Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Broadcast Booth - May 5th Update

It is amazing that so many of the major sports media stories have little to do with what is happening on the fields and the courts at the moment. And it probably shouldn't be that way.

The college conference pot-o-gold continues this week as the Pac-12 has become the latest major conference to score a jackpot with a 12-year agreement involving ESPN and Fox Sports. Basically, everything from intra-mural tiddly winks on up will be shown somewhere every season, bringing millions and millions of dollars to the Conference and its member schools.

This contract kicks in for the 2012 football season, during which the Pac-12 Network will air 36 football games, while ABC/ESPN and Fox/FX will combine for 44 of the games. The Pac-12 Championship game will alternate (Fox or ESPN) and be a Friday prime time game. At least 68 baskeball games will be shown on ESPN or Fox.

Sorry, but as much as I like having even more live games televised, I'm still having a problem with these mega-packages the conferences are getting. While millions more dollars pour into these schools, our cable or satellite bills continue to increase because of these packages, and it's not as though tuitions are dropping each year during these 12 years of the contract.

Meanwhile, the ESPN/ABC crossover took on a few moments of added significance this past Sunday (5/1) night. As the Bin Laden story was breaking during ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, the announcing crew verified the story before mentioning it over the air. Thus, Dan Shulman became the voice who alerted thousands of people to this major news.

Obviously, it is very rare that a news story leaks into an unrelated sports telecast. Maybe this will be more common due to social media. Those who continued to watch the Phillies vs. Mets game later heard and saw the crowd at the game cheering for the U.S. and using their personal devices to learn more, even with a 1-0 late inning baseball game (at the time) going on in front of them. Upon reporting the news bulletin, Shulman told viewers to "switch to ABC News" for coverage of that story. Even with the impact of portable and social media, and the significance of this news story, it would have been interesting to see how ESPN might have handled this were it not for the crossover with ABC News.

The Sports Emmy Awards last Sunday (5/1) had a noticeable Cincinnati flavor. Al Michaels, who was the voice of the Reds on radio in the early 70's (prior to Marty Brennaman) was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award". Chris Collinsworth, Michaels' partner on Sunday Night Football, won his 12th Sports Emmy for "Outstanding Event Analyst". Collinsworth played on the NFL Cincinnati Bengals prior to starting his broadcast career in Cinci, including a hosting stint on WLW Radio. Other individual winners included Ernie Johnson of TNT and Bob Papa of HBO (and NFL Network), as well as Harold Reynolds of MLB Network.

Bob Papa, however, will have a reduced role on NFL Network next season. The Network has announced that Brad Nessler will take over the play-by-play for Thursday Night Football, which starts Nov. 10 (if there is a season and/or the regular schedule is in tact) with Oakland vs. San Diego. Mike Mayock will step in as analyst, an odd choice since he has been doing Notre Dame Football for NBC rather than much pro football commentary, replacing Joe Theismann in that role.

Compass Media, which plans to continue with NFL radio broadcasts, is adding Thursday Night Football to its inventory. Except in this case, it will be college football starting this fall. (At least we know there will be a season!)

Scheduled games include Sept. 15 LSU vs. Mississippi State and Oct. 27 Virginia vs. Miami. Compass will also air the Sept. 4th (Sunday night leading into Labor Day) SMU vs. Texas A&M game.

Racing fans across the country awaiting the Indy 500 are now able to enjoy Donald Davidson's nightly "Talk of Gasoline Alley" radio show via podcast. Indianapolis' 1070 The Fan is making its one hour nightly show (until the night before the big race) available via The show airs from 8 to 9 PM ET, a later time than previous years. Davidson is now in his 41st year of doing this show, a fixture on Indianapolis radio every May, now heard on 1070 The Fan.

Jim Rome returned and spoke at his alma mater, University of California Santa Barbara, last weekend, and received the "2011 Distinguished Alumni Award". He began his career at school station KCSB and graduated in 1986.

New York's WFAN is scheduled (at press time) to have a guest co-host on Friday (5/6) morning who is not a sportscaster. None other than New Jersey Governor Christie will join Craig Carton from 6 to 10 AM, where he is expected to talk about his favorite team, the Mets, among other topics. It will be interesting to hear if or how many serious issues are discussed or whether it becomes a fun and laid back appearance. The last I heard is that the show will be streamed.

BOSTON: Here's hoping that Red Sox TV analyst Jerry Remy has a successful recovery from his reported bout with pneumonia. Remy has already missed a week's worth of games. Dennis Eckersley has filled in on NESN for most of the telecasts, with Peter Gammons handling the analysis once thus far.

PITTSBURGH: Root Sports has decided not to mess around with its relationship with the NHL Penguins, especially after another season with significant ratings, and has further extended its contract to televise the games. While they already have the contract for the next 3 seasons, the extension gives Root the TV rights through the 2028-29 season. Although Root also televises the Pirates games, I wouldn't expect a mad dash from them to extend that contract.

SAN FRANCISCO: While former A's flagship station KTRB remains in ownership limbo, that station's loss of Stanford University football and basketball is "The Ticket's" gain. KTCT 1050 takes over airing both sports for the coming seasons, along with airing the monthly "Inside Stanford Sports" coaches shows starting this August.

The announcing crew remains the same, with Dave Flemming and Todd Husak calling football and John Platz and Drew Shiller handling the hoops broadcasts.

TOLEDO: Sorry to learn that WMTR 96.1 will have a new voice for its high school football, basketball, and baseball broadcasts starting this summer. After 40 years of calling those sports, along with some volleyball, softball, and wrestling matches, Larry Christy is unable to continue after having been diagnosed with a severe kidney disorder. Christy had already given up his role of morning sports reporter on the station last fall.

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