Say bye-bye, NFL: FCC expected to eliminate sports blackout rule

This is way overdue.

Bloomberg News reports:

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday will vote on whether to eliminate a decades-old rule that has prohibited pay-TV providers from airing some home sports games, such as NFL football games, if the tickets to those games did not sell out.

Four of five FCC commissioners, including Chairman Tom Wheeler, have publicly indicated support for ending the policy, which is known as a sports blackout rule and is backed by the broadcasters and the National Football League.


Only two NFL games, or less than 1 percent, were blacked out as a result of the rule last season and none so far this year, according to the NFL. In several instances, some businesses helped avoid blackouts by buying blocks of unsold tickets.

“The sports blackout rules are a bad hangover from the

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Moving on: Cubs end a remarkable era on WGN Radio

My latest Chicago Tribune column is on the end of an era in Chicago.

Consider this: If the Cubs stay on their new radio outlet, WBBM-AM 780, for as long as they were on WGN-AM 720, fans will be listening to games on that station in 2069. Assuming, of course, there’s radio and baseball.

From the column:


Nothing lasts forever, but the idea of the Cubs leaving WGN-AM 720 seemed as unlikely Ernie Banks suddenly proclaiming that the Cardinals are his favorite team.

WGN and Cubs baseball have been such a fixture in fans’ daily lives that only first names were required. For one generation, it was tuning into “Vince and Lou”; for another it was listening to “Pat and Ron.”

This is a relationship that dates back to 1925, with WGN being the exclusive radio home for the … Continue Reading


Ready for another channel dedicated to golf? Back9Network makes debut

It would seem the Golf Channel would be more than enough to satisfy people like me who love/hate the game. But here comes a new entry.

The Back9Network kicks off today in 20 million homes on DirecTV. Obviously, the new network hopes to extend its reach, and that would include cutting a deal with Comcast, which owns the Golf Channel.

According to the advance PR, Back9Network will be more about the lifestyle and off-beat element of golf, and less about breaking down why the U.S. sucked again in the Ryder Cup.

From a release: “(The network will feature) nearly 1,100 hours of original programming in its first year, including 10 original primetime series, live morning, midday, and evening shows, as well as a variety of golf lifestyle programming covering travel, real estate, food, fashion, courses and equipment.”

Will there be an … Continue Reading

A Cubs fan pays tribute to Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau

Last week in a column on the Cubs’ final days on WGN Radio, I mentioned that long-time play-by-play man Vince Lloyd always was “underrated.”

Unfortunately, I was limited by space, because Lloyd, who teamed with Lou Boudreau for two decades on Cubs radio, merited more than just a mention. I wanted to share this note I received from a reader, Patrick Allen, who recalled a slice of Chicago broadcast history.


I really enjoyed your article in Friday’s Tribune about WGN radio and the Cubs – mainly because I appreciated your comments about Vince Lloyd.  I am not sure it is fair to say I grew up listening to Vince and Lou.  I heard a report about Jack Quinlan’s death while in a driver’s education car.  In fact, I told the driver’s ed teacher to “shut up” so I could listen to the report on … Continue Reading

You’re not done with Jeter: Last game detailed on Fox Sports 1; Beat reporter calls him ‘abidingly decent’ and professional’

The Derek Jeter farewell tour has been extended to Monday.

From Fox Sports 1:


For those lucky enough to attend Yankees Captain Derek Jeter’s final home game, the farewell scene was indescribable. Tens of thousands gathered in a 21st century sports cathedral to witness the final pinstriped chapter of a 20-year career no doubt guided by the baseball gods.  How else can one explain how New York’s rain-soaked skies miraculously gave way to a game-time rainbow and the storybook drama that unfolded in the ninth?

Fortunately, for those who wish to re-live the evening, FOX Sports 1 presents, DEREK JETER: A NIGHT 2 REMEMBER, a cinematic journey through his final home game as a New York Yankee.  Produced by Major League Baseball Productions and FOX Sports Originals, the special 30-minute program premieres Monday, Sept. 29 (7:30 PM ET).

Throughout the day and … Continue Reading

Classless rant: ESPN did right thing by suspending Simmons

I was out yesterday observing Rosh Hashanah. Naturally, when I’m gone, all the big news occurs.

Predictably, a lot of people are coming down on ESPN for suspending Bill Simmons. But really the network had no choice.

Simmons’ rant about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was off base on many levels. ESPN ombudsman Robert Lipsyte, who has taken the network to task several times in his role, summed it up nicely.

Simmons is, in my opinion, ESPN’s franchise player, but by no stretch a leading journalist. On his 45th birthday today, my gift to him was recounting my favorite quote from the late basketball coach Butch van Breda Kolff: “Everyone’s strength is their weakness.” He said he liked it. 

In Simmons’ case it has to do with his driving energy and creativity, which can also morph into tunnel vision and

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Can he do it? Simms said he will do best not to use Washington nickname Thursday

Phil Simms said he won’t use Washington’s nickname during CBS’ telecast of their game against the New York Giants Thursday night.

The CBS analyst said prior to the season that he would refrain from using Washington’s nickname in light of the growing spotlight on the controversy. In an interview with Richard Deitsch at MMQB, Simms hopes to follow through in calling his first Washington game this season.

“That’s still my thought process,” Simms said. “I made that decision and I’m not going into what really drove me to it, but it offends a certain group of people and I have sympathy for them. So I can have sympathy for them and I am not denigrating the other side.”

Simms, though, knows he might use the nickname. In fact, he already has.

“Will I refer to their nickname?” Simms said. “Look, … Continue Reading

Flashback: Thanks Paul Konerko for my most memorable moment as a sports fan

Derek Jeter’s farewell is a national story, but in Chicago, we’re also saying good-bye to a special player.

Paul Konerko is hanging them up after 16 years with the White Sox. While he never received the fanfare of a Jeter, he quietly put together an awesome career: 439 homers and six trips to the All-Star game.

Paulie has been all class, the kind of player you’d want to represent your franchise.

I have been watching the White Sox faithfully for nearly 50 years. Unfortunately, I have endured more bad than good.

However, I always will be grateful to Konerko for giving me my most memorable moment as a sports fan.

In Game 2 of the 2005 World Series, the Sox trailed 4-2 to Houston in the seventh. Konerko came up to face reliever Chad Qualls with the bases loaded.

Sitting … Continue Reading

Author Q/A: New Ryder Cup book examines Nicklaus’ great act of sportsmanship

It’s Ryder Cup week, and inevitably the 1969 matches will be recalled in all their glory.

It all came down to the last hole with Tony Jacklin facing a three-foot putt to halve his match with Jack Nicklaus. If Jacklin misses, the U.S. has an outright victory. If he makes the putt, it ends in a tie with the U.S. retaining the Ryder Cup by virtue of winning in 1967.

Jacklin never to attempt the putt. Nicklaus shocked everyone, from fellow players to U.S. captain Sam Snead, by picking up Jacklin’s coin and conceding the putt.

Now 45 years later, Neil Sagebiel examines Nicklaus’ great act of sportsmanship and perhaps the best-ever Ryder Cup in a lively new book, Draw in the Dunes.

Sagebiel’s book reveals that the ’69 Cup was more than just about Nicklaus’ gesture. Here is … Continue Reading

Chicago news: Cubs still in limbo over TV deal

It’s the end of September. Do you know where you will be watching the Cubs on TV next year?

My Chicago Tribune colleague, Robert Channick, has the latest on the Cubs TV situation, regarding the WGN part of their package.

It seems like everything is in play. Channick writes:

The Chicago Cubs may be headed for extra innings in their search for a new television home.

With one week left in the season, and its expiring agreement with WGN-Ch. 9, the team has yet to announce broadcast plans for 2015 and beyond. Sources say the Cubs are exploring everything from a private equity partnership to a new regional sports network, but a long-term deal may not be imminent.

I do get the sense that the Cubs are working on a long-term arrangement that will allow the team to form their … Continue Reading

About time: MLB creates committee to speed up play

This morning, I received an email from a fellow baseball fan who is frustrated by the molasses pace of games. He noted the game times for the recent Cubs-Dodgers series in Chicago, all of which lasted nine innings.

Thursday: 3:53, Dodgers 8, Cubs 4.

Friday: 3:31, Dodgers 14, Cubs 5 (“the snappy one of the bunch,” my friend said).

Saturday: 3:44, Cubs 8, Dodgers 7

Sunday: 3:45, Dodgers 8, Cubs 5.

My friend added, with much chagrin, his three kids “have no interest in watching baseball.”

Yes, those games were high-scoring, but I have documented many times here that there are plenty low-scoring games that go long. Bill Madden of the New York Daily News noted last week Tampa Bay’s 1-0 victory over the Yankees took 3:28, the longest 1-0, 9-inning game in history. Talk about a snooze fest.

At … Continue Reading