ESPN’s Ivan Maisel writes about grief while dealing with it himself

IvanMy latest column for Poynter is on Ivan Maisel, who lost his son last winter.

First a personal note: My relationship with Ivan Maisel goes back to 1988 when I met him on the national college football beat. We spent many times together in various press boxes and at several golf courses on Fridays before games. Ask him about “Sherman’s 5-wood,” and I’m sure he won’t stop laughing.

Our golf games still suck, but Ivan has gone on to become one of the best and certainly most respected college football writers on the beat. Trust me, you won’t find a better person anywhere.

Like everyone else in the business, I was crushed when I heard the news about Ivan’s son, Max. Unthinkable. As friends, we all felt his pain.

After Ivan returned to work, the journalist in me thought about … Continue Reading

Veteran sportswriters struggle to come to terms with being laid off by New York Daily News

BondyHankExcerpts from my latest column for Poynter.


Filip Bondy started hearing rumblings last Wednesday that the New York Daily News was making massive cuts. Despite generating high-quality work during his 22 years on the sports staff, he knew everyone was vulnerable.

“I didn’t wait for the call,” Bondy said. “I called them and asked, ‘Am I still working there?’ [The person on the other end] said, ‘Well, actually…hold on.’”

Bondy, though, had concerns about more than himself. His son, Stefan, covers the Brooklyn Nets for the Daily News. So after Bondy was informed that he had been dismissed, he immediately asked about his son’s fate.

“When they said he was staying, it was a relief,” Bondy said. “He’s got a lot more years ahead of me than I do.”

However, Stefan now works for a much different sports staff. … Continue Reading

Where’s OJ? ESPN omits Hall of Famer/convict from slide show of Monday Night Football announcers

Yesterday, the ESPN Monday Night Football twitter feed issued this tweet.

ESPN MNF announcers

If you click on the link, you will see a fast-moving slide-show of all the announcers, analysts and sideline reporters who have worked on Monday Night Football during the last 45 years. All except one person.

Thanks to reader Art for noticing that ESPN decided to omit O.J. Simpson. Back when he was better known for being a Hall of Fame running back, Simpson worked in the MNF booth from 1983-85.

Now that he is known more for something else, someone at ESPN decided not to tarnish this slide show with his image.

It would be one thing if other announcers were omitted. But there’s Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, who was so terrible in 1974 he didn’t even make it to the regular season.

There’s Fran Tarkenton (1979-82), Dennis … Continue Reading

Not done yet: ESPN’s Van Natta says follow-ups likely after takeout on Patriots

Excerpts from my latest column for Poynter:


This won’t come as good news for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the New England Patriots. Don Van Natta says there might be a Round 2 to last week’s big ESPN Magazine storyillustrating how Goodell used the penalties levied on the Patriots for “Deflategate” as a make-up call for being lenient on “Spygate” in 2008.

Van Natta, who co-wrote the story with Seth Wickersham, says they have received more than a dozen calls from various league sources since the story was released.

“When you do a story like this, you shake the tree and very ripe fruit falls into your lap,” Van Natta said. “There are some interesting leads that Seth and I are going to address. I don’t think we’re done with this just yet.

Van Natta wouldn’t divulge any … Continue Reading

Do you still read them? Slow death of box scores in newspapers

Baseball box scoreAn excerpt from my latest column for Poynter.


The box score has been a staple of newspapers since the 1800s. Yet like everything else in the ever changing world of media, its future is precarious in print editions, as sports editors wrestle with diminishing space and resources. They also wonder if running the box scores is essential given their instant availability on a multitude of websites.

The Charlotte Observer, along with sister papers the Raleigh News & Observer and the Rock Hill Herald, took the step and eliminated the baseball scores from their print editions this year. Mike Persinger, the sports editor of the Charlotte Observer, said it was a move that had been discussed for the last 6 or 7 years.

“We always came away thinking, ‘It’s too soon,’” Persinger said.

However, budget cutbacks forced the papers to … Continue Reading

Author of new Saban biography: ‘Journalism is not done by permission’

nick-saban-bookExcerpts of my latest column for Poynter:


Under the heading any publicity is good publicity comes Nick Saban’s reaction to Monte Burke’s new biography on him, “Saban: The Making of a Coach.”

During a press conference in early August, the Alabama coach, without being asked, expressed his disapproval in Burke writing an unauthorized biography.

“I just want everybody to know that I’m opposed to an unauthorized biography; for anybody,” Saban said. “And I think that’s some person that you don’t even know trying to profit by your story. Or someone else’s story. And one of these days when I’m finished coaching at Alabama I’ll write an authorized book because you know there’s really only one expert on my life. And guess who that is. Me. And there won’t be any misinformation, there won’t be any false statements, there won’t … Continue Reading

Scott Van Pelt to bring unique voice to solo edition of SportsCenter

An excerpt from my latest column for Poynter:


When ESPN approached Scott Van Pelt about going solo with the midnight (Eastern) edition of “SportsCenter,” he initially said no.

Van Pelt was the co-host of a popular midday radio show on the network, which gave him the opportunity to express his views about various issues in sports. Typically, “SportsCenter” hosts aren’t given as much latitude in that regard. It’s mainly scores and highlights.

“I pushed back,” Van Pelt said. “I loved the radio show where I had the ability to have an opinion. They came back to me and said, ‘No, we’re encouraging that [if he did the ‘SportsCenter’ show]. We want you to bring opinion to that space.’ That made it an incredibly compelling opportunity.”

As a result, Van Pelt said good-bye to his radio show in June. … Continue Reading

Mary Byrne wants to make it less newsworthy for women to be APSE president

mary-byrne-800-300x199An excerpt from my latest column for


When Mike Sherman of The Oklahoman served as the president of Associated Press Sports Editors in 2014-15, nobody wrote that he was the 39th man to hold that position.

However, there are numbers attached to Sherman’s successor. Each story dutifully notes that Mary Byrne is APSE’s third women president, and the first since 2000.

“I hate the fact that it’s still newsworthy,” Byrne said.

Byrne’s goal is to make it less newsworthy for the next wave of women in the business during what should be one of the most eventful and busiest periods of her career. Besides being inducted as APSE’s new president at its convention in San Diego in June, Byrne, the former USA Today’s managing editor for sports, also is in her early days at ESPN as its new … Continue Reading

Olbermann deserved better fate in Round 2 at ESPN

My latest column for the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana.


The smartest guy in the room doesn’t have a room—again.

Keith Olbermann did his final “Olbermann” show a few weeks ago on ESPN2. It was a quiet, amicable departure, which is somewhat of an upset given his history. He didn’t “napalm” any bridges as he did when he previously left ESPN.

ESPN termed it a “business decision.” The network determined Olbermann, with a hefty contract, wasn’t worth the ratings his show delivered.

There was speculation that Olbermann was let go because of his hard-line commentaries on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The NFL clearly is ESPN’s most important business partner. It’s not a good thing to make Roger and friends too upset.

However, if ESPN tried to put a muzzle on Olbermann regarding Goodell, I would be stunned if … Continue Reading

Former White House communications director on similarities between covering sports, politics

An excerpt from my latest sports journalism column for Poynter.


Kevin Sullivan’s vast career in public relations has taken him from the NBA to NBC to the White House. Sports always have been a focal point, even for the most important job interview of his life.

In 2006, Sullivan was recommended to serve as the communications director for George Bush. However, he still had to pass the test in meeting the president.

Sullivan knew Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers, was a big sports fan. So he was ready when the president asked, “Where are you from?”

“Chicago, sir. White Sox, not Cubs,” said Sullivan, a native of Chicago’s South Side.

Sullivan obviously had the credentials, but the sports connection helped seal the deal. He then had a front row seat in the White House through the … Continue Reading