Monday July 13th, 2009

Each week, SI.com's Richard Deitsch will report on newsmakers from the world of TV, radio and the Web.

THE DUNK YOU'LL NEVER SEE, cried the Los Angeles Times. The Las Vegas Sun offered a more cheeky synopsis: IF A DUNK FALLS IN LEBRON'S FACE -- AND A NIKE REP CONFISCATES THE FILM -- DID IT REALLY HAPPEN?

Indeed, it did. In a story that has since morphed into the basketball version of Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster and UFOs in Roswell, Xavier's Jordan Crawford dunked on James last week at Nike's LeBron James Skills Academy at the University of Akron. The dunk was filmed by a pair of freelance videographers, but before the world could see Crawford's YouTube moment, Nike officials confiscated the tapes. You probably know what happened next: The story was reported by CBSSports.com writer Gary Parrish and LeBron-gate quickly went viral. The New York Times described the company's heavy-handedness as "channeling media tactics straight out of North Korea." Plenty of others have weighed in, including an interesting take from TrueHoop's Henry Abbott.

Ryan Miller watched the story play out and remains stunned by it all. He's a 22-year-old Syracuse University graduate who still lives with his parents in Rochester, N.Y. He's also the videographer who shot the tape of the Crawford dunk.

"It's been a crazy week, but now I really need to get back to regular life and look for a job," said Miller, who graduated in May with a broadcast journalism degree and a minor in public policy and entrepreneurship.

Miller worked at the camp as a credentialed media member for Syracuse.com, which covers news in central New York. Before arriving in Akron -- the trip from Rochester cost him $150, including food and gas for his 1995 Honda Civic -- Miller called some contacts at ESPNU who told him they would be interested in some B-roll footage. He was working solely for the experience -- an unpaid gig. Then came the dunk, the removal of the tape by Nike and a kid becoming part of a major story.

During the past week, Miller has done some print, radio and TV interviews, though he drew the line when Inside Edition requested him. He also blogged about what happened. Miller believes he is the rightful owner of the footage.

"I'm not sure if I should give them a call to see if I can get some information about whether the tape is gone or whether I'll get it back," he said. "I was thinking about giving them a call in the next few days, but I'm not sure how receptive they will be."

Miller said he been contacted by lawyers but is unlikely to pursue any legal channels to get the tape back. He says what he really wants is a job as a television or multimedia reporter. He is the first member of his family to earn a four-year college degree.

"Even though my name might be linked to this in the near future, hopefully I can make a name for myself for my journalism, reporting or an on-air presence," he said.

As for the dunk, like most folklore, the reality is far from the legend.

"The mystique of this dunk has built up so much," Miller said. "To be completely honest with you, if there was video of the dunk, and I honestly don't even know how well I shot it, there is just no way that dunk can exceed the expectations that have been built up around it."

• On Sunday's Outside the Lines, host Bob Ley examined South Africa's readiness one year out from the World Cup, a story reported on site from Soweto and Cape Town. Shoots such as these can be logistically treacherous, not to mention the long hours put in by a staff far from home. Full marks go to features producer Nancy Devaney, who won't be seen on camera but whom Ley said was a vital part of an informative and visually sumptuous 30 minutes of broadcast journalism. Devaney has been with ESPN for 12 years.

• NBC averaged 5.71 million viewers for Roger Federer's win over Andy Roddick, the most for a Wimbledon final since the Pete Sampras-Andre Agassi match in 1999 (5.85 million).

• ESPN's college football announcing lineup was released to much fanfare in the sports blogosphere. You can see the lineups here. It's been said before in this space: As an admirer of the always professional Ron Franklin (and his partner Ed Cunningham), it's a shame he doesn't get more high-profile assignments.

• Last week, the noted tennis observer Jason Whitlock compared Serena Williams to Paris Hilton and said the 11-time Grand Slam singles champion would rather eat and "half-ass her way through non-major tournaments" than fulfill her destiny. "With a reduction in glut, a little less butt and a smidgen more guts, Serena Williams would easily be as big as Michael Jackson, dwarf Tiger Woods and take a run at Rosa Parks," Whitlock wrote.

I'd take this column a bit more seriously if I'd seen Whitlock at one of the dozen U.S. Opens I've covered. Or any of the major tennis tournaments around the globe. One of Serena's hitting partners once told me that during practice she worked as hard as anyone he'd ever worked with. Any person who covers the sport regularly will tell you Serena has the most will of any women's player in the last 10 years. Whitlock calls out Williams for not being a single-minded tennis assassin. I'd argue that because she's not a single-minded tennis drone, she's avoided the burnout that has hit so many of the sports top players (Jennifer Capriati, Andrea Jaeger, etc.). Williams has won matches when she's fit and when she's been less than fit. Her 11 major titles have come in an era where she had to beat future Hall of Famers Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis and Justine Henin, as well as her sister Venus. Margaret Court rolled up 11 Australian Open titles (she finished her career with 24 major wins) against suspect competition. Serena's 11 majors in this era is a weighty number.

"Embrace who you are, enjoy, live a healthy lifestyle and love who you are, no matter what you look like," Serena told reporters last Friday in New York when asked about the Whitlock column. Venus Williams offered a more humorous response in Philadelphia: "Who is Jason Whitlock?" Venus asked. "Is he an athlete?" Told he was a columnist, she replied: "Oh, I don't read the press." Alas, we do.

"Sadly, the show puts a heavy burden on host [John] Saunders, who must have been passed over for the show Wipeout and is scrambling toward the end of his career. Saunders, who screams out the play-by-play of each event, has referred to this as a 'grueling competition,' assuming the audience is completely stupid beyond all ability to change the channel, or has bought into the premise that WWE is also real."

-- Los Angeles Daily News sports columnist Tom Hoffarth, reviewing ABC's The Superstars.

"I'm hoping for a Michael Jackson national holiday. We could use it as a day of celebrating and socializing across cultural lines. People could invite their 'work' friends over to their homes, stuff like that."

-- Whitlock, promoting the idea of another day off, in a FoxSports.com chat with readers.

"Based on the people I've been dealing with for the past 15 years, if you were to construct the ideal guy, you would like them to have the personality of John Kruk, the insight of someone like Buck Showalter, the background, knowledge and access to athletes that Peter Gammons has, and you would certainly want them to be opinionated and well-thought like Steve Phillips. Anytime you can have the experience of someone like Joe Morgan also helps. You've seen great ballplayers who don't translate well on television. To find that one particular person who can satisfy all those boxes is difficult."

-- ESPN Baseball Tonight host Karl Ravech, on creating an effective baseball analyst.

"Fox Soccer Channel needs to get their s**t together if they are going to be showing the Champions League. Terrible camera angles and no HD??" -- Revolution forward Taylor Twellman, July 8, 9:13 p.m. "Called local wild life line. They told me to keep the dead squirrel in the freezer and call back when another shows up dead. Uh, no." -- Newsday sports reporter Jim Baumbach, July 9, 10:28 p.m.

"Who else at summer league in Vegas is up with me on no sleep watching an illegal Israel-Russia Davis Cup feed online? Maybe O. Casspi -- ESPN.com NBA writer and Israeli Davis Cup fan Marc Stein, July 11, 10:34 a.m. (Omri Casspi of Israel was a first-round pick in last month's NBA draft.)

Curt Smith is an admitted Scullyologist, a dedicated chronicler of baseball's richest voice. A former speechwriter for President George H. Bush and a lecturer in English at the University of Rochester, Smith is the author of 13 books, including Voices of Summer: Ranking Baseball's 101 All-Time Best Announcers, in which Vin Scully ranked at the top of Smith's ratings. Smith's latest book is Pull Up a Chair: The Vin Scully Story. We caught up with Smith to discuss the Dodgers' broadcaster.

SI.com: How much of the timing of your book has to with Scully's age (he's 81)?

Smith: I have written or spoken about sportscasting on ESPN, at the Smithsonian Institution and National Radio and Baseball Halls of Fame, and in most of my 13 books. To discuss it without a Scully biography would be like ignoring Frank Sinatra at a music seminar. The timing has nothing to do with age: Showing Hemingway's "grace under pressure," Vin is 81 going on 18.

SI.com: Scully did not cooperate for this book and had previously stated that he would never write a book about his life, collaborate with someone else or even approve an authorized biography. Did you approach him for this book?

Smith: Respecting Vin's decision, I never asked him to collaborate or approve an authorized biography. (My only "co-author" was George H.W. Bush when I was a White House presidential speechwriter!) Instead, in early 2007 I wrote Vin of "a project I've begun, and hope you will like."

SI.com: How did you approach him?

Smith: By letter and phone, I told Vin the book would respect his privacy; be a professional, not personal, critique; and reflect my view of him as baseball broadcasting's Roy Hobbs -- "the best there ever was." I kept my word, as I try to. Vin was polite and gracious, as always.

SI.com: In your opinion, how much does Scully still love what he does?

Smith: Vin has said, "The mere thought of it [retiring] is frightening. I'm not the type to just sit on the porch and watch the sun set." It is clear that he still loves baseball and the spoken word. Once Andre Dawson made the disabled list. "He's day to day," Vin said, pausing. "Then, aren't we all?" Scully's decision to broadcast is year to year. Someone will one day succeed him. No one will replace him.

SI.com: You gave Scully a perfect 100 ranking in Voices of Summer. Would he still rate that today?

Smith: In that 2005 book, I mused how other great voices had, if not a vice, some chink. Perfection means being flawless; Scully is. He ties subtlety, realism, telling fact and melodic lilt -- language, above all. Recall "It was so hot today the moon got burned." Retrieve a fielder "catching the ball gingerly, like a baby chick falling from the tree." Relive a weak dribbler-turned-hit, Vin quoting Eugene O'Neill: "A humble thing, but thine own.'" Entering a game, a heavily sideburned player caused Scully to forge poetry: "What ho! What ho! What men are these? Who wear their sideburns like parentheses?" They don't teach that in Broadcasting 101.

SI.com: Is there any broadcaster under the age of 40 who particularly impresses you?

Smith: Andy Freed of the Rays is glib, works hard and knows baseball history. I don't wish to inadvertently omit, but other thirty- and early fortysomethings include Brett Dolan, Dave Flemming, Glenn Geffner, Dave Jageler, Dave O'Brien, Don Orsillo, Jim Powell, Dave Raymond, Dan Shulman and Matt Vasgersian. Jon Miller is preternaturally youthful, so include him, too!

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