Media Circus (con't ...)
4. Fox Soccer Channel's analysts showed honest outrage during halftime of Saturday's Arsenal-West Brom game after a disgraceful dive by Arsenal's Santi Cazorla. The acting job drew a penalty kick. "He is never going to live that down," analyst Eric Wynalda said. "This happened a long time ago in Germany with Andreas Möller. He was suspended for eight weeks. Eight weeks without pay, and I think that should be the similar case here if you want it to stop. It's embarrassing. I'm embarrassed."
Fellow analyst Warren Barton followed up with "worse even still is that he holds his leg afterward. Awful." Host Rob Stone also weighed in: "Go Big Brother on these guys. Hit them." There's a tendency -- especially among NFL-type shows -- to come off like tough guys for the sake of tough guy-dom, but this crew took the right tenor, even if Wynalda's call for eight games was way over the top. Props.
4a. Disgraceful work by some of those same Fox Soccer commentators the previous Sunday when they made fun of an overweight Sunderland fan. Nothing worse than when ex-jocks and the handsome crowd start mocking those in the stands. Appropriately, Stone apologized on his Twitter feed for this nonsense after being called out on it.
5. CBS aired three of the top four most-watched regular-season college football telecasts of the 2012 season, including the most-watched tilt: Alabama's defeat of Georgia in the SEC Championship on Dec. 1. That game drew 16.2 million viewers, just topping ESPN's broadcast of Notre Dame-USC on Nov. 24 (16.1 million). CBS' coverage of Alabama-LSU on Nov. 3 came in third (11.4 million viewers), followed by Texas A&M-Alabama on CBS on Nov. 10 (9.6 million).
5a. As the home of all things Notre Dame football and without any NHL games, the NBC Sports Network will feature 10 hours of Irish football programming on Jan. 1, including re-airs of Notre Dame's wins over Michigan, Stanford, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest.
5b. ESPN released its bowl schedule last week and the network will show 34 games, including at least one a day for 16 out of the 19 days from Dec. 20 to Jan. 7. The most prominent, obviously, comes Jan 7 when Notre Dame and Alabama play for the BCS national championship. Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit will work their sixth consecutive BCS title game. The sideline reporters will be Heather Cox and Tom Rinaldi. Mike Tirico and Todd Blackledge will call the game on ESPN Radio, with reporters Holly Rowe and Joe Schad working the sideline.
5c. The Fang's Bites blog has released its annual college football broadcasting awards.
6. Plenty of you were curious whether NBC Sports management vetted Bob Costas' essay last week about gun access. There's no way Costas could go on the air at halftime of the network's Sunday-night NFL game with such a politicized message without clearing it with his bosses. Confirmed an NBC Sports spokesperson: "The commentary is vetted editorially by our production leadership team but the opinions expressed are Bob's."
6a. Turner Sports NBA analyst Charles Barkley revealed on NBC Sports Network's Costas Tonight last week that he always carried a gun as an athlete. "I carried a gun in my car, every year of my life since I was 20," Barkley said. "I never had to use it. I just feel safer with it because we have jocks who get robbed all the time, road rage and things like that. I feel a sense of peace when I have it with me, but it would take extreme circumstances for me to even touch it."
7. You know what's rare? An NFL analyst who cops to being wrong. Here's ESPN's Ron Jaworski on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson: "I take a lot of pride in my prep of the college players coming in, and I thought Russell Wilson would be a good, solid backup quarterback for a decade in the NFL. He's come in and shown incredible poise, a pocket awareness, the strong arm and the ability to make plays.
"We all have a tendency to look at stats because that's kind of a primary thing to value players, but what's been impressive with Russell Wilson is he has made plays when the game has been tied or they're behind. The majority of his touchdown passes come in critical situations, and I'm a big believer in quarterbacks that manage critical situations.
"I'm very impressed with the way he's playing, and quite honestly, I'm surprised. I did not see this coming."
7a. ESPN and the NFL Network have owned the conversation on television in the run-up week to the Super Bowl, but into this space comes CBS with a week-long programming block on the CBS Sports Network and other platforms in January. The network says it will broadcast 15 different shows from New Orleans before Super Bowl XLVII across multiple CBS platforms (television, radio, digital). I don't get excited over the prospect of more ex-jocks yapping endlessly, but I like the idea of competition across the networks and the possibility of Phil Simms challenging someone else to a rumble, as he did two years ago in Dallas with Desmond Howard. The Multichannel News has a breakdown of CBS Sports' plans here.
7b. James Brown conducted an excellent interview on The NFL Today with former New Orleans lineman Anthony Hargrove and his agent, Phil Williams, on the Saints' bounty program. It's worth the watch.
7c. The NFL says its games have topped the ratings in local markets a record 92 percent of the time this season -- up from 88 percent through Week 13 last season.
7d. Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar's rambling, near-incoherent interview with Cleveland's WKNR-AM was a tough listen and highlighted a debate sports-talk hosts and producers often have: When do you cut off a radio guest when he or she starts going off the rails? When the line goes from compelling to disturbing, that's when you pull the guest. Kosar eventually spoke to the Cleveland Plain Dealer and said he was surprised by the reaction.
7e. Jimmy Johnson went all-in on Ponder during Fox NFL Sunday: "Christian Ponder the last couple of months has been horrible, the worst quarterback in the league. He is really struggling. Right now, he is playing scared. He is throwing check downs. Check downs might get you field goals but not touchdowns."
8. Among the memorable sports pieces this week:
ESPN's Elizabeth Merrill offered a sensational look at Kansas City in mourning after the murder of Perkins and suicide of Belcher.
Here's a fascinating piece from N + 1 on playing basketball in Afghanistan.
Notre Dame alum and Washington Post reporter Melinda Henneberger crushed the university's administration for what she perceived as abdicating responsibility over its handling of the suicide of 19-year-old St. Mary's student Lizzy Seeberg.
The headline over this thought-provoking piece by The Nation's Jessica Valenti? "Kasandra Perkins Did Not Have To Die."
8a. Two non-sports links you should check out include: This Washington Post gallery of newspaper front pages after the Pearl Harbor attacks, and an oral history of the Tunnel nightclub from Complex Magazine.
8b. SiriusXM sports-talk host Chris Russo has a long history of saying implausible things. He dropped another one last week about a sport he is as well-versed in as I am on the economy of Burma. Said Russo on college football: "If the SEC is so great, why are there so many coaching changes?" We'll let that sit there for the college football fans here.
9. The intersection of Deadspin and ESPN has often produced fireworks -- as well as the occasional pink gorilla sighting -- but last week's story featuring an ESPN vice president allegedly asserting to a group of Maryland journalism students that a love triangle was the reason for Deadspin's aggressive coverage of alleged plagiarism at ESPN.com offered a new level of surreal. It also provoked the interest of media watchers, from Jim Romenesko to Reuters.
Amid this circus was one of the more remarkable statements ever uttered by a communications department and one that made me a feel bad for the PR practitioner who put forth the statement on behalf of management and not on behalf of good journalism.
"We stand by our original comments, which suggested that even though multiple legitimate news sources were used to gather background information, we should always recite even the most basic facts in an original voice," said the spokesperson, sounding about as direct as Lombard Street in San Francisco. "Given that the level of attention to these posts has now significantly exceeded the relative importance of those items to our site's archives, we will be removing or amending them in the near future and moving on."
I'll link the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics here in case anyone is interested.
10. Miscellaneous File: Sports Business Journal ratings editor Austin Karp reports that NBA TV averaged 157,000 prime-time viewers in November, up 504 percent from the same period last year when the network was without live games due to the lockout. It's also up 35 percent from 2010. Karp also reports that the NBC Sports Network is down 45 percent in its November prime-time audience from a year ago. Obviously, the network is getting crushed without NHL programming.
10a. Word broke late Sunday night on a content and promotional partnership between Yahoo! Sports and NBC Sports. Each site will maintain editorial control of its own newsroom and digital properties but will collaborate on news and event coverage. Given the scale of the two entities, it's a marriage that bears close watching.
10b. ESPN2's SportsNation is moving to Los Angeles at the end of December and gets a new co-host (Marcellus Wiley) for ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd, who can now focus more of his time on socioeconomic overgeneralizations and picking NFL winners. The show's buzz is significantly down since the departure of Michelle Beadle, and you don't need a weatherman to know the way the wind is blowing for the long term. That being said, SportsNation co-host Charissa Thompson is wicked funny on Twitter and is recommended on that social media service.
10c. HBO's Jim Lampley, sports media knucklehead of the week.