This morning on ESPN's First Take, Stephen A. Smith entered the realm of the gladiators to verbally joust with Skip Bayless. Normally, this would cause any sane human being to reach for the remote faster than Usain Bolt. However, as part of my duties at AA, I had to tune in to this matchup of titans. When I discovered the lead story of discussion was Brett Favre's comments on Aaron Rodgers, I knew it would be a hideous train wreck I couldn't take my eyes from. What added to the twisted enjoyment watching this debate was Skippy and Stephen A. on split screens as Smith was joining the show via satellite in Los Angeles. We've captured the actual facial expressions from both Stephen A. and Skippy during that one debate that depict disgust, anguish, disbelief, and perhaps even a bit of constipation. Quite frankly, it's precisely what viewers across the country were feeling at the same time...
A bit of surprising news out today involves the indomitable MLB on Fox partnership of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. It was announced today that former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona will replace McCarver for the first two games of the ALCS on Fox. From CSN New England...
"Francona has been hired by FOX to serve as a color commentator for the network's coverage of the American League Championship Series. Francona, who parted company with the Red Sox last Friday, will be replacing Tim McCarver, who is sidelined with a medical issue. McCarver is expected back by Game 3 of the ALCS, meaning Francona will likely work only the first two games of the telecasts with play-by-play announcer Joe Buck."
McCarver will miss Games 1 & 2 due to a minor heart procedure according to Dan Bell of Fox. We certainly wish Tim the best of health. Yea, he's on AA's Mount Rushmore, but we are compassionate human beings first and foremost.
As for analyzing the hiring of Francona - it's a risky, but bold move by Fox. To install Francona as the sole analyst for these games places a lot of pressure on someone that is new to the enviornment and will have to work as a solo analyst. It's surprising Fox didn't replace McCarver with Francona and one of their present analysts like Eric Karros. However, Francona's addition has the potential of being a home run. Fox has found some success in the past bringing in analysts either still in or just out of baseball - Al Leiter's work in the Cubs/Marlins NLCS stands out off the top of my head. Other managers like Jeff Van Gundy and Jon Gruden were able to add interesting insights in their early days as broadcasters being just removed from coaching as well. For the World Series, Fox is also adding White Sox catcher slash pro wrestler slash knucklehead AJ Pierzynski to their studio team.
Whatever you think of McCarver or Francona, you have to give Fox credit for at least trying something new. We've noted Fox's stale baseball presentation in the past, so the addition of a new voice like Francona is a welcome move. Sure, he may be Brett Favre in the end, but it's encouraging to see a network willing to take a high profile gamble in this situation. If Francona works out, it wouldn't surprise me to see him stick with Fox throughout the rest of the postseason.
[H/T CSN New England]
Ratings are once again down for the MLB playoffs. There are many ways to spin the various stats or attribute them to specific variables like weather, scheduling, and match ups, but the fact is that it's a gloomy start of October on the ratings front.
"The audience has dropped significantly over the first four days of the 2011 postseason for Turner Sports. Through 10 telecasts on TBS and TNT, ratings declined 28% to a 2.1 from a 2.8 average in 2010, while viewership decreased 25% to 3.32 million from 4.45 million, according to Nielsen."
Monday night's head to head showdown between ESPN's MNF and TBS's Yankees and Tigers game three served as a telling exhibit of ESPN's gravitational pull away from other competitive programming. Per TV By The Numbers, MNF squashed the playoff game by a comfortable 2-1 margin in the 18-49 demographic.
Let's think about this for just a second. A pivotal playoff game featuring two great television markets and star pitchers that was close throughout up against one of the worst Monday night draws this season. Furthermore, the MNF game featured a winless team, two modest sized television markets, and very little national appeal. It won out by a huge margin.
There are many ways to frame the television matchup. Football vs. baseball, fantasy sports and gambling vs. playoff drama, and of course TBS vs ESPN.
For the sake of discussion, let's say you flip the games and MNF for that one night is on TBS and Tigers/Yankees is on ESPN, how would those ratings be affected?
I'll venture a guess that MNF is somewhere near a four rating and Game 3 potentially moves up to a three rating. Maybe that is overstated, but for the last week or so it's been eye opening how viewers migrate to ESPN by habit. Below is a recap of examples of this type of gravitational pull...
Tuesday afternoon I had a chance to chat with Peter Gammons of MLB Network. Although a podcast was in the works to follow our podcast with Barry Larkin, the evils of technology prevented our interview with Peter from being preserved. A cruel twist of irony considering the early parts of our conversation focused on the technological advances in covering sports. While that was maddening it would be an injustice to leave the insights of a man like Peter Gammons on the virtual cutting room floor. What follows is reflections on the notes from my conversation with Gammons and an attempt to place his career in its proper perspective...
The connection of sports fan to sportswriter has largely been relegated to watching a writer slash television personality yell across a debate desk recent years. With the advent of a 24/7 sports conversation and the growing influence of social media, the number of influential, respectable sportswriters is dwindling while many fashion an outlandish identity to help them stand out in the crowd. Additionally, following your favorite team may now involve following their beat writer on Twitter or reading a blog instead of opening up the newspaper every morning. The changing landscape of how we consume sports has had a monumental effect on the sports media. Even in the last five years, the relationship between the sports fan and the sportswriter has changed dramatically.
Perhaps more than any other sport, baseball is symbolic of this changing sports landscape. The romantic element of the national pasttime seen through the eyes of Ken Burns has been given a makeover by Bill James. As baseball remains the same game from Ruth to Mantle to Jeter, it continually evolves as well. Our evaluations of what is valuable and what isn't in baseball transitions from more qualitative to quantitave seemingly by the hour. It's quite the journey from Pride of the Yankees to Moneyball. The old conflicts with the new as the two battle and blend together simultaneously. As the sport of baseball and the media that covers the sport has changed, there has been one constant at the top - Peter Gammons.
Gammons began his writing career at the Boston Globe in 1969. From Carl Yastrzemski to Carl Crawford, Gammons has covered the sport for over four decades. He's won every award and accolade imaginable including National Sportswriter of the Year three times and the prestigious JG Taylor Spink Award in Cooperstown. He was even recognized by bloggers and traditional media with his own Muppet for winning Best Sportswriter 65 or older at BWB4 in New York City a couple weeks ago. But it's not just the longevity of Gammons that is striking, it is his continual ability to remain at the top of his profession in the midst of an everchanging sports world. He's been a nationally recognized and respected baseball writer since his days at Sports Illustrated in the 1970s to joining ESPN in 1989 and now MLB Network since late 2009. The evolution of his industry isn't lost on Gammons. "I've come a long way from filing stories with Western Union," he reflected.
Gammons has moved from sending telegrams to tweets. The veteran reporter has embraced Twitter and is rapidly approaching a milestone of 100,000 followers. Gammons infuses his legendary baseball commentary with tweets about music, giving shoutouts to a vast array of singers from Grace Potter to Merle Haggard to The Byrds.
In contemplating his career covering baseball, Gammons doesn't push back against the changes to his industry, but continues to stay ahead of the curve. He has written articles online for several years, tweets regularly while interacting with followers, and encourages young and aspiring sportswriters to take hold of the opportunities presented by the sports blogosphere by gaining writing experience.
In truth, this evolution in the sports media mirrors the growth of sabermetrics and statistical analysis in baseball as a revolutionary method for evaluating players merges with old school ways of thinking. In discussing Billy Beane and the success of the Moneyball movie, Gammons is quick to note the importance of not just Oakland's ability to make the most of their resources, but their ability to combine sabermetrics and scouting to bring the best possible talent to Oakland. While Moneyball may be synonymous with the Oakland A's, the advanced number crunching made famous by the book and the movie has made its way into front offices around Major League Baseball.
In baseball and the media, Gammons is careful of absolutism in either realm. In speaking on the evolution of baseball analysis, he told AA, "it's not black and white, it's about the shades of gray." Perhaps we see those shades of gray in his own ability to continue to relate to fans through so many different mediums. Whether it be a magazine feature, radio interview, online article, television appearance, or 140 character message, Gammons maintains his uncanny insight and perspective...
With Pam Ward taking a bye week from her own awards (shouldn't she have asked AA for permission first?), the door was opened for a new leader in the Pammies clubhouse. Craig James, who's used to winning his fair share of awards/tournaments around here, takes the lead this week. Gary Danielson also continues his rise up the standings with a couple beauties this week. Brett Favre jumps into the top five with his only performance of the season in what could be the best week of Pammy quotes so far this season. There's certainly a definitive theme of incredibly obvious, laughable statements amongst the winners this week. The envelope please...
10) "Nice throw but it was overthrown by a foot and a half." - Gary Danielson (via bjo109)
9) Quan Bray was wide open, which gave the perception that he was wide open." - Steve Beuerlein (via BenBragg)
8) Paul Burmeister: "Shaun, what do you like about Kellen Moore?"
Shaun King: "He is really good."
Thanks, Shaun. (via bjo109)
7) "USF have been lacked with a big physical runner." - Jesse Palmer, you have been lacked with 3rd grade English. (via bjo109)
6) "The good teams are good at what they do." - Brett Favre (via RickRoswell)
5) "Dave Wannstedt did a great job here at Pittsburgh" - Craig James (via many people). Wanny never reached a BCS bowl and was 42-31 as a coach.
4) "To upset Wisconsin, Nebraska has to outscore them." - Lee Corso (via sctvman)
3) "I'll tell you... I can't begin to tell you." - Brett Favre (via RickRoswell) on Mississippi HS football.
2) "Could have been a completion had he caught the ball." - Matt Millen (via kbrownatc)
1) "There is a good possibility one of these teams will suffer their first loss." - Gary Danielson (via ATLNagel) in a game featuring unbeaten Florida vs unbeaten Alabama.
Week 5 Top 5 -
1) Craig James 40 pts
2) Pam Ward 38 pts
3) Matt Millen 29 pts
4) Gary Danielson 27 pts,
T5) Beth Mowins 13 pts, Brett Favre 13 pts
Others receiving votes - Artrell Hawkins 9 pts, Warrick Dunn 9 pts, Dan Hawkins 9 pts, Jenn Brown 9 pts, Sean McDonogh 8 pts, Lee Corso 7 pts, Wendi Nix 7 pts, Steve Martin 7 pts, Tom Cole 7 pts, Lou Holtz 6 pts, Jesse Palmer 6 pts, Andre Ware 5 pts, Alex Flanagan 4 pts, Mike Morgan 4 pts, Joe Tiller 3 pts, Keith Jones 3 pts, Desmond Howard 3 pts, Shaun King 3 pts, Danny Kanell 2 pts, Steve Beuerlein 2 pts, Kevin Kugler 1 pt, Eric Collins 1 pt.
The Full Week 6 Announcing Schedule will be coming soon, where you can find the dates and times of games and all the announcing pairings as well. Then, make sure you check back every Saturday for the Pam Ward Chronicles and another week of the Pammies!
College Humor is usually good for a solid laugh every month. I've particularly enjoyed the Prank Wars series and I even tuned into their short lived television series on MTV as well. Unfortunately though the venture backed company IAC owned property has been having a bit of an identity crisis of late. Many of the more prolific comedians of the site are like myself dangerously approaching their thirties and their comedic style may even be maturing a bit as well.
The branding of the type of comedy they provide needed to be broadened away from just being hi-jinks for the college crowd. With that in mind, College Humor launched jest.com and subsequently knocked it out of the park with this terrific Moneyball satire trailer poking fun of the Yankees.
While College Humor may have found the college audience a bit limiting, there is certainly a large audience that will embrace this well executed jab at the Yankees. Given the Onion's poor foray into poking fun of the sports world, maybe Jest/College Humor can successfully resonate over time with sports fans?
We celebrate our tenth podcast (Woo! *blows kazoo* I seriously thought we would've been lucky to make it to one) by welcoming one of the greatest shortstops in baseball history and one of the best analysts on television, Barry Larkin. Barry has been noted as one of the top baseball analysts around and is the featured analyst on ESPN's live stadium editions of Baseball Tonight on Sunday nights. AA chats with Barry about a multitude of topics including...
-How he got started in his media career
-Why he made the switch from MLB Network to ESPN
-The excitement of taking Baseball Tonight on the road each week for the first time
-The dramatic end of the 2011 regular season
-The player's perspective on postseason baseball
-Which team reminds him of his World Champion Reds team
-His thoughts on a possible induction into the Hall of Fame next year
There's also plenty of talk dissecting the Divisional Series in both leagues from one of the sharpest analysts in the game. If you're a baseball fan or have any interest in the MLB postseason, this is a podcast you won't want to miss. Also, don't forget to check out all of our podcasts at ITunes.
ESPN just doesn't know when to say no, do they? Yes, ESPN Films (formerly ESPN Original Entertainment) has hit it out of the park with their 30 For 30 documentary series. However, ESPN's checkered past in the world of scripted dramas and made-for-tv movies is more like a graveyard littered with corpses of the dead. Of course everyone remembers the high-profile downfall of Playmakers and the train wreck that was Tilt. But, do you also recall such gems as A Season on the Brink, Hustle, and The Bronx is Burning? Apparently, ESPN doesn't remember these colossal duds either. Instead of being content with the success of their critically acclaimed documentaries, ESPN is now looking to pitch scripted sitcoms, starting with the tale of four sports fans from where else... Boston.
Now, I take a couple of issues with this news besides the obvious fact that the show will most likely suck worse than Outsourced. After all, one of the creators was responsible for Scrubs. First, there's the continuing global problem of the East Coast media bias. Many fans who live west of Philadelphia have long complained of a perceived bias for the I-95 corridor from every national sports media outlet. And who could blame the rest of us who live in "Flyover Country" or the West Coast? The Yanks and the Sawx, and now the Phillies dominate baseball coverage from all major networks. The NFC and AFC East is consistently featured in primetime and nationally televised NFL games. The Pac-12 is almost constantly ignored in college football discussion. Why can't a series about sports fans be focused in another, less glamorous sports town like Cleveland, or St. Louis, or Denver? Because, of course, all must bow down to the best sports city in the world, Boston.
And that's the second problem I have with this proposed sitcom. Of course, I'm sure you've heard, those sports fans in Boston are wicked cool, right? And I know Boston and New York are the nearest major sports town to the WWL's headquarters in Bristol, CT. But, hasn't the glorification of Boston as sports nirvana gone a little too far? The tipping point had to be this ESPN The Magazine issue soley dedicated to the city of Boston, their teams, and their fans. How insulting is that to subscribers of the magazine who, I don't know, happen to live outside Beantown? Personally, if I subscribed to ESPN The Magazine, I'd use the Boston issue as toilet paper.
But what about the supposed Steve Bartman/Cubs documentary that featured a healthy dose of Bill Buckner and Boston misery and bliss? What about the manufactured John Lackey controversy driven by the arrogant Boston media? What about the most recent Red Sox collapse completely overshadowing an equally embarassing collapse by the Atlanta Braves? Does any other town have a quarterback whose haircut is worthy of an actual news article like Tom Brady? The entire sports culture around Boston is already insufferable enough in real life, now it has to be idealized and shoved down our throats in made-for-tv sitcom form? Gag me with a spoon! I can't wait for the constant promotion next fall during ESPN's 37th Sawx/Yanks showdown or the 300th courtside Celtics interview with Donnie Wahlberg if, God forbid, the series actually gets picked up by ABC. Please national media, when our world is smaller than ever, why can't you pay attention to anything that happens west of Harrisburg, PA? And please ESPN, reconsider this Boston-obsessed road you're travelling down. I mean come on, what's next after a sitcom about Boston sports fans... a show based on the life of Colin Cowherd? Nobody would be that silly... right?
I've got bad news for those who get their jollies from the Monday Night Football theme, you won't be hearing it tonight. This is because "Fox and Friends" wanted to reach new heights in political discourse and called on the expertise of Hank Williams Jr. to discuss politics this morning. Unfortunately for everyone, Hank got a little rowdy and compared Obama to Hitler. ESPN was none too pleased with this and for that reason they have pulled his intro from tonight's telecast. Here's the statement ESPN released about this situation.
"While Hank Williams, Jr. is not an ESPN employee, we recognize that he is closely linked to our company through the open to Monday Night Football. We are extremely disappointed with his comments, and as a result we have decided to pull the open from tonight’s telecast."
Shit, you just can't be saying those kinds of things on the air.
We're adding a lot of new features this week to complement the Real Tweets from Real People Monday NFL feature to give you a bigger and better Week 4 NFL review. Marv Albert is clearly mesmerized. I haven't seen him make that facial expression since this. I suppose Rich Gannon awkwardly holding a football in front of you will do that to someone. So, in addition to tweets and quotes to us, we have video of some of the best and worst calls of the week as well.
But first, tell us who had the biggest fail of Week 4.
A) First, comes Ronnie Brown's bizarre attempt at a lateral while being tackled at the goalline. Nice to see the Aaron Brooks glitch is alive and well...
B) Next comes a perfectly executed backflip into a faceplant from Bears RB Marion Barber...
C) Joe Buck had a little bit of trouble with what down it is at the end of the Cowboys/Lions game. This wouldn't be such a big deal, except it was sorta kinda 4th down with the game on the line.
D) Mark Sanchez. 11/35, 119 yards passing, 1 INT, 3 lost fumbles. Yikes.
Vote! Biggest Fail of Week 4!
Now, onto Real Tweets from Real People for Week 4 in the NFL...