The state of hockey journalism; World Cup broadcast teams

Sunday June 8th, 2014
Bob McKenzie (right) is one of the NHL media's most trusted insiders and a staple of TSN's coverage.
Brad White/Getty Images

1a. Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final -- a double-overtime win for the Kings -- averaged 6.4 million viewers, the most-watched Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on record (since at least 1994). Viewership for the game peaked in the final quarter-hour (11:30-11:45 p.m. ET) with 7.6 million viewers. NBC said the immediate quarter-hour following the Belmont Stakes averaged 9.1 million viewers.

1b. Here's the Game One Stanley Cup viewership over the past five years:

2014: 4.77M (Rangers-Kings)

2013: 6.36M (Bruins-Blackhawks)

2012: 2.9M (Kings-Devils)

2011: 4.56M (Bruins-Canucks)

2010: 4.43M (Flyers-Blackhawks)

2. When sports television debate is honest, thoughtful and not geared toward getting to the top of Twitter's trending list through Baylessian fakery, it can be really good television. Viewers saw that Saturday following Tonalist's win in the Belmont Stakes. At race's end, NBC Sports horse racing analysts Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey embarked on an interesting discussion about Victor Espinoza's ride of California Chrome. Moss thought Espinoza should have taken Chrome to the lead given the moderate pace (instead of taking the horse wide early and staying off the pace) while Bailey thought he rode "a really good race" and that the campaign and length got to him. No screaming, no nonsense, just two broadcasters intelligently discussing the replay. "I think the campaign and length of the race just finally got to the horse," Bailey said.

2a. NBC said its coverage of the Belmont Stakes averaged 20.6 million viewers, the second-highest Belmont Stakes viewership on record behind the 21.9 million viewers who watched Smarty Jones' Triple Crown attempt in 2004. Yesterday's Belmont was the most-watched sports event in 2014 since NBC's primetime telecast of the Sochi Olympics on Sunday, Feb. 16 (21.3 million). Remarkably, the rating was up 57 percent over the last Belmont Stakes where a Triple Crown was at stake (13.1 million on ABC in 2008 for Big Brown).

2b. The top-rated cities for the Belmont Stakes: 1. Louisville; T2. Fort Myers; Sacramento; West Palm Beach; 5. Baltimore; 6. Tampa-St. Pete; 7. Orlando; 8. Buffalo; 9. New York; 10. Boston and Knoxville.

3. The work by E60 staffers Jeremy Schaap and producer Beein Gim on the abuse of migrant workers building Qatar's World Cup stadiums was ESPN at its reporting best. I can't recommend their work more highly.

4. Kudos to NBC Sports horse racing reporter Kenny Rice for his handling of the post-race interview with Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn. Coburn was itching to go off on the Triple Crown requirements for horses, and Rice listened to his initial answer and asked the right follow-ups (Said Rice: "So if you had your way, you would say you have to run the Triple Crown or you can not come up in the Belmont and be a fresh horse?" and "So you think they came right after your horse, and that was the plan?"). Rob Hyland, the producer for NBC's horse racing coverage, said the plan for the broadcaster was to speak with the connections of California Chrome at some point win or lose, and that Donna Brothers would interview Espinoza win or lose.

Interestingly, longtime NBC horse racing host (and longtime horseman) Tom Hammond defended the series immediately by saying, "Some bitterness there from Steve Coburn. You know, the reason the Triple Crown is so tough is because there are rested horses that have not danced every dance."

5. Longtime college football reporter Tony Barnhart has moved from CBS to the SEC Network. He is expected to have a dual role on both television and writing for the SEC Network's digital platform. Another former CBS Sports staffer -- Tim Brando -- is also heading to the SEC Network.

6. A historic look at NBA Finals Game 1 viewership:

2014: 14.85 million viewers (Heat-Spurs)

2013: 14.2M (Heat-Spurs)

2012: 16.2M (Heat-Thunder)

2011: 15.2M (Heat-Mavs)

2010: 14.1M (Celtics-Lakers).

7. Sports pieces of note:

• Via Slate: Is the stigma of mental illness keeping Delonte West out of the NBA?

Grantland's Mike L. Goodman on how to watch the World Cup like a soccer nerd.

Nice profile of U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinnsman by New York Times soccer columnist Sam Borden.

• William Nack's legendary story on Secretariat (Pure Heart) gets the SI Longform treatment.

• Very cool interactive elements in this Wall Street Journal piece on Klinsmann.

• SI's Seth Davis on why more women are not coaching women's basketball.

• SB Nation's Matt Negrin writes about living in a favela outside Rio prior to the World Cup.

• Ty Duffy of Big Lead Sports had an in-depth piece on the usage of Twitter by members of the of sports media.

• Ann Arbor-based writer John U. Bacon on why students — and others — are bailing on Michigan football tickets.

Non sports pieces of note:

New York Times writer Simon Romero had a strong interview with Brazil president Dilma Rousseff

• Via The Boston Globe: A father's search for why his son died.

The case for banning laptops in the classroom.

Why terrorists love Twitter.

One of the best newspaper leads you'll ever read.

8. Kevin Draper wrote a brilliant counter to this New Republic piece that was noteworthy only for a spectacular lack of insight on sports journalism in 2014.

9. Think about this: ESPN employs a 62-year-old man -- who lied about his high school basketball career -- to make fun of a Hall of Fame basketball player in physical distress.

9a. On that same oleaginous note: ESPN vice president of production Marcia Keegan is charged with overseeing ESPN2's First Take. By all accounts she's a bright woman who is thoughtful and works well with on-air talent and production staffers. She's also smart enough not to enable this kind of trolling, as highlighted here. ESPN should aim higher than acting as a wrestling heel for hire -- and management knows it.

10. Steve Nash serves as the narrator for The84Draft, a documentary on the legendary 1984 NBA Draft (Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, John Stockton) that airs Monday on NBA TV at 9:00 p.m. ET. Truthfully, NBA Entertainment has done better work than this doc, but the footage of Barkley and Jordan as first-year players is fun to watch and there's a great segment on Oscar Schmidt, the retired Brazilian professional basketball star who was drafted in the sixth round of that year's draft.

10a. Jason McIntrye of The Big Lead reported that NBC Sports staffer Alex Flanagan will no longer work the sidelines on Notre Dame games.

10b. USA TODAY interviewed Rick Reilly upon his final columns for ESPN.com.

10c. A panel of SI staffers makes suggestions for the best NBA Finals broadcasting team.

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