As we hit the one quarter mark of the NFL regular season, I thought it would be a good time to empanel five respected NFL media members for a roundtable discussion on a number of NFL-related topics.
Mike Freeman, NFL national lead writer, Bleacher Report
Jason La Canfora, NFL insider for CBS Sports and CBS Sports.com
Kimberley A. Martin, Jets beat reporter, Newsday
John McClain, Texans reporter and columnist, Houston Chronicle.
Adam Schefter, NFL insider for ESPN and ESPN.com
The panel was asked to go as long or as short as they wanted with their answers. They were free to skip any questions. Some of the answers have been edited for clarity. Part 2 will run tomorrow.
If I limited you to asking Roger Goodell one question, what would the question be and why?
Freeman: What did the NFL know about head trauma and when did it know it? Based on some of the reporting I've done for a book coming out this month about the NFL’s future (sorry for the shameless plug) my belief—and it’s just that—is the NFL had some idea of what the sport was doing to its players’ minds even before Dr. Cantu's discovery of CTE. I’ll give you this example. Roger Staubach went to an independent neurologist right before retiring. The doctor’s name was Fred Plum. He coined the phrase “persistent vegetative state.” The doctor found different responses in reflex testing for Staubach, who had about eight concussions in the NFL alone. Staubach retired. That was 1979. There is a good section on this in the book The Last Headbangers.
That was 36 years ago. Independent doc. Simple test. Staubach retires. I think Goodell, because he’s been with the league so long, has a pretty good idea of when the league knew just how bad concussions and sub-concussive hits were to the human body. There’s probably a paper trail hidden in a vault under Cheyenne Mountain, guarded by Army Rangers and Nate Newton.
All of this reminds me of Exxon. It was just reported that Exxon knew of climate change in 1981 but spent millions over the nearly next three decades to deny it.
La Canfora: Hmm, I guess I'd have to cram several questions into one and try to get a little tricky. One that leaps to mind is: What is the single biggest obstacle to carving out a new discipline/appeals process for off-field matters (Deflategate/personal conduct violations/etc.) and what can be done in the coming months to oversee it and facilitate real progress toward changing the process in a way that avoids the run of courtroom football we've come to expect in recent years? Does that count as one question? I’m kind of cheating on this one.
Martin: How did you propose to your wife?
When I picture Roger Goodell, I only see one version of his face—the same stoic expression we’ve seen countless times; lips in a straight line, seemingly devoid of emotion. So if I could ask him one question, I’d like it to elicit some type of feeling from the guy. Maybe Goodell’s a hopeless romantic. Or, perhaps, he’s the world’s most awkward human being behind closed doors. Despite his gazillions of dollars, I have to remind myself that he’s no different than the rest of us: complicated and flawed. And that’s what fascinates me most about people. Sometimes an individual can be a complete jerk, yet at other times, he or she can extend kindness I never thought possible. I, for one, would like to believe Goodell isn’t a cyborg. So, maybe, this particular question would show a different side of him than we’re used to seeing?
I thought of a bunch of other questions, of course: What have you learned from all the scandals you’ve been involved in? When was the last time you cried and why? Which scandal—CTE studies and suicides of former players, the Ray Rice fiasco, Spygate/Bountygate/Deflategate/etc.—are you most ashamed of? …But, to be honest, I would never ask those questions because I can almost guarantee Goodell wouldn’t give a sincere response.
McClain: Roger, why does the NFL have a higher percentage of players arrested compared to other professional sports, and have you spoken with the commissioners of MLB, NBA and NHL to see what the NFL can do that it’s not already doing to make the players aware of their actions and consequences?
Schefter: One question is not so easy. We could go with the simple, “Now that we’ve heard from Judge Berman, what role do you think Tom Brady played in Deflategate?” question. Or we could go a different, more complex route like this: “Over the course of the past couple of years, the league has taken a number of missteps that it has tried to correct. Which one decision, Roger—and please speak specifically to one, not generally to all—has caused you the most consternation, do you wish you could have back and why?” Questioning the commissioner is a little like eating potato chips. Can’t have just one. One other one that came to me: Given that there is no precedent for two or more current franchises to be vying at same time for one new market, are you concerned there will be a lasting, bitter split among ownership factions regardless whether Chargers, Rams or Raiders move to Los Angeles?”
During the course of your career, what positional group has been the most media-friendly and why?
Freeman: The offensive linemen. They will patiently explain even to the biggest dumbass in the media the complexities of the game. They're like teachers.
But I got to say the most media savvy locker room I've ever been around in 25-plus years of doing this is that Seahawks one. I talk to players in there at least once a week and they understand the media—how to use us, how to get stories out, how to deny them, how to advance their own causes. It’s amazing. They understand the game and I don’t mean on the field. They get that players have a short shelf life and part of what they need to do, while they're playing, is prepare for life after football.
You will see two or three players from the team, maybe even a few more, be in significant media roles when they retire. Except Marshawn Lynch. He'll be the next Hollywood action star, like Vin Diesel.
La Canfora: Wow, good question. I really found like I learned a lot about football from offensive linemen. There is such a science to their game that is often ignored or misunderstood. They are generally far more cerebral than given credit for (centers in particular) a lot of them were in school all four years so they learned the game even more and in crowded locker rooms and in a sport where you might only get one chance a week outside of game day to talk to a QB or star RB (and even then almost always in a group setting) loved to chat with the guys in the trenches (DL too) and learn the tricks of the trade, the way they set up or countered a pass rush move, how they read the slightest twitch of an opponent as a tell to the oncoming play.
Martin: I’m not sure I would use the word “media-friendly” to describe any one position group on the Jets ... but I will say, that I enjoy talking to offensive linemen (Willie Colon, Nick Mangold, Breno Giacomini) and defensive linemen (Sheldon Richardson, Leger Douzable, Damon Harrison) the most. Maybe this is just Jets-specific, but I find that all of those guys are extremely intelligent and they have great personalities—which can be a rare find in some NFL locker rooms. To me, linemen are always go-to guys.
McClain: Offensive linemen. If you go into any NFL dressing room, you’ll find reporters around the offensive line more than any position. Quarterbacks used to be, but they’ve gotten so big, they talk once a week and don’t hang out in the dressing room so you can B.S. with them. The linemen are usually intelligent. Because communication is so important to their success or failure, they know how to communicate generally, and that includes with the media. Unless you covered the Broncos when Alex Gibbs coached the linemen and fined them for talking to the media. I just find the linemen more cooperative, understanding of my job, and more willing to try to give you at least something you’re looking for in an interview.
Schefter: Quarterbacks are the most programmed and professional. Defensive backs can be the most entertaining. And offensive linemen are the most knowledgeable and real. Back when I covered the Broncos, the offensive line went years without talking to the reporters publicly. But they always would talk to reporters privately. There was a big difference. Loved talking to those guys. They were so engaging and entertaining and enlightening. There’s a reason that former Broncos guard Mark Schlereth has been great on TV, former Broncos center Tom Nalen was on radio, former Broncos guard David Diaz-Infante is now a football color analyst, and that doesn’t include some other great guys like Gary Zimmerman, Tony Jones and Brian Habib. Loved the linemen. They made me feel Lilliputian. But I usually emerged smarter from having dealt with them.
What has been the most interesting story you have worked on since the start of the regular season?
Freeman: It’s still the Shakespearean Deflategate drama. I swear one day the Coen brothers are going to make a movie out of it. The football Fargo. That story really caused me to do a lot of introspection as a journalist. I was convinced, early on, that [Tom] Brady was guilty. It was the team's history of cheating and the 11 of 12 deflated football ESPN report that convinced me. It didn't change my opinion that [Bill] Belichick is the best coach of all time and Brady the best QB of all time, but I was convinced. But after that ESPN report was proven false, everything changed for me. If the league really had the goods on New England, there would be no need to Swiftboat the Patriots.
Second, what happened to ESPN on that report could have happened to any NFL writer. Could have easily happened to me. It caused me to reevaluate who to trust, and who not to, inside the NFL. Because that was a purposeful lie by the league. Someone decided to lie to ESPN, throw a reporter under a gargantuan bus, to advance the league’s agenda. That’s just really, really low.
La Canfora: I’m fascinated by all of the backroom machinations going in trying to get this L.A. situation resolved. We literally are only like 10-12 weeks from the NFL having to tell its owners which project it is championing, how the economics will work. There will be very real winners and at least one loser and what that means to the finances of the league, future salary caps and revenue streams, TV ratings—all of that fascinated me. I’m sure some don’t care how the sausage is made and after years of false hope in L.A. I know many won’t believe this is happening until after the votes are in. I get all of that. But the stakes are so high here and there is so much politics involved—on a certain level it really is a popularity contest at least to some degree—and this will literally change the entire league. Conferences and divisions could change. Franchises should leap from the lowest revenue platforms to the highest—which you would think could sway competitive balance.
It’s a massive story and not one where we are going go into details each week on our pregame shows to try to give an incremental update. So much of this is inside baseball, but I actually think it’s flying largely under the radar and I am generally fascinated whenever I get off the phone with one party or another directly involved in the process.
Martin: About two weeks ago, I walked into the Jets locker room and saw Geno Smith sitting there on his stool, looking at his cell phone. I just remember being struck by the entire scene—no crowd around him, no cameras in his vicinity. And all I could think of was: Look how things have changed. Geno walked into camp as “the guy.” But because of an incident unrelated to his playing ability, he's now a bystander in the Jets offense. I just find the arc of his off-season so fascinating. I even stopped to ask a PR staffer if it was O.K. to interview Geno because I was so used to him being the starting QB who spoke on certain days. For the first time, during my interview, Geno opened up about his emotions surrounding “the punch.” He admitted that he was “extremely pissed off” about the situation and losing his job because of a “freak accident.” Now, I’ve seen some crazy things during my four years on the Jets beat (Tim Tebow, planes flying over practice, etc). But when was the last time you heard of a starting quarterback being coldcocked in his own locker? And yet, the Jets have managed to go about their business as if nothing happened. It really is fascinating.
McClain: The weekly improvement of outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney as he returns from microfracture surgery on his knee the first week of December. When he underwent the surgery, nobody thought he would be ready for the start of the season, and when he did return, everyone thought it would take him a lot of time to do what he used to do on the field, but team doctor Walter Lowe used a new technique developed by surgeons who operate on soldiers needing partial amputations of their leg to speed the initial stage of the rehabilitation process.
Schefter: Not so much a story as the shifting of our Sunday roles. ESPN added a 60-minute Insiders show from 10 to 11 a.m. Sunday, which has dramatically altered the way our week, and especially our Sundays, go. As I was driving home from Bristol early in the evening on the Friday of the opening weekend, our producer, Matt Garrett, called to go over the content of the show. The more we talked, the more I realized I hadn’t spent my week preparing the way I would from that week on. Didn’t realize how specific to Sunday the new Insiders show was designed to be. It used to be there was so much emphasis put into digging up two noteworthy headlines for Sunday Countdown; now that time is spent coming up with trendy, newsy items that pertain strictly to Sunday’s matchups for our Insiders show. It ties into a subject I’m sure you’ll bring up. And, on cue...
How does fantasy football impact what you do professionally and why?
Freeman: The only issue with fantasy is the same issue I have with fans having access to the all-22 game film. Fantasy makes fans think they know more about the game than they really do. I don’t mean to sound like an arrogant ass but you have people who build a fantasy team thinking they’re Bill Freaking Polian.
The other issue with fantasy is that it causes more detachment from the reality of the sport. It is such a violent, nasty sport, and people forget that, and fantasy is one of the reasons why. I think sometimes it causes us to forget these are real human beings with broken bones and injured brains, not just commodities to plug into a starting lineup.
La Canfora: Greatly. Probably more than I even realize. I think it’s steered pre-game coverage even more to specific players and games. Inactives went from something on the margins of football 10 years ago to worthy of breaking news headlines now. People obsess over projecting playing time and rotations and who sees the ball in a red zone offense and who the best back-ups are. It's gone from a cottage industry to something that at times seems to drive the news-cycle. Football injuries have become big business to the point where many fans hope to find out how long a guy is going to be out before he is even lifted off the field. Former team doctors and medical experts are able to give a real-time perspective on social media. Projections about how long a player could be out—no matter how subjective—seem to generate substantial ripples. Fantasy has a lot to do with that and the rise (conquer?) of daily fantasy is only driving it more.
Martin: Aside from being bombarded with the “Hey, Kmart, should I pick up so-and-so and bench so-and-so today?” questions on Twitter, fantasy football doesn't impact my life. Basically, because I don’t let it. Almost every second of my life is spent worrying/writing about and stressing over the Jets. I can’t afford to get sucked into something else! Plus, it just seems weird to me that I could end up having guys I cover on my Fantasy team. So, my apologies to my Twitter followers, but … I couldn’t care less about your Fantasy rosters. So don’t ask me if Brandon Marshall is a must-start this week. Or any week.
McClain: As an NFL writer for the Chronicle who also does sports talk shows, a weekly chat for our website and tweets, I’m prepared for the fantasy questions, and I’m happy to accommodate to the best of my ability. I always point out that I’ve never played fantasy football, but I’ll give my opinion about players or teams. Because fantasy football is so popular and important to the massive interest in the game, I think it would be foolish to blow off questions from readers and listeners.
Schefter: Tremendously. True story from a couple of years ago. Was sitting at the dinner table, 6 p.m. on a Tuesday night. Got a text that the Colts were trading a first-round pick for Trent Richardson, which at the time seemed like it could have been a joke. After confirming that the trade did in fact happen, I filed the story to our news desk first, posted on Twitter second, popped on SportsCenter third, and went to pick up Willis McGahee as my new fantasy running back fourth. Unfortunately Matthew Berry already had seen the news and scooped up McGahee moments before, that jerk. But we now live and work in a fantasy world, whether we like it or not. It’s what the public wants. Preseason football is played so coaches can decide who makes their final roster – and who fans want to draft for their fantasy rosters. Why do you think ratings for games that some might not care about are so high, even after they’re decided? People are tracking the players on their teams or the players they’re going against. When we were growing up, people rooted hard for one team. Now people spend as much time and energy rooting for their fantasy team. If you play it, you understand it; if you don’t, you won’t. But the people who play it want injury updates, matchup information, statistical trends, all topics that have become more and more a part of what we report on today. Just how it is.
What is the worst thing you have experienced on social media related to your job?
Freeman: Last month someone started a Twitter account called Kill Freeman. Said I should be killed for my opinions. Totally serious threat. One of the tweets went something like: “Go back to Africa and get raped by a bunch of n------ and die of AIDS.”
So that was sweet. I reported to local police and FBI. The thing you worry about with these is someone just showing up at your house.
Otherwise I get the garden variety you suck, your mom sucks, your dog sucks. Your cat, too.
La Canfora: Oh man, it can get ugly out there. I have gotten a lot more judicious about reading my own timeline and frankly have found many, many things out there are best ignored. I'm totally cool with being oblivious to a lot of what's being said about me on that forum. We all know it can be an outpost for sickening comments and racism and sexism, but it's also a tremendous vehicle to interact with others as well from various walks of life and from around the globe.
Martin: Sometime last season, a Twitter follower copied the avatar of one of my Jets beat colleagues and created a similar username as well. The person then called me a “n-----” (along with an expletive I can't remember now) and told me he/she/it was going to “murder” me. I didn’t take it as a serious threat, but that was one of the two or three times I’ve ever thought, “You know what? Let me just block this fool real quick.” At the insistence of another colleague, I filed a complaint to Twitter—because, you know, what if this person is a complete psychopath?!? But I later received an email from the Twitter team saying: “It seems that this user has already removed the content that you reported, and therefore we're unable to confirm whether they were in compliance with our Twitter Rules or not.” Thankfully, I haven’t been called a “n-----” on social media since then. Instead, I just get the typical, “You’re a woman. How dare you think you’re actually qualified to talk, or even worse, write about sports???” Those jerks are way easier to shrug off.
McClain: Reports by members of the media, some trying to be members of the media and some who aren’t members of the media putting out incorrect information on the team I cover.
Schefter: Aside from all the F(&%! inappropriate language and F#&*%&@ anti-Semitic tweets and derogatory, negative, insulting F&%$*&@ tweets? Aside from all that? Couldn’t really say.
What current NFL player immediately comes to mind regarding someone who would be very successful as a sports media member and why?
Freeman: I'll give you a name you may not know: Geoff Schwartz. He plays on the offensive line for the Giants now. Incredibly bright guy. He reminds me of Michael Strahan. Scott Fujita is a retired player but is one of the brightest human beings I've ever known. Why he doesn't have a role somewhere has always puzzled me. Also, I'm biased, because she's my friend, but I'd say it anyway, but Amy Trask should have a bigger role than she does with CBS. Kick some of that testosterone off the main CBS set and put Amy in there.
La Canfora: It's J.J. Watt's world, right, and we're all just living in it? From the smile to his personality to his love of the game, the camera loves him. He's bright. He has crossover appeal. Doesn’t take himself too seriously but also has an interesting mythology building already (the log cabin, 4 a.m. workouts, etc). He gets it and he obviously understands football and the media.
Martin: Of course, I immediately thought of Brandon Marshall because he’s got one foot firmly planted in the TV world already. But I’ve been really impressed with two lesser-known Jets: defensive lineman Leger Douzable and right guard Willie Colon. Both took part in the NFL Broadcasting Bootcamp this off-season and they were exhausted by the end of it LOL. I was pleased to hear them say that they now have a better appreciation for the work reporters put in every day. I think, at the very least, players need to have that basic level of understanding to be successful in sports media. And I’ve already seen Douzable and Colon make tremendous strides in their on-air work.
McClain: Peyton Manning. I think he would be an outstanding studio analyst. He would outwork everyone because of his incredible work ethic. He’s been watching film since he was a child crawling up into his daddy’s lap while Archie watched film of Saints games. Peyton has a good sense of humor. He’s comfortable in front of a camera. I think he’s like Troy Aikman, a superstar quarterback who was guarded in his comments as a player but will be insightful, informative, entertaining and, most important, critical without taking cheap shots.
Schefter: From my fellow panelists, guessing many will say Peyton Manning, and he would be tremendous. And there are a lot of other quarterbacks that also would be excellent. When Matt Ryan and Matt Stafford filled in on ESPN’s Sunday Countdown last year, they were surprisingly superb. But the current NFL player that immediately comes to mind regarding someone who would be very successful as a sports media member would be Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. He’s smart, sharp, opinionated, always has strong takes on a number of intriguing subjects. Every time I’ve heard him I’ve been impressed by him. Would love to follow him on Twitter, too—if only he didn't have me blocked.
THE NOISE REPORT
SI.com examines some of the week’s most notable sports media stories.
1. Last week saw the debut of The Bill Simmons Podcast—it quickly jumped to the No. 1 spot on iTunes for all podcasts—and the former ESPN commentator did not mince words when discussing his former employer.
While interviewing Wesley Morris, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who left Grantland this month for a Critic At Large position at the New York Times, Simmons, now at HBO, claimed that Grantland was not supported by ESPN management regarding promotion and infrastructure issues, and that he believed that ESPN management was trying to make him look bad when they learned he would not be coming back to the company at the conclusion of his contract (which ended in the fall of 2015).
“I just think it is weird to work at a place that is trying to make you look bad,” Simmons said on the podcast. “Usually places try not to make some of their best talent look bad. It’s usually not something a company does.”
Simmons said he believed ESPN management came to a conclusion this February that he was not coming back to the company and “that’s when they started doing stuff.” He cited moving his Grantland Basketball Hour featuring Kobe Bryant against the Oscars as one example.
“There were 20 F-U’s,” he said. “They knew I was not coming back. “He’s not coming back and we have to position this that when it all hits a head, we can blame Grantland did not get enough traffic, he was difficult, and all the s--- that wasn’t true. Part of the reason we didn’t get traffic was that they didn’t promote the site. I remember the first week of May I sent an email to all the higher-ups. I said, “You guys realize you only led ESPN.com with Grantland once in April? Literally once. Do you care or not?” We have no mobile presence at all, we don’t have an app, 46% of our traffic is coming through our main page which is absurd for a website. We are getting no help from other parts of the company. People seem to think ESPN was so helpful for us. and it was actually the opposite. Anyone else would have been helpful. And we had great writers. That’s what killed me.
“If you are at any company and you don’t have someone fighting for you, it’s really hard to get s--- done,” Simmons said. “I had a great time there. I did a lot of great things. I have no regrets about anything I did except coming back for that second year of Countdown. It was a great place to work. I got to do Grantland there. I got to meet all these awesome people – the highlight of my career. Got to do '30 for 30.' Got to have a column. Got to have a podcast. It was a great place to work for a long time and the last two years it wasn’t. And that was the problem.”
1a. ESPN PR declined comment on Simmons’ podcast comments. They also declined to a request from Sports Illustrated to interview Grantland editor-in-chief Chris Connelly. It’s my eighth or so request of Connelly since he took over the job in May and, obviously, it’s an overkill play on my part. At this point, I’m merely hoping Connelly is one day freed from the PR gulag to talk about running a site that at its core strives to do journalism at a high level.
Since taking over Grantland in May, Connelly has not conducted any in-depth interviews about why he wanted the job at Grantland, the future of the site, and the future of its staffers. That’s a disservice to readers. Grantland is a terrific site with some very talented people, and I'd argue the CEO of the place owes readers some public thoughts about the site in the wake of Simmons leaving. Connelly also has done a lot of fine journalism himself, featuring interviews conducted by him of subjects agreeing to talk to him.
1b. Here’s a piece I did on Simmons first podcast, including taking some shots at ESPN and Mike & Mike:
1c. When mistakes happen in sports media—and SI.com and yours truly have made their fair share—you just hope it’s not a career-ending one. On Saturday night midway through an impassioned postgame interview by Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney, ESPN’s feed mistakenly switched back to Bristol for 12 seconds where viewers saw SportsCenter anchors Kevin Connors and Jay Harris—having no idea they were on-air—looking at iPads and computer screens during a commercial (SportsCenter was airing on ESPNNews prior to the end of the Clemson-Notre Dame postgame.) Deadspin’s Tim Burke captured the mishap, as well as the complete interview here. There was some Twitter buzz about ESPN cutting the transmission because Sweeney was referring to God but that thesis was utter nonsense as Burke proved above. ESPN has since run the full interview. Deadpanned Connors: “I consider it some of our best work.”
2. The Ravens-Steelers game on Oct. 1 drew 19.4 million viewers, giving the first three weeks of TNF (includes CBS and the NFL Net) an average of 19.3 million viewers, up 20% from last year’s 16.1 million.
2a. ESPN said College GameDay (from Clemson) drew a 1.6 overnight rating, the show’s highest overnight since Nov. 30, 2013 (from Auburn) and up 45% compared to 2014 Week 5 (from South Carolina). They said yesterday’s show was the best ever on WatchESPN across all major metrics: 46,000 average minute impressions, 196,000 unique viewers.
2b. Notre Dame and Ohio State continues to impress as television powers. The most-watched college football game of the weekend was Clemson-Note Dame (a 4.8 overnight, the third highest overnight of the 2015 season) followed by Ohio State-Indiana (4.5 overnight). The SEC showdown between Alabama-Georgia drew a 4.2 overnight, which was up from the 2014 game on a similar date (Alabama-Ole Miss).
3. Welcome to the 21st episode of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast with Richard Deitsch. In this podcast, which is published weekly, Deitsch interviews members of the sports media about their work, and interesting people about the sports media.
In the episode, Gutierrez writes about the poignant blog post he wrote last month in which he publicly came out as gay, how that post was received by his employer and the NBA community, how, if at all, being public about his sexuality will impact his social media interactions, how he juggles television, radio and digital work, how NBA Commisoner Adam Silver reached out to him after his post, how he prepares to interview NBA coaches and players during in-game breaks, how ESPN president John Skipper called him the day before his wedding to wish him well and to tell him the company “had his back” and much more.
Weems discusses covering growing up in Hawaii’s foster care system, not attending school before age nine, being homeless for stretches at a time, how she and her brother were befriended by ESPN’s Neil Everett, then a sports information director at Hawaii Pacific University, when they were kids running around local malls during school hours, what’s it like to cover sports news in Hawaii, and how she overcame a rough childhood to earn bachelor's and master's degrees while competing on the track and field team at Cal-Berkeley. Hers is a remarkable story.
4. Sports pieces of note:
• From SI’s Tim Layden: Muhammad Ali no longer does traditional interviews, but he spoke to SI in many other ways for this story.
• Very cool Washington Post story about Alfred Morris of the Redskins.
• Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur on the baseball journey of Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos.
• Via The Washingtonian: The Oral History Of Joe Theismann's Broken Leg.
• The Guardian’s always-great Marina Hyde on FIFA and the FA.
• Chris Grove of the Legal Sports Report had an interesting piece examining some of the legal issues and leaks within daily fantasy sports.
• The Death of Evan Murray, by Grantland’s Charles P. Pierce
• Buzzfeed’s Charlie Warzel takes an amusing road trip with NBC Sports soccer pundits Men In Blazers.
Non sports pieces of note:
• The New York Times snapshot of the students lost in the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College.
• Bloomberg story on China's second-generation rich kids is too good.
• Via New Yorker: An Activist in the Sex-Trafficking Underworld of Iraq.
• Steven Lee Myers on how the specter of mass protest has haunted Vladimir Putin:
• Sobering interactive from The New York Times: How They Got Their Guns.
• Yale University has put 170,000 photos from the Great Depression online.
5. After hiring Jason Whitlock in August 2013 to be the founding editor for a still-yet-to-launch website (The Undefeated) on the intersection of race and sports—a talent acquisition that was also part of a spending spree to counter the launch of Fox Sports 1—ESPN has bought out the remainder of Whitlock’s contract. This ends the second go-around for ESPN and Whitlock, who worked from ESPN from 2002 to 2006 as an ESPN.com writer and frequently opinionist on its studio shows. The buyout was quietly negotiated a couple of weeks ago.
When contacted by SI on Sunday afternoon, an ESPN spokesperson forwarded the following from the company: “We have mutually agreed to part ways, which was Jason's preference following the shift from his role as Editor-in-Chief. Jason is a talented print and television commentator, and we wish him success in his next chapter ESPN remains fully committed to The Undefeated and plans continue toward an official launch."
5a. The Big Lead’s Ryan Glasspiegel wrote an in-depth piece on the Washington Post sports section of the 1980s.
5b. Sports Business Daily media writer John Ourand reported that FS1 is looking for more opinionated hosts. The First Take-ization is under way in LA.
5c. Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky on the often ugly but necessary business of newsgathering.
5d. John Walters of Newsweek had an interesting piece on the perennially underappreciated workers of college athletics—the sports information directors.
5e. Ken Denlinger, the longtime Washington Post sports columnist, passed away at 73. Here’s a thoughtful look at his life from his newspaper.
5f. SiriusXM is airing a limited-run show called The Arena featuring Rick Klein of ABC News and ESPN’s Andy Katz interviewing people on the nexus of sports and politics. The one-hour weekly series began its six-show run on October 2nd on SiriusXM’s non-partisan political channel, P.O.T.U.S. with former Florida Governor and current GOP candidate Jeb Bush as the first guest. Said Bush on whether the Washington football team should change its nickname: “I don’t think [the team] should change it. But again, I don’t think politicians ought to have any say in that to be honest with you. I don’t find it offensive. Native American tribes generally don’t find it offensive. We had a similar kind of flap with FSU if you recall, the Seminoles, and the Seminole tribe itself kind of came to the defense of the university and it subsided. It’s a sport for crying out loud.”