Media Power Rankings: November
CBS' Gary Danielson has quietly built a solid reputation among his peers
Jason Whitlock has brought his hard-hitting style to social networking
It's difficult to grasp why steady Ron Franklin has been given a reduced role
1. Gary Danielson, CBS: Rare is the national broadcaster these days who doesn't promote himself or herself with the zeal of Tareq and Michaele Salahi. Then there is Danielson, who has quietly built a solid reputation among his peers and critics over two decades of work for CBS, ABC, and ESPN.
2. Bill Simmons, ESPN.com columnist: A brief recap of the writer's November resume included two glowing New York Times profiles here and here, one Jimmy Kimmel appearance, one online columnist declaring that Comcast should pony up $10 million so Simmons can start his own sports media venture, a No. 1 spot on the New York Times' best-seller list in non-fiction hard covers, and dozens upon dozens of reviews and writeups such as this one. It also included one Twitter suspension following a fight with a pair of Boston-area sports hosts working for an ESPN station and one well-known sportswriter (Charles P. Pierce) declaring "Get the f*** over yourself, son."
3. Jason Whitlock, Fox Sports and Kansas City Star sports columnist: Known for his provocative columns, shameless self promotion, and envelope-pushing descriptions involving athletes and women, Whitlock recently joined Twitter, arguably the best mixing of social media and sports personality since Stephon Marbury discovered streaming television. After getting a big push from a Simmons shout-out, Whitlock has been super-diligent responding those following him -- even those that bash him. His Tweets have included popular culture references ("Anybody got a good number for Rachel Uchitel? I'm in Vegas and need to set up table and bottle service."), conspiracy theories ("ESPN won't let me and Simmons talk to each other. they monitor his phone lines and email.") and frequent shots at other sports media members ("Sun-Times hiring of Rick Morrissey worse than Trib's hiring of Mike Downey. Newspaper editors need to be put on trial for killing industry.").
4. Dick Enberg, Padres play-by-play announcer: Enberg was recently hired to call the majority of regular-season games on Channel 4 San Diego while continuing to work on ESPN's coverage of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Is it a good move for the Padres? Well, the announcer has not called baseball on a regular basis since 1985 and as this excellent piece from the always-solid Jay Posner posits, Enberg's hire is unlikely to boost ratings. But while I feel bad that for those fellow Padres broadcaster who imagined a bigger workload this year, I like that the Padres' brass franchise is willing to gamble on a soon-to-be 75-year-old announcer with a long history of success at the national level. Ageism is a big problem in sports broadcasting -- especially among women -- and this sends a very good message, even though the hire is probably unique to Enberg's history and appeal.
5. Seattle Times: If you're curious why Olympics tickets are so scarce, I suggest you read this tremendous Seattle Times special report that was published in November. The report -- a great piece of service journalism -- explains in detail why tickets available to the public are often out of reach, bundled into packages costing far beyond face value. Bravo.
6. Ron Franklin, ESPN: I'll never understand why ESPN has essentially put this uber-professional broadcaster out to pasture. Last month Mel Bracht of The Oklahoman reported that Franklin was "disappointed" and "hurt" about his reduced Big 12 basketball role with ESPN. When I wrote about Franklin a couple of years ago, I was surprised at the dozens and dozens of e-mails I received from fans of his work. The guy plans to retire from ESPN when his contract expires next April and some Big 12 school would be wise to pony up to get him in the booth.
7. David Levy, Turner Sports president: Sure, you can tweak Levy for hiring Chip Caray in the first place, but I come to praise the executive for making the decision to part ways with the baseball broadcaster. No one likes to see anyone lose a gig but Levy recognized -- with some serious pushing from Richard Sandomir and the powerful New York Times -- that Caray had lost the trust of his audience. Now the search for TBS's national baseball voice is on.
8. Paul Steigerwald and Bob Errey, FSN, Penguins announcers: My colleague Michael Farber recently listed the Pittsburgh duo on his list of NHL people who you hardly know but who make their teams or the game better. Of Steigerwald and Errey, Farber wrote, "Usually fans reflexively vaunt the hometown telecast crew. Unfortunately, these two guys don't even get the proper amount of love in their own city of champions." Much of that is because Steigerwald is following announcer Mike Lange, winner of the Hockey Hall of Fame's Foster Hewitt Award for excellence in broadcasting.
9. Gus Johnson, CBS: In yet another example of announcers trying to be too clever, Johnson proclaimed that Titans running back Chris Johnson was channeling his "gettin' away from the cops speed" as he ran for a 52-yard touchdown against the Jaguars last month. The announcer later issued an apology to USA Today's Michael Hiestand, which stated "If there is a perception of racism in this analogy, it is not coming from me. People of all races have run from the law. However, to those who are offended, I apologize." I'll take Johnson at his word, but I wonder why "getting away from the cops speed -- regardless of race, ethnicity or gender -- is something to be championed? How about simply, "This dude can motor."
10. The NFL Today, overheated frat boys: While sports divisions are often asked to promote entertainment programming (See Leno, Jay), you'd think the 40- and 50-something gentlemen on the set of this program could act like adults in the company of a 21-year-old female model. Alas, not so. The appearance of Victoria's Secret model Candace Swanepoel on the set last month to promote the net's broadcast of the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show produced cringe-worthy television. Particularly weak was Boomer Esiason, praised often in this space and who knows better, waving a card to fan himself when Swanepoel talked about a new bra. (Dude, what are you, 12?). Given that none of the pregame shows outside of the NFL Network feature a woman on the set, I wonder if these guys would have acted the same way had Lesley Visser been there. CBS has always preached that it doesn't do shtick and for the most part that's correct. But, if we're going to bang Fox Sports when some of its members act like the cast of Porky's II, or ESPN when its own people objectify Erin Andrews, then CBS deserves criticism when its talent acts like a group of overheated teenage boys. My colleague, Peter King (who works for NBC), called it "the worst promotion on any NFL pregame show of all time." I'll let you be the judge.