Here we are well into the NFL, NBA, and NHL seasons, with the endless string of meaningless college bowl games about to be thrust upon us, and college basketball getting ready for holiday tournaments and then conference play.
Yet, the sports media has added to the collection of rumors and speculation it "reports" with some bizarre stories over the past week.
Some of the media has reported on a publicity stunt the NHL Atlanta Thrashers tried earlier this week. On Wednesday (12/15) morning, the team's web site and social media pages "reported" that Trash was arrested. That's the team's mascot, folks. The "story" that the mascot had stolen a Zamboni and drove it 25 miles on I-85, and that the mascot was arrested by Gwinnett County Police.
Yet, the Atlanta Fox-TV affiliate "covered" the story, while it also got mentions (even if not taken seriously) on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's web site.
On Tuesday, Mike Felger on Boston's 98.5 WBZ-FM The Sports Hub used time during his show to discuss a local web site doing a "Wed, Bed, or Kill" game in which men are supposed to vote for which they would choose among three Boston area female TV news or personalities. It seems Felger didn't like that many voters came out in favor of "Kill" for Sara Underwood, who happens to be Felger's wife. One of the outside news accounts of this incident reported that a National Organization of Women spokesperson was "surprised" that Felger used his show to discuss his wife and this "poll". So much for any children listening to a sports show wanting to talk about the Patriots and Celtics play this week.
Also this week WAKS 96.5 FM in Cleveland began airing a digitally edited version of a Jay-Z song, "Empire State of Mind". Normally, this wouldn't make a sports media column, but this isn't normally. Only this station (as of press time) edited the song so that the word "LeBron" is not decipherable. Station officials were quoted as saying they did so based on the recent negative reaction toward LeBron James when he returned to Cleveland with his Miami Heat earlier this month. Wonder how listeners will feel when they purchase the song and then clearly hear the Lebron reference.
All 3 of these stories are from within the past week. Here we are with sports radio stations growing for the most part, more regional and national full-time sports TV networks, and tremendous ratings for live sports events all year. I'd like to think we could all focus on the games and the players and coaches instead of hoping we can return to that.
Then, there is the story of Penn State's Joe Paterno calling into WDAE Tampa with host Steve "The Big Dog" Duemig, and Paterno being unable to hear the questions. Several sports and non-sports web sites have links for fans to be able to hear this mishap.
Many are blaming the 83 year-old Paterno for not being able to hear the host and for a botched interview attempt. You have got to be kidding. WDAE should be embarassed beyond belief and have blocked the audio clips from airing all over the place (including The Howard Stern Show). How did Paterno get on the air if he couldn't hear the host? If JoePa could hear the producer prior to going live, it tells me that Duemig should have put Paterno on hold and waited for his producer(s) to correct the technical glitch before continuing. If the Coach could not hear the producer either, they had no business putting him on the air and causing that to happen.
If WDAE can't handle a live interview, that is something for listeners to consider. Whether you are for or against Paterno remaining active at Penn State is not the issue here. That some media members are so willing to have him be embarassed by something that is not his fault is an issue. Or it should be.
Snow in Minnesota causes anger in Connecticut. The unfortunate collapse of the MetroDome roof and the moving of the Giants vs. Vikings game to Monday Night caused some havoc for TV viewers. Fox Sports retained the rights to the telecast on Monday night, with much of the game going up against the scheduled ESPN Monday Night Football game. Thus, Fox was only able to the Giants - Vikings game in approved "home" markets. Those were New York City and Albany NY (Giants), along with Minneapolis, Rochester (MN), Duluth, and Mankato MN.
Efforts by politicians in Connecticut did not get the game televised over-the-air in Hartford or New Haven, primarily due to fighting over the revenue for advertising between Fox and ESPN. ESPN reportedly refused to let the Fox affiliates carry the game, while Fox would not let ESPN2 take its telecast feed because ESPN2 would have been able to substitute its own advertisers.
Once again because of greed some fans are denied the opportunity to see a game on TV. What should they have done in CT? Let both the Fox affiliates and ESPN2 show the game and let the fans decide which channel to watch. Just like when NFL Network let both NBC and CBS show the Patriots game on a Saturday night at the end of their quest for an undefeated season a few years back.
Fans in the Baltimore area didn't care. The ESPN telecast of the Baltimore vs. Houston game on Monday night drew a 43.1 rating when combining the ESPN telecast with a local TV station, nearly double the ratings of the telecast in the Houston area.
Tuesday night's (12/14) NHL telecast of the Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia game wound up as Versus' most watched regular season game the network has ever had and the most watched regular season game on cable since December 2003.
DALLAS: The success of the Rangers and the sports stations carried over to the Rangers getting a new radio home starting next season. KESN 103.3 begins a 4 year deal to carry the broadcasts, while ESPN Deportes KZMP 1540 will carry the Spanish broadcasts. The broadcasts move from KRLD-AM, which had split up weekday and weekend broadcasts last season with another station. This move brings the stability of the broadcasts being on one station, as it is likely the Rangers will have priority over the Mavericks broadcasts during spring conflicts. Nothing official about that yet, however.
KRLD-FM continues as the Cowboys flagship, while the Stars continue on The Ticket 1310.
MINNEAPOLIS: The Twins broadcast booth will seem like it was for the Yankees for several years, as fans will need a scorecard to find out who will call each game during the 2011 season. John Gordon has decided to reduce his schedule for his 25th season with the team to just 90 games. Former Twins voices Ted Robinson and Bob Kurtz will each work about 25 of the other games. Robinson continues his duties for NBC while Kurtz handles play-by-play for the NHL Wild.
Adding to the mix will be Kris Atteberry, as the Twins' studio host will handle some play-by-play for about 45 games. Lead analyst Dan Gladden will do about 135 to 140 games, with Jack Morris returning to handle about 25 broadcasts. There will be a quiz later. At least all of the radio games remain on KSTP 1500.
CHICAGO: David Kaplan will have expanded duties for Comcast SportsNet Chicago for the upcoming baseball season. In addition to hosting the daily talk and interview show, Kaplan will act as studio host for most Cubs telecasts. He is also expected to return to WGN Radio Sports after the first of the year.
BOSTON: Comcast SportsNet has added Bob Neumeier and Nicole Zaloumis to the fold. Neumeier, well known for his stint on WBZ-TV, starts as a sports anchor on January 3rd. Zaloumis comes over from the Big Ten Network.
ESPN 970 will have Stan Savran hosting 10 AM to Noon beginning in January. Savran, who hosted when ESPN was on 1250, will begin his show about one week after the Steelers' season concludes. Yet, the late morning time slot already has a Steelers flavor. "Tunch & Wolf" with former Steelers Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley currently airs in that spot.
NASHVILLE: Sorry to report on the passing of Nick Hunter at the age of 67. Known as "Nick The Stick" for more than 20 years on sports talk radio, most recently with George Plaster on The Zone 104.5. He stayed on the air into November after having been diagnosed with cancer in September.
Yet, many fans were not aware of Hunter's 'double life'. He spent more than 40 years in the record business in a variety of promotions and management positions for CBS Records, Epic Records, Warner Bros., Electra, and Atlantic. He worked with Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, Johnny Paycheck, and Hank Williams Jr., among others. He will be missed.