The 100th anniversary of the first Indy 500 was one of the most incredible finishes to a race that you will ever see. After some late race pit stops and fuel mileage gambles, rookie JR Hildebrand assumed the lead when Belgian driver Bertrand Baguette (seriously, that's his name) pitted with only a few laps left. Hildebrand had passed one of the race favorites, Dario Franchitti, who had pitted on the same lap as Hildebrand, but could not keep pace with the rookie. Hildebrand looked set to make history and win the Indy 500 as he took the white flag. But, he could only manage 799 of the 800 turns successfully. It was one of the most heartbreaking and unbelievable finishes to a sporting event I've ever seen...
And just like that, Dan Wheldon won his 2nd Indy 500. It just so happened that the crash happened right when Marty Reid was preparing the customary "taking the checkered flag" remarks that every race announcer does including the 100th anniversary of the 500. The crew of Reid, Eddie Cheever, and Scott Goodyear did well to paint the picture of the shock, surprise, agony, and ecstasy of the moment. Marty Reid was shouting, "just like Tomas Scheckter" because he crashed in the same spot on the racetrack leading as a rookie in 2002, but on the 173rd lap, not the 200th (I happened to sit right in front of Sheckter that day when it happened, it's still one of my most vivd memories as a sports fan).
Down the stretch, it was clear that fuel mileage would tell the story, but ESPN/ABC/ESPN-on-ABC wasn't up to the pace...
When we relaunched Awful Announcing, we decided that Hawk Harrelson was such an abomination to announcing that he had to go on our Mount Rushmore of bad announcers. For a week or so we had him up but opted to remove him given a lot feedback that he was too unknown to be "honored" that way. If you haven't been subjected to Harrelson calling White Sox games on WGN, it's quite an infuriating experience. We're not the only ones who are quick to find the mute button as GQ rated Harrelson and his partner the worst MLB broadcast booth.
"Hawk is an unbearable homer, and at very, very least he doesn't hide it. When the Sox score a run, it's "1-0 good guys!" In the midst of a play, rooting for a positive White Sox outcome, he'll yell, "Stretch! Stretch! Get over his head!" And when a player doesn't let him down, he'll give him an "atta boy." Listening to Hawk is just an immensely grating experience (we'll leave Steve Stone out of this), and it is only compounded by his attempts at folksiness. In an interleague series, the Nationals are the "Nasty Nats." A pitch on the handle of the bat is "jam city." And when a player strikes out, "he gone!" Let's just say Hawk's mouth might be put to better use as the tail end of a human centipede"
To his credit, Harrelson has never felt the need to change his style or hide his passion as a fan. This couldn't be more evident in this walk-off win for the Blue Jays at the hands of Harrelson's Sox. You really don't ever find calls this jaded and enthusiastic, even if it's for the opposing team. But for Harrelson it's just business as usual. H/T to Bubbaprog and Mock Session
During tonight's Sawks/Tigers game, Tigers announcers Mario Impemba and Rod Allen were discussing the slightly controversial collision at home plate that will likely end Buster Posey's season. Luckily for us, this allowed them to segue to a clip from Rod's brief playing career where he absolutely flattens a catcher in Japan. That clip above is entertaining, but mostly it provided a crucial answer to Tigers fans on why exactly Rod was plunked later in that very game causing him to charge the mound thus providing one of the most hilarious baseball clips of all time which you can see below.
Seeing these clips of Rod Allen are somewhat jarring to Tigers fans. Rod Allen in the booth comes across as one of the genuinely nicest guys you'll ever listen to. For instance, he lovingly calls Mario Impemba (Tigers PBP man) "pahdnuh" (partner) seemingly 10-15 times per game and rarely will send out a twitter message with less than three exclamation marks at the end of it. He has many go-to phrases which he will rehash. Because of that, Rod has a lot of haters that do not appreciate his style. From what I can tell, usually his cornball announcing style is celebrated when the Tigers are playing well and hated on when the team is struggling. Personally, I've never really let his style upset me that much. He knows the game and has an engaging personality, but it would be nice if he might expand his vocabulary by about 800%.
For this reason, there has been many attempts to create a definitive Rod Allen drinking game to celebrate each time he says one of his magical phrases such as "slide piece" or "country strong." In the version I helped create, the absolute pinnacle of the game was the very rare event that they show the famous clip of Rod charging the mound in Japan. So, for alcoholic Tigers fans, tonight was an exciting night.
Boston Bruins vs Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks have never won a Stanley Cup in their 40-plus year history. The Bruins have won it five times, but haven't won it in almost 40 years. What will it be: The Canucks hoisting their first Holy Grail or the Bruins reclaiming what was theirs nearly 40 years ago?
The Canucks have a distinct advantage in holding home ice and having been able to rest a few extra days, similar to their advantage against the Sharks, which they took full, um, advantage of. And like their advantage against the Sharks, they will again be playing a team coming not-so-fresh off of a grueling seven-game series. Did I say advantage Canucks?
But it's the Stanley Cup Finals... anything is posssssssible! (Oh, that was KG in the 2008 NBA Finals)
Announcers: (NBC/Versus) - Mike Emrick, Ed Olcyzk, Pierre McGuire
Game 1 — Wednesday, June 1 (NBC 8PM) at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia, Ca
Game 2 — Saturday, June 4 (NBC 8PM) at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia, Ca
Game 3 — Monday, June 6 (VS 8PM) at TD Garden, Boston, MA or St. Pete's Forum, Tampa, FL
Game 4 — Wednesday, June 8 (VS 8PM) at TD Garden, Boston, MA or St. Pete's Forum, Tampa, FL
Game 5* — Friday, June 10 (NBC 8PM) at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia, Ca
Game 6* — Monday, June 13 (NBC 8PM) at TD Garden, Boston, MA or St. Pete's Forum, Tampa, FL
Game 7* — Wednesday, June 15 (NBC 8PM) at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia, Ca
* If Necessary
With Miami's Game 5 win in Chicago, the NBA Finals schedule is set. Yes, those heroic Heat underdogs, the Cinderella story, the team that nobody believed in from the beginning, have made it to the NBA Finals. There, Miami will face Dallas in a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals. Can you believe Antoine Walker was on that team?? Mark Cuban is probably thinking the NBA owes him one for that series. A lot has changed since then though, with the addition of players like James, Bosh, Kidd, Chandler, and others. It should be a fun series, seeing as how Dallas and Miami won't be going up against two teams that have the mental toughness of Jean Van de Velde. The analysis of OKC's Game 4 collapse and Chicago's Game 5 choke is actually quite interesting. Here's your dates and times for the Finals...
Announcers - Mike Breen, Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy
Game 1 — Tuesday, May 31, Dallas at Miami 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 2 — Thursday, June 2, Dallas at Miami 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 3 — Sunday, June 5, Miami at Dallas 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 4 — Tuesday, June 7, Miami at Dallas 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 5* — Thursday, June 9, Miami at Dallas 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 6* — Sunday, June 12, Dallas at Miami 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 7* — Tuesday, June 14, Dallas at Miami 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Sports By Brooks has quite the bombshell in his latest post in which he claims that ESPN brass actively sought to steer the line of questioning directed at Jim Miller, author of Those Guys Have All The Fun. Matt had a great review on the 745 page dive into the history, highs, and lows of The Worldwide Leader and we'll actually be doing an interview ourselves hopefully free and clear of corporate politics.
Miller hinted at his skepticism that his appearances on ESPN shows would actually take place when he appeared on the Dan Patrick show earlier this week. This week Miller appeared on Mike and Mike, The Scott Van Pelt Show and The Doug Gottlieb Show, all of which seemed to possess a noticeable pattern in questioning.
Per Brooks' sources internally at ESPN, it seems management was vocal in trying to sway the tenor and subject of these interviews away from some of the more embarrassing stories in the book.
"Though from what I was told this week about the circumstances of Miller’s radio appearances that day, ESPN management did everything in its power to control what was asked of the author by the hosts of the shows.
When Miller was booked on the shows two weeks ago, ESPN management took the highly unusual step of drawing up talking points, in the form of six questions, that it highly encouraged on-air hosts adhere to while interviewing Miller.
Along with those talking points, ESPN management asked some of those involved in each show to make sure the word “dominate” was not used while engaging Miller on the air."
Since details of the book stared to leak out via advanced copies, ESPN has been cautiously been on defcon 3 looking to jump in for damage control as needed. ESPN President George Bodenheimer even wrote a blog post on their weird PRish blog The Front Row titled "Dedication and Respect" in which he defends ESPN's culture and history (the article has received no comments and in fact the entire site seems to have almost no comments).
Frankly speaking I don't really blame ESPN for trying to spin these interviews off-course from some of the more sordid revelations of the book. I do think it is in poor form though given those three shows all have personalities with unique engaging styles, and more importantly great history and presumably loyalty to ESPN. It is commendable to a certain degree that ESPN allowed their personalities to partake in being part of the book in addition to giving airtime to the book's author, but in the end they've created another embarrassing story by trying to interject an editorial strategy aimed at minimizing the damage.
At the end of the day it's merely a book and these interviews took place on the radio. The vast majority of ESPN's audience probably still doesn't know of the book's existence. The reality is that ESPN's core audience won't be making any trips to Barnes and Noble for this book or any other until at least August when hopefully they'll need to pickup a fantasy football cheat sheet.
Time to call together the AA Book Club for the first (and probably-but-hopefully-not last) time. For the last week or more, Those Guys Have All The Fun by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales has gripped the sports world like a Brett Favre retirement, Barry Bonds steroid case, and Tiger Woods affair all wrapped into one neat, 745 page package. Yes, everyone is correct in saying that the book is probably 100-200 pages too long. However, the size of the book, the story that it tells, and the stories inside the pages make Those Guys the authoritative book on ESPN... the Bible of Bristol, if you will.
As the authors make clear in the introduction, the book is not about the history of ESPN, but rather, it tells the story of ESPN. This was a crucial decision, because the first person storytelling format is an enjoyable and easy read and at least makes the massive length of the book more bearable. From crazy idea about a 24 hour sports channel launched by Bill and Scott Rasmussen in a northeastern traffic jam to a multi-billion dollar company led by George Bodenheimer, Those Guys chronicles each of ESPN's critical steps on its rise to world dominance. In fact, Miller and Shales chronicle nine such seminal steps that brought ESPN to the top of the sports world. These steps are as obvious as garnering NFL and MLB rights to surprises like the 1987 America's Cup coverage, This is SportsCenter ad campaign, or the initial dual revenue stream (selling advertising + cable fees).
The book is successful in telling the reader everything you would probably ever need or want to know about ESPN. I was born in 1986, so the realized part of my existence has always seen ESPN as the behemoth in sports television. The book was enlightening to a younger fella like myself in telling the story of how exactly ESPN survived and thrived in the world of early cable TV. In fact, most of our audience and the younger crowd may be disappointed to learn that the majority of the book focuses on the actual business of building a network and a brand... not sex & drugs, talent feuds, or other salacious details (although there is a mention of farting contests between Dan Patrick and Gary Miller, can't believe that hasn't gotten any serious questions yet)... however, it was these very details that I surprisingly found to be most interesting...
In a story that's sure to make waves across the blogosphere (rightly or wrongly), ESPN's Jenn Brown announced on Twitter that she is going to be the sideline reporter at the College World Series in Omaha. Does baseball technically have sidelines? I'm confused. Anyways, that wouldn't normally be a big deal, but that job did belong to one Erin Andrews. Now, is the sideline job at the College World Series a huge news story... no.
However, any news of one popular ESPN personality replacing another in any job is bound to be a story in this current environment of Those Guys Have All The Fun. And, when probably the most popular ESPN personality of them all, Erin Andrews, is replaced in anything, it will be a big story. I can see EA fans asking questions about Jenn Brown replacing her on this job or thoughts that maybe Brown is becoming the new favorite among female sideline reporters. In fact, Jenn Brown has been pegged as "the next Erin Andrews" since she first started appearing on the sidelines.
In the hype surrounding Those Guys, Erin Andrews vs Michelle Beadle is one of the most interesting stories/feuds to come out of the book, with Deadspin referring to sides being taken in the showdown between Bristol bombshells. Of course, a headline like that will draw eyeballs and interest. Now, with Jenn Brown seemingly taking a job away from Erin Andrews, expect that pot to be stirred as well. Of course, EA may have dropped the CWS on her own and it's very likely that this is a non-story and there is no controversy involved whatsoever... but because of the names involved and the way the news dropped, there will be restlessness and intrigue.
Too bad Oprah's now retired, or else all of this ESPN drama could have been sorted out by now.
***Update - Darren Rovell has tweeted that Rob Stone will replace EA on the Scripps National Spelling Bee next week, so that's two Erin Andrews related news stories. No word yet why EA is being replaced on these assignments from ESPN.
Jim Miller, the co-author of “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN” has been on the interview circuit since the book hit the shelves earlier this week. On Tuesday, he checked in with ESPN’s Mike and Mike and then, yesterday, he dropped by Dan Patrick’s studio. Next week, he's coming to AA. Patrick, who was employed by ESPN for 18 years before jumping ship, went back and forth with Miller for almost 20 minutes. The conversation was quite entertaining. To no surprise, it was a much better interview than the one conducted by Greenie and Golic on ESPN airwaves. Miller seemed a lot more comfortable with Patrick than he did with the two Mikes, which led to some nice little anecdotes from the author of the 750 page hardcover. One of my favorites had to do with the intensity of Tony Kornheiser’s grudges and the impact that Kornheiser’s 2010 suspension had on some of the ESPN employees that Miller had spoken to for the book.
I already knew Kornheiser was a little nutty so I wasn’t shocked to hear about how ridiculously unforgiving of a man he is. His tumultuous history with ESPN goes back several years. The second suspension Miller mentions was a much less publicized fiasco than the Hannah Storm controversy. According to Miller's book, TK was taken off his radio show for two weeks and PTI for one week in 2002 for swearing during affiliate breaks and going after the station's general manager. ESPN wasn't happy because those commercial breaks were streamed online at ESPN.com.
Miller eventually turned the tables on Patrick and started firing the former ESPN star some questions of his own. Miller wondered why Patrick, who wasn’t happy at ESPN, would stay with the network for as long as he did. Patrick blamed the Bristol brass for making him feel trapped.
Wow! That sounds like a fun environment to work in. Nice job by Miller to get some quality nuggets out of Patrick. According to most reviews, Miller did a nice job with the book as well. I guess the guy knows how to ask the right questions.
Bob Bender writes about the sports media at Press Box Daily and is the Supervisor of Sports Production at Westwood One Radio.