Behind scenes with ABC for Chicago-Miami game; ‘Do you think Yannick Noah would be a good interview?’

Pleased to announced that I am joining the crew at Awful Announcing as a contributing writer. If you follow sports media, you already know about the interesting and entertaining content produced by Matt Yoder and his crew. Many thanks to Bloguin CEO Ben Koo for making this happen. I am looking forward to drafting behind them, so to speak.

From time to time, I will be doing original content for Awful Announcing. My first piece is a  a behind-the-scenes look at ABC’s production of the Chicago-Miami game Sunday.


I enjoyed spending time with Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Lisa Salters, producer Tim Corrigan, director Jimmy Moore and the rest of the crew. A highlight was watching how Salters’ memorable interview with Joakim Noah’s father, Yannick, unfolded in the truck.

From the story:


Word, though, filters in to the truck that Joakim Noah’s father, tennis great Yannick Noah, is at the game. Corrigan asks Salters, “Lisa, would he be a good interview?”

“Let me find out,” Salters said.

Little did they know how good it would be.

As the first quarter closes out, Van Gundy notes about Augustin, “That’s a season saving signing for Chicago.”

Breen, without missing a beat, says, “Oh, nice alliteration there.”

Second quarter: “We might do Augustin coming out of the break,” Corrigan said. “Nobody knows who he is.”

It doesn’t happen. Instead, Salters finds Yannick Noah in the stands. Using a double screen, Moore is able to show Yannick watching his son. Yannick then cuts off Salters in mid sentence and jumps out of his chair while watching his son make a terrific defensive stop followed by a hustle play resulting in a foul on the offensive end. Yannick’s animated reaction makes for great television, a sure SportsCenter moment.

“I think that’s the best 2-box we’ve ever done,” Moore said.

During a break, Breen tells Salters, “To back off and let him go was a great decision.”

Corrigan says, “You’ve got to get a little lucky now and then.”

Rose out again: ABC, TNT, ESPN, NBA TV will feel pain with several Bulls games scheduled for national TV

It’s a dark and bleak day in Chicago. And I’m not talking about the dreary weather outside.

The news that Derrick Rose suffered another knee injury requiring surgery has the city in a collective funk. Everyone is concerned that Rose will become the Chicago basketball version of Gale Sayers.

Scary parallel: Both players got injured in their fourth seasons. Sayers never was the same. Hopefully, that won’t be the case for Rose, but you never know.

Also feeling the pain today are the NBA’s national TV partners. They were counting on the return of the 2010-11 MVP to produce a big year for the Bulls.

The networks loaded up on the Bulls this season: ESPN 10 times, on TNT nine times, on NBA-TV nine times and on ABC five times.

Some of those games already have been played, but there’s many more on the menu, including two Miami-Chicago games on ABC.

Not having Rose will hurt the marquee value of the Bulls national TV games. While the Bulls remained competitive last year without the star guard, it will be a challenge to hold things together two years in a row, as evidenced by a 39-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday.

A strong Chicago team always does big numbers for the NBA. If the Bulls falter without Rose, the league might have to readjust some of its national TV schedule.

Yes, the pain of Rose’s latest injury extends beyond Chicago.




Notre Dame-Purdue in primetime? UCLA-Nebraska better game, but ABC won’t pass on Irish

In the no-surprise department, ABC selected Notre Dame-Purdue for its primetime 8 p.m. (ET) showcase game Saturday. It would be a bigger surprise if it didn’t.

With the Irish home games locked in with NBC, ABC/ESPN is going to make the most of its opportunities to exploit its rights to any Notre Dame road game on its menu. So of course, ABC asked them to turn on the lights in West Lafayette Saturday.

It doesn’t matter that the Boilermakers were pummeled by Cincinnati 42-7 in the opener, and then squeezed out a 20-14 victory over Indiana State last week. That’s Indiana State, not Indiana. The Boilermakers are playing Notre Dame. The Irish could be playing at Lou Holtz Middle School and Brent and Kirk would be on the call in primetime.

To be fair to ABC/ESPN, beyond Alabama-Texas A&M, which is on CBS, it is a weak Saturday for college football. It underscores how few good games there are in non-conference play. The big teams are bent on ripping off fans by scheduling easy wins. And they complain about preseason games in the NFL.

However, from a quality standpoint, No. 16 UCLA at No. 23 Nebraska is a much better game. It also features two well-known programs that have some national appeal.

Yet ABC is airing that game at noon ET.

It should be pointed out that the decisions on early-season primetime games were made in the spring. So it wasn’t a matter of ABC choosing ND-Purdue over UCLA-Nebraska in the last couple of weeks..

But safe to say, ABC would have gone the same way if they made the decision this week. It’s an easy choice for ABC/ESPN. The Irish pull in big ratings, as evidenced by last week’s Michigan-Notre Dame game.

So turn on the lights for Notre Dame. Again.






Jackpot: ABC gets big rating for Game 6; Should be much bigger for Game 7

So who was cheering more when Ray Allen hit that big three to send last night’s game into overtime? LeBron James and Heat fans (at least those who stayed) or ABC/ESPN executives?

I’m fairly sure ESPN president John Skipper broke his own standing jump record.

Thanks to Allen and James finally being James, ABC will hit the jackpot with a Game 7 Thursday. Game 6 did a huge rating, and the grand finale should be even bigger.

Here are the details from ESPN:

NBA Finals Game 6 on ABC – the Miami Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs to even the series in an overtime thriller – scored a 14.7 overnight rating, according to Nielsen. This is the second highest-rated NBA Finals Game 6 ever on ABC and the fourth highest rated game ever on the network.

Game 6 is also expected to mark the 36th consecutive time an NBA Finals telecast has won the night for all of television and is the 24th straight time it has delivered double-digit overnight ratings. The game peaked at a 19.8 rating from 11:45 p.m. – 12 a.m. ET.

Last night’s game trails only Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers Game 7 in 2010 (18.2), Los Angeles Lakers-Detroit Pistons Game 5 in 2004 (15.5) and Miami Heat-Dallas Mavericks Game 6 in 2011 (15.0).

NBA Finals Game 6 scored strong local ratings with a 47.6 metered market rating in San Antonio and a 35.4 in Miami.  In addition, ABC’s Kia NBA Countdown pre-game show delivered a strong 4.4 overnight rating, up 16 percent from the pre-game show prior to 2011 NBA Finals Game 6 (3.8).

NBA sideline reporters weigh in on Popovich: ‘My stomach is churning’

Perhaps ABC and the NBA should package the sideline interviews with Gregg Popovich as a separate show during the Finals. It will be must-see TV.

On Tuesday, I did a Q/A with Doris Burke, who revealed her “angst” in having to question the San Antonio coach during the in-game interviews. It turns out she isn’t alone in having that feeling.

Marc Stein at did a lengthy story talking to sideline reporters who have a similar angst in regards to Popovich.

From TNT’s David Aldridge:

“There is nothing — nothing — that I do or people that I interview that fill me with as much agita as getting ready to interview Pop at the end of the third quarter of a Spurs home game,” Aldridge said. “When San Antonio is on the road and I interview him at the end of the first [quarter], it’s much easier. If the Spurs stink it up, it’s obvious, as it is if they play well. But if they’re at home … good God.

“The whole first half, halftime, [for] the whole third quarter, my stomach is churning. What are the patterns in the game? What is obvious? What isn’t obvious? It’s cringe-inducing. I have so much respect for him as a coach and I know it’s imposing on him [and every other coach] to get them out of their thoughts [so they can] talk to me. Look, the guy has won four rings. There isn’t anything I can ask that is going to get him to go, ‘Damn, David, that’s a really good question. I hadn’t thought of that.’ “

ESPN’s Lisa Salters:

“It is very nerve-wracking. I never think of Pop as trying to make you look bad — you never take it personal because it’s just Pop being Pop — but you just know he’s going to be kind of snarky. So you’re doing your job, but you’re also thinking, ‘I don’t want to be embarrassed on live television.’ “

TNT’s Craig Sager:

“He’s sitting there with all this stuff going through his head, thinking about adjustments he wants to make and talking to his staff and how he’s going to get that message to his players, and then he has to stop and talk to, say, me,” Sager explains. “That’s what the [TV] contract calls for, but for him, I’m an irritant. I’m a nuisance. So whatever I get out of him, I’m happy to get. If it’s not exactly what we’re looking for and not what I was hoping for, I can’t blame him. He doesn’t want to be interrupted when he’s doing his job.”

And here’s the strange contradiction about the sideline reporters and Popovich. They really like the guy.

Said ESPN’s Heather Cox:

“People often ask me what Pop is like and my answer is simple. He is one of my favorite coaches. I enjoy working with him and respect him, his work ethic, his passion and his approach. I always say that he is the type of coach that I would like to play for. He treats everyone equally, knows how to get the most out of his players and commands the utmost respect.

“My feeling is, Coach Popovich makes us earn our keep. If we ask a stupid question, we will get a stupid answer. It is our job to assess the situation and tenor of the interview, know the person we are interviewing and use that understanding to prepare the most appropriate question for the specific situation. If we ask a leading or lazy question, a yes/no question or make a statement, Pop will let us know. I respect that.”

Game 1 is tonight. Let the Gregg Popovich show begin.




Te’o on TV: Admits to Couric he lied to press about the girlfriend

The first drips of Katie Couric’s interview with Manti Te’o are coming out. ABC’s Good Morning America ran an excerpt today.

Here’s the link if you can’t get enough Te’o.

The juicy stuff from GMA:

Manti Te’o briefly lied to the media and the public after discovering his online girlfriend did not exist and was a part of an elaborate hoax, he admitted in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Katie Couric.

The star Notre Dame linebacker, who has been hounded by the reporters since the story broke Jan. 16, told Couric in a taped interview Tuesday that he was not lying up until December. Te’o said he was duped into believing his online girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, died of cancer.

“You stuck to the script. And you knew that something was amiss, Manti,” Couric said.

Te’o found out that Kekua was a hoax on Dec. 6, but on Dec. 8 he again publicly mentioned his girlfriend. The remark came as Te’o was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, the award for the best college football player in the country. Te’o was eventually a runner-up for the trophy.

“Katie, put yourself in my situation. I, my whole world told me that she died on Sept. 12. Everybody knew that. This girl, who I committed myself to, died on Sept. 12,” Te’o said.

“Now I get a phone call on Dec. 6, saying that she’s alive and then I’m going be put on national TV two days later. And to ask me about the same question. You know, what would you do?” Te’o said.


Munich Massacre 40 years later: Remembering ground-breaking coverage and profound impact on a boy’s Jewish identity

Forty years ago this week, I was a 12-year-old who was obsessed with sports.

I went to Hebrew school at a Reform synagogue and was somewhat aware that there were people in the world who didn’t like Jews. But that barely registered on my radar compared to watching my White Sox, led by Dick Allen, battle Oakland and Reggie Jackson for first place during the summer of ’72.

Naturally, my sports obsession had me locked in on the Summer Games in Munich. These were the first Olympics where Roone Arledge and ABC really hit on the up-close-and-personal approach.

Those Olympics were huge. Mark Spitz won a bunch of gold medals. Olga Korbut thrilled the world with her feats. Great stuff.

Then on Sept. 5, 1972, I awoke to hear the news from Jim McKay that something terrible had happened in Munich.

You have to remember this was 1972. What’s a Palestinian? Terrorism? Why would anybody want to kill Israeli athletes? It was all new to many of us back then, especially a 12-year-old in the Midwest.

I remember watching ABC all day. It was landmark live coverage of a story unfolding in front of our eyes. No less than Walter Cronkite sent McKay a telegram, congratulating him for showing such grace under pressure.

In his book, The Real McKay, McKay wrote:

“Another thing entered my mind looking back on Sept. 5, 1972: I understood more clearly the tremendous power of television. On that day, the people of the United States were indeed united in their reaction to what happened. It stirred their emotions in a way that only live television reporting can.”

Indeed, the drama played out in a surreal fashion. There were deadlines passed and scenes of police dressed as athletes, carrying guns in preparations for the raid that never happened.

On that day, we were introduced to a Middle East correspondent named Peter Jennings, who was filing reports from inside the athletes’ villages. For all his bombast, Howard Cosell showed his journalist prowess with his updates. We saw images of the Palestinian terrorist with his face covered staring out over the balcony.

We were lifted by an initial report that Israeli athletes were safe at the airport. But it was wrong, as McKay provided the sobering update, saying “All hell has broken loose.”

Finally, there was the news we all feared. McKay uttered his immortal words: “They’re all gone.” It still gives me chills every time I see the video posted above.

When you’re young and you’re experiencing something for the first time, the memories are more vivid. The highs and lows more pronounced.

For me, that day 40 years ago helped me to understand my identity as a Jew, and the grip that Israel has on Jewish people throughout the world. It helped me to understand the deep bond I have with that tiny country and why it can never be broken.

That terrible day eventually showed me the resiliance of the Israeli people. Four years later in 1976, Israel was there in Montreal, taking part in the opening ceremony for those Games.

Then in 2004, Israel had its most memorable Olympic moment in competition. Gal Fridman, a wind surfer, won the country’s first gold medal.

At the 19-minute mark of this video, Fridman stands on the podium, as Hatikva, the Israeli national anthem, is played. Chills again, and a few tears. But good tears.

For more retrospective, Jeremy Schaap reports on Outside the Lines Wednesday at 2 p.m.

ESPN Classic will air the documentary Tragedy at Munich throughout the day on Wednesday and Thursday. Make a point of trying to watch these programs.

No longer marquee: ESPN, Big Ten Network losers with Penn State sanctions

Regarding the NCAA’s announcement, since this is a sports media site, I’ll discuss the TV aspect:

Make no mistake, when the Big Ten added Penn State as its 11th school in the early 1990s, a major component was television. The addition of the school delivered the large Eastern TV market to the conference. It led to marque match-ups with Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions going up against Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, not to mention attractive non-conference games against Alabama, etc.

Penn State’s presence then gave the conference a wide enough national footprint to launch the wildly successful Big Ten Network.

The Big Ten will continue to cash in on a TV deal with ESPN that runs through 2016-17, and the BTN isn’t going anywhere.

But both of its broadcast outlets will feel the pain of the NCAA’s sanctions. Gone for many years is the idea of Penn State football being a marquee draw for television.

Frankly, I think Penn State would have been better off with a one-year “Death Penalty.” The unprecedented long-term penalties for bowls and scholarships are devastating. Unless new coach Bill O’Brien pulls off a miracle, the Nittany Lions are doomed to be 2-10, 1-11 for several years. Or as one tweeter said, “Penn State just became Indiana.”

Penn State had been a showcase team for the Big Ten, with several of its games playing in primetime. In fact, it has two on the schedule for 2012: an Oct. 20 game at Iowa, and Oct. 27 at home against Ohio State.

Will those games be moved back to afternoon starting times? Probably.

Suddenly, Penn State-Ohio State, Penn State-Iowa, or Penn State-anything no longer looks attractive. Perhaps there might be a curiosity factor at first to see how the Nittany Lions and their fans react to the sanctions. But if the product on the field suffers, as expected, viewers won’t watch for long. Those 40-0 blowouts can get boring fast.

Also, bowl TV will be impacted by the four-year postseason ban. Penn State always delivered solid ratings in the bowls.

The brand of Penn State has been diminished, if not decimated. The program was one of the great TV draws throughout the years. Now it is the object of national scorn.

Last fall, I attended the Northwestern-Penn State game. After the Nittany Lions won in what turned out to be Paterno’s final road game, its faithful fans marched through the streets of Evanston, proudly chanting “We are Penn State, We are Penn State…”

Looking back, I wonder what those fans are thinking now.













Ratings report: Despite Tiger struggles, U.S. Open still up; another big number for Game 3

Ah, what might have been for NBC and the U.S. Open. Imagine the rating if Tiger Woods actually had resembled Tiger Woods Sunday. Instead, his brutal start had him on the missing person’s report during the meat of the coverage.

As a result, we got a heavy dose of the plodding Jim Furyk and a U.S. Open where par was indeed a good score. It didn’t necessarily add up to compelling golf, but thanks to the primetime window, people still tuned in.

The numbers from NBC:

Sunday’s 6.5-hour (4-10:30 p.m. ET) final-round coverage of the U.S. Open on NBC delivered an 6.6 rating and 13 share, up 29% vs. last year (5.1/12).

The combined Saturday-Sunday overnight was a 6.1/13, up 39 % vs. last year (4.4/11) and the best since 2008 (6.8/15).

Despite competition from the NBA Finals, the rating increased every half hour from 8:30 p.m. ET on, peaking at an 8.1 from 10-10:30 p.m. ET. From 7 p.m. ET on, the rating never dipped below a 6.9.

Yes, there was a finals game last night. Another big number for game 3 on ABC.

From ESPN:

Through three games, the 2012 NBA Finals on ABC – Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – is the highest-rated series since 2004 and the second highest-rated ever on ABC based on overnight ratings, according to Nielsen. The Finals is averaging an 11.3 overnight rating, up 5 percent from a 10.8 last year (Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat).

NBA Finals Game 3 – Miami defeated Oklahoma City 91-85 – generated a 10.4 overnight rating, peaking with a 14.7 rating from 10:30 to 10:45 p.m. ET. The game generated a 41.9 rating in Oklahoma City and a 29.6 rating in Miami.