NFL on ESPN: Quality up from previous years; Still several potential clunkers

ESPN can’t help but be envious of NBC. The quality of the Sunday games always are better than Monday night; Seattle and Denver are scheduled for only one ESPN game compared to three on NBC

The lack of the flex option also leaves ESPN in the danger zone. Last year, it got stuck with 0-8 Tampa Bay vs. Miami in November, and 4-11 Atlanta at San Francisco for its season finale.

Still, ESPN has to be pleased with its 2014 schedule. The quality seems to be better than in recent years.

Best games: Philadelphia at Indianapolis in week 2; New England visits Kansas City in week 4. Seattle travels to Washington in week 5 when the Redskins still should be relevant. Carolina at Philadelphia in week 10 could be intriguing.

The NFL also will subject Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden … Continue Reading

NFL on CBS: Expected better for Thursday night debut on network

With the NFL schedule coming out, everyone was interested to see what kind of games CBS got with its new early-season Thursday night package.

Frankly, I expected better, considering CBS busted up its Thursday night primetime package to air these games. I thought the NFL would give the network a blockbuster-type match-up to launch the series in week 2.

Instead, CBS will air Pittsburgh at Baltimore. Yes, it is an intense rivalry game, but both teams missed the playoffs last year and could be on the slide. It hardly is a “wow” game.


Here’s a breakdown of CBS’ Thursday night package:

Best games: Not really much that is overwhelming. Probably the best is San Diego at Denver in week 8. It has a couple other traditional rivalry games in Giants at Washington in week 4 and Minnesota at Green … Continue Reading

NFL on Fox: Banking on Dallas to be good; 5 doubleheader games for Cowboys

If you thought NBC did the highest ratings for the NFL on Sunday, you’re wrong. Fox Sports’ NFC doubleheader package, which it markets as “America’s Game of the Week,” is No. 1; last year, it averaged 27.2 million viewers per telecast.

Fox is ready to cash in again.

Best games: Fox will go all-in with Seattle and San Francisco.  Fox opens with a San Francisco at Dallas doubleheader game in week 1. Cowboys at Seattle on Oct. 12. Seahawks at Philadelphia on Dec. 7. Obviously, Seattle at San Francisco on Dec. 14 could be huge.

Potential clunkers: Fox also is going all-in on the Cowboys. Dallas is slated to appear in five doubleheader games. If the Cowboys are underwhelming, a definite possibility, Fox will have to adjust.

Fox also has the Giants featured in several doubleheader games, including a … Continue Reading

NFL on NBC: The winner and still champ; Great games and can start to flex in week 5

Today, I will be breaking down who got what gifts (and potential clunkers) from the NFL.


The winner always is NBC. The traditionally strong Sunday night package will be even stronger this year. The network now will have the option of beginning to flex in week 5, giving Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth an even better chance to call bigger games.

Best games: On paper, they all are pretty good, and some are excellent, starting with Green Bay at Seattle to kick off the season on Thursday night, Sept. 4.

Then NBC quickly jumps on the Peyton Manning train, with his former Indianapolis Colts team visiting Denver for the opening Sunday night game.

The following week, NBC will open San Francisco’s new Levi Stadium with Chicago at 49ers. Local knowledge: Beware of a blowout, because the Bears never … Continue Reading

NFL on NFL Network: Not so attractive helping of Jags, Bills, Browns, Raiders in second half

The NFL Network is along for the ride this year. CBS will air the first seven Thursday night games with a simulcast on NFL Network.

Then NFL Network will air the remaining Thursday night games exclusively in the second half of the season. However, CBS still will handle the production with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on the call.

NFL rules mandate all teams play a Thursday game. As a result, the NFL Network slate has several potholes.

Best games: Not much. New Orleans at Carolina on Oct. 30 looks good. Dallas at Chicago on Dec. 4 has some potential.

Potential clunkers: Where to begin? Cleveland at Cincinnati on Nov. 6; Buffalo at Miami on Nov. 13; Kansas City at Oakland on Nov. 20.

And the best thing that can be said about the Tennessee at Jacksonville game on Dec. … Continue Reading

Women at work: Burke shines as ESPN analyst in NBA playoffs; only female announcer in pro baseball looks to make mark

A couple observations about women getting their shots in sports media:


Saturday, I tuned into the Atlanta-Indiana playoff game on ESPN. Mark Jones called the game with Doris Burke serving as his analyst.

As usual, Burke was spot on with her analysis. She knows the game and is terrific in breaking it down.

Nothing new here, which is just the point. A female analyst  for a NBA playoff game doesn’t qualify as news anymore. Oh, I’m sure there were detractors on Twitter, likely the same people who still are upset that women got the vote.

But thankfully, there’s a been-there-done-that element to this story. That’s a good thing.

Burke’s next game as an analyst will be Thunder-Grizzles on Saturday night.


Shortly after listening to Burke, I read Manny Randhawa’s story at the National Sports Journalism Center at IndianaContinue Reading

No Magic interview, no problem: Pearlman’s ‘Showtime’ shows access isn’t essential to telling complete story

My latest column for the National Sports Journalism Center is on Jeff Pearlman and his approach to writing his new book on the ’80s Lakers, Showtime.


Today’s journalism lesson comes from Jeff Pearlman.

Subject: How to write a 482-page book without ever getting access to the three main characters in the story.

Pearlman’s latest, “Showtime,” is a detailed and entertaining account of the great Lakers teams during the ‘80s. He chronicles the wild ride as Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the crew piled up victories on the court and in the bedroom. The Lakers were at the center of ‘80s flash and excess.

Pearlman conducted nearly 300 interviews for the book, but he never was able to land a one-on-one with Johnson and coach Pat Riley. He also didn’t have a sit-down with

Abdul-Jabbar, although he was able … Continue Reading

Ryan Dempster joins MLB Network in time to celebrate Wrigley’s 100

Good timing.

From MLB Network:


MLB Network today announced that veteran MLB pitcher Ryan Dempster has joined its roster of on-air talent as an analyst. A frequent guest on MLB Tonight and Intentional Talk with Chris Rose and Kevin Millar, Dempster will appear across MLB Network’s studio programming and make his debut tomorrow, April 23 live from Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary celebration during High Heat with Christopher Russo at 1:00 p.m. ET and Intentional Talk at 5:00 p.m. ET.

MLB Network’s coverage of Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary on Wednesday will also include the national telecast of the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chicago Cubs game at 2:00 p.m. ET (game subject to local blackouts).

A two-time National League All-Star, Dempster won 132 games and saved 87 games during 16 seasons as a starter and a reliever. He … Continue Reading

First for NFL in postseason: Significance of ESPN landing a wildcard game

The NFL had been the last major pro sports league to resist placing part of its postseason on cable. Until today.

It was announced this morning that ESPN will air one of the wildcard games during the opening weekend of the playoffs this year. NBC, which had aired both wildcard games, now will get a divisional playoff game.

The ESPN release included this passage:

“The NFL and ESPN reached a new eight-year extension in 2011 for Monday Night Football and broad studio, multimedia and international rights. The agreement – which began this spring and extends through the 2021 NFL season – provides the NFL with an option to air a postseason Wild Card playoff game on ESPN, which the NFL has opted to exercise this season.”

According to John Ourand and Austin Karp of Sports Business Daily, ESPN will … Continue Reading

What will ESPN do with Keyshawn Johnson? NFL analyst arrested in domestic violence incident

ESPN has another situation on its hands.

Yesterday, it was disclosed that Keyshawn Johnson was arrested for misdemeanor spousal battery. Here’s the report.

Obviously, this is a major problem for the analyst on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown. ESPN has strict “zero tolerance” policies in place. In 2010, the network first suspended and then severed ties with Around The Horn panelist Jay Mariotti when he was arrested on domestic violence charges.

It should be stressed that no two situations are the same. That also goes for the people involved.

First things first, the network has to sort out the details of exactly what happened and let the legal process play out. At some point, though, ESPN will have to make a decision on Johnson’s fate with the network.

Obviously, more to come.


 … Continue Reading