College football roundtable: Biggest storylines, toughest team to cover and more
- Biggest story for 2016–17? Dream broadcasting team? With the season set to kick off, SI writers give their answers to college football’s biggest questions.
With the start of the college football season approaching—and plenty of media news about the sport this offseason—I asked four of our college football writers (Gabriel Baumgaertner, Joan Niesen, Lindsay Schnell, and Andy Staples) to participate in a roundtable on a number media-related topics. We do this annually and the feedback has always been good, so I hope you enjoy again:
What CFB school would be the toughest to cover as a beat reporter and why?
Baumgaertner: The rise of internet-only coverage (Rivals, Scout, SB Nation and the like) created a credential proliferation that was long overdue, but also muddied the waters of what beat reporting entailed. In the SEC, the press sessions are jammed from fall camp to weekday practice to postgames, so the ability to cultivate sources and trusted relationships is more challenging than if you’re covering a mid-tier Pac-12 or Big Ten program. I think the most difficult schools to cover would be the most popular and successful teams with the most voracious fan base.
First, any coverage that is perceived as negative means a rash of Twitter responses coming from the angry factions of that fan base. Second, there is a higher likelihood that somebody running a fan site operates as nothing more than a mouthpiece for the team, since there is a decent chance that that person is a fan in the first place. This is by no means to say that blogs should not get press passes—several of the reporters from those outlets often completely outwork and produce better content than those from the local paper. But what it does mean is that at big, successful programs, there is greater risk of fans masking as reporters appearing in higher volume. Teams can take advantage of this by funneling the message they want broadcast to the public through these outlets (many newspaper reporters have been guilty of this in the past, to be clear). That makes investigating totally unpleasant subject matter—sexual assault, domestic violence, other violent crime—substantially more difficult since a reporter trying to dig on this topic might be harassed and intimidated by somebody he or she sits with in press row. I feel like the risk of this is higher at, say, Alabama, Notre Dame or Ohio State because of their longstanding success and passionate fan support.
But nothing compared to the fallout surrounding Jameis Winston’s sexual assault investigation, which made Florida State look like the most unappealing team to cover if the reporter had any interest in investigating any nefarious or criminal behavior within the program. There’s plenty of literature analyzing how Twitter has amplified the invective that comes from the most miserable portions of fan bases, but the faction of Florida State fans that visibly and angrily reacted to the Winston coverage was particularly large and unsettling. Reporters felt unsafe doing their jobs and there was a host of published material from fan blogs denigrating that coverage. The First Amendment allows us the right to say that they feel the coverage was biased and incorrect (until somebody gets threatened, of course), but once fandom gets into the reporter’s arena, the toothpaste is out of the tube and the consequences can be dire. Journalists can be self-important and elitist, but they shouldn’t be threatened by zealots for trying to investigate a story.
Niesen: I’m going to have go to with Alabama. Between the weekly national attention and dealing with Nick Saban’s tight-lipped approach to media, I can’t imagine it’s easy to find unique stories—or to avoid having your unique stories snapped up by writers with bigger platforms.
Schnell: I’d guess Texas is pretty tough simply because you’re at an instant disadvantage with the Longhorn Network. Despite its record the last few years, Texas is one of the biggest brands in college football and continues to get a lot of national coverage.
As a local reporter, that means you can’t play the “I’m-the-only-one-covering-you-so-you-better-give-me-good-access” card.
Staples: Michigan. Jim Harbaugh is very interesting, but he wouldn't be an easy guy to cover. He likes to control the message, which is why he makes much of his news on Twitter. He doesn't have that kind of control in press conferences, so you get weird stuff like him walking out when people ask routine questions about suspensions.
What will be the biggest college football story this season?
Baumgaertner: On the field? This year’s crop of running backs is extraordinary. There’s a host of fascinating analysis about how these high-flying pass offenses have left offensive players unprepared for the next level, but the running backs from (mostly) pro-style offenses are the stars of this year’s season. LSU’s Leonard Fournette is the rare college player to mirror the transcendent collegiate running backs of years past (Bo Jackson, Herschel Walker, Eric Dickerson, Adrian Peterson) and there are two running backs (Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook) who had better seasons than Fournette in 2015. Cook gobbles up about eight yards anytime he touches the ball, McCaffrey is untouchable anytime he gets a defender one-on-one (and was denied the Heisman in a terrible decision), and as Auburn defensive back Tray Matthews learned last season, Fournette will send you flying. After them, Oregon’s Royce Freeman is probably the most underrated running back in the nation (1838 rushing yards and 17 TDs as a sophomore), Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine holds the FBS single-game rushing record (427) and Georgia’s Nick Chubb has rushed for at least 120 yards in five straight games before a knee injury ended his season.
Off the field? The Baylor fallout hasn’t concluded. It’s perplexing that all of Art Briles’s assistants are still employed when the Pepper Hamilton report indirectly implicated his staff for either mishandling or covering up sexual assaults. Dismissing the head coach and pushing out both the chancellor (Ken Starr) and athletic director (Ian McCaw) offered the air of accountability, but there’s a nagging and uncomfortable feeling that some of the perpetrators of the ugliest portions of that report remain employed.
Niesen: The Big 12. This is the kind of story that has staying power, and you can bet the conference is going to drag out its expansion talk and (in)action for some time—whether that’s to allow due diligence in finding the correct teams and number of teams to add, to strike a deal with the TV networks, or even to distract from the ongoing calamity at Baylor. As for Baylor, I envision that story as a footnote to the Big 12 narrative. I hope we’re finished with the bad news, but I don’t know if I believe we are, plus the Bears still have to hire a coach.
Schnell: Baylor. Let’s talk football first: If you examine Art Briles purely as a football coach, there were few people better at Xs and Os (for evidence, see Baylor’s bowl game last season, when they were out of quarterbacks and still managed to beat North Carolina). How does that change with the mad scientist gone? Presumably Kendal Briles, Art’s son and Baylor’s offensive coordinator, will ask Dad for help and input, and BU still has quite a bit of talent. Is that enough? Can the Bears, which have a pretty easy schedule again, win 8-10 games, or do they collapse under all the negativity?
Off the field, things continue to get messier. More survivors are coming forward with stories of how their school betrayed them. And coaches, current and former, are saying some astonishingly insensitive stuff to the media. (See interim coach Jim Grobe’s comments after receiver Ishmael Zamora was caught on video abusing his dog (don’t watch the video unless you’re sure you have the stomach for it) and Briles telling reporters he has “never done anything illegal, immoral, unethical” in his life.) I honestly think the Pepper Hamilton Finding of Fact should be required reading for every single student and employee on campus.
Also, if women’s groups and/or PETA rally together and protest the hell out of Baylor’s first game, I won’t be surprised.
Staples: Coaching critical mass in the SEC West. Every coach makes at least $4 million a year, and just about every fanbase expects a title. Unfortunately for the others, only one of those coaches is Nick Saban. Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, LSU’s Les Miles and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin are being held to a standard set by Saban, and that could mean some changes at one or more big programs.
How do you feel about Brad Nessler taking over for Verne Lundquist next season?
Baumgaertner: Nessler is one of college football’s gems, but it’ll be really sad to see Verne go. His avuncular presence and glottal calls of the SEC’s biggest moments have been central to my time as a college football fan. Nessler is a great replacement, but Verne’s departure will hurt.
Niesen: I feel obligated to answer any question about Lundquist’s departure with about 100 of those crying-face emojis, but I’ll spare you all that. I’ve always enjoyed games Nessler has called, and I’m sure that’ll remain the same when he moves to CBS. Also, for the sake of full disclosure, I have to admit that I tend to watch most college football games either from press boxes or bars (so that I can watch more than one game at once), meaning that often, it’s without sound.
Schnell: Declined to answer.
Staples: Brad is a great choice. His voice has that gravitas that says "this is a big game." But it will be a markedly different vibe from Verne, who always made it sound like you were a guest in his house. Some people will have trouble adjusting, but the broadcast will be just as good in a different way.
On what day would you schedule the college football semifinals and why?
Baumgaertner: People want to watch the biggest games of the year on New Year’s Day. Because that’s contractually impossible under the current agreement, then they should be on the Saturday before New Year’s. Thankfully the CFP overlords are moving away from this disastrous New Year’s Eve experience.
Niesen: Easy: Dec. 30—unless that’s a Sunday. This year, it’s a Friday, which I know isn’t traditionally a great day of the week to broadcast games. But isn’t the week after Christmas just one giant food and party hangover? Personally, I love any and all excuses that time of year to sit on the couch and watch football rather than venture out.
Schnell: I like Jan. 1. A lot of big games in a row is fun for everyone.
Staples: The key is to hold them on a day when people aren't working, so the best option is usually going to be the closest Saturday to New Year's Eve.
What is your dream college football broadcasting booth and why?
Baumgaertner: I was born and raised on the West Coast, so I still miss Keith Jackson like mad, but I’ll take Joe Tessitore as my play-by-play guy and Kirk Herbstreit as my analyst. I think Mike Mayock remains the best Xs and Os analyst, but Herbstreit’s preparedness is excellent and his genuine giddiness for the college game is pretty infectious. Tessitore’s baritone is comforting and he’s got the affability and knowledge base to keep me engaged.
Niesen: Verne Lundquist and Sean McDonough, I think, would be the perfect combination of great anecdotes and stories, enthusiasm and an insane knowledge of the game. (I assume we’re talking about people who operate or have operated within the realm of college football, though. I actually think a lot about how fun it would be to hear Vin Scully call sports besides baseball.)
Schnell: If it’s my dream, we’re expanding the booth and going with Chris Fowler calling the game, Kirk Herbstreit and Joel Klatt offering color commentary, with occasional special teams input from former Utah punter Tom Hackett. I’m convinced he’d be good on TV; he’s hilarious and terrific at explaining the intricacies of special teams, ironic because he’s openly said he doesn’t actually know that much about American football. Sidelines would belong to Holly Rowe, a badass woman who inspired people all over the country with her courageous, and open, fight against cancer. On a serious note, I can’t wait to see people—players, coaches, fans—celebrate when they see her again this fall.
Staples: Joe Tessitore and Kirk Herbstreit in the booth with Tom Luginbill on the sideline. Tess prepares meticulously, and he also carries a small pouch of magic dust everywhere he goes. One sprinkle and an otherwise dull game becomes a classic. Herbstreit is the best analyst working. Luginbill, meanwhile, offers info other sideline reporters don’t because he spends the other six days of the week covering recruiting. He knows each team’s personnel inside and out, and this adds another layer to the broadcast.
How successful will the ACC Network be?
Baumgaertner: Right now there are two elite teams (Florida State, Clemson), two very promising teams (Louisville, North Carolina) and several middling to weak programs that don’t generate any national interest. If they aren’t able to get games with those teams and Virginia Tech and Miami don’t come back from their current lulls, then I think it’ll be awfully hard to draw viewers. The struggles of both the Longhorn Network and the Pac-12 Network have me skeptical, but the ACC’s alignment with ESPN should help its visibility. That said, I’m not a television exec and I don’t know what the network’s plans to expand in the cord-cutting era are. I just know that if I’m a casual viewer looking for a college football game to watch on Saturday, I’m not terribly interested if it doesn’t involve Florida State or Clemson.
Niesen: Considering it doesn’t launch for another three years, I’m leery to make any specific predictions, just based on how quickly everything in college football can change. That said, the creation of the network lends the ACC itself a measure of stability—with its payouts looming, no team is going to jump ship—and I don’t really see a world in which the network isn’t successful, the way the sport is growing each year.
Schnell: Very, because ESPN will insist on it. Watching the Cal-Hawaii game the other night, I could not believe how much ESPN analysts talked (from Bristol) about how good Alabama was going to be this year and by the way did you know that this is going to be the best opening weekend in the history of mankind? They also talked a lot about Auburn, which I found puzzling because I’m not expecting much from the Tigers this year. But then it dawned on me: ESPN is partners with the SEC so of course they’re going to hype all the SEC teams, all the time. I expect something similar with the ACC which (theoretically) will lead to more people tuning in, which will lead to more money. I also think that from a football standpoint, the ACC is pretty good and going to get better, and that always helps.
Staples: It won’t be as lucrative as the Big Ten or SEC networks because the ACC simply doesn’t have as many fanbases that care as deeply as the ones in the Big Ten and SEC. But it will be successful. It will bring in more money than the ACC schools made previously, and extending the grant of rights until 2036 will provide stability through what could be a volatile time.
Give me a college football player—and why—you’d love to spend a day with this season?
Baumgaertner: I would love for Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs to give me a primer on mechanical and aerospace engineering since that stuff befuddles me. He’s done nothing but represent himself as a curious and fascinating young man. He seems great.
Niesen: I think I have to go with Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett. SI’s Pete Thamel wrote a great story about him last summer, and not only is he probably the best defensive player in college football (if I have to make a guess for the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft this early, it’s him), but he’s also apparently an old man trapped in a college football player’s body. He listens to Marvin Gaye and Ray Charles? Sign me up.
Schnell: Christian McCaffrey. A few years ago I did a story on former football-turned-baseball player Tyler Gaffney, and remember talking to David Shaw about how incredible I found his versatility. Shaw acknowledged that it’s incredible to us, but added that this is Stanford, and everyone is doing something awesome. That’s always stuck with me, and explained why the Cardinal doesn’t have the huge, rabid fan base of other teams with similar success. That being said, I’d love to know what life is like for McCaffrey on campus. He is hounded for selfies? Recognized by his classmates? Or does he just fit in with everyone else? Also, I’ve interviewed a lot of people and can confidently say that McCaffrey is one of the kindest, most humble athletes I’ve ever talked to. And because he goes to Stanford, you know he’ll have something interesting to say.
Staples: Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett. He nerds out as much as I do—he’s currently burning through the Song of Ice and Fire books—and his Spotify playlist suggests the day would have an excellent soundtrack.
What CFB subject or trend would you love to write 5,000 words on this season?
Baumgaertner: I think it’s essential that a full investigation and profile is written about Baylor’s rise to football prominence, how it actively sacrificed the safety of its female students to protect it and what parties were most responsible for shielding the football team. If any journalist could scratch the surface into how much Art Briles knew, how much he shielded his players, and what lengths the program and university went to muzzle what was a rampant issue across campus, then I think the public would get a proper window into how powerful football is at these universities. Remember that Briles maintains total innocence, and that itself is worth investigating. Was Briles actively participating in this, or did others on the football staff or within the university make sure that this news never got to him? Even a profile of Briles himself—an avowed football man, one of the game’s brightest minds, and a man who became a central player in a horrendous scandal—would be a tremendous study on the power dynamics of college football and its corrupting forces. This was clearly a systematic failure, and if Pepper Hamilton won’t release the names of the perpetrators who tried to sweep sexual assaults under the rug, then it’s incumbent upon a dogged journalist (Paula Lavigne at ESPN and Diana Moskowitz at Deadspin have aggressively pursued this) to try and rip it open. It may be impossible, but this is the type of scandal, like Penn State and Jerry Sandusky, that demonstrates the power of college athletics and the consequences that that power carries. These sexual assault victims were victimized twice (at least). And for what? Football?
Niesen: Oh, gosh, there are so many—and a few I don’t want to share because I’m either working on them or trying to do so. I suppose one big, pie-in-the-sky (and very vague) idea I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is the intersection of politics and college football. It certainly comes to the forefront during expansion talk, but I think we’d all be surprised how much the sport is a talking point and driver of debate among state legislators. I think there’s a story there, although what it is specifically—and if it’s at all attainable—I have no idea.
Schnell: See my choice for the answer above.
Staples: The proliferation of house-made pimento cheese appetizers in college town restaurants.
What kind of response do you get to your stories on Twitter during the college football season?
Baumgaertner: It’s no secret that it is difficult to cover college football from a national angle because the sport has a regional, not national appeal. Paul Finebaum figured out that inflaming SEC fan bases could sustain a successful radio show, but we owe it to our readers to provide comprehensive coverage. The show didn’t gain national notoriety because there are a ton of national college football fans; it gained it because Finebaum is a strong host and he’d entertain calls from Phyllis from Mulga. West coast fans (I was one of them in college) bray about SEC bias within the college football landscape, but that’s where the demand is if you’re not Texas, Michigan, Ohio State or Notre Dame. There’s an allure to needling particular fan bases to boost the rage clicks, but that’s a bit of a cynical strategy that should be used judiciously.
The basics are this: If we write something particularly negative about a team with a devoted fan base, we’ll hear it in the Twitter mentions. If we write a detailed story about a coach, it’ll get eyeballs because coaches, not the players, are the celebrities of college football. If we write a recap of a game, it needs to be posted within the hour because fans have either moved onto the next game or started setting their fantasy lineups on Sunday. We are fortunate to have trusted and tireless reporters who have large followings, but figuring out what’ll resonate with readers as a national outlet is challenging because of the sport’s regional appeal.
Niesen: I almost don’t want to type this in fear that I’m jinxing the tranquility of my Twitter existence, but … for the most part, I don’t tend to get too much in the way of sexist/rude/crude comments. Most of my in-season responses are positive, I’d say, especially considering I somewhat frequently write about teams that don’t always get a ton of national attention. This is probably also a product of my role at SI; I do much more in the way of features than I do columns and opinion.
Schnell: It’s typically pretty positive, though I’m continually distressed at the number of people who don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re” when they’re attempting to insult your work.
Staples: Depends. The good ones get great responses. The boring ones get ignored. So I guess I’d better write some good ones.
Your dream College GameDay celebrity picker and why?
Baumgaertner: A personable foreign soccer star—say Zlatan Ibrahimovic. College football is the closest mirror to European soccer fans, so I think a fun-loving guy like Zlatan would revel in the sheer noise of Baton Rouge on a Saturday.
Niesen: This has been the case since Missouri, where I went to school, got its first GameDay visit when I was covering the football team: Brad Pitt. It’s definitely a pipe dream.
Schnell: Bill Walton. Lee Fitting and I have already discussed this, and I’m confident that if/when UCLA hosts CGD, Fitting will make it happen. In my dream scenario, UCLA is hosting Washington State, and we get Mike Leach and Walton on stage just talking to each other about whatever comes to mind.
Staples: Tallahassee’s own T-Pain singing Autotuned picks on the day Clemson faces Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium.
THE NOISE REPORT
(SI.com examines some of the week’s most notable sports media stories)
1. ESPN announced last week that Stan Verrett will host college football Saturdays on ABC this fall, filling the role of the late John Saunders who had held the position on ABC’s college football studio set since 1992. He will remain Los Angeles-based and continue on SportsCenter. On Friday, we spoke about his new assignment.
SI.com: How did it come about that you would follow John as the host of college football Saturdays?
Verrett: There had been some discussion about me as a possible candidate before I spoke to anyone about it. [SportsCenter executive producer] Mike McQuade asked me if I was interested, and I told him I was. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it. I spoke with Lee Fitting and Bill Graff, who oversee college football and the studio wraps operation. They signed off on it and it was done.
SI.com: Does this mean a relocation for you to Connecticut and what happens to you after the CFB season?
Verrett: I will remain based in Los Angeles. It’s important to me to keep a presence on SportsCenter from LA. We have built something special there and I really enjoy working with Neil Everett. I will still be on the show during the season, just not every night. Flying across the country and back each week will be a challenge, but the college football team and the SportsCenter team are very supportive in giving me what I need to make it work. Plus, I love living in Los Angeles, so it’s worth it to me to be here when I’m off. After the college football season is over, I will go back to my regular schedule on Sportscenter in Los Angeles.
SI.com: Why did you want this position?
Verrett: I have always been a football fan, for as long as I can remember. Growing up in New Orleans, I was, and am, a big fan of the LSU Tigers and the Saints. I didn’t have the talent to be a star playing the game and gave up on that in high school. I had very supportive parents who encouraged me to follow my dreams and helped me figure out that as a broadcaster I could be around the game and use the talents that I did have to build an exciting, satisfying and lucrative career. So I set out on that path. I like being a studio host, rather than a play-by-play person, or a commentator on an opinion-oriented show. I did a season of college football wraps on ESPN2 several years ago with Jesse Palmer and really enjoyed it. So when this came up, it was a great fit. I really like Mark May, and Mack Brown from working with them in the past. I’m joining a great team with two analysts who have tremendous credibility with college football fans.
SI.com: The manner in which you got this assignment would be the last thing anyone wished for. It’s obviously bittersweet in some sense to have the job, knowing how much you respected John. Have you had to work through his passing while obviously also looking forward to the opportunity?
Verrett: I talked to John in D.C. a few days before he died. It was a short conversation. He asked how I was doing and said some nice things about our SportsCenter in Los Angeles. Everything seemed fine. So when I heard the news a few days later, I didn’t believe he had really died. I thought it was some sort of a horrible mistake. It was really tough to handle. We didn’t talk that often, but when we did, it was important. When he came to Los Angeles, he would make it a point to spend some time. John was very generous with advice and at a couple of critical junctures, he helped me navigate some important career moves. One of the things he told me was that being versatile would help me advance in a big company with so many platforms. I thought about that when this opportunity came up. It’s another reason I took it. There is definitely a tinge of sadness involved with this. I’d rather John still be here. On Thursday, I spoke with Jemele Hill, who hosted The Sports Reporters this weekend. That was another one of John’s roles. We made a pact to do the best we can to live up to the legacies he created in both roles. He’s someone I admired and respected, and that was universal at ESPN as far as I can tell. His style as a host is right in line with what I try to do as well: inform the viewer, set the analysts up to succeed, and keep things smooth and comfortable. The best way I know to pay tribute to John is to do the absolute best I can every single week in the chair that he occupied for such a long and distinguished tenure.
1a. ESPN has a mega-schedule for its opening weekend of CFB. Here it is.
1b. FS1 and FSN will air Big 12 and Pac 12 highlighted by Stanford hosting K-State on Sept. 2 at 9:00 PM ET on FS1.
1c. For opening week of the 2016 college football season, SiriusXM will air 60 live games from Sept. 1–5, featuring every team from the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
1d. Here’s ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit on Michigan: “I personally think they’re about a year away. With that being said, it’s pretty obvious that they’re going to be 7–0 getting ready for the big arrival game against Michigan State in East Lansing. They’ve got to go to Iowa, and they've got to go to Ohio State. If those three games were in Ann Arbor, I might be saying something a little bit different. But I just have a hard time imagining them going on the road in those three games and being able to win all three of those. Even two of them, I think, would be tough to do. I think they're about a year away from being the team that everybody is kind of excited for them to be. But I still think they’re going to be one of the top 10 best teams in the country.”
2. I highly recommend the HBO’s Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel feature on female sportscasters and the daily battle for credibility both internally and externally. Here were two interesting exchanges between correspondent Jon Frankel and Fox Sports NFL reporter Laura Okmin.
JON FRANKEL: “Why were you taken off games?”
LAURA OKMIN: “So another reporter could have an opportunity.”
JON FRANKEL: “Somebody younger than you?”
LAURA OKMIN: “Yes.”
JON FRANKEL: “Did that reporter have the same level of experience you did?”
LAURA OKMIN: “No.”
JON FRANKEL: “Same base of knowledge?”
LAURA OKMIN: “Not in football. No.”
JON FRANKEL: “And how did you feel?”
LAURA OKMIN: “Horrible, you know? I worked very hard for this job. I knew this was coming. I knew the shelf life of being a woman on television and in this business. And all of a sudden, I think I was thrown by it.”
JON FRANKEL: “If somebody asked you today what are the qualities needed to be a woman working the sidelines of a NFL game, what do you think most people would say?”
LAURA OKMIN: “I think most people would say, ‘She better be hot or she should be hot.’ But I’ll tell you what I would say. She better have a great, work ethic. She better be really prepared. And she better know what she's doing.”
2a. Sports TV Ratings has the latest data on the number of households sports cable channels are in.
3. Episode 73 of the “Sports Illustrated Media podcast” features NBC Sports Premier League broadcaster Arlo White, who recently called soccer at the Rio Olympics.
In this episode, White discusses his approach to calling Neymar’s game-winning penalty kick in the men’s gold medal game in Rio; how to call a game when your analyst is thousands of miles away; what he does to prepare for a Premier League broadcast; moving back to the United Kingdom to call Premier League games; how the U.S. soccer audience has gotten smarter over the last two decades; working in Seattle as the voice of MLS and the Sounders; calling Super Bowls for the BBC; why the Men In Blazers would toss him overboard into the sea long before Rebecca Lowe; the balance between describing a play and letting the action breath; his approach to calling Leicester City games as a lifelong fan; the soccer book he recommends to learn about tactics, and much more.
A reminder: you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher, and you can view all of SI’s podcasts here. If you have any feedback, questions or suggestions, please comment here or tweet at me.
4. Non sports pieces of note:
• From the terrific New Yorker writer Patrick Radden Keefe: Meet the London police officers with a preternatural ability to identify human faces.
• Via Tampa Bay Times reporter Claire McNeill: One Florida family risked everything to treat their son with medical marijuana.
•From Motherboard: Is it even mathematically possible to connect with aliens, assuming they're out there?
• Politico’s Marc Caputo on a Florida paper that killed a story about a local official allegedly seeking favors from developer.
• Via The Boston Globe: What one mom learned after her daughter became addicted to heroin.
• From Chris Heath of GQ: The Uber Killer: The Real Story of One Night of Terror.
• From The New Yorker’s Nick Paumgarten: The Most Exclusive Restaurant in America.
• Via The New York Times: SEAL Team 6 and a Man Left for Dead: A Grainy Picture of Valor.
• Via Cosmopolitan: Why Did It Take 9 Hours and 3 Emergency Rooms For This Woman to Get a Rape Kit?
• From Mary H.K. Choi, writing for Wired: Like. Flirt. Ghost: A Journey Into the Social Media Lives of Teens.
Sports pieces of note:
• An Olympic medalist’s struggle to find purpose after 20 years as an elite athlete.
• Via ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr.: The fast rise and faster fall of the daily fantasy industry.
• From SI’s Stanley Kay: Peppermint Patty’s sports feminism
• ESPN’s Kevin Van Valkenberg on Josh Norman.
• Texans cornerback Charles James, for The Players’ Tribune.
• Brian Phillips, for the NYT, on Roger Federer getting old.
• From Pete Croatto, for the NYT: The dawn of the San Diego Chicken.
• Bay Area News columnist Marcus Thompson on Colin Kaepernick and volunteerism.
5. Nice piece by Steve Flink on longtime ATP stat guru Greg Sharko.
5a. The Nieman Lab highlighted some of the coolest experiments in digital news for the Rio Games.
5b. Fox will air an MLS game on Sept. 18 the same time it airs NFL games, making it the first time in MLS history that a network partner has televised games from the two leagues on the same network at the same time.
5c. New York Times baseball columnist Tyler Kepner wrote about MLBers who want to speak with Vin Scully before he retires.
5d. ESPN says it will air 475 NCAA Division I men’s and women’s soccer games across ESPNU, ESPN3, SEC Network, Longhorn Network and ACC Network Extra.
5e. The Verge profiled NBC’s Olympic streaming production.
5f. CJR examined ESPN’s multi-media approach to Pin Kings.
5g. Chicago Tribune writer Ed Sherman wrote about the future of sports on television including reporting that ESPN now charges distributors a monthly fee of $7.21 per subscriber, and another 90 cents for ESPN2, according to SNL Kagen. The cost for ESPN is up more than 120% from 2007, when it was $3.26 per subscriber.
5h. Here’s San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami on the Warriors’ moving from KNBR to 95.7 FM the Game.
5i. The Philadelphia sports blog Crossing Broad has been all over the insanity that is Philly sports talk radio.
5j. Last week Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports Digital announced a content and digital ad sales alliance. In short, Time Inc.’s advertising sales team will sell digital ads for both networks and the combined web traffic produced will count as one entity. The companies will share content, with a significant amount of SI Group content syndicated to FoxSports.com. The objective is to increase the digital scale of both operations against a giant such as ESPN. The partnership has journalistic potential for projects that combine the work of editorial staffers such as Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci. If my colleagues can increase their journalistic reputations and profile on FS1, I’d be happy for them. If they asked me whether they should appear on FS1’s debate shows, I would advise caution.
Here’s the important thing where I’m concerned: Sports Illustrated will maintain editorial oversight of its digital properties, magazine and social media feeds. It remains an independent news organization not beholden to anyone. I’ve known about the agreement for some time and my bosses have reiterated on multiple occasions that I not change my reporting and writing about Fox Sports on any medium, including social media.
SI has been my home for a long time. Not only have I worked for SI and SI.com, I’ve worked for Sports Illustrated Kids, SI Presents, SI For Women, and written for the Swimsuit edition on multiple occasions. It has been my employer since grad school. I see the place with open eyes—at least as best as someone who has been there as long as I have can—but I trust that my editors are dealing me straight. In all my years at SI, through multiple editors and assignments far away from sports media, I’ve never had a piece killed for business reasons.
No one knows what the future holds when the partnership gets active. For now, I’ll be reporting, writing, tweeting and podcasting about Fox Sports independently—the same as always.
5k. Harvey Araton, the terrific New York Times sports columnist, will leave the paper following the U.S. Open. His work has made the The Times look very good.