In All the Glitter, There Goes Times Square

While sports enthusiasts will forever remember The Thrilla in Manila as one of boxing's great contests, an even more historic phemonena took place than the fight itself. Thanks to the the promoters, and very cagy Mr. Marcos, that event presaged the end of Madison Square Garden dominance as boxing's Center Ring.

In New York, nobody could really believe it, at least not until subsequent championships were held in Zaire and Indonesia, South Africa and, lately, with great regularity, in Las Vegas. Garden owners, blinded by the past, simply could not accept that satellite technology and pay-per-view collections could dim the lights at a site gilded by the best of the "sweet science".

The same kind of eclipse just took place over this last weekend. The loser was also in New York. Until Friday, December 31, 1999, World Headquarters for New Year's was, indisputably, Times Square, New York City. Sure, there were fireworks elsewhere. But without television, the audience was limited to those within a cannon shot of each other. And, without wide viewership, money raising was difficult. Less than spectacular New Year's noisemaking was a common result.

All this just changed.

More than two billion watched portions of a New Year's which opened in the South Pacific and closed in American Samoa, 24 full time zones later. That number beats the Academy Awards and the World Cup, It is double what Super Bowl organizers tell their advertisers they will reach three Sundays from now.

In fact, it makes coverage of the World Series look like an also ran.

Add to this that the glamor that comes from a world stage will heavily juice competitive instincts of city leadership, worldwide. Make no mistake. Wise managers in Prague and Perth, Portland and Peoria have been awakened to an opportunity to be part of a very big global spotlight. Smart ones will soon be lining up both local and imported talent, laying plans that will cause a deluge of pleadings next December to ABC, NBC, BBC, CNN and PBS. Pleadings which will beg: PLEASE- Bring your audience HERE!

It is no long stretch to see the relevance of this to distance education. The journey to Massachusetts to attend a Harvard lecture is now unnecessary. Neither is it mandatory that the ticket to the speaker's presentation come exclusively from Harvard.

Like city mayors, knowledge providers could learn a lot from Mr. Ali and Mr. Frazier. One of those lessons is that it may be more important to have a good agent than it is to have a good publisher. Another is that the ring they play in is not the only one in town.

And Times Square?

They can take heart that the audience just got larger.

What they have to worry about is that, after last weekend, watching a ball drop is pretty dull stuff.