NBA players who would excel as media members; Merril Hoge’s recovery
Which current NBA players would excel as members of the sports media upon the conclusion of their playing careers?
“Well, I’m not sure any of them would take the massive pay cut,” says New York Daily News NBA writer and Sirius NBA XM host Frank Isola.
This is true.
But as part of a roundtable discussion with five respected NBA reporters last week including Isola, I asked the group who they would tap as potential media colleagues down the road.
“The first name that comes to mind for me is Jared Dudley with the Wizards,” said Yahoo! NBA columnist Michael Lee. “Even from his JMZ days in Phoenix, where he used to provide fun takes on his Suns teammates, he always seemed like he had a future on the other side of the mic. He’s always interested in what’s going on in the league and has some strong opinions. He could cut it in this industry, if he’s cool with the pay cut.”
“I’m going to keep this to the guys I see every day and know the best: James Jones is incredibly bright and is well versed on the business side of the league, which is why he is the secretary/treasurer of the players association,” said Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal. “He’s also one of the few at his locker before every game who enjoys the banter with the beat guys. Also, I haven’t been around Richard Jefferson for very long, but it was immediately clear has a career in television whenever he’s ready to retire. He has the look, he’s well spoken, intelligent and a veteran who understands the game at a high level. Jarrett Jack is another one who will be on TV someday.”
Isola touted Clippers guard Jamal Crawford and Knicks guard Jose Calderon. “He played in a big, tough newspaper town (Toronto) and a big, soft newspaper town (New York),” said Isola of the Spanish national team player. “He knows how to play the media game. And being bilingual is a big plus.”
“A guy who was always intelligent about the game but has really shown off a good sense of humor in his later years is Dirk Nowitzki,” said the Associated Press’ Brian Mahoney. “I think he’d be good. There’s probably a bunch of veteran guys: Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh down in Miami, Blake Griffin or Paul Pierce out in L.A.”
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne wanted to distinguish between reporters and commentators. “There’s a difference,” she said “J.J. Redick, Dwyane Wade, Reggie Jackson, Paul Gasol, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Love, Josh McRoberts, Mike Dunleavy Jr., James Jones, Mike Conley or Jared Dudley would all make great reporters. They seem to understand the media game—what’s news, why reporters ask the questions they do, how it will be reported—more than most athletes I've covered.
“There are dozens of guys I think who have the personalities and intelligence about the game to be incredible commentators: Jason Terry, Jamal Crawford, Ryan Hollins, Paul Pierce, Tony Allen, Joakim Noah, Mike Miller, Caron Butler, Chris Bosh, Blake Griffin and Draymond Green to name a few.”
THE NOISE REPORT
SI.com examines some of the most notable sports media stories of the week
1. ESPN NFL analyst Merril Hoge is a big believer in visuals and inspirational slogans. For instance, each day at his home in Fort Thomas, Ky., he stares at a 14-word sign hanging in his office that he has looked at repeatedly over the past two months. The sign reads:
WILL HAVE A MIRACULOUS RECOVERY AND I AM MORE POWERFUL THAN THE SURGERY.
“I’ve read that thing every day and I believe in those reminders,” says Hoge, who has been an ESPN analyst since 1996.
The man is a survivor. On Oct. 5, Hoge underwent successful six-hour heart surgery and just three weeks later, he was back at ESPN to film his beloved ESPN NFL Matchup show.
Hoge credits his physical regimen for getting back to work so quickly. A former NFL running back, he is in remarkable physical shape for a 50-year-old ex-player, a product of a lifelong commitment to weight training and fitness. For those too young to recall his NFL career: Hoge retired at 29 from football in Oct. 1994 after eight NFL seasons after his second concussion in six weeks. “It’s the end to a career but not to a life,” Hoge said at the time.
Nearly 10 years later in Feb. 2003, at 38, Hoge was diagnosed with stage II Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He vowed he would be cancer-free and four years later, during one of his last CAT scans to examine his recovery, Hoge received mostly good news. His doctors told him there had been no recurrence of the cancer and things looked great. But they did leave him with one thing: “Your aorta looks a little large so you might want to get that checked out,” his doctor said.
Hoge monitored his heart for a couple of years; nothing changed. “I’ll be honest with you,” Hoge said. “I completely forgot about it.”
As part of his annual checkup earlier this year, Hoge decided to get a stress test. At the time his doctor suggested he get an echocardiogram as a precaution to look at his aorta. When the results came back, his doctor told him his aorta was much larger and ordered him to see a specialist. Hoge recalled what the specialist told him.
“You see all this red coming this way? That’s really good. That’s your blood flow. But you see the blue coming back? That’s not good because it’s leaking.”
The doctor told him he would need open heart surgery fairly immediately.
“I was told I had cancer once so I know that devastation,” Hoge said. “This one is the same lines but even scarier. When I got cancer, I knew I had to battle. I just didn’t know what the battle would be. But open heart surgery, whatever day I pick for the surgery might be it. That’s the reality to it. When I was diagnosed with cancer that was the darkest day I ever experienced. The heart surgery diagnosis was not as dark but there was a scary finality to it.”
After learning of the enlarged aorta in September, he choose Oct. 5 for his surgery. Most of Hoge’s doctors reside in Pittsburgh (where he played) so he scheduled the surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center UPMC Shadyside.
Hoge said he felt like he had been hit by a bus the day after surgery but he eliminated his painkillers quickly and was out of the hospital in less than week. He was given a five-week cardiovascular plan (gradually building up his endurance by walking) and was soon walking on the treadmill with no exhaustion. One week after his surgery, he sweated for the first time. “Honestly, I almost started to cry,” Hoge said. “I thought about how much I appreciated having my health that quickly and just the living experience.”
He is now training in a fashion where his arms don’t get outside his body to jeopardize his chest. Hoge has a checkup on Monday where he expects to get final clearance to return to his fulltime ESPN schedule that includes his matchup show and appearances on a number of studio shows. He praised his colleagues and his bosses for telling him he could come back when he needed. “I was dying of cancer and had to approach them then, and then again, with open heart surgery,” Hoge said. “It helped me not worry about that aspect and they were terrific with me both times.”
1a. Fox was averaging 14.0 million viewers through the first four games of the World Series, up 18% over 2014. The network said it was notably up 14% in the males 12–24 demo. Game Four was the most-watched World Series game (13.6 million) on a Saturday night since 2009 Game 3 (9.1/18, 15.4 million viewers for Yankees-Phillies). The top-rated markets for Game Four: 1. Kansas City; 2. New York; 3. St. Louis; 4. Hartford ; 5. Las Vegas; 6. Buffalo and Denver; 8 Sacramento; 9. Portland; 10. Tulsa.
1b. Strong words from The NFL Today analyst Bill Cowher on Jason Garrett’s role in Greg Hardy’s actions: “We’ve seen some of these outbursts at times between player-to-player, position coach-to-coach. But when you go into a huddle like that, the thing that bothered me the most was that Jason Garrett did not intervene. When he doesn’t intervene and he watches that, my perception is one of two things: either he’s afraid of Greg Hardy or afraid to go against Jerry Jones. Greg Hardy has his own agenda. And until someone calls him on it, it’s not going to change. He has no respect for authority. And for you to sit here and call him a leader, what kind of message are you sending your team?”
1c. His colleague, Boomer Esiason, countered by looking at Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: “I think Jason Garrett has the hardest job in all of this. He lost his quarterback. He lost his wide receiver. Some people thought they were going to make a trip to the Super Bowl. Jerry Jones led all the fans to think that’s what he was expecting and now comes this. I think he is just in an impossible situation. So I’m going to take him out of the equation. The first thing that I would have done had I been the owner, I wouldn’t have said, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about extending him a new contract.’ I would have said, ‘He’s going to sit down and he’s going to be suspended.’ I would’ve suspended him immediately without pay for conduct detrimental to the team. There is no calling for that on the sideline.”
1d. After reading this story by longtime Packers beat writer Bob McGinn—one of the most respected NFL reporters on the beat—about how the Packers responded to the paper’s reporting on Letroy Guion, you would hope the majority of the NFL media would let league executives know in no uncertain terms that reporters being intimidated is unacceptable and also an affront to the NFL public.
1e. CBS said it is averaging 19.0 million viewers for its NFL games, the highest number of average viewers after seven weeks for the AFC TV package in 29 years.
1f. SI’s Peter King on the NFL and Yahoo’s creative accounting on how the Jags-Bills game did metrically.
2a. Grantland writer and editor Sean Fennessey wrote a poignant piece on the end of his site.
2b. Grantland baseball writer Jonah Keri shared his thoughts via Twitter on the site’s end:
2c. The full archive of Grantland content will be available and searchable on ESPN.com, according to the company. “There’s built-in equity in the Grantland name and it’s possible it will be used in some fashion going forward, but don’t have specifics at this time,” said an ESPN spokesperson. For now, here are the Grantland archives.
2d. A 23-year-old Grantland fan—Michael Fowler—writes about the site’s going-away party on Medium.
2e. Maggie Gray and I discussed the closing of Grantland on her podcast, The Gray Area.
2f. The news will not generate nearly the attention that Grantland did but ESPN has cut (or not renewed) reporters from its local sites around the country. There are some very good people who will soon be looking for work.
2g. ESPN president John Skipper was one of the keynote guests last week at the Sports Media & Technology Conference hosted by the Sports Business Journal and based on those who know him and have seen him often in public, Skipper was as feisty as they have ever seen him in a public setting. The session with Skipper came during what has been a miserable month at ESPN, including mass layoffs, morale at an all-time low and declining households carrying ESPN.
“We do not have a narrative problem,” Skipper said at the conference, upon questions from SBJ executive editor Abe Madkour. “We don’t have a narrative of declining usage at ESPN, and we are not retrenching. We are adding viewers on other platforms to supplement our performance on TV. What we have is an internal narrative of continued dramatic success.”
On the suggestion that Bill Simmons did not receive sufficient internal support and promotion for Grantland (keep in mind this came before the news that Grantland was being shut down) and that the NFL was part of Simmons’s dismissal from ESPN, Skipper fired back: “That’s completely wrong. Of course it’s wrong. … That is an inaccurate narrative. He left to pursue other opportunities, which I believe he will succeed at. … I do not appreciate his suggestion that he did not get supported. That is just inaccurate. … We had a very robust staff on Grantland. I’m very proud of what those people did. I appreciate what Bill did, as well. It is tiresome to have to continue navigating the noise around that, and I think that’s my final word on that today."
SBJ staffer Eric Fisher reported that Skipper affirmed that ESPN’s current level of activity in daily fantasy will continue. “I know (FanDuel CEO) Nigel Eccles and (DraftKings CEO) Jason Robins well, and I am confident they will navigate the current level of noise,” Skipper said. “I’m convinced this is a game of skill ... but I’m not positive that really matters.”
3. Welcome to the 26th episode of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast with Richard Deitsch. In this podcast, which is published weekly, I interview members of the sports media about their work, and interesting people about the sports media.
This week’s guest is the ESPN and ESPN Radio commentator Jalen Rose, who is part of the cast of NBA Countdown and a co-host of the Jalen & Jacoby radio show and podcast. He has a new memoir out: Got To Give The People What They Want: True Stories And Flagrant Opinions From Center Court.
In the episode, Rose discusses his relationship with former ESPN staffer Simmons and whether Simmons will ever return to the network, how he transitioned to broadcasting from playing in the NBA, his relationship with Chris Webber, how he prepares for his various roles, his calling out Skip Bayless on First Take, his All-Dark Alley Team, why he is the longest tenured staffer on ESPN’s NBA pregame show, and why he loves podcasting.
4. Sports pieces of note:
• From the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan: Coyotes’ Max Domi embarks on NHL life with a diabetic alert dog
• SI’s Tim Layden is one of the great horse racing journalists of all time. On American Pharoah’s last ride
• Via Gregg Doyel: One last soccer game to watch
• Gene Upshaw’s wife was white. Her whole family disowned her for marrying a black man.
• SI’s Lee Jenkins on the shadow of Flip Saunders and how the Timberwolves got through Game 1
• A 20-something ESPN staffer reflects (on Jeff Pearlman’s blog) on Grantland being folded
• Via Justin Barrasso: Kevin Nash reflects on his career including bouts with Sting
• SI’s Zac Ellis on Idaho football player Jace Malek, who is battling bone cancer
• From director Gabe Spitzer: A 30 for 30 documentary short on the oldest woman to run the NYC Marathon
Non sports pieces of note:
• From the Baltimore Sun’s Liz Bowie and Amy Davis: You’ve seen the desperate migrations to Europe. Read what happens when they arrive in Baltimore.
• The cardiologist who helped launch the paramedic system
• “My name is Ginger, and I used to be a Twitter addict.”
• PR executive Kathy Connors on being a caregiver for her grandmother
• Mapping the uninsured in the U.S.
• The NYT story on the death of woman in a tank at a Nevada Cryotherapy center is sad and uncomfortable to read
• Via the Wall Street Journal: Shonda Rhimes one-year plan to conquer her fears
5. Pete Rose’s tenure as a Fox MLB analyst abruptly ended after Game Three of the World Series. Why? Here’s a statement from Fox:
“Pete was an absolute pleasure to work with this season. He was an informative and entertaining addition to our studio coverage and we look forward to his return next season. We knew at the time Pete agreed to join us that he had prior commitments to multiple events made over a year ago, and it was his desire to honor those commitments. He will be missed by our entire crew but we are lucky to have Kevin Millar join us for the remainder of our World Series coverage.”
According to Rose’s website, he’ll be signing autographs at The Art of Music in Mandalay Place in Las Vegas for most of this week.
5a. Former NFL quarterback David Carr has joined the NFL Network as an analyst. He will appear on Around the NFL and NFL Total Access, as well as NFL Now, the league’s next generation video service.
5b. HBO announced that Ken Hershman, the head of HBO Sports since ’12, will step down from his current role as President of the division at the end of the year. Yahoo’s Kevin Iole spoke with Hershman.
5c. The always-excellent Chad Finn on Fox’s World Series broadcasts
5d. NBC said the final 75 minutes of the Breeders Cup posted a 2.6 overnight—best for Breeders’ Cup Classic since ’10
5e. Turner’s NBA Opening Night doubleheader drew six million total viewers, including 3.5 million for the Bulls–Cavs and 2.5 million total viewers for the Warriors–Pelicans. The audience was up 28% over last year.
5f. ESPN recorded its most ever viewers for a regular-season NBA game on Watch ESPN with its season-opening games. The Lakers–Timberwolves did 240,500 unique viewers while the Spurs–Thunder did 234,800 viewers.
5g. Mike Humes, who worked at ESPN for 15 years in the company’s PR department, left the company last week (he was not part of the layoffs; he left voluntarily). Humes was always a straight shooter with me, even when we disagreed, and a pro who understood the media’s role while maintaining loyalty to his company. I wish him well.
5h. Here’s something unexpected: Some national analysts are calling the Knicks a sleeper team:
TNT’s Charles Barkley: “The Knicks are one of my sleeper teams. I think they will make the playoffs. I think Phil Jackson has done a good job getting good, quality players. [Kristaps] Porzingis is a young kid with some tremendous upside, but I am picking the Knicks to make the playoffs. They have actual NBA players on their squad this year, to go along with Carmelo Anthony. Robin Lopez is a legitimate player, Arron Afflalo is an NBA player, Jerian Grant is an NBA player and you’ve got Derrick Williams. They got actual NBA players. I’m picking the Knicks to make the playoffs. I’m guaranteeing it.”
ESPN’s Mark Jackson: “They're going to double-team Melo and create opportunities for him. This is a team that I don't think is a long shot to make the playoffs. I see them with the added talent and depth, when you look all throughout the roster, they have improved and they certainly are more than capable of getting into the playoffs and fighting for one of those spots toward the end of the season.”
5i. ESPN’s Dick Vitale, Grandfather of the Year