Sports media members on changes to industry; Britt McHenry aftermath
Imagine you were granted the ability to change one thing about the sports media. Would you opt to add or subtract a specific broadcaster or writer, change how the games are covered by the networks, or make individual sports networks available for purchase on an a la carte menu?
Last week I paneled a group of sports media members and asked them the following question: If given Commissioner-like power to make one change, addition or subtraction in the sports media, what would you do and why? The panelists were told they could write to whatever length they saw fit. Here are the responses. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section:
J.A. Adande, ESPN commentator and reporter
Two days in Canada (Adande worked Wizards-Raptors Game 1 for ESPN) has flooded my brain with hockey terms, so how about adding a media neutral zone? The one thing that has gotten worse for sports media is access. We hardly get to see, talk to and most of all get to know the players and coaches anymore. What limited interaction there is takes place primarily in the teams' workplaces. Who feels like opening up while at work? Instead of always talking after practice or before games, teams could get some of their media duties out of the way elsewhere. They spend so much of their lives on planes and buses. That down time could be used to knock out some media obligations as well. Designate some travel time for interviews, be they in person, on the phone, FaceTime, whatever. You would have better, more informed coverage.
Brian Anderson, Turner Sports broadcaster
If I had sports media commissioner-like powers the first thing I would do, after ordering a private plane with racing stripes of course, would be to shorten every commercial break in every sport by 30 seconds. To make up for lost revenue I'd create a 30 second "Presented by..." window. A premium window coming back from commercial with a sponsors presence (graphic, verbal mention, push-back, etc). This will allow the viewing/listening audience back inside the venue quicker, creating better pace and flow to all games. I believe the length of timeouts and delays in play are getting to a frustrating level for athletes and fans inside the venue.
Al Bernstein, Showtime boxing analyst
If I were the commissioner of all sports media I would issue an immediate ban on three-person announcing teams on telecasts of live sporting events. In almost all cases three is one voice too many. I realize that as a sportscaster I am in the dangerous territory of suggesting fewer jobs for my colleagues—not to mention ME! Still, I would have to hand down this edict. I would bring to that office my sensibilities as a consumer of sports television. That would dictate my decision. A producer once told an overzealous play-by-play partner of mine, “Give natural sound a chance.” That was code for “be quiet once in a while.” The three-person crews that now dominate some sports (especially basketball) give natural sound from an event little chance to be heard. The talk is mostly wall to wall. Much as I like to hear a talented sportscaster ply his or her craft, I don’t need commentary 100% of the time and the three-person announcing booths virtually insure this—especially with the “chew the scenery” approach to sportscasting that is so prevalent today. Some of the blame must be shared by the producers of these events who accept this behavior and in some cases encourage it. I am not suggesting that there have not been good three-man booths. There have been good ones and I would humbly submit I have worked on some. The best of all time was Dick Enberg, Al McGuire and Billy Packer on college basketball. Still, as commissioner, I am willing to risk losing an occasional great three-person announcing booth to spare us all the cacophony of sound that now envelops many sports telecasts.
John Buccigross, ESPN SportsCenter anchor
Golf telecasts are woefully behind the times and in need of a major overhaul. Shot tracer needs to be utilized on nearly every swing and way too much putting is showed. Also, every major should have 18-hole, four-round coverage. I can watch every Patrick Kane shift, every Marshawn Lynch carry or every Mike Trout at-bat in every game they play if I choose. I should be able to watch all of Tiger Woods shots at a major on my big, beautiful TV. If I have to shell out $29.99 to watch it I will pay it. Golf is concerned about growing the game yet they restrict access to their best golf courses and restrict access to its best players on television.
I can't watch Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy play all 72 holes of a major live here in 2015? I can't watch a tournament live that's been moved up because of weather? Who is running the show here? Judge Smails and Dr. Beeper?
Joe Buck, Fox Sports play by play announcer
Specifically to baseball, I would make players more accessible. There is no way networks can be able to talk to NASCAR drivers before they stuff themselves into the driver's seat of a race car to go over 200 miles per hour while we are all forbidden to talk to the starting pitcher of that night's game. Old rules die. Someone is "in the well" before they climb on deck? They can be asked what they are trying to do in their next at bat. Cameras in the batting cage during a game would then let us see how a DH is getting ready for a big at bat. Bringing fans into the experience is paramount. Plus, the flyover cable cam that was tested a few years ago is allowed and gives fans, especially younger fans, a video game-like experience to draw them under the tent. TV is not regarded as an invasion by the players, but is embraced and understood to be there as a tool to help promote the game to a younger generation. Love, The Commish (for five minutes).
Mike Florio, NBC Sports NFL insider and Pro Football Talk founder and editor
I'd prohibit sports leagues and teams from hiring reporters. The phenomenon, which has become more and more prevalent over the last decade, creates an inherent conflict of interest for those covering the leagues and/or teams that employ them. Strangely, the dynamic and the issues raised by it rarely get mentioned or scrutinized among the members of the sports media generally. The practice necessarily undermines the work of reporters who manage to be independent while working in a situation where they necessarily aren't, and it makes it harder for truly independent reporters to compete with those who embrace the status of employee-journalist, making them more likely to get that “exclusive" interview that is in reality a meeting between co-workers.
Dan Fouts, CBS Sports NFL analyst
I enjoy hearing the byplay between players on the field, and coaches on the sideline during timeouts. Too often though, broadcasters talk over what is being said in those situations by the players and coaches. The analyst is guessing what is being said and what we might expect to happen next. The irony of it all is that if given the opportunity to eavesdrop, we would have the word directly from the "horse's mouth." So if given the power, give me the mute button on the booth and let me hear instead what is being said by the players and coaches. Now, as an analyst myself, this may seen blasphemous. But, I am OK with that and I know The Bird (Ian Eagle) is too!
Fran Fraschilla, ESPN college basketball announcer
In NBA and college basketball games, nothing slows a game down more than the incessant number of timeouts, TV And otherwise. Well-coached teams don't need to rely on all the in-games stoppages. That's what practices are supposed to be for.
Andrea Kremer, NFL Network and HBO Sports reporter
Don't "allow" sports figures to hide behind "first person accounts" at the expense of being able to entertain questions from journalists. There's a sense that athletes, coaches and executives can express themselves in a one-sided manner because they don't have any desire to speak to the media, which they may distrust—and granted, the plethora of media outlets today on all platforms is dizzying. But there doesn't have to be an adversarial relationship between sports figures and the media and if the questions are presented in a fair manner and the stories are told in a balanced fashion. That way, people can still express their thoughts and opinions but it won't feel like propaganda or fiction.
Fred Gaudelli, NBC Football Night In America executive producer
If I had commissioner-like power to change one thing about the current state of sports media I would eliminate platforms, programs and segments that support and promote disingenuous debate at decibel-defying levels. I don’t think the audience would miss it and the world would be a better place.
Jemele Hill, ESPN commentator
If I were the Roger Goodell of sports media, I would banish the mean-spiritedness. I know it's a pretty Pollyanna request, but I think back to how things were when I first entered in this business and the way we treated one another, and I am stunned at how dramatically things have changed. Sure, it always was competitive and I'm not naive enough to pretend jealousy didn't exist pre-Internet. But with everyone fighting for relevancy, real estate and prominence, this business feels more mean-spirited than ever. It is now rare to come across people in this business who genuinely root for other people's successes, or assist people without agenda. There is too much at stake now, and while on some level it is promising we can make the money we can, it's disappointing that we're often very happy to resort to the worst version of ourselves.
Alexi Lalas, Fox Sports 1 soccer analys
I would mandate that referees speak on camera after the game. It would help them provide context to important decisions (even mistaken ones) and show media/fans a human side to a role that rarely is given one. Criticizing referees is a sport but I would like to see the criticism in the context of the personalities and characters that would emerge with this change.
Steve Levy, ESPN broadcaster
How about eliminating the mandatory "cool down" period in professional sports locker rooms? I’ll give college athletes the pass. With everyone so tired of the tired "coach-speak" and constant "one game at a time" clichés, it would be great for media to have instant access to players and coaches. Emotions would be raw and the words would be real, which is what we all love about all-access shows such as Hard Knocks and 24/7: Road to The Winter Classic. It would be would be a little trickier for live broadcasts—it might wear out the bleep button for taped broadcasts and lead to a few more next-day apologies—but the content would be fabulous and much more interesting. Also, ratings for all postgame shows could see real increases.
But my real self-serving commissioner-like move, which obviously would require collective bargaining, would be what to do with the money pro athletes are fined for blowing off mandatory media commitments. I’m sure that money currently goes to a player or league charity, but why not funnel that money to a charity chosen by the members of the media who weren't able to do their jobs to the best of their abilities? This is a win-win because perhaps pro athletes will realize their hard-earned money will be handed over to a media partner and that will be enough for them to spit out a few sound bites when they are obligated to speak at their locker or podium.
Bob McKenzie, TSN and NBC NHL insider
If I were the commissioner of all sports media, the one change I would make is to sprinkle a little niceness and civility across our industry. Just a touch. I get that our business is, by nature, edgy and critical, but I'm not sure when it became so fashionable to be so terminally outraged and make/take everything so personally. Personally, I find it outrageous. Seriously, though, when my Dad was still alive, if I were acting like an overbearing pr--k (might have happened once or twice), he would matter of factly tell me, "Smarten up, there's no excuse for being an a--hole." Words to live by for all of us, whether we're having a bad day at the tow-truck yard or doing our oh-so-important jobs.
Dave Revsine, Big Ten Network anchor
I miss print.
I miss the anticipation of the morning sports section (I still get it, but I've read most of it off Twitter by the time it arrives). I miss discovering a new, distinctive and parochial writer in the course of my travels. I miss not knowing who's going to be on the cover of my magazines until they actually show up in my mailbox—those magazines that haven't gone under. I miss physically turning pages. Cable, the Internet, and social media have all revolutionized our business in ways that would have seemed incomprehensible in, say, 1990. They've made many careers possible. They've put virtually all of the world's sports information at our fingertips. They have made us all better-informed consumers of sport. I can't imagine the sports media world without them.
But, in my commissioner role, I'd make it financially viable for that new world to coexist with an abundance of great print outlets, in the process reviving a distinctive part of sports fandom.
Holly Rowe, ESPN reporter
Easy one. Not realistic, but idealistic: I would require that before you blog, tweet, discuss, postulate on radio/television shows, you must have actually met the person you are discussing, actually have interacted with them. Too many people with powerful voices share opinions on people and topics on which they have not done adequate research. They shape opinion without thought to the impact on people's lives. Michael Jordan's book impacted me as a young journalist when he described media sticking microphones in his face, never taking time to introduce themselves, have manners or treat him like a person. I have always tried remembered that in my dealings with folks I cover. People first, subjects to cover second.
John Saunders, ESPN host
I would ban, disallow and if somehow completed, destroy evidence of the existence of any interview that includes any of the following phrases: "backs against the wall,” "we wanted it more than them,” "we knew it wasn't over,” and "God was with us." Just insert your favorite cliché! No more! Never again!
Jeremy Schaap, ESPN reporter
If I had more than one wish, I would say that all media types must take two consecutive days off each week from Twitter. That would be healthy. Too many people spend too much time on Twitter and I think it would be best for everyone to take a little break, breathe, smell the flowers, emerge from the constant feedback loop—at least for 48 hours each week.
But with only one wish, I would try to strike a blow for journalism. I would require all rights holders to produce a weekly 30-minute show, aired on weekend afternoons or during the week in primetime, dedicated to enterprise/investigative reporting on the sport they broadcast. If you’ve got NHL rights, you do a hockey show. If you’ve got the NBA, you do basketball. Etcetera. The shows must be committed to covering the leagues and the sports in full, warts and all, with journalists making the editorial decisions. If the network in question doesn’t have the resources or know-how, perhaps they can farm it out to an independent production company. This is all negotiable when I’m the sports media czar.
Adam Schefter, ESPN NFL Insider
There’s so much to be done for that new commissioner, it’s tough to pick out just one thing. Maybe he or she could place a ban on media outlets calling out other media outlets’ sources, being that type of speculation is wrong far more often than it is right, and it discourages other sources to speak behind the scenes, which then becomes an issue for all media trying to do its job. There also could be a ban on media criticizing media—is there anything the public cares less about? It seems so petty and trivial and it would be so much more preferable if everyone – to steal the phrase of a certain Super-Bowl winning head coach—just did their job. Melding the two together, the new commissioner would be enforcing rules to make it a more civil world rather than having it grow into the increasingly hostile, and mean-spirited world that exists today.
Michael Smith, ESPN commentator
I wouldn't remove writers from the end-of-season awards process but I'd include players and coaches. Have each party's ballots count as a third. I'd also try to incorporate living members into Halls of Fame election.
Dara Torres, CBS Sports Network analyst
I'd require anyone covering the Olympic competition and athletes to try and live off of what your average Olympic athlete does. Come train with any athlete or group of athletes for a month and try to deal with these things that so few journalists could ever understand. Not the Dara Torres or the Michael Phelps of the world, but the rank and file athletes living so far below the poverty line they could qualify for food stamps.
Amy Trask, CBS Sports NFL analyst
I would abolish coverage of and commentary on ephemeral matters. Coverage of and commentary on matters that are transitory, fleeting and momentary is wasteful at best, and may be harmful, as it emphasizes the trivial instead of the important.
Taylor Twellman, ESPN soccer analyst
I’d incorporate flex scheduling across all sports at any time of the year. Too often, including Monday Night Football, TV entities have matchups that don’t work and don’t showcase what everyone is talking about. Especially in 2015 when access is at an all-time high, the ability and means to show the best game of the week should be there for every sport, not just the last five weeks of the season. Twitter/Facebook, etc, allows the viewer to get instant gratification and for me, television on the sports side hasn’t fully grasped that yet.
Adnan Virk, ESPN and ESPN Radio host
I love football as much as the next person and recognize that it's the king in the sports landscape. But I'd love to see more attention paid to other sports on a national level. Baseball shouldn't only get publicity on opening day, the All-Star break and the postseason. The NHL is more than just heart-stopping overtimes in the playoffs, and tennis makes for great theater beyond just the four majors. Football can still be given its due, but the other sports deserve a greater piece of the pie.
Lesley Visser, CBS Sports broadcaster and the first women to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame
It’s such a different world from when I started covering sports in 1974. You could have a beer with Pete Rozelle and the credentials often said, "No Women or Children in the Press Box.” There were no ladies rooms because I was the only "lady" and we really thought Bob Ryan was the ommissioner.
But as Media Commissioner, I'd have Vin Scully do every big game, with Bob Costas and Al Michaels doing the next ones. I'd have James Brown and Greg Gumbel host every show, keep Jim Nantz soothing us at the Masters, and do 10 more NCAA tournaments with Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery (who will not let you go to sleep; there are always more stories to tell.) Suzanne Smith would always be my director, Deb Gelmen the studio producer and Christine Brennan would write the column.
I'd put Greg Anthony back on the air tomorrow, and go to Bob Ley for advice and counsel. I'd buy a football team and have Dan Marino as my general manager, then buy a soccer team and have Mike Piazza tell me who to draft (he's a huge soccer fan, plus he knows every player and wine in Italy.) I love that CBS was brave enough (thank you, Les Moonves, Sean McManus, David Berson, Harold Bryant and Tyler Hale) to debut a national show of all women talking sports (Rock stars Amy Trask, Dana Jacobson, Allie LaForce,Tracy Wolfson and always Andrea Kremer; I tried to get Mary Carillo but she already had 17 jobs; Swin Cash makes it look easy, just as she did as a player.) My people behind the curtain, the Wizards, would always be Emilie Deutsch and Dan Wineberg.
The all-around guys are easy: Dick Stockton, Ian Eagle, Ernie Johnson and Steve Smith, who is hugely underrated. Ian is the funniest guy at CBS. The other day someone asked him if he excelled at any high school sport and he immediately answered, "I was terrific at the discus." I'd have a "media" go-to panel made up of the people who really know: Tom Jernstedt for everything NCAA; Jim Steeg for all things NFL, and Fay Vincent for baseball. John Madden taught me the most. One time riding his bus through Nebraska, he said, out of nowhere, "Dark chocolate, I just don't get it—it's like they got halfway to milk—and quit." Brilliant. Finally, I'd bring back bullpen cars and let people in the media drive them.
Richie Zyontz, Fox Sports producer
I would go on a needless clutter rampage and eliminate excessive verbiage, overanalysis, space consuming and irrelevant graphics, mindless replays, and other elements that get between a viewer and the event.
THE NOISE REPORT
SI.com examines some of the biggest stories this week in sports media.
1. Under deadline conditions in the crucible of New York City, you will learn by doing. That’s how Sig Gissler, the longtime administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, described the mission of RW1 (Reporting and Writing 1), the mandatory fall semester class that for years represented the essence of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
As part of the RW1 curriculum, each J-student was assigned an ethnically diverse neighborhood in NYC with the goal of cultivating a neighborhood beat. That meant meeting with community organizers, cops, crossing guards, and most importantly, anyone who lived in the assigned neighborhood. Along with developing and honing reporting and writing skills, RW1 offered lessons in classism and entitlement. For three months you were drilled with the idea that you represented the people in your neighborhood. You served as their advocate. You were their voice, even if the reality was that each day or night you headed back to a very pricey school in Morningside Heights. I didn’t have Gissler for RW1, but my RW1 professor was a former New York Times religion writer named Ari Goldman and my beat was Sunnyside, Queens. That was an easy beat compared to most of my classmates' beats, in the same way covering sports or writing about sports media is much easier than my fellow alums who have worked or are working in conflict zones.
I thought a lot about RW1 this week after seeing the video featuring ESPN reporter Britt McHenry berating a tow truck employee, hearing about ESPN’s subsequent decision to suspend her for a week (ESPN declined answering SI.com when asked whether it was paid or unpaid), and talking with people inside and outside of ESPN about McHenry’s interaction and the fallout over it. So much of what’s been written about McHenry over the last 48-72 hours has focused on classism and entitlement and status. She has been vilified in all precincts, the real-life personification of a Mean Girl. That might work if you are positioning yourself as a sports hot taker who takes no prisoners. For a reporter, classicism and entitlement are tags you don’t want to be anywhere near.
While the video was clearly edited and patently one-sided to highlight McHenry at her “I’m-in-the-news, sweetheart” ugliest, while Advanced Towing appears to be a horrible company for consumers, and while it’s unfair that a horrible moment for McHenry is getting monetized by websites and networks, none of these can match and overcome what the viewing public has now seen. The words McHenry said on that tape will stay with her for as long as she works in sports broadcasting. There is no turning back on that digital trail. Would seeing the employee provoking and cursing at McHenry lessen how people perceived it? It likely would, but only to a certain extent.
McHenry’s best course now is to own the words she said as best she can, and she missed a big initial opportunity by not offering a longer and deeper apology to viewers than the light-on-specifics 53-word apology she sent on Twitter
The work now becomes her only way out of the abyss, and it starts with the NFL draft, to which she is assigned as a reporter. No ESPN employee has ever needed to do good reporting more than McHenry does now.
I do not know McHenry personally. I’ve only interacted with her via email for this story involving her reporting on Robert Griffin III. That piece was heavy on those who questioned her reporting and she was professional in our interaction. From my reporting I can tell you that she is liked by top ESPN management and those charged with running ESPN’s NFL properties, and that ESPN's PR department has pushed her work. She’s bright, fueled by ambition and ego, and is represented by a powerful management agency (CAA). This makes her like many sports television employees. The majority of the ESPN employees I spoke with over the weekend were appalled by what they saw. Most, however, did not think it was a fire-able offense. Nor do I, and nor do I think McHenry would be fired if she were a male ESPN employee.
But McHenry should certainly face discipline and her punishment will last long beyond a week. The problem for the broadcaster now—and one that will last for some time—is that she is now professionally defined for the words she uttered to a single mother of three working for a towing company. Life is about optics, and those optics show an entitled sports television reporter, employed at a place that often entitles its on-air people, berating a rank and file worker. (There is currently a petition on Change.org calling for ESPN to remove her. It had nearly 15,000 signatures as of this writing.) Take, for example, this graph from New York Observer writer Candice Greaux: “For me, the video of Ms. McHenry highlighted a sad and often undiscussed truth about America’s social construct: it’s still socially acceptable to mock and dehumanize poor people.”
When sports media stories morph into popular culture, as this one did, it’s usually universally bad for the subject. As I followed the story this week, McHenry was reported on by alphabet soup of outlets with nothing in common, from People Magazine to Fox News to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. At least three morning shows (Fox & Friends, ABC’s Good Morning America, and NBC’s Today) did pieces on it and the story morphed into the political world, with John Harwood, Chris Hayes, and Michelle Malkin commenting on it, among others. Washington Post political writer Chris Cillizza declared McHenry had the worst week of everyone in Washington, a remarkable achievement given the approval ratings of Congress. Time Magazine called it a “classist, classless mistake” and as writer James Poniewozik correctly pointed out, McHenry’s job, at its root, is to make people want to watch her on TV. As I was reading the mentions on McHenry’s feed, some of which were so vile and despicable that Twitter security should look into them, I saw messages that hit on what Poniewozik wrote.
I also saw athletes such as tight end Tom Crabtree ("ESPN can continue to employ @BrittMcHenry but athletes don't have to continue to do interviews with her") and Niners guard Joe Staley offer significant criticism.
The NFL is one of McHenry’s beats. If other athletes share the opinion of Staley and Crabtree, McHenry will not be able to do her job.
What’s happens next? Depends on whom you ask. I spoke to some prominent sports television agents and on-air people who thought if McHenry put her head down and did good work for the next 3-4 years, she could put this behind her. Others in the business said unequivocally that even if she stayed employed, she would never escape the perception of being a classist. Some correctly pointed out how fast the news-cycle moves on and that another scandal is just around the corner. All agreed that the next few months would consist of the majority of the sports viewing public perceiving McHenry as a shallow narcissist, and that's a harsh punishment for most people.
On the issue of McHenry getting a week suspension, the only thing consistent about ESPN’s suspensions are the inconsistency in which punishment is meted. In a piece last week about the frequency of ESPN suspensions, Washington Post writer Paul Farhi illuminated the roulette-like nature in which management has tossed discipline. The network has now stated on the record that mercilessly belittling another human (yes, away from the workplace) is a far less significant infraction than calling out Roger Goodell and your employer (Bill Simmons). In ESPN’s defense, they have done themselves good by being more proactive in these matters. I’ve written this before: ESPN management has made it a de facto edict to become more decisive with suspensions when its employees go off the rails. The network took various hits externally for how it handled Stephen A. Smith's comments about domestic violence in July 2014. Smith, when in the midst of discussing the NFL’s adjudication of Ray Rice on First Take, suggested that women should examine their role in provoking domestic violence incidents. He was ultimately suspended for a week (likely with pay) but that came after Smith returned to the air to apologize (as well as handle his usual debate business) and followed a very corporate non-action PR statement that offered "a lot of discussion and reflection on the topic" but offered no adjudication.
That was not the case with McHenry. If you read this column, you know I do not favor suspensions from outlets for talent infractions (and Twitter suspensions might be the silliest of all). I’ve been consistent on that stance including the shows I loathe (such as First Take). But McHenry absolutely should have been removed from ESPN’s airwaves for some period of time if for no other reason than to remind her that the job (which is akin to winning a professional lottery ticket) is a privilege and not a birthright.
1a. No doubt there has been misreporting in the McHenry story. For instance, her car did not sit abandoned in a restaurant parking lot overnight, and no one has reported what the clerk said to McHenry and how much the ESPN reporter was provoked, if it all. Something that’s also been unclear is ESPN’s management’s role in the story—when and what did they know about the interaction with the towing company, and did they interact at all with the towing company prior to the tape going public? This story, likely coming from the McHenry camp, said McHenry wanted to offer an apology directly to the employee, Gina Michelle, on April 7, but was advised not to by ESPN. A source in that story also told Entertainment Tonight’s website that Advance Towing approached ESPN before the video went viral. What does ESPN say?
“We first learned Britt’s car was towed when she tweeted publicly about it the day it happened,” an ESPN spokesperson told SI.com on Sunday. “We had also gotten a tip via email that Britt may have been involved in a heated conversation as a result. We did not see the video or know of its existence until it was posted online and became public this past Thursday. Nobody offered us the video at any time.
“When Britt first tweeted about her car being towed, we discussed the situation with her. We obviously weren’t aware of all the specifics of the incident until more than a week later when the tape was released, at which time we took immediate action.”
2. Fox Sports MLB insider Ken Rosenthal reported on Saturday that his network had added Pete Rose as a guest studio analyst. Rose will appear on the MLB pregame show on Fox and Fox Sports 1 as well as MLB Whiparound, America's Pregame and Fox Sports Live. Rosenthal reported that Fox did not require the sport's permission to hire Rose, but network officials did make MLB management aware that they had auditioned Rose and were signing him to a contract. Rose told Rosenthal that he regularly exchanges texts with about a half-dozen players who seek out his critiques, including players on the Reds, Padres and Cardinals. (He owes it to the audience to reveal those as an analyst.) A Fox Sports spokesperson said Rose does not have a debut date.
My initial thought on the hire is that it a low-risk, high-reward move. I like it. In the studio, the 74-year-old Rose does not have to carry the production but he’s a potentially compelling voice given his history and popularity with certain members of the public. There will also be a heavy curiosity factor initially, and for a network that needs eyeballs (Fox Sports 1), that’s a good asset to have in-house.
2a. SI.com has learned that the NFL Network and Seth Markman, the coordinating producer for ESPN’s NFL studio shows, held multiple conversations about Markman leaving ESPN for an executive position at the 24-hour NFL Network. That would have been a strong move by NFLN given Markman’s relationships with frontline NFL on-air talent (such as Trent Dilfer, Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter and Trey Wingo) and for his role in helming significant properties for ESPN such as the NFL draft and its studio postseason coverage (his loss would hurt ESPN). When contacted by SI.com on Sunday, Markman declined comment, as did an NFL Network spokesperson.
2b. Fox Sports 1 added former MLB starting pitcher Dontrelle Willis as a studio analyst for its MLB coverage. Willis will also contribute to MLB Whiparound, and America’s Pregame, FOX Sports 1’s weeknight preview show.
2c. ESPN has added Nicole Briscoe as a contributor to the network’s Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown show, which airs on-site most Sundays at 7:00 p.m. ET. Briscoe had mostly worked on ESPN’s NASCAR coverage, and prior to that with the Speed Channel.
3. The combined viewership for last week’s U.S.-Mexico soccer friendly was 4.5 million viewers including 2.76 million on Spanish-language UniMas, 890,000 on Spanish-language Univision Deportes and 806,000 on Fox Sports 1.
3a. Last Sunday’s NBCSN telecast of Manchester United’s win over Manchester City averaged 1.1 million viewers, the most-watched Premier League match in U.S. cable television history. Viewership peaked with 1.3 million viewers.
4. Sports pieces of note:
•From Jonathan Abrams, a terrific oral history of Shaq, Penny and the Orlando Magic’s glory days.
•The NYT's Jere Longman ran a marathon in Pyongyang, North Korea last week. This is his story.
•The MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas on Rex Ryan.
•Washington Post writer Rick Maese writes beautifully on Ben Barlow, the husband of recently passed Orioles PR director Monica Barlow. Get some tissues.
•Paul Pierce has always been a great interview, but this is off-the-charts with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan.
•Via Deadspin: Why is Katie Couric letting Floyd Mayweather smear his victims?:
•Five gay college basketball coaches speak, via Outsports.
•U.S. Paralympic athlete Chuck Aoki on changing the media perception of disabled athletes.
Non sports pieces of note:
•Tampa Bay Times reporters Kameel Stanley and Alexandra Zayas examined the high rate of black bicyclists in Tampa getting ticketed
•How to Avert a Nuclear War.
•Via The New Yorker: The Myth Of Magna Carta.
•The Washington Post reports that the FBI overstated forensic hair matches in nearly all trials before 2000.
•When The Paris Review interviewed Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
•Filmmaker and 'The Sopranos' creator David Chase analyzes the show' s controversial final scene.
• Via The Washingtonian: The Insane Story of the Guy Who Killed The Guy Who Killed Lincoln.
5. NBCSN averaged 349,000 viewers for 91 regular-season NHL game telecasts during the 2014-15 season, down from 351,000 viewers over 88 games last season. The Sports Business Daily reported it was the network’s third-best audience since acquiring NHL rights prior to the 2005-06 season. The Flyers-Bruins season opener (956,000 viewers) was NBCSN's most-viewed telecast and best for a season opener since at least '93.
5a. One of the more remarkable sports public relations executives in history, Lee Remmel of the Green Bay Packers, died at age 90.
5b. Best of luck to Fox broadcaster Steve Byrnes, the co-host of NASCAR Race Hub and the voice of the NASCAR Camping World Truck series. Byrnes has taken a medical leave of absence while he undergoes treatment for cancer.
5c. Mashable’s Sam Laird profiled Warriors television broadcaster Jim Barnett.
5d. After the passing of Stan Hochman on April 9, another iconic Philadelphia sports writer, Sandy Grady, sadly died last week at 87 after a long battle with cancer.
5e. Here’s a good Q&A with Janet Rome, a sports radio executive and the wife of sports radio host Jim Rome.
5f. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik on the lawsuit against HBO's Real Sports and what it reveals about the show's reporting.
5g. The Universal Sports Network will provide live television and online coverage Monday (8:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.) of the 119th running of the Boston Marathon. UniversalSports.com will livestream all of the network’s broadcast coverage to authenticated users. In addition to race coverage, UniversalSports.com will feature a “Finish Line Web Cam” that will show all runners as they cross the finish line.