Media Power Rankings for January
Cahill and Buck soar; Knight on TV an eyesore
Posted: Thursday February 7, 2008 1:28PM; Updated: Thursday February 7, 2008 2:55PM
1. Darren Cahill, tennis analyst, ESPN: The Australian Open typically attracts two types of television viewers: bleary-eyed insomniacs and tennis fans more diehard than Bruce Willis.
The fortnight airs in the middle of the night East Coast time and Cahill was a revelation for those of us who slogged through evening after evening to watch. "A match can be quite complicated at times with what is happening," says Cahill, who coached Andre Agassi during his final years on the Tour. "If you can simplify it to look for a few things that might be evolving, I think the audience becomes better connected to what is happening."
This is Cahill's second year with ESPN and he's quickly rising to the level of the sport's best analysts, alongside Jimmy Arias, Mary Carillo and John McEnroe. "The coaching bug will always be floating around somewhere inside and you never know when the opportunity might arise to get back into it," says Cahill. "For the time being and the immediate future, I am where I want to be."
2. Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry, Seattle Times reporters: This chilling and disturbing multi-part investigation of the 2000 University of Washington football team should be mandatory reading for every athletic department. The criminal conduct of certain players -- behavior often excused or overlooked by the school and public officials -- is appalling. It's a series as much about the institutions that guide college football, as it is about the Washington football program itself.
3. Joe Buck, Fox: Buck is a favorite whipping boy of the sports blogosphere, but even his harshest critics would acknowledge he had an exceptional Super Bowl broadcast. Opting for sparse language in describing the game's biggest plays, Buck allowed the crowd to become a third member of his and Troy Aikman's broadcast team. In the biggest game he's ever called, a game that averaged 97.5 million viewers, topping the previous Super Bowl-high audience of 94.1 million for Super Bowl XXX between Dallas and Pittsburgh, Buck rose to the occasion.
4. Will Leitch, Deadspin editor: With a marketing onslaught from publisher Harper Collins that brings to mind Hannibal's cavalry, a literary agent (ICM's Kate Lee) who presses harder than Nolan Richardson, and the discovery of an eight-year-old video of Chris Berman melting down on camera, the Deadspin editor had a very good January.
Leitch's book, God Save The Fan, was released to mostly positive reviews, and no doubt drew the ire of the folks in Bristol. (Full disclosure: Leitch is an acquaintance, and I'm listed in the acknowledgements section of his book with about 50 other journalists; as with all columns, caveat emptor). Asked recently by SI.com if Deadspin intentionally targets ESPN, especially in relation to other networks, Leitch said, "I think that is probably true, but let's not kid ourselves: ESPN is just this huge thing in the world. Take for instance, Joe Buck. Everybody says he is everywhere. But maybe he's on television during a busy week five or six hours. An ESPN personality is ubiquitous every single day of the year. So, yes, I suppose it is true. But if you ever read Deadspin or another site during the baseball playoffs, I assure you Tim McCarver gets it as bad an anyone who has ever gotten it."
5. The Daily Fix blog, Wall Street Journal.com: This well-crafted way station links to a dozen or so sports columns every day but with a delightful twist: the prose of the blog's authors, Carl Bialik and Jason Fry, a pair of veteran Journal scribes, is often as stylish and appealing as the links they are highlighting. At the start of the month, the Fixers highlight the stories from the past month that stayed with them. It's a must-read for those who admire good sports writing.