Van Gundy's short memory; Post reporter fired for blogging; more
Each week, SI.com's Richard Deitsch will report on newsmakers from the world of TV, radio and the Web.
THEY SAID IT
(The following conversation took place between play-by-play announcer Mike Breen and analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson during ABC's Game 1 coverage Saturday of the Suns-Spurs NBA playoff series)
Van Gundy: "You know that Sixth Man thing? Why is that an award? I don't understand. I mean, you don't start. Why not a 10th man award? The best 10th man in the league! I don't get this Sixth Man award."
Breen: "Well, I guess it's for guys who don't start, you know, kind of pat them on the back and say, 'It's OK; you are important too.'"
Jackson: "It's not patting on the back. It [rewards] guys who have an impact on the game coming off the bench."
Van Gundy: "All right, so why not the second-best player [award]? I just don't understand that Sixth Man award."
Breen: "Well, it just makes people happy. Can't you just go with that?
Van Gundy: All right, we should give everybody an award. It's like youth sports day: Everybody's gotta go home with a trophy."
Postscript: Here is Van Gundy in 1997, then the Knicks coach, after learning John Starks had been named the league's top Sixth Man: ''I'm very proud of him. I think it was nice to see him recognized -- for not only his play, but what helped his play was his acceptance of changing his role within the team, without complaint.''
In a world of noise, ESPN's Outside The Lines continues to produce jazz. Staffers John Barr and Willie Weinbaum produced a tremendous report Sunday on Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, an alleged Russian mobster under indictment for fixing two skating competitions in the 2002 Olympics, including the pairs figure skating title in which the Russian team of Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze were initially awarded a gold medal over the Canadian duo of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. (Tokhtakhounov says everything written about him is untrue.) Such enterprise reporting costs money and resources, and ESPN deserves credit for investing in such a story -- especially one that most sports fans have long forgotten.
Last week ESPN put the kibosh on a proposed podcast between ESPN writer Bill Simmons and presidential candidate Barack Obama. "It's absolutely not an issue about any one candidate," ESPN spokesperson Josh Krulewitz told the New York Daily News. "Our position is that when they're down to the final two candidates, we'll look for options to interview each accordingly. Fans don't expect political coverage on our air."
Generally speaking, that's true, though it's a bit of a strange decision given that ESPN has allowed some of its personalities to offer politically charged commentary in other venues. In February NFL analyst Emmitt Smith gave a rousing oration at a rally for Obama at Reunion Arena in Dallas ("This man [Obama] is what I believe in," Smith told the crowd) while NBA analyst Stephen A. Smith has aggressively made himself available to politically oriented shows such as MSNBC's Hardball and referred to former Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani as a dictator.
Had the interview come off as an endorsement, ESPN could have killed it prior to air. But the opportunity existed for an interesting discussion on race and sports, as well Obama's own fondness for basketball. ESPN's audience would have been served by that.
STORY OF THE WEEK
In the world of blogging, getting "dooced" means that you've been whacked by your employer for something you published on a private blog. Last week Michael Tunison, a writer for the sports Web site Kissing Suzy Kolber and an editorial aide and reporter for The Washington Post, got dooced by the House of Woodward and Bernstein after outing himself on the site.
Tunison's decision to go public comes a couple of weeks after both the formerly anonymous founder of The Big Lead and the writers of another popular anonymous sports site, FireJoeMorgan.com, came out of the blogging closet to their readers. Trust us, it's going to happen again and again, either through self-outing or Inspector Javert types on the web discovering a blogger's real-life identity.
Why did Tunison out himself? "A common criticism of bloggers by established media is that they're fond of attacking mainstream writers, but don't bear the burden of accountability because they hide behind a blogging moniker," Tunison said in an e-mail. "Countering that notion played a large part in my decision. It also admittedly gets tiresome having to be secretive about something you enjoy doing."
It took 10 minutes for Tunison to write the post, though he said he contemplated the decision for months. He said he assumed the newspaper would be displeased with the content of the KSK -- which features a robust amount of cursing, among other things you won't see in the Post -- but was surprised (perhaps naively) at the newspaper's reaction. He started writing for KSK in August 2006.
"My expectation was that I would be warned about making any future mentions of my job on the site and maybe asked to remove the links," says Tunison, 25. "But there was no discussion at all. I was told, 'We know you did this. We don't like it and you're probably going to be fired for it.' Then I was.... The only choice I was given by the Post was to resign with severance or have my employment terminated. I choose the former." ("We don't discuss personnel matters, but we have standards for people's outside work," Post managing editor Leonard Downie told Editor & Publisher. "You need to clear it with your editors here before, and it should not be a conflict of interest.")
PERSON OF THE WEEK
Dan Jenkins, Golf Digest: For the past three years the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. has held a three-day sports media summit where well-known journalism practitioners provide shoe-leather lessons for students and working staffers. This year's faculty included Dave Kindred, Washington Post columnist, Sally Jenkins, SI's Jack McCallum, and ESPN.com's Pat Forde, among others. In exchange for sharing their wisdom and wit, the speakers get a couple of days in sun-dappled St. Pete, as well as wide-eyed students holding on to their every word as if they were Winston Churchill.
Occasionally the deification of some of the staffers provides unintended hilarity. (Last year one of the program's coordinators introduced Woody Paige with the kind of reverence befitting St. Thomas Aquinas -- which makes you wonder what the speaker would have said about St. Thomas Aquinas had he appeared on Around the Horn.) This year, however, the hosannas were appropriate for the featured speaker: The 78-year-old Jenkins, who helped build this brand through his brilliant and irreverent writing, and was awarded a lifetime achievement award.
"When you do this thing as long as I have done," he said, "they start giving you awards for living too long." Jenkins called former SI managing editor Andre Laguerre "the greatest man I've ever known," and said his favorite piece of fan mail came after an SI feature on the famed 10-10 tie in 1966 between Michigan State and Notre Dame. (Jenkins' lead: "Old Notre Dame will tie over all.") The letter was short, and from a fan of the Irish: "Dear Mr. Jenkins, Go to hell, you lousy son of bitch." The note is framed in the writer's office.
LINK OF THE WEEK
It's not unusual to be loved... oh, wait, this is the other Tom Jones. The fine Page 2 writer of the St. Petersburg Times offers his 10 most overrated events in sports. His No. 10? Around The Horn.
WHAT I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO
About 30 e-mails this week from the communication departments of ESPN and the NFL Network on their upcoming draft coverage. My answers in advance: Yes, I know this is Mel Kiper's 25th year on air. No, I don't want to talk to Rich Eisen. Yes, I think Mike Mayock is excellent. No, I don't think Scouts Inc.'s Todd McShay should have his own network.