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SI.com's Media Awards: Best, worst from 2013

Photo: Phil Sears/US Presswire

Jay Bilas combined insight into the game on the court as well as the business of college sports.

SI.com highlights a select group in the sports media who were newsworthy, both for positive and negative reasons, in 2013.

Person of the Year

THE PICK: Jay Bilas (ESPN)

Using a new-age tool of rebellion -- his Twitter feed -- Bilas exposed the NCAA canard that college jerseys in relation to sales do not represent a specific player. (In August the broadcaster typed in specific college athlete names into ShopNCAASports.com to see what apparel the NCAA would sell him -- and voilà.) Two days after Bilas' Twitter shaming, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced the NCAA would stop selling the individual jerseys of players on a website associated with the NCAA.

"I don't view that as the first time the NCAA was called out on this practice, nor was it the first time the falsehood was exposed or pointed out," Bilas said in an interview this month. "It was just the first time the NCAA admitted it. The amazing part of it was the speed with which the issue captured the attention of so many, and the pressure it brought on the NCAA (whether real or imagined). It is a great example of the immediate power of social media. In a way, it is also a microcosm of the way the NCAA has worked forever. The NCAA seems to be trying to have it both ways on this and so many other things. The NCAA office admitted the practice of selling player jerseys is wrong given the policies of the NCAA, yet its members continue to do it with impunity and without apology. The NCAA always says that the NCAA 'is the member schools,' so by its own definition, the NCAA is still in a business it admits is wrong and counter to its mission. I feel for the people having to justify these policies as part of their jobs. It must be exhausting."

Along with his advocate-analyst work, Bilas is one of the most thoughtful, prepared (he tabbed Louisville as a champion earlier than most) voices for any sport, a broadcaster who morphs successfully between the studio and game site. He proves smart can be impactful in television. "I was really proud of the work our team did on College GameDay covering the game and the play on the floor, but especially regarding the important issues facing the game, such as its governance, the rules of play and officiating, and the important issues that were uncovered at Rutgers and the administrative responses to it," Bilas said. "Personally, I was proud that I seemed to have a decent handle on the best team from early on, and I had identified Louisville as the best team. Even when the Cardinals were ranked 11th in the nation in February, I felt they were the best, and said so, and saw them as most likely to win the whole thing. Even though I don't care who wins, it's nice to occasionally be right!"

HONORABLE MENTION: Charles Barkley (Turner Sports), Joe Buck (Fox), Doris Burke (ESPN), Rece Davis (ESPN) and Chris Fowler (ESPN).

Broadcast Team of the Year

THE PICK: Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Doris Burke (ESPN)

Go back to the NBA's shot of the year -- Ray Allen's game-tying three-pointer in Game 6 of the NBA Finals -- and listen to everything Breen and Van Gundy gave you on the play. This is a group that combines humor, knowledge and professionalism in a sport that isn't easy to call given the speed of the game. It's remarkable to think that Breen called his eighth NBA Finals this year. You don't see him hawking products left and right -- he's a broadcaster with a mega-assignment but he approaches the job like a grinder. He and Van Gundy have sensational chemistry and Burke showed yet again the value of a sideline reporter who approaches the job with some journalistic chops. It takes an extraordinary group to knock off Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya in this spot, but this group deserved it 2013.

HONORABLE MENTION: Marv Albert and Steve Kerr (TNT), Bilas, Sean McDonough and Bill Raftery (ESPN), Michaels, Collinsworth and Tafoya (NBC) and Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts (CBS).

Best Studio Show

THE PICK: Inside the NBA (TNT)

This category is usually a toss-up between ESPN's College GameDay and Inside the NBA, and so it is again this year. But we give the nod to TNT with Shaquille O'Neal finding his way far better in his third year on the show. Charles Barkley remains, arguably, the only studio analyst (maybe Lee Corso, too) who viewers specifically tune-in to watch, and Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson have been as fun and professional as ever. No show can seamlessly transition from a subject with gravitas such as the impact of Nelson Mandela to the opposite (the defense of the New York Knicks).

HONORABLE MENTION: College GameDay (ESPN) and Fantasy Football Now (ESPN)

Newcomer of the Year

THE PICK: Rebecca Lowe (NBC)

NBC's coverage of the Premier League has been exceptional -- the network took over the rights this year from ESPN and Fox -- and Lowe has already vaulted to the top of sports television studio hosts thanks to her intellect and knowledge of the league. The former ESPN UK and BBC staffer is the rare ego-free television presenter who makes a studio show about her colleagues. The greatest compliment a viewer can give you is to say you know your subject matter cold -- and she does. Wisely, NBC added Lowe to its Olympic coverage next year.

HONORABLE MENTION: Kevin Burkhardt (Fox), Pedro Martinez (TBS), Randy Moss (Fox Sports 1), Jay Onrait (Fox Sports 1) and Dan O'Toole (Fox Sports 1).

Best National Radio Voice

THE PICK: SVP & Russillo (ESPN Radio)

So much of ESPN Radio is about the promotion of ESPN -- that's not a knock, per se; just reality -- and while this show certainly has its share of ESPN guests, I respect the independence that floats through the content. What makes Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo a compelling listen is that both are prepared, bright and willing to buck the conventional wisdom of their network without coming off as a professional sports contrarian (such as Skip Bayless, the most transparent shtick in all of sports media). Both hosts are also thankfully self-deprecating, which is welcome in this genre.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Dan Patrick Show (syndicated). The Opening Drive (SiriusXM NFL Radio)

Knuckleheads of the Year

THE PICK: Nick Cellini, Chris Dimino and Steak Shapiro (former co-hosts of 790 (Atlanta) The Zone's Mayhem in the AM)

Taking lowest common denominator sports talk to a new low, the trio mocked former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason and his battle with ALS, with Cellini adopting a robotic voice, pretending to be the former NFL player. (One of the classy punch lines was the Gleason impersonator saying, "Smother me, do me a favor.") The hosts were fired from the station, and later apologized.

HONORABLE MENTION: Skip Bayless (ESPN)

Play-By-Play Announcer of the Year

THE PICK: Rod Bramblett (Auburn IMG Sports Network)

Bramblett was given two once-in-a-lifetime plays this year and he delivered on both moments. Though his call of the final play of the Iron Bowl will be played for eternity, even better was his description of Ricardo Louis' miracle catch that gave Auburn a 43-38 win over Georgia on Nov. 16. Said Bramblett: "Louis is going to score! Louis is going to score! Louis is going to score! Touchdown, Auburn! Touchdown, Auburn! A miracle at Jordan-Hare! A miracle at Jordan-Hare!"

HONORABLE MENTION: Breen (ESPN), Joe Buck (Fox), Mike Emrick (NBC) and Michaels (NBC).

Photo: Ric Tapia/Icon SMI

Michele Tafoya proved a reliable resource of news during Sunday Night Football telecasts.

Best Sideline Reporter

THE PICK: Michele Tafoya (NBC)

Burke usually takes this spot annually and was worthy of it again, but Tafoya gets the nod in 2013 for consistently providing viewers with the goods. She offered a clinic on how a sideline reporter with broadcast instincts can aid a broadcast during the Ravens-Broncos weather delay on Sept. 5, when she delivered timely on-field updates as well as a strong postgame interview with Peyton Manning. She followed two weeks later with more quality work on a lightning delay in Seattle. Then, in Week 9, she offered extensive coverage of Texans coach Gary Kubiak's collapse as he walked off the field at halftime in a game against the Colts.

HONORABLE MENTION: Burke (ESPN), Tracy Wolfson (CBS).

Most Improved

THE PICK: Shannon Sharpe (CBS)

For years, Sharpe struck me as a more tolerable version of Michael Irvin, an NFL studio analyst with little to add other than volume and brashness. But I found him to be a compelling voice in 2013, especially on the subject of race and locker room dynamics in the wake of Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. He was also strong on Redskins head coach (and Sharpe's former coach) Mike Shanahan.

HONORABLE MENTION: Ryan Ruocco (ESPN), Bill Simmons (ESPN), Charissa Thompson (Fox Sports 1).

READER REACT: For this most improved category I asked people on Twitter for some candidates. Those who received multiple mentions included: Cris Carter (ESPN), Lindsay Czarniak (ESPN), Leigh Ellis (NBA TV's The Basketball Jones/The Starters), Rich Gannon (CBS and SiriusXM), Gabe Kapler (FS1), Joel Klatt (Fox Sports and FS1), John Lynch (Fox Sports), Paulie Malignaggi (Showtime boxing), Molly McGrath (Fox Sports 1), Katie Nolan (Fox Sports 1), Jeff O'Neill (TSN), Jalen Rose (ESPN), and Chris Webber (TNT), who took this category in 2011.

Best News Feature on a Sports Program

THE PICK: "Carry On" (ESPN):

This 21-minute video that ran in July -- the longest piece ever to run on SportsCenter -- is the best feature I've ever watched on ESPN.

It documented the remarkable friendship between former Cleveland high school wrestlers Dartanyon Crockett and Leroy Sutton. Crockett, who is legally blind, earned a Judo medal at the 2012 Paralympics in London and now lives and studies in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he trains with USA Judo. Sutton, who lost his legs at age 11 when he was hit by a train, graduated from Collins College this year with a B.A. in Game Production. The two high school friends were originally profiled by ESPN in 2009. ESPN coordinating producer Jose Morales reintroduced the main characters and the extraordinary events that have taken place since the original piece aired, including how Lisa Fenn, who produced the original piece for ESPN before leaving the company to raise a family, became an integral part in the lives of Crockett and Sutton. The unlikely trio has formed a remarkable family unit, and the love they have for each other flows off the screen.

I emailed Fenn this week to ask for an update. She said Sutton is currently enrolled in an adaptive driving program in Phoenix, where he is learning to drive with hand controls. He is slated to finish in early spring 2014, at which time he will relocate to the Bay Area to work in the gaming industry. He has his heart set on character and asset modeling at EA (Electronic Arts) and will formally interview with them at the conclusion of his driving program. Crockett lives at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and is training for Rio 2016. He is a part-time student at Pikes Peak Community College, pursuing a degree in social work. In October, Crockett was named the 2013 Most Inspirational Athlete by the Challenged Athletes Foundation. This fall, he was named an Athlete Envoy by the U.S. State Department. His first goodwill trip is to Turkmenistan next spring.

ESPN plans to re-air Carry On on Dec. 24 within a new show called SC Featured. Last week Fenn traveled to Bristol to tape an interview and next summer, ESPN plans to bring all three to Bristol to tape an expanded interview segment for a second SC Features show. Fenn said that the three are currently working with Mayhem Productions to develop a feature film about their journey together. (Mayhem produced Secretariat, The Rookie, Miracle and Invincible.). They are currently hearing pitches from interested screenwriters and plan to choose a writer by January.

Said Fenn: "I have been approached by dozens to write the book and I am still trying to decide if I am truly the best voice for it or if I will choose an outside writer. As exciting as that all sounds, our dearest blessings continue to come from the individual responses we receive from around the world. Rarely does a day pass where we do not hear from a viewer or reader who comes in contact with Carry On for the first time. So many have been spurred to step out of their comfort zones and be a light in the darkness. We are in humble amazement of the ripple effect it is having and are working hard to continue using our powers for good."

The video and Fenn's piece for ESPN.com is here.

HONORABLE MENTION: ESPN's feature on Steve Gleason's relationship with Pearl Jam (produced by Mike O"Connor) and HBO's Real Sports' investigation on the controversy around Chivas USA (produced by Chapman Downes).

Media Feuds of the Year

THE PICK: Doc Rivers (Clippers coach) vs. Bill Simmons (ESPN)

The two NBA majordomos sparred during ESPN's broadcast of the draft in June, when Rivers slammed Simmons in a dispute over the former Celtics coach's departure from Boston. After the ESPN commentator accused Rivers of quitting on the Celtics, the Clippers' coach fired back at his longtime critic in an interview with Shelley Smith. Here are 13 (including Simmons-Rivers) of the more memorable media feuds (excluding SI employees) of 2013.

Best Documentary

THE PICK: Against The Tide (Showtime)

Tide was a thoughtful examination (produced by Ross Greenburg) of the cultural and societal impact of the 1970 college football game between Alabama and the University of Southern California. Particularly strong were interviews from those who played in the game, including USC's Sam Cunningham and Alabama's John Mitchell, the school's African-American scholarship varsity player, as well as activists in the civil rights battle during that time.

HONORABLE MENTION: Elway to Marino (ESPN, 30 for 30) and This Is What They Want (ESPN, 30 for 30). Note: Ken Rodgers directed Elway to Marino; Brian Koppelman and David Levien directed This Is What They Want.

Sports Media Tweet of the Year

THE PICK: Celebrity Hot Tub

After ESPN college football analyst David Pollack trotted out the tired jockocracy conceit that somehow one must have playing experience to analyze a sport, Every Day Should Be Saturday staffer, Celebrity Hot Tub (as he goes by on the site), delivered the tweet of the year:

Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Katherine Webb's appearance at Alabama's national title game became a focus of ESPN's coverage.

Duds

• ESPN abandoned its collaboration with Frontline on the League of Denial documentary. The New York Times reported that the divorce had come at the request of the NFL. The network then exacerbated that decision by pretending there was no gambling in Casablanca, comically proclaiming the 18-month partnership had ended because ESPN was not producing nor exercising editorial control over the Frontline documentaries. (ESPN also issued another statement, denying the NFL had exerted influence.) Frontline's producer, Raney Aronson-Rath, told SI.com there was no hint of discord between ESPN and Frontline and the two companies had worked together on multiple projects. To its credit, ESPN continues to publish stories about the concussion issue.

• CBS kept viewers in the dark for too long during a crazy Super Bowl broadcast that included a 34-minute power outage. For example, CBS never told viewers whom Ravens coach John Harbaugh's wrath (a delight for lip readers) was directed during the outage. (MMQB's Andrew Brandt on Twitter identified the man as Mike Kensil, the league vice president of football operations.)

There was also no NFL official on the set to explain what had happened, which would have been invaluable information. Studio host James Brown reported on air that a league spokesman (he gave no name) had said the power was returning and the league "was pleased with how the power was being ramped up." In scramble mode, Brown eventually corrected how long the delay would be (his initial time of the delay was off). (For an alternative take, here's how CBS executives saw it.). One positive: Sideline reporters Steve Tasker and Solomon Wilcots kept their reporting wits about them under improbable circumstances and kept CBS from an all-time meltdown.

• During college football's national championship game, announcers Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit straddled the line between amusing and unsettling regarding Katherine Webb, the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and the former Miss Alabama USA. Their conversation went as follows:

Musburger: "Now when you are a quarterback at Alabama, you see that lovely lady there, she does go to Auburn, I want to admit that, but she's also Miss Alabama and that's AJ McCarron's girlfriend, OK. Wow, I'm telling you, quarterbacks, you get all the good-looking women. What a beautiful woman."

Herbstreit: "Wow. AJ is doing some things right in Tuscaloosa."

Musburger: "So if you're a youngster in Alabama, start getting a football out and throwing around the backyard with pops!"

That prompted! Yahoo! Sports MLB columnist Jeff Passan to tweet: "Sources: AJ McCarron's girlfriend to seek restraining order from Brent Musburger at halftime."

• Fox Sports dutifully played the role of Captain Louis Renault during its pre-race coverage of the Daytona 500. Working as auxiliary PR for NASCAR, the network gave short shrift to the 12-car accident during the Nationwide Series race the day before that injured fans in the Daytona International Speedway grandstands. Race announcer Mike Joy offered a 20-second highlight of the crash early in the pre-race show and included a one-sentence mention of those injured ("We are ready to race, but 14 people were taken to local hospitals, two of them critically injured," Joy said.) Host Chris Myers did ask driver Michael Waltrip and analyst Darrell Waltrip about the accident 10 minutes into the broadcast, but there was no report from the hospital, no interviews with the families of those hurt in the accident, no interviews with fans about the safety of attending the Daytona 500 and no sit-down interview with NASCAR president Mike Helton. Still, there was time to interview actor James Franco, who was hawking a movie.

• ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd, as he too often does annually, dropped socioeconomic nonsense on his audience with zero reporting when he implied that the Indiana Pacers' attendance woes last season were rooted in race, an argument debunked by Indianapolis Star sports columnist Bob Kravitz.

• During the Super Bowl, CBS offered nothing on the anti-gay comments from 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver, who gave the network enough of an opening given how often he was burned by Ravens receivers.

• The contract of longtime ESPN Radio host Chuck Wilson, a voice of intelligence amid a sea of chest-beating opinion-offers, was not renewed by ESPN. Wilson said Scott Masteller, ESPN Radio senior director, told him they were moving in another direction.

• CBS basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb's ham-handed diversity joke on the first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament was brutal and he owes Charles Barkley a gift for coming to his defense on camera to help quell the story. Gottlieb also wisely apologized for it. Equally ridiculous was ESPN college football analyst Mark May calling for Gottlieb to be canned -- a significant overreaction.

• The cost of the ESPYs.

Hugh Douglas was fired by ESPN for a disturbing confrontation between he and ESPN Numbers Never Lie host Michael Smith at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention and Career Fair in Orlando.

•Donovan McNabb, spectacularly miscast as the authoritative voice of Fox Sports 1's athlete panel, proclaimed NASCAR drivers were not athletes.

• ESPN manufactured a running storyline out of Ron Jaworski's opinion that Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick could be one of the best quarterbacks of all-time, a process Deadspin diagrammed with perfect precision.

• During his exclusive sit-down interview with Dolphins lineman Richie Incognito, Fox's Jay Glazer failed to push Incognito on the allegations that he harassed a woman on a golf course in 2012 during a team charity golf tournament and how often Incognito had been called into the NFL offices over the last couple of years. (Glazer also appears in the studs category below for this interview).

•ESPN mentioned Tim Tebow 137 times in 120 minutes on June 10.

• In a demoralizing move for the staffers of Outside The Lines, ESPN management moved the show from ESPN at 9 a.m. to 8 a.m. on ESPN2 in September. OTL drew an average of 846,000 viewers for its last Sunday appearance on ESPN and subsequently saw its audience drop by more than 70 percent from the burying at sea.

Studs

• CBC producer Tim Thompson created pregame and postgame Hockey Night In Canada montages that drew raves from Manhattan to Manitoba. Thompson produced the CBC montages for the past five seasons and owns his own production company, Boundless Productions.

• ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown ran a remarkable piece on Oct. 6 on the relationship between former Saints safety Steve Gleason (who has been diagnosed with ALS and uses eye-tracking software on his computer to communicate) and the iconic band, Pearl Jam. Gleason interviewed members of the band, and at one point during the interview, Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder teared up while talking about his relationship with his father.

• The great Jack Ramsay stepped down from ESPN Radio at age 88 for health reasons. The former NBA coach partnered with Jim Durham on ESPN Radio to create one of the NBA's legendary soundtracks. He'll be missed.

• If you love world soccer (and especially the Premier League), you loved this NBC Sports piece from last May's Championship playoff final between Crystal Palace and Watford. The cameras followed around fans prior, during and after the game, won by Crystal Palace, who jumped up to the Premier League with the win.

• With Lance Armstrong asking for mercy in the court of Oprah Winfrey, the interviewer came off far better than her subject. Winfrey asked the disgraced cyclist a series of yes-or-no questions, including whether he had used the blood booster EPO, whether he had used cortisone and HGH, and whether he doped for each of his seven Tour de France victories. He answered "yes," to each of her first five questions and then said he did not believe it would have been possible to win the Tour seven times had he not doped. On the surface, it was a curious choice by Winfrey to opt for such closed-ended questions at the start, but it worked. Winfrey controlled most of the 90-minute interview, even if the former cyclist was often light on the details to queries.

• Deadspin unearthed (for the most part) the story behind Manti Te'o's fictional girlfriend, a narrative that most media outlets bought, including Sports Illustrated.

• After spending more airtime the previous week promoting Mike and Molly actor Billy Gardell than a substantive discussion on NFL locker room culture, The NFL Today went after the Incognito-Martin story on Nov. 10 with gusto. Best was a terrific panel conversation where Shannon Sharpe and Bill Cowher were as good as they've ever been on the show. Particularly worth noting were Sharpe's comments on race, the "n-word" and locker room dynamics.

•Richard Sherman, American hero:

• The NBA Finals averaged 17,667,000 viewers over its seven games on ABC, the most-watched series since 2004 and a five percent increase from the Heat's five-game series win over the Thunder in 2012.

•This Field of Dreams-inspired opener used by MLB Network prior to its League Division Series telecasts in October was superbly done.

Photo: Matthew Emmons/US Presswire

Jay Glazer got an exclusive interview with Richie Incognito in the wake of the Miami bullying scandal.

• SiriusXM NASCAR Radio host Claire B. Lang was sensational with her coverage of the Daytona Nationwide accident on Feb. 23. Measured with her reporting, asking smart questions of drivers and thoughtful with callers, Lang stayed on the air hours beyond her normal shift, barely taking a break. Praise, too, for the SPEED channel (especially host Adam Alexander and trackside reporter Bob Dillner) for fine work with witness interviews, updating injuries with reports from the Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, and live shots of the raceway after the accident.

• The Kentucky Derby drew 16.2 million viewers for the program's race portion, making it the second most-watched Kentucky Derby since 1989 and up nine percent from last year's Derby (14.8 million).

•PBS's Frontline produced sensational journalism with "League of Denial," a telling documentary on brain injuries in the NFL. Most impressive was the courage of Dr. Bennet Omalu.

• Michael Jordan isn't known for introspection -- or for giving reporters access -- but ESPN's Wright Thompson beautifully illuminated a middle-aged Jordan in this terrific profile.

• Rare is the first-time SportsCenter anchor who can produce a 25.5 percent ratings increase from the previous week, but that's what happened on Nov. 1 when the 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter -- co-hosted by actor Ken Jeong -- drew 813,000 viewers, up from 648,000 viewers for the previous Friday show.

• Boomer Esiason and Shannon Sharpe walked the streets of New Orleans during the Super Bowl pregame show, handing out Pizza Hut pizzas to people willing to yell "hut, hut, hut." It was such a ridiculously over-the-top money grab that it deserves a stud for chutzpah.

•ESPN's Outside The Lines reporting on former Rutgers coach Mike Rice -- especially the work of Don Van Natta Jr. and Jeremy Schaap's interview with former Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti -- was sensational.

• Bleacher Report amped up its reporting gravitas by hiring a bevy of respected sports journalists, including Howard Beck, Ric Bucher, Kevin Ding, Mike Freeman, Jason King, Dave Lozo, Dan Pompei, Ethan Skolnick and Jared Zwerling, among others.

•Outside The Lines won a duPont Award for its work on youth football and gambling. Brilliant work by reporters Tom Farrey and Paula Lavigne and producers Greg Amante and Simon Baumgart.

• The Stanley Cup Final was the most-watched on record (the data goes to 1994), averaging 5.764 million viewers across NBC and NBC Sports Network (NBCSN). NBC said the series was up 91 percent (3.012 million) over last year.

• Fox's Glazer landed an exclusive with Incognito, the most notable moment among the Sunday NFL pregame shows this year. Though he missed on some inquires, as noted above, Glazer did get Incognito to answer many questions about his alleged bullying.

They Said It

• "Look, I don't think it's fair. I see SportsCenter every day and we cover hockey every day. We do not have a significant differential between highlights of hockey now and when we had it. The only difference is we are not there [as a rights holder]. If we were there for the playoffs, we'd be throwing to the guys calling the game. We can't do that, but we are at hockey games. We are doing hockey highlights."
-- ESPN president John Skipper, on the perception that his network has given hockey the short end of the stick.

• "I call him Evil Little Bill on my blog, so in some ways he might be worse than a Lannister. Maybe he's a Greyjoy."
-- Game Of Thrones founder George R.R. Martin, on Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

• "We met in a bar, and I hasten to add it was an upscale bar in Dallas. It was a place called Arthur's. I walked in after I did the 10 o'clock news (at WFAA-TV in Dallas) and I didn't want to go home. Nancy and her date were at the bar and her date recognized me from local television and invited me over to have a drink. He introduced me to his date and her name was Nancy Miller. It was their first date, a blind date. So we sat and chatted and her date, Raymond Willie, said to me, "Listen, I know you are single. I'm going to fix you up with a friend of mine and we can all go to dinner." He looked at Nancy and asked her, "What are you doing Thursday night?" She said, "Nothing." He said, "Good, you'll be my date and we'll fix Verne up with this schoolteacher friend of mine and we'll go to dinner." Meanwhile, I'm looking at Nancy thinking she is the prettiest thing I have ever seen in my life. So, Raymond finally left to take care of his business and I asked Nancy, "So, how involved are you with Raymond? She said, "Oh, this is our first date and it's a blind date." So I said, "Well, forget what he is talking about on Thursday night. What are you doing on Saturday night?" She said, "I think I am doing whatever you are doing."
-- CBS Sports announcer Verne Lundquist, on how he met his wife, Nancy, in 1980.

• "I am extremely disappointed to say farewell. I have been proud of my association and my work during my tenure. I was a loyal employee, displayed respect for others, worked with numerous charities, represented the company well. I always did everything asked of me and more. What did I get in return today ... word that I should get lost. The only thing that mattered was my salary, which in my view was the lone reason I lost my job."
-- Howie Schwab, posting on Facebook, upon losing his job at ESPN after 26 years.

• "I felt like a complete jerk that he listened to the match at the Robben Island prison when I was whining about [line] calls. It certainly gave me some perspective about the situation I was in. I shouldn't have had a whole lot to complain about. At the same time I feel immensely proud that in some way I was able to connect with people beyond your wildest dreams ... I felt ludicrous [with] him saying he was honored meeting me. It was amazing he didn't seem to have an ounce of bitterness or resentment toward anyone when I was lucky enough to meet him. It was certainly a moment I will never forget. I gave him my racquet that I played with at [Wimbledon]. I saw him pick it up and hold it. I felt lucky that I was able to be part of that."
-- ESPN and NBC tennis analyst John McEnroe, on what it meant that Nelson Mandela listened to his famous 1980 Wimbledon finals match with Bjorn Borg from his cell on Robben Island.

• "Those unnamed "sources" are liars. Someone planted a fake story to try to make me look bad, and there's a 99.3 percent chance it came from someone in Bristol (which presents its own set of concerns). I was upset; I can't lie. Maybe this happens to people more often than I realize, and maybe it comes with the territory, but man ... I can't properly explain how fantastic it was to watch basketball with Magic for nine months. I brought my dad to our show for the whole day once and he absolutely loved it. He just couldn't believe they paid me to watch hoops with Magic. One of Magic's best qualities is that he always makes an outsider like that feel special and [feel as if] they connected with him -- I probably watched him do it with 50 people last year. To see Magic do that for my father was something else."
-- ESPN's Bill Simmons, on accusations that he forced Magic Johnson off NBA Countdown.

• "We're going to spend a lot of time in marketing on fun. It's not Saturday night laughs at the Chuckle Hut. But being tough is fun. Buzzer-beaters are fun. Tailgating is fun. Slam dunks are fun. We feel there's a place in the sports landscape for a positive, fun, enthusiastic fan perspective on sports."
-- Eric Shanks, president of Fox Sports, to the New York Times, dropping six "fun references" in one paragraph on Fox Sports 1.

In Memoriam

Dennis (DeDe) Bell (Chicago sports media fan, retired Fire Dept captain); Dennis Brodeur (sports photographer); Todd Christensen (NBC Sports broadcaster); Jim Corno (CSN Chicago executive); Richard Ben Cramer (Pulitzer-Prize-winning author and Joe DiMaggio chronicler); Lynn DeBruin (AP sports writer); Bill Eppridge (Time magazine and SI photographer); Larry Felser (Buffalo News sports columnist); Victor Hernandez (Seattle Sounders broadcaster); Stan Isaacs (Newsday sports columnist); Dave Jennings (New York Giants and Jets broadcaster); Frank Keating (Guardian UK sportswriter); Cory Leibl (NBC Sports cameraman); Loren Matthews (former ESPN/ABC executive); Bill Mazer (Buffalo and New York City sportscaster); Dave McDaniel (Samford University broadcaster); Dave O'Hara (Boston sportswriter); Pat Summerall (CBS and Fox Sports); Ken Venturi (CBS Sports broadcaster); and Jim Zabel (Iowa sports broadcaster).

Five Broadcasters Viewers Need Less of in 2014

Skip Bayless (ESPN and Hall of Famer in this category), Michael Irvin (NFL Network and Hall of Famer in this category), Craig James (unattached, Hall of Famer in this category), Mike Lupica (ESPN) and Mark May (ESPN).

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