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.

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