Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Broadcast Booth - March 29th Update.....

I'm always happy when baseball's opening day is upon us, but from a sports media standpoint this is an even happier year. While the advance weather forecasts for the midwest and northeast aren't the greatest for a March 31 and April 1 schedule of games, there is a big positive to opening the season on a Thursday and Friday.

That positive is the NCAA Final Four. As in, those still being on Saturday and Monday. Ever since the NCAA Tournament pushed back a week several years ago to the first weekend and Monday in April, it became a problem for the media. The MLB openers and the NCAA Championship Game are both stories and games which merit the full spotlight. Finally, they will have it.

While many of the paying customers won't like the weather for the baseball opening weekend, this move could provide benefits for the local teams in terms of more thorough media coverage surrounding opening day. Those who put baseball atop their list don't have to deal with all of the NCAA hype on opening day, then to have The Masters take the lead for the first full weekend of games. And the sports media can provide us with coverage of one "lead" story at a time.

As we have come to expect, MLB Network is as ready as ever to step up their coverage for what is already their 3rd full season of coverage. Along with expanded studio coverage on Thursday and Friday for opening day, MLB Network is planning to show more than 100 live games again this season, including live doubleheaders shown most Tuesdays during the season. They will also pick up a local telecast on many Friday nights, and continue to pick a Saturday night telecast (except for the 3 which Fox has rights to). All this in addition to continuing to originate Thursday Night Baseball telecasts with Bob Costas on play-by-play.

Yet, it gets even better during April, as MLB Network plans "30 Clubs in 30 Days" with plans to show at least one game with every team. This starts on Friday with the Seattle vs. Oakland opener. The Network is also adding to its live studio coverage during the week with additional programming starting mid-afternoon to lead into the evening's games.

Meanwhile, ESPN brings us 3 games on Thursday and 2 more openers on Friday. Then, the Sunday Night Baseball opener is San Francisco at L.A. ESPN goes up against the NCAA Championship game on Monday with the Yankees vs. Twins, before sticking around to show the same two teams on Wednesday night (4/6). Play ball!

While baseball rolls on the TV side, A's fans face more uncertainty over radio broadcasts of the A's games. The A's are supposed to continue on KTRB 860 this season and that station has carried several of the team's exhibition games. However, with the station still in receivership (as of press time late Tuesday), reports have surfaced that the station could withhold the A's broadcasts to force more negotiations with the team. The station failed to air last weekend's 2 games vs. Colorado, but has been airing (or scheduled to at press time) the games vs. the Giants from San Francisco on Monday and Tuesday nights.

CLEVELAND: The Cavaliers' current season now has a single bright spot, and that wasn't until Sunday (3/27) when legendary play-by-play voice Joe Tait returned to the microphone for the first time all season. Tait, still recovering from heart surgery in January, plans to also call the 4 remaining Cavs home games before his previously planned retirement. He needed help and his cane to get to his broadcast area and struggled a bit during the broadcast (his first since an exhibition game in October), but the good news is he made it back.

ARKANSAS: Sometimes all you can do about an embarrassing situation is to issue an apology and move on. The University of Arkansas' Hog Sports Network was faced with that very situation last week (3/23) regarding the women's basketball game in the WNIT vs. Oral Roberts. The network radio broadcast did not get on the air until the second half of the game due to what was later described as "technical and communication issues".

This led to Hog Sports Radio Network Program Director Dave Barr issuing a public apology, which also appeared on the school web site. Yet, rather than blame the source of the problem, Barr apologized on behalf of the Network.

HOUSTON: Raheel Ramzanali has been moved to a midday co-host position on KGOW 1560, working with a variety of co-hosts starting on Monday (4/4). Ramzanali replaces John Harris, who is moving to the overnight slot for Sporting News Radio.

DALLAS: 105.3 The Fan is changing its morning show starting on Monday April 11th when it debuts "New School with Shan @ R.J." from 5 to 9 AM. R.J. is R.J. Choppy, formerly of 103.3 ESPN for 9 years, while Shan Shariff is a former sports talk host in from Kansas City. They will replace Jagger and Gregg Henson, whose contracts are not being renewed.

NEW YORK: The recent trend of some TV stations' local newscasts reducing or eliminating sportscasts has come to New York. WPIX-TV has dropped the sports segment from its 10 PM newscasts, instead going with anchor Jodi Applegate on weeknights and Jim Watkins most weekends handing a roughly one minute scores and highlights recap. As a result, Glenn Petraitis, who had been handling weekend sports recaps, is no longer with the station. This will make the newscast's ratings over the next 6 months very interesting to watch, since WPIX-TV continues to air some Mets games this season. I would think they will lose some audience since Mets fans will likely switch to SNY's 10 PM sports updates for additional Mets coverage. And when Mets games run past 10:00, they figure to lose a portion of the "non-sports" audience which doesn't have to wait for WPIX news.

This after WNYW-TV had reduced the Russ Salzberg sports segment to roughly one minute at the end of the hour, with Salzberg signing off the entire newscast to end the show on some nights.

BOSTON: Congrats to long time former Bruins radio play-by-play voice Bob Wilson. This past Saturday (3/26) the team honored him by officially renaming the home radio booth the "Bob Wilson Radio Booth". Among those on hand to honor the 82-year old Wilson were team President Cam Neely, current radio voice Dave Goucher, and former TV voice Fred Cusick.

CHICAGO: WSCR The Score 670 has renewed the contract of evening host Laurence Holmes for 2 more years. Just in time for Holmes to be pre-empted on many weeknights as the station's White Sox play-by-play begins for the new season.

BALTIMORE/D.C.: WBFF-TV 45 has brought in Morgan Adsit as its new weekend sports anchor starting April 9 & 10th. She replaces Kristen Berset who moved a few miles south to WUSA-TV 9.

MILWAUKEE: Trenni Kusnierek, formerly of MLB Network and Fox Sports Wisconsin, has joined WTMJ 620 as afternoon sports anchor, replacing Bill Michaels, whose contract was not renewed. She starts on Monday April 4th.

BATON ROUGE: LSU baseball continues to get extended local media coverage this season. "Inside LSU Baseball" is a new weekly half hour TV show airing at 10:35 PM Sundays on WBRZ-TV 2 and streamed on LSUSports.net. This is in addition to the (LSU coach) Paul Mainieri Show on Mondays.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Broadcast Booth - March 23rd Update

It's so far so good with the multiple network coverage of the NCAA Tournament, now down to just CBS and TBS.

Gus Johnson and analysts Len Elmore and Reggie Miller will handle the Southeast Region on Thursday (3/24) with BYU/ Florida and Wisconsin / Butler at 8:57 p.m., both on TBS.

CBS on Thursday will air the West Region with Vern Lundquist and Bill Raftery calling San Diego State / Connecticut followed by Duke / Arizona.

On Friday, CBS has Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg doing the East with North Carolina vs. Marquette and Ohio State vs. Kentucky. While on TBS, Marv Albert and Steve Kerr get the Southwest Region in San Antonio, with Kansas vs. Richmond and VA Commonwealth vs. Florida State.

As MLB Network gets ready to open the regular season with another promise to show all 30 teams at least once with "30 Games In 30 Days", the Network has just been nominated for 8 Sports Emmy Awards.

ESPN is going to borrow from "College Game Day" and originate "Baseball Tonight" every Sunday from the site of its Sunday Night Baseball telecast. The first one will be from outside of Dodger Stadium on April 3rd. Hopefully the fans surrounding will not be anywhere near the nuisance they become on College GameDay.

NEW YORK: WCBS 880 now has Brad Heller handling the morning sports updates on an interim basis since the departure of Jared Max. Max left WCBS to move down the dial to WEPN ESPN 1050.

INDIANAPOLIS: Best wishes for a continued recovery by Bob "Slick" Leonard from his recent heart attack suffered on a Pacers road trip. The former Pacers coach and long time radio analyst is being replaced on the air by former Pacer Austin Croshere. Now at age 78, Leonard has more than 55 years in pro basketball.

ATLANTA: It was after The Broadcast Booth came out last week that the story broke of The Fan 680 reportedly firing sports update reporter Chadd Scott due to comments made on a social networking site. A comment that he had already deleted at the request of management, and was not made on the air. It merely referenced one of the station's big advertisers.

I thought that reporters and hosts on sports talk stations are encouraged to interact with fans on social media sites and online in general. Instead, The Fan 680 sends a "message" to their listeners that their employees can only express approved opinions.

And to think this guy loses his job less than 2 weeks after ESPN's Bobby Knight says the s-word on ESPN and left it for another reporter to apologize on the air. Knight is still employed by ESPN.

PITTSBURGH: The Steelers broadcasts will stay on WBGG 970 and WDVE 102.5 for next season (whenever that may be), for what will be the 14th season as the team's flagship station. No changes in the booth.

St. LOUIS: Former Rams standout tackle Orlando Pace will be making some appearances on KSLG 1380 and KFNS 590, which is good news for fans who enjoy his knowledge of the game and his new found broadcast ability. He'll remain on those stations, since Pace is now an approximately 15% owner of Grand Slam Sports (which owns the stations).

We all knew this was coming from WXOS 101.1. After earlier bringing in local legend Howard Balzer to help with the station web site, Balzer and his "Pro Football Sunday" show is back from 10 AM to Noon. Balzer is also already doing a series of NFL Draft previews airing at various times on the station. Can't help but think that within days after we know when the next NFL season will start will come an announcement that someone else will then handle the web site duties so that Balzer can do more on the air.

BALTIMORE: Members of the local media will come together for the purpose of talking Orioles baseball with fans on Friday April 8th. The Fan 105.7's Scott Garceau, WBAL 1090's Brett Hollander and Keith Mills, Rob Long of Fox Sports 1370, and MASN's Roch Kubatko and Jen Royle will each be among the panelists at a luncheon that day. It will take place at the Sports Legends Museum in Baltimore.

TULSA: Oklahoma University now has a new play-by-play voice for both football and basketball starting later this year. That is the first time that sentence can be used in 51 years, since the just retired Bob Barry called Sooners games for 50 years. Yet, Toby Rowland of Oklahoma City's KWTV Channel 9 and KREF 1400, is not new to OU fans.

Rowland has called baseball, women's basketball, and other sports for OU over the years. Here's hoping he stands on his own merits and not in the shadow of Barry over the next couple of seasons.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Broadcast Booth - March 15th Update......

This figures to be a wonderful week for college hoops fans with the NCAA Tournament starting with every game finally shown live. No more gripes to the local TV stations across the country about which game was chosen over that game. Granted, many will have a challenge finding Tru-TV which gets to carry a couple of unopposed games. However, the important fact that every game will also be streamed live and free should make up for that.

There are other benefits for the fans. All of the first week's games are scheduled to be completed by midnight ET (with the possible exception of the last games of the day going into overtime). This is better than past years when CBS would show games starting after the late local newscasts which sometimes wouldn't start until after 11:30 ET.

The more casual fan may not enjoy this as much, as there will not be the switching to the endings of games and a "primary" telecast as in past years. CBS, TBS, TNT, and Tru-TV do each plan on cross-promoting other telecasts and keeping viewers very much updated on other games being played at the same time. Have remote will travel!

Where is the reprimand for Bobby Knight due to his use of an obscenity on ESPN earlier this month? It was back on March 5th when Knight was on College Gameday and refered to a "chicken s--- defense". The only apology came moments later on the show, but from host Rece Davis. Thus, there was no apology from Knight himself, who is a member of the media and is employed by ESPN. Why was Davis the only one to apologize?

It is bad enough that some media members continue to bow down to Knight even after his childish antics ruined the success he had as a coach. The fact that Knight (to the best of my knowledge) was not reprimanded and did not apologize for his own serious error is, well, chicken s---.

This was different from the incident last week in Philadelphia. Sports radio personality Mike Missanelli was on Fox-TV during a 5:00 newscast, and supposedly "didn't realize" he was on the air when he let loose with the f-word among others while anchor Lauren Cohn continued with her segment.

AT&T U-Verse cable subscribers are finally getting MLB Network after more than 2 years on the air. Earlier this year, the regional Fox Sports Networks were quietly pulled (except for those viewers paying up to $10 per month additional for AT&T's sports package), yet AT&T failed to reduce the price for its sports package even with around half of the channels pulled.

It was good to have proof that ESPN did not air a "report" from another media source without checking first. It seems that sports radio host Bob McCown "reported" last Friday on The Fan 590 Toronto that he heard that Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins was considering retirement while looking to comeback from his current injury. ESPN got denials from both Troy Crosby (Sidney's father) and from Sidney Crosby's agent. Good to know that at least one major source of sports news is doing their follow up.

On the other hand, there was the attempted "joke" report from Jim Crandell on Sacramento's KTXL-TV 10:00 PM News last week. Basketball fans in the Sacramento area have been concerned about the rumored move of the NBA Kings to Anaheim, especially since the Kings are the only "big 4" pro sports team in the city.

Yet, Crandell ran a clip of NBA Commissioner David Stern from the 1985 announcement that the Kings were moving TO Sacramento and dubbed in a voice to make it appear, however jokingly, that the announcement was about a move from Sacramento to Anaheim. (Again, this was on the 10 PM news.) As if this wasn't bad enough, Crandell had promoted the "announcement for Kings fans" earlier in the evening on the station. How awful for the team, its fans, and I would think eventually on the station's ratings for their newscasts.

There is still more of this "reporting" insanity. Talk show host Scott Moore is gone from WZZN 97.7 The Zone. Moore supposedly had tapes with Auburn star Cam Newton reportedly knowing about the "pay-for-play" controversy. It took WAAY-TV's Cole Cubelic to ask Moore if Cam was actually heard on the tapes, to which Moore said "no". The tapes also never aired.

On a positive note, The Library of Congress has acquired The John Miley Collection of sports broadcasts made between 1920 and 1972. The collection now cosists of more than 6,000 TV and radio broadcasts, and the Library plans to eventually digitally preserve and make them available for listening or viewing at the Library of Congress. Included are Wilt Chamberlain's last college game at Kansas, Arnold Palmer winning his first pro golf tournament from 1955, Curt Gowdy calling Oklahoma University football games from the late 1940's while at KOMA, and SMU's "near upset" of Notre Dame in 1949.

ATLANTA: The Falcons finishing with the best record in the NFC last season didn't help in the post-season, but it did for radio rights. The Falcons are moving to WQXI 790 The Zone for the coming season, with plans to add Falcons related programming to its lineup. Wes Durham and Dave Archer will continue as the broadcast team, with the game broadcasts also simulcast on WSTR Star 94 FM.

CHICAGO: WLS-TV gains a new sports anchor starting next week (3/21), even if it is a partially familiar name. Rafer Weigel leaves Headline News' "Morning Express" to join the station's sports staff. Rafer's late father Tim Weigel was both a sports and news anchor for the station for 17 years.

The NBA Bulls' surge to the top of the Eastern Conference has also surged the TV ratings. Bulls regular season telecasts on Comcast SportsNet are now up more than 65% over last season (as of late last week). The team's Monday (3/7) win over New Orleans was Comcast SportsNet's highest rated Bulls telecast ever (regular or post-season), even higher than the 3-overtime game vs. the Celtics in the memorable 2009 opening round NBA Playoff series.

MINNEAPOLIS: How the mighty have fallen. WCCO 830 has now lost University of Minnesota football and basketball, leaving it with only the NHL Wild among its play-by-play schedule.

KFAN 1130 will carry Gophers football on Saturdays along with the NFL Vikings most Sundays, with Gophers broadcasts also airing on KTLK-FM 100.3. KSTP-AM 1500 will carry basketball and hockey broadcasts as part of this 3-year package deal.

WASHINGTON DC: MASN will add a baseball oriented show weekdays at 5 PM starting on March 31 (the day of the MLB season openers). The show expects to devote segments to the Nationals, Orioles, and baseball in general. On many weeknights it will lead into the pre-game show of Orioles or Nationals telecasts.

CINCINATTI: Congrats to Xavier University play-by-play voice Joe Sunderman on winning the 2011 Bob Vetrone Atlantic 10 Media Award as he wraps up his 30th season on the Xavier broadcast team. The former Xavier player (and a member of the school's Hall of Fame) began his broadcast career as the analyst before switching over to play-by-play.

HILTON HEAD: 1130 AM has dropped ESPN Radio and gone to a music format as WHHW.

MACON: WPLA-AM Sports 1670 is adding a local morning show as of March 28. Charles Olson and Daniel Shirley will air from 7 to 9 AM. Hopefully the "And don't call me Shirley" jokes will stop after the first show. The station is already local from 3 to 6 PM with Bill Shanks.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Broadcast Booth - March 7th Update

Lakers analyst and sometimes radio sports talk host Mychal Thompson gave his KSPN 710 Los Angeles a radio show to remember this past Friday (3/4) morning, much to his credit. From here on out, Thompson should be recognized as a broadcaster first, and no longer as a former NBA player who joined the media ranks.

Thompson could have excused himself from the broadcast, and chances are no one would have questioned it. To his credit, the show must go on. He could have also chosen to avoid comment on one of the morning's biggest sports stories. Instead, he went on at 10 AM and spent nearly two hours discussing that story, even to the point of putting listeners on the air.

Just hours prior to Thompson's scheduled show, Klay Thompson, the junior guard for Washington State who (at the time) led the Pac-10 in scoring for the season, had been stopped by Pullman (WA) police and charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana. The incident occurred late Thursday night following WSU's win over USC. The significance is that Klay is Mychal's son.

Mychal Thompson reportedly found out about this incident around 7 AM, just 3 hours before he was to take to the air on KSPN and host sports talk from 10 AM until 2 PM. Yet, Thompson kept his air shift, and spent nearly 2 hours talking and reacting to what happened.

It was not his disappointment and anger toward his own son alone which made it such a noteworthy broadcast. It was the fact that he went on the air and thoroughly addressed the ordeal with his audience.

This 2 hours made for compelling sports radio. In addition to reacting as many fathers would in such a situation, Mychal also discussed the possibilities of punishment for Klay. Not a simple matter, since Pac-10 Conference tournament time is upon us, and there would be a major impact without the leading scorer participating.

As one who demands that sports radio bring more immediate reaction from the players and coaches involved to a big story, this went above and beyond. This was not a ratings ploy. There was little to no time to hype this broadcast. It happened, and the Los Angeles radio audience was instantly a part of it.

Speaking of expert reaction on a sports talk show, Dan LeBatard on SportsTalk 790 Miami did a great job in talking about last week's Detroit Pistons player revolt after several players deliberately failed to show up for a team practice. On his Miami-based show, he was able to secure a live interview with Orlando Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy, which included the quote "They (Pistons) have got the wrong guys in their locker room."

Thus, listeners heard one NBA coach defending a competing team's coaching staff (well, the Pistons and Magic do play in the same Conference) even though neither involved the local team. LeBatard deserves a lot of credit for getting the Orlando coach to come on live even without the biting quotes.

This is not the only example of sports radio doing a great job in handling an unfortunate sports related story. The death of high school basketball player Wes Leonard (following a game winning shot) prompted Holland MI's WHTC 1450 and WBBL 107.3 to air a special tribute on its 3-7 PM show hosted by Bill Simonson and Alan Babbitt. This broadcast on Monday (3/7) was to have been broadcast live from DeVos Fieldhouse, the site of the Class C Michigan tournament game for that night between Fennville and Lawrence. Leonard's previous coaches were scheduled to guest on the show, as well as Bo Kimble, the former Loyola Marymount teammate of Hank Gathers (who had passed away on the court due to a heart condition 21 years ago). A very classy move by a local station.

Meanwhile, broadcast sports lost one of its biggest innovators ever with the passing of Frank Chirkinian at the age of 84. It seems appropriate that he will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame this May. Don't feel bad if you don't recognize the name. In a different way, he was to televised golf what Eddie Einhorn was to televised college basketball (See last week's column).

He was producer of The Masters telecasts for more than 30 years, and was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2007.

Among Chirkinian's other innovations were telling viewers how many strokes under or over par the leaders are, bringing overhead and blimp camera shots to the telecasts, and bringing in "name" announcers from other sports such as Jim Nantz and Pat Summerall. While Summerall's delivery on football could cure insomnia, his soft and brief deliveries fit well with golf telecasts. At least Chirkinian passed away knowing of his having been elected to the Hall and how so many others recognized his contributions.

Looks as though TNT was determined to show Carmelo Anthony in action on Thursday (3/10) night. The network has made its first schedule change of the entire season by switching to televise the N.Y. Knicks vs. Dallas for its second game, starting at 9:40 ET. The start time for TNT's doubleheader has been moved up an hour to 7 PM ET for the highly anticipated Lakers vs. Heat rematch from Christmas. The kicker is that the originally scheduled late game was Denver vs. Phoenix, with Denver now being Anthony's former team.

TBS has finally announced its early season Sunday MLB telecast schedule, seemingly bringing New York and Boston games to the rest of the country. It seems that 6 of the first 9 telecasts have one or the other, while the other 3 have the Philadelphia or Chicago markets.

The start times from week to week are staggered, although within 75 minutes of each other thus far. This while the Fox Saturday telecasts are not as consistent as past seasons with early April telecasts in the 1 PM ET time slot and at least 3 Saturdays (up from 2 last season) of prime time telecasts instead.

All times ET:

Sunday, April 3 (2 p.m.): Boston at Texas
Sunday, April 10 (1:30 p.m.): Philadelphia at Atlanta
Sunday, April 17 (1:30 p.m.): Toronto at Boston
Sunday, April 24 (2:15 p.m.): L.A. Dodgers at Chicago Cubs
Sunday, May 1 (1 p.m.): Toronto at N.Y. Yankees
Sunday, May 8 (2 p.m.): N.Y. Yankees at Texas
Sunday, May 15 (TBD): Philadelphia at Atlanta
Sunday, May 22 (1 p.m.): N.Y. Mets at N.Y. Yankees
Sunday, May 29 (1 p.m.): Boston at Detroit

Comcast's bringing of NBC Sports and Versus under the same umbrella allows NBC to expand its Notre Dame football coverage. Versus will televise the Notre Dame spring football scrimmage on Saturday April 16th.

MILWAUKEE: WAUK 540 ESPN will have a new weekly contributor to its afternoon show with Steve "Homer" True for the next Packers and NFL season, and beyond. None other than Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has been signed by the station to handle a weekly segment.

BOSTON: Now that WEEI has begun its revamped lineup, The Sports Hub 98.5 decided to add to its afternoon lineup. Former Patriot Jermaine Wiggins joins the Felger & Massarotti Show in studio each Wednesday. Wiggins and the station are keeping the door open toward eventually adding more days.

LOS ANGELES: The Dodgers secured and quickly began a new affiliation for the team's Spanish broadcasts. On Friday (3/4), the team announced that KTNQ 1020 will air 8 (now 7 more as of press time) spring training games and then the entire 162 game season. On Saturday (3/5), KTNQ aired its first broadcast with the Dodgers playing Cincinnati, and with Jaime Jarrin in the Spanish radio booth for his 53rd season. Fernando Valenzuela and Pepe Yniguez also continue in the booth. KHJ Radio had previously aired the games.

OKLAHOMA CITY: Talk about the end of an era. 80 year old Bob Barry Sr. will call his last game, after 50 years, as soon as this Wednesday (3/9) when the University of Oklahoma takes on Baylor in a Big 12 Conference tournament opening round game in which Baylor is favored. Barry's second stint calling OU hoops began in 1991, while his first stint was from 1961 to 1972.

AUSTIN: A rare change in the radio booth for Texas Longhorns football broadcasts starts for the 2011 season. Roger Wallace, Sports Director at KXAN, will move from sideline reporter to the analyst position. He replaces Keith Moreland, who started this month in Chicago as analyst on Cubs radio on WGN. Former Longhorn Rod Babers, who is a host on KEVT 1300, will join the Longhorns broadcasts as sideline reporter.

DES MOINES: Steve Deace, former afternoon host on WHO, will become co-host, along with Jon D. Miller, on a morning sports show o Sports Byline Radio Network. However, the show cannot air on a Des Moines station until later in the year due to a non-compete clause.