Memorable sports media feuds of 2013

Tuesday December 17th, 2013

ESPN's Bill Simmons (left) was critical of Clippers coach Doc Rivers' departure from Boston.
Getty Images (2)

Everyone seemed to bicker in 2013, from Democrats and Republicans to Alex Rodriguez and Major League Baseball to Kanye West and Jimmy Kimmel. Members of the sports media, of course, were no exception (including the writer of this column). This was a particularly hot year, as listeners, readers and viewers saw media-on-media crime and battles between the press and athletes or coaches. As the end of the year approaches, recalls 13 of the more memorable media feuds (excluding SI employees) of 2013.

Bill Simmons vs. Doc Rivers

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, long critical of the veteran coach, accused Rivers of quitting on the Celtics, the Clippers' coach fired back in an interview with Shelley Smith.

"I would like to call him an idiot, but I'm too classy for that," Rivers said. "That's just his opinion. That didn't happen. He really needs to know the whole truth, which he doesn't."

Responded Simmons: "The truth keeps changing. He's given different quotes about this -- he didn't know, he did know, he kind of knew, he wanted a trade to happen, he was coming back, he needed a year off. When he sticks to a story, I'll believe the truth.

"Just own it. Just admit what you did. The writing was on the wall. The Celtics wanted to rebuild, you didn't want to be a part of it, you wanted to go to the Clippers, and it happened."

The battle even went second generation as Rivers' son Jeremiah blasted Simmons on Twitter, prompting the Grantland editor-in-chief to reply, "When I get home I'm signing up my 5-and-a-half-year-old son for Twitter so he can defend me against Doc Rivers' kids."

The beef continued the day after the draft, when Rivers accused Simmons of lobbying Celtics ownership to fire him and Simmons used Rivers' given name while tweeting a stern denial.

Eventually, with ESPN's Michael Wilbon acting as Henry Kissinger, the two patched things up.

Brandel Chamblee vs. Tiger Woods

Chamblee, a Golf Channel analyst and contributor to Golf Magazine and (which are part of the Sports Illustrated Golf Group), graded the seasons of various PGA Tour players. After beginning his assessment of Woods with a story about cheating on a math test in the fourth grade, Chamblee gave him an "F" despite five victories because Tiger "was a little cavalier with the rules," citing four incidents involving the world's No. 1 player.

In response, Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent, talked about legal action, and Tiger clearly sent a message on access when he said, "The ball really is in the court of the Golf Channel and what they are prepared to do."

Chamblee gave up his Golf and jobs and apologized to Woods on Twitter and Golf Channel "for this incited discourse," though he stood by his view of Tiger's treatment of the rules.

Andy Katz vs. Jim Boeheim

The Syracuse coach refused to answer a question from Katz after a game against UConn in February because the ESPN college basketball reporter was "an idiot and really a disloyal person and a few other things I could add but I'm not going to go there."

Boeheim traced his comments to an interview more than a year earlier in which he thought Katz broke a promise to not ask questions about molestation allegations against former Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine.

"Nothing of the sort took place," Katz said. "There was never any agreement not to ask Fine-related questions."

Katz and Boeheim have since reconciled, with the Syracuse coach appearing on Katz's podcast.

Rick Reilly vs. Bob Burns

In an column, Reilly quoted Burns, his father-in-law and a Blackfeet Indian, as saying that the controversy over the Washington Redskins nickname "is so silly to me. The name just doesn't bother me much. It's an issue that shouldn't be an issue, not with all the problems we've got in this country."

Burns, writing for the Indian Country Today Media Network, accused his son-in-law of misquoting him.

"What I actually said is that 'it's silly in this day and age that this should even be a battle -- if the name offends someone, change it,' " Burns wrote. "He failed to include my comments that the term 'redskins' demeans Indians, and historically is insulting and offensive, and that I firmly believe the Washington Redskins should change their name.

"When Rick's article came out, it upset me to be portrayed as an 'Uncle Tom' in support of this racial slur. I asked him to correct the record. He has not, so I must do it myself."

Reilly stood by his reporting and said he quoted Burns accurately.

Enjoy the holidays, fellas.

Keith Olbermann vs. WFAN personalities

As Awful Announcing chronicled with Bert Sugar-like élan, this was a five-round, weeklong battle, with Olbermann and the producers of his ESPN2 show brilliantly extending the bout for a week's worth of content. What ignited this glorious battle of highly paid talkers? Craig Carton and Boomer Esiason, morning hosts on New York's WFAN, called Olbermann (and Chris Berman) hypocrites for coverage of the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin story by inferring that both broadcasters had bullied work colleagues.

Olbermann, clearly perturbed and denying such claims, chided Carton and Esiason in his "Worst Persons In The Sports World" segment. He mocked both men -- and later WFAN afternoon host Mike Francesa -- while defending his lifelong pal Berman. This prompted responses on multiple platforms from Carton, which prompted more fire from Olbermann.

Jason La Canfora vs. Bart Hubbuch

La Canfora, an NFL reporter for CBS and, went after writers who cover the New York Jets for waging a "decidedly personal" war against the organization. The column raised the ire of Hubbuch, an NFL writer for the New York Post, who accused La Canfora of "sucking up" to the team's new general manager, John Idzik. And then it got better, as the two exchanged insults during a lengthy exchange on Twitter.

Michelle Beadle's show on the NBC Sports Network was canceled after less than one year.
Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

Michelle Beadle vs. NBC Sports management

In September, before the NBC Sports Network officially canceled The Crossover, Beadle expressed dismay over the lack of promotion for her new show. The reaction to her appearance on the Sports Media Weekly podcast with Ken Fang and Keith Thibault was not exactly cotton candy and sprinkles from NBC Sports management. After the show was canceled, Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead reported via sources that Beadle was looking to leave the network and that her relationship with management had become "untenable."

Beadle has not appeared on an NBC Sports broadcast in months. Regarding the possibility that Beadle would work the Winter Olympics for the network, here was the nice, neat response from your friendly neighborhood NBC Sports spokesperson: "We are still finalizing our talent group for Sochi, which we expect to have completed by early January."

Translation: Those aren't the droids NBC Sports execs are looking for.

Toronto Raptors announcers vs. Wale

It was Raptors vs. rapper after cameras caught then-Toronto forward Rudy Gay interacting with a courtside fan during a game in Washington. "And supposedly," Raptors play-by-play announcer Matt Devlin said, "this fan is a well-known local rapper. Wall-Ay. ... I'm sure somebody on Twitter can tell me exactly if they've ever heard of Wale. He's not Drake, that's for sure."

Devlin and analyst Leo Rautins continued to joke about how they had never heard of Wale, who tweeted at Devlin, "Watch ur mouth." The rap star then made an uninvited visit to the Raptors' booth in the third quarter.

"I was just introducing myself, that's all," Wale told The Washington Post after the game. "Nah, I wasn't angry. I was like, You're not from here, you don't know. You don't know."

Said Devlin to The Post: "You know what, we were making fun of ourselves. Making fun, because we're not hip. Obviously people on Twitter and social media, it kind of took on a life of its own. So he came up, we started talking and there was nothing to it."

Jack Clark vs. Albert Pujols

Pujols sued Clark for defamation after the former major league slugger said on his new, St. Louis-based radio show in August that he knew "for a fact" that the Angels' first baseman and onetime Cardinals star had used performance-enhancing drugs. Clark claimed that Pujols' trainer, Chris Mihlfeld, told Clark about Pujols' alleged steroid use more than a decade ago. (Mihlfeld, who worked for the Dodgers in 2000 when Clark was the team's hitting coach, denied Clark's claims.)

WGNU quickly fired Clark and apologized on the air. Last month, Clark told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he'd be willing to take a lie-detector test if Pujols agreed to one, too.

Kendall Gill vs. Tim Doyle

Gill, a Chicago Bulls analyst for Comcast SportsNet, was removed from his on-air duties after punching Big Ten Network analyst Tim Doyle in the CSN newsroom in March. The incident came after Doyle, appearing on a SportsTalk Live panel, criticized Gill's analysis of a basket-interference call that went against the Bulls in the closing seconds of an overtime loss to the Denver Nuggets.

Gill told The Chicago Tribune that the argument turned physical after Doyle cursed at him and "got in my personal space" as the two discussed Doyle's on-air comments.

"I'm disappointed in what happened and never wanted to leave a job that way,'' Gill said. "I don't condone violence, but do believe in defending yourself. Am I sorry I did what I did? I can't apologize for being a man. Any man would have done what I did."

Warren Sapp vs. Keyshawn Johnson and Michael Strahan

The NFL Network's Sapp and ESPN's Johnson continued their long-running feud as Johnson called Sapp a bully and Sapp destroyed Johnson for a lack of work ethic when they were teammates with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Sapp also accused Fox Sports' Strahan, who is fifth all time in sacks and holds the single-season record, of making a career out of rushing against "the weak guy" on offensive lines.

Chris Christie vs. Manish Mehta

While appearing on WFAN's Boomer & Carton, the New Jersey governor called Mehta, the Jets' beat reporter for The New York Daily News, "self-consumed," "a dope" and an "idiot" for asking coach Rex Ryan about rookie quarterback Geno Smith's chances of starting the season opener. The newspaper countered with a typically subdued front-page headline, but Christie stood by his comments in a radio interview two days later.

"I was on a sports talk show. I wasn't on Meet the Press, " Christie said. "Some of the reaction to this is just a bunch of overwrought reporters who are so thin-skinned that they don't like to be criticized ever."

Responded Mehta on WFAN: "People can say what they want to say and they're entitled to it. I do have a lot of respect for Governor Christie, all joking aside."

Steve Spurrier vs. Ron Morris

Media writer Jim Romenesko reported that The State publisher told Morris, a longtime sports columnist at the Columbia, S.C., newspaper, that he could no longer write about South Carolina football. The move came after repeated complaints from Gamecocks coach Spurrier about Morris' coverage. After the story made waves across the sports blogosphere, The State publisher reversed course.

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