were walking down the street, and he said, 'Daddy, there's a telephone, call a limousine.' I stopped and said, 'Whoa.' "

Trivia Answer: Yogi Berra, with 75.

Quotebook

Ron Fraser, coach of the U.S. baseball team at the Pan American Games: "We were so young, I had to get special permission from their parents to play a night game."

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