Wednesday July 1st, 2009

1. Dan Jenkins, Tweeter: The famed sportswriter and soon-to-be-octogenarian (he turns 80 on Dec. 2) tweeted 140-character dispatches with aplomb and verve at last month's U.S. Open, his 200th golf major.

"Twittering was something I thought kids do when they're sitting next to each other because in today's world they've lost the art of conversation," Jenkins said. "Traded it in for noise in general." But when Golf Digest asked Jenkins if he wanted to tweet from the tournament, he was game. His only requirement? Calmly explain to him how it worked. Thanks to some guidance from colleague Mike O'Malley, Jenkins channeled his inner Ashton Kutcher and tweeted regularly.

"I had no idea anybody would care to read it," he said. "Turned out to be fun. You get to say all the good stuff that sometimes gets cut out of your stories. I started with a handful of followers, as I learned they are called, and wound up with something like 3,000. My daughter, Sally [a Washington Post sports columnist], said, 'That's great, dad. Now you're only two million behind Britney Spears.' "

The Ancient Twitterer, as dubbed by his daughter, will return to tweeting during the British Open. "I have a lot more to say," he said.

2. Chad Ochocinco, HBO Sports: The artist formerly known as Chad Johnson promises to make HBO's upcoming Hard Knocks series (it debuts Aug. 12) compelling theater. "It will be very entertaining," Ochocinco said. "I have a lot of material waiting for them."

Why does Ochocinco attract so much attention? "I don't know, man," he said. "I think I am one of the few athletes who are very outgoing, very outspoken. I like having fun. I like entertaining you guys, the people, and I'm someone who never gets in trouble. The only trouble I get into is talking too much and dancing every now and then, changing my name, stuff like that."

Speaking of which, Ochocinco plans to stay with Ochocinco for some time. "Thirty years from now they are not going to say that guy had a great game or was a great player but, Do you remember that guy Ochocinco?" he said. "The name will ring a bell for years to come."

3. Kevin Love, accidental newsman: How did the world learn that Kevin McHale would not return as Minnesota Timberwolves coach? Love accidentally broke the story via his Twitter account, causing some late-night maneuvers for many in the local media. The 20-year-old forward is one of the most active tweeters in sports. Honest, too. During last week's NBA draft, he tweeted, "You can always tell when [David] Stern is going to call a foreign players [sic] name cause he looks at the card like WTF?????"

4. Rick Maese, Washington Post: An award-winning columnist for the Baltimore Sun, Maese (and two other sports department colleagues) was let go in ignominious fashion by the paper while covering an Orioles game at Camden Yards. But here's one newspaper story with a happy twist: The Post has hired Maese to be one of three full-time reporters assigned to the Redskins. He begins his new job July 13.

"Not too long after my layoff hangover started wearing off, I had lunch with the Post sports editor, Matt Vita, a great guy," Maese said. "There was no specific job available but lunch was free and it was a good excuse to shower and shave and stop feeling sorry for myself. I did a bit of freelancing here and there, and then the morning I filed for unemployment benefits with the state of Maryland, Matt called. Their longtime Redskins guy [Jason La Canfora] took a gig with the NFL Network. More important: They were going to fill the opening, a rarity in this environment."

All NFL beats are tough but the Redskins' job has particular challenges given mercurial owner Daniel Snyder and the team's rabid fan base. "I hope it's intense," Maese said. "I mean, one thing every reporter and columnist should be striving for is relevancy, right? With the Redskins' beat, that's built in."

As for the Sun, Maese has mixed feelings about his former employer. "The paper still arrives on my doorstep each morning, even though I canceled my subscription a couple weeks ago," he said. "Seems fitting. I've felt just about every emotion possible the past two months. As it concerns the Sun now, I'm mostly sad. The people still at the newspaper are trying to do good work and they deserve to be treated better. ... I just wish the people at the top of the Tribune ladder had half the readership's passion for an important Baltimore institution."

5. Artie Lange, comic: HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg blacklisted the Howard Stern sidekick after he hijacked the debut of Joe Buck Live. Such a ban only added to the avalanche of publicity for Lange, who soared to the top of Google Trends and ended up with some post-Buck interviews on sports-talk stations. We've said it before: Greenburg should free Lange from the injunction and invite the comic to appear (either in studio or via satellite) on Buck's next show in September. It makes Joe Buck Live appointment television and offers the host the opportunity to show viewers that he can handle a potentially dicey situation.

6. Joe Tait, Cavaliers radio announcer: The 72-year-old Tait has been the voice of the team since it began play in 1970. And with Shaquille O'Neal joining LeBron James next fall, Tait gets to broadcast two of the NBA's greatest players of all time on a nightly basis.

"If I allowed myself to get all swept up in that sort of thing, I probably would not be able to do my job very well," Tait said. "I really don't have any extra excitement or concern. I'll just do the games the way I've done them for the last 39 years. But it is nice to have people of that caliber on your side."

Tait is one of the few NBA play-by-play announcers to call games without an analyst. "I don't need one," he said. "Most second guys just get in the way. They feel they have to say things to justify their existence and as a result they just muddy up the waters."

As James has raised his franchise's global relevance, Tait said he's heard from people all over the world who are listening to him via the Web. "I got a call the other day from a guy who listened to the entire Orlando series in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia," he said of the Cavs' appearance in the Eastern Conference finals. "He said he sat there listening to the Cavs and Magic while watching a tank out in front of hotel."

7. Jonathan Goldsmith, Dos Equis pitchman: Last month, we promised to give Goldsmith (the actor who portrays The Most Interesting Man In The World character in the Dos Equis commercials) some love if we heard from him. Well, he lives. In fact, he lives much like the character he plays: Goldsmith lives on a 47-foot Beneteau sailboat in Los Angeles. The actor said he's been working professionally for 50 years and is in his third year of playing TMIMITW.

"I got an audition like many actors across the country, and after three or four more auditions, I was lucky to be hired," he said.

Goldsmith considers himself more of an outdoorsman -- he's fond of camping, fly fishing and sailing -- than a hardcore sports fans. His sports highlight was attending the 1972 Muhammad Ali-Jerry Quarry championship fight in Las Vegas. The actor plans on keeping the Most Interesting Man role for as long as he can. "Fine wine gets better with age so I imagine the Man will be around for a while," he said.

Excellent news. Stay visible, my friend.

8. and 9. Patriots tackle Matt Light and Jets center Damian Woody, budding broadcasters: Ask an NFL beat writer about the go-to guys in his or her locker room and it won't be long before an offensive lineman's name comes up. Light and Woody attended last week's annual NFL Broadcast Boot Camp at NFL Films headquarters in Mount Laurel, N.J., where 24 current and former players took part in a four-day league and NFLPA initiative to help prepare players for their post-playing careers. The 14-hour days included seminars in all facets of broadcasting, from studio analysis to field reporting to radio hosting to taped on-camera segments. Of the group I followed on the first day of classes, the two linemen and Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew showed promise.

"Offensive linemen are usually some of the most knowledgeable guys in football, even though we are unheralded," Woody said. "We're insightful, smart guys, and articulate. I think Matt is someone who can do well in this environment. He's a funny guy and I think he'd be a spontaneous guy on the set."

NBC Sports coordinating producer Molly Solomon, one of the many management types on hand, told the participants that there was no better time to be in the business because of the proliferation of regional networks such as the Big Ten Network. Instructors advised the players to focus on learning the game beyond their position and look to Saturdays instead of Sundays, given that there are fewer than 20 NFL television analyst jobs. "It's harder to make it as an NFL analyst," Fox Sports producer Bill Brown said, "then it is the NFL."

10. The Best Damn Sports Show, Period, former FSN show: When Best Damn made its debut in 2001, I labeled it "the worst damn hour in sports broadcasting, exclamation point" thanks to a steady diet of jokes about toilet seats, pap smears and big butts. Plenty of people floated through the set over the years, including Tom Arnold, Rob Dibble, John Kruk, Michael Irvin, Chris Rose, John Salley, Michael Strahan and even Deacon Jones. The show continued to have plenty of juvenile tendencies but it cleaned up its act from its cesspool beginnings. It also made a legitimate attempt to get A-list sports guests. Best Damn ended its original run this week after eight years, an eternity in sports television. It taped its last show Monday. Wide World of Sports it was not, and while I won't miss it, I recognize some will.

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