Stopwatch patrol: ESPN’s Skipper needs to get up to speed about how slow play is ruining baseball

My latest column from the National Sports Journalism Center stemmed from me watching an excruciatingly dull Chicago-Boston game on Tuesday night. Still working on my goal to eliminate slow play in baseball in our lifetime.


Tuesday, I came home around 9:30 (Central), and I noticed that Chicago and Boston were tied at 1-1. Since the White Sox, my team since the age of 5, are off to a decent start after last year’s 99-loss disaster, I have some renewed hope. Hey, that’s the beauty of baseball in April.

So I tuned in to see how they would do against the defending world champions. And I watched, and yawned, and watched and yawned, as the game crawled along at a maddening slow pace. Even White Sox announcers Ken Harrelson and Steve Stone took note.

“This game really is moving slow,” … Continue Reading

New ESPN 30 for 30: Cheering for ‘Bad Boys’ of Detroit

Living in Chicago, I don’t have many people who agree with my view on the Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys.” They were one of my favorite all-time teams in sports, even if they did mug Michael Jordan.

As much as you might have hated them, you had to admit some sense of admiration for this unique band of characters and how they played the game.

ESPN’s latest 30 for 30, Bad Boys (tonight at 8 p.m. ET), narrated by Kid Rock, gets to the core of the greatest “bad” team in NBA history.

While the players have gotten older, they haven’t mellowed. Said John Salley: “To the people that say we’re thugs and goons, I say kiss my entire ass.”

Now were they a bunch of idiots for walking off the floor and not shaking hands with the Bulls after they … Continue Reading

Sorry Jason Whitlock: No Pulitzer Prizes awarded to sportswriters this year

Dang Jason, you were snubbed again for the Pulitzer.

If recall last year, Jason Whitlock took considerable flak for writing that he did Pulitzer Prize caliber work in 2012. He even compared himself to Mike Royko. He bemoaned the fact that contest isn’t opening to writers who worked for broadcast sites.

Have to admit, it takes some stones to say you should receive a Pulitzer.

Well, not sure if Whitlock had any worthy entries in 2013. He didn’t promote himself this year. Perhaps as a result, when the Pulitzers were announced this week, I didn’t see his name on the list of winners.

Maybe next year, Jason.

More importantly, there weren’t any Pulitzers awarded to sportswriters. Nothing really new there.

Last year actually was the exception–somewhat. John Branch of the New York Times won his wonderful piece on skiersContinue Reading

Best time of year: NBC platforms superserve NHL fans during first round of playoffs

Tonight begins what might be the best two weeks of the year for NHL fans. It is hard to beat the quantity and quality of NBC’s coverage of the first round of the playoffs.

All games will air on its various platforms again. Tonight features Montreal-Tampa Bay on CNBC at 7 p.m. ET; Columbus-Pittsburgh on NBCSN at 7:30 ET; and Dallas-Anaheim on NBCSN at 10 p.m. ET.

There will be four games Thursday, including Chicago-St. Louis on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. ET.

The multi-platform presentation has been huge for the NHL. Play-by-play man extraordinaire Mike Emrick recalled the old days of limited coverage and the contrast to what fans get today.

“I remember there were times when I was with other networks and I’d go into a city and fans say, ‘why aren’t you guys covering more of our series, … Continue Reading

Joe Buck, Greg Norman reportedly to lead Fox Sports’ coverage of ’15 U.S. Open; Who will join them? Gus Johnson?

John Ourand has the exclusive on Fox’s new golf team:

Joe Buck and Greg Norman will be Fox Sports’ top on-air voices when the network debuts its golf coverage next year, according to several sources. The two will be set up in the 18th green tower at the ’15 U.S. Open, when the event will be held at Chambers Bay outside Seattle. The decision to tap Buck and Norman comes as somewhat of a surprise, as neither has announced golf on television before.

Actually, it really isn’t much of a surprise. Buck is Fox’s lead voice, and reportedly a good golfer. It was a natural that he would be tabbed for the high profile assignment.

While Norman hasn’t formally worked as an analyst, he has appeared in the booth of golf telecasts of many occasions. He hardly is shy about … Continue Reading

Sorting out truth about Tiger’s absence on Masters ratings; Huge Friday, Saturday declines are more telling

As I wrote yesterday, it is too bad Sunday’s final round didn’t produce more drama. The lack of suspense on the back 9 accounted for the sharp decline in the rating as much as Tiger Woods’ absence.

From Sports Media Watch:

Final round coverage of The Masters earned a 7.8 overnight rating on CBS Sunday afternoon, down 24% from last year (10.2), down 4% from 2012 (8.1), and the lowest overnight for final round coverage since 2004 (7.3).

Overall, the 7.8 is the third-lowest for the final round since at least 1991, ahead of only 2004 and 1993 (6.8). Excluding Easter Sunday telecasts, the 7.8 is the lowest over that span.

It was one of the dullest final rounds at the Masters in years, and had to account for at least 10 percent in the ratings decline. If … Continue Reading

ESPN 30 for 30 Soccer Stories debuts: The tragedy at Hillsborough

ESPN 30 for 30 is doing a special soccer series leading up to the World Cup. The debut is tonight with Hillsborough (8 p.m. ET), the story of an unthinkable tragedy at a soccer game where 96 fans died in 1989.

This is an interview Keith Olbermann did with director Daniel Gordon last night.

Here is the summary on ESPN’s 30 for 30 site:


“Hillsborough” is a comprehensive account of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster, a tragedy that occurred during an FA Cup semifinal soccer match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England. The film focuses on the events that unfolded before, during and after the horrifying afternoon that led to the deaths of 96 people as well as the injuries to several hundred more and the traumatization of countless lives.

Beginning on the fateful … Continue Reading

Decline of golf coverage: Dallas Morning News wasn’t at Augusta to cover local boy Spieth

I couldn’t help but notice that the Dallas Morning News wasn’t at the Masters this year. That means they wouldn’t have had a staff byline piece from Augusta if Dallas’ very own Jordan Spieth had won the tournament.

As it is, his second-place finish at the age of 20 was a big story in its own right. Yet the Morning News ran a Spieth story from Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Augusta.

I am not trying to knock the Morning News. There are plenty of big-city papers that no longer staff the majors. Budgets are tight, and it is expensive to send writers on the road.

However, the Morning News situation is different.

The Morning News used to be big time into golf. They sent their golf writers (Jeff Rude, Phil Rogers, Brad Townsend, Bill Nichols) to 10-15 … Continue Reading

Kevin Costner’s ‘Draft Day’ gets off to tepid start at box office

It looks as if the power of the NFL might not extend to Hollywood.

From Joey Morona of

‘Draft Day’ pulled in $9.75 million at the box office in its first weekend of release, according to industry estimates.

The movie — starring Kevin Costner as the Cleveland Browns GM juggling his personal and professional life in the hours leading up to the NFL Draft — underperformed by many accounts.

Entertainment Weekly called the film’s weekend take a “fumble,” while Forbes described it as “relatively sad.”

Box Office Mojo said Lionsgate was expecting an opening in the “low teens,” while projected an opening weekend of $13.5 million.

 … Continue Reading

Don’t blame Tiger and Phil: Masters can’t all be classics

At one point during the back 9 on Sunday, a friend of mine sent a text saying, “Is OK to admit this is pretty boring?”

Indeed, it seems almost sacrilegious suggest the Masters, the tournament we wait for all year, was rather dull for the final two hours. The top three players combined for all of two birdies on their last nine holes.

Dan Jenkins said it best in this tweet:

Indeed, with the exception of Watson’s crazy drive long drive on 13 and his even crazier shot through the trees on 15, there wasn’t the back 9 suspense we always seem to get at Augusta.

Brian Murphy of Yahoo! Sports thought it was a Tiger and Phil thing. He wrote:

The bigger problem was the cast of characters around Bubba. This Masters lacked fireworks. That whole “roars amid the

Continue Reading