Showtime dumps Sapp from Inside the NFL

Troubles continue to mount for Warren Sapp.

The former Tampa Bay star will not be back on Showtime’s Inside the NFL in 2012. His contract wasn’t renewed, according to Will Brinson of

As for his future, Brinson reports:

Sapp’s name has been in the news a lot recently — on Twitter he accused Jeremy Shockey of being a “snitch” in the Saints bounty scandal. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell later refuted that claim (as did’s Mike Freeman) and though the NFL Network said he “clearly crossed the line,” they did not fire him for his comments.
It is not yet known whether or not Sapp’s contract with the NFL Network will be renewed when it reportedly expires in August.


Sunday bookshelf: Ozzie’s School of Management; Kruk teaches him art of F-word

In Rick Morrissey’s new book, Ozzie’s School of Management, the most used word begins with F; second is a word that begins with “mother.”

The Chicago Sun-Times columnist, and my former colleague at the Chicago Tribune, chronicles the unique management style of Ozzie Guillen. The book focuses on Guillen’s tumultuous final season in Chicago and lays the foundation for his first year in Miami. It foreshadows the eventual controversy that erupted following Guillen’s comments about Fidel Castro.

It’s a fascinating read, and I’m going to have more on the book in a future interview with Morrissey. Last Sunday, the Sun-Times ran an excerpt. It details how John Kruk taught Guillen the art of swearing when both were young players in the San Diego farm system. At the time, Guillen, a native of Venezuela, knew little English. Thanks to Kruk, two words soon became prominent in his vocabulary.

Here are some of the excerpts of the excerpt.

Kruk would like to formally apologize. ‘‘I take 100 percent responsibility,’’ he said, chuckling. Few people in major-league baseball drop more F-bombs than Ozzie Guillen, and none do it with his dexterity. He might have learned the word during rookie ball in 1981, but he learned all of its combinations, tenses, applications and nuances from Kruk, who was his teammate for three years in the minors, starting in Reno, Nevada, in 1982.

‘‘He learned how to use it in a lot of different ways — a verb, an adverb, a noun, a pronoun,’’ Kruk said. ‘‘It was free-flowing. I apologize to people for that part of Ozzie’s life. I feel like it is my fault.’’

So, yes, we have discovered the person who taught Guillen the many uses of the word f—. It’s like finding out who first put a paintbrush  in Michelangelo’s hand.

‘‘He taught me all the wrong things,’’ Guillen said, smiling.

Later, Kruk said.

‘‘A lot of Latin players, when they come over here, they’re intimidated by the language and the culture,’’ he said. ‘‘Ozzie embraced it. He wanted to learn. He was eager to learn. He was asking questions — believe me — nonstop.

‘‘I have two young children now. The ‘Why, why, why’ and the ‘Why, Daddy?’ — that was Ozzie to me. ‘Why Krukie? Why this, Krukie? Why that, Krukie? What happened here, Krukie? Tell me this, Krukie.’ I was like, ‘Oh, God.’ It’s like what you do with your kids. You give them some candy, and maybe they’ll be happy for a little while. But I didn’t have any candy to give Ozzie.”





Kerr, Miller preview OK City-San Antonio: Two contrasting styles

TNT’s analysts Steve Kerr and Reggie Miller did a conference call earlier this week previewing the West finals. Here are some of the highlights.

Miller on Oklahoma City Thunder Sixth Man of the Year James Harden: “People underestimate his size, his ability to get to the rim and finish plays…once he gets to the lane off the pick-and-roll, he explodes like how [former NBA player] Detlef Schrempf used to. He’s so strong with the ball and entices you to try to strip him [of the ball] and that gets him the ‘and-one’ [foul shots]…You can definitely see his growth throughout his early NBA career.”

Kerr on James Harden: “He’s really their best passer, by far, and that’s why he’s such a great complement to [Russell] Westbrook and [Kevin] Durant. Those guys are thinking first and foremost about scoring and they’re really good at it. [Harden is] a terrific passer and gives the defense a different look with his skill set. Even though he’s coming off the bench, he’s one of the best two guards in the league.”

Kerr on San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich: “It’s pretty amazing. Very few coaches have the ability to adapt and change from what they once were. Pop is ahead of the curve and has seen the league evolve and he’s evolved with it.”

Kerr on the Spurs offense: “Offensively, this is their best team ever, by far. They’re explosive, they shoot the lights out and they move the ball better than any team in the league. They are totally unselfish and they don’t turn the ball over. They execute every possession and over the course of the game, that’s very difficult. They just wear you out.”

Albert on the Spurs: “Watching San Antonio…we were talking about comparing the Spurs to the Knicks of the early ’70s in terms of San Antonio’s ball movement and intelligent play. Gregg Popovich and [GM] R.C. Buford have assembled a team that is so deep. The match-ups in this [WCF] series are going to be really intriguing.”

Kerr on his interest in taking another front office job: “I’m really happy doing what I’m doing now. I’ll never rule it out and I’ll keep the door open for the future. I have no intention to go anywhere at this point in my life. I haven’t heard from the Magic, anyway, but it’s not something I would pursue.”

Kerr on Oklahoma City EVP & GM Sam Presti incorporating the Spurs model in OKC: “There’s no question the influence from San Antonio is huge. Sam started out as an intern there and really learned everything from the Spurs. And, let’s face it, it’s probably the best model you can pattern your own franchise after. It’s an amazing story and he’s done a great job. He’s established the way the organization is going to go about its business. Sam deserves a ton of credit.”

Kerr on his first reaction when you think about playing for ‘Pop’ [Gregg Popovich]: “The reason he is so successful is the way he manages his players. He’s really, really, fun and funny and outgoing but there is also a part of you that is a little bit afraid of him.”

Miller on his first reaction: “My one word would be ‘wish.’ I wish I could’ve played for him. It’s wish. I wish I could’ve played for a coach like that.”

Kerr on how he sees San Antonio dealing with Russell Westbrook and the type of series he expects from Westbrook: “It’s a totally different match-up. The Spurs had two-and-a-half guys on [Clippers] Chris Paul the whole series. They could funnel him right into their help. Now, the spacing changes. When the game goes small, and Durant is at the ‘four,’ things change health-wise. The Spurs will have to change their coverage completely and there will be much more room for Russell Westbrook to work with.”

Miller on how he sees San Antonio dealing with Russell Westbrook and type of series he expects from Westbrook: “That will likely be the featured match-up of the series – the two point guards. Tony Parker has improved defensively but I think he’s really going to attack Russell Westbrook offensively. From an offensive standpoint, Tony Parker is in his prime. The one thing he’s going to want to do in this series is put Russell Westbrook in a defensive stance moving back.”

Miller on the Southwest Division becoming the power division in the NBA: “You look at all the teams that are in that division, absolutely. Three years ago this team [OKC] started out 3-30 and that’s with Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Nick Collison. Fast forward to today…they very well could’ve had the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. You look at the Southwest Division on a nightly basis and you’ve got to bring it. When you go against the Western Conference, you’re going against a very high-caliber team.”

Kerr on the Southwest Division becoming the power division in the NBA: “You have two of the strongest organization in basketball with Dallas and San Antonio in that same division. I think it’s more coincidence than anything. Things usually run in waves. In this particular instance you have two special players in Tim [Duncan] and Dirk [Nowitzki] who reside in the same division and grew up in strong organizations that really knew how to sustain their success. You throw that in with the emergence of Memphis, Houston…the Southwest has been a pretty good division.”

Kerr on Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich seemingly not getting nationwide respect: “He doesn’t want the accolades. Most of that is just the fact that San Antonio is a small market and the team, there’s never a whole lot of drama. They are a machine and that’s the way Pop likes it. He actually enjoys not being out in the spotlight all the time.”

Miller on the issue of raising the NBA entry age limit: “I’m torn on this. We see tennis players start at 17, 18 years old. Golf prodigies start early. If any of these guys were geniuses where they could work for Apple or Facebook at 17, 18 you can’t tell me that none of those [companies] wouldn’t hire those people [17, 18 year olds] for a certain amount of money. On that standpoint, people should have an opportunity to make a living. As a broadcaster watching the NBA, some of these guys aren’t ready from a mental standpoint. From a basketball standpoint, 80 percent of the guys aren’t ready, really to become men.”

Kerr on the relationship between Popovich and Duncan helping to make the Spurs successful: “Pop is great because he’s constantly saying publicly that none of this [the way the Spurs play] would be possible without Tim. Their personalities blend very well. Pop is a genuinely good person who cares about his players, who cares about their families…the two of them are really the perfect fit. The reason the whole thing worked [the Spurs success] is because of their ability to accept it [constructive criticism from Popovich].”

Miller on going against OKC’s Westbrook, Harden and Durant: “The one thing about the Thunder, they are a jump-shooting team. When they have their jump shot going, they’re pretty much an unbeatable team. The key is to keep them out of the paint and contest those jump shots.”

Kerr on preparing as players to get to the Conference Finals: “To win the NBA Championship you have to win four rounds of playoffs. There is a lot of stress involved. By the time you’ve advanced to the Western Conference Finals you’ve been through it for about one month so you’re either really stressed out or you’re used to the routine. These teams are both pretty experienced.”

Miller on preparing as players to get to the Conference Finals: “Stress is good. When you get down to the [Conference Finals], that series is the hardest to win…you can see that light at the end of the tunnel, you can see tape at the finish line and you’re almost there…to me that’s the toughest part when you get to the Conference Finals.”

Kerr on comparing this year’s WCF to other year’s WCF: “It’s really two contrasting styles. In terms of a match-up…it reminds me of the Dallas/Miami series of a year ago.”


A first for sports TV: NBC’s Sunday Night Football first in primetime

This news is all you need to know about the power of sports on television these days:

With the conclusion of the 2011-12 television season this week, NBC’s Sunday Night Football topped all primetime entertainment programming to become the first sports series to finish the full fall-spring TV season as the most-watched show in primetime, according to The Nielsen Company.

Sunday Night Football averaged 21.5 million viewers and 20.9 million viewers for its games during the official TV season which ran from Sept. 19, 2011 through May 23, 2012. American Idol ranked second.  Sunday Night Football was also the top-ranked primetime program for the television season in household rating, and all key adult and male demographics.

Additional TV highlights from the 2011 NFL season:

  • Super Bowl XLVI on NBC was the most-watched program in U.S. television history.
  • The AFC and NFC Championship Games accounted for the most-watched Championship Sunday in 30 years.
  • Divisional Playoff weekend was the most watched ever, with Giants-Packers on FOX ranking as the most-watched Divisional Playoff game in history.
  • The Steelers-Broncos playoff game on CBS was the most-watched Wild Card game ever.
  • FOX posted its most-watched NFL season ever.
  • CBS posted its second-most watched NFL season since acquiring the AFC package.
  • ESPN’s Monday Night Football was the most-watched series on cable for the sixth consecutive year.
  • NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football posted its most-watched season ever.


Saturday flashback: ’79 Indianapolis 500 with Jim McKay and Jackie Stewart

Back when, even if you weren’t a fan of auto racing, you tuned into the Indianapolis 500. Perhaps it had to do with the presence of Jim McKay.

In this video, the great one and Jackie Stewart broadcast the 1979 race. Just listen to how McKay opens the telecast and sets up the storylines. I got chills when I heard him say, “They’re racing at Indianapolis!”

Stewart also was excellent as an analyst. I remember him saying, “They call that drafting…” in that wonderful British accent.

Also, look at all the legendary drivers vying for the title. Rick Mears defeated A.J. Foyt.

Another time, another place for the Indianapolis 500.

USA Today sports editor on changes; Expanding, not cutting

It’s never fun to let go of employees, and it’s even less fun being portrayed as the bad guy on Twitter and elsewhere.

“It’s a difficult process. I’m not getting around it,” said Dave Morgan, the editor-in-chief for USA Today’s sports group in an interview Friday morning.

A total of 15 sports staffers were trimmed this week, including Michael McCarthy, who wrote on sports media, Tom Weir, Tom Pedulla and Mike Dodd.

Morgan said the moves were made as part of a reorganization of the USA Today sports group among its many platforms, and that includes a dramatic upcoming renovation and upgrade of its website.

“This is about us resetting our priorities and redefining our roles going forward,” he said.

Among key points, Morgan stressed, “This isn’t a cost-cutting exercise. We’re probably adding 20 positions over where we started.”

He said this move isn’t a case of dumping old, expensive journalists in favor of young, cheap journalists.

And finally, reacting to Pedulla’s disappointment in an interview with me yesterday that he didn’t receive a face-to-face interview, Morgan said others were hired who also didn’t get a face-to-face interview.

Here’s my Q/A with Morgan:

What was behind what you did this week?

It’ll show itself with how we’re defining new jobs going forward. I’m basing a lot on breaking news with a specific level of expertise. You look at the NFL. We’re looking to break news in a (highly) competitive setting. We want people setting the agenda for the sport they’re covering.

How did you base your decisions?

Nobody had to reapply for their job. What we did was create 90 news job titles and classifications. If you look at every one person at the paper, their job didn’t exist anymore. Portions of it, but not the entire job. So if you were based in Seattle and covered the NBA and colleges, that’s not a job I have going forward. You’re either going to be NBA or colleges. As part of redefining our news organization, we’re reducing generalization and increasing specialization. We’re creating centers of expertise.

How do you respond to people who say this is a cost-cutting measure and that you wanted to get rid of higher-priced veteran staffers?

If you look at the make-up of our staff going forward, that’s not true. USA Today long has been a destination job. The people we interviewed all had talent. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been at the company. We trying to project people who best fit in with the broader terms of what we’re building. We’re going to add positions where we don’t have anyone right now. We’re going to do more with web, mobile, video, tablet, audio. People see this as an either-or thing. It’s all.

How do you respond to Pedulla’s point about not getting a face-to-face interview?

He wasn’t the only one who didn’t get a face-to-face interview. And I want to say there were people who didn’t get face-to-face interviews who did get hired. We did 150 interviews and every candidate got interviews with the same executive team. It was a long and thorough process and we learned from it.






Will basketball fans tune into Oklahoma City-San Antonio series?

This is a long way (as in light years) from Yankees-Red Sox. Or Lakers-Celtics for that matter.

The Western Conference final between Oklahoma City and San Antonio (game 1, Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, TNT) should provide a good barometer for the growth of the NBA. This is a highly regional match-up, although it’s not even close on the passion meter as Texas-Oklahoma in college football.

San Antonio is the nation’s 36th largest market, while Oklahoma City is 44th. San Antonio has the Alamo and a great River Walk. Not sure what Oklahoma City has, but from listening to a Bill Simmons podcast with SNL’s Bill Hader, an OK City native, it doesn’t sound like much.

As far as star power, San Antonio, with four NBA titles, continues to mysteriously fly under the radar. Tim Duncan easily is the most under hyped superstar in the history of basketball. It seems the only time he and the Spurs get on national TV is if they are playing Kobe or Jeremy Lin.

In fact, when it comes to star power, the biggest in this series will be Kevin Durant. We love the latest big thing, and there will be interest to see if he, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder can take it to the next level.

The NFL has shown it is immune from the small market factor with recent Super Bowls featuring Indianapolis-New Orleans and Green Bay-Pittsburgh. We’ll watch regardless of who is out on the field.

It’s still different for other sports. Star power and market size drive the ratings. You can bet ESPN, and the NBA for that matter, breathed a big sigh of relief when LeBron, Dwyane and Miami prevailed in their series. Nothing against Indiana, but the no-name Pacers would have been a ratings killer in the East finals.

So will you watch Oklahoma City-San Antonio? Basketball fans will, for sure. But the real ratings boost comes with casual, even non-fans tuning in.

TNT will hype this series to the max. Just the same, you know they would have preferred to see Kobe and the Lakers still on the floor.




Fired USA Today sportswriter: Never got face-to-face interview to keep job of 31 years

Update: USA Today editor explains why staffers weren’t retained and changes to sports media group. Here’s the link.


Tom Pedulla had been at USA Today since 1995 and worked with Gannett newspapers for 31 years. So when he had to re-interview for a job he already had, he took it as a good sign that both of them were conducted over the phone.

“I thought they were comfortable with what I was doing,” Pedulla said.

It turns out Pedulla was wrong. Yesterday, Pedulla was among the sports staffers who were let go by USA Today. Others include Michael McCarthy and Tom Weir. The layoffs were part of USA Today restructuring its sports group.

Pedulla was stunned, especially at the timing. As the paper’s horse racing writer since 1998, he was looking forward to covering I’ll Have Another’s bid for the Triple Crown at the upcoming Belmont Stakes.

Pedulla is feeling many emotions. High on the list was his anger at not getting a face-to-face interview. As part of the restructuring, all staffers had to interview for their positions. Pedulla stressed he would have gone to Washington to talk in person to editors.

“If you think someone’s job was in jeopardy, you’d want to do it face-to-face to make the best possible decision,” Pedulla said. “I never got a face-to-face interview to keep a job I had for 31 years.”

Pedulla also learned of his dismissal over the phone yesterday.

“I was told they are looking for reporters who can break stories every day,” Pedulla said.

Again, the timing of that statement felt weird to Pedulla. He also covers the NFL, and the day before editors asked asked if he could reach Tom Brady’s father.

“I have a good relationship with him,” Pedulla said. “I made some calls, and he eventually called me back from Prague (where he was vacation). I got the quotes that the paper needed. If that doesn’t prove I’m an effective reporter, what does?”

Pedulla, 55, realizes everyone at a paper is vulnerable these days. His number came up Wednesday.

“I know it’s a business and they made a business decision,” he said. “I have no choice. They lost a lot of good people. They’re going to be hard to replace.”

Pedulla was heartened that his phone started to ring once the news got out. He will be covering the Belmont for America’s Best Racing site.

“I’ve always written with a lot of passion, and (America’s Best Racing) said that comes through in my writing,” Pedulla said. “It means a lot to me that I’ll still be at the Belmont.”

Pedulla then added: “I’m hoping this will be somebody’s else gain and (USA Today’s) loss.”






Breaking hot dog news: ESPN extends pact for excessive eating contest

ESPN just sent out a release that states:

ESPN has reached an agreement with Major League Eating, in conjunction with Nathan’s Famous, Inc., that provides the network exclusive rights to televise a live, one-hour show of the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest each year through 2017.


You know why this is a big deal? According to the release:

The event consistently generates powerful ratings and has become a holiday viewing tradition for millions of Americans. Last year’s July 4th telecast set a viewership record with 1.95 million live viewers and nearly nine million viewers total on July 4, including two re-airs.

Seriously? Perhaps ESPN is using the number of people who eat hot dogs on the Fourth? Really, we don’t have anything better to do than watch people gorge themselves with hot dogs?

And here’s my favorite line from the release:

More than twenty-five eating athletes from around the world will compete for the respective Men’s and Women’s July 4thHot Dog Eating World Championship Belts.

Athletes? Yes, these definitely are finely trained athletes.

Coming soon: A 24/7 hot dog eating channel.