Sports media for 2011 will be remembered as much for having to report on off-the-field news even more than what happened on the fields, courts, and ice. Scandals, accusations, substance abuse, and media hiring, firings, and apologies overshadowed a lot of game recaps.
Many sportscasters got unexpected experience as newscasters as stories such as Penn State, Barry Bonds, Ryan Braun, and lockouts of both the NFL and NBA, and more stories became dominant of sportscasts at various points.
TV and online media surged again this year, with strong ratings for live telecasts for each of the major pro sports. Radio also saw ratings gains for many stations airing local pro play-by-play, although sports talk stations showed varied results depending upon the market.
Now we look ahead to Week 17 of the NFL season which will dominate New Year's Day, as the major college bowl games move to Monday Jan. 2nd. NBC has flexed the Dallas vs. N.Y. Giants game to Sunday Night Football, while CBS has moved a pair of games to its doubleheader slot. These are Pittsburgh at Cleveland, which will be a 4:15 ET start on CBS, as will Baltimore at Cincinnati. How ironic is it that a doubleheader game comes from Cincinnati when the Bengals have had local blackouts this season?
Last Monday (Dec. 19) the ESPN Monday Night Football telecast of Pittsburgh at San Francisco, which was marred by two delays due to power outages, turned out to be a big ratings winner for ESPN. Not only for cable, but for all broadcast networks as well for total households. In Pittsburgh, the telecast on both ESPN and WTAE-TV combined for a remarkable 44.2 rating.
Meanwhile, some sportscasters making news in recent days:
MIAMI: The Miami Herald reported that WQAM's Sid Rosenberg will be off the air for as long as six weeks due to what it terms "an unpaid suspension". The report says that Rosenberg alledgedly owed about $100,000 from sports betting and was paying off his personal gambling debt with "unpaid" on-air mentions.
CLEVELAND: A Christmas present of a different sort for John Michael, who beat a different sort of odds by making his debut (Dec. 26) as the new play-by-play voice of the Cleveland Cavaliers on WTAM 1100. The 39 year old Michael now teams with analyst Jim Chones despite not having previous NBA play-by-play experience. Michael is known from hosting Columbus Blue Jackets telecasts on Fox Sports Ohio. Yet, in this instance, hiring an inexperienced NBA voice could work. Michael has the unenviable task of taking over for the retired Joe Tait who voice the Cavs for almost all of their past 40 seasons. An experienced NBA voice would certainly have felt the pressure of replacing a legend.
MILWAUKEE: Joe Block has joined the Brewers' radio crew for the upcoming season, but he will work with rather than replace a legend. The 33 year-old Block has called more than 900 minor league games over the years along with doing fill-in broadcasts for some 2003 and '04 Montreal Expos broadcasts. This past season, he handled the Dodgers' post-game shows on KABC Radio. In addition, he has hosted NBA New Orleans Hornets radio broadcasts and called college football and basketball on Comcast Sports Southeast for 10 seasons. Block replaces Cory Provus, who was recently named to the Minnesota Twins radio team.
Block has the role of working with the legendary Bob Uecker on WTMJ and the Brewers' radio network.
St. LOUIS: A holiday "break" of a different sort for Brendan Burke. Blues announcer Chris Kerber has and will miss a few games during this time due to his father being seriously ill. As a result, Burke, the play-by-play voice of the Blues' minor league team the Peoria Rivermen, has been filling in on Blues broadcasts working with analyst Kelly Chase. To his credit, Burke handled a Blues assignment by flying to Nashville the day of the broadcast after learning he would be doing at 8:30 that same morning. In addition to the physical demands of traveling for Blues broadcasts while calling Rivermen games he can get to during this stretch, Burke also has the challenge of calling the minor league games solo (without an analyst) and having an experience analyst in Chase to work with him on the Blues games. Word is that team officials are pleased with the 27-year old Burke's effort, as well they should be.
ALBANY: Not a good week for WTMM 104.5 The Team's Bruce Jacobs. The station host apologized for anti-gay comments last week when he referred to a pair of WNBA team names with lesbian slurs.
MEANWHILE: I have brought this up before, but unfortunately it hasn't done any good. This past Monday (12/26) was an unusual day in that it was considered a paid holiday for bank, corporate, and government workers even though Christmas was the day before. As a result, more people than usual were available to listen and watch sports that day. Yet, once again, The Dan Patrick Show that morning consisted of repeats.
The NFL season is about to begin its final week. The NBA season opened the afternoon before. The NHL is in full swing. The lineup of .500 teams playing in college bowl games during the coming week is always a hot button. Yet, The Dan Patrick Show expected a larger than usual audience to stick around and listened to outdated segments. It's not that Patrick doesn't deserve time off. But the show doesn't. As a sports fan, I'm offended by this. His show runs on all sports radio stations as well as regional TV networks such as Comcast Sports in Philadelphia, Chicago, and other major markets. Station and network executives should be offended that they were stuck with a rerun instead of the live sports programming they supposedly specialize in. And I'll just say I'm glad I'm not an advertiser on that show.
There is no excuse for not having a live show every weekday that Patrick is off. They could get a player, coach, team executive, or another sports expert to come in and take some calls and give opinions about the day's news and events.
FINALLY: Happy New Year to all. We're back for 2012 with our weekly updates. Thanks for all of your input and comments, whether positive or negative.