Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Are The Odds Against Sid?

As of press time, not so much as a "no comment" or a denial from WQAM Miami's Sid Rosenberg regarding a Miami Herald report that the sports talk host is being chased for an alleged gambling debt:


This story was also picked up by several radio trade sites, but also without a reaction. There are some stories where a lack of reaction or denial can be interpreted as being accurate. From being a sports fan, sports reporter, and media consultant over the past 40 years, the lack of a denial or even a comment is disturbing. (I should mention that I do not recall meeting or knowing Mr. Rosenberg and have no further information beyond this report.)

It's easy to think, "So what?" when learning about the possibility that a sportscaster has been gambling thousands of dollars. Of course, Sid is not the only person to do this (if indeed the story is true). However, I'd like to think that those whose job it is to report information to us as sports fans do not have anything else riding on this information.

Sports betting is very often dictated by where the money is going. How do we know that a sportscaster who is a heavy gambler is not "reporting" information about key players or teams which could sway a potential bet? Suppose a sportscaster has bet thousands of dollars on Cleveland against Detroit later tonight. Suppose that same sportscaster only "reports" on an injury which could impact the status of a key Cleveland player for that game. This could make the casual betting fan lean toward putting his money on Detroit. If enough fans put more money on Detroit, it increases the payoff if Cleveland wins.

In the Rosenberg situation, the lack of a denial or comment also brings to light that Sid had just returned from a suspension by WQAM. The reason? Gambling.

This Miami Herald story includes a report of the gambling establishment supposedly contacting the radio station. How and why did that story get out? Since the reputation of a major radio station and well established sportscaster are at stake, wouldn't a complete denial of such a contact be shot down before it became public?

Although we don't need background checks on every sportscaster out there, this situation indicates a need for dealing with the situation more thoroughly than seems to be happening thus far. Given how the pro sports leagues will not put a team in Las Vegas or Atlantic City and have discipline in place for any players involved in any way with gamblers, how "news" is reported to sports fans could be playing a part in how thousands and thousands of dollars change hands, legally or not.

Meanwhile, the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Golf Tournament last weekend drew more media attention, just as it drew more viewers than usual. CBS-TV saw its highest ratings for this tournament since 1997 on Sunday (2/12) when Tiger Woods issued a challenge to Phil Mickelson early in the final round. The Sunday ratings were up more than 95% over last year's.

Many credit the stronger (than recent months) performance of Tiger Woods for drawing the added interest. Here, I'll credit something totally different. The NFL. After another very strong ratings season, this past Sunday was the first one since August without NFL football on. Sports fans are used to having "must see" TV every Sunday, and settled on golf. Frankly, ABC/ESPN blew it by only having one NBA telecast during the afternoon on ABC which didn't start until 3:30 PM ET, and then putting a doubleheader on ESPN that night.

ABC does not seem to be pushing the NBA as much this season. There was no "early" telecast on Super Bowl Sunday, as networks have done in the past (other than a so-so game on NBA-TV instead that day). Then, they should have had a marquee matchup doubleheader this past Sunday in an effort to establish the NBA as "must see". Even with the shortened season after the lockout, TNT is among the networks showing noticeable ratings increases so far.

Not to pick on televised golf, but if the Pebble Beach National had gone up against the NFL, these paragraphs would have been about something completely different.

NBC is beefing up its NHL coverage, showing what is essentially an NHL tripleheader next Sunday (2/19). Starting at Noon ET with 3 regional games, NBC will then show the Boston at Minnesota game at 3 PM ET nationally. Then NBC Sports Network will carry the New Jersey vs. Montreal game with coverage starting at 6 PM ET.

NBC Sports Group also announced a 5-year contract to televise Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) football and basketball games. The new contract includes NBC Sports Network and its Comcast SportsNet regional networks. This announcement seems much overblown. Those that made a big deal about this announcement seem to have overlooked that the CAA includes the likes of Towson University, George Mason, Northeastern, Drexel, Hofstra, and others. These are all excellent institutions. That is not in question. It's just that the 'typical' college basketball fan isn't waiting for the schedule to come out to alter their days for the Delaware vs. North-Carolina-Wilmington telecasts. What this "announcement" really means is that NBC Sports Group is seeking live programming for its networks in place of informercials for fitness products and some of the other oddities taking up time on their sports networks during odd hours.

Along those same lines, PlayOn Sports Network announced plans to debut a high school sports related TV channel later this year including high school sports events from what is already 21 states. While I understand and appreciate increased coverage of high school football and basketball, it should be on a local or regional (at most) level and not on a national platform. The network's release points out the millions of high school sports participants and how many millions attend or watch high school sports across the country. While those statistics are true, they are due to the local schools and clearly not because there is a demand for high school sports across the board, especially for a 24-hour network.

Somebody will be expected to help defray the costs of producing live telecasts from around the country. And you can easily guess that the PlayOn Sports people expect it to be paid from cable and satellite subscribers each month whether they care or not. I'm already paying my local cable provider each month for their local access channels which showcase an occasional local high school game. I don't wish to pay to see high school games from hundreds of miles away with schools and players I have never heard of and have no interest in.

My other problem with this is how it takes away from local radio stations. If and as even more high school football and basketball games are televised, it tells even more local radio stations they don't need to broadcast the local high school games anymore. And instead of going with live programming from their studios, the radio stations will continue to pick up syndicated and network shows.

MLB Network is adding to its on-air studio staff in time for the start of spring training. Alanna Rizzo joins MLB Network from ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain where she appeared on Rockies telecasts, and previously covered the Brewers as weekend sports anchor at WISC-TV Madison. Scott Braun also joins MLB Network, coming over from ESPN where he handled college basketball play-by-play for ESPN and covered the Miami Heat for the ESPN web site. Also joining is Lauren Shehadi, who comes over from the CBS Sports web site. Shehadi has also been a sports anchor at KXMC-TV in Minot ND and worked at Comcast SportsNet Washington.

Sorry to learn that "The Fabulous Sports Babe", Nanci Donnellan, has left Tampa's ESPN 1040 due to serious health issues. She was one of those "love her or hate her" broadcasters when she became the first female to host a national sports show in the mid-90's. Whitney Johnson, formerly with WDAE 620, has taken over the Noon to 3 PM show from Donnellan on ESPN 1040.

NEW YORK: It is now official that Josh Lewin joins Howie Rose in the Mets' radio booth starting with the coming season on WFAN, replacing Wayne Hagin. Lewin plans to continue handling San Diego Chargers radio, which will make for some long weekends both in the air and on the air.

JACKSON: Still another loss in the sports media world. Frank Underwood of WBFG 96.5, who covered sports for nearly 10 years, passed away on Sunday (2/12) after a brief but undisclosed illness.

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