For the last month, SportsNation has been conducting a bracket style poll in partnership with EA Sports to determine the cover star for Madden 2012. The Madden cover may be one of the biggest deals in sports video games due to the prestige of the honor... and the curse that goes along with it. Each team was given a player as a representative (except the Seahawks who were given The 12th Man, ha!) and players advanced by winning each individual matchup. Now, the competition is down to the final two - Michael Vick and Peyton Hillis. I'm not making this up. I know you're looking for some real analysis of how this matchup breaks down, so before we make fun of the whole thing, here's what ESPN's gaming blog has to say...
"... thanks to an online campaign by the Cleveland Browns and a city looking for a spark of positivity in an era that's been defined by the words: "I'm taking my talents to South Beach," Peyton Hillis is not only in the finals, he has a real shot at winning the ultimate prize in the world of video games -- posing for the "Madden NFL 12" cover.
... Could we see animal rights groups gather online to provide the anti-Vick vote, swinging the election towards Hillis? Could happen, as the combination of Cleveland fans and anti-Vick voters could put Hillis over the top in this one, giving fans one of the most shocking cover athletes in EA Sports history."
Or, it could just be a majority of people wanting to have fun at the expense of the legitimacy of this process. How many people are voting Vick for the ironic humor in seeing Michael Vick, say it with me, Michael Vick, as the face of the NFL once again. Or wanting to just vote against PETA. On the other side, you have the laughability of seeing the NFL's 11th leading rusher on the Madden cover. But, hey, I hear he has a great online campaign. Thanks to the good people of EA for not just plastering Aaron Rodgers on the cover and giving us some entertainment during the lockout. What I want to know though, is how to market this matchup for the primetime theater it should be. Here's some ideas...
NFL's Leading Fumbler vs NFL's Leader In Jailtime Served
Wait, How Did Tebow Get In This Bracket?
Dawg Pound Seeks Revenge Against Vick (that one and many others like it write themselves)
At Least He's Better Than Danny Woodhead vs At Least He's Not O.J.
We've been on ESPN for their lack of transparency recently, whether it be the mysterious Jalen Rose case or SportsCenter conveniently forgetting ESPN's association with troubled poker sites. But, give credit to Bristol for releasing a list of product endorsements by on-air personalities today. This list comes after much criticism over ESPN's lack of transparency with endorsements, specifically Reebok supporter Erin Andrews and her Rose Bowl diss of Nike cleats. This is a good move by the network to provide more clarity to fans, media, and people in the industry and hopefully encourages other networks to do the same. Here's the full list that was released by ESPN, which you can also see at this link:
Erin Andrews: Reebok
Paul Azinger: Adams Golf
Mike Bellotti: Nike Coaching Clinic at USC
Ato Bolden: Adidas
Bruce Bowen: Nike
Tim Brown: Under Armour
Olin Browne: Callaway, Razor Hawk, Odyssey
Chris Burandt: Monster, Polaris, Slednecks, Klim, HMK, Starting Line Products, Holz Racing Products, Fox Racing, Snox, EGT, VCHK, 509, Boon Docker Performance, RSI, RPM, Sled Solutions, Better Boards, Timbersled, Sledez, Edge Products
Darren Cahill: Adidas, Wilson, Donnay
Cris Carter: Nike
Jimmy Coleman: Metal Mulisha
Lee Corso: Nike
Jane Crafter: Footjoy, Titleist, Feel Golf, Callaway
Zach Crist: K2 Skis
Dan Dakich: Nike, Adidas AAU Camp
Tony DiCicco: Adidas
Trent Dilfer: Nike, Callaway
Keir Dillon: Nike
Mike Ditka: Under Armour
Jimmy Dykes: Nike
Mary Joe Fernandez: Nike, Wilson
Fran Fraschilla: Nike Skills Camp
Brad Gilbert: Nike, Wilson
Mark Gottfried: Nike
Kirk Herbstreit: Nike
Keyshawn Johnson: Under Armour
Kara Lawson: Nike
Bill Kratzert: Ashworth, Adidas, TaylorMade
Jamie Little: Oakley
Sal Masekela: Nike, Oakley
Dennis McCoy: Vans
John McEnroe: Nike, Dunlop
Patrick McEnroe: USTA "General Manager of Player Development", Nike, Wilson
Jeremy McGrath: Sky Optics, DC Shoes, DC Riding Gear, Troy Lee Designs, Dunlop Tires, Coyne Powersports Group, Motorcycle Mechanics, Specialized Bicycles
Rocco Mediate: Chervo, Par West, Titleist, V1, Vharness Clubs, Adams Golf, Club Fourteen, TAGGART, Audemars Piguet, InBalance
Jessica Mendoza: Nike, Louisville Slugger, Dudley, Spalding
Urban Meyer: Nike
Andy North: F2, Fairway and Greens
Chris Pastras: Converse
Kyle Peterson: Easton
Judy Rankin: Adidas
Jalen Rose: AEG sponsored by Nike
Tes Sewell: Oakley, Fox Racing, Ogio, DC
Pam Shriver: Yonex Corp
Miles Simon: Nike Skills Camp
Michele Smith: Rip-It Sporting Goods, Three-and-Two, JUGS Pitching Machines
Curtis Strange: Nike, Administaff
Rick Sutcliffe: Nike
Taylor Twellman: Nike
Scott Van Pelt: Titleist
Robin Ventura: Easton
Jay Walker: Russell Athletic
Rusty Wallace: Oakley, Toyota
Cat Whitehill: Nike
Jay Williams: Under Armour
A couple of interesting tidbits stand out. Apparently I need to get involved in some kind of extreme racing because Chris Burandt and Jeremy McGrath are two of the top three endorsers for amount of products (Rocco Mediate is #2, who knew). Also, what does Jimmy Dykes do for Nike? And, why hasn't Oakley done a commercial spot teaming up Sal Masekela and Rusty Wallace? That could be epic. So many questions, but the most important one may be from Deitsch - where are other big name endorsers like Chris Berman and Dick Vitale? Perhaps their names are coming soon (it says the list will be updated), but for now the list remains incomplete. It's a good start for the network, but ESPN can't fully trumpet their transparency without being fully transparent.
Monday April 18
Milwaukee Brewers @ Philadelphia Phillies (ESPN 7PM) Sean McDonough, Aaron Boone, Rick Sutcliffe
Tuesday April 19
Milwaukee Brewers @ Philadelphia Phillies (MLBN 7PM) Bob Costas, Jim Kaat [Alternate game: NY Yankees @ Toronto]
Atlanta Braves @ Los Angeles Dodgers (MLBN 10PM) Local Broadcast [Alternate game: Boston @ Oakland]
Wednesday April 20
Milwaukee Brewers @ Philadelphia Phillies (MLBN 1PM) Local Broadcast
Minnesota Twins @ Baltimore Orioles (ESPN 7PM) Dave O'Brien, Nomar Garciaparra
Thursday April 21
Arizona Diamondbacks @ Cincinnati Reds (MLBN 12:30PM) TBA
Chicago White Sox @ Tampa Bay Rays (MLBN 6:30PM) Local Broadcast [Alternate game: Minnesota @ Baltimore]
Friday April 22
Cincinnati Reds @ St. Louis Cardinals (MLBN 8PM) Local Boradcast [Alternate game: Houston @ Milwaukee]
Saturday April 23
Atlanta Braves @ San Francisco Giants (FOX 4PM) Josh Lewin, Eric Karros, Chris Rose
Cincinnati Reds @ St. Louis Cardinals (FOX 4PM) Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, Ken Rosenthal
Chicago White Sox @ Detroit Tigers (FOX 4PM) Thom Brennaman, Mark Grace
Boston Red Sox @ Los Angeles Angels (MLBN 9PM) Local Broadcast [Alternate game: Oakland @ Seattle]
Sunday April 24 - Easter Sunday
Los Angeles Dodgers @ Chicago Cubs (TBS 2PM) Brian Anderson, John Smoltz
Cincinnati Reds @ St. Louis Cardinals (ESPN 8PM) Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser, Bobby Valentine
I already mentioned, Marv Albert voiced his vintage "Yes!" as Ray Allen knocked down the game-winning three with roughly 12 seconds left, sounding as good as ever. It was probably coming again had Carmelo Anthony hit his ill-advised 25-footer with four seconds left, because you could sense the disappointment in Albert's voice when the clock hit zeros and he announced that "it's all over."
Either way, a thrilling finish to Game 1 of perhaps the most anticipated series of the first round. Not exactly a superstar showing from Carmelo, though; he was 5-18 and had five turnovers. Oh, and there's still one more opening game tonight.
Video via Bubbaprog, of course.
I've been flipping back and forth between NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, and Sunday Night Baseball, and it doesn't take much to conclude that the only thing that could possibly earn Bobby Valentine a shared side-by-side pic with Marv Albert is their side-parted, incredibly obvious Just For Men jobs, because he pales in comparison to Albert in terms of broadcasting.
Valentine has been pretty awful so far as a color analyst. I think he's trying way too hard to be poetic and winds up making a fool of himself. Take his call after Robinson Cano's 2nd inning home run for example: "He turned, firmed, and hit a home run. ... Not only did he hit a home run, he hit it hard and fair." Ummm abakingpowder? Of course he hit it fair, it was a home run. I'll give Valentine this, though: he has incredible self-awareness when he sounds dumb. He then takes the next minute or so to try and explain himself, ultimately sounding even more clueless.
As for Marv Albert, he was vintage, especially in his call of Ray Allen's game-winning three (YES!). He's the perfect voice for NBA playoff basketball and he will be sorely missed whenever he decides to hang up the headset. I don't even want to think about that time.
If you are an online poker player or just a fan of poker (who the hell is a fan of poker but doesn't play it?), then my condolences to you. Buried below the many headlines this Friday is news that the Debbie Downer FBI has charged the biggest three online poker companies with a multitude of crimes related to how they continue to operate and have US customers despite online poker and sports betting being illegal in the US.
"The founders of three of the largest Internet poker sites bribed and tricked their way past U.S. gambling laws, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Nearly a dozen people connected to international gaming sites PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker were charged with bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling - and their companies face over $3 billion in penalties and forfeitures, authorities said."
Given ESPN has a ton of poker programming including the WSOP series which gets ample amount of run time on ESPN's family of networks, this was obviously a story they reported on and they did. But they forgot to mention one thing: ESPN takes in a likely 8 figure amount of advertising and sponsorship revenue from the companies now embroiled in legal controversy.
The fact that ESPN takes handfuls of money from these companies is not really a secret nor really that surprising. I don't really think many people even care. I don't care. But they certainly have to acknowledge that relationship now that sh*t has hit the fan with these partner companies. ESPN.com did when running their story on the topic with a disclosure at the end of the article.
" Poker Stars and Full Tilt are sponsors of ESPN poker programming."
It's not a trivial relationship that is really a flash in the pan of ESPN's revenue. These companies buy ads in the magazine, on television (the Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu commercials), and have been some of the limited advertisers who have done front page road blocks off the website which is a rare occurrence on espn.com. If Neil Everrett and Sportscenter is going to put on their serious face /"we need to talk" camera angle then they should also cop to the relationship they had in place with the companies in question. When they mention news about ESPN personalities, they're always pretty good about disclosing their relationship and connection to the parties involved in any potential scandal.
Craig Calcattera of NBC's 'Hardball Talk' posted on this sometime last week and I've been meaning to get something up on it. He noticed something, something I've also been picking up on more often while I watch MLB, and that's the broadcasters calling players by their first names. Here's what he had to say about it:
While watching the Marlins broadcast last night I noticed that the announcers for FSN Florida — I believe it was Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton — were constantly calling Marlins players by their first name. ”Hanley is up with it…” ”Wes really got a hold of that one …” ”Chris had the green light on 3-0 …” But they’re not alone in this. The Braves are on a FOX regional station too, and Chip Caray is constantly calling Heyward “Jason” and Prado “Martin” and stuff. I figured it was just a Chip thing — fisted! — but now I can’t help but wonder if this is some sort of diktat from FOX central, demanding that announcers personalize the players with first names. If anyone knows if this is the case or, rather, if it’s just a coincidence, please chime in below.
Whatever the case, I’m not fan of unnecessary formality, but I’m struggling to think of something that transforms a broadcaster from an authoritative voice to a silly fanboy faster than constantly using first names like that. They’re ballplayers. Say that Shlabotnik was caught looking, not Joe. It’s what we expect and it’s jarring and somewhat silly to do otherwise.
First off, this is no order given by FOX Central; in fact it's pretty common across the entire MLB landscape, particularly with former player, homer announcers. Hawk Harrelson, for instance, is one of the most obnoxious announcers and he does this. It's been going on for a long time, too.
I know Calcattera (or should I call him Craig?) isn't alone in feeling the way that he does, either. Matt Yoder actually wanted to write a post about ESPN calling UConn's Maya Moore "Maya" all game while referring to other players by their last name. He thought the announcers were displaying favoritism by doing this. We decided not to post it because we figured it was sort of a one-name branding thing with her - like Kobe and LeBron, or Madonna and Shakira. She's Maya of UConn Women's Basketball. Maybe we were overlooking a much bigger epidemic, though.
I completely understand where Calcattera's coming from, but I don't have as much of a problem with it being done by hometown baseball announcers. These guys are calling upwards to 162 games a season, they see the players every day for more than half the year (during which they likely call them by their first names), and baseball is a much more laid back sport than all the others - ass taps, atta kids, and chewed up gum on top of the rookies' hats. Further, I can't think of a way to engage a casual baseball fan into an admittedly slow game more than by making them feel like they know the players on a personal level. Yeah, that might backfire a little when the favorite player is arrested for DUI and threatens to blow up a restaurant, but how many fans call players strictly by their last names anyway? I know I call some players by their last names because it sounds better than their first, or it's more distinctive, but I refer to plenty of my favorite players by their first name or nickname rather than the last name.
Craig (another Craig) at SB Nation's Fishstripes also responded to Calcattera, also defending the use of first names by broadcasters:
Using first names humanizes the players to the local fans. Not to mention, that is what the broadcasters call them when they are off the air. Being a fan of the Marlins, I do not expect the hometown broadcasters to be just an authoritative voice. We spend our time, energy and money in following the team and we do not want to watch a generic local broadcast of the Marlins. It's our team* and we want to the broadcasters to present it as such. In other words, it is the job of those in the booth to make the game and the Marlins as accessible as possible to the fans. And presenting the players in an informal manner is one way to do that. When a player screws up, sure I want them to say he screwed up. But they can tell me that using first or last names.
Also, the announcers are just using the names by which the fans already use to refer to the players. No Marlins fan's default is Ramirez, it is Hanley.I can only imagine the look on Logan Morrison's face if I walked up to him and said "Mr. Morrison...."And oh, by the way, if during an inning I'm walking to frig and I hear "Sanchez looks to be injured" my first thought is: which one? The Marlins have three.I would really be disappointed if we had to live in the mundane world of local broadcasting that Mr. Calcaterra thinks we should live in. Really disappointed.
What I think slips a broadcaster from an authoritative voice to a silly fanboy state is what Hawk Harrelson does on a nightly basis - actively rooting for the players, C'mon A.J., get a hit, bud, rather than calling the game. If he wants to use A.J. PIerzynski's first name to let viewers know he's up to the plate in a big situation, that's fine by me. But I'm not tuning in to listen to Harrelson be a cheerleader. That's when it really becomes bothersome, though I guess it could be just as bothersome if he said C'mon Pierzynski, get a hit, bud.
But these are just the opinions of a few fans. What do you all think? Do you care if your hometown announcer is calling all your favorite players by their first name? Does it bother you that hometown announcers do it, even though they should know neutral fans will be checking in - given modern day technology - and don't want to hear players they're not familiar with being referred to on a first-name basis? Other thoughts? We'd love to hear 'em in the comments.
"Despite being prominent faces on different TV networks, Cris Collinsworth, Boomer Esiason, Howie Long and Phil Simms will appear together on a live NFL draft preview show that won't be on any TV network.
The idea: Market their brand names in cyberspace.
Their online-only draft show, to be formally announced Wednesday and air from a New York theater April 26, is meant to help announcers in a venture called The Expert Network — which also includes Nick Faldo and Cal Ripken Jr. — launch their own website (txnsports.com) and do more online shows."
Could this be a new direction for how we consume sports? TXNSports is launching with Big Lead Sports as a place where many big name sports media personalities will appear. Frank Vuono, who is heading up the project, told Technorati, “we do anticipate expanding our TXN membership to provide year-round content... During Olympic years we are sure we will want expert analysis of that great sporting event.”
It seems as if these analysts are figuring out that their name power, recognition, and analysis need not be confined to the networks that are paying them. With the vast universe of online content, these personalities can continue to further their own brand name and appeal through this venture (and cash in to some extent I'm sure) and also provide something new to sports fans. Cris Collinsworth for one thinks it could be the future of sports media...
"With the site, you send it all out into the vapor somewhere. So it will be kind of fun to sit around with guys I know and have a studio audience. We're all trying to figure out the next step in sports media and entertainment. Maybe this is it."
I don't think this new site will become the next ESPN or Deadspin, but if all the top analysts are coming together in one place, I can't help but think it would be a preferable destination for sports fans. While it's not going to immediately dominate sports on the internet, it will be very interesting to observe moving forward.
NFL analysts talk up online-only "Expert" venture - USA Today
The 2011 playoffs are finally here, so we have the schedule for games 1-4. We'll update next weekend's Disney assignments when those become available to us. Enjoy the games, and those mid-week local broadcasts on NBA Network.
Saturday April 16
Game 1: Indiana Pacers @ Chicago Bulls (ESPN 1PM) Dan Shulman, Jon Barry
Game 1: Philadelphia 76ers @ Miami Heat (ABC 3:30PM) Mike Breen, Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy
Game 1: Atlanta Hawks @ Orlando Magic (ESPN 7PM) Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown
Game 1: Portland Trailblazers @ Dallas Mavericks (ESPN 9:30PM) Dave Pasch, Doris Burke
Sunday April 17
Game 1: Memphis Grizzlies @ San Antonio Spurs (TNT 1PM) Matt Devlin, Kevin McHale
Game 1: New Orleans Hornets @ Los Angeles Lakers (ABC 3:30PM) - Mike Breen, Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy
Game 1 New York Knicks @ Boston Celtics (TNT 7PM) - Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
Game 1: Denver Nuggets @ Oklahoma City Thunder (TNT 9:30PM) - Ian Eagle, Mike Fratello
Monday April 18
Game 2: Philadelphia 76ers @ Miami Heat (TNT 7PM) Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller
Game 2: Indiana Pacers @ Chicago Bulls (TNT 9:30PM) - Dick Stockton, Chris Webber
Tuesday April 19
Game 2: New York Knicks @ Boston Celtics (TNT 7PM) Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
Game 2: Atlanta Hawks @ Orlando Magic (NBA TV 7:30PM) Local Broadcast
Game 2: Portland Trailblazers @ Dallas Mavericks (TNT 9:30PM) - Matt Devlin, Kevin McHale
Wednesday April 20
Game 2: Denver Nuggets @ Oklahoma City Thunder (TNT 8PM) Dick Stockton, Mike Fratello
Game 2: Memphis Grizzlies @ San Antonio Spurs (NBA TV 8:30PM) Local Broadcast
Game 2: New Orleans Hornets @ Los Angeles Lakers (TNT 10:30PM) Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller
Thursday April 21
Game 3: Chicago Bulls @ Indiana Pacers (NBA TV 7PM) Local Broadcast
Game 3: Miami Heat @ Philadelphia 76ers (TNT 8PM) Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
Game 3: Dallas Mavericks @ Portland Trailblazers (TNT 10PM) Matt Devlin, Kevin McHale
Friday April 22
Game 3: Boston Celtics @ New York Knicks (ESPN 7PM) TBA
Game 3: Orlando Magic @ Atlanta Hawks (ESPN 2 8PM) TBA
Game 3: Los Angeles Lakers @ New Orleans Hornets (ESPN 9:30PM) TBA
Saturday April 23
Game 4: Chicago Bulls @ Indiana Pacers (TNT 2:30PM) Dick Stockton, Mike Fratello
Game 4: Dallas Mavericks @ Portland Trailblazers (TNT 5PM) Matt Devlin, Kevin McHale
Game 3: San Antonio Spurs @ Memphis Grizzlies (ESPN 7:30PM) Terry Gannon, Tim Legler
Game 3: Oklahoma City Thunder @ Denver Nuggets (ESPN 10PM) Dave Pasch, Doris Burke
Sunday April 24
Game 4: Miami Heat @ Philadelphia 76ers (ABC 1PM) Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown
Game 4: Boston Celtics @ New York Knicks (ABC 3:30PM) Mike Breen, Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy
Game 4: Orlando Magic @ Atlanta Hawks (TNT 7PM) Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
Game 4: Los Angeles Lakers @ New Orleans Hornets (TNT 9:30PM) Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller
Monday April 25
Game 4: San Antonio Spurs @ Memphis Grizzlies (TNT 8PM) Matt Devlin, Kevin McHale
Game 5: Portland Trailblazers @ Dallas Mavericks (NBA TV 8:30PM) Local Broadcast
Game 4: Oklahoma City Thunder @ Denver Nuggets (TNT 10:30PM) Dick Stockton, Mike Fratello
Tuesday, April 2
Game 5: Atlanta Hawks @Orlando Magic (NBA TV 7:30 PM) Local Broadcasters
Game 5: Indiana Pacers @ Chicago Bulls (TNT 8:00 PM) Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
Game 5: New Orleans Hornets @ Los Angeles Lakers (TNT 10:30PM) Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller
Wednesday, April 27
Game 5: Philadelphia 76ers @ Miami Heat (TNT 7PM) Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
Game 5: Memphis Grizzlies @San Antonio Spurs (NBA TV 8:30PM) Local Broadcast
Game 5: Denver Nuggets @ Oklahoma City Thunder (TNT 9:30PM) Dick Stockton, Mike Fratello
Thursday, April 28
Game 6: Orlando Magic @ Atlanta Hawks (NBA TV 7:30PM) Local Broadcasters
Game 6: Los Angeles Lakers @ New Orleans Hornets (TNT 8PM) Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller
Game 6: Dallas Mavericks@ Portland Trailblazers (TNT 10:30) Matt Devlin, Kevin McHale