Decade in sports broadcasting (cont.)
Celebrity guests in the Monday Night Football booth (2006-07): We've said this before: The only Slater who should be on Monday Night Football is Jackie, not Christian.
Fox Sports Net's I-Max (2004): If there was a more self-indulgent show in the history of television (at least one that didn't star Donald Trump) than this ill-fated Max Kellerman vehicle, we haven't seen it.
Fox's use of the animated Scooter figure on its baseball coverage (2004-2006): An example of how technology does not always help society.
ESPN's Hu$tle (2004): This biopic of Pete Rose was an unwatchable mess, though as SI wrote back at the time, "The wig on top of actor Tom Sizemore gave a brilliant performance."
Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith (2005-2007): The show made a splash with Allen Iverson as its first guest and quickly sailed off into Slava Medvedenko-esque irrelevancy.
ESPN's Mohr Sports (2001): The Jay Mohr vehicle lasted about as long as this sentence.
Chip Caray: No need to pile on at this point.
Lisa Guerrero, Monday Night Football sideline reporter (2003): See above.
ESPN Hollywood (2005): Good to see Thea Andrews land at Entertainment Tonight. Not good to see actresses working as sports anchors, as Andrews did for this short-lived melange of sports and celebrity.
Listen Up! with Charles Barkley (2002): Not many people ended up listening.
Michael Irvin (2000-present): Never has such a mediocre analyst been given so many network chances.
ESPN's Pardon the Interruption: "We're old. We're fat. We're bald. And we're white. And one of us is blind." So began the initial ad campaign for Pardon the Interruption in 2001, which pitted Washington Post sportswriters Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon in a fast-moving half hour of intelligent and snarky sports debate. Now known as PTI, the show has sadly spawned about a thousand awful imitators but still continues strong. The show's creator, Erik Rydholm, would be very high on the list of all-decade creative forces in sports.
The in-game interview: The XFL might have been a bust, but it helped popularize the in-game interview, which has added to the coverage of the NHL and Major League Baseball.
Poker shows: ESPN's World Series of Poker (and the many poker shows it inspired) became a programming sensation thanks to the hole-card camera.
Rudy Martzke: Love him or hate him, the man defined the sports media beat for decades. USA Today's Martzke penned his last column on April 15, 2005.
Phelps-palooza: NBC's decision to offer exhausting 2008 Summer Olympics coverage -- as well as to persuade the Beijing organizers to schedule the swimming finals in prime time in the United States -- produced monster ratings for the network. NBC scored a 17-day rating of 16.2 -- it averaged 27.7 million viewers -- to post significant gains over the 2004 Athens Games. The 215 million total viewers made it the most-viewed event of the decade.
NBC guaranteed sponsors a 16.1 prime-time rating for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, only to owe them free "make-good" ads when the ratings ended up at a miserable (for the Olympics) 13.8.
The hosts of ESPN's NBA Shootaround channeled their inner John Rambo after the infamous Pacers-Pistons brawl in 2004. Studio host John Saunders, ex-NBA players Tim Legler and Greg Anthony and reporter Stephen A. Smith put the onus squarely on Detroit fans, with the usually reliable Saunders calling the fans "sissies" and "punks." Saunders and Smith later offered mea culpas. But true praise goes to game announcers Mike Breen and Bill Walton, who offered sobering and reasoned commentary as this disgraceful melee unfolded.
Don Imus, the fossilized broadcaster, took a racist shot at the Rutgers women's basketball team with his now-infamous "that's some nappy-headed hos there." Imus remains on the air today, boosted by high-profile friends such as sportswriter Mike Lupica who continue to guest on his program.
The always charming Billy Packer told Charlie Rose not to "fag out" on being his assistant at a Final Four. In one of the great PR spins of this or any decade, a CBS spokesperson claimed, "Billy [Packer] used the phrase as defined in the American Heritage Dictionary."
ESPN's Gary Thorne claimed that then-Red Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli told him that Curt Schilling's bloody sock was painted. Thorne late backtracked, saying, "He said one thing, and I heard something else."
Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman was bailed out by Tiger Woods, who let her off the hook for her "lynch him in a back alley" comment. Tilghman was also aided by powerful friends in the media, most notably Wilbon.
ESPN put the kibosh on a proposed podcast between ESPN.com writer Bill Simmons and presidential candidate Barack Obama. (The president should know he is always welcome on the Inside Sports Illustrated podcast.)
ESPN added conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh to Sunday NFL Countdown in 2003. Limbaugh triggered his resignation after four weeks when he declared that the media wanted Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb to succeed because he was black.
Any segment on ESPN2's First Take featuring Skip Bayless and Rob Parker arguing (2007-present).
They said it
TNT's Charles Barkley, on NBC airing its final NBA telecast in 2002: "If y'all hadn't wasted all that money on the XFL, y'all would still have basketball."
Cedric Maxwell, color analyst for the Boston Celtics, on NBA referee Violet Palmer: "Get back in the kitchen and fix me some bacon and eggs!"
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, offering advice as a Dream Job judge: "Style without substance doesn't mean a damn thing."
Barry Melrose, ESPN hockey analyst, on Newark, N.J.: "Don't go outside if you have a wallet or anything else."
ESPN's Mike Patrick, to a stunned partner Todd Blackledge during overtime of the college football game they were broadcasting: "Britney Spears. What's she doing with her career?"
NBC's Al Michaels, during an appearance on Costas Now: "ESPN has had a major influence on sports, but there are a lot of shows that I watch now where it's a screaming match. It's who can yell the loudest. It's almost like gasbags on parade."
10 more shout-outs for decade excellence
Steve Cyphers (ESPN), Jay Glazer (Fox, CBS), Mike Emrick (NBC), Chris Mortensen (ESPN), Rachel Nichols (ESPN), Kelli Naqi (ESPN), Dave Revsine (Big Ten Network), Tom Rinaldi (ESPN), Jeremy Schaap (ESPN). Darrell Waltrip (Fox).