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The week that was

Playoffs, debate 'analysts,' sideline reporters highlight past seven days

Posted: Friday October 15, 2004 1:50PM; Updated: Friday October 15, 2004 2:48PM
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My colleague Scott Price has long subscribed to the belief that the lives of sportswriters are not particularly interesting. And to make up for this relative dearth of excitement and O.C.-style drama springs cartoonish descriptions of the profession on television and film. I agree with him. So I'll use the next three paragraphs to talk about myself, thanks, because I've had an interesting week.

If you're going to write about television, even occasionally, it's important every now and then to get under the lights and go through the experience. Earlier this week I spent an hour and half filming a segment for the WE (Women's Entertainment) network on an upcoming show focusing on sports. Basically, I'll end up being one of those annoying talking heads you see on VH-1's I Love The '80s specials or the The E! True Hollywood Story. In other words, someone I usually enjoy making fun of.

It's not an easy gig, even when you have the benefit of being on tape. You need to think fast on your feet, speak cogently and confidently, and let's not even begin to think about the anxiety of worrying how you appear on camera. Lucky for me, I'm devilishly handsome and charming.

While my experience this week doesn't give me additional appreciation for those who clown it up on the sports television airwaves, it does gives me a massive amount of respect for those who are exceptional at the craft, be it a NBC/HBO's Bob Costas, ESPN's Brian Kenny or Fox/HBO's Cris Collinsworth. For now, though, I won't bore you with any more self-indulgent anecdotes -- I'll save those for whenever I fill in for one of SI.com's daily bloggers. And since I had my own share of good and bad moments during my taping, I'll rift on the same from the week that was:

GOOD: ESPNEWS, quietly becoming the strongest of the ESPN networks, showing the Pedro Martinez press conference following Game 2 of the Red Sox-Yankees American League Championship Series. As surreal and riveting a postgame press conference as we've seen in quite some time.

BAD: ESPNEWS, cutting away from the Martinez press conference before its conclusion, thereby missing out on as surreal and riveting a postgame press conference as we've seen in quite some time. Those on the East Coast could watch the complete conference on the YES Network. Much love, Czar Steinbrenner.

GOOD: FOX's ratings through two games of the League Championship Series. The network's split coverage did a 10.1 national rating competing against the final presidential debate on Wednesday, and coverage over the first two games had an average audience of 15.2 million against heavy competition. Even more good news: Nice work by reporter Chris Myers interviewing Cardinals outfielder Larry Walker as he walked off the field following Game 2 on Thursday. That gave viewers the immediacy of the moment -- and some nice stuff from Walker.

BAD: Those viewers (79 percent of the country) who watched Game 2 of the Yankees-Red Sox series on over-the-air FOX saw one at-bat of the Cardinals-Astros game. Both games ended nearly simultaneously. SI's Tom Verducci underscored how Major League Baseball devalued one of its best properties (the LCS) in this column. It's worth reading in case you missed it.

GOOD: ESPN added Steve Jones as analyst for its NBA coverage. He'll team with the excellent Jim Durham. During his 12-year stint on NBC, Jones served as the perfect ying for Bill Walton's at times overwhelming yang. After some big missteps by the network (Sal Masekela, Tim Hardaway), ESPN is finding its footing with the NBA.

BAD: ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown commercials featuring Robert Loggia. This can't be the same guy from Big and Smilla's Sense of Snow, can it?

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GOOD: C-Span's late-night post-debate featured a moderator (calmly) taking calls from viewers on both sides of the ideological aisle on who won the final debate between President Bush and John Kerry. There were cogent arguments, levelheaded thinking and most importantly, the citizenry were the stars. Even when C-Span had guests --David Frum from the National Review and Joe Conason of the New York Observer -- the tone never reached more than a blip on the Stephen A. Smith decimeter.

BAD: MSNBC's late-night post-debate coverage featured a guest spot from comedian Kathy Griffin, screaming and yukking it up with a motley crew of professionals talkers, including Joe Scarborough, Ron Reagan Jr., Pat Buchanan and Mike Barnicle. I think Democrats, Republicans, Whigs, Tories, Nader Raiders and even members of the band World Party can all agree on this: Kathy Griffin ranks among the most annoying people in the history of modern civilization.

GOOD: Offering readers my assessment of cable television's political coverage.

BAD: Offering readers my assessment of cable television's political coverage.

GOOD: Pam Oliver, FOX, NFL sideline reporter

BAD: Tony Siragusa, FOX, NFL sideline reporter

Don't Miss

Two programs you'll be talking about around the cooler next week:

Oct. 16, MLB Baseball Playoffs

Cardinals at Astros, Game 3 (FOX, 4 p.m.); Yankees at Red Sox (FOX, 7:30 p.m.) Stay far away from Boston because if tonight's game ends up being a Yankees sweep, we could have a scene that rivals the Tea Party of 1773

Oct. 17, 1 p.m., FOX, Seahawks at Patriots

If the Red Sox lose and the Pats' unbeaten streak (19 and counting) ends this weekend, we will have scene that rivals the Boston Tea Party.

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