I’ll do Year in Review of Sports Media since relaunching this blog back in May. I began this back in 2005, but I couldn’t find a decent regular schedule to blog, so I just dropped blogging altogether, but I started to find the time and it’s been a great roller coaster ride ever since. It’s been very fun. So without further ado, let’s go over some of the Best and Worst of Sports TV and Radio since May 2, 2007.
We’ll do a month-by-month review.
The Start of the Alycia Lane Watch - Ah, yes. The day I relaunched the blog is when we began to get stories about Philadelphia news anchor Alycia Lane. In May, we learned that she e-mailed hot bikini pictures to Rich Eisen of the NFL Network. The problem was, Alycia’s pictures were intercepted by Rich’s wife, Suzy Shuster and the story was somehow leaked to Page Six of the New York Post. We have yet to see these hot bikini pictures, but this began an entire sequence of almost-regular updates on Alycia.
Worst Treatment of a Sporting Event by a Network – On May 19, NBC was televising the Buffalo-Ottawa NHL playoff game, an exciting affair which was about to go to overtime. However, NBC seeing a conflict with the Preakness Stakes decided to dump out and go to race coverage. But it wasn’t to join the race, it was to start a 90 minute pre-race show on time. Viewers who were watching were instructed to go to the hard-to-find Versus where the rest of the game aired. In fact, the game ended in the first overtime, in plenty of time for NBC to go to its Preakness coverage. Fans were done a major disservice. For his part, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said nothing which for him was par for the course.
Way to go, Ron – The Boston Globe’s Ron Borges was flat out caught plagiarizing a football notes article from Mike Sando of the Spokane News-Tribune. A Washington State University journalism student read Borges’ article on-line and noticed similarities with Sando’s article, posted the passages on ESPN.com. Then the Cold Hard Football Facts website quickly picked up on it and the rest was history. Borges was suspended, but then “resigned” quietly. Borges has said “the truth will come out,” but so far, nothing else has surfaced. He’s tried blogging, but that hasn’t worked, but he’s also done some writing for the Kansas City Chiefs website. There isn’t a Patriots fan who feels sorry for Borges over the venom he’s spit at Bill Belichick and the Patriots organization, but at the same time, one has to wonder if Borges can get a job at another paper.
Worst Way to Treat Your Fans – The Boston Red Sox inexplicably hired a third-rate, no, make that fifth-rate announcer to replace Jerry Trupiano whose contract was not picked up for the 2007 season. So, Glenn Geffner did the majority of games while eventual replacement Dave O’Brien finished out his contract with ESPN. Geffner sounded like a college radio announcer doing games for the first time. And for a time, he was sounding worse and worse with each passing day. The great blog, 38 Cliches, chronicled the suffering of Red Sox fans every night the Goofster fractured calls on the radio. After one season, it appears the Glenn Geffner experience is over, but not after fans sought to have him removed from the WRKO Shaw’s Red Sox Radio Network booth. Red Sox fans all over are hoping to see Dave O’Brien in the booth full-time in the 2008 season.
Worst Debut by a Network – The Tennis Channel was looking forward to the day when it could wall-to-wall coverage of its first major, the French Open. On May 27, all Tennis Channel could do was to show the taped archives of past matches because all matches were rained out. Instead of seeing Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer live, fans were treated to the words “Play Suspended” while watching a tape of the 2006 French Open men’s final.
Best Meltdown by a Manager – The tape circulated all over YouTube and was shown on ESPN. On June 1, Phillip Wellman, manager of the Mississippi Braves went nuclear, threw bases, crawled on the ground, covered home plate and took the bases with him before leaving to a standing ovation. It was tremendous.
Chris Berman Picks His Nose – We learned that not only does Chris Berman fly coach, but he picks his nose and eats his boogers. A woman who was on the same flight as Boomer saw it and posted it on her blog. I do think she’s telling the truth. The story is too detailed for it to be stretching the truth.
WFAN Turns 20 – The first sports radio station in the country turned 20 in June. To celebrate, the station listed the Top 20 Sports Moments in the last 20 years. It certainly brought back some memories. WFAN set the standard for sports radio stations and still does to this day. Granted, Mike & the Mad Dog are sounding old, but they still are #1 in New York and still get the big guests. Their month-long celebration was great to listen to.
The NBA Can’t Get Viewers – The NBA Finals involving San Antonio and Cleveland had two of the top stars in the NBA, Tim Duncan and LeBron James. But despite the Hollywood connection (Tony Parker and Eva Longoria), fans were turned off and the Finals ended up being the lowest rated ever in TV history. This started a dark time for the NBA which included the referee betting scandal and the Knicks sexual harassment trial, but turned around once the 2007-08 season began. But at the end of the month, there was some good news for the NBA.
The NBA’s New TV Deal – The Association renewed its relationship with ESPN and TNT for another eight years. Despite lower ratings and fewer games on network television, the NBA chose to keep the majority of games on cable television including the All Star Game and most of the postseason. For ESPN and TNT, the main jewel for them was the digital rights including showing games on the internet and creating online programming.
Joe Theismann is a Very Bitter Man – In June, former ESPN NFL analyst Joe Theismann started to speak out about the network dumping him from Monday Night Football. Theismann spoke to the Boston Metro newspapers and to anyone else who would listen. In each passing interview, Theismann became increasingly bitter. Granted, ESPN didn’t do Theismann any favors by throwing his ass out of the booth, but then again, Theismann not taking the high road hasn’t won him any fans either.
Dan Patrick Leaves ESPN – Gunga Dan made a big deal about a big announcement on July 5th, only to leave listeners hanging for a week. Finally, while at the All Star Game, Dan finally makes his announcement that he’s leaving and his last show will be on August 17. It leads Dan to sign with an unknown radio syndicator, but he signs on with Sports Illustrated to have his show stream on its site and for him to write columns for the magazine. However, Dan’s new show is not on as many stations as it used to be and he’s practically fallen off the map.
The All Star Game Ain’t What It Used to Be – In the ratings, MLB’s annual Mid-Summer Classic on Fox lost out to NBC’s The Singing Bee. Really.
David Stern is Stern Faced – In late July, NBA Commish David Stern stood in front of the media for more than an hour and answered questions about the alleged gambling by former referee Tim Donaghy. Stern sounded like a lawyer, but didn’t duck questions. To the NBA’s credit, the league has survived this mess and has managed to get higher ratings on both ESPN and TNT this season.
Is the NHL Signing with ESPN or what? – We learned that the NHL was interested in re-signing with ESPN, but so far, there’s been no official word. While NBC may or may not renew its option for next season, the NHL Players Association is urging the league to sign with ESPN to help promote the game. There’s been no official word from either party on this, although ESPN’s John Buccigross did mention in an online column that there is interest from the Worldwide Leader to return, but that column was quickly spiked.
Gary Sheffield Is Just Insane – Also in July, Detroit Tigers outfielder Gary Sheffield went on HBO’s Real Sports and talked about steroids. Mainly he talked about not doing steroids despite the fact that he did rub the clear. And Sheffield went on to attack his former manager and teammates. The man is not all there.
Lockout? Schmokout! – In an attempt to break a contract dispute with its highly rated morning show, WEEI locked out John Dennis & Gerry Callahan for a month while it carried on with various substitute hosts. Dennis & Callahan tried to test the market by talking with a competing company and possibly syndicating throughout New England, but WEEI’s parent owner, Entercom entered into an agreement with the company thus limiting the pair’s options. In September, D & C returned with their proverbial tail between their legs.
Death of the Scooter – Longtime New York Yankees announcer and shortstop Phil Rizzuto passed away in August. It was very sad to learn this news. Even Red Sox fans had to admit that Phil was a true character and was very lovable. He will be missed.
WFAN Hires a New Morning Show – After Don Imus made a comment about the Rutgers Women’s Basketball team and subsequently got fired, WFAN held auditions to host its new morning show and it hired Boomer Esiason and Craig Carlton. We all know Boomer. Carlton was mostly known for being irreverent on a New Jersey radio station. To be honest, I haven’t heard the show, but depending on which sports media critic you believe, their show is either horrible or a work in progress.
Vick Pleads Guilty – In August, Atlanta Falcons QB Michael Vick entered a guilty plea in Federal Court in Virginia to dogfighting charges. This led to a very bad season for the Falcons as Vick is now serving a prison sentence. Reaction to Vick was swift.
The Big Ten Network Debuts – Also in August, the Big Ten Network debuted on a handful of cable providers. Major cable providers such as Comcast, Suddenlink, Time Warner and Mediacom refused to sign on and still refuse to this day to carry the channel. However, the reaction to the debut of BTN was mixed. Big Ten Network is still fighting for carriage as the basketball conference schedule gets underway.
Appalachian State upsets Michigan, but hardly anyone saw it - The Big Ten Network could not have asked for a better first game when Appalachian State upset the Michigan Wolverines in the Big House, but due to the dispute with major cable, households throughout the midwest could not see it.
Glitches with DirecTV’s Supercast – The moment many NFL fans were waiting for, to watch games online had to wait for a week when demand knocked out the servers. You had to be a subscriber to DirecTV and its NFL Sunday Ticket package to be able to watch the games online, but the first week only led to trouble for those of us trying to log on. And an apology sent to fans later in the week rang hollow. However, to DirecTV’s credit, the problems were fixed for Week 2 and the rest of the NFL season.
It Takes Two Men to Replace Dan Patrick – ESPN Radio tabbed Mike Tirico and Steven A. Smith to fill the timeslot left vacant by Dan Patrick. Tirico would do the 1 – 3 p.m. shift while the final hour would be filled by Smith. On Mike’s first show, one of his first guests was … Dan Patrick. Oh the irony.
ESPN and MLB Deathmatch – ESPN and Major League Baseball fought twice this year and it will be interesting to see what effects this will have. In July, MLB banned ESPN from having an on-site set at the All Star Game for breaking an embargo on the starting lineups. The two parties did make up, but in September, the fighting began once again when ESPN refused to air promos stating that Fox and TBS would carry postseason games. The two sides did reach a compromise when ESPN decided to promote Fox and TBS during SportsCenter, but still would not carry the promos. We’ll see where it leads.
That’s the Wrong Video – The Kevin Everett story in September saddened many NFL fans. Originally paralyzed, we were encouraged to hear that he could move his arms and legs. It was widely reported, but a Florida TV station unfortunately chose to run the wrong video of a man kicking and flailing in a courtroom. It was funny, but also sad as the TV station apparently has a habit of making mistakes.
Chris Berman at Augusta National? – No, that’s not going to happen, but we learned in October that ESPN got the cable rights to air the first two round of The Masters starting in 2008. It replaces USA Network which is getting out of the sports business.
TBS Hot Corner – In October, TBS debuted as the new rightsholder for the entire League Division Series and one League Championship Series. While its coverage was understated and not over the top, it also led to the debut of its online companion program, TBS Hot Corner, and its co-hosts, the lovely Heather Catlin, the lovely Kelly Cross and tool Matt Dagostino. Throughout TBS’ coverage, Hot Corner alternated between its TBS studios in Atlanta and MLB.com’s studios in New York. While MLB had more nuts and bolts coverage, TBS gave us more colorful and interactive coverage as fans could ask questions through AOL Instant Messenger. While I was not a fan of Matt or a few other reporters, I did enjoy their coverage especially when Heather and Kelly took part in a fashion show. By the end, I was sad to see it end, but I do believe this is the future as networks show games on TV and have complimentary coverage online. TBS Hot Corner was certainly popular as it had more than a million views online.
Suyzn Waldman Cries At Cinderella .. ella … ella – When the New York Yankees were eliminated by the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series, announcer Suzyn Waldman cried on the air. Not only did she cry, but her credibility came into question. She cried as she noted that it would be the last time manager Joe Torre would be with this particular coaching staff. But Suzyn came out swinging and defended her right to cry. Suzyn called the criticism sexist.
Jimmy Kimmel No Longer Welcome at Monday Night Football – ESPN decided to ban late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel from MNF after he made some comments about Joe Theismann. Kimmel spoke to Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch and thought what he said was not offensive. I have to agree. The whole thing was silly.
Dennis Miller Debuts – In November, Dennis Miller returned to TV with his new Sports Unfiltered show on Versus. It wasn’t great TV, but Miller is an acquired taste.
NFL Network, Part I – The NFL Network had one of the biggest games of the season, Green Bay at Dallas, however, because the channel was not widely distributed, it would not be seen by a majority of Americans. Fans outside of the home markets had to resort going to sports bars or find a friend who had the NFL Network on satellite. Despite the low distribution, the game drew over 10 million viewers making it the highest rated game on the NFL Network.
Bill Conlin Hates Bloggers – In one of the stranger incidents on the internet, Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News said Hitler would have wiped out bloggers. This all came about when a blogger wrote to Conlin trying to tell him that the Mets’ David Wright had a better year than NL MVP Jimmy Rollins. Conlin took offense and came out on the attack. It was very strange and Conlin has said his e-mail was private, but it still does not excuse his statements.
Erin Andrews is Sexy – It’s true. She won a Playboy poll stating as such.
NFL Network, Part II – As this past Saturday’s Patriots-Giants game was getting closer, the NFL Network was holding steadfast in its assertions that it would carry the game exclusively. However, last Wednesday, we learned that CBS and NBC would simulcast the contest making it the first ever three way NFL broadcast. It led to the biggest ratings for the 2007-08 season to date. We’ll see what happens next season as the NFL Network goes into its third season of carrying games.
Bad Week for Sportscasters - The week of December 16 through the 23rd was a bad week for sportscasters. We first learned that Dick Vitale underwent vocal cord surgery, Stuart Scott was undergoing chemotherapy, Jeanne Zelasko had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and legendary Olympics announcer Don Chevrier had passed away at the age of 69. Shocking news on all fronts to say the least.
We Start with Alycia, We End with Alycia – And this month, Alycia Lane got arrested after allegedly assaulting a New York City police officer. She’s been taken off the air indefinitely and is supposed to return later this week, although chances of that happening are slim. To top it off, Alycia was supposedly offered money to pose for Playboy. Wouldn’t that be interesting to see?
So there’s our Year in Review. Happy New Year and we’ll see you in 2008.