Stick it in your ear

Frank Mitchell thought he was a made man in the all-powerful 'family' that controls professional golf. Then the PGA Tour shoved him out into the cold.

The teeming masses turned out in record numbers, a quarter-million strong, for last weekend's Byron Nelson golf tournament, lining the fairways and craning for a glimpse of rookie phenomenon Tiger Woods. The fans will rise early again this week to stake out spots at the Colonial, the second round in North Texas' annual two-week binge of professional golf.

Tightly controlled--and run with the determination of Peruvian commandos--the PGA Tour is a traveling money machine, raking in millions of dollars for those lucky enough to be let in on the game. Not the money paid in winners' purses, but the bounty generated as some of the world's biggest corporations jockey to advertise cars, golf clubs, insurance, televisions, beer, shoes, and countless other products to all the eager, relatively affluent golf fans. Professional golf doesn't draw the cheap-seats baseball crowd, and sponsors pay good money to slap their names on everything from soda cups to sweat rags at events like the Nelson and Colonial, turning them into testimonials to conspicuous consumption.

Only one gateway opens to this playland of potential riches, and it is fiercely guarded by the PGA Tour, which typically exacts a hefty admission fee. A nonprofit, tax-exempt organization headquartered in Florida, the Tour lords over one of the most carefully constructed monopolies in professional sports, a monopoly so complete that it was the target of a federal investigation into anti-competitive practices several years ago.

There are no official cars or sports drinks without the Tour's blessing. Indeed, there are no tournaments without the Tour's blessing. Golfers don't play professionally in the United States unless they sign contracts with the Tour, and the Tour owns most every image you see of the players after they set foot on the course. You undoubtedly remember the scene of Woods pumping his arm after winning the Masters. Nike paid Woods to wear one of its caps that day, but the PGA owns that image. As Woods draws more and more fans to the sport, the PGA's money machine promises to churn even faster.

For a brief, exhilarating moment, Dallas businessman Frank Mitchell was allowed onto the Tour's gold-paved road. In 1986, Mitchell and his old high school buddy, Theis Rice, approached the Tour with an idea for a new promotion at PGA events--a high-end, state-of-the-art plan to reshape the way golf tournaments are broadcast over the radio that promised to open a rich new vein of sponsorship cash.

It was a good idea--so good, in fact, that the Tour is still pursuing it. But Mitchell and Rice claim that after they spent at least $4 million developing their notion and proving it would work, after they shared their business plans with Tour officials and showed there was money to be made, the Tour cut them off cold.

For five years now, Mitchell has been locked in a protracted and expensive legal battle, pursuing two lawsuits in federal court in Dallas. Mitchell claims that the Tour copped his idea and shut him out of the profits.

His quest has not been particularly successful. A jury in one of the cases found that the Tour breached its contract with Mitchell and awarded him almost a million dollars in damages, but a federal judge later overturned the award. The second lawsuit is not set for trial until next year.

The Tour has hired some of the pricier legal guns in Dallas to fight the suits, maintaining that Mitchell was simply a bad businessman who botched the opportunity to make his idea work. John Morris, the Tour's vice president of communications, calls Mitchell's lawsuits "frivolous."

PGA officials frequently refer to their business as a "family," where bonds of faith and trust intertwine with the colder realities of making money. If so, Mitchell is the child cast out.

"Those guys, they ruined me," Mitchell says. "The only thing I ever did is everything those guys asked or demanded of me.

"Then they said, 'Stick it in your ear.'"
Sticking it in your ear, in fact, is the very idea Mitchell and Rice once believed would make them a lot of money.

Here's the way Frank Mitchell saw it: Tens of thousands of fans are packed onto a golf course, but at any time they can only watch the play taking place at one hole (if they can even see that through the throng). What if each of those fans were carrying a little radio with an earplug? And what if that radio picked up closed-circuit broadcasts of the action from all the other holes? Would thousands of fans pay to rent those radios? Might companies then buy advertising time on the broadcasts, or even pay to have their corporate logo slapped onto the radios themselves?

That idea was the genesis of the Sportsband Network.
Mitchell, Tulsa-born but Dallas-raised, is a graduate of St. Mark's and W.T. White High School with a business degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a golf fan and tennis player with some experience promoting pro tennis events with John McEnroe.

Mitchell and his high school buddy, lawyer Theis Rice, knocked around the Oklahoma oil fields during the early 1980s, but like so many others, after the mid-'80s bust they were looking for more promising pursuits.

Mitchell hatched the Sportsband idea in 1986, and Rice eagerly signed on to the project. Golf tournament crowds seemed like a captive audience for closed-circuit radio broadcasts. But Mitchell saw that as only the beginning. As long as Sportsband had to buy equipment and hire announcers for its on-site broadcast, Mitchell figured the company could also sell its feeds to radio stations. Ultimately, Mitchell says, Sportsband would provide a full-service network of slick golf broadcasting specifically tailored for radio, where coverage had languished after television stations began airing tournaments live.

If the idea worked at golf tournaments, Mitchell even dreamed of some day expanding it to other sports, like auto racing. "I saw it as another Goodyear blimp," Mitchell says. "We would be able to roll into a sports event, set up, and provide this service. This was going to be a great corporate Trojan horse."

The first big step, of course, was obtaining permission to try out the idea at some golf tournaments, and that meant a trip to see professional golf's overlords in Ponte Vedra, just outside of Jacksonville in Florida. "We were a couple of unknown guys from Texas," Mitchell says. "Just a couple of guys who came down and said, 'Here's our idea.'"

Mitchell and Rice were seeking admission inside the gates of the PGA Tour, but they had no idea of the price to be exacted.

It might surprise you to learn that the PGA Tour is a nonprofit organization. In fact, the Tour is the only governing body of a major sport in this country that is not required to pay taxes. But the Tour isn't a nonprofit in the manner of, say, the Salvation Army, with volunteers standing on street corners clanging bells and asking for quarters to help the needy.

Rather, the Tour is quite a rich organization. In its 1995-1996 annual report to members, the Tour reported total 1995 revenues of $284 million, and projected that 1996 revenues would top $300 million.

The Tour doesn't have to beg people to throw quarters into its kettles. Companies practically line up to give it money. Television networks, for instance, pay top dollar to broadcast golf tournaments, and the Tour gets a cut of that money. In 1995, the Tour received $86.9 million as its share of the television rights. All that money was tax-free.

Through a for-profit affiliate, the Tour also owns golf courses across the United States that pour more than $70 million a year into the nonprofit entity's coffers.

The justification for the Tour's nonprofit status is the millions of dollars that professional golf tournaments raise each year for charity. Mind you, the Tour itself doesn't raise that money. Each golf tournament has a local organizing group--like the Salesmanship Club of Dallas, which runs the Byron Nelson. It is the local groups and their volunteers who sell tickets, work the tournaments, and generate the proceeds that are donated to worthy causes.

The Tour simply serves as an all-powerful facilitator of these local charitable efforts. It schedules tournaments. It finds big companies willing to pay to be designated as official Tour sponsors. But most importantly, the Tour delivers the golfers. Every pro golfer playing in the United States is under contract to the Tour and agrees to play in a minimum number of PGA tournaments each year. They cannot play in non-PGA events--or appear on television in non-sanctioned golf competitions--without the Tour's permission.

Credit for the Tour's power and affluence is largely accorded to Deane Beman, a middling golfer who took over as PGA Tour commissioner in 1974. Beman was the longest-reigning boss of a major sport in the country when he stepped down in 1994. Golf writers nervously took to calling Beman the "Dictator of Golf" because of his total control over the sport and ability to fine players who displeased him. Pro golfers had to agree in their contracts not to make any comments which reflected badly on the sport or the Tour.

In a searing 1994 series of articles examining Beman's tenure, Golf Digest described Beman as "management leader, labor boss, and commander in chief. He is the setter of policy and the exacter of fines. He is pro golf's judge, jury, and executioner. He is one of the least known but most powerful men in sport." (Beman could not be reached for comment by the Dallas Observer.)

One of Beman's first acts as commissioner was to reconstitute the Tour as a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization. Then he went on to exponentially increase the wealth and reach of his empire.

Under Beman, tournament purses and Tour revenues grew proportionally faster than the money raised for charitable causes. Beman increased the number of tournaments and created the Senior Tour for older golfers. He set up enviable health and pension plans for players. Beman made the Tour rich.

His reign sparked occasional rebellion and derision in some quarters. When the Tour began leasing a private jet to shuttle the commissioner about the country, disgruntled players dubbed it "Air Beman." Golfer Tom Watson told Golf Digest in 1992 that Beman "created an albatross of bureaucracy on tour. There are so many people involved and under salary to the tour...every time I go down to [Ponte Vedra], it looks like a new wing or a new building has been added on for administration."

(Golf Digest's decision to publish a series of articles critical of Beman wound up underscoring the commissioner's power. The magazine ran two Senior PGA tournaments itself. After the unflattering stories were published, the Tour decided to cancel one of the tournaments and reschedule the other for a date that would doom it. The magazine had to fight vigorously to keep its tournaments.)

Bad press, though, was not the Tour's biggest worry in 1994. The Federal Trade Commission was investigating the Tour for unfair methods of competition. Specifically, federal investigators were looking at the Tour's stranglehold on players. After four years of inquiry, the FTC staff recommended that the Tour be prohibited from continuing to force players to seek Tour permission to play in non-PGA events or appear on television in non-sanctioned events.

The recommendations threatened to erode the Tour's control over its most valuable asset--the players. But the FTC never adopted the staff recommendations, and in 1995 its probe was dropped. According to a 1995 Los Angeles Times article, the FTC was flooded with letters defending the Tour. Among those writing on the Tour's behalf were 26 members of Congress, including Bob Dole, Trent Lott, and Dick Armey.

By the time the FTC probe was dropped, Beman had stepped down as PGA commissioner. Beman's replacement was his top deputy, Timothy Finchem. Before joining the Tour in 1989, Finchem had been a Washington insider, serving as an assistant advisor on economic affairs to President Jimmy Carter, and as finance director for the campaigns of both Carter and Walter Mondale. Finchem's ascendancy promised to continue the lucrative times that began with Beman.

By 1995, the new commissioner was already well known to Frank Mitchell. To this day, Mitchell is trying in his lawsuits to show that Finchem was part and parcel of the Tour's effort to bankrupt Sportsband and steal Mitchell's idea. (The Observer's efforts to reach Finchem resulted in return phone calls from Tour public relations man John Morris.)

At first, Frank Mitchell recalls, the Tour seemed happy to welcome Sportsband into the family. Mitchell and Rice pitched their idea to the Tour in 1986, and quickly won permission to conduct a limited test of their on-course radio idea.

Mitchell and Rice formally incorporated Sportsband and began pouring their own money into the company. The company had to secure licenses from the Federal Communications Commission, and that meant hiring lawyers who knew their way through the federal regulatory maze. Equipment had to be tested and refined and announcers found to call the play-by-play.

In December 1996, Sportsband conducted its first test run at the J.C. Penney Classic in Tampa. Few spectators probably even knew it was happening. Mitchell and a few others wandered the course listening to little radios, checking out how Sportsband's signal would carry across the rolling terrain of a golf course.

The trial run seemed to impress everyone. The Tour and Sportsband entered into negotiations over a contract that would grant the company radio rights at PGA events for the next 10 years.

But in summer 1987, the Tour decided it wanted to see more tests. Mitchell says some of the players on the Tour's policy board were unsettled by the notion of scores of fans listening to little radios. Noise from the radios might distract players, or radio-equipped fans at one hole might react to something happening elsewhere on the course by erupting into noise at an inopportune time.

Sportsband agreed to conduct three trial broadcasts in 1987 at the Southern Open, the Tucson Open, and again at the Penney Classic. Mitchell says he and Rice had to dig up the money to pay for the tests, since there was no income yet from advertisers or sponsors. "We loaded up for bear," Mitchell says.

For the three 1987 tests, Sportsband brought in 10,000 little radios and tried to produce a full-blown version of the broadcasts it envisioned. Fans were given radios and asked to evaluate the broadcasts. Everyone seemed to love the idea, and the Tour's policy board agreed to resume negotiating Sportsband's exclusive contract. The Tour and Sportsband ultimately signed a five-year deal in July 1988.

"I thought it was a quality broadcast. I thought it was well done," PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem would later testify in a deposition.

Under the contract, Sportsband agreed to pay the Tour a minimum of $120,000 a year to broadcast at up to 12 tournaments, and $10,000 more for each additional tournament. The Tour would receive a cut of the profits, and the Tour's take would go up after Sportsband had recovered its start-up costs.

"We treated Frank right from the beginning," a Tour official would later say in a deposition. "We decided we'd treat him like part of the family, like we treat any of our other corporate partners.

"I think we have a reputation of bringing people into the family and making them feel like part of the family, and going the extra nine yards to make it work, and that was exactly what we did here."

Well, not exactly, as Mitchell sees it now.
The real money to be made off of Sportsband's idea would not come from renting out little radios. Sponsorships and advertising were the potential pots of gold. Mitchell and Rice had originally figured that they would go out and sell the advertising, but Mitchell says the Tour decided it wanted in on the action.

"At this point, the Tour came to us and said 'We want to do this differently. We want to be a partner,'" Mitchell says. In the ensuing litigation, the Tour would vigorously contest the claim that it had entered into a "partnership" with Sportsband.

Letters and internal tour documents show Sportsband and the Tour did agree that the broadcasts needed what is called a title sponsor--a big company that would pay to underwrite the broadcasts in exchange for having its name slapped all over the production. Mitchell says the Tour promised to find such a sponsor.

One of the most likely places to find advertisers was among the very valuable bank of corporations that were already paying to sponsor other aspects of professional golf. That list--and those relationships--are dearly coveted by the Tour, and Tour officials did not want Sportsband approaching its prized clients. Instead, the Tour decided it would assume the job of pitching Sportsband to the existing PGA corporate partners.

Tour documents, and testimony in depositions during the later litigation, indicate that the Tour didn't want anyone else cozying up to its sponsors. "We took the responsibility to bring the product to the attention of [Tour] sponsors," Finchem later testified in deposition. "We like to control the manner in which our product is sold to our own clients."

Sportsband was left mainly with responsibility for the technical end, the production of the broadcasts, Mitchell says. The Tour was handling the marketing and passing some of the advertising revenue on to Sportsband.

"I was being sold a line on a lot of stuff," Mitchell says now. "My God, it was the PGA Tour. I believed everything they told me."

Still, Sportsband's future looked bright in the summer of 1988. Mitchell and Rice raised more money by allowing a limited partnership to buy part of the company. "I thought the idea of a radio with an earpiece was a good idea for a number of sports venues," recalls Rebel Blackwell, a Dallas hunting and fishing guide who invested in the company. "I feel the same way today."

The company began hiring well-known former golfers and golf pros to serve as announcers for its broadcasts. Sportsband broadcasts were going to be first-class from the outset. "I wanted something that had some pizzazz, some show-biz to it," Mitchell says.

In 1989, Sportsband was to begin its first season of full-blown broadcasts. After investing at least $4 million to start the company, obtain permits, perfect the technology, and prove themselves to the Tour, Mitchell and Rice thought they were finally going to start making some money.

But that didn't happen, Mitchell says, because the Tour never held up its end of the deal. Despite repeated promises, Mitchell says, the Tour never came up with a title sponsor, which was crucial to Sportsband's viability. And sales to other potential advertisers were slow getting started. The Tour didn't sell enough sponsorships to cover the costs of producing the planned 1989 broadcasts.

Concerned about the Tour's lack of progress in finding a title sponsor, Mitchell himself began discussions with one of the kingpins of sports promotion--Anheuser-Busch--hoping to convince the beer giant to underwrite the broadcasts.

After broadcasting several tournaments at a loss in 1989, Mitchell decided it was time to re-trench. He recommended that Sportsband halt broadcasting for the rest of 1989 and give the Tour's marketing arm a chance to fully sell the Sportsband concept. The broadcasts would resume in 1990, he said, with stronger financial underpinnings. The Tour needed to catch up with Sportsband.

"It was like we were opening a movie without any advance promotion," Mitchell says. "What I said was that I wanted to spend the balance of 1989 perfecting the marketing programs."

The Tour didn't cotton to Mitchell's proposal. In fact, it responded by terminating Sportsband's contract. Suddenly left without any rights to PGA tournaments, Sportsband had nothing to sell. For all intents and purposes, the company was dead.

"I didn't have any warning at all," Mitchell says. "Overnight, the bottom falls out."

The contract cancellation became the basis of Mitchell's first lawsuit against the Tour, filed in 1992.

But even after the cancellation, Mitchell did not give up. He tried to salvage his idea by forming a new company, the Spectator Communications Network. Mitchell tried to get around the Tour's monopoly by cutting deals with the sponsors of individual tournaments. Even if he had to get in through the back door, Mitchell was determined to make his company work.

Mitchell kept talking with Anheuser-Busch, and the company agreed to sponsor several SCN broadcasts at tournaments. Some of the tournaments were receptive to allowing the broadcasts. It looked like Mitchell might snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

But in 1993, Busch jilted Mitchell, and instead entered directly into promotional agreements with the Tour. Mitchell claims the Tour courted Busch as a way of sabotaging Mitchell's bid to save his business. That claim is largely the basis of a second lawsuit Mitchell filed against the Tour in 1995.

To the bitter end, Mitchell says, he loathed the idea of taking the disagreements to court. He was a longtime adherent to the belief that principled businessmen could work out their problems among themselves. "I'd never been in a lawsuit in my life," Mitchell says.

For the past few years, however, pursuing lawsuits against the Tour is just about all Mitchell has done. Now 45 years old, still tennis-playing trim, Mitchell spends hours each day at his attorneys' offices, poring over thousands of documents that the Tour and others have had to produce during the litigation.

In the afternoons, Mitchell generally picks up his three daughters. His wife went back to work after Sportsband imploded, and supports the family with her job as director of medical records at the Aston Medical Center.

Mitchell's original partner, Theis Rice, has also found another job after losing "on the strong side of a million bucks" in the Sportsband deal. Rice is now senior corporate counsel for Trinity Industries.

That leaves Mitchell still carrying the Sportsband banner, trying to upend the Tour's monopoly board.

Motions, briefs, transcripts, and documents from the two lawsuits Frank Mitchell has filed against the PGA Tour now number easily into the tens of thousands of pages. Mitchell seems to have memorized every one of them, hunting for the evidence he needs to exact retribution from the Tour.

The years-long litigation is complex, but it can essentially be boiled down to this:

Mitchell believes that the Tour eventually realized it could make more money from Mitchell's idea if Sportsband simply wasn't around anymore. Sportsband had footed the bill for proving that its idea would work, but the contract allowed the company to recover its start-up costs before the Tour could realize much profit. If Sportsband could be made to go away, the Tour would be able to reap the profits without paying the initial tab.

The Tour, he believes, strung Sportsband along until the concept had been proven to work, and then pulled the rug out from under it.

"They wanted this whole thing for themselves, not even allowing us to recover our money," Mitchell says. "It's greed. That's all it is."

And when Mitchell tried to revive his company by signing up Anheuser-Busch to sponsor individual tournaments, the Tour sabotaged him again by wooing Busch away as a sponsor, he says.

Needless to say, the Tour vigorously contests Mitchell's assertions.
In trial testimony and sworn depositions related to Mitchell's first lawsuit, Tour officials maintained that Mitchell and Sportsband were the ones who squirreled the deal by trying to back out of some of the broadcasts scheduled for 1989. Sportsband, they testified, simply couldn't raise enough money to keep itself afloat. It wasn't the Tour's fault that Sportsband did not prove to be financially viable.

Basically, Tour officials blame Sportsband for failing to market its product, even though internal memos show that the Tour itself took over substantial responsibility for the marketing end of the deal.

"It turned out after the fact...that Sportsband did not have any expertise in the marketing area that they had suggested to us that they had," Commissioner Finchem testified in a deposition. "The effort by Sportsband had failed to secure financial underpinning."

During the course of his legal quest, however, Mitchell has unearthed documents that cast doubt on the Tour's version of events. Almost right up to the day it canceled Sportsband's contract, for instance, the Tour repeatedly and lavishly praised Sportsband and trumpeted its prospects for success.

But internal documents show that, during the same time period, the Tour did privately calculate how much profit it could earn from radio rights if it didn't have to wait while Sportsband recouped its start-up costs. One Tour memo prepared before the Tour canceled Sportsband's contract tallied the numbers and offered a range of options for Tour officials to consider. One option was cutting Sportsband out of the picture, a move which the memo noted would probably send the company into bankruptcy.

Mitchell's first lawsuit against the Tour went to trial in early 1996 before a jury in the Dallas courtroom of U.S. District Judge Robert Maloney. Finchem, commissioner by then, testified that Sportsband had a good idea, but failed as a business.

"The problem wasn't in the technical quality [of the broadcasts]," Finchem testified. "The problem was in the marketing and defects in the business plan."

In that first lawsuit, Mitchell and Rice accused the Tour of multiple wrongdoings, most importantly fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract. But Maloney threw out all but one of the counts before the case even went to jury. After Maloney's rulings, only the breach-of-contract claim remained for jurors to ponder.

The jury found for Sportsband, and awarded the company $979,000. Maloney, however, later set aside the jury's finding, ruling that there was no factual basis for awarding the damages.

Mitchell and his attorneys have appealed Maloney's ruling on the damages, and are also appealing Maloney's decision not to let the jury even deliberate on the fraud allegations. The Tour--represented during the case by the powerhouse law firm of Akin Gump--is contesting the appeal.

Randy Kucera--who has left Akin Gump since the trial but is still handling the Tour's defense against Mitchell's suits--says the first trial established a clear record of the weakness of Mitchell's claims.

"[Maloney] found no evidence of fraud or breach of fiduciary duty. In the end, he threw out everything," Kucera says. "Any time the judiciary has ruled on [Mitchell's] claims to this point in time, they've found they're not valid."

While appeals from the first lawsuit await action at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Mitchell continues to press his second suit, alleging that the Tour improperly scuttled his efforts to save his business by cutting a deal with Anheuser-Busch. That case is set for trial in April 1998.

Beyond the legal wrangling, though, there would seem to be a more common-sense test of Mitchell's allegations. If the PGA Tour really set out to steal Sportsband's idea, it follows that--some day--a new incarnation of the radio concept would resurface at PGA events.

That day, it turns out, was May 1 of this year, when the PGA Tour Radio Network kicked off at the Houston Open golf tournament. The emergence of the new radio program is, at the very least, a curious development.

Throughout the time Mitchell's first lawsuit against the Tour was pending, the Tour made no apparent move to reincarnate Sportsband's idea of an on-course radio network.

During the trial and in depositions, Tour officials testified under oath that they believed the idea was simply not financially feasible.

When he was on the stand during the 1996 trial, Commissioner Finchem was asked if there was any legal reason why the Tour couldn't go out and start its own Sportsband-type broadcast.

"Legally, no," Finchem testified under oath. "The only thing that would stop us is we don't believe it makes sense from a financial standpoint."

Finchem's testimony came at a time when it was in the Tour's best interest to downplay the financial viability of Sportsband's idea. But once the trial was over, Tour officials suddenly rediscovered the potential of a radio broadcasting venture.

On May 24, 1996--just two and a half months after Finchem's trial testimony--an internal Tour memo was drafted outlining plans to set up the PGA Tour Radio Network.

According to the memo, the Tour planned to solicit bids from 33 companies to put together a package of golf coverage tailored for radio. The proposal sounded remarkably like the one Mitchell and Rice carried with them to Ponte Vedra some 11 years ago.

It included on-site closed-circuit broadcasts for the tournament crowds, and feeds to radio stations. The proposal envisioned play-by-play announcers calling the tournaments, much the way Sportsband had set up its program.

The contract to set up the PGA Tour Radio Network was awarded to Warren Elliott, a New Orleans broadcaster. The Houston Open was its first event, but the network also broadcast at the Byron Nelson and is planning to broadcast the Colonial.

Elliott says his company is different from Sportsband. For one thing, it is broadcasting over AM bands instead of the closed-circuit bands Sportsband used. And fans buy their little radios instead of renting them.

Elliott and Tour officials have characterized the new network as an independent franchiser of the Tour. Elliott won't say what the financial arrangements are between the Tour and the network, nor how much the Tour is making from the new broadcasting effort.

"We bought the rights to the radio time," Elliott says. "We are a licensee of the Tour."

But Robin Goodfellow, the radio network's senior vice president and director of programming, indicates that the radio network is much closer to the Tour than that.

"We're part of the Tour," Goodfellow told the Observer. "We're half-owned by the Tour." Goodfellow insists the new network is not Sportsband reincarnated, although he concedes there are some similarities.

Theis Rice takes issue with that. "It's not similar," Rice says. "It is the pure implementation of the Sportsband business plan, pillar to post."

Mitchell is paying close attention to the evolution of the new radio network. It could wind up being the best argument he has to prove that the Tour did, indeed, set out to steal his idea.

His mistake, Mitchell says, was in trusting a newfound family too quickly.
"You can probably concoct a definition of stupid that puts me there," Mitchell says. "But over time I've become less critical of myself. I don't think I was stupid. I was trusting. I was dealing with the PGA Tour. I believed them when they told me not to worry.

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