Raftery brings onions to Fox Sports 1, pregame shows on NFL bullying

Monday November 4th, 2013

Bill Raftery (left) will be the lead college basketball analyst on Fox Sports 1 this season, teaming with Gus Johnson as the station's top broadcast team.

The first time a stranger regaled Bill Raftery with one of his signature announcing phrases came years ago at Newark Airport when a man walked by Raftery and belted out "man-to-man" at the speed of Usain Bolt. "I was thinking to myself, 'Man, that guy has problems," Raftery said last week. "I didn't know I was saying 'man-to-man' so quickly, and I was saying it that quickly to get out of the way of my play-by-play man. People have gone out of their way to come up to me with some of the things I say, and it makes me feel good."

The Rafteryisms are legendary among college hoops fans, an audio funhouse from "onions!" to "attacking the tin" to "the kiss." (The latter, Raftery said, comes from a way of saying what John Wooden taught best -- the bank shot.) After 32 years as a college basketball analyst for ESPN, Raftery joined Fox Sports 1 last June, a sensational hire for the fledgling network and one that gives them immediate college hoops credibility. Raftery will partner with Gus Johnson on a No.1 announcing team that rivals any sports network, and the pairing debuts this Friday as Providence hosts Boston College (6:00 PM ET) on Fox Sports 1.

"It is as strong a basketball pairing on any level as you can find and that's no disrespect to ESPN, Turner or anyone else," said Fox Sports executive producer John Entz.

Entz said he thought the odds were long to get Raftery but as conversations with Raftery and his representatives continued, the broadcaster continued to let Fox Sports know he wanted to stay with the Big East package. The good news for college basketball fans is Raftery's role for CBS does not change. He'll do his usual set of games on that network as well as work the NCAA tournament for CBS and Turner Sports. Raftery will be the analyst on the Big East Championship on Fox Sports 1 next March 15 and then work for CBS the next day calling the Atlantic 10 title. Raftery said he will call somewhere between 30-40 games this season for Fox Sports 1. He'll call a little less than that for CBS.

"The Big East was a pretty good connection for me philosophically," Raftery said. "I love the people at ESPN but I just thought it would be a naturally conclusion for me to go full circle with the Big East."

Raftery and Johnson worked together at CBS and Johnson is friendly with two of Raftery's children, which has helped their chemistry. "I think chemistry starts with how you get along dinner-wise, how you connect with different things you enjoy in life," Raftery said. "We have a lot of common interests, his connection with the Knicks and mine with the Nets. Professionally he loves the game and to me it's like a layup working with him. He brings excitement and loves what he is doing. I hope I can match that."

While college basketball fans love the Raftery phrases, there is always a line broadcasters have to straddle so a catch phrase does not become trite. "Temperance is a tough word for Irish people," Raftery said, laughing. "I think sometimes I feel I am saying some stuff and overdoing it. It's a sense of the moment. Sometimes it fits, and sometimes you need to get away from it for a half."

Raftery has been an integral part of the two networks -- ESPN and CBS -- that have shaped college basketball in the U.S. Does he see a specific broadcast philosophy for Fox Sports 1 when it comes to college basketball?

"I don't envision us doing anything off-the-charts different, other than subtle things like graphics," Raftery said. "The one word I found here when we had our meetings -- and when you say the word 'fun' people think you are being frivolous -- but I think what they would like for us to show is how much we enjoy what we are doing. And, to me, enjoying what you are doing means being prepared."

Raftery turned 70 in April and said he enjoys broadcasting as much as ever. Like his fellow septuagenarian Verne Lundquist, he's a voice I hope sticks around for some time.

"If I ever stop preparing or lose the fire, I think I would be the one to call it," Raftery said. "But I also think [Fox Sports president] Eric Shanks or [CBS Sports chairman] Sean McManus would probably tell me to take a walk."

The Noise Report

(SI.com examines some of the more notable sports media stories of the past week.)

1. How would NBC Sports classify its relationship at the moment with Michelle Beadle, who was last seen on its airwaves around the time of Louisiana Purchase?

"We are trying to sort out our future relationship, to be candid," said NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus. "She was disappointed we canceled her show. We were disappointed we canceled the show. That wasn't good for any of us. We don't like to do things that don't work for audiences. We still want her to be part of some of our bigger and other shows if it works out. We are still together trying to sort out our future relationship and she is still a big part of Access Hollywood."

1a. Not appearing on NBC Sports is clearly good for one's legs. On Sunday, Beadle ran and completed the New York City Marathon.

2. It was an interesting Sunday morning for ESPN's NFL reporters as Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito fired a series of tweets at the network, claiming Adam Schefter had "slandered" his name regarding the ongoing story of lineman Jonathan Martin leaving the Dolphins under charges of bullying. (The Miami Herald has new details on the Martin story here.)

To its credit, ESPN went all-in on the story on its Sunday NFL Countdown and provided viewers with far and away the most comprehensive coverage of a cultural issue that travels beyond Miami and the NFL as well. First, ESPN NFL reporter Chris Mortensen acknowledged Incognito's Twitter feed on Sunday ("We should note Richie Incognito took to Twitter this morning among other things saying he wants his name cleared," Mortensen said. "So let's get started on that.") He then reported via sources that Martin had not filed a formal complaint with the NFLPA because he fears "retribution from Incognito," though the matter was under review and, according to Mortensen, "preliminarily identifies Incognito as an alleged offender in multiple incidents of possible harassment and bullying."

Schefter then reported via sources Incognito intimidated Martin into forking up $15,000 for a trip to Las Vegas last summer for a group of Dolphins, "fearing the consequences if he did not hand over the money." Schefter reported via sources that a text message existed showing intimidation "that will be difficult for people to process." He further reported, again via unnamed sources, Martin wants to return to the team, but not "under the same work conditions that have existed in the Dolphins organization." The full ESPN report is here.

2b. ESPN continued discussion of the story with a panel featuring Sunday NFL Countdown staffers Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, and Ray Lewis. It was passionate and thankfully absent mostly of ex-jock speak. Ditka went old-school Rambo ("When this would happen in my time: you take the bully and you kick his butt," Dikta said. "I mean you go to 'fist city' with this guy") while Jackson said there was a difference between "hazing and hate" but didn't amplify the difference. Lewis said his Ravens did not believing in hazing and "if I'm the head coach, that guy (Incognito) has to be removed from my team." Carter said it was "criminal" that the Dolphins did not know the alleged information on Incognito. You could disagree with the takes of the panel but there was no arguing ESPN addressed the issue with some serious heft. Well done.

Several media outlets covered Jonathan Martin's mysterious departure from the Miami Dolphins this week, with varying degrees of success.
Tom DiPace/AP

2c. Sadly, CBS's The NFL Today focused more time on Mike and Molly actor Billy Gardell than the Martin story. Where ESPN spent more than seven minutes on the topic, The NFL Today neatly disposed of it in less than 180 seconds. Most disappointing was analyst Dan Marino, an iconic figure in Miami who really could have provided insight for viewers. Here is what viewers got instead: "It's an evolving story, there is still a lot speculation about the whole situation, " Marino said. "You know the team put out a statement, the Dolphins, they are backing their statement. The key is they are worried about the kid, Jonathan Martin. Is he healthy, is he going to be coming back? Hopefully, this is resolved sooner than later." In short, viewers got nothing from Marino but they did learn Mike and Molly airs 9 p.m. ET every Monday on CBS.

2d. CBS NFL Today analyst Shannon Sharpe at least gave viewers something thoughtful on the issue. "Being in two locker rooms, the Broncos and the Ravens, I was a guy that made fun, and had a lot of other guys that made fun of different players," Sharpe said. "But me being a leader, I knew when enough was enough. I knew to go to the other guys and say, 'Okay, it's time to back off this guy.' Because that was my role as a leader. To have fun, but know when to pull back. If these allegations are true and the alleged leader is Richie Incognito, him being a team leader, he should have put his arm around the guy and said, 'I'm sorry.' He should have told the other guys, 'Guys, he's had enough. He's reached his point.' That's what team leaders do. That's how you become a team. You don't become a team by continuously having a pattern of bad behavior and not correcting it."

2e. The NFL Network's NFL GameDay Morning gave the issue of locker room dynamics legit run, starting with this report from NFL Network insider Ian Rapaport and host Rich Eisen. That was followed by a panel discussion which leads to....

2f. Twitter can definitely provide sentiment analysis on an individual feed but it has serious scientific flaws if you are going to use it as gospel. Understanding that caveat, when I asked my followers for their thoughts on how the Sunday morning pregame shows handled the Martin story, many were disappointed with the take of the NFL Network's Marshall Faulk during the panel discussion on the culture of the locker room. Examples are here, and here.

2g. NBC's Football Night In America staffers Dan Patrick and Scott Pioli had an interesting exchange on the Martin story.

Pioli on Incognito: "If he's a leader in your locker room, that's a problem because he has a long history of issues going back to Nebraska when he was kicked out of school. What this shows me is that there is some void of leadership somewhere within the Miami Dolphins locker room, because, if there are issues like this, generally the head coach or the general manager is going to know something about this. They're going to be able to fix the problem before if manifests itself into this disaster that they have right now."

Patrick: "Would you want Richie Incognito in your locker room?"

Pioli: "I didn't want him coming out and I don't want him now."

2h. At least ESPN, CBS, NBC and the NFL Network discussed the Martin situation with its analysts. While Fox NFL Sunday gave a couple of minutes to Rob Riggle's half-season awards and Michael Douglas hawking his new film at the top, the Martin situation only got a cursory report from insider Jay Glazer. Fox's NFL panel of analysts never discussed it.

2i. Glazer did yeoman's work over the weekend, clearing up the specifics on what was happening with Broncos coach John Fox. His updates on Twitter for NFL fans were solid.

2j. CBS Sports Network NFL Monday QB analyst Rich Gannon offered an interesting take on Dez Bryant and one that involved ESPN analyst Carter: Said Gannon: "Cris Carter, he had his moments early in his career. He tried that with me one time, just once, and I told him, 'Cris, if you ever do that again, I'll never throw you the football.' I played with Art Monk in Washington. Art Monk would never say a word. He was the consummate professional. I'll give you another example. I played with Jerry Rice and Tim Brown in Oakland. They were very different players, (but both were) ultra-competitive, very focused and very detailed. But neither never really came to me and complained about not getting the ball. I was the quarterback and I'm embarrassed I didn't throw to Jerry Rice in the game that broke his consecutive streak of 274 straight games (with a catch). He never said a word in the huddle. He never said anything to us on the sideline -- until it was too late and we were trying to run out the clock. That's the kind of player Jerry Rice was. Dez Bryant has something to learn by looking at the players who came before him and did it the right way."

2k. Nice work by Fox NFL reporter Laura Okmin and feature producer Jackie Bower in a very strong interview with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (Bower said it was a 38-minute interview crunched into 2:45 segment). Here's the extended version.

On Monday, the NFL Network will celebrate it's 10th anniversary. To celebrate, they've created an infographic for fans to enjoy.
NFL Network

2l. The NFL Network sent along a cool infographic highlighting their 10th anniversary, which comes on Monday. The network is now available in more than 72 million homes (it debuted in 11.5 million) and will broadcast over 3,000 hours of live programming this year. (Note: the Packers did not play the Cowboys on 11/29/12, that game was played in 2007)

2m. The NFL Today was much better on Brandon Meriweather's statements about tackling.

3. I conducted a Q&A with Charles Barkley last week that I think you'll enjoy.

3a. Barkley had some additional thoughts on who will end up with the NBA's television rights. "It is going to be a bidding war," Barkley said. "It always comes down to cash. I'm hoping that they stay with us but I'm not naïve. It will come down to cash. Fox will be a player. I mean, you remember when Fox paid outrageous money for the NFL to make themselves a major network? It is going to be a bidding war.

"The problem with the NBA is once you are so successful, you are just competing against yourself. It is kind of like Nike. Nike is so big it is tough to make it grow every year. That will be Adam's [Silver, the soon-to-be-NBA commissioner] toughest job. David Stern has been the best commissioner in any sport ever and he has taking the NBA to a whole other level and higher than maybe his expectations. So that is what Adam will have to be competing against. I don't know how you can make the NBA more successful, but the owners want more cash and the players want more cash so hopefully they will have some type of loyalty [to Turner]. Thirty years is a long time to be in a relationship with someone."

3b. Is NBC interested in the NBA? Yes, but don't expect them to be a serious player in the upcoming rights negotiations. "I love the NBA," said Lazarus, who used to be the head of Turner Sports. "Personally, I have been involved with the NBA since 1990. Up until a few years ago, I joked with David Stern that I sold as much NBA as anyone. I have great respect for the product. We do have an interest in the NBA but candidly, it would be hard for us to schedule a meaningful package unless they were to create a third package."

Asked if he has discussed with the NBA the prospect of a third TV package -- something Fox Sports is seriously interested in -- Lazarus said "they [the NBA] have not let their guard down. I have indicated our interest but I think that they have done very well with two partners [ESPN and Turner Sports] and their partners have been willing to be partners for a long time."

4. No one will broadcast more college basketball than ESPN -- they'll air approximately 1,500 exclusive games involving 276 teams from 31 Division I conferences across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, ESPNEWS and Longhorn Network, and about 460 more games will be available ESPN3 and ESPN Full Court. Here's the 8,274-word press release from Bristol Land on it.

4a. NBCSN will air 60 college basketball games, including 43 regular-season games across the Atlantic 10, CAA and Ivy League, 11 games across three holiday tournaments, including Xavier-Iowa in the Battle 4 Atlantis and Ole Miss-Georgia Tech in the Barclays Center Classic The network will air the A-10 championship quarterfinals and the CAA conference semifinals and title game.

4b. Rob Stone will be hosting the majority of Fox College's basketball studio coverage, with Austin Croshere as the main studio analyst.

4c. Fox Sports 1's college basketball play-by-play announcers include Brian Anderson, Thom Brennaman, Eric Collins, Kevin Kugler, Justin Kutcher and Dick Stockton. The analysts are Stephen Bardo, Jim Jackson, Donny Marshall, Kevin O'Neill, Jim Spanarkel, Ron Thompson, Tarik Turner, Bob Wenzel, and Gary Williams. Turner will also do studio work. Entz said that is no specific set broadcast team outside of Johnson-Raftery. "We don't have any set team past that," Entz said. "We want to see how different combinations work."

4d. "Onions" is likely Raftery's most famous phrase -- a description for a player with brass -- but there is no truth to the tale that upon seeing a gentleman suitor who lacked gravitas, Raferty would tell his daughters (he has three) that their man lacked onions. "The only thing I would do with the kids if I didn't think the guy was up to their standard, I would never remember his name," said Raferty.

5. For those who love Olympic hockey, set your DVRs to MSNBC. The network will air live hockey on 11 of its 12 days of broadcasting during the Olympics, including medal round games as well as three games involving Team Canada. (The U.S. men's hockey games are expected to air on NBCSN.) NBC Sports will announce this week that CNBC, MSNBC, and USA Network will televise 124 hours of live coverage of Winter Games this February from Sochi, Russia. Here's a quick breakdown:

5a. CNBC will air 36 hours of curling coverage including the men's and women's finals. The coverage starts Feb. 10 and concludes Feb. 21. (CNBC's curling show will air daily from 5-8 p.m. ET from Feb. 10-21, except for Sunday, Feb. 16, when coverage will air from 4-7 p.m. ET.)

5b. MSNBC will carry 45 hours of live Olympic hockey and curling over 12 days beginning on Feb. 8 with live women's hockey featuring Canada-Switzerland at 8 a.m. ET.

5c. USA Network will air live hockey and live curling including the medal rounds of both sports. Most appetizingly, USA Network will air three men's hockey games featuring Team Canada. The channel will televise 43 hours of live coverage over nine days starting on Feb. 10 with women's curling featuring U.S.-Switzerland. The men's hockey coverage includes a Feb. 16 game between Canada-Finland.

5d. Nastia Liukin, the all-around gold medalist at the 2008 Beijing Games, will join the NBC Olympics team for its Winter Games coverage. Liukin will present daily features for The Olympic Zone, NBC Olympics' 30-minute daily show for NBC affiliates.

6. I asked Lazarus how he would define his division's (NBC Sports) responsibility to cover news regarding Russia's anti-gay laws in Sochi? "I think we have to acknowledge they exist and are a potential issue for the Games," Lazarus said. "If they affect the Games, we are responsible to report they are affecting the Games, either through the way athletes are demonstrating or through any issues that take place with Russian authorities... We will be responsible journalists from the sports side and news side. When they are out of our boundaries, we will turn it to news. But we are not going to ignore it when they are in our boundaries. We have been very firm and proactive here. First and foremost is the freedom and protections of our employees are paramount to us. They are will be under our protection and we care about that."

6a. How safe will NBC's gay employees feel in Sochi? "It is my responsibility to make sure they feel safe and in a comfortable work environment," Lazarus said. "It is also our responsibility to make sure they know the laws fully. We are going into a foreign country. We do not get to set the laws."

7. It was a great week for notable sports pieces:

• Heat forward Chris Bosh wrote an op-ed piece for Wired on coding.

• Brilliant work by Boston Magazine's Joe Keohane on the burgeoning business of loathing Boston.

•Beautiful piece by New York Daily News sports writer Kevin Armstrong, who pays tribute to his late mother.

•Tim Layden's SI Longform piece on Jeff Lukas should not be missed.

•On life and Ultimate frisbee.

•ESPN's Seth Wickersham had a fascinating profile of Rolando McClain, who walked away from the NFL at 24.

•Packers tight end Jermichael Finley wrote a first-person piece on being injured for the MMQB.

•UN ambassador Samantha Power on the Red Sox win.

•Economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz examined how economic class as youths impacted black NBA players as a whole.

Non-sports pieces of note:

•Here's Kurt Vonnegut's letter to a group of NYC high school students.

•Presidential historian Michael Beschloss uncovered a never-aired 1976 Presidential ad from Gerald Ford. It was shelved because a focus group found it too shocking given the connection to the John F. Kennedy assassination. It's a fascinating piece of history and worth clicking.

•So good is this feature by Indiana Daily Student reporter Jessica Contrera on the closing of a Waffle House that I'm linking it again this week.

•Amazing work by The Center for Public Integrity's Chris Hamby, who conducted a yearlong investigation examining how doctors and lawyers, working at the behest of the coal industry, helped defeat the benefits claims of miners sick and dying of black lung.

8. ESPN announced that Jon Barry will serve as the lead analyst for NBA on ESPN Radio, working more than 40 regular-season and playoff broadcasts. He replaces Dr. Jack Ramsay -- whom I consider the best NBA radio analyst of alltime -- on the network's broadcast. ESPN Radio's NBA play by play voice will be Kevin Calabro, who has called NBA games on ESPN Radio since 2008. "For the past 18 seasons, it was my pleasure to call NBA games on ESPN Radio alongside the late, incomparable Hall of Fame broadcaster, dear friend Jim Durham," Ramsay said in a statement. "I'll always treasure our time together and the great games we were privileged to call. Now I look forward to listening to Kevin Calabro and Jon Barry -- both outstanding broadcasters who know the game."

8a. PJ Carlesimo will work select games throughout the regular- and post-season for ESPN, partnering with the excellent Marc Kestecher, who has worked Super Bowls, the NFL, NBA, MLB, BCS, college football and college basketball for ESPN.

8b. ESPN reached an agreement with Stan Van Gundy to join ESPN Radio's NBA coverage team. He will serve as a game analyst for 10 broadcasts during the 2013-14 NBA regular season and also work as one of the rotating guest hosts on the Miami-based The Dan Le Batard Show. Van Gundy's relationship with ESPN the last year has been quite interesting.

9. The late and brilliant writer Michael Hastings profiled radio sports-talk host Dino Costa for the Oct. 2012 issue of Men's Journal and in one memorable paragraph -- and Hastings wrote many -- the writer described Costa as "an extraordinarily talented radio host -- acerbically articulate, angrily funny, intense to the point of mental imbalance" and cited such outrageousness had cost him jobs. "Costa makes Colin Cowherd or Skip Bayless, two of ESPN'S best-known Angry Male alphas, seem mild and reasonable," Hastings wrote. "Compared with them, Costa is more like a militia leader broadcasting direct from Ruby Ridge under siege, an army of liberals blasting away from the other side of the barbed wire."

Hastings, as usual, had it right. Personally, I found Costa infuriating at times, especially his anachronistic take on NFL injuries and his never-ending self-promotion. But I respected his honesty, his preparation -- he was an obsessed reader of all sports -- and how often he took his show meta (a Howard Stern specialty) by discussing SiriusXM and other programs on his network, including the namesake of the Mad Dog Radio Channel, Chris Russo. He also had a devout cult following. Last week, perhaps not surprisingly, SiriusXM removed Costa from its airwaves after a five-year ride.

Asked why it parted with Costa, a SiriusXM spokesperson said on Sunday, "We do not comment on personnel matters."

"I enjoyed my time with SXM for the five years I was with them," Costa said, in an email. "We had philosophical differences in regard to the my placement in terms of being a featured personality, as I believed I had earned by my work the opportunity for advancement with the appropriate promotional vehicles enjoyed by others on the air at the company. After five years of needle-moving radio, accruing consistent critical acclaim, I chafed at the idea of them placing my show on an irrelevant channel [SiriusXM Sports Zone] during a time that basically wiped out half the audience I had built the previous five years, and then not going about the transfer in a way that would allow my listener base to know where I was...The show was a core asset that I felt was never fully polished by SXM brass, which would have allowed the show to become an even larger asset for SXM."

Costa said he is anxiously awaiting the opportunity to get back on the air. "I will make my next employer look brilliant for placing the faith in me, and then allowing me to go out and to justify that faith," he said. "I'd like to be involved with a set of creative and innovative people moving forward -- individuals who like to think outside the box -- people who recognize the need for sports radio that isn't the same old same old."

10. Ron Darling will work as an offseason analyst across MLB Network's offseason studio programming He'll make his MLB Network debut live on MLB Tonight on Monday at 6:00 p.m. ET.

10a. Fox averaged 14.9 million viewers for the World Series, up 17 percent over last year (Giants-Tigers) but down 10 percent from 2010 (Cardinals-Rangers). The final game of the series -- Game 6 in Boston -- drew 19.2 million viewers, the most-watched MLB game since Game 7 of the 2011 World Series. The always-excellent Sports Media Watch has a good ratings breakdown.

10b. Locally, Game 6 drew a 55.2 local rating in Boston, the highest rating for any MLB game in any market since Boston got a 55.3 for Game 4 of the 2007 World Series. The game drew a 37.9 rating in St, Louis.

10c. According to the Nielsen SocialGuide, Game 6 drew 1,629,231 tweets, the most for any MLB game on record (since 2011), and included more than 125,000 tweets in a five-minute window after the Red Sox recorded the final out.

10d. Richard Sandomir of the New York Times had some pointed criticisms of Fox's World Series coverage for Game Six.

10e. Check out the classy and from-the-heart tribute from Joe Buck to Tim McCarver at the end of Fox's Game 6 broadcast of the World Series.

10f. Chad Finn of the Boston Globe reported last week that MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds is the clubhouse leader to replace Tim McCarver on Fox. As a serial on-air enabler of MLB ownership and the establishment, Reynolds getting that gig is a move that would please baseball. Personally, I think Fox can do better for viewers, though I don't discount Reynolds loves the sport. I do know the decision on who will replace McCarver -- and it might be more than one broadcaster -- is not imminent.

10g. ESPN college football analyst Robert Smith candidly discussed his alcoholism on First Take. Honest moment for that show.

10h. Allen Kenney of BlatantHomerism.com had issues with the above segment.

10h. Through Oct. 30, ABC has averaged 4,654,000 viewers for its college football package, up two percent over 2012.

10i. In his upcoming memoir, Usain Bolt reveals that he ate 1,000 chicken McNuggets at the Beijing Olympics.

10j. Sports Business Daily reporters John Ourand and Austin Karp co-wrote an interesting piece why the ratings of ESPN's Around The Horn and PTI have dropped.

10k. AP reporter Eric Olson on college athletes being attacked on Twitter.

10l. Dodger broadcaster Charley Steiner will be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2013 on Nov. 9.

10m. ESPN NFL reporter John Clayton recently hung out with the band Slayer.

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