So I’m off in search of better weather. Will return for the start of the baseball season. Hopefully, they won’t have to use the Zamboni for the White Sox opener.
By the way, if you haven’t read it, Pat Jordan’s A False Spring is a classic.
So I’m off in search of better weather. Will return for the start of the baseball season. Hopefully, they won’t have to use the Zamboni for the White Sox opener.
By the way, if you haven’t read it, Pat Jordan’s A False Spring is a classic.
The storyline seems the same, only change the sport from football to basketball, and the states from Texas to Kentucky.
Keith O’Brien’s new book, Outside Shot, is the basketball version of Buzz Bissinger’s highly-acclaimed, Friday Night Lights. Much like Bissinger’s book on football in Texas, O’Brien spent a year in a small town in Kentucky, documenting the obsession and at times, the over-exaggerated importance of the local high school basketball team. However, it remains to be seen if Billy Bob Thornton also will play the coach in the movie version of Outside Shot like he did for Friday Night Lights. And let’s not talk about a potential TV series.
Indeed, the comparisons are inevitable between the two books. In O’Brien’s book, there is a sense of “haven’t we heard this story before?” Bissinger’s book, published in 1990, sets a fairly high standard for this category. He also had better material to mine, especially with the star running back who saw his college and pro dreams get shattered with a devastating knee injury. O’Brien’s Outside Shot doesn’t have that level of pathos and emotional pulls.
Yet it’s been 23 years since Lights hit the shelves, and a contemporary account of the high school sports tale definitely merits attention.
O’Brien, a former Boston Globe reporter, tracked the Scott County basketball team for the 2009-10 season. Located in rural Kentucky outside of Lexington, the economically-challenged town doesn’t have much besides basketball and bluegrass. O’Brien weaves in details of industries that have come and gone in the area.
O’Brien writes, “Those living here today will say, simply, that they live in the Bluegrass, as if it is of them, which in a way it is.”
With the famed Kentucky Wildcats, winners of eight NCAA titles, just down the road, basketball has a firm hold on Scott County. The expectations always are high, thanks to coach Billy Hicks, who has led the school to two state championships.
O’Brien portrays Hicks as earnest and dedicated in prodding his team through the long grind of the season. To his credit, he doesn’t go to the extremes in the yelling department, much like other high school coaches who emulate Bobby Knight. Hicks, though, does face charges of “recruiting” players to Scott County to help feed the pipeline. It goes to the extent how important winning is to the program.
O’Brien writes of the pressure on Hicks to succeed: “He was sinking, inching ever deeper into a world where child athletes called the shots and their parents demanded athletic greatness at seemingly any cost, while these fans, this county, longed for the innocence of a not-so-distant past.”
The players also felt the pressure. For them, the ultimate prize wasn’t a state championship, but rather a college scholarship. Dakotah Euton, regarded as the state’s top young prospect as a freshman, had to deal with disappointment as a senior when his talent level failed to match the unrealistic expectations. Ge’Lawn Guyn’s aching knees complicated his ability to show his worth to college coaches. Chad Jackson, the starting power forward, had to deal with an uncertain future in the wake of his father’s death at age 39 from abuse of crack cocaine.
Then there were the players who simply wanted to get precious minutes on the floor. O’Brien writes poignantly of Will Schu, whose intensity backfired on him when he broke his hand in a fit of anger.
Writes O’Brien: “The boy, with no father in his life and few defined plans for the future, sometimes wondered why he had worked so hard, for so long, to end up here: on the bench, watching a bunch of transfers play.”
O’Brien writes a compelling narrative. He makes the reader care about the players and their coach. He also does a nice job with his game accounts of Scott County’s up-and-down season. He creates a vivid picture of what it is like to be in those Kentucky gyms on cold winter nights.
Ultimately, though, O’Brien wasn’t rewarded with the last-second three-pointer to secure victory in the big game. There isn’t the edge-of-seat drama in Outside Shot.
Rather, O’Brien provides an interesting look at a place where high school basketball is taken very seriously, much like football in Friday Night Lights.
Outside Shot isn’t at the level of Friday Night Lights, considered one of the best sports books of all time. However, that shouldn’t be considered a putdown.
O’Brien’s book is more than worthy of standing on its own merits.
In the last few weeks, Bill Walton is being portrayed as this goof, eccentric uncle, prone to going over the line of ridiculous. So perhaps a little reminder is in order as to what he truly represented: Basketball at its finest.
Does it get any better than his performance in the 1973 NCAA Final? Walton went 21 of 22 from the field, scoring 44 points in UCLA’s win over Memphis. As a bonus, listen to the great Curt Gowdy on the call.
Here’s a profile of Walton and UCLA
Step up to the cash register, Peter King.
King agreed to a new deal to stay at Sports Illustrated. Even better, he will become editor of a his own NFL-centric site in the fall.
It helps to be in demand. According to Keith J. Kelly of the New York Post, King signed a three-year deal for in excess of $3 million.
SI would not confirm the dollar amount.
“I did consider five media options, including ESPN, but it came down to NBC or SI and loyalty to a place that has been so good to me since 1989 helped to make my decision to stay,” said King, reached on vacation in London.
He is expected to continue his commentary on Sunday Night Football for NBC.
“It’s safe to say Peter is very nicely paid,” said Fichtenbaum.
Here is the official release from SI:
The Time Inc. Sports Group announced today that Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Peter King, who was named the 2012 National Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, has extended his contract.
King will continue to write several columns a week on SI.com, including his iconic Monday Morning Quarterback, as well as produce video and contribute significantly to the magazine. In addition, King will be expanding his role, becoming the editor of an NFL-centric spinoff website that Sports Illustrated will launch in late summer.
“Our readers will be thrilled to have Peter with us for a long time,” said Paul Fichtenbaum, Time Inc. Sports Group Editor. “He’s the most prominent reporter on the most important beat in sports, and his ability to excel across the changing media landscape is a model for our organization. We’re excited to continue working with Peter and increasing his role with our new digital initiative, which will take a deeper dive into all things NFL.”
Joining King on the SI masthead are new Senior Writer Greg Bedard, formerly the national NFL columnist at The Boston Globe; new Senior Editor at SI.com Neil Janowitz, who was an editor at Fast Company; New Director of Photography Bradley Smith, who comes from The New York TImes; and Staff Writer Jenny Vrentas, who was covering the New York Giants for the Newark Star-Ledger.
These additions represent the latest steps in the evolution of the Time Inc. Sports Group editorial team, which underwent a complete multiplatform integration just a few months ago. Fichtenbaum, who oversaw the staff integration, previously named Chris Stone the Managing Editor of Sports Illustrated magazine, Matt Bean the Managing Editor of SI.com and Chris Hercik the Group Creative Director.
“With Greg, Neil, Brad and Jenny we’ve added supremely talented journalists who understand how to create and package stories that live across the print, digital, video and mobile landscape,” said Fichtenbaum. “We are delighted to add their voices and expertise to the franchise.”
That’s when the Big Ten’s TV deals for basketball conclude with ESPN and CBS. Based on what the new Big East got from Fox Sports 1 this week, you know Delany is anxious for his turn at the bargaining table.
The new Big East (comprised of the Catholic 7 and additions like Butler) landed a 12-year, $500 million with Fox Sports 1. It could rise to $600 million if the conference goes to 12 schools.
That’s a huge haul for a conference whose best TV attraction probably is Georgetown. Marquette, St. Johns, Villanova, Seton Hall, and even DePaul (if the Blue Demons can regain old glory) also have decent brand identification.
However, as a whole the new Big East doesn’t compare to the new Big Ten, which will grow to include Maryland and Rutgers.
This year, the Big Ten produced the two most watched college basketball games on ESPN (Indiana-Michigan and Indiana-Michigan State), and four of the top five on CBS.
According to Kristi Dosh of ESPN.com, here is what the Big Ten’s current TV deals are worth:
First-tier rights: $1 billion, ESPN, 10 years through 2016-17.
Second-tier rights: $2.8 billion, Big Ten Network, 25 years through 2031-32.
Select basketball rights: (minimum of 24 games, men’s tournament semifinal and championship games): $72 million, CBS, six years through 2016-17.
The Big Ten stands to get a hefty increase, especially on the cable side. And the commissioner will have some help from his good friends at Fox.
Fox, which owns 51 percent of the Big Ten Network, is going to be an aggressive player for college basketball rights, as demonstrated by the Big East deal. Executives know the quickest way for Fox Sports 1 to compete with ESPN is to acquire premium live programming. Big Ten basketball is premium.
NBC Sports Network could be in the mix to make a major move by then. It needs to increase its premium inventory beyond the NHL.
Delany also has the leverage to move more games to the Big Ten Network, which is coming off a big year.
Nothing works better than a competitive environment to boost TV rights. You can be sure Delany is counting the days until the bidding begins.
This is an example of how sports journalism can have an impact.
Last October, Jeremy Schaap told the tragic story of an Illinois high school player for E:60.
In 2000, Rocky Clark, 16, suffered two broken vertebrae and a devastating spinal cord injury in an Eisenhower High School football game. He was paralyzed from the neck down. His family was told by school officials Rocky’s medical costs would be covered by Eisenhower’s insurance. Full-time nursing, medication, supplies, and his own determination allowed Rocky to surpass life expectancy for most quadriplegics.
Then at age 26, ten years later, the insurance company sent a letter saying Rocky’s lifetime maximum of $5 million had been reached and coverage for his care was ended. Medicaid and limited state resources helped a little, but the quality of his care declined and, in January of 2012, Rocky died.
How was this allowed to happen? Thankfully, the story struck a chord with people who can make a difference.
Illinois State Senator Napoleon B. Harris III wants to make sure it doesn’t happen again. From the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus staff:
“Rocky’s attitude was always inspiring, and his experience inspired his mother, his family, supporters and me to do something to prevent uninsured catastrophic injury costs,” said State Senator Napoleon B. Harris, III. “I’m sponsoring Senate Bill 2178 to require catastrophic insurance be in place so in a worst case scenario, our student athletes and their families aren’t left on their own.”
Harris’ measure would require public high school districts and private high schools to provide catastrophic accident insurance for all student athletes in IHSA programs, and to set benefit limits of $7.5 million or 15 years, in excess of other insurance provided by the school district. It would require IHSA to provide a group policy to ensure coverage is affordable for school district. The bill does not dictate a funding source, but the cost of $5-10 per student could be an extracurricular activity fee, raised by a parent-booster group, or through other fundraising. Iowa passed a similar law, and the Iowa Farm Bureau stepped up to cover the cost.
National media coverage, including ESPN, helped shed light on Rocky’s story. Representative Will Davis sponsored a bill in the House in 2012 similar to SB2178, and is doing the same this year. Davis and Harris are working together for passage of this measure in 2013. SB 2178 passed in the Senate Insurance Committee Wednesday, and House Bill 127 is currently in the House Education Committee.
News flash: The weather sucks in Chicago.
The start of the tournament will launch the inevitable cries that the players should be paid. I can hear the chorus now: The NCAA and colleges make big money off the three-week basketball feast and the poor players get nothing.
Pay the players!
Well, as a public service announcement, I’m here to say it can’t happen and it shouldn’t happen.
The argument is based on a myth: College athletic programs are rolling in cash.
Just the opposite is true. Most athletic programs lose money, and have to be subsidized by their university. These are hugely expensive endeavors, considering the costs of scholarships, facilities, coaches, etc. People see the 100,000-plus in Michigan Stadium for a football game and believe that’s the case everywhere. It isn’t.
Also, the cost of success in college athletics keeps going up exponentially. It’s an arms race of ridiculous proportions. There’s a never-ending need to spend millions on lavish facilities to keep up with the school down the road. As a result, whatever money comes in goes out just as quickly.
For the vast majority of schools, the funds aren’t there to pay the athletes. Not without a dramatic cutback on sports and scholarships.
Also, just who would get paid? Only football and basketball players? They bring in the big money, right?
Again, another myth. Plenty of those sports lose money at schools not named Ohio State (football) or Kentucky (basketball). Meanwhile, there are women’s basketball and hockey programs that make a profit for their schools. Why shouldn’t those athletes get paid?
In fact, I can’t see any model that doesn’t include paying every scholarship athlete. It is the only equitable way to determine who gets a paycheck. If you’re going to pay the starting quarterback, you also have to pay the woman cross country runner.
If you include all the scholarship athletes, then you’re talking millions to cover the costs. Again, the money isn’t there. I can assure you schools will respond by cutting scholarships and programs.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany got criticized this week for a hardline view about paying players. Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples had the report about the commissioner’s remarks in Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit against the NCAA.
In a declaration filed last week in federal court in support of the NCAA’s motion against class certification, Delany threatened that any outcome that results in athletes getting a piece of the schools’ television revenue could force the schools of the Big Ten to de-emphasize athletics as the Ivy League’s schools did decades ago.
“…it has been my longstanding belief that The Big Ten’s schools would forgo the revenues in those circumstances and instead take steps to downsize the scope, breadth and activity of their athletic programs,” Delany wrote. “Several alternatives to a ‘pay for play’ model exist, such as the Division III model, which does not offer any athletics-based grants-in-aid, and, among others, a need-based financial model. These alternatives would, in my view, be more consistent with The Big Ten’s philosophy that the educational and lifetime economic benefits associated with a university education are the appropriate quid pro quo for its student athletes.”
Many people viewed Delany’s comments as extreme. They can’t conceive that the Big Ten would forgo billions of dollars in athletic revenue.
Maybe not, but Delany knows paying players would create nothing but chaos. Such as: Why should the star point guard get paid the same amount as the 14th player at the end of the bench? Here come more lawsuits.
It isn’t a stretch for Delany to say the Big Ten presidents wouldn’t want any part of that.
Besides, the athletes already get paid. As a parent with a junior in high school, I am getting a harsh education about the cost of higher education. If my son wants to go Indiana, it will cost in excess of $40,000 per year for out-of-state tuition.
Yet thanks to their scholarships, the top Hoosier athletes get all expenses paid. That’s nearly $200,000 over four years.
Somebody please tell me how that’s not getting paid. I love my son, but I would love him even more if he could throw a football 60 yards.
So as you watch the NCAA tournament, just know that the players aren’t going home empty-handed. Those scholarships are a nice haul for being able to shoot a basketball.
If it seems like the Miami Heat have been featured in virtually every NBA telecast, it is because they have. Unfortunately, LeBron’s national show is about to end, just as the Heat make their run at the Los Angeles Lakers’ 33-game winning streak.
According to Austin Karp of Street and Smith’s Business Daily, the Heat are nearly at their league maximums for national TV during the regular season.
ESPN is only scheduled to have one more Heat game this season — next Wednesday’s matchup against the Bulls (potential win No. 27) — while ABC will air the April 14 Bulls-Heat game. ESPN and ABC will then be maxed out on appearances by the Heat, as the nets will have shown the team 10 and five times, respectively. TNT also only has one scheduled Heat game left before it hits its max of 10 broadcasts, the April 2 matchup against the Knicks (win No. 31).
This isn’t good. Just as the Heat streak really is getting hot, there’s only two national games on the schedule between now and the possible record-breaker? Definitely a letdown, there.
And what happens if the streak still is alive, and Heat are going for No. 34 against Milwaukee on April 9? Karp writes:
An ESPN spokesperson said the net would be able to show live cut-ins of the game on its “NBA Coast To Coast” whip-around show. However, it could not air the entire game. NBA TV could be the beneficiary of ESPN and TNT’s misfortune, as the April 9 game likely will be among those up for selection in the net’s weekly Fan Night pick.
If it breaks down that way, plenty of viewers will be searching to find the exact channel for NBA TV on their cable outlets.
Indeed, NBA TV definitely stands to be the big winner. Wonder what kind of rating the network received for airing the end of last night’s game?
However, plenty of other people did as the Sports Emmy nominations just came in. The big night is set for May 7 in New York.
Here’s the rundown of nominations by network groups:
NBC Sports Group: 58
ESPN (which includes ABC): 43
Turner Sports: 27
Fox Sports Media Group: 17
NFL Network: 16
CBS (includes Showtime): 15
MLB Network: 9
Not surprisingly, NBC’s coverage of the London Olympics received the most nominations with 14. The NBA on TNT and Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel were next with six.
And the biggies:
Outstanding Sports Personality: Play-by-Play
Mike Breen ABC
Mike Emrick NBC / NBC Sports Network
Al Michaels NBC
Jim Nantz CBS
Note: Where’s Joe Buck? Dan Shulman should have gotten a nod.
Outstanding Sports Personality: Sports Event Analyst
Ato Boldon, NBC
Cris Collinsworth, NBC
Jon Gruden, ESPN
Jim Kaat, MLB Network
Mike Mayock, NFL Network / NBC
Note: Jeff Van Gundy is a big omission. So is Ed Olczyk.
Outstanding Sports Personality: Studio Host
James Brown, CBS / Showtime
Bob Costas, NBC / NBC Sports Network
Rich Eisen, NFL Network
Ernie Johnson, TNT / NBA TV
Dan Patrick, NBC / NBC Sports Network /DirecTV
Note: Thrilled to see Eisen get recognized. Chris Fowler needs to be on this list.
Outstanding Sports Personality: Studio Analyst
Charles Barkley TNT / NBA TV
Tony Dungy, NBC
Boomer Esiason, CBS
Harold Reynolds, MLB Network
Bill Ripken, MLB Network
Kurt Warner, NFL Network
Note: Wow, quite a step in class for Cal’s little brother. A lot of big names missing here.
Outstanding Sports Personality: Sports Reporter
Andrea Joyce, NBC / NBC Sports Network
Pierre McGuire, NBC / NBC Sports Network
Lisa Salters, ESPN
Michele Tafoya, NBC
Tom Verducci, MLB Network / TBS
Note: Doris Burke is stellar on NBA. Should be included.
Outstanding Studio Show (Weekly)
College Gameday, ESPN
Football Night in America, NBC
Inside the NBA, TNT
Inside the NFL, Showtime
Note: All three NFL Sunday daytime pregame shows (CBS, Fox, ESPN) fail to get a nomination.
Outstanding Live Sports Series
ESPN Monday Night Football, ESPN
NASCAR on FOX, FOX / SPEED
NBA on TNT, TNT
NFL on FOX, FOX
Sunday Night Football, NBC
Note: CBS’ football coverage gets shut out.
Outstanding Live Sports Special
The 96th Indianapolis 500, ABC
The 108th World Series, FOX
The Army-Navy Game, CBS
The Masters, CBS
Super Bowl XLVI, NBC
Note: Interesting that the Army-Navy game made it into this category.
Outstanding Sports Documentary
26 Years: The Dewey Bozella Story, ESPN2
Dream Team, NBA TV
The Announcement, ESPN
Note: All good, and plenty of others deserving.
It’s all about content. The deal provides the new network with more than 100 games. That’s a nice thing to have during the winter months.
I wouldn’t expect Fox Sports 1 to stop here. It will be active players for more college basketball rights as they become available.
Here’s the official release:
he Big East Conference, boasting ten institutions with tradition-rich athletics programs and FOX Sports have entered into a landmark 12-year multi-platform media rights agreement beginning with the 2013-14 academic year. The announcement was made today during a press conference held in New York City attended by the presidents of the Big East’s member institutions, along with FOX Sports Co-President and COO Randy Freer and FOX Sports Executive Vice President, Larry Jones. Financial terms were not disclosed.
The reconstituted Big East Conference now features Butler University, Creighton University, DePaul University, Georgetown University, Marquette University, Providence College, St. John’s University, Seton Hall University, Villanova University and Xavier University beginning with the 2013-14 academic year. Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s and Seton Hall are all founding members of the Big East, which began conference play in 1979. Villanova was added in 1980, while DePaul and Marquette joined in 2005. The official addition of Butler, Creighton and Xavier universities was also announced during the press conference today.
The agreement grants FOX Sports rights to all conference-controlled men’s basketball games, select rights to women’s basketball, all Olympic sports and extensive rights for highlights and to produce ancillary programming.
FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports’ newly minted national multi-sport channel which launches this summer, is slated to televise over 100 men’s regular-season basketball games next season. The network is also scheduled to carry the entire Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament each season, live from Madison Square Garden in New York City, the tournament’s home since 1983, and the longest-running conference tournament played at one venue.
“We applaud all the Big East schools for taking responsibility for their own destiny and forming what is clearly one of the top college basketball leagues in the country,” said Freer. “The quality of the competition is obvious. Five teams who will play in the renewed Big East next season are playing in this year’s NCAA tournament, and seven qualified for postseason play overall. We’re extremely proud and fortunate to offer college basketball of this caliber on FS1 next season and for many seasons to come.”
Added Father Dennis Holtschneider, President of DePaul University: “The New Big East is fortunate to have found a partner such as FOX Sports, which shares our intense passion for college basketball, and is committed to celebrating the student-athletes and the natural rivalries that make college athletics so unique and appealing for fans across the nation.”