Fox foul up; hire Hammond, more
Each week, SI.com's Richard Deitsch will report on newsmakers from the world of TV, radio and the Web.
PERSON OF THE WEEK
Tom Hammond, NBC Sports: You'll be hearing plenty of people champion Marv Albert for the NFL Network's play-by-play gig now that Bryant Gumbel has abdicated the mic. Obviously, there's nothing wrong with Albert, who is clearly aiming to hold every job in sports broadcasting prior to his retirement. Personally, I'd rather see him stay on the Westwood One broadcast of Monday Night Football, where he and partner Boomer Esiason have developed terrific chemistry.
Hammond is a pro's pro whether he's calling Arena Football, the Penn Relays or waxing about Giacomo in the Kentucky Derby. Plus, he's already called games with Cris Collinsworth. But don't take my word for it. "Hammond, a smooth old pro, filled in when Gumbel went on injured reserve for a Houston-Denver Thursday nighter," wrote Dr. Z in February. "Comfortable to listen to, with very little insight provided, but then again, we shouldn't expect that from a play-by-play man." In Z's world, this amounts to serious love. Sign him up, Steve Bornstein.
ESPN's airing of the Masters' Par-3 contest drew near universal praise (as did Chris Berman not showing up anywhere near Augusta National.) GOLF.com's Cameron Morfit called it great TV. "Every swing offers the potential for a hole-in-one," wrote Morfit. "There are no boring parts to the Par-3."
The NCAA women's basketball championship game between Tennessee and Stanford earned a 3.0 rating on ESPN, a 34 percent increase from the Tennessee-Rutgers final last year. Imagine those numbers had Tennessee played UConn in the final.
In case you missed it, the Red Sox beat the Yankees 4-3 on Saturday night. We provide this public service announcement because Fox left the game for the start of the Subway Fresh Fit 500 just as Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano was battling Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon with two outs in the top of the ninth. Needless to say, Fox has gotten killed in baseball-crazy New York and Boston as well as NASCAR-happy locals. "The net result was not what we wanted to happen," says Fox Sports spokesman Dan Bell, who said his network received 20 complaints.
What happened? Fox is contractually obligated to show NASCAR races from start to finish on its broadcast network. They asked NASCAR to push the race back, and the auto racing body agreed to move the race from 8:45 p.m. to 8:53 p.m. Both worlds collided at that point and Fox was cooked. (The conclusion of the baseball game aired on FX.)
Where Fox deserves to take some heat is failing to warn viewers with a constant scroll at the bottom of the screen or something visual so viewers knew well ahead of the time that the conclusion of the game could be seen on FX. Verbal warnings simply don't have the same effect. (In the same manner, ESPN made it very clear on Sunday night that SportsCenter would air following the Red Sox-Yankee game.) "We could have done a cleaner break," admits Bell. "It's our fault and we apologize to viewers."
LINK OF THE WEEK
Publicity makes for strange bedfellows: An ESPN personality goes under the knife at Deadspin.com
THEY WROTE IT
1. "Dick Vitale wasn't a player. His coaching career -- culminating with a 34-60 record for the Detroit Pistons -- was a failure. And while the Hall recognizes media members with its Curt Gowdy Award (a distinction Vitale has already won), one cannot be enshrined as a mere broadcaster. So, again, how the hell did he get in? Is he insightful? Thoughtful? Provocative? Courageous? No, no, no and no. He's loud. He's a salesman. In fact, the very same qualities that served him so well on television have made him the perfect shill for Hooters." -- FoxSports.com's Mark Kriegel, following the announcement that Vitale was part of this year's class at the Naismith Hall of Fame.
2. "A moment of silence -- or should it be a scream of joy." -- San Diego Union-Tribune's Jay Posner, on the announcement that Stephen A. Smith's ESPN Radio show had been pulled after seven months.
One of the great pleasures of parachutting into the world of UConn women's basketball was catching up with the writing of Randy Smith, the longtime sports editor of the Manchester (Conn.) Journal Inquirer who gracefully wrote on many topics. Smith collpased and died on Monday afternoon. He was 61. The writer leaves a lasting memory of lovely copy, including this gem from last month.
WHAT I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO
Once home to Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, CBS will broadcast the first-ever Collegiate Nationals Eating Championship. The network partnered with the Association of Independent Competitive Eaters (AICE) to stage a group of collegiate eaters competing in a "picnic style" competition from the Wave House at Mission Beach, San Diego. The competition takes place Saturday and will air May 25 (2PM) on the CBS College Sports Network. Freestyle skier-turned-host Jonny Moseley will be your the maitre d' for the event.
Competitors will consume plates of cheeseburgers, hot dogs and french fries. The top-seeded competitor is Christian (Muscox) McCarthy a University of Kentucky student who consumed 194 chicken wings in one sitting at a Hooters in Lexington. My money's on McCarthy.
"I'm not interested in interviewing some shortstop and asking him how he hits the curveball," says HBO Sports correspondent Bernard Goldberg. Yes, you can feel the pugnaciousness even across the phone. "I don't want to talk to a wide receiver about how many catches he has," Goldberg says. "As a matter of fact, the less sports in a sports piece, the more interested in it I am."
It's a big week for the sports magazine shows. ESPN's E:60 returns on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET (my thanks to ESPN's communication department for the five emails on this) with features on Steve Williams, the caddy for Tiger Woods, Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee sprinter from South Africa, and USA Gymnastics efforts to keep pedophile coaches out of the sport.
Later that night comes another edition of Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, including Gumbel's much-hyped sit-down with Barack Obama on how basketball helped shape the Democratic presidential contender, and a profile of Lee Benson Jr., an Ohio prep basketball star who was convicted in 1992 of abduction with a firearm and sentenced to seven to 25 years behind bars. After prison, Benson starred at Kansas junior college and continues on the path to redemption as he plays professionally overseas.
The Benson piece is pure Goldberg, where sports serves as the conceit for a larger issue. Rare is the Real Sports feature fronted by him where the viewer isn't offered some journalistic heft. Three of his pieces (Dogfighting, The Fading Hope of Sports in Iraq, and NFL Concussions Impact) are up for a Sports Emmy in the Outstanding Sports Journalism category.
Goldberg says one of the future stories he'd like to tackle is the corruption of the university. "Not the corruption of college sports but the corruption of the university itself, accepting people into the college who really should not be accepted into the college," says Goldberg, who worked as a producer and reporter at CBS for 28 years. "When some of my colleagues bemoan the fact that so and so only played one year in college and then wet to the pros, I say he should not have gone to college at all.
"I interviewed Father (Theodore) Hesburgh of Notre Dame once and he had a good very good line. I said, "What about the argument that these kids are better off at Notre Dame then they would be on a street corner in Newark or someplace? He said, "Let me tell you something: This is not a gymnasium. This is a university." And he's right. As a journalist I find it interesting how university presidents will sell their soul for a winning football team, how they will look the other way. And if we're lucky, they are just looking away. Otherwise, they know what is going on and they simply don't care."