Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sports Media Mourns John Saunders

A huge loss to the sports media today (Aug. 10) with the passing of John Saunders at the age of 61. It seemed appropriate that the news was broken live on SportsCenter by Hannah Storm, who has been in the national sportscasting spotlight for about as long as Saunders.

Saunders was with ESPN since the mid 80's, mostly hosting and anchoring, including hosting The Sports Reporters since 2001. Among his other hosting duties was hosting ESPN's NHL coverage back when they televised regular season and post-season games, which showcased his hockey expertise.

He was one of the hard working breed of sportscasters who, even in recent years, didn't get caught up in the speculation and rumor stories which comprise far too much of today's sportscasts. He will be missed big time.

Although NBC's ratings for the Olympics have yet to be what they hoped for, the network's coverage is generating a buzz. The best example was on Monday (8/8) night, when the producers thought to have constant camera coverage of Michael Phelps surrounding the events of his incredible performances. Capturing the much talked about "death stare" while an opponent tried to rattle him in the locker room prior to the meet was pure television gold. These days, not every production crew would have known to be on top of that.

Regardless of what fans think about Alex Rodriguez as his playing career likely comes to an end this Friday (8/12) night, chances are the fans will be curious about how the Yankee Stadium crowd reacts to him.

Nice move by Fox Sports to pick up the telecast in east coast prime time and to air the game on Fox Network, instead of burying it on FS1 where few will know it exists. Fox even plans a pre-game show to begin at 6:00 PM ET. Kevin Burkhardt and John Smoltz will call the game, which has the Yankees hosting Tampa.

So Tim Tebow says he wants to try baseball. So what? This would only be "news" if a pro team actually signed him to something. The fact that some of the national reporters actually spent time on this story and gave it a degree of prominence is hard to stomach.

ESPN has, at least for now, decided to put Brent Musburger back on the telecast map beyond doing a few SEC Network telecasts. Brent will be on ESPN, along with Jesse Palmer, on Saturday Sept. 3rd to call the Clemson vs. Auburn game. This will be in addition to his previously scheduled telecasts for the coming season on SEC Network. No additional ESPN (or non-SEC Network) telecasts have been announced yet for Brent, who last called a game for ESPN/ABC in 2014.

SAN FRANCISCO: Not sure if this has happened before or not, but this weekend will have a female play-by-play announcer for an NFL pre-season broadcast. With 49ers pre-season TV voice Ted Robinson on assignment in Rio for NBC's Olympic coverage, 49ers radio broadcaster Bob Fitzgerald moves over to the TV booth for this Saturday's (8/13) exhibition opener vs. Houston.

Because of this, KNBR 680 will have Kate Scott, who provides morning sports updates during the Murph & Mac Show, on the play-by-play. She is no stranger to play-by-play, however, having called games for Comcast SportsNet and the Pac-12 Network. Scott will also do the radio call on Aug. 20th when the 49ers play the Broncos.

LOS ANGELES: Exhibition football is big news this week, at least in L.A. The Los Angeles Rams make their official return on Saturday when they play the Dallas Cowboys in their first pre-season game. J.B. Long and Maurice Jones will have the call as the Rams begin on flagship station KSPN 710, with 100.3 The Sound on the simulcast. The Rams Radio Network of stations also carrying their broadcasts already includes KTIE Riverside, KKBZ Fresno, KHTY Bakersfield, ESPN 103.9 Palm Springs, KMET Banning, and KSMA Santa Maria in California. In addition, the Rams games will air on KBAD Las Vegas and KPLY Reno.

WASHINGTON D.C.: The popular Sports Junkies morning show on 106.7 The Fan will soon be simulcast each morning on Comcast SportsNet, which will also include This will be similar to what CSN already does with Boston's WBZ-FM Sports Hub's Toucher & Rich morning show. In Boston, CSN also airs the Sports Hub's afternoon show with Felger & Massarotti.

CHICAGO: Cubs radio play-by-play voice Pat Hughes still has a couple more scheduled days off this season, and will be taking them both later this month. Next Tuesday (8/16), when the Cubs have a day-night doubleheader vs. Milwaukee. Pre and post-game host Mark Grote will call both of those games, while Bears play-by-play voice Jeff Joniak will fill in for Hughes on Monday Aug. 29th.

Even though WGN Radio has not aired play-by-play of the Bears games since 1999, the station continues to program as if it still does. Keep in mind it is a news talk station (with play-by-play of the Blackhawks and Northwestern University football and basketball).

The station has announced that, again this season, it will air a full three-hour post-game show following each Bears regular season game, hosted by three former Bears players. Yes, three hours, and they don't even air the games. The former players hosting are Dan Hampton, Ed O'Bradovich, and Glen Kozlowski. In addition, they will have another former Bears standout, Doug Plank, as a call-in guest each Monday night to further discuss the weekend's Bears game.

WFLD-TV has moved George Smith off its morning show and into the roll of sports anchor in time for football season.

BIRMINGHAM: This week saw the debut of a new sports station, 99.1 The Game, which includes a local morning show, "Smashmouth Talk" with Scott Griffin. Although the station is currently filling time with Fox Sports Radio and NBC Sports Radio programming, it does plan to add local weekday programming in the near future. The station plans to air Homewood High School football, along with NFL action as an Atlanta Falcons affiliate.

The Game has a tough battle ahead, since WJOX 94.5 has a strong audience. In addition ESPN 100.5 airs ESPN national programming, while WJOX-AM 690 airs Fox Sports programming.

LAS CRUCES: KWML 570 has dropped Fox Sports Radio, as well as the NFL game package it used to air, returning the station to a music format. Interesting time to drop the NFL games, since the season is about to start.

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