Charles Barkley's uncertain broadcasting future; media notes
Charles Barkley says it will be a struggle to complete his four-year TNT contract
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Asked how long he wants to continue in sports broadcasting, Charles Barkley told SI.com something shocking: He's almost done.
"I love my job," Barkley said. "I love the people I work with. And I'm going to try to do things to keep me engaged. But I have four years left on my current deal and to be honest with you, it's going to be a struggle for me to make it for the whole four years. I really don't know how much longer I'm going to do this. I need something more, or something else to do to be honest with you."
In an extended interview with SI.com, Barkley was contemplative about his future as a broadcaster. The TNT NBA analyst has uttered similar things before -- including plenty of talk about an Alabama gubernatorial run -- but he offered extended remarks about needing a new challenge. "I only thought I would do this for three or four years but now I have been doing it for 13 years," Barkley said. "When I got to my fifth year of broadcasting I was like 'OK, I'll do this a couple of more years.' But now I'm like, 'Dude, you have been doing this for 13 years and if I make it to the end of the contract it will be 17 years.' Seventeen years is a long time. It's a lifetime in broadcasting. I personally have to figure out the next challenge for me."
Last year Barkley told his Turner bosses that he needed something to re-engage him. He asked to do more games onsite as an analyst and last January Turner assigned Barkley to the Heat-Hawks game in Atlanta with Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller. Barkley loved it. "When I did the game with Kevin and Reggie I had a blast," Barkley said. "And judging by the feedback we got, I think the fans liked it too. I am excited to do that this year."
Barkley is currently scheduled to call two games as a game analyst in the first half of the season. He'll be in Miami for the Spurs at Heat (Nov. 29, 8 p.m. ET) and New York for Lakers at Knicks (Dec. 13, 8 p.m. ET).
Asked for something in broadcasting he'd like to do before he moves on to another profession, Barkley said he wants to call a college basketball game with ESPN's Dick Vitale. He even went so far as to tell his bosses at Turner about his wish. What was their response? "They kind of just blew me off a little bit," Barkley said. "But I don't get my ego caught up with that. Dick does a great job with college basketball and we do a great job with the NBA. I just think it would be fun for Dick and I to do a game together."
For his part, ESPN's Vitale said he'd be up for it. "Let's get it done with Dan Shulman at the controls," Vitale said. "Love the Round Mound of Rebound."
(SI.com examines some of the more notable sports media stories of the weekend)
1. Outside The Lines remains ESPN at its very best, and the program's investigation on a massive gambling operation targeting youth football games in South Florida is likely to win a public service journalism award. OTL first reported on the story in May 2011 and followed up this week after Broward (Fla.) Sheriff's deputies arrested nine youth football coaches and associates on felony bookmaking charges. The network's cameras were granted exclusive access for the arrests, producing compelling and important television.
"We had an opportunity to expose illegal activity going on around youth football, in plain view of children, and that could potentially be harmful to the development and future of these children," said producer Greg Amante, a member of ESPN's Enterprise Unit. "As we uncovered more and more information during our reporting, what was perhaps most disturbing was the actual paying of these kids to perform. We knew there was gambling going on -- we could often see it out in the open. But seeing it and documenting it on camera can be two different challenges. We had to position ourselves in the exact location where the betting was to take place, be there at just the right moment and make sure our hidden cameras were close enough and in the right position to document it."
Amante said the reporting fell under ESPN coordinating producer Dwayne Bray's investigative unit at ESPN. OTL investigative reporter Paula Lavigne, one of ESPN's best journalists, fronted the piece. She told SI.com that sourcing was a challenge. "People were afraid to talk out of fear of retailiation," Lavigne said. "We worked hard to find people, gain their trust and get information."
Full marks for all. Superb work.
2. The CBS broadcast of Alabama-LSU drew a 7.0 overnight household rating, the highest overnight rating for a college football game in 2012. (The previous high was a 5.9 for ABC's coverage of Notre Dame-Oklahoma on Oct. 27.) When the final numbers come out later this week, the viewership will be well over 10 million, but the game was significantly down from last year's Alabama-LSU meeting. That game drew an overnight rating of 11.9 and ultimately ranked as the most-watched regular-season college football game on CBS in 22 years.
a. ESPN owned the conversation around Alabama-LSU conversation thanks to its College GameDay crew broadcasting on Saturday from Baton Rouge, as well as a flotilla of ESPN writers and reporters tweeting from the scene all day. One wonders why CBS ceded this ground when they owned the broadcast rights to the game. The network had little social media presence around the game, and equally bad was CBS's college football pregame show, an invisible entity that offered a three minute lead-in before heading to game coverage. You can't be a studio player with zero presence and zero atmosphere. There's an easy solution: CBS should send its studio team (the regulars are Tim Brando, Spencer Tillman and Tony Barnhart) to the site of a mega regular-season game and use the CBS Sports Network to drum up chatter in the days and hours leading up to it.
b. What did CBS do well on Saturday night? It gave viewers great pictures on Alabama's final touchdown, starting with shots of Alabama sophomore defensive back Blake Sims and freshman Danny Woodson Jr. taunting the LSU crowd to LSU junior center Ben Domingue and senior defensive end Lavar Edwards and the crowd looking stunned. Best of all, CBS stayed with Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron during the postgame scene on the field, and got a money shot of the quarterback sprinting to the stands to hug family and friends. Even with an overly chatty Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson, it was terrific stuff.
c. Dan Hicks was sensational as a fill-in for Tom Hammond (he was at the Breeders Cup) on NBC's call of the Notre Dame-Pitt thriller. The game earned a 4.3 overnight rating, which was NBC's highest-rated Notre Dame game of the season and NBC's best overnight rating for an Irish game since Sept. 11, 2010 when Michigan beat Notre Dame 28-24 on Denard Robinson's fourth quarter two-yard run.
3. CBS Radio host Jim Rome has been in the horse racing game for a number of years -- his stable runs under the name Jungle Racing LLC -- but he never experienced a day like he had on Saturday. The four-year-old filly Mizdirection -- co-owned by Rome -- hit the wire first in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita Park. "It was spectacular and surreal," Rome told SI.com on Sunday. "It really was thrilling." Here's the radio host with his prized filly.
4. Knucklehead of the week: Bobby Hebert. The popular Louisiana sports-talk host, a genial guy, was kicked out of the LSU press box on Saturday night after repeatedly violating working press box decorum and cheering for the Tigers. Here's the story from Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde.
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