SI.com's 2011 Media Awards (cont.)
THE PICK: Chris Russo, Sirius XM sports host
Russo uttered the most inane sports-talk-radio comment of the year when he proclaimed that Red Sox fans would exchange the 2007 World Series title for not collapsing this season. How did the host come to this thesis? Well, he didn't poll Red Sox fans, nor does he work out of Boston to glean such insight (SiriusXM is based in New York). This analysis became even more humorous when the Boston Globe later published its piece on the dysfunction in the clubhouse during the season. After Russo's take, I emailed the Boston Globe's terrific sports television critic and sports reporter, Chad Finn, to get his view on how a Red Sox fan would see this. Not surprisingly, Finn dismissed Russo's silliness.
Compounding his inanity, Russo in the following weeks called Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia "a fraud" for considering opting out of his contract after pledging fidelity to New York. The word "fraud" is a loaded word, a cruel charge that should not be thrown around lightly by a national host, especially one who left his longtime place of employment (WFAN-AM in New York) for a fat deal with a satellite provider. Sabathia, of course, agreed to a contract extension with the Yankees instead of testing the free-agent market. I look for better things from Russo in 2012.
THE PICK: Philadelphia sportswriters vs. Philadelphia sportswriters
Philadelphia has seen its share of epic battles -- Rocky Balboa versus Apollo Creed and General Howe versus General Washington to name a pair -- but this year the rough-and-tumble city saw two writers who cover the Eagles (Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News and Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer) literally battle each other at the team's practice facility. Fantastically, the alteraction was given the Taiwanese animation treatment.
In addition, a couple of months earlier, David Murphy (Daily News) and John Gonzalez (Inquirer) duked it out over the fields of Twitter and the Web.
Erin Andrews (ESPN) vs. Michelle Beadle (ESPN): Beadle made her feelings clear in this Deadspin interview in May.
Desmond Howard (ESPN) vs. Phil Simms (CBS): They had a dust-up during Super Bowl week in Dallas.
Bill Simmons (ESPN) vs. Keith Olbermann (Current TV): Background on the feud can be found here.
Bill Simmons and Tony Kornheiser (ESPN) vs. Mike Tirico (ESPN): Simmons apologized to Tirico for his commentsin the ESPN book Those Guys Have All the Fun.
With anarchy swirling around him on the booze-soaked streets of downtown Vancouver, CTV British Columbia senior reporter/anchor Rob Brown provided a riveting live account of the post-Stanley Cup riots for Canadian viewers and for those of us watching from the States via streaming video. It was visceral, scary stuff, and so close was Brown to the action that you wondered at times if he'd be engulfed by some of the hooligans. Brown and his cameraman, Jazz Sanghera, never lost their cool, even though Sanghera suffered a broken nose from flying debris. Here's a video recap of their work.
ESPN reporter and producer Colleen Dominguez and producer Justine Gubar offered compelling reporting for Outside the Lines on the life and death of professional golfer Erica Blasberg, who committed suicide in 2010 at age 25. They reported the story for seven months, including trips to Dubai, Las Vegas and Portland. Impressive work.
ESPN feature producer Scott Harves produced a tremendous 16-minute retrospective on the life of Wes Leonard, the two-sport star at Fennville (Mich.) High who collapsed and died at age 16 on March 3. With unique access to the team (and Leonard's family) for 10 days in March, Harves filmed the team through its three district playoff wins and during its loss to eventual state champ Schoolcraft High. He shot well over 50 hours of footage. Harves and his crew also produced a superb OTL piece on Joplin High football after a devastating tornado hit the Missouri town.
For an example of talent and production working in perfect coordination, we cite the NFL Network coverage of the Ryan Mallett selection during the NFL draft. NFLN insider Michael Lombardi, clearly tapped inside the Patriots' draft room, tipped viewers 10 minutes before the selection that New England was going to pick the quarterback in the third round. Lombardi later explained that Mallett was the top quarterback on the Patriots' board and that Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino had texted him how surprised he was that his player had fallen so far. NFLN analyst Kurt Warner even texted Tom Brady about the pick. Brady responded: "I'm here for 10 years." Fantastic.
Props to Zack Meisel and James Oldham, the duo for Ohio State's student-run daily, The Lantern, whose story in May on former Buckeyes football player Ray Small (who confirmed some of the allegations that the school was investigating) helped illuminate the out-of-control nature of the program.
The (Bergen) Record of New Jersey sports columnist Tara Sullivan called out the Masters after a security guard denied her entry into the Augusta National locker room for a post-tournament interview with Rory McIlroy. Twitter played a role here, too, especially in the metabolism of the story. Public relations people in sports must now react in real time at an event when something breaks involving the media.
New York Times sports reporter John Branch examined the life and death of NHL enforcer Derek Boogaard over a three-part series. It was brilliant, eye-opening work. If you missed it, it's linked here.
Yahoo! Sports investigative reporter Charles Robinson and contributor Rand Getlin dropped a bombshell in August with this exhaustive report on a renegade Miami football booster.
During a vacation with his wife, Erin Cox (a reporter for The Capital, an Annapolis, Md.-based daily), Washington Post sports reporter Rick Maese found himself in the middle of the series of massive earthquakes that struck northeast Japan, unleashing tsunamis that swept across the countryside. The couple soon journeyed north to the disaster area and started filing reports from evacuation shelters and other nearby sites.
Lisa Wilson became the lone black woman leading a sports section at a metropolitan daily newspaper when the Buffalo News promoted her to executive sports editor in May.
ESPN landed the rights to Wimbledon (a 12-year deal) after NBC's nonsensical taped semifinals coverage in recent years. It was welcome news for tennis fans.
Jim Palmer delivered a heartfelt, teary-eyed tribute to Mike Flanagan on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) after learning of his former Orioles teammate's death.
The CBS/Turner partnership for the NCAA tournament was a great viewer success, especially the airing of every game in its entirety. It gave viewers the power to toggle between multiple channels and program the tournament themselves.
From March 12 (the beginning of the NFL lockout) through July 25 (the end), SiriusXM NFL Radio conducted 1,089 interviews ranging from players to NFL negotiators. Nice work.
In June, ESPN reporter John Barr and producer Nicole Noren won a national Investigative Reporting Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television Digital News Association for their 2010 exploration into the sex industry trade in South Africa before the World Cup. This month, HBO Real Sports correspondent Bernard Goldberg won an "excellence in broadcast journalism" award from duPont-Columbia University for his in-depth reporting on concussions in sports.
Asking point-blank questions and limiting opinion during his query, Bob Costas was brilliant and thorough during a chilling interview with Jerry Sandusky for NBC's Rock Center. Even more remarkable was that Costas had prepared to interview Sandusky's attorney, Joseph Amendola, when the lawyer offered up his client for a phone interview. The Washington Post described it as a "a clinic in how to do a high-pressure, big-news TV interview on deadline."
Patriot-News crime reporter Sara Ganim had been investigating the Sandusky case for nearly three years before the national media converged on State College, Pa. Ganim, 24, has since owned the story with careful, sourced reporting and deserves the national attention she's received. "This is a crime story for me and that's how I've always approached this," Ganim said. "We have been careful to deal in facts and not rumors."
Of the many terrific sports-related features that aired surrounding the 10th anniversary of 9/11, ESPN's 13-minute piece on Welles Crowther, a former Boston College lacrosse player who was killed in the South Tower of the World Trade Center after leading people to safety, stayed with me the most. If you have not yet seen The Man in the Red Bandana, it represents the best of ESPN's storytelling capabilities. Producer Drew Gallagher said the group that worked on the story -- editor Tim Horgan, reporter and writer Tom Rinaldi and cameramen Gregg Hoerdemann, Mike Bollacke, Aaron Frutman and Samson Chan -- did not approach it like another piece. "I think everyone put a little bit of themselves in it," Gallagher said.
Anything Jane Leavy wrote for Grantland.
TNT debuted its outstanding "NBA Forever" promo on Christmas Day, a nearly two-minute piece of basketball perfection. Turner Sports creative director Drew Watkins said he and his team -- visual effects artist/compositor Les Umberger and senior editors Eric Lund and Chris Wolfe -- were in the editing booth for nearly three weeks putting together the montage. They pored over thousands of clips in five- or 10-second chunks to come up with shots that fit stylistically and framing-wise. "The goal was to do something that connected to the viewer and was true to the game," Watkins said. "It really was just a good moment for the team I work with."