Shockwaves are still reverberating over the tragic apparent suicide of former All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau. Seau died yesterday at the young age of 43. Speculation has already begun as to the relationship of Seau's apparent suicide and concussions and brain trauma brought on by a life in football. Last year, former Bears safety Dave Duerson shot himself in the chest to preserve his brain for study. The connection between Seau and significant head trauma may be studied in detail in due time, but the current time is about remembering Seau's life. One of the most touching tributes came yesterday from ESPN's Marcellus Wiley, who played with Seau in San Diego. Wiley was one of many who spoke out across several platforms on Seau's quality not just as a football player, but as a human being. It's an unspeakable tragedy, and prayers and thoughts go out to everyone affected by it...
On Monday, ExtraTime Radio podcast host Simon Borg had this to say about female soccer fans:
“It's fine if you're a female and you want to be a super-fan. Clearly go for it, that's your choice. But there is something to be said for how appealing that might be to the other sex. Having a woman that's such a fan, like painting your face, tuning in to every podcast. I don't know how many males would be into that…. It's great that in Kansas City there are a lot of women in the stands, it's great, but for the guy who wants maybe a serious relationship... If you are following just casually, but if you're such a die-hard, I don't know, it comes a point that it is a bit of a turn-off.”
As a female sports fan and writer, my initial reaction to Borg’s statement was of confusion. Why would anyone turn down a potential relationship with someone because they shared the same passion? Especially when sports is one of the deepest rooted and widespread passions in the nation.
Considering the negative generalization of an entire female fan base was made by Borg, who is also an MLS employee, you can bet it didn’t go over well with the higher ups insulting a good percentage of their fanbase. MLS released a statement on Wednesday following Simon Borg’s comments:
During the latest episode of the ExtraTime Radio podcast on MLSsoccer.com, one of the hosts -- Simon Borg -- made inappropriate remarks regarding female fans of Major League Soccer. These remarks were unacceptable and in no way reflect the values of MLS, its clubs, players, staff, or MLSsoccer.com. We apologize on behalf of our organization for those remarks. Respect for diversity is a core principle of MLS and we are proud of the diversity of our League and its fans.
Mr. Borg will be suspended from his position at MLSsoccer.com for seven days, effective immediately. All MLS employees undergo diversity and sensitivity training on an annual basis, and Mr. Borg and the entire MLS Digital group will receive additional sensitivity training promptly.
In a smart and swift move by MLS, they made the perfect call in suspending Borg. But one has to wonder if there was underlying experience that Borg went through that made him have this opinion. Has he been shown up on his sports knowledge by a woman? What would he have against female sports fans? Wherever the comments came from, it was incredibly misguided to make such a sweeping, insulting generalization about an entire group of people.
Most reasonable fans know there are all kinds of sports fans out there. The know it alls, the fake know-it-alls, the drunken idiots, the ones who never stand up and cheer. There are quirks about specific fans I hate, and quirks that I love, and women have the right to fall in any of those categories.
Some of the greatest and saddest moments in our lives come at the hands of sports. And that’s the beauty of the game, it affects us all, no matter the race or gender.
ESPN's relationship with the NHL has been a much scrutinized topic ever since the network lost rights to NBC several years ago. Currently, the NHL's presence on ESPN airwaves is kept neatly within the confines of Barry Melrose's well kept mullet. One of Bristol's top execs, Senior Vice President Vince Doria, spoke to Ed Sherman about the network's hockey coverage. Sherman is the former longtime sports media writer for the Chicago Tribune and currently writes at his own site, The Sherman Report. He got the chance to ask Doria the question hockey fans everywhere would love to ask the higher ups in Bristol... why does ESPN hate hockey?
We don’t hate hockey. When I worked in Boston (as sports editor of the Boston Globe), I probably went to more Bruins games than Celtics. There’s probably not a better in-the-house sport than hockey. Watching it live. My own personal feeling is that it never transferred well to television. I’m not exactly sure why that is.
Doesn't transfer well to television? I wonder if that was the sentiment when ESPN and ABC covered the NHL from 1992-2004. It's a common explanation for ESPN's relationship with the NHL. We love hockey, but it's not personal, it's business. The quote about not transferring well to television is an interesting one. Doria's next comment insinuating hockey isn't truly a national sport is the one that will resonate with hockey fans today...
When Eli Manning hosts "Saturday Night Live" this weekend, he isn't expected to make comedy history like his brother did back in 2007. But few expected Eli to win more Super Bowl rings than Peyton, so you never know what the youngest of the Manning brothers might have up his sleeve.
The problem is that you can't learn to be hysterical, and the sometimes awkward Eli has always been less marketable and less witty than his big bro. That's probably why it took a New York-based quarterback two Super Bowl championships to earn a "SNL" hosting gig, while Peyton was on the show only weeks after winning his first and only Lombardi Trophy.
We bring you eight other athletes who we'd like to see on the set of "Saturday Night Live"...
1. Aaron Rodgers: He's sneaky funny, and the Sports Business Journal concluded recently that he's the most marketable player in the NFL. Rodgers says he's been asked to host but only wants to take a shot when his schedule permits him enough time to prepare for the role. Honestly, the discount double check ads don't do much for me as far as comedy goes, but his acting skills aren't bad in athlete terms. For a grip on his dry, deadpan sense of humor, listen to this:
2. Dwight Howard: As soon as Howard lands in a bigger market or experiences more success in the playoffs, he'll be on NBC's short list. He does killer impressions, doesn't pull punches and he isn't afraid to make an ass of himself:
3. Brian Wilson: The real-life Kenny Powers is famous for Got Heeeem. Oh, and for being a three-time all-star and World Series champion. Unfortunately, Wilson's Q score peaked over a year ago, and now he's becoming less relevant as he recovers from surgery for the entire 2012 season.
4. Rob Gronkowski: Had the Patriots won the Super Bowl back in February, it might have been either Gronk or Tom Brady. He's a one-liner ninja, and his attempt at Spanish -- and the look on his face as he fielded questions in an unfamiliar language -- was gold.
With all of the talk about Sarah Phillips lately, ESPN snuck something past the goalie that would have generated a lot more rage if people actually knew about it. Stephen A Smith will be joining First Take full-time as Skip Bayless' debate partner.
While Bayless and Smith are both extremely irritating, maybe having them on-air five days a week will cut down the insane points that the two seem to make in most of their debates. Or maybe, they'll just get so comfortable with each other that they'll continue to push the agenda of silliness to the point they're just screaming childish insults at each other and not even discussing sports. Yea, the latter is much more likely.
Furthermore, adding Smith to the fold full-time will also likely cut down the appearances from other ESPN analysts (and pro athletes) to debate Bayless and bring a somewhat rational point of view to the table. Remember when Jalen Rose came on and made a litany of great points when talking about Bayless' high school career? Don't expect to see that happen frequently from now on.
I think it's pretty sad that a once watchable morning show has devolved into TWO MEN SHOUTING AT EACH OTHER. At least on a show like PTI, Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser make good points (most of the time) and usually don't harbor silly grudges against teams and athletes and obsessions over certain other ones.
What's going to set the latest Smith-Bayless screaming match apart from one that happened last week, or one that will happen next week? It's becoming such an unbearable schtick, and I'm not sure if this is even a good move for the show from a pure business standpoint to feature Skip & SAS every day. At some point, after driving something into the ground for so long, the effectiveness is lost. Imagine if the Dan Patrick Show had a supermodel in studio every day. Sooner rather than later, the novelty of having one around (like Kate Upton on Tuesday's show) would be completely lost, and it would be just another segment with no meaning. That's what I liken this First Take decision to.
And yes, First Take has made a living on driving topics into the ground (see: Tebow, Tim), but now with Smith and Bayless having a screaming contest every day, the grating aspects of the show should increase exponentially over time. Having Smith around to debate Bayless once a week would probably work out a lot better than having him around every day and completely losing the perceived importance of the segment. Eventually, these two will be shouting "FIRE!" and nobody will be there to listen.
(via USA Today)
This one comes as a pretty big shocker: Hubert Davis is leaving ESPN to take on an assistant coaching job at UNC under coach Roy Williams. Davis was with ESPN for seven years, appearing on College Gameday, a variety of studio shows, and even doing color commentary on games. He's a former Tar Heel player as well, and was second-team all-ACC as a senior in 1992...
"I am very excited, thankful and honored to re-join the Carolina basketball program as an assistant to Coach Williams," says Davis. "I loved being a part of college basketball during my time at ESPN by attending practices and games and developing relationships with players and coaches. Now I will have the opportunity to do this on a more personal level at a university and with a basketball program that I have loved my entire life."
Davis was one of the better college hoops analysts that ESPN had, and was really never featured on this site in a negative sense. The general word among ESPN staffers is that Davis will be missed by his coworkers, including Gameday host Rece Davis. No word from Hubert's fellow Gameday analysts Digger Phelps or Jay Bilas quite yet.
We're still months away from meaningful college basketball, but this opens up a seat on the Gameday set. College Gameday's football set has four people. With Davis's departure, Gameday basketball now has just three - a former coach (Phelps), a former player (Bilas), and the host (Davis)... and occasionally Bob Knight. There is no counterpart for football's Desmond Howard on the set with Davis leaving. The problem is, I don't think ESPN has too many options to fill that role unless someone like Jay Williams or Doug Gottlieb is in line for the spot.
Who do you think would be a good choice to replace Hubert Davis on the Gameday set?
The investigation to find more information regarding perhaps the most interesting modern-day sports and social media mystery we've seen is still ongoing. One aspect of the Sarah Phillips saga was her pushing others for involvement in her website, SarahPHI.com. Here's the original report from John Koblin that addressed SarahPHI.com at Deadspin...
By late July, Matt's relationship with Phillips took another turn. She was in the process of starting her own website: SarahPHI.com. The site would focus, in part, on betting. But there'd be another component to it.
"We're looking for something humorous, cutting edge, shock value, etc," she wrote to him in a message on Covers. "Think of South Park meets sports betting meets Celebrity Rehab meets Jerry Spring."
On Aug. 3, Phillips told him in a Gchat conversation that he should work with her.
"My goal is to generate $1.2 million per year in advertising," she wrote.
SarahPHI.com was one of the centerpieces of Phillips' questionable activity according to the Deadspin piece. And, on the Covers message board, Sarah Phillips was promoting her website to fellow patrons. You can see on the thread just how skeptical other posters were...
And now, we have found video thanks to @jeff1317 of what claims to be an intro video for the now defunct SarahPHI.com. The video features an anonymous, animated brunette woman talking about a website that will make you "laugh, cry, cringe, or vomit with real life stories submitted by you the viewer." It was created by a "SARAHJPHILLI" and uploaded to the video website Xtranormal. The video speaks about a website that doesn't so much focus on sports, but focuses on the nefarious activities of the internet and uncovering stories that might make TMZ blush. The video ends with a not so pleasant sign off as well. It's another strange turn in one of the strangest stories you'll ever see (NSFW)...
So many questions again from the video, especially the proposed content of SarahPHI.com, which doesn't match at all what Phillips had talked about on the Covers board. At least there's one Jersey Shore reference, a common Phillips topic. There's another video uploaded by "SARAHJPHILLI" of an animated man that is also pretty vulgar, which you can see here if you really desire. Both videos were created a few days before Phillips posted her message on the Covers board.
There is no longer a SarahPHI.com, but the countdown to another site at the center of this story, Sports Comedy Network, has its countdown still going strong.
When Deadspin broke a story about ESPN contributor Sarah Phillips allegedly being involved in Internet scams and perhaps even using a false identity, it sent shockwaves through much of the sports media world, and Phillips lost her job soon after. Further investigation suggests there's a lot more going on here, including Phillips' apparent connections to a series of fake celebrity Twitter accounts, her connection to the shadowy man by the name of Nilesh Prasad, her alleged attempts to purchase others' Twitter accounts and buy followers and the grandiose promises she reportedly made to sell others on working for a sports humour site. It's obviously going to take some time before the full details of Phillips' story come out, but one thing already seems clear; ESPN and other sports media outlets are likely to be more careful with their hiring procedures going forward, and some will undoubtedly argue that all of their hirings should be made face-to-face. Is that entirely necessary, though?
After the first Deadspin story initially came out, an element that seemed to suprise many people was that no one from Bristol had ever met Phillips in person. For some of us, though, that's not all that unusual of a situation. Technology's at a spot where very little business has to be handled on a face-to-face basis, and that leads to an environment where large numbers of us work from home and don't typically interact face-to-face with colleagues or others in the industry. That doesn't mean such interactions aren't a useful thing (and indeed, they're a major selling point of conferences such as Blogs With Balls), just that they aren't necessarily required for a media business. With the vast majority of people, that's not a problem, but some would say it may have provided a way for Phillips to sneak in.
The thing is, though, tricksters and con artists can show up in any forum. Consider Frank Abegnale Jr., the man Catch Me If You Can was based on; he took particular advantage of face-to-face interactions, posing as a pilot, a doctor and a lawyer amongst other professions. On the writing side, there are such people as Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass who created stories out of whole cloth; face-to-face interaction with their employers didn't keep them on the straight and narrow. The moral of the story is that regardless of the profession, the approach, or what's at stake, you're likely to find scammers of one variety or another anywhere, and we've even seen some similar Internet scams out there with people adopting popular personas then begging for help. The Phillips story is just remarkable because she took an unusual tack, and because she wound up working for the Worldwide Leader.
Yesterday, we called out the Chicago Sun-Times for their silence on the Joe Cowley sexist tweet mess. Their silence over two days was mystifying considering one of their high profile sports columnists had used his Twitter feed to denounce women in multiple walks of life. Thankfully, that silence didn't last much longer as Editor In-Chief Jim Kirk finally released this statement yesterday:
“The Chicago Sun-Times is an institution with important social responsibilities, and we expect those who represent our paper to act with the respect and sensitivity that our readers deserve. Mr. Cowley's remarks were offensive and he has been reprimanded appropriately.”
Ah yes, the mysterious "reprimanded appropriately." What exactly does that mean though? Chicago media writer Robert Feder reports that Cowley is now on "final notice" with the paper, which basically means his next screw up will be his last. Given Cowley's track record, he'll eventually change for the better or finally meet his end. Also, it is interesting to note that the Sun-Times and not Cowley dictated that his Twitter page be shut down:
"Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist Joe Cowley has been placed on "final notice" — one step away from firing — for posting a series of sexist and offensive messages on his Twitter account, according to insiders at the newspaper.
Although Cowley had been known to cross the line before, the tweets he posted Sunday morning while waiting for a delayed flight to take off became a viral sensation and a source of embarrassment for the paper after they were picked up by the sports news website Deadspin.com, which accused Cowley of “raging sexism” and abuse toward females.
As soon as he landed, Cowley killed his Twitter account under orders from sports editor Chris DeLuca, who had called the columnist’s cell phone demanding the deletion. But by then, his offending tweets had been copied and archived on more than one website.
Cowley’s reporting continued uninterrupted as his editors ultimately decided to issue a final warning through the guild process. “If he does anything again, it’s pretty much a fireable offense,” a source said."
So Cowley has not been fired, nor has he been suspended. In fact, Cowley filed another column yesterday on the Bulls, again with no reference to the scandal of his own making. It's a little disappointing that Cowley's only discipline is double secret probation, but the self-inflicted damage upon whatever credibility he possessed may go beyond anything the Sun-Times could hand down.
(via Time Out Chicago)
We've chronicled before some of the odd things that can occur as SportsCenter rolls their credits and theme music. Last night's SportsCenter broke new ground as the usually loud/chatty Neil Everett and Jay Harris opted to go in a different direction.
Everett seems a bit more stone faced than Harris who looks as if the jig is about to make him fall out of his chair laughing. Harris doesn't give in and remains quiet despite an odd look by the already goofy Everett. If only we could get more of this type of programming on shows like First Take.
I'm curious if this irks ESPN as usually the closing dozen or so seconds plugs other ESPN programs or upcoming events, or dives into some comedic banter. With a silent movie winning best picture, perhaps we're seeing a new trend in media?