There is some familial precedent here: Bob Griese, John Thompson and Bill Walton have all worked events featuring their sons, and Van Gundy called a Boston-Orlando game in March. (Famously, Darrell Waltrip got emotional when his younger brother, Michael, won the Daytona 500 in 2001, the same race that took the life of Dale Earnhardt Sr.)
ESPN officials told Jeff Van Gundy that they wanted him to do this assignment. Jeff said that while he will be as objective as possible, he wants his brother's team to win. (Van Gundy predicted Sunday that the Lakers would win in five or six games.)
With a self-deprecating manner and a high basketball IQ, Van Gundy has emerged as one of the top basketball analysts. Play-by-play man Mike Breen, long championed in this space, is one of those rare broadcasters comfortable letting his analyst shine. Fellow analyst Mark Jackson remains too often hyperbolic but he has grown on me, and Doris Burke is ESPN's best sideline reporter. This group has been praised during the playoffs and deservedly so.
2. Sports media people on Twitter: Sure, Ashton, Demi and The Real Shaq draw the headlines, but sports media people are among Twitter's fastest-growing groups. (Speaking of narcissism and self-promotion, you can follow me on Twitter here.) The diligent SportsIn140.com has chronicled the growing list of people in sports, and the numbers are growing daily.
Among the most prominent sports media Twitterites at the moment is ESPN's Bill Simmons, who has been firing tweets faster than you can say Dennis Scott. He was closing in on 120,000 followers as of this writing, and the service has allowed him to do something he has long desired more of at ESPN: media commentary. Two recent Simmons tweets were aimed squarely at TNT's Reggie Miller -- ("Stu Scott should promote ABC's postgame show like this: 'Stay tuned for a postgame show that doesn't have Reggie Miller!'") and ("Why can't Reggie Miller just make it official and put on a blond Ted McGinley wig?"). We gleefully await Miller joining Twitter for a response.
3. Jonathan Goldsmith, commercial actor: His acting is so good you don't even know his name. Once, he flubbed his lines, just to see what it was like. Who is Jonathan Goldsmith? He is the actor portraying The Most Interesting Man In The World in the Dos Equis commercials you've been seeing every three minutes during the NBA playoffs. Alas, the brand isn't permitting Goldsmith to do interviews in an attempt to maintain focus on the campaign.
"The Most Interesting Man in the world is an enigma wrapped in mystery, and he is this amazing man who lives life in a very interesting way," Kheri Tillman, vice president of marketing for Dos Equis, said when asked by SI.com why Goldsmith remains wrapped in anonymity. "That's the image we want the consumer to see."
No question, the ads are amusing, and Dos Equis is looking into advertising during MLB games and NFL preseason football. But shouldn't Goldsmith get some love for his deeds? This space has an open invite for Goldsmith should Dos Equis free him from his character. Until then, the message is clear: Stay anonymous, my friend.
4. Jason La Canfora, NFL Network reporter: On Monday, the network announced that the former Redskins beat reporter for TheWashington Post had been hired to cover national stories for the network and NFL.com, a role similarly performed by Adam Schefter, who is expected join ESPN later this summer. La Canfora will appear on NFL Total Access and NFL GameDay, as well as combine, draft and Super Bowl coverage. He had been with the Post for a decade and covered the Redskins since 2004.
"I am looking at this as a life-changing opportunity, and I could not be more excited," he said. "For the past six years, my work patterns were pretty staid, and this will be entering a brave new world for me, which will shake me out of my comfort zone if nothing else. I think that's a good thing."
La Canfora said the network told him he would be free to report as he saw things. He was first approached by NFL Network executive producer Eric Weinberger and signed with the network over the weekend.
"The coolest thing about the entire process is that when Eric first called me, the entire conversation was focused on journalism," he said. "He could not have been any more clear or direct about the mandate to be fearless and courageous in my reporting, and to approach this job as I would any other."
5. Jon Gruden, ESPN Monday Night Football analyst: The over-under on Gruden's ESPN broadcasting career is two years. My advice? Bet the under.
6. Mike Missanelli, host of the The Mike Missanelli Show ESPN-950 (Philadelphia): Rarely do we get fireworks between ESPN family members, but this interview between Philly radio host Missanelli and ESPN's Skip Bayless was remarkably combative. Missanelli extended the invite to ESPN's in-house contrarian after Bayless made some generalizations ("Philly style rude, crude, dangerous behavior in the stands") about Philadelphia fans on his First Take show.
"I thought Bayless was really off base when he said the word 'dangerous' in his characterization of Philadelphia fan behavior," Missanelli told SI.com. "I asked him repeatedly to come up with incidents that would substantiate his point."
You can judge the winner yourself. Missanelli conceded he might have been harsh with his use of the phrase "nitwits like you," referring to the national media, but he was happy with the result (and no doubt with the pub that followed from the interview).
"My intent was to battle for the Philadelphia fan base, knowing that a Philadelphia audience was listening," Missanelli said. "And I felt I gave him every opportunity to nail me back to the wall. He didn't. Instead, he diverted the issue by questioning my credentials. I said 'Google me' as a way of suggesting that it wasn't really important who I was, but what was important was the topic."
7. Brent Musburger, septuagenarian: No matter what you think of Musburger -- and you can feel free to chastise him for overhyping events with the verve of Don King -- he is the personification of survival in a business that too often tosses out people once they get their AARP card. It's remarkable that 19 years have passed since he was whacked by CBS (at the time he was the biggest sportscaster in the land). Musburger has had an interesting second act at ESPN, calling everything from major college football to the Indy 500. Wish him a happy birthday: The man turned 70 on May 25.
8. Charles Barkley, TNT: This space has long been a supporter of Barkley's free-wheeling, impromptu, devil-may-care nature on TNT's popular Inside The NBA show. No stranger to controversy, Barkley's coda to the season included muttering the p-word under his breath at a longtime foil, producer Tim Kiely. He needs to be smarter than that. It's poor form (any insult used repeatedly by Don Imus automatically qualifies as stupid) and there are young viewers in TNT's audience.
"While Charles often makes jokes about his producer during our telecasts, he used poor judgment on Saturday during our NBA coverage," a TNT spokesman told SI.com. "His comment was inappropriate and TNT apologizes to our viewers. We have spoken with Charles privately about it and will not have any further comment."
9. The Pulitzer Prize: While attending graduate school at Columbia, I realized that the closest I'd ever come to winning a Pulitzer Prize was when I walked by that year's crop of journalism jurors. A number of years ago, I asked Sig Gissler, the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, whether his organization would consider establishing sports as its own category. He said it was an interesting suggestion. Well, another year has passed and once again sports has been shut out of journalism's most prestigious prize.
The last sportswriter to win the award was Sports Illustrated's George Dohrmann, whose work with the St. Paul Pioneer Press uncovering academic fraud in the men's basketball program at the University of Minnesota won him the Pulitzer for beat reporting in 2000. Is there a Pulitzer bias against sports? Perhaps not overtly, but the current Pulitzer Board lacks anyone with a background in sports, and some remarkable sports journalism (e.g. Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams' work on BALCO in the San Francisco Chronicle) failed to get the honor this decade. Maybe next year.
10. Baltimore Sun: Journalism jobs are dropping with drumbeat regularity. Most of the working world recognizes that our number will come up at some point. But the way the Sun handled its business with sportswriters David Steele and Rick Maese and photographer Elizabeth Malby was particularly cruel.
In a piece he wrote for RealClearSports.com titled "Press Box Layoff: How the Baltimore Sun Fired Me," Steele described the pain of learning about his layoff while covering an Orioles game for the paper. "Not that there is any good way to tell someone he's been laid off," Steele wrote, "just as there is no good way to fire a manager. But there's a way not to fire him -- ask Willie Randolph."
The immediate instinct is to never read the paper again, but that only hurts those survivors left behind in the newsroom. Instead, we move forward and make a suggestion: Follow the talented Steele and Maese on Twitter.
Richard Deitsch spent the previous academic year as a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan. Among his study areas were the intersection of twentysomethings and the sports blogosphere and the relevancy of the Olympics in the 21st century. His Media Circus column will appear Mondays on SI.com.