How 'Bout Those New York/New Jersey Yankees/Nets?

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NEW YORK: Anyone still think sports isn't a business? The New York Yankees and the New Jersey Nets have merged -- yes, merged -- in a stock-swap-and-cash deal expected to be announced Thursday. No, shortstop Derek Jeter won't be playing point guard for the Nets' NBA team. But the two teams will combine their business operations, including television rights, marketing, sponsorships and advertising, and try to unite George Steinbrenner's Yankee dictatorship with the Nets' more corporate -- and less successful -- oligarchy. The Yankees may not be able to lift the curse that's haunted the Nets since they sold Julius Erving to join the NBA, but when it comes to TV deals, the Yets (don't worry, that's not their new name) will be a negotiating juggernaut.

Still unclear: whether the joint owners will have a say in the other team's on-the-field-business; and whether the Yankees, who have been mulling a Bronx exodus for years, will eventually join their new pals in -- gasp -- Noo Joisey. But the immediate impact of this bizarre and unprecedented link-up (some owners, like Jerry Colangelo in Arizona, own more than one sports team, but no one's ever merged before) is that some poor cable network will be paying through the nose to put Yets games in tri-state living rooms. Both teams are in the waning years of contracts, with MSG (Yanks) and Fox Sports New York (Nets). The Nets are on the rise, and the Yankees are the best team in baseball; together, they're going to break the bank.