Monday, April 2, 2012

A Sleepy Knight For The Coach

Perhaps the biggest "highlight" from the Final Four coverage was on ESPN when Bobby Knight was shown on camera either having dozed off or simply not paying attention. Viewers could see analyst Digger Phelps poking Knight in the arm, and how Knight was trying to make it look as though he was ready all along.

As seems typical when Knight is involved in an embarrassing moment, there was no further comment from him or ESPN, even though Knight clearly insulted ESPN and the viewers by appearing so disinterested. Although this is not as amazing as when Knight used the "s-word" on the air last year and did not personally apologize, you have to wonder how many more times he will embarass ESPN before they send him packing.

It's too bad a producer or somebody didn't toss a chair in his direction to wake him up on camera, just as Knight thought was fit to do at a referee during a game (among his many disgusting actions) while coaching at Indiana University before they finally sent him packing. These days, there is no reason (or shouldn't be any) that the media continues to act as if he never does anything wrong and sets such a poor example.

Unlike Knight, the fans clearly stayed awake, at least for the game coverage, and brought CBS higher ratings for the Final Four than any of the recent seasons going back to 2005. Both of the Saturday telecasts showed increases of about 1% over last year.

Despite the widespread radio coverage of Monday night's championship game, the broadcast nearly did not air in Chicago. WMVP 1000 had been airing "whip around" coverage of the early round games and carrying as much as possible through the Saturday Final Four games, but was not able to air the championship game due to airing the Chicago Bulls game vs. Houston at the same time. Yet, WSCR 670 The Score, which is a CBS station, chose not to carry the broadcast even though it had no play-by-play conflict at the time and it would have supported the CBS-TV telecast. WGN Radio, which did not have a Blackhawks hockey or Cubs exhibition game to air, stepped in and aired the syndicated broadcast.

ESPN and MLB Network begin their schedule of telecasts over the next few days as we welcome back baseball. In addition to its opening Wednesday Night Baseball telecast from Miami, ESPN will also air games on Thursday and Friday and then continue with its usual Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday Night Baseball telecasts.

The NBC Sports Group continues its in-depth coverage of the NHL, with telecasts every day this week as the regular season winds down, and as a promotion for the Group airing every playoff game starting next week.

NBC Sports Network aired a doubleheader on Tuesday April 3, with Det. at St. Louis on Wednesday night, N.Y. Rangers at Pittsburgh on Thursday, and Phoenix at St. Louis on Friday night. NBC airs Chicago at Detroit on Saturday afternoon, while NBC Sports Network delivers a live doubleheader after that (Philly at Pitts at 4 PM ET and Washington at Rangers at 6:30 PM ET).

On the NBA side, the Lakers broadcasts on KSPN 710 with John Ireland and Mychal Thompson have taken on an interesting feature during most of the home games. They have been featuring a celebrity commentator during the 2nd quarter to join them in the booth, and not always to focus on the ins and outs of the game in progress. The on-air "guests" have included musicians such as Richie Sambora (of Bon Jovi) and Flea, and the likes of David Hasselhoff, Lisa Leslie, Dyan Cannon, and Richard Lewis. While an interesting twist, talking about non-basketball matters takes away too much from the play-by-play, since this is on radio and the listeners usually (unless listening while watching the telecast) can't see what is going on in the game.

Congratulations to 87 year-old Jack Whitaker on receiving a Sports Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award later this month (April 30) in New York. Whitaker was actually the first to receive a sportscasting Emmy back in 1979. He was a primary voice for CBS Sports in the 60's and most of the 70's, doing NFL play-by-play and anchoring the network's golf coverage, and his authoritative and "serious" style of sportscasting will be long remembered.

MIAMI: The Ticket 790 begins its weekly "Manager's Show" with new Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen on Tuesday (April 3) at 3:30 in a segment to air within the Dan LeBatard Show. It might be the one show on the station where the 7-second delay is needed for the guest instead of the callers, but it will undoubtedly make for compelling radio. The station has welcomed Tod Castleberry as its new Program Director, coming from WTEM 980 and other Washington D.C. stations.

MILWAUKEE: One of the fastest and quietest radio rights negotiations in recent years ended with nothing changed. WTMJ continues as the flagship station for the Brewers' broadcasts. The number of years was not announced, nor were the names of any other stations which supposedly were willing to bid. This is as mutually beneficial of an arrangement as you will find. The Brewers benefit by staying on what is generally the top rated station in town. Although WTMJ is not all sports, it carries all of the local play-by-play that matters (Brewers, Packers, Bucks, U. of Wisconsin), while the 2 sports talk stations in the market are usually nowhere to be found in the monthly ratings. The station benefits by maintaining the local "sports monopoly".

Bob Uecker is back for his 42nd season as radio voice of the Brewers, with Joe Block as his new partner.

CHICAGO: Wayne Randazzo, who has handled play-by-play for Big Ten Network and sports headlines and occasional fill-in on WSCR The Score 670, has been hired as play-by-play voice of the Kane County Cougars Class A minor league baseball team which plays in a western suburb. Suburban station WBIG 1260 will air the games again this season.

HOUSTON: KILT 610 will have at least two different NFL analysts on board by the time the station begins its surrounding Texans coverage for next season. Both Greg Koch and N.D. Kalu left the station last week. No word yet on replacements, which may not be named until closer to NFL training camp.

The new baseball season doesn't figure to be very memorable for the Astros, and their fans will not have any of their games, other than up to three Saturday games on the local Fox-TV affiliate, shown on over-the-air TV. Fox Sports Houston will carry at least 150 games this season, with Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies. This Friday night (4/6) the Astros game has priority on Fox Sports Houston, meaning that its Rockets vs. Lakers telecast will likely begin on Fox Sports Net Plus. In fact, six other Rockets regular season telecasts this month have been moved to KTXH-TV 20 due to Astros conflicts on FSH, and it was KTXH-TV which used to show at least 20 Astros games per season until this year.

OKLAHOMA CITY: WWLS-FM 98.1 and WWLS-AM 640 each remain all sports although they no longer simulcast as of last Thursday (3/29). 98.1 remains the Sports Animal with local and regional programming which also airs on KYAL Tulsa and KBIX Muskogee. 640 AM now carries ESPN Radio throughout the day and night, except for airing the NBA Thunder games and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State pre-game and post-game shows.

The market is paradise for baseball fans, perhaps more than anywhere else in the country, for most cable/satellite subscribers. In addition to the national packages from ESPN, MLB Network, and TBS throughout the season, there will be plenty to choose from. About 150 St. Louis Cardinals telecasts will be available via Fox Sports Plus. Fox Sports Oklahoma and FS Plus will also combine to air 116 Texas Rangers telecasts. In addition, Fox Sports OK will air 67 Houston Astros telecasts, and about 30 Kansas City Royals telecasts. In addition, most systems also receive WGN-TV America, which airs 67 Chicago Cubs and 32 Chicago White Sox telecasts this year. The Cardinals and Rangers are the closest team in each league geographically, while the Astros are the parent club of the OK City RedHawks minor league team.

AMARILLO: KPUR 1440 abruptly dropped ESPN Radio and went to oldies music last Wednesday (3/28), leaving the market without an affiliate, at least for the time being.

YAKIMA WA: Same story in this market, as KJOX 1390 also dropped ESPN, changing to KTCR and turning to classic country music. Station officials were quoted as saying it was an ESPN decision. Unlike the Amarillo situation, it could be that ESPN is looking at shifting to one of a larger group of local stations in the near future. The new KTCR is maintaining its local sports presence, with plans to continue to air Mainers baseball and Washington State University football and basketball games.

MOBILE: WNSP 105.5 now (as of Monday 4/2) serves as the flagship station for "Conference Call SEC", which airs from Noon to 2 PM Monday through Friday, and is hosted by Max Howell and Randy Burgan. The pair had been hosting "Sidelines" during that time slot only on WNSP. The new show focuses on all SEC sports in season, and plans to broadcast on location during the Fridays leading in to key Conference football games. The show now airs on six radio stations, with a TV version airing in Jackson MS and currently streamed on

PORT JERVIS NY: WDLC 1490 and 107.7 has expanded its local high school sports coverage to include play-by-play of some local baseball and softball games starting next week (4/10). Kevin Halpenny and Lou Masci will call the games.

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