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Travis Duncan

Travis Duncan has 249 articles published.

e-mail: editor at digitalsportsdaily.com

The early reviews are in: America loves Tony Romo

in Sports TV by

—Much like the peeks and valleys of his NFL career, we were not entirely sure what we would get with Tony Romo on TV.

But people tend to like what he brought to Sunday’s game as the lead analyst teamed with Jim Nantz on CBS’ No. 1 NFL team for Sunday’s Titans-Raiders game.

Romo had the freshness of someone who had just completed a 14-year playing career or as a mastermind in a film room letting us see what happens. But enough youthful enthusiasm that unfortunately many veteran broadcasters lose over time and especially tend to lack covering games of the stature of Titans-Raiders in Week 1.

A YouTube video posted pieced together all the plays in which Romo told us ahead of time what would happen, and he did so correctly so many times it was uncanny for some.  People couldn’t believe how well he was able to predict the play on the field.

So for now it works and America loves Romo and wants to hear what the former Cowboys quarterback has to say.

America probably loved Tony Romo all along, maybe we were just a little jealous or didn’t get to know him as intimately as we do now after a three-hour broadcast.

Who knew Romo was enthusiastic?

 

 

Romo the quarterback came out of no where-from Eastern Illinois University, to become the starter for the Dallas Cowboys. The ladies love him.  He’s an excellent golfer- always spending way too much time on the golf course during summers, with multiple attempts at U.S. Open qualifiers.

It’s easy to be jealous. He’s basically the Matthew McConaghey of football.

He didn’t win big for the Cowboys and thus was the subject to the usual criticism that comes with losing. Although looking back, it seems that most of that didn’t come from his now media peers but usually from the blogosphere or social media, but none the less he took his fair share of hurls from fans.

And Romo was never at the sheer popularity level of a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning, whose names alone could probably carry them into a second career as a broadcasters.  So his debut as an NFL broadcaster on Sunday left for some curiosity how it might turn out or how it would be received.

And as much as some may have hoped or wondered if there would be an uneasiness, it all went pretty smooth.

In fact, this whole NFL analyst thing isn’t too hard, especially if you know the game.

And Nantz, as expected, played to his partner’s strength: 14 years of on the field experience.

Nantz repeatedly asked his partner “What do you see?” which led to Romo almost always predicting the direction of the offensive play, or calling out the exact direction of the rush or blitz.

America was amused.

Viewers seemed to be genuinely impressed if you are of the belief that social media is a good representation of viewer thinking. Social media liked Romo.

Other media members commented on how enthusiastic he was.

The only criticism is that Romo is a one-trick pony, giving us the play before we see it on the screen. As Dan Bernstein of CBS Chicago and others have pointed out, Romo’s job isn’t really to give us a spoiler but to analyze what just happened. Maybe we don’t want to know what’s coming before it happens?

Either way, usually TV people say you either have it or you don’t, and Romo has it. CBS Sports had a hunch Romo would work in the chair next to Nantz and they appear to be right.

Read more sports media insights and analysis at www.digitalsportsdaily.com

 

Why a $500,000 fine means nothing to the Lakers or Pacers

in HOOPS/Trending by

Thursday the NBA announced the Los Angeles Lakers have been fined $500,000 for tampering with a player under contract with the Indiana Pacers by the name of Paul George who had informed the latter he would be leaving for Los Angeles when his contract expires next summer.

The Pacers had a right to be upset and filed a complaint with the league.

What value are contracts to anyone if the next destination is only a whisper or a season away?

Coming up on free agency next summer, George apparently prepicked his destination the way the Pacers brought him to Indiana from Fresno State. He had no choice where he began his career but now he will get to choose his next stop.

The only problem is the Lakers can’t indicate their interest, that’s called tampering. They know it. George knows it.

As is often the case the team did more for player than player for team. Paul George flourished in his initial seasons in blue and gold but eventually it became a question whether a) he cared b) he was going to play all out c) was defense going to be optional. Additionally, there were questions if he was ever going to be the guy a team could build around or would he be a supporting cast member to a megastar.

We may get that answer as George suits up as Robin next to Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City for at least one season in ’17-’18.

$500,000 is a token gesture but it will not affect a Lakers franchise adversely. The Lakers are worth $3 billion according to Forbes and bring in revenues around $350 million a season.

It’s a guilty verdict but it probably does nothing to prevent teams from communicating with players under contract be it go betweens such as player to player or agent to GM.

On the surface we have a large market, perhaps only rivaled by New York, attempting to pluck a small market’s best player.

If the NBA wanted to send a message, and they clearly do not, they would have dinged a first-round pick. Alas, George is not actually in a Laker uniform yet so perhaps the league felt it could only do so much to the Lakers.

NBA free-agency drives fan engagement and the offseason chatter but tampering also undermines the business model. The NBA’s biggest Achilles heel right now is the concentration of talent. Keeping things on a level playing field will go a long way to counteract that.

Ed Cunningham becomes first broadcaster to drop out of football for ethical reasons

in College Football/Sports TV by

Back on August 1st, when ESPN announced its 2017 college football television announcing team, the astute college football diehard noticed there was no Ed Cunningham listed next to Mike Patrick.

Cunningham had been an ESPN college football color analyst for the past 20 seasons.

Wednesday John Branch of the New York Times revealed the reason for Cunningham’s departure.

“In its current state, there are some real dangers: broken limbs, wear and tear,” Cunningham told the Times.

“But the real crux of this is that I just don’t think the game is safe for the brain. To me, it’s unacceptable.”

Numerous football players have dropped out of the game from the high school level all the way up to the pro level for just the same reason, but Cunningham maybe the first to do so from the perch of broadcaster.

Cunningham leaves a $100k plus salary on the table for what he calls “my ethical concerns”.

Cunningham lamented the toll the game has already taken on players from years past, “I don’t currently think the game is safe for the brain. And, oh, by the way, I’ve had teammates who have killed themselves. Dave Duerson put a shotgun to his chest so we could study his brain” Cunningham told the Times.

The former NFL lineman is perhaps the most prominent person to have walked away from the game among a group of men and women who make their livelihood directly off the game on the field. A game which decidedly has caused so much concern for player safety and with its direct impact to the head, most believe is linked to a condition we now know as Chronic traumatic encephalopathy  or CTE.

There’s concern not just for former NFL players, but recently its thought that even those who played at the high school level can be affected long-term. 

Journalists, bloggers, some former football fans have all decried the sport as not worth the entertainment value.

Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune wrote today a column titled: “I don’t think I can watch football anymore.”

Chapman cites a study which recently made headlines concerning CTE:

“a study of brains taken from deceased players conducted by Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at Boston University. Of 202 brains she examined, 177 showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Of the 111 from NFL players, 110 were diseased. CTE is a progressive, fatal condition that can cause memory loss, depression, psychosis and dementia.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell responded to that study by stating that the average NFL player lives longer than those who have never played a down in the league. Of course that would be about 7.5 billion people who have never suffered impact directly to the head on a football field.

Per Yahoo Sports here was Goodell’s response when the topic was brought up at an NFL hosted fan forum:

“The average NFL player lives five years longer than you,” Goodell said. “So their lifespan is actually longer and healthier. And I think because of all the advancements, including the medical care, that number is going to even increase for them.”

“I think the one thing everyone agrees on is there’s an awful lot more questions than there are answers at this point,” Goodell said.

The player safety issue is now front and center up against a sports and cultural institution called football with tens of thousands of willing participants, and billions of dollars in revenue. Where those two points collide, if they ever do, remains to be seen.

Chaos and the Cowboys

in Pigskin by

Jerry Jones actually had some good points Tuesday at Cowboys camp in Oxnard, California.

Dressed in his on field persona, Jones was in his Cowboys gear, blue baseball camp, blue t-shirt and was addressing the throngs and hordes of media.

The Cowboys, as traditionally has been the case, are a bastion of off-field chaos. As training camp kicked off over the weekend, the list of infractions are piling up.

Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News gives a full recount of the recent chaos in Jerry World, dating back two months prior:

“Cornerback Nolan Carroll was arrested for driving under the influence. Defensive end David Irving was suspended four games for violating the league’s drug program.

Linebacker Damien Wilson was arrested on two charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he backed his truck into a woman and flashed a rifle at a man outside Toyota Stadium in Frisco.

Running back Ezekiel Elliott was involved in an altercation a week ago at a club in Dallas where a DJ was punched in the nose. No charges have been filed. But the league was already investigating the league’s reigning rushing champion, with a suspension likely on the horizon.

And receiver Lucky Whitehead said he had his dog taken from his home and held for ransom. Blitz has been reunited with Whitehead and was unharmed.

Then the most bizarre incident tipped Cowboys chaos to the boiling point when Lucky Whitehead was kicked off the team after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

The only problem is the warrant was false. Someone who was arrested for shoplifting in Virginia, had Whitehead’s social security number full name and provided it to police while Whitehead was on a plane to California.

The police admitted the error and cleared Whitehead but the Cowboys stuck with their decision to release him.

The media kinda wanted to know ‘why the double standard’?

When pressed Tuesday head coach Jason Garrett repeated several times, “We made a decision in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys.” He repeated that about five times, each time increasing in anger.

Whitehead was already on the bubble for other “issues” and that was the icing and his “ability” was cited as well. In short, he wasn’t a lock to make the team anyhow.

But it was Jones’ reaction Tuesday that made headlines. Jones got pretty worked up

“I am going to say this is business as usual and I really won’t go into my parameters about why a player is here or not,” Jones said per the Dallas Morning News:

“I’m not going to go into anything about Lucky, but I am going to say if you’re going to get wadded up over people coming and going around here, then get ready to stay in angst.”

“I’ve never talked to a player that I didn’t have empathy. If you all (media) have done one thing in my time to criticize me, it is how I will back up a player to a fault. You’ve done it. You’ve done it for years. I will back them up to a fault.”

“So when we do make a decision around here that’s in the best interest of the team to move on, there’s one thing you can forget about and that is whether you’re being fair or whether you’ve given it consideration of what it means to the individual,” Jones said. “That doesn’t happen around here.

The news comes just a few days after Cowboys running back Ezekial Elliot was cleared of assault for a bar incident.

It seems the Cowboys made an exception for the best player on the team versus a guy not making it.

As Dink Kearny of the Dallas Morning News wrote four months ago it’s time for a general manager in Dallas.

It is assumed his son Stephen Jones makes most of the day-to-day football decisions. Still, the broader issue may be whether Jones really has control over what is happening on his team or will he finally relinquish control.

Jones is the only holdout from a bygone era, he is both owner and general manager of the Cowboys the only such setup that exists in the NFL and really all of pro sports.

Through the chaos the reality is people are talking about the Cowboys and that’s the goal for Jones.

The Cubs are just average right now, but believe they have an answer

in Yardwork by

2016 was fun. Young talent.  A World Series.

The Cubs did lose, but mostly they won. And when they lost it was in momentary stretches.

The first three months of the 2017 season has been one big funk for the Cubs.

Last year 103 Wins. 159 days in first place. Beating the Giants easily in the National League Division Series, beating the Dodgers pretty easily in the National League Championship Series. Winning the World Series.

These days the Cubs are losing more than winning.  As of Friday the Cubs are one game under .500 but only 4.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers.

No one expected the Cubs struggle in 2017 but still, most don’t expect them to struggle the entire season.

The Cubs are just average right now. Going 12-12 in their last 24 games.

A few trades, or even a single trade for a starting pitcher and they are right there in September, most would reason.

 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon held a meeting this week with his team. This meeting was regularly scheduled to take place closer to the All-Star break but he moved it up.

He told the team that chemistry makes winning happen. They aren’t that far out of it. They haven’t played up to their abilities but they could sharpen the focus and the winning will come post-All-Star break.

“We’re kind of in good shape right now,” Maddon said Friday.

“We maybe have not played up to our capabilities. We are a bunch of humans, and we have had two long years. Now it is time to really sharpen our focus. I think this could kind of catapult us in the second half.”

Cubs general manager Theo Epstein, largely regarded as the genius behind the roster that brought the 2016 championship, told reporters this week that the Cubs are not looking as much to upgrading the roster as they believe the roster is talented enough as is.

“We’re just underperforming as a group and as an organization,” Epstein said this week. “I take full responsibility for that. To pull ourselves out of it, we just need to play better.”

His manager agreed Friday.

“I’m not concerned or interested about the trade market right now,” Maddon said.

“I believe the answers are in our room. We’ve just got to get that out of our guys.”

Adrian Wojnarowski to ESPN, what it means

in Sports Media by

Very rarely in the days of current 2017 Sports Media-19 years after the launch of ESPN.com-does any web sportswriter have a claim to fame purely on the basis of his reporting.

NFL reporter Adam Schefter of ESPN fame is highly regarded and quite recognizable purely on the basis of his reporting, but he is a TV reporter first, writer second.

Yahoo.com NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, affectionally known as “Woj” (pronounced “Woge”), will join ESPN in the coming months and you can bet you’ll see him all over your TV screens soon.

According to published reports, Woj will be on ESPN platforms sometime before the NBA opens its free agency floodgates July 1st. Re-code reports Wojnarowski will be on ESPN platforms after the NBA Draft which takes place June 22nd. He’ll cover the draft for Yahoo Sports.

If you are an NBA transaction junkie, and there are quite a few out there suffering from this affliction, Adrian Wojnarowski is the kingpin of all NBA news. News not gossip. As in the stuff he reports comes true and is factual to an alarming rate. As in if Wojnarowki reports it, it’s done. In the Woj era, so often breaking NBA news must be attached to “as first first reported by Yahoo Sports”.

In the wake of multiple ESPN layoffs, particularly on the dot com side of things, the network is going spread its top talent thin and eliminate fillers. So expect to see Woj everywhere.

For Yahoo, it is not quite a sign of their demise, as Verizon still values the company at $4.5 billion in an impending acquisition, but its not a good sign its top sports writer is leaving. Still, that $4.5 million price tag illustrates just how widespread the usage of Yahoo is across internet users in terms of the Yahoo homepage and Yahoo e-mail.

For Yahoo’s sports division it is hard to quantify what the impact will be. Wojnarowski is paid in the millions and only Yahoo knows just how much traffic and attention Yahoo Sports gets just solely on Wojnarowski’s rock solid reporting. What Yahoo probably knows less is just what kind of boost Woj gives the website in terms of online reputation.

ESPN canned a Woj rival and competitor last week, NBA writer Marc Stein. Stein might be considered second-in-command in terms of breaking NBA transaction news. But perhaps Wojnarowski’s role at ESPN will be more evolved as it was when he launched “The Vertical” recently on Yahoo. The Vertical is a subsection of the Yahoo Sports website dubbed as “a hub of breaking news, info and story telling” which is accompanied by popular podcast aptly titled “The Vertical”. According to published reports, some of Woj’s go-to-staff at Yahoo/The Vertical will join him at ESPN.

An Adrian Wojnowski-ESPN marriage has endless possibilities. He could bring a Vertical style show to ESPN’s TV platforms. The network’s current mid-day NBA show “The Jump” sounds an awful lot like “The Vertical” and quite frankly could use the pedigree of Woj.

 

Warriors-Thunder: Much ado about nothing

in HOOPS/Trending by

It’s the lull in the NBA season. March Madness grabbed the basketball spotlight and the playoff race seems even less interesting as the division between contenders and pretenders is clear.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are not contenders. The Golden State Warriors are yet. It was a simple story on a Sunday afternoon when the NBA was in the background to the NCAA tournament that kept the league abuzz this week.

ESPN reported that the Warriors were unhappy with Kevin Durant’s treatment upon his return to Oklahoma City a few months back.

The next day Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that was hogwash.

Kerr said, per ESPN:

“I don’t agree,” Kerr said. “[Thunder general manager] Sam Presti’s a friend of mine. I know [Thunder chairman] Clay Bennett, it’s a class organization all the way. So I don’t really pay any attention to a story like that unless there’s an actual name that’s put on, so, I assume it’s just sources? Sources? So I don’t know who that is. It’s nobody with the Warriors. So, we have great respect for the Thunder. Sam’s been a friend of mine forever. They’re first class, so I don’t know where that comes from.”

Stephen Curry was asked about the alleged mistreatment of Durant and he commented “Certain stories that don’t need to see the light of day, don’t need to have any kind of life breathed into them, are somehow the most popular. ”

Yes, the assembled NBA media and bloggers and NBA twitter is dying for a decent story line to fill the gap between March and May and it’s really meager out there.

The Knicks tragedy will fill only so many pixels.

Dear NBA we need something to talk about.

 

 

The quest to make every game matter

in Yardwork by

As the NBA All-Star game dutifully concluded a few weekends ago in New Orleans, an alarm went off among certain persons involved in the NBA.  This product was particularly bad.

A 192-182 shoot around was not the same product of the 80’s and 90’s where the NBA All-Star game on Sunday night on NBC was just something you watched. You would see the dunks and ally-oops, but there were stretches of actual basketball being played.

Meanwhile, as baseball hosts the World Baseball Classic in the coming weeks, a somewhat contrived form of Olympic baseball, where players may or may not direct origin from the country they represent, many are wondering why it can’t have more meaning.

The ironic current cultural reality is that as we have thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of different media sources (counting websites) and there is no shortage of media and entertainment to consume. Yet people are grasping for more meaningful events. An exhibition cannot be an exhibition simply anymore.

This was also apparent in spring training. In a not too distant time. About 15 years ago, you simply didn’t see your big league team on TV while they were in Florida or Arizona. The production trucks and crew and announcers simply weren’t there. Who would watch day baseball exhibitions in the middle of March to make it economically feasible. With the advent of DVR and many of us whose work schedule’s free us up in the daytime anyhow, it now becomes feasible for many, many, many more spring training games to be live television events.

The NFL and NBA are no different. The once strong line between exhibition and regular season is quickly fading as you see the commentary regarding performance and TV marketing of preseason games look almost exactly like the regular season product.

Call it old-fashioned but the year long baseball, football, basketball season, has the opposite effect of its intention. As we try to pump more and more out of sports the less meaningful they become.


Tom Izzo is exactly right about social media

in HOOPS by

Social media is a cancer to our society.

Tuesday night following Michigan State’s win over Ohio State in East Lansing, MI, Spartan head coach Tom Izzo took a moment in his introductory comments to say what many have been thinking, many have voiced, but it bears great weight on current sports and society.

Social media is making sports all the more popular but it’s also causing major problems.

No one probably believes the ill effects more than Tom Izzo. Who has in the past voiced his displeasure with the platform as a masquerade of real communication and a safe haven for so-called fans to take cheap shots and or harass his players.

Tuesday night Izzo made a deafening statement at least in college basketball circles. He let it be publically known that one Dan Dakich of ESPN had gone too far. Dakich who is an ESPN college basketball commentator also hosts a radio show in Indianapolis and is quite active on Twitter.  His style on both platforms is confrontational at best, insane at worst.

As Izzo pointed out, it’s not that people dislike Dan Dakich, but the former player and coach tends to take it too far.

Dakich called Michigan State whiners, and the like, via social media last week. Dakich has since deleted the Tweets.

Michigan State’s student section dubbed “The Izzone” responded by chanting “we hate Dakich” during Tuesday’s game against Ohio State. Izzo responded after the game.

Per the Detroit Free Press and CollegeBasketballTalk.com here are Izzo’s comments:

“I’ve got to be honest with you,” Izzo said. “I was kind of getting upset with the chants of Dakich until  I got in the locker room, and I asked what was that all about? Somebody read me his tweets. Social media. And if I would have known that before the game, I would have embarrassed myself almost as much as he embarrassed himself and I would have led the chants because calling us whiners and all that is kind of unprofessional.”

“Because calling us whiners and that is kind of unprofessional. Classy broadcasters, like George Blaha and everybody else, wouldn’t have even thought to do something like that on TV. But saying our students couldn’t get in there? And he’s doing games for Michigan when his son is there? That is a disappointment, and that is ridiculous.

“And I think it’s funny because I got no respect for him for that. And I am going to publicly say it – you can tweet it, you can read it, you can do whatever you want with it – but Twitter got him in trouble, and he earned it. I am surprised ESPN would let somebody say something like that, that works for them.”

 

 

A battle of eras

in HOOPS by

The war of words between 90’s superstars and the present day basketball elite rages on.

Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob stated he was genuinely hurt that during a recent dinner where many NBA owners attended, Michael Jordan said the Golden State Warriors 73-win record breaking season didn’t mean anything.

Last week an M.J. buddy, Charles Barkley, took LeBron James to task for allegedly pushing Cleveland management for more star power more players to further stack his NBA title winning Cavs.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson appear to have taken the high road, as it was none other than M.J. in the 90’s who crashed their high-flying must-see act in the 80s.

Larry Bird, growing up in a world in French Lick, Indiana that in many ways stayed in the past, and endured personal heartbreak is one who will never allow himself to get stuck in yesteryear.

Last June he told ESPN the guys who play now are just as good as they were in when he played. Perhaps the most honest assessment.

At the time he said,  “everybody that plays, no matter if it was ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, they think their era’s the best. Well, prove it to me. Like I said earlier, I think we have more stars than they do now. On every team, they had at least one, maybe two. I’m talking about Dominique Wilkins — you just go down the line. But in saying that, I don’t think our era’s any better than anyone else’s, when it comes right down to it.”

Bird may have a point. The truly dominant appear to have clustered together.

You have Kevin Durant and Steph Curry on the same team. And that’s what kicked this conversation into the same gear. Because in that era, there was not a lot of player movement for superstars in the prime of their career.

Larry stayed with Boston. Magic stayed with Los Angeles. Jordan stayed with Chicago. Dominique left for Boston well after his prime. Reggie Miller stayed at home. Patrick Ewing stayed in one place. David Robinson stayed in San Antonio. Chris Mullin spent his most productive years in Golden State. Karl Malone spent his most productive years in Utah. John Stockton never left Utah. Charles Barkley got traded.

LeBron has had an affair with Miami, now back home with Cleveland. Durant is in Golden State. Carmelo might be headed for his third team.

When speaking to ESPN back in June, one thing that Bird astutely noted was the money has changed.

Larry Bird’s highest salary per year came in 1991-92 season when he was paid $7.1 million per season. LeBron James is making $30.1 million this season and as it would follow, his endorsement money is higher.

The one constant in sports debate is that one can never correctly compare eras.

The one constant in the LeBron vs M.J. debate is that the eras seem to be so distinct. The era beginning with either Kobe Bryant or LeBron James began their NBA careers and the period either when Magic and Bird were doing their thing or the period when Jordan won his first championship to his last.

In the minds of those who debate such things, no other meaningful basketball has been played.

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