The Diamondbacks defeated the Indians tonight on a 9th inning pinch hit walk-off HR by Wily Mo Pena. If you haven't heard that name in a while, that's because Wily Mo has only played in a handful of games in the bigs since 2008. While the HR was clutch, what he did just before the at bat drew the most attention from the MLB Network studio crew. For good luck or just because he lacks an appreciation of good hygiene, Wily Mo spit in his helmet before putting it on his head. MLB Network of course then decided to feature Pena's loogy in glorious disgusting slo-mo replay. Gross for sure, but it is hard to argue with those results.
There are a lot of good things going on in this video. Easily my highlight is Harold Reynolds giving an absolutely flawless impression of Clubber Lang (Mr. T) mumbling something and everyone else on the crew pretending like they knew what he was talking about. Also enjoyable is Dan Plesac repeatedly making noises that instantly reminded me of the grape stomping lady for the majority of the clip. Plesac also suggests that spitting in your helmet "MAKES YOU FEEL MANLY." Well, I just spit in my hat and put it on before writing this. I apologize if the testosterone oozing out of this post is overbearing. The win by the snakes puts them just 2.5 games back in the NL West behind the world champs.
The Chicago Cubs recently announced that television play-by-play man, Len Kasper, has agreed to a five-year extension to remain the voice of the team through at least 2016.
Kasper has been very well-received by fans in his seven years with the Cubs, after having the same job with the Florida Marlins for the three years before that. The chemistry that he's had with color commentator, Bob Brenly, has especially gotten terrific reception. Together, they create a very entertaining broadcast, while also being very informative and professional. And when Cubs games are so widely available to watch in America because of WGN, it's nice to have broadcasters that can be tolerated by non-Cubs fans that are just tuning in to enjoy a ballgame.
At just 40, it's likely that Len Kasper will be the Cubs' play-by-play man for much longer than 2016. The Cubs are going to do everything to keep him around for a long time, and Kasper absolutely loves the job.
“I thought it would be the greatest job in the world when I got here, and it’s been beyond my expectations. Of course, it’s more fun when the Cubs win, but to get to call half the games at Wrigley Field, it never, ever, ever feels routine.”
“From every angle, professionally and personally and from a family standpoint, being back in Midwest (after working in Florida) felt very familiar to me,” Kasper said. “Being from the Midwest, I feel like I have a good read on how people view the world here, and I’ve felt accepted here from Day 1. Cubs fans have been absolutely wonderful to me.”
As for Brenly, his contract expires after the 2012 season, and it will be interesting to see what he decides to do. Like Kasper, the Cubs will surely want to keep Brenly around, but the former World Series-winning manager (for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001) may want to get back into managing/coaching. It's also worth noting that his son Michael is a catcher in the Cubs' organization for the Daytona Cubs (Class-A Affiliate), so that could somehow play into his decision-making.
Those who tuned into SportsCenter throughout Monday were treated to a useless and awkward preview of Team USA’s first World Cup match against North Korea. While ESPN is pouring similar resources into the Women's World Cup as they did for South Africa 2010, this event has a serious lack of juice . The 22-day tournament isn’t capable of giving me a goose pimple on my pinky. But, I was given some nausea as I watched Bob Ley, Brandi Chastain and Tony DiCicco provide this 160-second dose of nonsense from Germany...
Ley is a pro. I’m rarely ever critical of him. He’s typically smooth, well spoken, knowledgeable and prepared. He is, without a doubt, a top shelf host, especially during events like the World Cup that require a point guard who is well rounded and good at storytelling. However, it’s quite clear that he’d rather be rolling strikes and downing a few cold ones at some seedy bowling alley than be swapping soccer stories with Chastain and DiCicco. I thought the way Ley introduced the two analysts was a little phony. His excitement just didn’t come across as all that natural when he belted, “1999! We all remember that day at the Rose Bowl.” Did he really believe what he said? No, he didn’t, but I did appreciate his effort. I can’t be too hard on him for not sounding genuinely enthused. Hosting a Women’s World Cup isn’t something that’s on the wish lists of America’s premier sports broadcasters, which, make no mistake, Ley is. If the Worldwide Leader had gotten the rights to the Olympics, he’d do for ESPN what Bob Costas does for NBC.
As for Chastain and DiCicco, they were chock full of clichés. I cringed when Chastain declared, “the most important thing for a team to win a world cup is togetherness.” Great insight! Clearly, the Bristol bosses only hired her because she ripped off her jersey after scoring the cup-clinching goal in 1999. On that note, how many times is ESPN going to show the highlight of Chastain’s “liberation” of women athletes during this World Cup? It’s a fine moment, but I don’t need to see it or have it mentioned every time Chastain is in the mix. Sure, she’s recognizable, but she didn’t show me that she could be a quality analyst. Keep an eye on her during these next two weeks, her future as a soccer analyst may swerve off the highway, flip over the divide and smash into a tree.
DiCicco had nice energy, a fantastic tan, a sharp gold watch and seemed like a great guy to have a slice of Sicilian pizza with, but, other than that, he was weak. Like Chastain, he didn’t provide useful analysis. According to DiCicco, Team USA has to take it “one game at a time and North Korea isn’t going to be easy, they’re young.” If I were his producer, I’d ask him to try and give the viewers something more than the triteness he displayed throughout the segment.
ESPN’s coverage of the USA North Korea match starts at 11:45 AM ET and will air on ESPN and ESPN3. I don’t know about you, but I won’t be tuning in. I don't like women’s soccer, I don’t like hollow analysts and I don’t like that tame sports bra Chastain was donning when she netted that goal in ’99.
Interleague play is back once again this weekend with rivalry series taking center stage. This time, it's actually the Freeway Series instead of the Subway Series that gets the Sunday Night Baseball slot. White Sox-Cubs and Reds-Indians will also be matchups to watch this weekend. The pick of the games early in the week is clearly northeastern powers Boston and Philadelphia playing a series in Philly. ESPN and MLB Network will be there. Tuesday, June 28
San Francisco Giants @ Chicago Cubs (WGNA 2PM) Len Kasper, Bob Brenly Boston Red Sox @ Philadelphia Phillies (MLBN 7PM) Local Broadcast [Alt: Milwaukee @ NY Yankees] Washington Nationals @ Los Angeles Angles (MLBN 10PM) Local Broadcast [Alt: Atlanta @ Seattle]
Wednesday June 29
Boston Red Sox @ Philadelphia Phillies (ESPN 7PM) Dave O'Brien, Nomar Garciaparra San Francisco Giants @ Chicago Cubs (WGNA 7PM) Len Kasper, Bob Brenly
Thursday, June 30
Boston Red Sox @ Philadelphia Phillies (MLBN 1PM) TBA [Alt: Milwaukee @ NY Yankees] San Francisco Giants @ Chicago Cubs (WGNA 2PM) Len Kasper, Bob Brenly Texas Rangers @ Houston Astros (MLBN 8PM) Local Broadcast [Alt: St. Louis @ Baltimore 7PM]
Friday July 1
Chicago White Sox @ Chicago Cubs (WGNA 2PM) Len Kasper, Bob Brenly New York Yankees @ New York Mets (MLBN 7PM) TBA [Alt: San Francisco @ Detroit]
Saturday, July 2
New York Yankees @ New York Mets (FOX 4PM) TBA Chicago White Sox @ Chicago Cubs (FOX 4PM) TBA Cleveland Indians @ Cincinnati Reds (FOX 4PM) TBA TBA (MLBN PM)
Sunday July 3
New York Yankees @ New York Mets (TBS 1PM) Ernie Johnson, John Smoltz Chicago White Sox @ Chicago Cubs (WGNA 2PM) Ken Harrelson, Steve Stone Los Angeles Dodgers @ Los Angeles Angels (ESPN 8PM) Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser, Bobby Valentine
The Sports Business Journal is the go to place to leak big news if you're a pro league, media company, agency, or professional team. They consistently break the biggest stories and Monday they unleashed quite a bombshell by reporting that the NFL is engaging with various television partners to broadcast 8 additional Thursday Night Games. Per SBJ:
"The NFL is negotiating with TV networks about a new early-season eight-game package that would start as soon as next season, according to several sources.
The potential Thursday night package could be worth as much as $700 million per year, the sources said. Such a windfall, providing a sudden increase in overall league revenue, could help soften the blow to the players from the emerging labor deal in which they are likely to receive a smaller percentage of revenue than they previously have received.
The new package would not affect NFL Network’s schedule of live games, as the league has decided to keep its channel’s eight-game Thursday night slate in the second half of the season intact."
The article goes on to say that this could be for next season (2012) and that their current contracts with Fox and CBS allow them to pull these games from their lineups. Most importantly, SBJ pegs Versus and Turner as the leading candidates to acquire this package of games with ESPN, Spike, and FX also at least exploring the possibility of bidding on the package.
In a nutshell this is huge news. Not only would fans be treated to an additional nationally televised game for the first half of the season, but this package may serve as a kingmaker if Versus or maybe even TNT get the package in terms of building a viable competitor to ESPN.
Before we dive into that let's eliminate the pretenders in this discussion. SBJ's article states that cable providers have surcharge protection from FX. This basically means that if FX somehow got the NFL package, they wouldn't be able to raise their carriage fees to cable/satellite providers until those agreements lapsed. Historically speaking, cable channels have negotiated contingent elevated fees if they were able to procure various sports packages. By getting these agreed upon increases, cable networks have been able to more aggressively pursue packages rather than rolling the dice and most likely losing money in the short term. With FX not having any provisions that increases revenue from cable and satellite providers, $700 million is going to be too pricey for them.
Spike airs the show Manswers and therefore they are eliminated.
ESPN seems like a logical option but they've really built a strong following with their Thursday night college football coverage. It's doubtful they'd swap out profitable programming on ABC on Thursday night or bump their college offering so ESPN2 would either have to be the destination for the package or maybe for the college package to move to. Either way it seems like a lot of money even for ESPN when they already have programming during that window. While it's going to be painful for them to be on the sidelines of this discussion, I think they'll ultimately sit this one out. If it was the rights for Thursday night games in the second half of the season, I think they'd be much more open to it as the college football season winds down weeks in advance of the end of the NFL season.
That leaves us with Versus and Turner and the potential opening of the door for both networks to make a big play towards ESPN...
Couple of noteworthy industry moves to report today as ESPN has announced that Charissa Thompson will be joining the network and co-hosting a new program in the vain of SportsNation called Numbers Never Lie. In other news Pierre McGuire will be leaving Canada's TSN to exclusively work for NBC and Versus as their "Inside The Glass" analyst where he reports from in between the two team's benches.
For Thompson this is a nice move up as she's been a jack of all trades covering the NHL, Olympics, college basketball, college football, and the NFL for the likes of Fox, Big Ten Network, Versus, and Yahoo. She's long been a top tier sideline reporter but is making a smart move leaving the crowded world of sideline reporting which includes Pam Oliver, Suzy Kolber, Erin Andrews, Michelle Tafoya, and Jenn Brown.
Per SBB, "Numbers Never Lie, will feature daily appearances from a former player and an expert with the half-hour show hosted by the beautiful Charissa Thompson. NNL will air weekdays at 3:30p ET." The same production team who conceptualized SportsNation and helped spur Michelle Beadle's ascension at ESPN will be overseeing NNL as well.
As for McGuire, his move is one that affords him a bit more convenience and additional opportunities by consolidating his worked to NBC and Versus. With NBC and Versus now part of the same company and fresh off their renewal to keep the NHL on both networks, it made sense for parent company Comcast to bring in McGuire full time. With the Olympics under the NBC/Comcast banner as well, McGuire will also be able to play a more prominent role there as well while also spending less time juggling travel, production meetings, etc for two media companies on different sides of the border.
McGuire has reputation of being a polarizing television personality with hockey fans. Despite the love-hate affair with his coverage, the folks at NBC/Versus decided it was best to double down on his experience being a former player and having covered the sport since 1996. Oddly enough McGuire was only used on NBC up until this year when the merger went through and he replaced Charissa Thompson on Versus. Despite leaving Versus it seems Thompson is on to bigger and better things.
I'll admit, MMA fighting has never completely caught on with me. During pretty much every fight I have watched, I have a constant internal monologue where I debate if being trapped in a cage with one of these behemoths is the worst thing I can fathom being a part of. But, there is no debating its enormous and deserved popularity. When it is right, you will see some of the most insane acts of athleticism and bravery/stupidity in the world of sports. This was definitely the case last night in a fight on Versus as Cheick Kongo took on Pat Barry. In an insane 25 second span (starting at about the 4:30 mark), Kongo looked to be knocked unconscious twice...miraculously rises both times while being still being whaled on...and out of nowhere delivers a knockout blow to Barry knocking him completely out ending the fight. Unbelievable.
The commentary by NBC Fear Factor's Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg was hilarious. They repeatedly yell that the fight was over and that Kongo had been knocked out. In their defense, to anyone that watched that fight, it certainly looked that way. When Kongo delivers his knockout punch from seemingly out of nowhere, both Rogan and Goldberg scream over each other in amazement at the insanity that just took place in the cage. Usually two announcers yelling over each other is considered sloppy announcing, but it's hard to fault these two for not being completely composed after that wild comeback.
If for whatever reason the epicness doesn't set in watching the entire fight, try watching it this time set to Guile's theme from Street Fighter to really get you going.
Wendi Nix subbed in for Karl Ravech on Baseball Tonight last night and the results were decidedly less than pretty. I don't know if it was the live show that put her off her game, or being on the road, or perhaps the sun getting in her eyes... but there were enough botches in the pre Sunday Night Baseball show to make Pam Ward envious. Usually Wendi is decent in the studio, but her live highlight ability makes Brian Collins look like Dan Patrick. Thankfully, SportsGrid has provided a mashup of the best of the worst of Wendi Nix last night in San Francisco. Below are some of my favorite quotes...
"and a brand new mannerger!"
"Lot of week for the Nationals..."
"As we shift gears to the American League East (shows Pirates fans)"
"There are no great teams in baseball, there's some good teams, there's some great teams... either of these teams, are they great?"
"Happy Birthday Derek Jeter (in between clips of Troy Tulowitzki and Asdrubal Cabrera)"
"Asdrubal Cabrera, who has literally been a human web gem... I guess they're all human web gems."
We've learned a little bit more about the role of former Florida head coach Urban Meyer's role with ESPN... before he's named Ohio State head coach in early 2012 that is. Interestingly, Urban Meyer will work the noon slate of games on ESPN, which traditionally feature Big Ten teams, and his debut game will involve none else than Ohio State when they host Akron on September 3. Here's more from USA Today...
Meyer, working with play-by-play announcer Dave Pash (sic) and analyst Chris Spielman, will call noon ET ESPN games that are largely expected to involve Big Ten teams. And, from game sites, he'll also appear live on College GameDay as well as do taped features for that show. Says ESPN senior coordinating producer Ed Placey: "He wanted to do everything."
Coincidentally, Chris Spielman finished first in the Pammy standings last year, but I've always liked his combo with Pasch (and I'm a little biased towards Spiels from living in Columbus where he hosted a radio show up until earlier this year). I actually think this trio should be really good, and it will help ease the transition for Urban that he won't be thrown straight into the ABC primetime game right away and be placed in a three man booth. Urban will also get plenty of airtime on College Gameday and the other college football platforms of the leader. If he turns out to be a fit in the booth then I could see him being placed alongside Tostitos Musberger and Herbie at the end of the year with his name recognition. Oh, and get excited because the Pammy Countdown Clock is down to 67 days till the college football season gets underway!!
Mexico defeated the USA 4-2 in a fantastic Gold Cup Final. From the broadcasting perspective, Fox Soccer's coverage was ok, but all across the board it just isn't as good as ESPN's top notch soccer coverage. The US got off to a great 2-0 start, but after veteran RB Steve Cherundolo was forced off injured, the American backline was overran with the skill and speed of the Mexican attack. The most spectacular of the six goals was saved for last, as Tottenham's Giovani Dos Santos scored with an incredible chip in the 76th minute. It was one of the most ridiculous goals I've ever witnessed. First, he latches on to a through ball, sidesteps Tim Howard, controls the ball in a tight space, and then floats a chip to the far post over a leaping Eric Lichaj to the only place he could have scored. It showed the touch and class that the US unfortunately just didn't have tonight in a disappointing game for American soccer fans. Tim Howard's reaction on this goal said it all. And, of course, we have commentary of the golaso in Spanish from Univision...