Hines Ward joins NBC as analyst; really excited!

Hines Ward is really excited, with an exclamation mark!

From the release:

Hines Ward, a four-time Pro Bowler who played 14 years for the Pittsburgh Steelers before retiring after the 2011 season, joins NBC Sports Group as an analyst across its NFL, college football and studio programming, it was announced today.

As part of the multi-year agreement, Ward will be a regular contributor to the critically- acclaimed Football Night in America; serve as an analyst every Saturday on NBC’s and NBC Sports Network’s college football studio programming with Liam McHugh and Doug Flutie; and will regularly appear on NBC SportsTalk with Mike Florio and Peter King to preview and recap the week in the NFL.

Ward, who appeared on NBC’s Super Bowl XLVI pre-game show, is a four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver and two-time Super Bowl champion.

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Miami-Boston rules over Cup opener in NY, LA markets; Buffalo does higher local rating

This has to be unprecedented. If not, then I can’t remember the last time it happened.

Wednesday, a Stanley Cup Final opener couldn’t pull better ratings in the local cities of the two participating teams than an NBA semifinal playoff game with out of market teams.

Basketball, not hockey, was the top-rated sporting event for the evening in both New York and Los Angeles. The Miami-Boston game drew a 7.4 rating in New York and a 6.1 in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final featuring local teams in New Jersey-Los Angeles did a 5.1 rating in New York and a 4.2 in Los Angeles.

As predicted, it shows the limited ratings appeal for the New Jersey Devils in the New York area and the Los Angeles Kings in LA. You could be sure the New York numbers would have been much different if the Rangers advanced to … Continue Reading

Explaining, defending Ken Harrelson

I’ve known Ken Harrelson for 26 years. Back in 1986, the Chicago Tribune dropped me without a parachute into the White Sox beat. I was 26-years-old and woefully inexperienced; the year before I actually covered the Illinois state high school badminton tournament.

To top things off, the Sox made Ken Harrelson their general manager. It proved to be a wild season, with Hawk eventually firing Tony La Russa. Yet through it all, I still have fond memories of working with Harrelson that year. There never was any BS with him and that definitely holds true today.

I’m saying all this because it helps explain why Harrelson went off like he did Wednesday in Tampa. The video has gone viral, and he even got some play on SportsCenter.

It is a quite a rant. Epic, even.

Yet this is what White Sox fans come to expect of Harrelson. … Continue Reading

Pearlman tells complete story of infamous John Rocker story

There’s the story that gets printed in a publication. Then there’s the story behind the story.

Often, the latter is just as interesting.

Jeff Pearlman has decided to tell what happened before, during and after his infamous story on John Rocker that ran in Sports Illustrated in 1999. He writes about the weird encounters on his JeffPearlman.com in response to Rocker knocking him in a recent interview.

Rocker said of Pearlman:

Pearlman spent nearly 10 hours with me that day and we engaged in numerous very long-winded conversations on everything from how to throw a breaking ball to the effects of a flawed U.S. immigration policy. Strategically extracting a sentence fragment here and separate thought there Pearlman painted the exact picture of me he intended from the very beginning and in doing so remained true to form and consistent

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This week’s SI: The untold story about steroids in baseball

Back in 2002, Ken Caminiti’s revelations in Sports Illustrated blew open what was painfully obvious: rampant use of steroids in baseball.

This week, Caminiti, who died of a drug overdose, is back on the cover of SI. However, on the 10th anniversary of the original story, SI’s Tom Verducci takes a different approach on discussing the impact steroids had on the game.

His opening paragraph:

This is a story about the real cost of steroids in baseball–not the broken records, not the litigation, not the talk-show drone about the elite players who juiced and how to weigh their Hall of Fame candidacy. This is a story about the hundred, even thousands, of anonymous ballplayers whose careers and lives were changed by a temptation that defined an era.

Kudos to Verducci and SI for detailing the deeper implications here. It went far beyond Bonds, McGwire, Clemens, Sosa, … Continue Reading

Verdi on covering Nicklaus: He just gets it

It is a big week for my old Chicago Tribune colleague Bob Verdi. He is receiving the 2012 Memorial Golf Journalism Award at Jack Nicklaus’ tournament.

Verdi has received many honors through the years, but this one is special because of his relationship with Nicklaus.

Unlike Tiger Woods, who doesn’t get it in regards to the media, Nicklaus continues to be the all-time greatest golfer in the pressroom too. There’s a reason why Nicklaus, at age 72, resonates more than just about anybody associated with the game.

During an interview on my golf radio show on WSCR-AM 670 in Chicago, Verdi talked about covering the Golden Bear for the Tribune, Golf World and Golf Digest:

Jack realized early on, probably from (Arnold Palmer), whether he shot 65 or 75, he was news. He never brushed off the media. He just gets it. It’s part

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Back by unpopular demand: Pro Bowl returns for 2013

This is your fault, people. If you didn’t watch the Pro Bowl, there wouldn’t be a Pro Bowl.

But football fans do tune in. That’s the main, and perhaps only, reason why the NFL just announced that yet another Pro Bowl will be played on Jan. 27 in Hawaii.

From the release:

The NFL’s All-Star Game will be played the week before the Super Bowl for the fourth consecutive year. The 2012 Pro Bowl on NBC was watched by an average of 12.5 million viewers, the second most-watched NFL All-Star game since 2001 behind 2011’s game (13.4 million viewers). The Pro Bowl was the most-watched all-star game in all of sports in the 2011 season.

Yes, higher ratings than the Mid-Summer Classic, supposedly the best All-Star game in all of sports. NBC, which will air the Pro Bowl, won’t mind pulling in 12-13 million … Continue Reading

New Stanley Cup promo captures the feeling

The NHL certainly has done an impressive job with promos capturing the joy of winning the Stanley Cup.

This year’s entry shows a montage of winning teams gathering around the Cup on the ice for those epic group photos. Simple and cool. Very cool. Kudos to Young & Rubicam for their idea and execution.

Here are the previous entries. The 2010 spot shows players getting choked up in their moment of victory.

Here’s the one from 2008 on raising the Cup.

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Saints owner: Times-Picayune needs to be published daily

Since forever, we’ve heard how teams, owners, players don’t need newspapers. Until they realize they do.

That appears to be the case in New Orleans. Saints owner Tom Benson is upset with last week’s announcement that the New Orleans Times-Picayune will be published only three days per week. He fired off a pleading note to Advance Publication’s Steve Newhouse, asking him to reconsider the decision.

Benson writes:

It is my belief that New Orleans has the passion and spirit and resilience and deserves to be a city with a daily. Major league cities (and rest assured, we are one), have high-visibility entities such as NBA and NFL teams. They host Super Bowls, Final Fours, BCS National Championships, All-Star games, and other international events. It is hard for me to imagine no Times-Picayune on Monday, February 4, 2013, the day after our

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No swear zone: NBC producer defends McGuire

If the coaches start launching F-bombs over Pierre McGuire’s head during the Stanley Cup Final, executive producer Sam Flood said NBC will handle it the same way it did during Game 4 of the Rangers-Devils series.

During a conference call Tuesday, Flood said if McGuire doesn’t cut off his microphone, the truck would. Flood supported McGuire, who has come under fire for censoring the heated exchange between Rangers coach John Tortorella and New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer.

Flood said:

Pierre is going to give the information. It’s simply two coaches who are not getting along. What they’re saying is not ready for broadcast. (McGuire can say) ‘I can tell you they’re mad at each other’ He can tell you the context without any words. That’s his job.

Later Flood added:

He and I talk after every situation and how it was handled….In terms of language, I certainly

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