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Adrian Wojnarowski to ESPN, what it means

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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.

 

The legacy of Craig Sager: You don’t give up

in HOOPS/Sports Media by

You don’t give up, you keep fighting to live.

You give it your absolute best.

That’s the message Craig Sager lived and we saw played out in the final years of his life.

Sager-who has worked as a sports broadcaster for Turner since March of 1981, passed away today at age 65 from cancer. Sager was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2014.

Perhaps not a perfect man or perfect dresser but someone who suffered tremendously and still kept fighting and made us laugh-often courtside.

“He’s gone through more stuff, treatment wise, than anyone I’ve ever known,” his colleague Ernie Johnson said recently.

He wasn’t a legend his entire career. It was his dogged determination that got him into our living rooms in the first place.

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Ultimately he showed us that medical conditions, or even impending death, need not dim the light of life.  He had always been a hard worker, self-made, but he physically battled the disease with an incredible effort perhaps unmatched in the public arena.

And so you and I don’t give up because we’re all fighting something.

Sager was a cultural institution in the N.B.A.

Now he’s a cultural institution in the fight against cancer.

 

ESPN re-ups with Kornheiser and Wilbon for PTI

in Sports Media/Sports TV by

In a world of rapid talent movement at the mothership, there are few constants, one is the shining light that is PTI, one of the first, and pioneers of the TV sports debate genres.

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon both celebrated sportswriters in previous’ lives, host the half-hour program daily at 5:30 on ESPN. The show has been a respite for the American sports fan for the last 15 years.

There have been small murmurs on social media about the demise of PTI as ratings have dropped an alleged 30% recently, but it’s all amongst those who follow that sort of thing. PTI remains a jewel for ESPN daily.

This week ESPN announced it has signed both Kornheiser and Wilbon to multi-year extensions and that the pair will “continue to work together” and contribute to other ESPN platforms.

According to ESPN, PTI is the most viewed ESPN studio product with about 1 million viewers daily if you count the re-air on ESPN2 at 6:30 as well. PTI is also ESPN’s most DVR’d studio show as well .

The NLCS has been good for FS1 and Fox Sports

in Sports Media/Sports TV by

The ratings for the first two broadcasts of the National League Championship Series between the Dodgers-Cubs on FoxSports1 have shown good signs. The numbers are good, not mind-blowing but very good.

What’s more,  America seems to like the John Smoltz Joe Buck pairing. Perhaps Smoltz wasn’t brought to life the way he ought to be with his temporary partner Matt Vasgersian or perhaps it’s just a bigger stage and more people are criticizing and yes watching and paying attention.

For Saturday’s Game 1, Fox drew a 3.9 overnight rating with 5.9 total viewers. Game 2 numbers really spiked with 7.2 million viewers and a 5.0 rating according to Fox Sports PR. Likely its the highest viewed event in FS1’s very brief history.

The numbers are good, not off the charts in comparison to what TBS drew a year ago when it had the NLCS. Also Chicago and L.A. as top markets boost the overall number. But it serves a bigger purpose in the FOX Sports stratosphere.

For FOX it serves as a vehicle into non-stop, and rightful, promotion of its new ESPN competitor FS1. Fox’s talent grab from ESPN includes Skip Bayless, Colin Cowherd, NBA reporter Chris Broussard, studio host Mike Hill among others.

Game 3 of the NLCS airs tonight on FS1.

Joe Buck makes his return to baseball with the NLCS and World Series on FOX

in Sports Media/Sports TV/Yardwork by

Joe Buck’s baseball duties with the network have decreased in recent years.  This season, his 21st with FOX, he called just a handful of baseball games, about one per month this summer.

He’s got a new talk show, “Undeniable” on Audience TV and Direct TV. A format he’s tried and coveted for many years.

He’s also doing FOX’s USGA Golf coverage. Practically like learning a new language.  He’s also the lead voice in the biggest of all sports properties NFL on FOX.

His old-time baseball partner Tim McCarver was let go, retired, semi-retired, or something in-between.

They had chemistry. McCarver and Joe Buck’s dad, Jack Back, did not. McCarver was too talkative for the elder Buck’s taste but for Joe ‘yeah I could get along with the kid’.  Tim and Joe gelled well. They understood each other.

It was a shame it couldn’t continue.

Then two guys with a ton of Major League Baseball experience Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci joined Buck in the booth, and well many might say it was a disaster. Joe was the babysitter. Too many unique personalities in the booth.

Now FOX has John Smoltz paired with Buck. Smoltz is opinionated but understated. With almost no risk of creating a Twitter firestorm with anything he says, which was common place for McCarver.  Smoltz brings a ton of baseball knowledge, and recent baseball knowledge unlike McCarver who was apt at recalling a particular game situation that happened in the 60s, when 80-percent of the audience wasn’t alive. Smoltzy and Buck did a few games this season (less than five) including the All-Star game, but the real show is the postseason.

Beginning with the NLCS Saturday, October 15th Buck and Smoltz will try to make magic for the MLB postseason and on into the World Series.

For Buck, this is his 21st season as the voice of baseball on FOX. Despite the constant criticism which has increased in volume in the Twitter era, here’s Buck and he’s still doing postseason baseball.

Buck has been the voice of the World Series on TV for the 16th straight season, and in total, he’s done 19 World Series. Buck is the voice you want for the World Series.

 

Buck is set to release his new memoir (a little young for a memoir right?) titled “Lucky Bastard: My Life, My Dad, And The Things I’m Not Allowed To Say On TV.

Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch recently spoke with Buck regarding how hair-plug surgery affected his vocal cords almost costing him his voice in 2001. But Buck’s moment of truth is coming out of it all and wanting to tell the world about it.

“When I started thinking about writing a book, this was the main reason why,” Buck told Deitsch. “It wasn’t about stories with my Dad. I wanted to detail the time in my life where I had a lot going on and I was stressed, a time when I started to take anti-depressants and was going through a divorce. Then I had this situation with my voice that rocked me to my knees and shook every part of my world. I’m 47 years old now and willing to be vulnerable sharing a story. Whether the book is read by one person or one million doesn’t concern me. Getting this out and being honest, really telling my story, that was was the impetus behind this.”

Goodbye Vin Scully, yes we will miss you dearly, but mostly thank you 

in MLB/Sports Media/Sports TV/Yardwork by

It was Bart Giamatti, the late baseball commissioner, who said, “baseball breaks your heart.”

“It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring when everything else begins again, Blossoms in the summer filling the afternoons and evenings and then as soon as the chill rain comes it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.”

 

It will break many a heart not to be able to tune in on MLB.TV to watch Dodger games. For those in Los Angeles, it will truly break their hearts.

Of course, the heartache should not be the same, as Vin Scully was never ours to begin with. Sure, we had him here or there. If you are old enough to be alive in the 80s on a national broadcast which was not the genuine product made your familiar. But for the majority of the sports fans life, Vin was a borrowed product from Los Angeles.

Vin was pulled here or there to the network, notably NBC. Throughout his tenure, he flirted with the network but was never able to leave his love for the Dodgers and commit to the network and have time for family. His heart would always be with the Dodgers and any venture in the network was purely to broaden his horizons and keep his opportunities open.

His celebrity was never in question, but for the internet crowd, those who talk baseball on Twitter, Facebook and on online forums he gained a new following via the magic of the internet.

But Vin is also to blame for breaking our hearts. He called us in as a friend and spoke to us one-on-one. The entire world got to see the only man in baseball who does the TV thing entirely alone. No color analyst, no sideline reporter, just Vin and you talking, and keeping you company like a gentle, loving grandfather, which of course he is outside of his day/night job.

There’s a certain class, a gentlemen way, about baseball broadcasters who got their start during that golden era of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.

Most of them are gone. Most of them have passed away. For many years now, those voices no longer fill the summer air with their often gentle, sometimes strong, often soothing, descriptions of a game we call baseball.  Ernie Harwell, Jack Buck, and it goes on.

These were contemporaries of Vin Scully. Harwell was with the Dodgers just a year before Scully began with the Dodgers back in 1950. Harwell that year went to the New York Giants and left an opening on the Dodger broadcast team that Scully would fill. Jack Buck would get his start with the St. Louis in Cardinals in 1954.

Mr. Scully himself might dispute that he was anything but a boy when he got behind the mic to broadcast his first major league baseball game in 1950.

His training as a broadcaster appears to be based on pure common sense. Red Barber told him not to root for the home team, don’t fraternize and be social with the players as it would dilute objectivity, keep your opinions to yourself, don’t listen to other broadcasters and most of all, be yourself. “Don’t imitate others, it will water your wine.” 

Red Barber said this about bringing Scully into the big leagues “I always had the dream of taking an untutored kid who showed some promise and of putting him on the air for what he was, a neophyte learning the trade. Scully was a perfect choice. He was a green pea, but he was a very appealing young green pea. It was obvious he had something on the ball; you didn’t know precisely what it was, but he had it.”

As Vin Scully leaves the scene, there’s a sense of capturing lightning in a bottle, we know this great treasure and artist will be going away and I don’t think too many of us baseball fans really know how to handle it.

Vin Scully pregame “MLB on TBS” interview with Cal Ripken, Jr., August 28, 2016 from Turner Sports on Vimeo.

There’s also a sense of guilt. A sense of guilt that we’ve been taking Scully for granted, that for much of the 80s and 90s when many of us were just so much more infatuated with the game of baseball and particularly major league baseball and its radio and television broadcasts,  Vin Scully was right there broadcasting the Dodgers so faithfully. But alas many of  us realize we had no way of catching Vin, or Mr. Scully (only his contemporaries or those maybe about 20 years younger than him can call him Vin). Yes, we had no way of watching Scully. We couldn’t get the dodger radio broadcast unless of course, you were in Southern California and to watch Scully on TV? Are you kidding me? Myself a baseball fan from about 1988 onward as a kid I had a fate recognition of the national baseball announcers, but even if I had a more keen sense of who they were Scully was not about the Vin Scully brand. He was meekly the play-by-play announcer even on his days with NBC and doing national work, which he didn’t particularly care for, as he could not properly get to know and really engage with the viewer or the team.

Alas, MLB.TV came along, and Twitter came along and the pairing of two seemed to go hand and hand, many would and still do post just downright amusing anecdotes and quotes from Scully as the late hours of the night rolled forward whether the Dodgers were winning or losing.

One thing that has always stood out about Mr. Scully is his utter distaste for vanity and personal attention. It has ruined many men, it could not just be the product of the time, but a personal decision that you could not, could not let the praise of men inflate your sense of purpose or place in the world.

And for that, as we’ll all but worship Vin Scully as he goes away as something more than a man, he will want us to think for a moment that we all are humans and all have a value in this world, no more so than him, but Mr. Scully you sure are special to us baseball fans.

 

There’s an instability in the sports world, as Vin Scully says goodbye

in Sports Media by

Wednesday night, ESPN did a fine job honoring Vin Scully on its baseball broadcast of the Giants and Dodgers at Dodgers stadium.

Vin Scully even called the 4th inning for the national audience. As ESPN broadcasters Jon Sciambi and Rick Sutcliffe tried, and they did well, to explain the reason it was such a big to-do that a broadcaster was leaving.

Sutcliffe talked about Scully moving west with the Dodgers in 1958. Leaving everything behind in New York for a chance to make it with the Los Angeles team, even though he held the same job in Brooklyn.

Sciambi talked about men from a certain era, such as Harry Kalas, the late Phillies broadcaster.

 

Meanwhile the news of the day was absolute outrage and a sense of anxiety and tension. A sense of anxiety and unrest that perhaps has never gripped the United States or at least its sporting world in this manner. More athletes are speaking out, choosing to kneel during the national anthem.

And sports isn’t about sports anymore.

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman refused to answer questions at a press conference Wednesday as a way of protesting the recent police shootings of African-Americans.

The entire Indiana Fever Basketball team kneeled during the National Anthem Wednesday night as a sign of protest. Steve Kerr said “every American should be disgusted with what is going on around the country.”

And what Scully represented more than anything was stability. Stability in the Dodger blue. Stability in the post-war 50’s. Stability in the changing 60’s. Stability in the financially uncertain 70s. Stability in the 80s when sports and TV offered more opportunities. Stability in the 90’s when maybe baseball took a back seat to other sports and finally stability in the new millennium with this thing called Twitter and Facebook and all this other stuff.

Every day Vin doing his job.

He truly was the voice of this summer and many others.

NFL TV ratings are off to a slower start, but still really incredible

in Pigskin/Sports Media/Sports TV by

The big one for a lot of people who follow these sorts of things and view TV ratings as a barometer for overall fan interest is the first Sunday Night NFL game of the year on NBC.

Just over 20 million people tuned in this season, down 18% from a year ago in the same time slot.

Not great, but still 20 million people is a tremendous rating for a regular season sporting event.

The first game of the season also broadcasted on NBC airing Thursday, September 8th drew at 16.5 overnight rating, which in terms of ratings is still really good, but down 7% from a year ago when the Steelers and Patriots played.

But the total number of viewers? 25.2 million.

That’s huge and the NFL has nothing to worry about just yet.

By comparison, Major League Baseball averaged just over 14 million for last year’s Mets-Royals World Series, and that was the highest rating in six years for the World Series.

That said 7% is not huge and not as meaningful considering about 14 years ago in 2002 the kickoff game scored a 12.2 rating, per Sports TV Ratings.

 

ESPN’s Monday Night Football was down as well, for the early game down 7% and the late game between the Los Angeles Rams and 49ers drew 25% less viewers compared to the second game of last year’s first Monday Night Football coverage on ESPN.

Overall, the NFL has lots of wiggle room to work with and probably is not concerned that it’s opening weekend in the second week of what is a busy September with good weather across the country-will turn the tides back to grossly huge numbers.

The Achilles heel for the NFL is not the lack of interest but perhaps a turn off by viewers at large for off the field incidents which continue to plague the league and keep league officials up at night. Further it’s yet to be decided what impact the controversy surrounding Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the singing of the National Anthem will do for the league in terms of viewership and fanship and the like.

ESPN apologizes after confusing arrested Notre Dame cornerback with the Suns’ Devin Booker | For The Win

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Notre Dame cornerback Devin Butler was arrested on preliminary felony charges of battery to law enforcement and resisting arrest on Saturday.

In reporting the arrest on Saturday night’s SportsCenter, ESPN confused Butler with Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker in a photo.

 

Source: ESPN apologizes after confusing arrested Notre Dame cornerback with the Suns’ Devin Booker | For The Win

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