Do you believe in miracles, or something? Bob Costas and Al Michaels will be joining forces for the first time since calling the Denslow Cup together for an MLB game on the MLB Network on July 8. Here's an excerpt from the press release [H/T Fangs Bites]:
Legendary sports broadcaster Al Michaels will join MLB Network’s Bob Costas in the broadcast booth when the two call the New York Mets at NL West first-place San Francisco Giants at 10:00 p.m. ET on Friday, July 8, part of MLB Network’s live game schedule in July. The game marks the first time Michaels and Costas will call an MLB game together and the first MLB game Michaels will call since 1995. Costas and Michaels will also make special appearances on SNY’s broadcast and on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area’s broadcast in the game’s middle innings, while Mets announcers Gary Cohen and Ron Darling and Giants announcers Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow will appear in MLB Network’s booth during that time, as its telecast will not be available in the Giants’ and Mets’ home television markets.
MLB Network will host a media conference call with Michaels and Costas, who are expected to be joined by Cohen, Darling, Kuiper and Krukow, on Tuesday, July 5 to discuss the game telecast. Additional details on the call will be sent to media from MLB Network.
I miss those few short days back in March when Charlie Sheen's insane, drugged-out mind took the world by storm after his blowup with Two and a Half Men. Has any single person ever been more discussed in a short period of time than Charlie Sheen was? He was all over the networks, interviewed with everybody, picked up a million followers on Twitter faster than you could say Pedro Cerrano, and briefly became a populist anti-hero. Let's take a brief walk down memory lane, shall we...
"I was bangin 7 gram rocks and finishing them because that's how I roll. I have one speed and one gear - GO... I got tiger blood man... dying's for fools, there's certain blends I will not entertain because that's how people go down."
"And then what, what's the cure, medicine? Make me like them? Not gonna happen. I'm bi-winning. I win here and I win there. Now what."
"I blinked and I cured my brain, that's how. Can't is the cancer of happen."
Good times indeed. I still have Can't Is The Cancer Of Happen plastered on my bedroom wall, great motto to live by. Well, after the whole Torpedo of Truth tour went by with a collective yawn and the battle to the death with CBS never ensued, the now goddessless Sheen faded from the spotlight. Sheen's name is back in the news though after an interesting admission to Sports Illustrated for their "Where Are They Now" issue about the cast of Major League. The full article is available now in the SI Vault if you're interested. Here's the quote from the New York Daily News...
"Let's just say that I was enhancing my performance a little bit," says Sheen. "It was the only time I ever did steroids. I did them for like six or eight weeks. You can print this, I don't give a f-. My fastball went from 79 to like 85."
My God, how many different drugs can one man put into his body and survive? Interestingly enough, this also may confirm that the Steroid Era in baseball was in full force well before Sosa and McGwire. Perhaps it wasn't all Bud Selig's fault after all. No word yet on what the roids did for Vaughn's "new assortment of breaking stuff" in the sequel...
You remember Jay Mariotti don't you? That kind, lovable television personality that lit up the screen on ESPN's Around the Horn as the level-headed, straight-shooting, popular everyman that spoke on behalf of fans everywhere. Then there was his honest and refreshing sports column that appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, surely a role model for all aspiring sportswriters...
Of course you don't remember that Jay Mariotti, because the real Jay Mariotti was universally despised as a television personality and columnist by sports fans, players, managers, co-workers, and nearly every person with a human conscience. In fact, Jay Mariotti's downfall was celebrated in the sports world like Christmas Day and the Fourth of July wrapped into one. Well, Mariotti is back in the news because he will stand trial in Los Angeles for felony domestic assault and stalking charges stemming from his April arrest. In case you need caught up on Mariotti's whereabouts the last year, there was the first arrest, suspension, firing, sentencing, and then the second arrest. After pleading no contest the first go round, Mariotti will stand trial this time after pleading not guilty to the recent charges. Here's more details from the Los Angeles Times...
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that former ESPN sports personality Jay Mariotti must stand trial on felony stalking and assault charges in connection with allegations leveled by his ex-girlfriend.
Judge Mark Windham ruled that there was enough evidence to hold Mariotti to answer on charges that include stalking, corporal injury on a spouse or domestic partner, and assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury.
Mariotti, who faces up to five years in state prison if convicted on all counts, has pleaded not guilty to those charges as well as to two misdemeanor counts of disobeying a court order.
Domestic violence is a horrifying crime and this is Mariotti's second round of charges relating to it. Given Mariotti's history and what he's said in the past about domestic violence, there aren't exactly many people left in his corner. It will be intriguing to see how the media follows the Mariotti trial and the flood of (deserved) negative press that will come his way (once again). Perhaps Mariotti will again be a topic Out of Bounds later today on Around the Horn...
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.