Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - November 9 update.............

The speculation had been around for weeks, but the news made official that Jon Miller will not be back for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball still hits hard. There was no solid reason given for the change. Miller wasn't called out for saying anything controversial or considered not politically correct. I don't recall him issuing an apology for anything he said. Nor do I recall him missing any games he was scheduled to do. (Not doing a game because he was being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame is different.)

More importantly, I don't recall hearing or reading a major complaint about his work, and that goes back 21 seasons on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Here we were one year ago with the media swamped with complaints about Chip Caray messing up on TBS' post-season coverage that led to his being replaced before this just completed season.

Yet, Jon Miller does his job well year in year out for 21 seasons. Shouldn't he be rewarded and not demoted?

Maybe it is the baseball purist in me that still yearns for the tradition of the game that vanishes even further every season. It's bad enough we have teams wearing different uniform tops every game, the constant changing of players, games shown and broadcast over different stations over the course of a week, and constant media speculation about personnel.

OK, so I didn't specifically tune in to Sunday Night Baseball because of Jon Miller, or even to hear Joe Morgan talk himself into and out of the same thought throughout the game. Yet, no matter who replaces Miller, it's going to be a bit harder to want to tune in on Sunday nights. Another constant has been taken away from us, and this time for no reason.

Meanwhile, the sports world lost another of its long time voices with the passing of Bob Fulton last week. The voice of the University of South Carolina football and basketball teams for 43 seasons died at the age of 89. It was fitting that his last football broadcast was the January 1995 win over Virginia in a bowl game, the school's first ever bowl win.

Maybe it's time to make the "I said it, but maybe I didn't mean it" statements a bigger issue. Saying something to make headlines and draw media attention shouldn't count. Actually, it shouldn't happen. Two examples within the past week bring this to mind.

Last Friday (11/5) Michael Kay had Isiah Thomas as a guest on his NYC show on ESPN 1050, and said on the air that Thomas "will become GM of the Knicks". There was nothing further said to back up this claim, which Isiah didn't even address. And, nothing further on any of the sports reports or columns since (as of press time). When you consider the sources that ESPN has, along with how many rumors ESPN "reports" (even if they are reported as rumors), you have to wonder about such a statement from Kay. Yet, the comment was picked up by a couple of NYC media members, and here I am bringing it up. It's as though people will forget about Kay's comment, assuming that Thomas will not get any such position with the Knicks, yet his show generated the additional publicity.

However, it's not just media personalities making a statement and eventually looking to get out from under. University of Washington Athletic Director Scott Woodward went on KJR-AM Seattle during the pre-game show on Saturday (11/6) and said on the air that rival University of Oregon has become "an embarassment" as an academic institution.

By the time I heard about this, Woodward had already issued an apology to anyone offended by the comments.

I can always understand when an apology is issued over something in print, since the context of a comment can easily be challenged when people are not able to hear exactly what was said. Woodward's comment was made on a radio show when potentially thousands of listeners heard it at the time. That makes an apology tougher to take.

Combined, these two incidents are examples of people on both sides of the microphone saying things over the air that shouldn't have been. Some credibility would be nice, especially with the number of sports outlets trying to stay on top of the competition.

MLB Network continues to provide fresh programming even as the off-season gets into full swing. On Monday (11/15) the Network will premier it's "Baseball's Seasons" with an episode recapping the entire 1990 season. Then on Nov. 29th they will premier the episode about the 1971 season.

Now if only MLB Network would put more effort into getting onto AT&T U-Verse, Dish Network, and other cable and satellite systems that don't offer it. All consumers deserve the same opportunities.

PITTSBURGH: WBGG 970 might be too excited about becoming an ESPN Radio affiliate and dumping Fox Radio Sports. Even though it doesn't make the change until Janury 1st, the station's web site is already promoting its lineup revisions and boasting about the change. This does give us confirmation that the (local) Joe Bendel show will continue from 4 to 7 PM. The station continues as the flagship station of the Steelers and Penguins, as well as being the West Virginia University football and basketball outlet (when no conflicts occur).

CHICAGO: The White Sox are on the way to becoming the first MLB team to be involved in their own HD Radio channel, most likely in time for the 2011 season. This is an addition to last week's announcement of a new 5-year deal to continue on WSCR The Score 670. One of the CBS FM station HD channels will be devoted to the White Sox.

Although this is not my marketing blog, the HD channel should really be all about marketing. In order to make this work, the team and station should be working to put HD Radios into the hands of White Sox fans. Give them out to full season ticket holders. Have them as prizes during station promotions and perhaps to selected callers throughout their sports talk days and nights. Offer significant discounts or free incentives from participating advertisers and retailers. Get HD radios into the hands of fans for nothing or pretty close to it.

This is the sort of thing which could make HD Radio worthwhile by offering a niche but mass appeal channel. To insist that fans spend $50 to $150 to purchase an HD Radio to hear it would only limit the audience. The ideal solution is to also stream the channel, which would benefit fans and advertisers the most, although it would not further HD Radio. Yet, if the idea is to have a constant vehicle of all things White Sox for the fan base, this will be something to keep an ear on.

BOSTON: The sports radio competition continues to thrive with WEEI and WBZ-FM, and smaller outlets and trying to get into the mix. This past Sunday (11/7) brought the "Upton & Lobel" to WXKS 1200 from 9 to 11 AM. The hosts are Bob Lobel (formerly of WBZ-TV 4) and Upton Bell.

WCRN 830 Worcester offers "The Henry Schwan Show" from 6 to 7 PM on Sunday nights, and currently has only one sponsor. On Halloween night, Schwan had plenty of time for personal reflection on the Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins. It seems no one called in. Just think if he were on HD Radio.

Comcast SportsNet is adding Bill Walton to some of its Celtics coverage for this season. Walton, who has a part-time schedule on Sacramento Kings telecasts, will work with Mike Gorman on the team's 6 upcoming telecasts (on CSN) from the west coast, starting with a Portland and Phoenix swing in late January. Dave Cowens will add to the studio coverage on a few dates, including the Memphis game this coming Saturday (11/13).

HOUSTON: Calvin Murphy's recent work talking Rockets basketball with Rich Lord and Robert Henslee on KILT could well lead to a regular and bigger role with the station. Those of us who remember Murphy's excellent playing days might say that he could "reach new heights" with his radio career. (For those who don't remember, Murphy was 5' 9" as an NBA standout player.)

VANCOUVER: Market veteran Rick Dhaliwal has a new radio home. He has been added to CKWX 1130 as a sports anchor, in effect replacing Geoff Rohoman and Jason Benner in the process. Scott Russell continues handling afternoons.

WICHITA: Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall began his weekly radio show on Monday (11/8) on KNSS 1330, this season doing the 6 PM show live from a local sports bar and inviting fan participation.

VALPARAISO IN: The recent success of Valparaiso University's basketball team in the NCAA tourney has helped to expand the team's regional radio coverage for the upcoming season. In addition to local WAKE 1500 and WEFM 95.9 Michigan City IN, WJOB 1230 Hammond will start by carrying 14 games this season. WJOB's signal reaches part of the southern tip of Chicago and several southern suburbs.

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