Monday August 31st, 2009

1. Hal McCoy, Dayton Daily News Reds beat writer: If Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully is the sound track of summer, McCoy is its keyboard. A wordplay artist respected by peers and subjects alike, McCoy has covered the Reds for the Dayton, Ohio, newspaper for the past 37 years. Last month he took a buyout after the newspaper decided it would not assign a reporter to cover the Reds in 2010.

"I'm weighing my options, with the hope there is a lot of weight to them," said McCoy, who was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002 with the Spink Award. "I am not going to make any decisions until after my retirement/buyout on Sept. 30, but I'm not ready to pull the plug on the laptop. I still want to write. And I will. I've had some contact about continuing to write, which I will explore. And there is a book lingering inside me."

The 68-year-old McCoy -- who is legally blind as the result of stroke -- estimated that he had covered 7,000 games and written 25,000 stories. When he announced his decision to leave the paper full time, he was besieged with strong reaction from his readers and peers, including Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski.

"I'm probably the last of the baseball beat writer dinosaurs," McCoy said. "Nobody covers a baseball beat for 37 years. Few handle it more than three or four. The travel is too tough and the daily haggle and hassle with the players is demanding. Newspaper beat writers are a dying breed, but with the Internet there will always be a need for baseball writers to provide content."

That brings up a relevant question: How receptive would McCoy be to working for a Web site that allowed him to cover the Reds?

"Would I like to write about baseball for a Web site or do a blog? Absolutely," he said. "I may be 68, soon to be 69, but I think I still have my fastball at the keyboard and can handle the breaking stuff and the off-speed stuff."

2. Jerry Remy, Red Sox analyst, New England Sports Network: The Boston Globe called Remy "one of the most universally beloved men in New England" upon his return earlier this month from an infection following his lung cancer surgery. After missing the first four months of the season, Remy received a standing ovation at Fenway during a half-inning appearance on Aug. 12. He returned full time Aug. 21 For diehards of Red Sox (and RemDog Nation), his Twitter page is a must.

3. Andrew Wolfson, investigative and legal affairs writer, Louisville Courier-Journal: "I usually cover lawyers, and sometimes lawyers who are criminals," said Wolfson, the C-J's lead reporter for coverage of the Rick Pitino sex and blackmail story. Wolfson's dogged and evenhanded work on the story deserves praise. "It's definitely been the hottest story of the summer and the hottest I have worked on in terms of national interest," said Wolfson, who has been at the paper since 1983 and previously worked at the now-defunct Louisville Times. "It involves basketball, which is the No. 1 interest in Kentucky, sex and Rick Pitino."

Wolfson was assigned the story early spring; he anticipates he'll stay on it if Karen Sypher goes on trial on charges of conspiring to extort money from Pitino. Given his current assignment, he has a unique perspective on how the Pitino story has played nationally.

"Obviously, people nationally are more interested in Pitino than the details of the story," Wolfson said. "The national coverage has focused on Pitino's misjudgment more so than the fact he has allegedly been the subject of extortion and blackmail. Our coverage has probably been focused more on exploring the truth and falseness of the allegations that this woman has made against him, although more recently we have written about Pitino's decision-making."

4. Ato Boldon, track analyst, NBC Sports and Versus: Following his exemplary work last year in Beijing, Boldon provided engaging commentary at the 2009 world track and field championships in Berlin, carefully explaining to viewers why Usain Bolt ("The best thing to happen to track and field in my lifetime," Boldon said) is so ahead of his peers. Best of all was Boldon's genuine expression of disbelief (U.S. TV viewers heard him scream into his microphone, "Oh ... my ... God!") when Bolt broke the 200-meter world record.

"I was in the Michael Johnson race when he ran the 19.32 [at the 1996 Summer Games] so I naturally have a lot of respect for that time," said Boldon, a four-time Olympic medalist. "We have a running joke at NBC. When Michael set the 19.32 record, [then-announcer] Craig Masback started to talk all over [the call of announcer] Tom Hammond, which is a big no-no. He was screaming, 'He set a world record, he set a world record.' So there's a joke about not doing that because it ruins the call for history. My screaming was purely unintentional on my part. I'd been warned, 'Don't talk over Tom,' but it literally was what I was thinking at the time. I just happened to have a mic on. Since NBC used it in their promos, I didn't get a scolding!"

Asked if he was signed through the 2012 Olympics, Boldon ran away from the question diplomatically: "I'm not positive but I love where I am and they seem to enjoy my work." Let's lock up this dude, Ebersol.

5. Jack Brennan, public relations director, Cincinnati Bengals: HBO's entertaining Hard Knocks has turned the normally behind-the-scenes Brennan into an on-camera character. What's life been like since HBO's cameras were brought into Bengals Land?

"It's been challenging, but also very interesting, and not the life-gobbling monster that you might first fear," Brennan said. "[Coach] Marvin Lewis and our senior management all bought into the concept, and so it has been conveyed to everyone that temporarily we're accepting an unusual level of intrusion. There have been rough spots, of course, but we already had a comfort level with NFL Films, and I think that respect has grown. [Bengals owner] Mike Brown said to me one day at training camp, 'I am struck by how hard these [NFL Films] people work at this. It impresses me.' "

One of Brennan's co-stars -- and the Marlene Dietrich of the production -- is wideout Chad Ochocinco, who has become a one-man broadcasting outlet thanks to Twitter and Internet television.

"Chad is a challenge, for sure," Brennan said. "He goes his own way and is not looking to PR for much guidance, much as we try to offer it. But as everyone knows, he has an infectious, extremely engaging personality, and whatever the headaches he causes, he is bottom-line motivated by good nature and the desire to have fun. My two younger kids -- college age and not really big football fans -- love Hard Knocks and love watching Chad be Chad. There is no meanness about Chad. As to Twitter and social media, we stress to all our players, 'Don't tweet [or otherwise post] anything that you wouldn't be willing to say in front of a live national camera.' "

6. James Brown, CBS Sports anchor: Like a determined defensive end, Brown chased Michael Vick and his legal team for 16 months before landing his 60 Minutes interview. He proved (at least from this seat) an adept interviewer in a well-reported piece. Brown has always had an interest in expanding both beyond studio work and sports stories, and his Vick piece earned him laurels at his network. But not everyone thought the Vick interview was a journalistic hit, as the Baltimore Sun's excellent TV critic, David Zurawik, suggested in this interesting take.

7. Mike Reiss, ESPNBoston reporter: The network's second foray into city-specific sports sites (ESPNChicago was the first) has produced a terrific early hire in Reiss, a tenacious and prodigious Patriots reporter who had been with The Boston Globe since 2005. A native of Framingham, Mass., and a longtime chronicler of all things Brady and Belichick, Reiss, 34, said his initial focus with ESPNBoston will remain the Patriots. He will also be part of webcasts geared specifically to Boston. Reiss has drawn praise in NFL circles for his "Reiss's Pieces" blog and had previously interviewed for a hybrid-type position at Network.

"I'd say it's a combination between the job itself and changes in our industry," Reiss said when asked why he took the ESPN job. "Some of the key aspects of the job are things that I enjoy the most -- high-standards blogging, detailed game breakdowns and interacting with readers through mailbags and chats. I'm also a local who values being in the local market. I felt energized to be part of starting something new that is local-based, but backed with national resources. Stability for my family [he and his wife have a soon-to-be 6-month-old daughter) was also a consideration." Reiss starts with ESPNBoston on Sept. 13.

8. Peter Robert Casey, St. John's University basketball microblogger: In a savvy bit of promotion for a program competing in the largest media market in the country, St. John's announced it will credential Casey as a micro-blogger this season. He will cover the program via his Twitter account.

The hire has already drawn the interest of ESPN and The New York Times, which profiled Casey in its highly read Sunday sports section. (Given the amount of cash a Sunday ad in The New York Times costs, the move might have paid off already).

A guarantee: He will not be the only credentialed micro-blogger on a college basketball press row next year.

9. The McEnroes, ESPN, CBS and NBC tennis announcers: Last week the tennis-playing-turned-announcing brothers (John and Patrick) embarked on a media blitz that would make Perez Hilton blush. It featured multiple national conference calls, Patrick's appearance during the U.S. Open draw presentation on ESPN News and an all-day-McEnroepalooza in Bristol, including guest spots on Mike & Mike in the Morning, First Take, SportsNation, SportsCenter and The Colin Cowherd Show. (Space permits us from listing every entity the McEnroes were on, though we anticipate a future 2,400-word press release from ESPN on the subject.)

The network plans to partner up the McEnroes during the tournament, which means you can expect to hear plenty of genuflecting on John's playing career. ESPN is going all-out during its first merry-go-round covering the Open -- 100 hours on ESPN2 and more than 300 hours on The network will have more than 125 people working at the Open, including talent, support staff, feature producers and technical personnel.

10. Michael Irvin, The NFL Network: First, the good: Irvin gave a stirring speech at his 2007 Hall of Fame ceremony, his radio show (with Kevin Kiley) on ESPN 103.3 FM in Dallas has produced some interesting moments, and he'll probably charm America on Dancing with the Stars. The bad? His national broadcasting career. Viewers have suffered through his missteps at ESPN and Fox Sports Net -- train wrecks reminiscent of the final scene in Silver Streak, one wise guy critic wrote last year. Sure, it's possible Irvin will give viewers a better deal as an NFLN Sunday studio host, but we'd rather see an engaging newcomer get the shot, such as the recently retired La'Roi Glover.

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