Sexist tweets underscore same old story for women in sports media

An excerpt from my latest Chicago Tribune column:


The calendar might say 2015, but it seemed like 1965 for many women in sports media Thursday.

The sexism that gets mocked in “Mad Men” played out in a regrettable Twitter exchange between WSCR-AM 670′s Dan Bernstein and Matt Spiegel about CSN’s Aiyana Cristal. Once again, the latest episode served to underscore the challenges that remain undeniably vivid for women in the business.

It began Wednesday when Spiegel issued a tweet questioning Cristal’s broadcast ability while serving as an anchor for “SportsNet Central.” Bernstein responded with a tweet making a sexist comment about Cristal’s looks. Follow-up tweets by Bernstein only made the situation worse.

Bernstein admitted on air he didn’t realize he was in the middle of a blazing social media firestorm until he woke up Thursday morning. Only then did … Continue Reading

Basketball writers president on battle to maintain media seating in NCAAs: ‘We’ll never get back what we had’

An excerpt from my latest column for Poynter:


When Tyler Hansbrough led North Carolina to the national title in 2009, Dana O’Neil left her seat on the floor and climbed a few rows into the stands to talk to his family. The access allowed the reporter to get a quote from Hansbrough’s father, Gene, on how it was the culmination of a dream for his son.

O’Neil cited that anecdote when she told NCAA officials why it is important for reporters to have courtside seating during the men’s basketball tournament.

“It allowed me to tell a much more compelling story,” O’Neil said. “If you put me in [a far-away press box], I’m not going to have that kind of access. I won’t be able to write that story.”

O’Neil, now the president of the U.S. Basketball Writers Continue Reading


DVR alert: New documentary examines Dean Smith’s legend and impact; Jordan credits him for NBA career

Michael Jordan doesn’t sit down for many long interviews these days. However, he was all in when the subject was Dean Smith.

Jordan and numerous other former North Carolina stars are featured in a new documentary, “Dean Smith,” which debuts tonight on Showtime at 8 p.m. The film is a one-hour tribute to the legendary coach, who died in February.

Jordan speaks at length at the impact Smith had on him as a player who went on to stardom with the Bulls.

“I had some rawness to me. He shaped all that,” Jordan said. “I learned a lot. It made me so much better as a professional basketball player.”

James Worthy summed up the feeling of all the players who played for Smith.

“He’s still our coach,” Worthy says. “He’s still our coach.”… Continue Reading

Bob Ryan joins ‘inspirations’ Jim Murray and Frank Deford as this year’s Red Smith Award winner

Congratulations to Bob Ryan for winning the APSE’s biggest award.

From Joe Sullivan’s write-up on the APSE site:

Now Ryan is also a Red Smith Award winner, chosen as the 2015 recipient by members of APSE and presented to an individual who has made a significant contribution to sports journalism.

 “I’m looking at the list of names (who’ve won the Red Smith Award), and it’s thrilling and humbling to be included among them,’’ said Ryan. “It’s everything I would ever have wanted to do in this business, to think I’d have my name associated with those people.

 “There were two particular inspirations in Jim Murray and Frank Deford. And I’m thrilled to be joining a beloved colleague in Bud Collins, of course.’’

 … Continue Reading

Who’s Who in Baseball celebrates 100 years of beautiful simplicity

My latest for the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana:


I walked into Walgreen’s the other day, and there it was on the magazine rack: The 2015 edition of “Who’s Who in Baseball.”

The annual book had its familiar red cover. Mike Trout is the featured player this year with smaller head shots of last year’s Cy Young Award winners Clayton Kershaw and Corey Kluber and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez, last year’s National League RBI champion.

Naturally, I plunked down my $9.95 for the digest-sized book. It’s a late winter/early spring ritual for me dating back more than four decades. Did I actually write 40 years? I actually had some heart palpitations with that sentence as the years start to add up when you hit your mid-50s.

I came along just past the book’s midpoint in its … Continue Reading

What New York Times learned from pulling beat reporter off of Knicks this season

An excerpt of my latest column for Poynter:


When Scott Cacciola started the season as the Knicks beat writer for the New York Times, he didn’t anticipate that by January he would be writing about a girls fifth-grade basketball team in Springfield, Ill. instead of Carmelo Anthony. He thought a February road trip would to be to Chicago for a game against the Bulls, not to New Zealand to report on a team in Australia’s National Basketball League.

Cacciola never envisioned going more than two months without seeing a Knicks game in Madison Square Garden. “I hope they still honor my credential,” he joked in anticipation of attending a game this week.

Cacciola’s odd season was the result of sports editor Jason Stallman’s decision to pull him off the Knicks beat in January. In a note to readers on … Continue Reading

Big Ten TV future: Conference tournament ratings show vast difference between ESPN and Fox Sports 1

Last week, I wrote a column in the Tribune about the Big Ten’s upcoming negotiations on a TV deal and how the conference might have a choice between staying with ESPN or going with Fox Sports 1 on the cable side. It detailed the risks of leaving the broad reach of ESPN for FS1, which has been struggling to gain a foothold.

The ratings from last week’s conference tournaments should provide some interesting perspective for Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany.

The Big East title game between Villanova, an eventual No. 1 seed, and Xavier averaged 414,000 viewers on FS1.

Meanwhile, of the 22 tournament games that aired on ESPN last week, the least-viewed was an ACC second round game on Wednesday afternoon, and that still pulled in 479,000 viewers.

ESPN televised seven conference title games. The least-viewed was 780,000 viewers … Continue Reading

Will Kentucky ‘move the needle’ with high ratings for NCAA Tournament?

My latest for the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana.


TV viewers love to see perfection in sports. It is why the ratings soared when Michael Jordan was flying to titles in Chicago. Fans tuned in to watch the Derek Jeter Yankees dominate baseball in the late ‘90s. Michael Phelps made NBC very happy at several Olympics.

Back when Tiger Woods was Tiger Woods (doesn’t that sound like ancient history?), he got non-traditional golf viewers to watch him on his inevitable march to Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 majors. Again, it still is hard to believe that his run might end at 14 majors with the last one coming at age 32.

In the TV business, all the various forms of perfection from athletes and teams produce the phenomenon of “moving the needle.” Call it ratings gold.

Perfection now looms … Continue Reading

Patrick Sharp story: Challenge of mainstream media reporting on personal lives of athletes

An excerpt from my latest column for Poynter.


Normally, it would have been a routine post-practice session on Sunday, March 1 for the Chicago Blackhawks. It wasn’t.

In the locker room, Patrick Sharp, one of the team’s top players, strongly denied salacious allegations that he had an affair with a teammate’s wife and other women.

“When people delve into your personal life and make up rumors and things that are completely false and untrue, it takes a toll on you,” Sharp said.

The rumors about Sharp had been floating around town for weeks. There had been rampant chatter on message boards and strong innuendo that something was up with Sharp on sports talk radio. Finally, a Chicago site called SportsMockery, reported it had “confirmed” the story on Feb. 28, and that it was a big reason why the team … Continue Reading

Superstar blogger Dave Kindred receives medal when Morton HS wins Illinois girls state title

Previously, I did a piece for on Dave Kindred, one of the top sportswriters of his generation, getting great joy out of covering the Morton girls high school basketball team.

Well, it turns out the Potters won the Illinois state title, and the team insisted Kindred be awarded with a medal.

Now that’s a first. The Dream Team never called him up to receive a gold medal.

WEEK has a feature on Dave. At the end, you’ll see him receive his medal.… Continue Reading

Big Ten faces crucial decisions about its TV future

An excerpt from my latest column in the Chicago Tribune.


The Big Ten Tournament has a nifty network threesome when it comes to television this week.  Three networks, CBS, ESPN, and BTN, will provide extensive coverage.

The more, the merrier from the perspective of Commissioner Jim Delany. CBS is using its A-team of Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill for the semifinals and final, while Mike Tirico will call ESPN’s games.

The match of quality and quantity speaks to the power of the Big Ten. Yet as Delany schmooses with his current network partners at the United Center, he and the Big Ten face crucial decisions about their TV future. The league’s football and basketball deals with ESPN/ABC and CBS expire after the 2016-17 basketball season. Negotiations are expected to heat up soon, assuming they haven’t already.

One … Continue Reading

Reality check on athlete-media relations: NBAPA head’s comment adds to disconnect

An excerpt of my latest column for the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana:


It’s been a somewhat volatile time in athlete-media relations. There was the nuttiness of Marshawn Lynch at the Super Bowl and Kevin Durant’s anti-media rant at the NBA All-Star Game. In Toronto, the Maple Leafs’ Phil Kessel vented that the media should be “embarrassed” by its negative coverage. Never mind that Toronto is one of the worst teams in the league.

Yet one voice on the issue was particularly troubling. And it didn’t belong to an athlete.

In an interview with Kate Fagan at ESPNW, Michele Roberts, the new executive director of the NBA Players Association, recently made headlines with her perspective of the media.

“Most of the time I go to the locker room, the players are there and there are like eight … Continue Reading