Media Awards for 2010 (cont.)
THE PICK: Stan Van Gundy (Orlando Magic) vs. Mike Wilbon (ESPN).
After Wilbon suggested Van Gundy might lose his job if the Magic lost to the Celtics, Van Gundy responded with the ultimate insult of a former print guy: He called Wilbon a "talking head" in an interview with AOL Fanhouse. Said Van Gundy: "I'm not worried about my job security, and I'm even less worried about what Michael Wilbon would think about anything. "He's just ... a talking head. I have refused to be on PTI (Wilbon's television show) for years, for five years. I follow that stuff. If you go on guys' shows, they don't criticize you. If you won't go on their show, they do. That stuff is never known. There's a lack of integrity in that business.'' Wilbon defended PTI and said there was no favoritism toward certain guests.
HONORABLE MENTION: Bill Simmons (ESPN) vs. Keith Olbermann (MSNBC), Bill Simmons (ESPN) vs. Charles Pierce (Boston Globe), Jason Whitlock (Fox Sports) vs. The Kansas City Star, Gregg Doyel (CBS Sports.com) vs. Jay Mariotti (unattached).
It's worth repeating what I wrote about ESPN's broadcast of "The Decision" last July because it remains true six months later:
"In all my years of writing media columns for SI and SI.com, I have never been contacted by more ESPN staffers than I was last week, all of whom were universal in their message: They were disappointed (some used the term disgusted) with the program above. I've always tried to be measured and reasoned in this column. So I say this with much thought and contemplation: The Decision is the worst thing ESPN has ever put its name to, and it will take a long time for some viewers to get over it...Plenty of great work gets done by people every day at ESPN, especially on the newsgathering and production side. Even more so than viewers who endured this self-aggrandizing, selling-out-our-journalistic-soul, narcissistic shamathon, those ESPN staffers are the ones who deserve an apology."
In a fitting coda to this nefarious untidiness, the broadcaster Jim Gray sat at the edge of the Miami bench during the Heat-Lakers game on Dec. 25. If a single viewer remained who thought Gray could remain objective with his reporting of James -- and I'm not sure there was --this Rashadian moment of Zen ended all such thoughts.
Sports writer Jay Mariotti's career imploded after he was arrested for domestic battery. What other national sports writers should take from this cautionary tale is how quickly disposable you are as a "voice" on sporting matters. Whether you like Around The Horn or not -- and that's a conversation for another day -- Mariotti's departure has had zero effect on the show.
Showing an inexplicable tin ear for its audience, The NFL Network added Joe Theismann to its Thursday Night telecast to partner with Matt Millen. The partnership, not surprisingly, produced a weekly torrent of criticism from fans. (The writer Norman Chad described the problem perfectly, calling the NFLN's three-man announcing team"a four-and-a-half-man booth.") Fans simply don't like Theismann as an analyst, but NFL broadcast executives do. So don't expect changes in 2011.
With NFLN's draft coverage improving annually, ESPN's first-day NFL Draft coverage needs a makeover. Those who worked the second and third day of the draft provided viewers with the best insight and content. Again. As this column stated earlier this year, the network should make the quintet of Trey Wingo, Jaworski, Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay, (and perhaps) Jon Gruden its main draft team for the 2011 draft in addition to its armada of information reporters. Wingo lives and breathes the sport 365 days a year as the host of NFL Live; he runs an efficient and professional show that allows the analysts next to him to make their points. Unlike Chris Berman, he's avoids the endless backslapping of NFL executives. Jaworski, Kiper and McShay do their homework and it shows.
Mike Wise, please never do this again.
Having lived in Michigan in 2009, I know firsthand the animus the sports base has for Millen, the former GM of the Lions and current ESPN analyst. I don't subscribe to the notion that a failed GM can't be a good broadcaster --- the skills are not parallel -- but that ESPN assigned Millen to multiple University of Michigan college football games this year goes down as one of the strangest personnel decisions in some time. One of the sure things of 2010 was typing "Millen" into Twitter Search during a Michigan game and watching the venom fly.
The MLB Network (with an assist from Bob Costas) landed Mark McGwire's first interview in years, with the slugger admitting he used performance-enhancing steroids (but also adding he did not need PEDs to hit the long ball.)
In what might be the first (but won't be the last) example of a fan-based Web site leading the coverage of a national story, Orangebloods.com, a Rivals-owned site that focuses on the University of Texas football and recruiting, owned the Big 12 realignment story thanks to columnist Chip Brown, starting with its June 3 report that the Pac-10 planned to invite six Big 12 teams to join its conference.
Emmet Smith, the deputy design director for news for The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Michael Tribble, the paper's design and graphics director, delivered the most memorable front page of 2010: LeBron James walking out of the frame, flanked by a single word headline: GONE. Pulitzer Prize winner Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post called it one of the greatest front pages in newspaper history.
ESPN's Tony Kornheiser, on colleague Hannah Storm's choice of dress (Feb. 15): "Hannah Storm in a horrifying, horrifying outfit today. She's got on red go-go boots and a catholic school plaid skirt ... way too short for somebody in her 40s or maybe early 50s by now... She's what I would call a Holden Caulfield fantasy at this point."
CBS Sports president Sean McManus, predicting the ratings on when Tiger Woods returned to golf: "I think the first tournament Tiger Woods plays again, wherever it is, will be the biggest media event other than the Obama inauguration in the past 10 or 15 years."
CBS announcer and golf enthusiast Jim Nantz, to Newsday reporter Neil Best (April 7): "I am in love with the Masters, OK? That's the way I feel about it. Nobody is putting those words in my mouth. Why would I want to tailor my way of approaching the Masters tournament to some guy who's a blogger who doesn't watch the Masters, or to someone like you who doesn't understand the difference between a birdie and a bogey? Why would I care what you think about it?"
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., to the Washington Post, on whether he rates players of certain agents higher than others (April 18): "I have so many friends who are agents: Tom Condon, Joel Segal, Tony Agnone, Gary Wichard. Ask them how many battles we've had on the phone over players that they've represented. I don't shill for anybody."
Fox Sports reporter Chris Myers, on the city of New Orleans response to Hurricane Katrina (May 17): "It's a great country here. We have disasters issues when people pull together and help themselves and I thought the people in Tennessee, unlike -- I'm not going to name names -- when a natural disaster hits people weren't standing on a rooftop trying to blame the government, OK. They helped each other out through this."
ESPN executive vice president Norby Williamson, prior to Jim Gray hijacking the broadcast of "The Decision": "We have complete editorial control and direction with the exception of what will come out of his [LeBron James] mouth."
Longtime sports writer Dave Kindred, expressing severe criticism with the Associated Press Sports Editors after the organization awarded Mitch Albom with the Red Smith Award, the APSE's highest honor (July 16): "That meant Albom had written as fact on Friday a Sunday column leading with events of Saturday that never happened. Note to journalism students: This is known as fiction. It can get you expelled."
Former Nationals broadcaster Rob Dibble, doing what Rob Dibble does (Aug. 11): "There must be a sale tomorrow going on here or something. Their husbands are going, 'Man, don't bring your wife next time.' "
Rex Ryan, addressing his team on HBO's Hard Knocks (Aug. 11): "You guys know me, that I'm about as positive a guy as there is. I believe our team is better than every f------ team in the league. I believe our players are better than any players in the league, right? Those are true statements. That's how I believe. But, the team's only going so far if I'm the only guy that leads. The team is only going so far. I'm not a great leader, okay? I'm not a great leader, I can't lead myself, this whole group of men. We ain't gonna win guys if it's about me. I'm sitting back waiting for us to understand the team that we said we were gonna be.
What the hell are we waiting on? What are we waiting on? Do you want it or not? Do you understand there's a price to pay? Can we have fun? You're damn right! I demand that we have fun. Now there's a difference between having fun and being a jackass.
Our defense was a jackass when we went to Hofstra, eating a bunch of f------cheeseburgers, before we go stretch and all that. That's being a jackass. You'll be a world champion but not like this. We won't win it. We'll sit back and say 'Why didn't we do it?' We didn't do it because where were our f------ priorities?
How about our offense? When are we gonna put it together? When are we gonna put it together? Can we not run the ball down their throats every snap? Can we not throw anytime we wanna f------ throw it? Let's make sure we play like f------ New York Jets and not some f------slap---- team. That's what I wanna see tomorrow. Do we understand what the f--- I wanna see tomorrow? Let's go eat a goddamn snack!"
CBS Sports.com's Gregg Doyel, explaining his endless series of anti-Jay Mariotti tweets after the former AOL Sports columnist and ESPN Around the Horn contributor was booked on suspicion of felony domestic assault, according to authorities (Aug. 23): "Nobody in our business makes me angrier, consistently, than he does, and not because his columns evoke such feeling. It's the way he does his business, even the way he carries himself, that ticks me off, and this news was just awful. So I got angry, and it bubbled over, and that was a flash flood. I'm getting angry again thinking about it."
NFL Network analyst Michael Irvin, showing his usual flair for NFL predictions (Sept. 26): The Dolphins match up well with every team in the AFC East. They can win it and be a contender for the Super Bowl."
ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown analyst Keyshawn Johnson, comparing Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to Rick Mirer (Sept. 26): "Matt Ryan hasn't been as sharp as you would like since his rookie year. Watching him in preseason and then watching him in the first two games this year makes me think, are we looking at a guy with a great rookie year like Ricky Mirer did, and then things start stopping up?"
ESPN and ABC broadcaster Brent Musburger, inexplicably endorsing steroids (Oct. 5): "I think under the proper care and doctor's advice, they could be used at the professional level"
CBS The NFL Today analyst Shannon Sharpe, predicting big things for Randy Moss (Nov. 14): "Second half of the season, he [Randy Moss] will score six touchdowns. This team, the Tennessee Titans, win the AFC South."
ESPN's Williamson, on the future of ESPN broadcaster Jon Gruden (Dec. 2): "Jon will be with us at least through the 2011 season. He has made that commitment."
THE PICK: "Something about Braylon's [Edwards] routes this series seem more humble, mature. Looks like sitting that quarter really did have an impact! #Jets"
-- ESPNNewYork.com reporter Jane McManus, oozing with sarcasm about the penalty (or lack thereof) imposed by the Jets, after Edwards was arrested for DUI.
Non Media category
THE PICK: "I'm keeping my 2 yr old up to watch the LeBron James Special. I want her to see the exact moment our society hit rock bottom."
-- Eric Stangel, head writer and executive producer for The Late Show with David Letterman.
Number of total viewers for the CBS broadcast of Super Bowl XLIV between the Colts-Saints, the most watched broadcast in the history of U.S. television.
viewers (on ESPN, ESPN2 and NFL Network) who watched the 2010 NFL draft, an increase of 16 percent from 2009 (39 million viewers)
Questions asked by reporter Jim Gray over six minutes before asking LeBron James what his decision was.
Jack Craig (Boston Globe sports writer, the first full-time newspaper critic of sports on TV), Bill Gleason (Chicago sports writer), Bud Greenspan (Olympic filmmaker), Ernie Harwell (Tigers broadcaster), Phil Jasner (Longtime NBA writer), Jim Kelley (Longtime NHL writer), Jay Larkin (Showtime executive), Dave Niehuas (Mariners broadcaster), Don Meredith (NFL broadcaster) Bob Sheppard (Yankees public address announcer), Leah Siegel (ESPN producer), Ron Santo (Cubs broadcaster).
Eleven Broadcasters Viewers Deserve More of in '11 (not listed above): Doris Burke (ESPN), Heather Cox (ESPN), Jeannine Edwards (ESPN), Marshall Faulk (NFL Network), Orel Hershiser (ESPN), Johnny Miller (NBC), Kelly Naqi (ESPN), Dave Resvine (Big Ten Network), Joe Tessitore (ESPN), Jeremy Schaap (ESPN), Tom Rinaldi (ESPN)
Six Broadcasters We Need Less Of In '11: Jim Gray, Michael Irvin (Hall of Famer in this category), Craig James, Joe Morgan, Tony Siragusa, Joe Theismann.
SI Now: Doug McDermott channels Larry Bird for SI Cover
Boomer: Three teams on the bubble that need to impress