Year In Review
Time to review 2008 and the Year in Sports Media. It was a very significant year seeing how ESPN’s spending spree started and has no end in sight. We saw how the Olympics can still generate massive viewership. The NFL remains the 800 lb. ratings gorilla. Tiger Woods showed how he can garner ratings, but also how he can make the ratings dip when he’s not involved in tournaments. Major League Baseball had a down year, but the NBA and the NHL saw upticks which bring optimism to both leagues. And there were various stories and incidents that gave the blogosphere plenty to talk about. Let’s begin.
The year began with the NHL’s experiment, the Winter Classic in Buffalo. Both CBC and NBC broadcast the game between Pittsburgh and Buffalo and thanks to snow and the outdoor setting, ratings were higher than projected.
The Bowl Championship Series failed to capture the imagination of the American public finishing down from the previous year.
There were two incidents in January that got major buzz early in the year. First, Kelly Tilghman of Golf Channel made an unfortunate comment about Tiger Woods that got her suspended for two weeks. Just when the controversy appeared to be dying down, Golfweek magazine stirred the pot by publishing an issue with a noose on the cover. That got the editor fired and plenty of scorn from PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem. Upon her return, Kelly apologized and the earth continued spinning on its axis.
The other incident was the roast of ESPN Radio personalities Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic in Atlantic City, NJ. Fellow ESPNer Dana Jacobsen made the bad decision to get drunk at the event, offended Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis and got suspended in the process.
Quietly in January, the NHL renewed its cable deal with Versus, but it did not quiet speculation that ESPN would seek the rights to the NHL down the line.
Two Red Sox broadcasting moves occured in January. In the middle of the month, radio hack Glenn Geffner left the Red Sox and signed with the Florida Marlins ending a one year failed experiment. At the end of the month, popular NESN Red Sox sideline reporter Tina Cervasio left and she later surfaced on MSG Network in New York.
As January ended, the NFL headed to the Super Bowl and the Patriots’ failed bid for a perfect season, media day in Phoenix had its usual craziness including a reporter asking Tom Brady and Eli Manning to marry her.
The month began with Super XLII in Phoenix and the Giants upsetting the Patriots, 17-14, the ads were not stellar, but those featuring animals did well, in fact according to USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter, the top four ranked ads had animal themes. Thanks to the history on the line, Super Bowl XLII ended up being the most watched Super Bowl ever. This would become a theme for sports viewing for the rest of 2008.
In the middle of the month, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee called disgraced Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens and his former trainer, Paul McNamee to testify in what was no more than a dog and pony show. The hearings accomplished nothing, but they did seem to expose Clemens as a liar while the questioning seemed to be split down party lines with the Democrats supporting McNamee and the Republicans supporting Clemens. Bryant Gumbel tackled Clemens’ testimony in his commentary on Real Sports:
In February, someone started posting videos on YouTube of Chris Berman from his time doing the Monday Night Football halftime shows from the ESPN Zone in Baltimore. They became quite the rage as videos were being released almost daily. Eventually, ESPN forced YouTube to take them down, but Deadspin managed to save them all and posted them at its site.
Also in February, Dick Vitale returned to ESPN after taking two months off for throat surgery to remove polyps.
Fox was happy over its Daytona 500 ratings.
And legendary Pittsburgh sportswriter and Steelers analyst Myron Cope passed away in February.
Fang’s Bites conducted its first ever interview with People’s Court reporter Curt Chaplin who called the famous USA-USSR hockey game in the 1980 Olympics and gave us an alternative version to Al Michaels’ call. I think it turned out quite well.
As we started to turn our attention to March Madness, Brett Favre became a major annoyance in 2008. He retired from the Green Bay Packers causing ESPN to go overboard on its coverage. Unfortunately, it would not be the last time we would hear from Brett.
A tornado interrupted the SEC Tournament at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta forcing a delay in the Mississippi State-Alabama quarterfinal and postponing the Kentucky-Georgia quarter until the following day, making the SEC Tournament move to Georgia Tech to finish out the weekend. In addition, the SEC Championship moved to a later time making CBS outsource the game to ESPN2.
CBS put the entire NCAA Tournament online and there were initial glitches, but they were eventually worked out. Craig Bolerjack annoyed this blogger to no end during the first day of the tournament. Neil Best’s Cornell team was in the tournament, but was a one-and-doner.
In March, the Department of Justice approved the merger of the Sirius and XM satellite radio companies, bringing together two money-losing entities and making sports fans happy to combine NFL, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, BCS and English Premier League soccer into one radio receiver.
As the Boston Red Sox and Oakland A’s opened the Major League Baseball season in Japan, DirecTV had an outage affecting the two channels carrying the game in New England, ESPN2 and NESN. Comcast customers in Western Massachusetts also experienced problems. By the time outage was fixed, there was no explanation and DirecTV executives were hiding under their desks. By the time, DirecTV released a statement, it was not sufficient to appease fans who missed the game.
In anticipation of the baseball season, Fang’s Bites talked with TBS/TNT’s Beau Estes.
We learned ESPN’s Suzy Kolber gave birth to a baby boy.
Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch unveiled the identity of the man behind the great blog, The Big Lead.
At the Final Four, CBS’ Billy Packer declared the Kansas-North Carolina game over in the first half angering fans watching across the country and perhaps quickening his exit from the netwok.
In a move that was welcomed by baseball fans, DirecTV expanded its channel capacity for the MLB Extra Innings package allowing both home and away broadcasts.
In what would be a trend throughout 2008, Jackie MacMullen accepted a buyout from the Boston Globe and left the newspaper.
CBS-owned TV stations across the country began laying off employees and that included long-time sports anchor at Boston’s WBZ-TV Bob Lobel. Mark Malone of WBBM in Chicago was also let go. Throughout the year, we learned of buyouts, layoffs, firings and early retirements by reporters at newspapers and TV stations across the country. And as the economy worsened, there seemed to be no end to the bloodletting.
Bryant Gumbel announced that he was giving up his play-by-play gig with the NFL Network.
ESPN signed a contract extension to air the Championships Wimbledon through 2013. This would be a sign of things to come for the Alleged Worldwide Leader.
ESPN also began airing the first two rounds of The Masters and also brought the Par 3 contest to American viewers for the first time. Several media writers were worried that Chris Berman would be part of the broadcast, but Mike Tirico was the only ESPN staffer to be seen on air.
NESN hired Heidi Watney to replace Tina Cervasio as Red Sox sideline reporter.
April also brought us the shocking death of MLB analyst John Marzano.
The Sports Emmy Awards were handed out.
But the month ended with author Buzz Bissinger attacking former Deadspin editor Will Leitch on a live edition of HBO’s Costas Now.
On the same day in the same city, the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Blackhawks shook up their announcing teams.
During TNT’s NBA coverage, Ernie Johnson, Jr. played a practical joke on Charles Barkley and it led to TV magic.
HBO announced a new edition of its NFL reality series, Hard Knocks.
HBO’s Real Sports got an interview with former Patriots videographer Matt Walsh.
The Boston Herald’s John Tomase gave a weak apology in regards to his erroneous report on Spygate.
Mark Madden of Pittsburgh sports radio station 1250 ESPN was fired after making a joke about Ted Kennedy’s brain cancer.
CBS began the first of four mixed martial arts Elite XC broadcasts.
We learned about the death of legendary ABC’s Wide World of Sports host Jim McKay who pioneered the role of Olympics host. Bob Costas paid tribute.
In addition to the passing of McKay and Jones, NBC’s Tim Russert died suddenly.
In a shock to all Canadian hockey fans, CTV purchased the rights to the Hockey Theme in perpetuity taking what was the open to Hockey Night in Canada away from CBC.
Inside the NFL officially moved to Showtime.
New England sports fans were saddened by the move by NESN not to renew the contract of Hazel Mae.
The Stanley Cup Finals did well on NBC.
The NBA Finals ended up being 50% higher in the ratings from the previous year.
A playoff at the US Open gave NBC impressive ratings as Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate battled to a 19th hole.
The Big Ten Network reached a deal with Comcast leading to a domino effect with Big Cable companies throughout the Midwest.
NBC Sports and Notre Dame signed a new five year agreement in June.
Michael Strahan joined Fox NFL Sunday.
The NFL Network announced that Bob Papa would be its new play-by-play man.
ESPN brought soccer fans a treat by providing coverage of Euro 2008, but a thunderstorm knocked out transmission of the Germany-Turkey game leaving fans around the world in the dark. But the Euro 2008 final brought good ratings to ABC.
Will Leitch announced that he was leaving Deadspin for a job in …. gulp! Mainstream media!!
Fox Sports’ Joe Buck said he was making a joke, but instead, his statements that he didn’t watch sports and no longer enjoyed broadcasting baseball brought him plenty of grief. Buck said he preferred watching episodes of “The Bachelorette” over baseball. It led to plenty of reaction from blogs aplenty.
An epic Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal led to excellent ratings for NBC.
After completing a non-compete clause, Dan Patrick was free to join NBC and Football Night in America to reunite with pal Keith Olbermann.
July also marked the unfortunate passing of YES analyst and former Yankees center fielder Bobby Mercer.
Former Boston Herald writer Michael Felger announced that he was leaving 890 ESPN to join WEEI.com and also become a part-time host for the station.
Whether it was on his own or CBS forced him out, Billy Packer announced that he would no longer broadcast college basketball.
NBC announced a cast of thousands to broadcast the Olympics in Communist China.
Four months after the Department of Justice approved it, the FCC finally gave its thumbs up to the Sirius-XM merger.
Early on July 26 or late on July 25, depending on your time zone, news broke that NBC and the NFL were going to stream Sunday Night Football online for free. It was part of a summer that saw many events going online for viewing.
Without Tiger Woods, the ratings for the Open Championship fell 15%.
ESPN drew big numbers for the MLB Home Run Derby, while Fox got a split decision for an extended All Star Game at Yankee Stadium.
The month began with the sad passing of Atlanta Braves broadcaster Skip Carey.
And as the Olympics in Communist China got underway, the Opening Ceremonies drew record ratings. With swimming live in primetime in the Eastern and Central time zones, viewers flocked to watch Michael Phelps. As gymnastics events and swimming forced NBC to go into the wee morning hours, it would not break pattern for the West Coast and show events live. NBC put 2,200 hours of Olympic events online and you watched in record numbers. While the glamour events such as swimming, gymnastics, track & field and beach volleyball were kept for TV, other events were shown live and without commentary. It was enjoyable to watch. When Michael Phelps won his record 8th gold medal, NBC could coast for the rest of the Games and not suffer any decrease in its record setting numbers. When all was said and done, the 2008 Olympics became the most watched event in US history. Overall, I was pleased with NBC’s coverage. The International Olympic Committee realizing the gold mine for the Summer Games then delayed the bids for the 2014 and 2016 Olympics hoping to squeeze more money out of the American networks that will bid for them.
After returning home from the Olympics, Jay Mariotti decided to leave the Chicago Sun-Times shortly after signing a new contract saying newspapers were on their way out. His former colleague, movie critic Roger Ebert not only called out Mariotti, he called him a rat. I said back then I would nominate this as one of the stories of the year. It truly is one of the stories of 2008.
In the middle of the Olympics, the Southeastern Conference was busy hashing out agreements with its TV partners. After threatening to create an in-house SEC Network, the conference signed a 15 year deal with CBS. Eleven days later, ESPN signed a 15 year deal of its own. When details of the ESPN contract were released, we discovered that Raycom was out of the syndication business with the SEC and would take the rights of all conference football home games not shown by CBS.
Back in June, Newsday’s Neil Best stuck his neck out and wrote that WFAN’s venerable duo, Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo would split up. Both vehemently denied that would happen, but on August 14, the pair indeed went their separate ways. The following day, “Mad Dog” said goodbye and the following week, it was announced that Russo would be the first hire of the newly combined Sirius XM Satellite Radio.
On the final weekend of August, WEEI decided to part ways with hosts Craig Mustard and Larry Johnson.
It wasn’t as earth shattering as its SEC deal, but ESPN managed to get the Western Athletic Conference into a long term rights agreement.
Chris “Mad Dog” Russo announced that he would begin his new solo talk show on Sirius XM in mid-September.
USA Network signed off from the US Open for the last time after 25 years. And Tropical Storm Hanna came into New York and wreaked havoc with the weekend schedule forcing the women’s and men’s finals to be pushed forward a day. Because not all of CBS’ affiliates picked up the men’s finals, the ratings for the Roger Federer-Andy Murray match were down from the previous year.
The Los Angeles Dodgers quietly announced that Vin Scully would return for his 60th year of calling the team’s games in 2009.
Showtime began the new era of Inside the NFL with Jenn Brown’s softcore porn piece on Los Angeles football fans which included scenes from a Lingerie Football League party. I kid you not.
I talked with CNBC’s Darren Rovell about a bunch of sports business issues.
ESPN started the month by announcing the rebranding of its European channel, NASN to ESPN America.
Hockey fans were pleased to hear that NHL Network in the US would pick up CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.
While Canadian puckheads were getting used to hearing the Hockey Theme on TSN, CBC was conducting a contest to decide the new theme to Hockey Night in Canada.
John Madden was actually given a week off by NBC to rest from the travel for Sunday Night Football.
TBS was in the midst of covering the MLB Divisional Series when I noticed I was missing its online Hot Corner webcasts.
But that was the least of TBS’ problems as on October 18 just before Game 6 of the American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Tampa Bay, the channel aired “The Steve Harvey Show” to fill time before the game transmission returned. We finally received a statement from Turner Sports that two circuit breakers tripped in the main Atlanta headquarters, but that explanation was not enough to appease fans who missed the first inning.
Fox Sports got its worst case scenario with the unknown Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series facing off against Philadelphia. The five game series which included the suspension of Game 5 due to rain ended up being the lowest rated World Series ever. The ratings were not helped by the late start of Game 3 which began at 10 p.m. ET and did not end until after 1:30 a.m.
ESPN solidified its position as Alleged Worldwide Leader by purchasing the rights to the Open Championship and putting the tournament on cable instead of televising the weekend rounds on ABC. ESPN will show all four rounds live, but show highlights later in the day on ABC.
As we approached New Year’s Day, MLB Network began its public relations campaign preparing for its January 1st launch, the widest rollout of any TV channel, available to some 50 million viewers in the US only. In November, it announced its on-air lineup including Hazel Mae, formerly of NESN, Harold Reynolds and Trenni Kusnierek.
Bob Knight expanded his role on ESPN to include game analysis.
Former voice of the Cleveland Indians, Herb Score passed away in November.
ABC angered NASCAR fans by shuffling the end of its Phoenix race to ESPN2 to protect its primetime lineup.
ESPN then showed its muscle by taking the first major championship and putting it exclusively on cable, the Bowl Championship Series starting in 2011.
My new favorite “It” girl is Bridget Regan. Don’t worry, Fang’s Bites still loves Charissa Thompson.
The NFL continued to be that 800 lb. ratings gorilla as Sunday Night Football’s flex scheduling helped to give NBC great numbers.
MLB Network started a 10 day countdown to its launch and also announced that it would show Dan Larsen’s perfect game from the 1956 World Series including the original commercials.
HBO had another stirring sports documentary with “Breaking The Huddle: The Integration of College Football”.
And as we ended the year, we found out that Mike Emrick would not call the NHL Winter Classic due to laryngitis.
Overall, it was another fantasic year for sports. It was fun to cover it for you and I hope you’ll continue to visit in 2009. Happy New Year and best wishes to you.
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.