The 24 Hours of SportsCenter
On Tuesday, ESPN held its annual upfront presentation in New York City, a 90-minute self-love-palooza designed to razzle and dazzle a room full of media buyers and television insiders.
Networks always release news at these gatherings -- as well as provide the well-heeled crowd with free graft and assorted products -- and ESPN was kind enough to officially announce what SI.com reported Saturday: Hannah Storm has become the latest member of the SportsCenter family. Storm signed a multi-year deal with the network and will host the 9 a.m.- noon ET SportsCenter. It's part of a major rebranding of the network's flagship show. SportsCenter will begin airing live on Aug. 11 from 6 a.m.-3 p.m. ET Monday-Friday, a nine-hour block of live shows featuring three teams of two main anchors, an update anchor, and production personnel split into three-hour shifts. The live shows replace the current wheel of re-aired SportsCenters, which has consisted of repeat presentations of SportsCenter since January 1996. Storm will be the only talent hired from outside of ESPN. (Her co-host will be named next week).
"ESPN had this idea that they wanted to do a SportsCenter in the morning, and at the same time I was freed of the CBS Early Show," said Storm. "I can honestly say I really did miss it [sports]. I'm really excited to get back to my roots."
ESPN executive vice president of content John Skipper said the idea to reshape SportsCenter came out of a staff meeting four months ago. Skipper said someone in the room (please come forward Mr. or Mrs. X) suggested the idea of SportsCenter going live in the morning and --voila! -- here were are. "(Executive vice president of production) Norby Williamson and I looked at each other and thought: It's a no-brainer," said Skipper. "We decided do it at the moment. And there was no reason other than we had never thought about it." The revamped SportsCenters will compete against the ESPN2 morning block of Mike & Mike In the Morning and First Take (perhaps Skip Bayless can debate himself on two networks). Skipper said the goal is to reach over 1 million viewers each morning. "We are completely committed to competing with ourselves." Skipper said. The early-morning SportsCenter show will mostly be a recap of the previous night's games followed by Storm's SportsCenter, which will include previews of that day's games and take advantage of Storm's strength as an interviewer. The noon to 3 p.m. shift will incorporate live press conferences and morning news. Some of the other talking points to come out of this love-in:
THEY SAID IT
"The only thing that has surprised me and disappointed me is the glee with which people are going after Roger. I think the more people accomplish, the bigger people are, the more excited people are to bring them down, and there's a real feeding frenzy on this man."
THEY SAID IT, II
"I don't deserve to be paid for a diluted version of a column that I value too much to cheapen with a lack of passion. My column has lacked life for a while now because I'm stretched too thin with other obligations."
Buzz Bissinger has spoken with every blog short of PerezHilton.com since his Costas Now meltdown. Indeed, one of the enjoyable moments of my day is typing Bissinger's name into Google Blog search and seeing what new gems emerge. Where in the sports blogosphere will Buzz appear next? Stay tuned.
The word is prescient. Take a bow, Gregg Doyel.
One of pleasures -- and there were not many -- of interacting with the Islanders franchise during the past decade was dealing with Chris Botta, the club's vice president of media relations. He resigned from the club last week for personal reasons. As the years go on, I predict Botta will be proved a visionary when it comes to the relationship between professional sports teams and bloggers. Last year he initiated the team's Blog Box, which credentialed a select group of rabid fans to cover Islanders games and offer their own perspective. As Adam Proteau of The Hockey News noted last week, the Isles are far poorer today than they were a couple of days ago.
What the bleep, ESPN? On Sunday the network's coverage of Sunday Night Baseball featured Red Sox manager Terry Francona joking that he would kick David Ortiz's "ass" (the NC-17 word was later bleeped out during SportsCenter.) There was also a 56-decibel "f-bomb" uttered by Boston's Kevin Youkilis after a first-inning strikeout.
LINK OF THE WEEK
No matter what you think of the work of Fox Sports studio host Jeannie Zelasko -- uneven would be the word I'd chose -- you have to admire her courage and steadfastness after an annus horribilis, including the death of her father, a thyroid cancer stare and additional family maladies.
PERSONS OF THE WEEK
The Outside The Lines team behind the O.J. Mayo story (Dwayne Bray, Drew Gallagher, Justine Gubar, Tim Hays, Craig Lazarus, Evan Kanew, Mike Knisley, and Kelly Naqi):
Simple fact: Great television journalism is neither sexy nor cinematic; rather, it's the result of dedicated behind-the-scenes staffers putting in hours of shoe-leather reporting. There are times when ESPN frustrates the senses (usually, it involves points being awarded for answers on Around the Horn), but when the network decides to throw its vast resources into breaking a story of importance, the results can be sensational.
Such a moment came last Sunday on Outside the Lines. Bray, the senior news editor of the network's enterprise unit, initiated the story, which took just over four months to complete. (Gallagher, Gubar, Hays, and Kanew were producers on the piece; Lazarus is a vice president of studio productions, and Knisley is a dot-com editor). "It's a story that's been told by innuendo quite often, but what sets this piece apart is our supporting documentation," says Naqi, who fronted the piece. "This is not the wishful thinking of rival fans on chat boards, but a real, former member of Mayo's inner circle who can shed light on what life may be like for a one-and-done presumed lottery pick for whom long-term eligibility is not a real concern."
Look for follow-up pieces from the network. As for aiding the NCAA in any investigation of Mayo, "Those organizations can view what we've aired on TV or published to ESPN.com," Naqi says, "but that's all the information they can get from us."
WHAT I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO
Amid a national discussion on the safety of thoroughbred horse racing, NBC will air the Preakness Stakes Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET. The network has received criticism in some quarters for failing to cover the death of Eight Belles adequately -- they'll have ample time to examine the events of Kentucky Derby on this broadcast.