Monday, February 24, 2014

Where Was The Real News From NFL Combine?

This time of the year there are, or at least there should be, enough sports stories taking place that some of the sports media does not need to manufacture stories.

It is no secret that the NFL Combine is becoming still another big publicity event for the league and that more fans are paying attention to the coverage and the additional information it brings about the top draft prospects. Of course, it is no secret that draft prospect Michael Sam is gay, and anticipates being the first openly gay player to be battling for an NFL job in August.

However, there was no need for this "story" to be rehashed with absolutely nothing additional as part of the coverage of the Combine. Sam is still gay, and still (supposedly) wants to be judged based on his football ability. Nothing changed since the story first broke. And because of his "news conference" and the number of reporters who didn't see anything else to report, comment, or write about, NFL fans received more coverage of a two week old story.

One thing that most of the media did not report on is that Michael Sam has hired a publicist, Howard Bragman of A publicist, not an agent.

No wonder this "story" was rehashed again, overtaking what should have been attention paid to some of the top draft prospects. What Michael Sam has done, with help from his publicist, is position himself for the media spotlight regardless of how high or low he is drafted, and possibly whether or not he even makes an NFL team this summer.

If the story that Sam is gay had just broken, a press conference at the Combine would have been understandable. Rehashing it when the national spotlight should be on players based on their ability is not. Sam's publicist managed to assure him (Sam) of a nice income whether he makes an NFL roster or not. A book deal, a media deal, or something like it likely awaits if Sam does not make it as a pro.

The media already covered the story when it was announced. We as fans deserve better from our media outlets.

With the NHL stalled due to the Olympics, the NBA has basked in the pro sports spotlight when it comes to TV ratings. It wasn't just the NBA All-Star Game telecast which attracted a higher than expected number of viewers. This past Thursday (2/20) TNT drew excellent ratings, understandably, for its Miami vs. Oklahoma City matchup, with its highest national viewership since the opening night of the regular season when it had the return of Derrick Rose (Chicago vs. Miami). In OK City, despite being only shown on TNT (with no local telecast), it wound up as the highest rated telecast of the regular season (as of press time).

Fox Sports 1 is not waiting until the baseball regular season gets underway to begin showing games. The struggling network now plans to begin with several spring training telecasts. These will start next week when it carries a pair of Angels afternoon telecasts from Arizona on Monday March 3, vs. Arizona and then on Tuesday March 4 vs. Texas. It will actually carry the Angels' telecast (from Fox Sports West), with the regular Angels TV voices Victor Rojas and Mark Gubicza on the call.

FS1 will be airing Saturday afternoon games, instead of Fox Network, during April, late July, and August this season, as Fox Network will only be airing Saturday prime time games from May into July and afternoon games in September. In fact, they began this week by adding new Hall of Famer Frank Thomas as a studio analyst, a role he held for the past three seasons on White Sox pre and post-game studio segments for CSN Chicago.

It is likely that FS1 will air additional Angels telecasts during spring training, as Fox Sports West will be televising 26 of the Angels exhibition games. This is by far the most they have done, an obvious move to compete with the new Dodgers Network that will be televising all of the their exhibition games.

In fact, there will be more spring training national telecasts than ever before, starting this Wednesday (2/26). MLB Network plans to air at least one live game every day including weekends, with more than 100 additional games shown on delay within 24 hours of having been played, showcasing every MLB team.. ESPN usually kicks in with a couple of weekday exhibition game telecasts in order to give its crews a run through before their regular season coverage starts.

However, with the Diamondbacks and Dodgers opening the regular season in Australia on March 22 and 23, there is no word yet about a national telecast of those games. Fans went through this last year when Oakland and Seattle opened overseas, with MLB Network picking up the second game live in the early morning hours. It's hard to believe that MLB would make the same mistake again this season. It's not like a national telecast would impact ticket sales.

CBS has added another studio analyst for its NFL Today show starting next season, moving former Jets and Ravens linebacker Bart Scott over from its CBS Sports Network pre-game show. He replaces Shannon Sharpe, meaning that there will still be too many analysts and not enough time.

Meanwhile, an interesting idea out of Hungtingon WV continues its growth pattern. What began as a high school sports radio show for WMUL-FM (Marshall University station) on Friday nights continues to spread across West Virginia as more stations join the fold. Currently, and obviously, the show now focuses on live updates about high school basketball games from around the state between now and its March 21st edition.

Hosted by Ryan Epling, Ric Morrone, James Collier, and Rudi Raynes, the show is now carried in six other West Virginia markets with a network of contributors. Morrone has been coach of the Tolsia H.S. girls basketball team for more than 20 years, as well as 15 years with WFGH Ft. Gay, which is among the stations airing this show.

The show now airs live from 9 PM to Midnight on Fridays, and  now streams on Nice to see the cooperation on this idea.

ITHACA NY: The market has a new sports station in 98.7 The Buzzer. The station has taken over Cornell University basketball, and has also booked Buffalo Bills broadcasts, with plans in the works to add more. However, the station is, at least for the moment, only airing CBS Radio Sports programming during its broadcast day and has no immediate plans to air local sports talk.

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