As we go into the second week of the 2012 London Olympics or the Games of the XXX Summer Olympiad, I thought I would take the opportunity on this middle Sunday to look ahead for the next set of Games on television.
We know that NBCUniversal will carry the Olympics through 2020, that’s two Winter and two Summer Games in that timespan. While the network has been served well by its current crop of announcers, some of whom date back as far back as 1988, it’s time to replace them with a new generation of hosts, play-by-play callers and analysts who can carry the network through 2020 and possibly beyond.
I’ll focus this post on the Summer Games since that’s what we’ve been watching for the last 8 days. I’ll do a Winter Olympics announcing post at a later date. I’ll start with hosts, then go by the glamor sports.
Bob Costas — Bob is 60 this year and while his youthful look betrays his age, he’ll be 64 in 2016 for Rio and 68 in 2020 at a site yet to be determined. ABC’s Jim McKay hosted his last Olympics in 1988 at age 65. Costas remains the best interviewer on sports television and should be allowed to host the Olympics on NBC for as long as he wants. I don’t think he’s going anywhere.
Dan Patrick — Dan is just four years younger than Bob, but if Costas decides to leave, DP could step into his shoes as Primetime host.
Liam McHugh — For 2016, I would think this is where NBC could tap Liam McHugh and put him in Al Michaels’ place on Daytime. Al would be 71 in Rio and while he would still be very good at calling Sunday Night Football in four years, I would not put him in the host’s chair in Rio. McHugh has proven he can be very versatile hosting the NHL Postseason, the Stanley Cup Final, the Tour de France and the Olympics over a four month span. That is not easy, but Liam has made it look easy and that’s the sign of a very good host.
Bonnie Bernstein — ESPN’s Bonnie Bernstein is the best personality not to have an Olympic gig. This is like saying she’s the Best Golfer Not To Win A Major. She has proven as a substitute host for Dan Patrick and on Twitter that she can discuss multiple sports. And Bonnie’s also a former gymnast. Watching BBC’s coverage of the London Games, the network utilizes both studio and venue hosts. Making Bonnie a venue host at Gymnastics with Nastia Liukin as her analyst would work to one of her strengths. She was a five-time host of the NCAA Gymnastics Championship when she was at CBS. I would love to see her work an Olympic Games.
Ryan Burr — Ryan will be coming to the NBCUniversal family to work at Golf Channel and at NBC Sports Network. We could see him host on either MSNBC or NBCSN.
Michelle Beadle — Michelle’s done a great job thus far in London. She has shown she can talk Olympic sports and bring some humor as well.
Kelly Tilghman — I’ve liked her work on MSNBC. I can see her on future Olympics as well.
Let’s do this by sport.
BASKETBALL — If the NBA continues sending players to the Olympics, then NBC could continue utilizing Bob Fitzgerald from Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and Chris Carrino. This is where NBC should tap Turner Sports for a Steve Kerr or even Reggie Miller for analysts.
If basketball becomes an Under 23 tournament as speculated, NBC may have to hire college basketball announcers. Borrowing Ian Eagle from CBS and YES to call games would be a good move. Jay Bilas from ESPN would forge a strong team with Ian throughout the Games. And NBC should still utilize Craig Sager as the reporter although he looks muted with a regular wardrobe.
On the women’s side, if NBC could get Doris Burke on loan from ESPN, that would be ideal. She could work men’s games too as she’s proven over the past few years. If NBC can’t get Doris Burke, why not former ESPN’er Stacey Dales or Fox Sports Net’s Debbie Antonelli?
BOXING — Bob Papa and Teddy Atlas are a very good team and should remain, but I’d love for NBC to bring in its old friend Jim Lampley with Larry Merchant and Emmanuel Steward from HBO to call one or two bouts a day. What could be better than that? And bring in Harold Lederman for judging analysis while we’re at it.
Host Fred Roggin should be replaced with boxing fan Brian Kenny of MLB Network.
CYCLING — If it’s not Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, NBC should go announcer-less.
DIVING — Can you believe Cynthia Potter has worked every Summer Olympics on network television since 1984? She’s been solid, but it’s time to bring in some new blood. 2000 gold medalist Laura Wilkinson who worked the Diving Trials for NBC Sports Network in June is a potential candidate.
GYMNASTICS — Utilizing a favorite word of Tim Daggett’s, the announcing on this sport over the last two Olympiads has been catastrophic. Normally, I like Al Trautwig, but his calls of gymnastics in 2008 in Beijing and this year in London is reaching John Tesh disastrous proportions in 1996. Al makes everything seems at life or death levels. In addition, his penchant to focus on crying gymnasts borders on creepy.
Tim Daggett’s constant talking and use of the word “catastrophic” is annoying. Elfi Schlegel has been reduced to short sentences. NBC needs to replace this team for 2016.
This is where NBC can utilize a venue host (see Bonnie Bernstein above) with an analyst. Nastia Liukin could fill that role very nicely. Bela Karolyi has proven to be Must See TV and should be one of the studio analysts. And if his wife, Marta retires, imagine the fireworks on the set between those two.
NBC is using Terry Gannon this year to call rowing. Why not have Terry call Olympic Gymnastics in 2016? He has called the sport for ABC and did it well. And having watched the World Feed this year through NBC’s Olympics Live Extra app, I’m very impressed with Shannon Miller from 1996′s Magnificent Seven Team. She’s been the sole analyst for Olympic Broadcasting Services and has done very well in explaining certain moves, the scoring system and their implications without sounding overdramatic. Terry Gannon and Shannon Miller would make an excellent team.
GOLF — Remember, golf makes its return to the Olympics in Rio in 2016, having made its last appearance in 1904. NBC/Golf Channel has an established team with Dan Hicks, Johnny Miller, Nick Faldo, Roger Maltbie, Brandell Chamblee, Frank Nobilo, Rich Lerner, the aforementioned Kelly Tilghman, David Feherty, the incoming Ryan Burr and so many others who could work this event.
Some people have asked me on Twitter if Dan would stop calling swimming to do golf. I think Dan could do both especially if the IOC (with the help of NBC) decides to schedule golf in the second week of the Olympics, so that it doesn’t interfere with swimming, tennis, gymnastics and other sports in the first week. This is where a venue host would come in handy, perhaps Kelly or Ryan with one or two of the many Golf Channel analysts. And we could expect Golf Channel to have a role in picking up the first two rounds of Olympic Golf with NBC coming in for the last two rounds.
SOCCER — NBC used its MLS crew, Arlo White and Kyle Martino on the men’s games along with JP Dellacamera, Glenn Davis, Steve Cangialosi and Allen Hopkins. I’d love to see English Premier League announcers Martin Tyler and Ian Darke on US TV calling some Olympic action.
Brandi Chastain despite Hope Solo’s complaints last week is doing well on women’s games and I would keep her in the booth.
SWIMMING — Dan Hicks has made this one of his signature sports along with golf throughout his career at NBC. I can’t see him leaving the sport unless golf is scheduled in the first week, but I don’t think that would happen. Rowdy Gaines has been a good salesman for swimming and he’s doing yeoman’s work to raise money for the sport to establish a training center. However, I’ve grown tired of his screaming and his voice raising over 50 octaves. This is where NBC could bring in a plethora of gold medalists to replace Gaines. This is also a sport that could utilize a venue host and it’s where Liam McHugh could go if NBC decides to keep Al Michaels in Daytime.
While Phelps has said he’s retiring, NBC would like to see him in Rio either as a swimmer or perhaps an analyst. If the network uses him on TV, I’d prefer to see him in the studio. At first thought, I felt putting Phelps on camera would be a bad move, but this was based on his interviews in Beijing where he looked uncomfortable. During his NBC interviews in London, Michael has looked more at ease, but that does not necessarily make for a good analyst. If he wants to go the TV route, putting him in the studio for short spurts might be best for 2016.
As for the races, I’d go with Amy Van Dyken to replace Rowdy. For the past year, Amy has been co-hosting Fox Sports Tonight with Rob Dibble on Fox Sports Radio and she’s been in London analyzing the Olympic swimming for FoxSports.com. Amy is not only funny, but she speaks her mind. She knows the mind of an Olympic athlete and I think she’d be perfect with Dan in calling the races.
TENNIS — This sport finally received some glamor treatment from NBC this year. However, it was treated badly with Pat O’Brien as the venue host. Not only did Pat demonstrate a huge lack of knowledge, he conducted awkward interviews as well. Brett Haber and Andrew Catalon did very well on the play-by-play and I liked Rennae Stubbs to want her to return in Rio. Justin Gimelstob was a weak link in the crew. I’d replace him with ESPN’s Darren Cahill or have John McEnroe call more matches.
TRACK & FIELD — There’s not much I would replace here. Tom Hammond is about as classy an announcer as you will find. Ato Boldon has become a very strong analyst. And NBC has brought back Craig Masback, long a staple of track coverage in the 1980′s and 1990′s. But for 2016, I think Lolo Jones would make for a good studio analyst. And Michael Johnson who has been on the last few Olympics for the BBC would work well too. Having Bob host Primetime from the Athletics venue would be a nice change of pace from being in the studio. And he could mix it up with Lolo and Michael.
Those are my suggestions. If you have some of your own, put them in the comments below.
Let’s provide a few sports media thoughts on this Sunday. They’ll be in bullet form.
- Last Thursday’s release of Louis Freeh’s report on Penn State University’s conduct in the Jerry Sandusky scandal was the sports media’s version of the Obamacare Supreme Court decision. Unlike the Obamacare decision, no media outlet made errors in reporting. But there were a couple of errors in judgment in the aftermath.
First was allowing Matt Millen to go solo on SportsCenter to spout freely to defend Joe Paterno and his legacy. ESPN should have had one of its legal experts like Roger Cossack to discuss the contents of the reports. To let Millen go on to defend Paterno right after the report’s release was irresponsible. If ESPN was going to have Millen on, it needed to have an opposing viewpoint accompany him. Bad decision by ESPN.
Second was crackpot Bill James originally stating on his own site and then again on ESPN Radio’s Doug Gottlieb Show on Saturday that the Freeh Report had somehow exonerated Paterno. James currently works for the Boston Red Sox in an advisory role and while he did not make those statements representing the team, they have a conundrum knowing that the calls for James’ firing have already begun. Someone should have corralled James before he went on ESPN Radio and embarrassed himself. How James could believe the report that report exonerated Paterno is beyond belief. The Red Sox will have to take action on James. And no, this is not a First Amendment issue. Under an organization’s employe, that organization can fire someone for actions or statements it deems offensive or contrary to its values.
The Paterno story and its effects on Penn State will be going for a while, I’m afraid.
- I’m a fan of HBO’s boxing coverage from Jim Lampley to Larry Merchant, Emanuel Steward and Harold Lederman, but when it comes to Max Kellerman, the man is abrasive, obnoxious and a charlatan. Often, he repeats what Jim Lampley has already said. Larry Merchant is much better in the third analyst role. How Kellerman has worked for ESPN, Fox Sports Net and HBO is beyond me.
- After watching a few MLS and US Soccer games on NBC Sports Network, I’ve become a fan of how Arlo White and Kyle Martino call contests. With White in the traditional commentary box and Martino down on the field, the two have very good chemistry. I look forward to having them call Olympic Soccer in the UK at the end of this month.
- If I’m on a baseball team playing on a Fox Saturday Baseball game that’s being called by Kenny Albert, I’m calling in sick. In 2010, Kenny called two marathon games, a 20 inning affair between the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals and a 13 inning contest between the Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers. Then on Saturday, Kenny had another 13 inning game, this time between Detroit and Baltimore. Kenny is truly a baseball Marathon Man.
That will conclude the thoughts for today.
I’m not going to go too wild on this. Other sites are doing similar posts as well.
I’ll provide what I feel are the best calls in Sports Broadcasting this year. The only way to do this is to post videos and that’s what I’ll do. I know I said Best and Worst earlier, but the search is taking too long. We’ll provide the best calls in 2011.
We’ll go sport-by-sport and you can either agree or disagree.
Dan Shulman, ESPN Radio — Game 6, World Series, David Freese Walk-off home run
Gary Thorne, MLB International — Same as above. Two great calls of the same moment.
Larry Merchant vs. Floyd Mayweather, HBO Pay Per View — Floyd cursed out Larry and then Larry had the comeback of the year.
Gus Johnson, CBS Sports — Pac-10 Championship, Isiah Thomas hits the game-winning shot. “COLD BLOODED!”
Joe Tessitore, ESPN — “TOUCHDOWN! THEY DID IT!!” Iowa State upsets Oklahoma State knocking the Cowboys out of the BCS.
Joe Tessitore, ESPN on ABC — “Iowa State, USC and Baylor just made a mess of the BCS.” Baylor upsets Oklahoma less than 24 hours later and Joe Tessitore was there.
Dan Hicks, Johnny Miller and the Golf Channel on NBC crew — The 72nd hole for Rory McIlroy as he wins the US Open at Congressional. Great job by Dan and Johnny as they describe Rory McIlroy winning his first major championship.
Larry Collmus, NBC — The 137th Kentucky Derby. It marked Larry’s first race for NBC as he replaced Tom Durkin who left in 2010. And he got a huge upset as Animal Kingdom won the race.
Jack Edwards Calls of the Year
Living in New England and having access to NESN and Jack Edwards is the gift that keeps on giving. He was in rare form in 2011. We begin with Jack mocking Chad LaRose of the Carolina Hurricanes with a “Yapping, yapping, yapping all the way to the box.” Classic Jack.
“GET UP!” In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Roman Hamrlik of the Montreal Canadiens went down and Jack decided to yell at him.
In Game 7, Hamrlik went down again, but the Bruins went on to score and Jack decided to rub it in.
And after the B’s closed out the Habs, Jack decided to make some puzzling final comments about royalty and having fun. Eight months later, I’m still trying to figure them out.
Mike Emrick, Versus — Tim Thomas makes a tremendous save in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Women’s World Cup
Ian Darke, ESPN — “ABBY WAMBACH HAS SAVED THE USA’S LIFE IN THIS WOMEN’S WORLD CUP!” Ian Darke had a tremendous call of the goal that tied Brazil in extra time in the quarterfinals.
And that will do it for us.
Doing some Sunday links for you.
Mike McCarthy at USA Today says ESPN’s golf analyst Paul Azinger is at it again, this time tweeting about the SEC on CBS crew. Azinger was disciplined for violating ESPN’s social media policy last August by tweeting about President Obama.
R. Thomas Umstead of Multichannel News writes that the controversial ending to last night’s Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz fight keeps hope alive for a Mayweather-Manny Pacquaio mega pay per view bout down the line.
Mike Reynolds of Multichannel says Time Warner Cable and ESPN Deportes will team up for a marketing campaign.
If you haven’t seen the contentious postfight interview between Floyd Mayweather and HBO’s Larry Merchant, Glenn Davis at SportsGrid has it. Merchant’s retort to Mayweather’s smackdown of Larry is classic.
Timothy Burke at the Mocksession site has one of the funniest network graphics typos you’ll ever see. FX was the culprit last night.
Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com writes about Minnesota Twins radio broadcaster John Gordon’s decision to retire at the end of this season.
Ben Koo of Awful Announcing says A’s TV analyst Ray Fosse doesn’t seem to be too enthused about the upcoming “Moneyball” movie.
The New York Post’s Phil Mushnick prefers the NFL play 12 weeks, have all games at 10 a.m. and air the games in black & white.
Joseph Barracato of the Post says ESPN’s Monday Night Football megadeal may put cable bills out of reach for some.
The Albany Times-Union says a well-known local sports radio host is out as of Friday.
Pete Dougherty of the Albany Times-Union talks with the host.
Ken Schott of the Schenectady Gazette also writes about the host’s sudden ouster.
Alan J. Heavens of the Philadelphia Inquirer has an obituary of veterans radio sports reporter Jack O’Rourke.
Jim Williams of the Washington Examiner talks with a Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic producer about the channel’s busy day producing a Ravens and a DC NFL team postgame simultaneously to Baltimore and Washington, respectively.
The West Virginia Metro News reports that next Saturday’s LSU-West Virginia will be a primetime game on ABC and bring College GameDay into Morgantown.
Bob Ferrante of The Lakeland (FL) Ledger notes that ESPN’s Lee Corso came home to Florida State yesterday.
Jeff Barlis of the Gainesville (FL) Sun writes that Sun Sports is using Florida’s radio voices for the channel’s Sunday game replays over their long-time TV announcers.
Tom Jones of the St. Petersburg Times praises ESPN’s Trent Dilfer for his work on the late Monday Night Football game last week.
Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel writes that College GameDay brought Florida State back into the college football spotlight again.
Rick Cantu of the Austin (TX) American-Statesman notes the increasing audience for high school football games on TV.
Mel Bracht of the Daily Oklahoman writes that Cox is offering on-demand channels for Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa.
Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has Fox’s Jim Mora, Jr. saying TV is nothing like coaching.
Bob says Fox chose the wrong moment to promote its programming during yesterday’s Rays-Red Sox game.
Bill Shakin of the Los Angeles Times writes that the Dodgers are now trying to sell their TV rights pending bankruptcy court approval.
Steve Lepore of Puck The Media has the combined US and Canada national TV NHL preseason schedule.
Joe Favorito has some thoughts on the always changing uniform landscape.
And that will do it.
I received two particular press releases of interest in my inbox today. Neither have anything to do with one another, this is just one way for me to clear out some of my e-mail and also provide you with some information.
First, NBC says last Sunday’s Cowboys-Packers game was the second most watched game since NBC got the rights to Sunday Night Football.
COWBOYS-PACKERS IS SECOND MOST VIEWED “SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL” GAME IN HISTORY
“NBC Sunday Night Football” No. 1 Show For 3rd Consecutive Week Easily Defeating the Primetime Emmy Awards by 80 Percent
22.2 Million Viewers, 13.3/21 Rating Show Significant Year-to-Year Gains
NEW YORK – September 23, 2008 - The Dallas Cowboys 27-16 victory over the Green Bay Packers on "NBC Sunday Night Football," drew 22.2 million viewers and stands as the second most watched Sunday Night game in NBC's two-plus year history of SNF, trailing only the much-hyped "Manning Bowl" on the first Sunday of the 2006 season (22.6 million), according to data provided by Nielsen Media Research.
Sunday night's 22.2 million viewers represents a 17 percent gain over the comparable week in 2007 (Cowboys-Bears, 19.0 million on 9/23/07) and posted a household rating of 13.3 and a 21 share, a gain of 13 percent over the Cowboys-Bears game (11.8/19).
"Sunday Night Football" easily won the night defeating the Primetime Emmy Awards broadcast on ABC by 80 percent in viewers (22.2 million to 12.3 million) and 62 percent among households (13.3/21 vs. 8.2/13). SNF ranks No. 1 among primetime programs for the week of September 15-21 among households, average viewers and other key ratings categories, marking the third consecutive week SNF has ranked No. 1.
MOST WATCHED GAMES IN SNF HISTORY:
1) Colts-Giants, 9/7/06, 22.6 million
2) Cowboys-Packers, 9/21/08, 22.2 million
3) Colts-Patriots, 11/5/06, 21.9 million
4) Eagles-Patriots, 11/25/07, 21.8 million
5) Saints-Cowboys, 12/10/06, 19.9 million
And HBO’s World Championship Boxing returns this Saturday as Sugar Shane Mosley takes on Ricardo Mayorga in a Jr. Middleweight fight.
HBO SPORTS SHOWCASES WORLD-CLASS FIGHTERS WHEN
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING®: SHANE MOSLEY VS. RICARDO MAYORGA
AND ANDRE BERTO VS. STEVE FORBES
IS SEEN LIVE SATURDAY, SEPT. 27 ON HBO
will fly when HBO Sports spotlights world-class performers on WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING: SHANE MOSLEY VS. RICARDO MAYORGA AND ANDRE BERTO VS. STEVE FORBES, presented live SATURDAY, SEPT. 27 (10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT) from The Home Depot Center in Sparks , exclusively on HBO. The WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING team will be ringside for the event, which will be presented in HDTV and in Spanish on HBO Latino. Carson, Cal.
Expect a September heat wave when former lightweight, welterweight and junior middleweight champion “Sugar” Shane Mosley (44-5, 37 KOs) stands toe-to-toe with Ricardo “El Matador” Mayorga (28-6-1, 22
KOs), one of boxing’s most animated fighters, in a 12-round junior middleweight bout. In his first fight in Southern California since 2000, , native Mosley returns to the ring in search of another title shot. A native of Pomona, Cal. , Mayorga hasn’t fought since handling Fernando Vargas last November. He’s never ducked a challenge, having tangled with Vernon Forrest, Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya. Managua, Nicaragua
In the opening bout, newly crowned welterweight titleholder Andre Berto (22-0, 19 KOs) defends his belt against crafty veteran Steve Forbes (33-6, 9
KOs) in a 12-round, 147-pound tilt. native Berto captured his first title by defeating never-before KO’d Miki Rodriguez in June, scoring his 19th knockout in just 22 fights. Florida resident Forbes is a formidable contender who elevated his status significantly last May when he went the distance against Oscar De La Hoya. Las Vegas
Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Emanuel Steward will have the call this Saturday. Keeping Max Kellerman off my TV is a very good thing.
So there you have it. Ratings news on Sunday Night Football and the latest on HBO’s World Championship Boxing. I read the press releases so you don’t have to.
Time to check out some updates from today. First, I’ve been checking ESPN2′s Wimbledon coverage through it’s broadband service, ESPN360 (only available through participating Internet Service Providers). Like the French Open, the first day has been plagued by rain. Unlike the Tennis Channel, which had to rely heavily on tapes of old matches, ESPN2 didn’t go to the video of a 27 year old match until 6 hours into Day 1.
ESPN2 did have some matches to show. The network relied on studio host Chris Fowler doing play-by-play at first with studio analysts Mary Carillo and Darren Cahill along side, bouncing from court to court. Viewers were able to see Roger Federer and Andy Roddick complete their matches. Eventually, Cliff Drysdale and Mary Jo Fernandez were brought in to do a match featuring Serena Williams, however, rains came in the first set. As of this writing, the Alleged Worldwide Leader is showing the 1980 Final between John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg, but there’s only so much you can do with rain delay filler during present times. And since ESPN did not have the rights to Wimbledon in 1980, its relying on an archive tape from the BBC. The retractable roof at Wimbledon is coming not a moment too soon.
On to some links. Kurt Snyder of the Newark Advocate has a story on the Big Ten Network. He wonders if cable will eventually cave to carrying the channel. One error that I’ve noticed in this story. Snyder says the Big Ten Network has signed with DirecTV. He tries to tie them together as he says Rupert Murdoch owns both. That’s not true. Murdoch sold DirecTV to Liberty Media Corporation in exchange for more control of News Corp. of which Liberty owned a large stake.
Brian Vanotchen of the Grand Rapids Press applauds Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney for taking on the big cable companies on behalf of sports fans. I don’t know about that. Getting the Big Ten Network on the big cable companies means more revenue for the Conference. It’s all about money these days. Remember, most of the games that are going on the channel had been syndicated by ESPN Regional Television to over the air channels and various Regional Sports Networks so many fans that were getting these games for free will have to pay for them no matter what.
Can you believe Arrogant ESPN is going to put the World Series of Poker on pay per view?
Phil Swann who runs a website devoted to HDTV news says you won’t be able to see Wimbledon in Hi Def unless you live in the UK.
Thomas Hauser writes a very good article for boxing website, Seconds Out, and the focus is on the contentious contract talks between HBO and Larry Merchant. At one point, Merchant was resigned to leaving the network which had been his home over almost 30 years. When word leaked that Merchant was being replaced by charlatan Max Kellerman, HBO backtracked and signed Larry. Merchant and Kellerman will alternate World Championship Boxing bouts under the new deal. But having Kellerman on the telecasts brings a college radio feel. All Kellerman does is yell and talk for no good reason. HBO made a bad move in signing Kellerman.
The Sports Media Watch blog has three quick hits today, including news that the Tennis Channel picks up some Wimbledon coverage next year. That means it’ll have the Australian, French and Wimbledon Grand Slams in its fold. Tennis Channel owns the rights to the French outright, but will have sublease agreements from ESPN for the Aussie and Wimbledon tournaments. And there’s no news to report on the NBA TV deal today.
That’s it for now. I’ll have primetime viewing choices later.
Nice to have a weekend free of Paris Hilton news. And as I was ramping up for the finale of The Sopranos, I stayed away from the computer for the most part. One place I do endorse is Wright’s Farm in northern Rhode Island. Great all you can eat chicken as well as pasta, french fries and salad. Went there with a bunch of friends Saturday night and the eating was excellent. Totally enjoyed the evening.
And I left my radio on WEEI-FM so I had to listen to John Dennis of Dennis & Callahan scream about The Sopranos finale. I don’t need to hear yelling at 6 a.m. so I turned the station to WBRU and thankfully, there was music and no talk of the finale. And when I last tuned to the station before I came to work, I heard Dennis talking about the show. Come on, guy, four hours talking about a TV show is a bit much.
Ok, let’s do the weekend sports links first, then we’ll move onto the links about The Sopranos.
USA Today’s Michael Hiestand has a few bits and pieces today. His most noticeable story was on ESPN having people vote for various athletes. Hiestand writes:
The point, says (ESPN senior coordinating producer Glenn) Jacobs, is to select 32 famous active athletes, seed them and put them in tournament-like brackets. Each day, one will be eliminated — based on verdicts from ESPN judges and viewer voting online and via text messages — in head-to-head matchups. The last one left will be deemed the “Ultimate Sports Star.”
This sounds like more Arrogant ESPN to me. Will anyone care? And Hiestand notes that HBO’s Larry Merchant has signed a new deal, but won’t be working every big fight for the network. Charlatan Max Kellerman will work in his place on some fights and those telecasts will be ones to miss.
Richard Sandomir of the New York Times notices that teams and stadium owners have been moving press boxes to locations where reporters can barely see the action. A lot of that has been for financial reasons.
From his Sunday column, Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News writes that the search for Don Imus’ successor has been a failure and CBS Radio should bite the bullet and invite him back. No.
In his blog in Newsday, Neil Best has his take on The Sopranos finale.
John Altavilla of the Hartford Courant discusses ESPN’s attempt to save the UConn-Tennessee women’s college basketball series. The two schools had been playing every year since 1995, but for some unknown reason, Tennessee ended the series last week.
You knew when the Big Ten announced plans for a cable channel of its own, other conferences would follow suit. Now comes word that the SEC is making plans for its own channel.
Steve Simmons of the Edmonton Sun wonders why the ratings for sporting events other than the NFL are going down.
Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has one more story on the NHL ratings.
Alan Pergament of the Buffalo News says the NBA is not burning up TV sets in his city.
Brian Vanochten of the Grand Rapids Press has his take on the NFL Broadcast Boot Camp which takes place this month.
Now your Sopranos links. They’re pretty brutal for the most part.
Linda Stasi of the New York Post gave the finale three out of four stars, but calls the last scene, “disappointing”.
The New York Daily News’ David Bianculli says he could be angrier at the finale, but isn’t. Nonetheless, he’s still disappointed.
In the Boston Herald, Mark Perigard calls the last episode “the worst series finale ever.” Get a life, Mark.
But the crosstown Globe’s Matthew Gilbert says the finale was thought provoking.
Members of the cast were at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Florida watching the final episode.
While other cast members were at the HBO HQ’s in New York where TV Guide caught up with them.
Robert Bianco of USA Today says series Executive Producer David Chase ended the show his way.
And that’s it for now.
Giving you a few more bits of news today.
First, the fine blog, Sports Media Watch looks behind the poor ratings of the NHL for Games 1, 2 and 3 and what programs finished ahead of them. Saturday night’s ratings for NBC were very bad as you’re aware by now.
Newsday’s Neil Best says Chris Russo of WFAN has debuted a new feature today on NBCSports.com called “Sidelines”. Best notes that Russo waves his arms a lot on camera and it’s true. I think Mad Dog will told to stop that eventually.
How nice of NBC (sarcasm). They’re going to allow blogs like this one post video clips of news and sports programs.
The positive reviews keep coming in for HBO’s documentary on Barbaro. Here’s one from the Orlando Sentinel.
HBO’s boxing curmudgeon, Larry Merchant is without a contract, but apparently is trying to come to terms with the pay channel. According to Dan Raphael of ESPN.com, it’s a two year contract with options for more.
The nuts campaign to CBS may have paid off. For those of you who aren’t fans of Jericho, fans of the show sent 25 million tons of nuts to CBS to protest the cancellation of the show. And the Hollywood Reporter reports the campaign may lead to bringing the show back for 7-8 shows next season. The network is working out details with some of the cast, writers and show staff. An announcement is expected sometime today and that is good news. I’m a big fan of the show and enjoyed watching it last season. I’m hoping to get a resolution of the storylines that were told very well.
That’s it for now.
The sports weekend was quite busy. We had the Kentucky Derby, NHL and NBA Playoffs, Roger Clemens returning, the Wachovia Championships and the Oscar De La Hoya-Roger Mayweather, Jr. fight.
The Kentucky Derby on NBC
The Queen made it to Louisville to see her first, and probably last, Derby. NBC milked her appearance with shots of Queen Elizabeth entering a luxury box and various cutaways of her watching the action. There were many stories to tug on your heartstrings plus features galore on the horses. But that’s the NBC formula. Lots of storytelling, features to bring the casual viewer in and lots of shots of the crowd. The show was dragged out to two and a half hours as NBC went 30 minutes longer than advertised, running the show until 7 p.m. ET. Once the race was run, NBC did a very good job in giving us replays of the race with blimp shots, isolated replays and analysis. I give Tom Hammond some kudos for saying a bonus from Yum! Brands for the horse and jockey breaking Barbaro’s 6.5 lengths margin of victory last year was sending the wrong message. Yum! sponsored NBC’s telecast. Overall, I give NBC a B for this year’s Kentucky Derby.
Wachovia Championship on CBS
CBS and golf go hand-in-hand. You have an announcing crew led by Jim Nantz, production crew led by Lance Barrow and combined, this leads to one of the better sports telecasts on TV. The pictures of the last round where Tiger Woods was coming down the stretch to victory were excellent. CBS is the best golf network. NBC is ok and Johnny Miller is one of the best analysts, but as far as pictures, humor and guys who know their sport, CBS is the best. For the last round, CBS gets an A for their golf coverage this weekend.
De La Hoya-Mayweather on HBO PPV
Boxing is HBO’s sport. Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Emmanuel Steward all work well together. I joined this fight in the 7th round after being out all night. At that point, the fight was pretty close. About the 8th round, Oscar stopped using his left jab and Mayweather gained control of the fight. Lampley, Merchant and Steward were right on top of the action and the cameras were as well. The buy at $54.95 was expensive, but for some, it was worth it. I’ll give HBO an A for its coverage.
Yankees-Seattle on Fox
Fox does a decent job on baseball, but even with a compelling story of Chien Ming Wang throwing a perfect game, somehow the network dropped the ball. You have a pitcher on the verge of history, but Joe Buck and Tim McCarver didn’t pick up the story until the 6th inning. Yes, they would say, “Wang is perfect through 4″ or “He’s perfect through 5″, but not really picking up on the trend. Instead, they talked about the weather, whether Clemens would return or the upcoming NASCAR race on Fox. What about the game? For this, Fox gets an F.
Tonight’s Primetime Viewing
24 – Fox, 9 p.m.
Recovering after being out for a day.
A few things for today.
Against my better judgment, I bought the De La Hoya-Mayweather fight from DirecTV. I joined in the 7th round. It turned out to be a better fight than I expected. But also, I wanted to see what may be one of the last HBO assignments for Larry Merchant. On Friday, I linked to Bob Raissmann’s article in the New York Daily News regarding Merchant’s contract talks with HBO. While Merchant doesn’t have the command he once did, he still was able to hold his own with Emmanuel Steward and Jim Lampley. On the technical side, HBO’s camera work was solid and Lampley’s call showed why he’s still one of the best ever at boxing play-by-play along with Howard Cosell. My only complaint was that DirecTV on its own, ended the PPV while Merchant was interviewing De La Hoya. Lampley had not signed off. Apparently, one overeager technician at DirecTV decided to end everyone’s viewing of the night on his/her own. Thanks a lot, jerk.
I’m going to miss not having the Atlanta Braves on TBS next season. It’s nice to have the option on a Sunday or any summer day to switch to TBS and have the Braves on. Back in the 1980′s, Ted Turner decided to put his Braves on his Superstation for programming. At one point, TBS cablecast 150 Braves games. Skip Carey, Pete Van Wieren, Joe Simpson and Don Sutton have all been welcomed into the nation’s cable homes. Of the MLB teams that have national followings, you can put the Braves into that category. It’s obvious that the Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs all have national followings. Thanks to Superstation TBS, the Braves do as well. But with its new TV contract to cover the entire League Division Series and one League Championship Series each year for the next six years, TBS will drop the Braves next season in favor of carrying 26 Sunday afternoon games involving the entire MLB. The Braves will go to Fox Sports South exclusively next season and that’s too bad. The only way to follow the Braves nationally will be through the sporadic ESPN, Fox and yes, TBS pick ups. Unless you have MLB.TV through the internet or the Extra Innings package on cable or DirecTV, you won’t be able to see the Braves on a day-to-day basis. So if you’re watching the Braves on TBS this season, get ready to find another way to watch them next season.
The Sports Emmy Awards were handed out last week. NBC won 9 awards including Outstanding Live Sports Series for its NASCAR coverage, Outstanding Play-by-play for Al Michaels’ call of Sunday Night Football and Technical Achievement for the XX Winter Olympic Games in Italy. HBO won obligatory awards for journalism (Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel), ESPN had eight awards (I’m including four for its ABC Sports division which unfortunately was swallowed up before last year’s college football season). The entire list is here.
As a regular viewer of Red Sox baseball on NESN, I must say their broadcasts have improved drastically since the John Henry ownership took over the team and the network. Some of their ideas have not worked including having a rotation of studio analysts for their pre-game shows. Dennis Eckersley is the best. Bob Tewksbury wasn’t bad. Sam Horn was just plain awful. This season, NESN has added Ken Macha, the former Oakland A’s manager, and from what I’ve seen, he shows promise. His first two days on Friday and Saturday were with Jim Rice. Today, he’s flying solo. Ken was dry on Friday, but he makes good points and gives a manager’s perspective, something the others, all former players cannot. Since it’s his first weekend of work, I won’t totally review him until he has at least 10-20 games under his belt, but so far, he’s pretty decent.
We’ll have some links on Monday. I might return later today if there’s something of note. Oh, I will return with my thoughts on The Amazing Race finale. I know who wins, but I want to see how the team wins.
As I enjoy listening to 1st Wave on Sirius.com, time to give you some media columns from across the country. Let’s go from East to West shall we?
First, from the New York Times, Richard Sandomir profiles the Voice of HBO Sports documentaries, the smooth Liev Schreiber who has narrated more than 30 for the pay cable network. Over to the Times’ crosstown rival, the New York Daily News where Bob Raissman has some harsh words for HBO. Not for their documentaries, but for not coming to terms with long-time boxing analyst Larry Merchant. There are rumors abound that HBO wants to replace Merchant with charlatan Max Kellerman. While Larry may have lost a bit on his fastball over the years, he has forgotten more boxing than Kellerman will ever know. Does anyone remember, I Max on Fox Sports Net? I didn’t think so.
The New York Post has a plethora of media stories on Fridays. Pat Reichart has three stories. First has him asking 5 questions to Jim Lampley about the Floyd Mayerweather-Oscar De La Hoya fight tomorrow. The second story is more of a general media column, but the main focus is on Mike & Mike of ESPN Radio gaining momentum in NYC. Reichart’s third story deals with the Kentucky Derby, also this Saturday. Gary Stevens is doing work for NBC this weekend and Reichart asks him what to watch for in this year’s edition of the Run for the Roses.
Newsday’s Neil Best asks if the sales for the De La Hoya-Mayerweather PPV bout will match the hype.
Jim Williams of the Baltimore Examiner usually has good stuff in his columns. He’s one writer who has actually worked in TV so he knows of what he speaks. Williams writes about the NBC documentary on Barbaro who passed away last year. Some skeptics wonder what the fuss was all about when Barbaro died, but to many who follow the horses, he was something special. He also has a preview of what NBC has in store for viewers for the Derby including a Red Carpet show. Whatever. Finally, Williams also has a story on Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder wanting to increase the signal on his radio stations.
Susan Bickelhaupt of the Boston Globe also has a story on NBC’s coverage of Saturday’s Derby.
Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune gives his picks for weekend viewing.
Down to Texas and the Houston Chronicle, David Barron has a breakdown of the ratings for the Houston sports radio stations from the Winter Arbitron book.
Out west, Larry Stewart of the LA Times also wonders with Newsday’s Neil Best if the action in the De La Hoya-Mayerweather fight can match the hype. And Stewart has his news and notes column which includes a preview of the Derby on NBC.
And from Toronto, Chris Zelkovich of the Star writes about the innovation to put a small camera in the net for hockey telecasts. As puckheads will tell you, that innovation along with the overhead cameras at the goal line have done nothing but to enhance the broadcasts as well as give officials an extra tool to determine goals. I haven’t thought about it, but Zelkovich notes that the netcam first made its appearance in the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. Can’t believe it’s been 13 years since its inception.
If there’s anything to add, I’ll update the blog, but that appears to be it for now.