Archive for January, 2005
We are finally at Super Bowl week. It seems it has been 2 months since the Conference Championship games. No other sport allows 2 weeks in between its semifinal games and its ultimate championship. The NFL gets away with this because it wants the media to hype the game. However, for fans, this is the ultimate screw job. Instead of playing right away, the teams then get out of rythym.
For both the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots, they have been the recipients of two bye weeks within a month. The first bye week was at the end of the season through the Divisional playoffs and now again in between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl.
Without a football game to watch, sports fans had to go to other events such as the Australian Open tennis tournament, college basketball, the NBA, the NHL, oh, that’s right, there’s no NHL. But anyway, the sports choices were very slim last week. But finally, we can get to the game as the media has had little or nothing to to do in the bye week.
Players like the extra week because they can heal their injuries. Coaches like the extra week so they can prepare and also make the necessary arrangements for travel and tickets. Networks like it so they can take their time to really promote the game. But the media hates it because they have to wait and it’s totally unfair to the fans who have faithfully followed the game.
Plus, the NFL likes extending its season into February so its network partners can make more money in advertising rates and so it can get more money from the networks.
One can argue that the one week wait gives fans a better game, but the last Super Bowl with one week in between was a blowout and last year’s Super Bowl that had a two week wait was a dandy. But I prefer the one week so we can have a nice end to the season instead of waiting so long. Sometimes the hype outweighs the game and we get an anticlimatic contest.
The NFL will not be going back to a one week wait anytime soon and fans will have to suffer through more hype than a P.T. Barnum circus.
Last night, I had the opportunity to watch two undefeated college basketball teams playing unranked opponents and the results couldn’t be far different, although both games had upset bids.
In the first game, Boston College at 16-0 played at Big East upper echelon wannabe Providence College. Two weeks ago, PC led by double digits at BC in the second half only to see th lead wither away leading to an Eagles win. Last night, Providence led by double digits in the second half at home only to see their lead wither away. BC was even down 75-71 with less than 3 minutes to play when PC forgot to play defense. With the game at 75-73 PC, Jared Dudley came up big with a key three pointer to give Boston College the lead. Providence never recovered, but still had a chance to tie the game at the end, but Donnie McGrath tried to get fouled 35 feet away from the basket, threw up a shot that fell short and BC won the game, 78-75.
For fans of Providence College, it’s another case of illusion of grandeur. They feel going into each Big East conference season that they will run roughshod through the schedule after a winning non-conference schedule made up of Sisters of the Blind, Our Lady of the Poor and St. Mary’s of Assisi. The Friars are 0-5 in conference play and sinking fast.
BC had a killer instinct and thanks to Dudley, Jermaine Watson who came up big in the second half, and Craig Smith all played well for the Eagles who will find their RPI and poll ranking rising after this win. Al Skinner is doing a great job with his talent.
For Ryan Gomes who stayed at PC this season foregoing the NBA draft, he’s finding his stock going down with each loss.
Duke was undefeated coming into last night’s game with Maryland. The Terrapins always play the Dookies tough in the ACC and Wednesday night’s game was no exception. Gary Williams did his best coaching job of the season guiding the Terrapins to a 75-66 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium, no less. Many a team have wilted on Coach K Court, but Nik Caner-Medley who scored 25 points before he suffered an ankle injury on a great defensive play in the second half said that his team had a good week of practice going into last night’s game. When Williams can call on Steve Francis, Juan Dixon and Laron Profit to drum home his point, you know the kids will listen.
John Gilchrist scored a quiet 10 points, but he made a difference on the floor. Despite J.J. Reddick’s efforts, Duke could not pull out the win. For Maryland, they kept close with Duke and when they got the lead, the Terrapins would not allow the Blue Devils to get back into the game, There were key defensive stops late in the game and Maryland hit their free throws down the stretch.
The key difference between Providence’s and Maryland’s upset bids, were one, talent, Providence just doesn’t have the horses. Two, confidence. Maryland has upset Duke in the past, this group of Providence kids is quite young. Third, the coaching was vastly different. Gary Williams kept the intensity in his team and the Terrapins got a huge win. PC coach Tim Welsh constantly gets outcoached in big games and for some reason or another, his kids find ways to lose. That can be blamed on coaching and also a lack of confidence down the stretch.
Providence is sinking fast in the Big East. If it doesn’t put together a streak of wins pretty soon, any chance of postseason play will be gone. Maryland has put itself into position for a good streak in the ACC. Seeing games like last night are the reasons why college basketball is one of the best sports around.
After a month of silly bantering and debate, the story of the ball snagged by Doug Mientkiewicz from the 2004 World Series is finally coming to an end. The whole controversy was stupid to begin with and was started by Dan Shaughnessy (see my post “The Biggest Non-story By Far” below).
Shortly after the news that Mientkiewicz was traded to the New York Mets, ESPN.com reported that the ball that he kept after the final out was made in the World Series will be loaned (Mientkiewicz loans the ball to Sox )to the Red Sox for a year.
I hope this puts an end to a non-controversy. It should not have been front page news in Boston and should not have become this wide scale debate.
The fans in Boston can see a ball that doesn’t look at that different from other baseballs used throughout the history of the game and Mientkiewicz can keep it for the rest of his life.
I hope we don’t hear from this story again because this has been very annoying.
For 29 years, fans of “The Tonight Show” heard “Heeeerrre’s Johnny” and we became comfortable with Johnny Carson coming into our living rooms, putting us to bed. Then after his retirement in 1992, we hardly heard from Johny. But then again, Johnny knew comedic timing and he knew when it was time to go out.
Unfortunately, we hardly saw Johnny after he left “The Tonight Show”. Then again, Johnny knew that it was time for others to take the spotlight. We’d see or hear from him every once in a while. Like last week, we learned that he was writing jokes for the Late Show with David Letterman.
He finally died Sunday of emphysema. Carson had struggles. He had four wives. His second son died of a car accident. He admitted he smoked too much. But overall, he was about the comedy and about entertaining us.
Johnny did that very well. I’ll miss him.
With the NFL winding down, it is right about this time of the year when I start to really pay attention to college hoops so I can go 0-32 in the first round of my NCAA pool in March. But seriously, I usually go 1-31 or 2-30. Again I jest.
As I look into the machinations in each of the conferences, I have come up with the following thoughts.
Illinois in the Big 10 continues to do well after getting the #1 ranking. When Bill Self left to go to his dream job of Kansas, some in Champagne thought that the program would fall off, but one thing Self did before he left was to stock up on talent. We’re now seeing that come to fruition. Bruce Weber has done a tremdendous job in taking over the program. The Illini’s victory over Iowa this week was a quality win. The Big 10 Conference is always tough and the win over Iowa will go far in the Selection Committee’s eyes, provided that Illinois remains in the top 5 this season.
I have to say that Al Skinner at Boston College has done wonders at Chestnut Hill. The team is undefeated and eeked out a win over Villanova this week. I saw Skinner do wonders at the University of Rhode Island, a school where he desperately wanted to stay, but for some reason, was not offered a contract in his last season, so he went to Boston College where he’s establishing something special. The problem is, the sports fans of Boston don’t seem to care. They’re busy in the afterglow of the Red Sox and spending more time on the Patriots than focusing on college hoops. Then again, Boston has never been a good college sports town. Despite having a great tradition in college basketball and also college hockey, the Boston fans don’t care. The more Al Skinner wins, the more attractive he’ll become to a school in the ACC. Oh wait, he’s going to the ACC next year when Boston College leaves the Big East. But some school will come after Skinner if his success continues.
Why does the PAC 10 continues to show games on FSN? I know that FSN needs programming, but the conference would be better served on ESPN. I know ESPN should put ACC after its name during the season, but the PAC 10 has a pretty good conference. The games are hardly promoted on FSN and with the various channels committed to their local programming, it is hard to find the games. I know the PAC 10 wants to be a big fish on a little pond, but it’s hardly doing justice to itself. By going on ESPN, the PAC 10 would get a bigger audience and better promotion. And ESPN’s Throwdown Thursday would be so nice with a PAC 10 doubleheader.
Lastly, Commissioner Linda Bruno has got to do something about the Atlantic 10 Conference. After George Washington, there isn’t much to brag about. When the A-10 got 5 teams into the NCAA Tournament over the Big East’s 4 last decade, it appeared that the balance of power in Eastern Basketball shifted, but that now seems to be a one year aberration. Xavier is down. Dayton doesn’t look like the team that upset Kansas in Lawrence last season and Temple seems to be in transition. If the A-10 is not careful, it will be surpassed by the Mid America Conference for seats to the tournament.
And I hope we don’t hear from Mike Jarvis on ESPN anytime soon. His work in the studio has been next to horrible. But Sean McDonough should be on more major games than he is currently assigned. ESPN finally gives college basketball a pre-game show it deserves. It’s only been 25 years, Bristol.
For more great college basketball info, go to the Colege Basketball Blog, run by my new best friend, Yoni Cohen. The link is to your right.
The best weekend of the year as far as playoff football is concerned is now over. I went 3-1 on my picks only losing on the Eagles. It was a shaky pick, but one I was willing to make. It was not as bad as the so-called “experts” from across the country picking the Indianapolis Colts to knock off the New England Patriots.
As we all know by now, the Patriots ran roughshod over the Colts, 20-3, taking the game in dominant fashion. It appeared the trendy pick was to choose the Colts after their dismantling of the Denver Broncos, 49-20 in the Wild Card round. But one point must be made. It is difficult to base a pick on the previous week’s game. The reason: what happened the previous week has no bearing on the current game and that is exactly what occured on Sunday in Foxboro.
The Colts had few chances to score. When they did, they could not get the ball into the end zone and had to settle for a field goal or get intercepted.
Coach Bill Belichick and Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel have to be given credit for devising a scheme that confused Quarterback Peyton Manning and prevented his receivers from making big plays. Seeing Marvin Harrison, Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley drop passes that they would normally catch shows you that they were intimidated by the Patriots secondary. Yes, that secondary that without Ty Law and Tyrone Poole were supposed to lay down in front of the Colts.
Offensively, you could not have asked for a better plan of attack by Offensive Coordinator and soon-to-be Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis. Scoring drives of 9:07, 8:16 and 7:24 prevented Manning from establishing a rythym and sometimes, the best defense is a ball control offense.
But the thing that amazes me some 25 hours after the final gun is the fact that so many so-called experts and prognosticators got this game wrong. So many of ESPN’s alleged experts picked the Colts as did the writers for the Sporting News, SI.com, USA Today and so many other publications. Didn’t they realize that the Colts have not fared well against the Patriots in their recent history. Didn’t they know that Peyton Manning has trouble in cold weather games? Didn’t they think that the Patriots, who are the defending Super Bowl champs, might have some pride and try to make a statement even though they were allegedly “outmanned”?
While the Patriots were hurting coming into Sunday’s game, one has to realize that they won last year despite so many nagging injuries to their key players. And that they have a system that allows players such as Troy Brown, Mike Vrabel, Willie McGinest and others to play other positions and play them well?
When you read these so-called experts, take them with a grain of salt. Now, the Patriots based on their domination of the Colts are favored over the Steelers despite the fact Pittsburgh is 16-1 and beat the Pats back on Halloween. But the experts may annoint the Pats as the best team since sliced bread. I’m not saying the Steelers are better, but be careful when reading their “analysis.”
For the NFL fan, this weekend can be described as the best weekend of the season. You have the Divisional Playoffs set to begin and the anticipation for the four games is high. Eight teams are left and each feel it has as good a shot to advance to the Super Bowl. Statistically speaking, the home team usually wins the Divisional round. For one, the home team has a higher seed than the visiting team and has had a week to rest and prepare for its opponent. I can see the home team winning three of the four games this weekend, but my pick for the upset may not be obvious as you might think. So let’s go over the games.
Saturday – New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:30 p.m., CBS
The Jets come into this week without Defensive End John Abraham. Chad Pennington had the flu during this week’s practices and might be physically weak coming into the game. The Steelers have one of the best defenses in the league. Ben Rothlisburger is an untested commodity and how he will perform in the biggest game of his career is a question mark. But the running attack with Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley will help the Steelers ground up yardage and put touchdowns on the board. I can’t see the Jets winning this game. I know the Jets have confidence after beating San Diego last week, but I don’t see them winning two road games in a row. My prediction: Steelers 28, Jets 10.
Saturday – St. Louis Rams vs. Atlanta Falcons, 8:00 p.m., FOX
The Rams are coming in sky high after defeating division rival Seattle last week. But both had mediocre records for playoff teams. Coach Mike Martz actually had a balanced offensive attack with Marshall Faulk and Stephen Jackson carrying the load and Marc Bulger getting the job done through the air. But the Falcons’ defense is underrated and attacks when necessary. Michael/Mike Vick is chomping at the bit for a chance to showcase his weapons. Tight End Algie Crumpler has had a good year. Warrick Dunn has a tendency to fumble in big spots, but he has a Super Bowl ring with Tampa Bay and knows how to win. I’ll take the Falcons in the Georgia Dome, 35-27.
Sunday – Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 1:00 p.m., FOX
The Iggles have the number one seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They don’t have star wide receiver Terrell Owens and may not have him for the rest of the year. But the Eagles have Brian Westbrook, who can run and catch. Last year, the Eagles lost Westbrook and their offense looked like it was stuck in mud. However, the Vikings have Randy Moss and whatever you think of him for leaving the game early two weeks ago against the Redskins or for his bush league shenanigans vs. the Packers last week, Moss can get the job done and make plays. Dante Culpepper can run with the best of them and that includes Donovan McNabb. The only problem is the Vikings defense can be like a sieve sometimes. Here’s where I break from the norm. I say the Vikings will pull the upset at the Linc and defeat the Iggles, 35-30. I think the Eagles are prime for the taking.
Sunday – Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots, 4:45 p.m., CBS
For some reason, New England fans are whining over the fact that Peyton Manning has a high powered offense and the Pats’ secondary is decimated. This is true, but does anyone doubt head coach Bill Belichick’s and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s abilities to come up with a game plan to stop Manning? Don’t forget that Manning has not played well in New England since Belichick became HC of the NEP. While Cornerback Ty Law is hurt and Defensive Lineman Richard Seymour may not play, the Patriots do have enough weapons on defense to stop the Colts’ attack. Plus, the Colts gave plenty of bulletin board material when liquored up kicker Mike Vanderjagt said that the Patriots were prime for the taking and that the AFC Championship Game would be in Indy next week. Then the Colts put AFC Champions t-shirts for sale on its website only to take it off shortly after it was discovered. Despite the fact the Colts scored 49 points against Denver last week, I can’t see them doing that again. I say the Pats take this one, 37-14. Call me crazy, but that’s how I see it.
We’ll see how this goes at the end of the weekend.
The best show on television returned Sunday night with a double four hour premiere. Yes, I’m talking about “24″. The show began with Jack Bauer actually looking quite content. He had a new girlfriend. His daughter, Kim was safe and living with her boyfriend, former agent Chase Edmunds. He was no longer at the Counter Terrorism Unit and he was living in Washington, DC, far away from Los Angeles.
However, a regular fan of “24″ knew that the happiness would not last long. Jack’s boss, Secretary of Defense James Heller was kidnapped along with Jack’s new girlfriend, Heller’s daughter, Audrey Raines.
Of course, “24″ wouldn’t be “24″ without true villains. We have that with the Araz family, a Middle Eastern family ready to wreak havoc on the country.
Jack has his foil with CTU Director Erin Driscoll and he continues to do whatever he has to do to get Secretary Heller away from the terrorists.
If this doesn’t hook you, then you’ll never get into “24″. I admit, I didn’t watch the first season and got into the show midway into the second season, but after watching it weekly, I got really hooked. So hooked that I bought the Season 1 DVD and then watched the entire Season 2 DVD. Yes, I bought the Season 3 DVD and was watching it up to the Season 4 premieres on Sunday and Monday.
The producers always try to keep the surprises to a maximum and maintain the quality of the show. There is unpredictability, but that also means some unnecessary subplots that at times, bog the show down.
Some of the cast from last season have yet to appear including Carlos Bernard (Tony Almeida), Reiko Aylesworth (Michelle Dessler) and Dennis Haysbert (President David Palmer), but regular “24″ fans who scan the internet for spoilers and information have learned that all will return at one time or another during this season. As for Kim, she probably won’t come back, although fans who were distressed over “Kimnappings” in the previous 3 seasons can rest assured that we will not see that this season.
And when Jack yelled “WHAT IS YOUR PRIMARY OBJECTIVE” in the first hour of the new season, I wanted to use that line when asking my co-workers for information.
I admit I cannot get enough of this show. Every once in a while, I’ll write a review of the previous week’s show here. Suffice it to say that “24″ is back and I’m ready for the roller coaster ride that comes with the show.
On Friday, Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe wrote a column that for some reason became a national story. Shaughnessy interviewed Doug Mientkiewicz of the Boston Red Sox and asked about the ball he caught for the last out of the 2004 World Series. If you remember, Edgar Renteria hit a comebacker to pitcher Keith Foulke. Foulke ran towards the mound and flipped the ball to Mienkiewicz and the Red Sox had won their first World Series in 86 year. We all know the ecstacy that the Championship brought to Red Sox Nation.
No one had thought about the ball. The Red Sox did not ask for it. The Hall of Fame never sought it out. Mientkiewicz did have the ball authenticated by Major League Baseball and put it in a safe deposit box. Until Shaughnessy called Doug, no one made a mention of it. Then, Mientkiewicz learned lesson number one, when you talk to Dan Shaughnessy, you’ll become his favorite whipping boy in his columns. Nomar Garciaparria, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, Carl Everett and others have been burned in Shaughnessy’s personal scorched earth policy.
Mientkiewicz admitted to Shaughnessy and joked that he was going to use the ball as a college fund for his kids. However, that humorous tone was not evident in Shaughnessy’s column. Instead, the man who was nicknamed Curly Haired Boyfriend by Carl Everett or CHB for short (Everett told the Globe’s Gordon Edes that, “I’m not speaking to you or your curly haired boyfriend.”) decided to throw Mientkiewicz under the bus by writing the following ……
the first baseman left no doubt that he believes the ball belongs to him.
"I know this ball has a lot of sentimental value," he said. "I hope I don't have to use it for the money. It would be cool if we have kids someday to have it stay in our family for a long time. But I can be bought. I'm thinking, there's four years at Florida State for one of my kids. At least.
"I see the money going for home run balls by McGwire and [Sammy] Sosa and Bonds. Those are important and all, don't get me wrong, but there are always going to be more home runs. This is something that took 86 years, and 86 years is a long time. Personally, I went through hell and back this year. But winning the World Series is something I'm going to remember for a long time."
The Red Sox will certainly remember him even longer if he holds onto the ball that the club thinks belongs to the Nation.
Mientkiewicz and his wife Jodi then had to go on the offensive and go on Boston sports radio station, WEEI to say that his comments were tongue-in-cheek and they had no plans to sell the ball. He did say he would be happy for fans to see the ball on display at Fenway Park or other venues.
By the time Mientkiewicz appeared on WEEI, the story had spread to ESPN.com and various other news outlets. It was the topic of the day on “Pardon the Interruption” and sports radio stations across the country. For Mientkiewicz, it was too late to stop the dyke. The damage by Shaughnessy had been done and there is no way that Doug nor his wife can appear on every station where it was discussed.
This is the biggest non-story of 2005 thus far. For one, possession is 9/10th of the law. When Mientkiewicz decided to keep the ball, that was it. The people from MLB decided that he could keep the ball and didn’t ask for it back. The ball does not belong to Red Sox Nation as team CEO and hothead Larry Lucchino would like for fans to believe.
If Doug wants to keep the ball, he should. No one, not Larry Lucchino or CHB should tell him otherwise. Unfortunately, this story grew legs and boomeranged before it could be debunked.
I’m watching the NFC Wild Card game between the Seattle Seahawks and the St. Louis Rams. Usually, the ESPN crew of Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann and Paul McGuire are as solid a broadcasting crew as there is. However, Paul has this bad habit of saying, “I’ll tell you what….” during every piece of analysis he does.
For instance, “I’ll tell you what, Mike! That Chat Brown is a great player.” Or, “Ha! Ha! Joe, I’ll tell you what! The Rams are going to win this game.” Or, “I’ll tell you what! Charles Alexander is ONE TOUGH GUY!” He says it practically every sentence. It gets to be so often that if he doesn’t say it, you’re wondering what’s wrong with him.
He says so much that many other announcers have picked it up. I’ll hear it on CBS, Fox, even John Madden has said it more than once.
“I’ll tell you what” has bled into other sports. I’ve heard it during the Olympics, college basketball, hockey, even John McEnroe said it during the French Open. This has been said so much that I cringe whenever I hear it.
There may be other phrases that are just as annoying as Paul McGuire’s, but I have yet to hear it. I hope that ESPN or ABC will tell Paul that he’s been saying, “I’ll tell you what” way too much.
The New York Yankees finally got their man in Randy Johnson. As Peter Gammons stated, the Yanks finally have a pitcher who can beat Curt Schilling. But let’s consider this, Johnson is 41 years old. He does have a back condition. If RJ is healthy, he will anchor a very solid pitching rotation. The Yanks would have RJ, Carl Pavano, Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown and Jaret Wright. Even with Johnson, there are several questions.
1) Can Jaret Wright repeat his breakout season of last year?
2) Can Carl Pavano pitch in the American League?
3) Will Kevin Brown be healthy and will he be a part of the rotation in the 2005 season?
So many questions, so little answers, but one thing may be for sure, the Yankees will have spent so much in the offseason that they may be out of the bidding for Carlos Beltran. According to the New York Times’ Richard Sandomir (registration required), the Yankees may actually not have the money to pay for Beltran. In addition, Sandomir writes their expenses from the luxury tax, the YES Network and the building of a new stadium may preclude any profit this year.
But for any Yankees team to get to the World Series, it all depends on their pitching staff. For the first time in a very long time, the Yankees pitching was not very good in 2004 and it showed during the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox.
But even with the new rotation, the Yankees also have question marks with an aging outfield and at first base where Tino Martinez returns for a possibly banished Jason Giambi.
So with the Yankees improviing their pitching, it may not even matter for the New Yorkers who have not won a World Series since 2000. This is the longest drought for them since they started their run in 1996, but as we all know, it’s best never to count the Yankees out until they’re totally dead for the season.
After watching her on Saturday Night Live messing up her own vocal track, only to blame it on her band, I wondered why Ashlee Simpson was even worth watching. She is the younger sister of Jessica Simpson, who is hotter and more talented. However, Ashlee’s and Jessica’s father wants the younger Simpson to be successful, so the spin was her lip synching problem on SNL was due to “acid reflux disease”.
So what explanation do we use to blame her pitiful performance at the Orange Bowl last night? Mad Cow Disease? Screaming Dog Syndrome? Problems with the lighting? After she yelled her performance (live at the Orange Bowl halftime, not lip-synched), she was booed. I would like to hear what excuse her father will give this time: she couldn’t hear the band, Trace Adkins set the bar too high, Kelly Clarkson stole her acid reflux medicine, who knows?
All I know is that even the NFL Network which really has no reason to be talking, picked on Ashlee Simpson’s performance. Screaming and yelling through a song is not the way to go and the fans at the Stadium formerly known as Joe Robbie in Miami let Ashlee know what they thought.
Once again, this is evidence that the marching bands from both the University of Southern California and Oklahoma would have been sufficient halftime entertainment instead of pulling has-been acts and force-feeding them to an increasing cynical public.
In an earlier blog, I wrote about my dislike of ESPN’s over-promotion of its programming. Well, it’s time to go over to SportsCenter and blast certain anchors and gimmicks.
When ESPN first started SportsCenter, it’s mission was to provide highlights from that night’s events. It has achieved this so well that it has practically rendered the local three minute sports report obsolete. It has also sparked imitators and killed those same imitators. Can you remember the National Sports Report from Fox Sports Net? How about CNN Sports Tonight? All have gone by the wayside, but SportsCenter still remains.
This program became Must See TV. During its growth in the 1980′s, Chris Berman, Tom Mees, Bob Ley, George Grande, Gayle Gardner and Greg Gumbel all became household names. And when Chris Berman was told to stop giving nicknames to players during baseball highlights, there was an uproar, forcing management to take back its order.
The show continued to expand. When Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann were teamed on the 11 p.m. SportsCenter, its ratings took off. It was during this time that the philosophy of SportsCenter began to change. At first, it was the highlights that were the star of the show. But with Dan and Keith, the focus changed. They became the stars of the show and they exchanged witty banter. Their jokes were funny. Even obscure references were funny. Dan and Keith, Keith and Dan became so big that they co-authored a book.
All good things have to come to an end. The pair were split up as Keith left the show and ESPN amid a contract dispute.
But ESPN management, namely John Walsh, decided that SportsCenter needed more than just highlights. The show needed some tweaking. So anchors were hired who not just sportscasters, but entertainers. In came anchors who had schticks. Rich Eisen was actually a stand-up comedian. Stuart Scott had his hip-hop speak (although ESPN management did try to tone him done). Jon Anderson had his little catchphrases.
As the 21st Century came in, SportsCenter tried other nuances. There’s the “Budweiser Hot Seat” where a player or coach is interviewed. What about “Fact or Fiction” where two ESPN analysts have a contrived argument over what is real or not real about a certain issue. But the newest gimmick is “Heresay” where Kenny Mayne hosted a game show within “SportsCenter” where teams of two were pitted against each other. The results were reported as if it was an actual athletic competition. Did this have anything to do with the US Open or the French Open? No, but it was another chance for ESPN to sell the franchise (this time to Sears) and have big name players on SportsCenter. And some of these gimmicks take more than 5 minutes to complete.
But the worst offenders are the smart-alecky, schticky, smart-ass anchors who give one-liners as if they are auditioning for a late night talk show (Actually, Craig Kilborn of the “Late Late Show” on CBS was actually a SportsCenter anchor before becoming the original host of “The Daily Show” and he was very good on SportsCenter). Jon Anderson says, “Say hello to my little frien”, the famous line from “Scarface”, whenever a home run highlight is aired. There’s Stuart Scott’s “Can I get a witness from the congregation.” When Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann did their catchphrases, they just came out naturally, “Biscuit in the Basket,” “The Whiff,” “En Fuego,” “Guhh”. They were all funny. But now, the catchphrases by these comedian wannabes are not funny, clever or even good.
And the focus of SportsCenter no longer is on the highlights, but the features, gimmicks and insignificant banter between the anchors. And during the SportsCenter anchor audition of an abortion known as “Dream Job”, the anchor wannabes all tried to be cute, but did not seem to be knowledgeable on sports at all.
What used to be necessary viewing for sports fan now has become a mere parody of itself. SportsCenter is not just for informing the viewer, but it has to entertain, attract the youngest viewer possible and dumb down the highlights.
When John Walsh leaves the
And so it goes ….
Barry Bonds has had an interesting year. He has been under scrutiny for the investigation into BALCO and steroid use. He continues to hit home runs and make an assault on the all-time record held by Hank Aaron.
Bonds lost his father, Bobby earlier in the year. For the most part, Bonds has been quiet and has stayed out of the papers. That is, until now.
In Friday’s Boston Globe, Bonds talked to reporter Gordon Edes. Bonds made a big splash right away by telling Edes, “Boston is too racist for me. I couldn’t play there.”
And when told that the racial climate has changed, Bonds replied, “It ain’t changing. It ain’t changing nowhere.”
Bonds acknowledged his opinions are not from first-hand experience, but from the word of others.
The fear of African-Americans is well-founded. Those old enough to remember can harken back to the 1970′s when blacks were bussed into South Boston schools. White adults were seen nightly on network newscasts yelling racial ephitets at high school students as they entered the school.
And African-Americans can remember October 23, 1989 when a pregnant Carol Stuart was found shot to death in her car in a predominantly black section of Boston. Her husband, Charles pointed the finger at a black man. Police scrounged the city looking for the suspect. William Bennett, was arrested on a separate charge. The media went into a frenzy as police officers leaked Bennett as the possible shooter. Charles Stuart made the positive ID just after the Christmas holiday. But days after Bennett was identified, Stuart committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. It was later discovered that Stuart shot his wife and played off the inherent racism of the city.
It is these and other incidents that have played into the fears of African American free agents. They have not wanted to come to Boston in fear of racism. And the Boston Red Sox organization until recently has had a poor history of developing African American players. Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays were rejected by the Red Sox despite having ample opportunities to sign them.
Until the John Henry ownership group purchased the Red Sox in 2002, the Red Sox had a reputation of being a racist team. African-Americans living in Boston generally rooted for other teams. And the Red Sox did little to reach out to the minority communit to come to Fenway Park.
Give credit to the Henry ownership for trying to reverse the damage done by the Yawkey Trust. It has made huge strides to reaching recruit new fans. But it will take a long way to convince players such as Barry Bonds that Boston is no longer a racist city.
And so it goes.
Nomar Garciaparra has been a steady player for the Boston Red Sox. Over the past eight years, his work ethic, gritty style of play and hitting in the clutch have enamored him to Red Sox Nation. He has won a Rookie of the Year, has been a multiple All Star and led the balloting this season despite not playing most of the season.
The week before he returned to the lineup, he took a lot of time rehabilitating a heel injury suffered in the first days of Spring Training this year. As Nomar spent day after day in the Red Sox Minor League affiliate in Pawtucket, fans began to wonder why he could not spend that time with the parent club.
Callers to WEEI wondered if Nomar was trying to stick it to the Red Sox for their offseason attempts to acquire Alex Rodriguez from Texas. Remember, Nomar went on the record stating that his feelings were hurt and he was never called by the Red Sox to explain their position.
So as Nomar rehabbed in Pawtucket, he took a minor drubbing from the fans, but overall, he has remained a popular figure in Red Sox Nation. But things might be turning the other way.
This week, Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra complained to Boston Herald writer Michael Silverman that he didn’t understand why the fans were criticizing his play based on one month instead of a whole body of work.
Nomar told the Herald, “I’ve been judged on one month – I’ve got eight years. Think about what I’ve done. What would you rather have: eight great years and one bad month or eight bad months and one good year? I think those eight years count – they will somewhere, to somebody.”
He added, “…so apparently what I’ve done over the past eight years obviously means nothing. What counts is the end of last year or the offseason. Apparently eight years don’t count, but I think they count – they count somewhere”
And he also railed on fans who thought he was sticking it to the Red Sox. “I can’t win – 21 ABs (while rehabbing in the Minors) but no, `You’re faking it’ and `Cmon, what are you waiting for?’ Then I come back, they are still going to say `See – he sucks. He’s not good. You were bad last year, you’re bad this year.’ It’s a no-win situation. They should just be glad I’m back.”
That may be true and we don’t know his tone of voice in his answers to Silverman, but when one reads this off the written page or computer screen, it come off like a whiny millionaire who seems to have lost touch with the fans. And no matter how hard Nomar may try to explain his position in the next few days, it will ring hollow.
Nomar has made it known that he has never liked dealing with the media, but he has talked to WEEI when it is to his benefit. In addition, when he has spoken out, he is quick to backtrack, either to claim he was misquoted or taken out of context.
There is no doubt that Nomar’s abilities are among the best in the American League. His numbers speak for themselves, but he has also must realize that in a last year of a contract, every move will be magnified, every quote becomes news, every play will be scrutinized. Also, the New England region has a large fan base and the Red Sox are number one.
Nomar can become a free agent at the end of this season. The Red Sox have said they will not be able to sign all of their free agents once the World Series is over. If Nomar continues to complain after bad days in the field, he might get what he wishes for: to be signed by a team in a market where baseball is just an afterthought. And he may wonder where all the attention has gone.
Before everyone goes crazy, let me state that it was the headline that grabbed you, right? Well, I’ll state for the record that I don’t hate ESPN, but I do have an extreme dislike.
When ESPN first began, it filled a void. Sports every day, 24/7. Sure, there was no baseball, the NFL, the NBA or the NHL, but it had an innocent feel. There was SportsCenter, Australian Rules Football, College Basketball, the NCAA Tournament, the College World Series. All of these events were produced rather well and had a major league feel to them.
Cut to the present and ESPN has Baseball, the NFL, the NHL and the NBA. There are four channels in the ESPN Family of Networks. I’m sure we’ll see a fifth and sixth channel somewhere down the line. In fact, if you count ESPN Deportes to ESPN2, ESPNews and ESPN Classic, that’s five already. But I digress.
What is the point of this blog? Well to be honest, I have been down on ESPN for quite some time. The reason? The constant self-promotion. The bombardment of promos during games, SportsCenter, NFL Primetime, it’s endless. The promos are to the point that they are a turnoff.
Granted, ESPN has the number of viewers to watch their programming, but I counter that it is due to the inventory. The avid sports fan will watch because the network has the events that bring viewers to the set. However, that does not give the Power That Be a license to tell us about “Playmakers” the DVD, Gatorade’s ESPN the Flavor, or the X-Games.
The most blatant, overhyped promotion on ESPN are the completely self-serving ESPY Awards. I have never watched this event. The only great moment that came from this event was a cancer-ridden Jim Valvano’s heartfelt speech that urged everyone to never give up. Since then, the Disney Sports Network has been riding on that moment’s coattails.
Who votes on the award for “Best Female Athlete” and does that winner mean she’s better than the other nominees? We know the Academy Awards honor achievement in filmmaking over a certain time period, but what do the ESPY’s honor? ESPN? SportsCenter? Stuart Scott? Who are you? What are they? It’s a complete mystery.
So ESPN will continue to hype itself and its smarmy, smart-alecky, schticky anchors on SportsCenter. What was once a truly great network for the sports fan has become a network that looks for a pat on the back. The problem is that the one patting ESPN on the back is management.
And so it goes ….
The battle between the media and athletes has been waged for many years. In Boston, it is practically a rite of summer for a player to wage a war with the media. For the Red Sox, New England’s Team, there has not been a season where one player has refused to talk to reporters after a critical article. For Red Sox fans, not only is this commonplace, but it is expected. This harkens back to the 1940′s when Ted Williams regularly fought with reporters. His battle cost him a Most Valuable Player Award when he hit .406 and lost to Joe DiMaggio by one vote.
Of the current-day Red Sox, players like Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez stopped talking to the media at various times after they were villified by various columnists and reporters. Curt Schilling who joined the Sox this season following an off-season trade has found that fighting the media can be a losing proposition.
When Curt was considering the trade from Arizona to Boston, he was told of a Red Sox fans website, Sons of Sam Horn (SOSH), named after a former Red Sox Designated Hitter/first baseman. Curt said the enthusiasm and passion of the fans he met during an early morning private chat session was a contributing factor to his approval of the trade. Fans around New England were happy that a World Series MVP was coming to the Red Sox. In addition, Curt promised to continue talking to the fans through SOSH.
SOSH is a members-only site where Red Sox fans can talk about their favorite team. What differentiates that site from other chat boards is that it is by invitation-only. There are an estimated 300 fans who can post. There is a waiting list of fans who want to join. Those who cannot join have become members of other boards such as The Remy Report (named after the Red Sox TV color analyst, Jerry Remy).
Schilling would chat with fans on SOSH and then started a chat thread on The Remy Report boards as a way to reach out without having to talk to the middleman. When word leaked that Curt was making this type of effort, some reporters began to mock the chats and others felt threatened. Boston Herald columnist Tony Massarotti was among those in the latter category.
The topic of Curt’s chats became a subject of discussion on Boston Sports Radio station WEEI. Massarotti and Providence Journal Red Sox beat reporter Sean McAdam felt the end run around the media was dangerous. McAdam called the devotion of fans who post “slavish”. Massarotti was quick to note that the best way for players to reach the fans was through the media. Schilling actually called into WEEI to defend his chats. During this conversation came Tony Maz’ famous line that if Schilling continued to by-pass the media then “maybe we won’t cover your charity events.”
Cut to this last week when Curt had another chat with the members of SOSH. Schilling has made it clear that what he posts in the chats are private and not to be passed to the media. Thus far, this request has been adhered to. But when Schilling made it known that a recent ankle injury might require surgery, SOSH members were quick to e-mail WEEI and Tony Maz.
Naturally, Massarotti went with the story and published it. Members of SOSH were angry over the betrayal and Schilling posted that he would no longer post. Massarotti has defended his actions and even encourged Curt to stop conducting Internet chats. In his message to SOSH members, Schilling singled out Massarotti and said he felt betrayed.
Over the past two days, WEEI and Providence Sports Radio station WSKO have had a field day with the Internet chat boards calling posters “guys who live in their mother’s basements”. While some may still live there, it is not fair to characterize everyone in that manner. In addition, reporters who don’t understand the Internet’s power are doomed to be left behind. Also, writers such as Massarotti who hold grudges and promise not to cover chartible events because a player will not talk to them make themselves sound petty when they try to defend their actions.
Fans who are members of SOSH and the Remy Report boards are angry over the loss of Schilling. They are critical of Tony Maz for reporting the chat. They should also be angry with the members who betrayed Curt’s trust and forwarded the info to WEEI and the Herald.
Massarotti may have won this battle, but he may not win the war. Schilling may return to the boards to chat with fans, but he may be more guarded in what he reveals.
The entire fight has been silly as with most player-media battles. The battleground is different, but the results may be the same with a player withholding his comments to the fans.
And so it goes …. (apologies to Linda Ellerbee)
This is going to the first in a series of blogs on my favorite subjects.
Since this will be in the sports category, the main topic will be about the Boston Red Sox. Other topics will include the New England sports media, Sports television in general, the Cleveland Browns and University of Rhode Island basketball. However, there will be times when I veer off into a different direction. For instance, I am obsessed with the show “24″. I cannot get enough of the show, even as it is in the offseason. Also, I’ll throw in a blog or two about “Survivor”. So you can see that this will focus on sports and a little bit of pop culture. If I get inspired, perhaps you’ll get other musings, but I’ll try to keep it to sports.
I hope you will enjoy this blog. Feel free to send comments and constructive criticism.
Some things you should know. My name is Ken. I live in Rhode Island. I used to work in radio in Connecticut and Rhode Island. I’m out of the business and I’m focusing on obtaining my Master’s degree in Education. I hope to teach US History in high school. If any schools in RI are looking for a history teacher, please contact me. I’ll be graduating in the spring of 2005. But enough pleading from me.
As you can see I’m a Red Sox fan. I’ve been suffering since 1971. I can go into the long list of setbacks of this team, but they’re well documented and no need to go into them here. Since I was in radio and still have the business in my blood, I’ll also write on the relationship between the New England sports media and the Red Sox. There will be plenty of fodder there, especially in the wake of the recent controversy between Curt Schilling and Boston Herald columnist Tony Massarotti. And every once in a while, I’ll just go off the beaten path.
For this blog, I’ll keep it short. I’ll update this later with a blog on the aforementioned brouhaha between Schilling and Tony Maz.
I hope you’ll join us.