1. eBaum Nation, entertainment style Web site: The scrappy Rochester, N.Y.-based Web site outflanked Web giant TMZ by securing superior-quality footage of Jordan Crawford's much-talked-about but ultimately mundane flush over LeBron James. About two weeks before the release of the video, representatives of a local cameraman who had taken footage of the dunk at James' Nike camp in Akron, Ohio, contacted eBaum Nation (which offers humor-based viral videos, among other features). The site finalized the deal after learning that TMZ had lesser-quality video.
Mike Parker, the company's media relations manager, said eBaum Nation paid $5,000 for the footage, which the site released about 30 minutes after TMZ posted its copy. The footage from eBaum went viral instantly; ESPN, SI.com, Yahoo! and CNN were among the sites linking to the video. As of Thursday, Parker said the video had about 6.75 million views.
The site launched last February (eBaum is short for founder Eric Bauman) and has 12 full-time employees. "The day we released [the LeBron footage] was a pretty late night [at the office] for most of us, so there wasn't much celebration," Parker said. "But we definitely did enjoy the press mentions that followed."
2. Vin Scully, Dodgers broadcaster: These are the sweetest words I've heard this summer: "God willing, I will probably come back for one more year." That's what Scully told Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschkelast week. If his health remains good, Scully, 81, said he plans to call Dodgers games for one more year and retire after the 2010 season.
3. Michael S. Schmidt, New York Times sports reporter: Schmidt was in elementary school when Manny Ramirez debuted with the Cleveland Indians in September 1993. Last week, the 25-year-old reporter broke the news that Ramirez and David Ortizhad tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003. Schmidt reported earlier this year that Sammy Sosa was also one of the roughly 100 major league players to test positive for PEDs in 2003.
The reporter has been with the Times since July 2005. "I was hired as a news clerk and they told me they would never make me a reporter," Schmidt said. "As soon as they told me that, I wanted to be a reporter."
Schmidt worked as a clerk on the foreign and sports desks before he was hired as an intermediate reporter in December 2007. He cited assistant sports editor Jay Schreiber as the driving force behind much of the PED coverage at the newspaper.
"After SI reported the A-Rod story in February, I noticed that wherever I went, people who knew what I did kept asking me about that list," Schmidt said. "They kept asking, 'Is it going to come out? Who is on the list?' I didn't really have a good answer for them then, and I was not putting any effort to go after the list. I thought that if all these people were asking me about it, there was probably a lot of interest out there."
Schmidt described his beat as "performance-enhancing drugs, legal issues in sports and pretty much anything bad that happens in sports." Asked if he anticipates more names being unearthed from the list, Schmidt is circumspect. "I don't know," he said. "I really don't know. We'll have to see."
4. Jason Whitlock, Fox Sports and Kansas City Star sports columnist: A short list of those who felt the wrath of Whitlock's keyboard in July: Chauncey Billups, A.J. Daulerio, ESPN, Paris Hilton, LeBron James, Chad Ochocinco, Will Leitch, Steve McNair, Shaquille O'Neal, Stuart Scott, Stan Van Gundy, Serena Williams ... and yours truly.
No matter what you may think of Whitlock -- provocative, self-aggrandizing and talented all come to my mind -- you must agree that he speaks his mind and has a unique ability among sportswriters to produce a reaction. In a column last month examining whether blogs contributed to the criminal act of someone taping ESPN reporter Erin Andrews naked in her hotel room, Whitlock accused me of being Leitch's hype man, a cyber-Bundini Brown for the former Deadspin editor. Whitlock is entitled to his opinion, and here is my response: Everything I've written about Deadspin is searchable, and I'm plenty comfortable to let readers judge whether I was in the bag for the site. As I've disclosed a number of times, Leitch and I are acquaintances; we've shared refreshments together, as Leitch has with Bob Costas, ESPN staffers and plenty of other people in the media. My "good friend" and I have not spoken in person in more than a year. On the topic of Andrews and misogyny in sports broadcasting, my views are also a Google search away.
I read Whitlock regularly, and I imagine our paths will cross again in cyberspace. Until then, as I wrote him in an e-mail, the world is a more interesting place with him in it, despite how ridiculously wrong he is about Serena Williams.
5. ProFootballTalk.com: In June, PFT entered a partnership with NBC Sports.com, which explains the call I received last week from an NBC Sports communications person pitching founder and editor Mike Florio as a story subject. The plucky site (profiled by SI two years ago) was the first to report the civil suit against Ben Roethlisberger, and forcefully criticized ESPN's decision not to report the story in the initial days. Why was Florio so tough on ESPN?
"Until there's a true on-air alternative to ESPN, other forms of media should embrace the challenge of pointing out those occasions when the self-described 'Worldwide Leader' is riding down the street naked," Florio said. "I believe that no business reaches its full potential without external accountability. As a 10-year Disney shareholder, I like the idea of someone keeping one of its higher-profile subsidiaries on its toes."
(On ESPN's decision not to initially report the Roethlisberger story, my colleague Peter King wrote, "It's ridiculous for ESPN to not cover this story for two days because of the apparent flimsiness of it, seeing that it's a civil suit and not a criminal one. When a lawsuit is filed in a courtroom somewhere in the United States of America involving the Super Bowl champion quarterback, it's absolutely, positively news and must be reported.")
According to Florio, PFT had 17 million page views and 2.38 million unique visitors in July, beating the record of 1.6 million unique visitors in March 2009. He said his partnership with NBC will have no effect on his editorial policies or coverage of the NFL, and that he is looking to expand in the future. "I hope to eventually have 24-hour coverage, every day of the year," Florio said.
6. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals wideout and mobile journalist: The Twitter battle between Pro Football Talk and Ochocinco was the most enjoyable media war of the month. ("We pointed out at PFT some of the things he said during a live USTREAM video broadcast," Florio said. "He then called us 'haters' on Twitter. I responded by asking why disagreement is automatically presumed to be 'hate,' and it kind of went downhill from there.") The Bengals' wideout morphed into a one-man mobile journalist in July, broadcasting live from training camp and tweeting seemingly every hour. His reporting included predicting Michael Vick's future home ("Mike Vick to the Vikings, yessssssss, I am the new ESPN/Telemundo/BET/Cooking Channel and whatever else you might want to add") and critiquing ESPN and PFT ("Ain't no reruns on my show like ESPN, pro football talk, sit down, I have the real access to the players, I am taking over!!!!"). He even provided parts of his training camp schedule.
7. ESPN, newsmaker: The network became the news in July nearly as frequently as it reported it, but I'll note something positive here: ESPN's decision to end its ban against the New York Post sportswriters shows Bristol is not an inflexible entity. The network's senior management made a thoughtful and correct reversal against a group that had no part in the Post's cheap and smarmy decision to splash blurred nude stills of Andrews. (The Post subsequently banned its staffers from freelancing for ESPN, as well as any other outlet.)
8. The New York Daily News and New York Post sports sections: Usually these papers are about as friendly as Eminem and Mariah Carey, but the two publications came together in support of Daily News sports reporter Adam Rubin, who was accused by Mets general manager Omar Minaya of lobbying for a front-office position. (Minaya has since apologized.)
Both papers ran pieces that defended the reporter, and (predictably) killed Minaya. As a daily reader of the Daily News, I've seen no instance where Rubin was soft on the Mets or angled his coverage to curry favor with the organization for a future gig. (In fact, he did the opposite with his coverage given his stories led to the firing of VP of player development Tony Bernazard.) Providing an interesting counter on Rubin and perceived conflicts of interest is former New York Times national baseball writer Murray Chass, now writing at MurrayChass.com
9. Adam Schefter, ESPN: For a guy not scheduled to work at ESPN until Aug. 17, Schefter has been busy tweeting NFL news and notes (such as reporting that Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey had signed with the team and Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs wore a T-shirt at camp that read: YOU BET YOUR SWEET ASS I HATE PITTSBURGH) and details about Adam Schefter (his Quakertown, Pa., motel had a fireplace and a Jacuzzi and he was pleased with his July 28 haircut). His ESPN entry heats up the already competitive NFL information battles. Somewhere, you know Jay Glazer is reading Schefter's tweets.
10. The New York Islanders: Long Islanders have come to expect little from their pro hockey franchise, but the drafting of minor league sensation John Tavares was the first glint of good news in years. Naturally, the Islanders being the Islanders, they countered that goodwill with two poor decisions. They fired radio announcersChris King and Steve Mears and ended the team's sponsorship of the popular Islanders Point Blank blog, a unique bit of obsessive coverage by the team's PR director-turned-blogger Chris Botta. Both vehicles expanded the reach of the franchise to fans, with Botta's site generating 495,210 unique visitors for July. The Islanders will now feature a TV/radio simulcast with MSG broadcasters Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe. As Newsday's Greg Logan pointed out, Rose and Jaffe are an excellent team but their first responsibility must be to their television audience, which is a different broadcast in description, flow and tone.