Bob Knight, Lou Holtz quietly fade from view

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

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They commanded our attention during countless autumns and winters.

There was Bob Knight and his red sweater. You watched because he was this mixture of brilliance and inexplicable, unpredictable anger. He could get his Indiana team to perform with precision, and yet he always seemed to be a split second away from tossing a chair across the court.

There was Lou Holtz, a short wisp of man of who had a dominating presence in the land of giants. During his days at Notre Dame, there wasn’t a coach in any sport who had more national TV time than Holtz. You watched because of his frenetic energy on the sidelines fueled by multiple six-packs of Diet Coke that were most definitely not caffeine free.

When their coaching days ended, … Continue Reading

Women in sports media: Milestone with two female columnists on cover of USA Today; Numbers, though, should be higher

Excerpts from my latest column for Poynter.

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The sports front page of the April 9 edition of USA Today featured two columns from the Masters. Nancy Armour wrote about Bubba Watson, while Christine Brennan looked at the favorites for the tournament.

Think about that for a moment: Two women sports columnists being prominently displayed on by the one of the nation’s top circulation newspaper, and they were writing about the top men’s event in golf.

Did you notice?

“If people didn’t notice, that’s great,” Brennan said.

Indeed, the columns show how far women have come from the days, not that long ago, when they weren’t allowed in locker rooms. Women are read, seen and heard on various platforms in sports. It also should be noted the sports editor for that edition was Mary Byrne, who has since left … Continue Reading

Q/A with George Bodenheimer: New book details ESPN culture of innovation, risk-taking, passion for sports

My latest for the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana:

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It seems to be an unofficial mandate. Every story about George Bodenheimer has to begin with the fact that he started in the mailroom at ESPN. The mailroom reference is used so often, it almost feels as if it is his middle name.

George Mailroom Bodenheimer.

Bodenheimer himself even referred to his humble beginnings in the title of his new autobiography: “Every Town is a Sports Town: Business Leadership at ESPN from the Mailroom to the Boardroom.”

From 1998-2011, Bodenheimer oversaw an unprecedented period of growth, change and innovation in ESPN’s history.

“He is the guy who built ESPN from the great idea it was into the most significant, most influential multi-platform company in the world,” said his successor as president, John Skipper.

I recently had a chance to … Continue Reading

Future is here: AP to use computers to write game stories for college baseball; bigger sports are ‘next wave’

An excerpt from my latest column for Poynter:

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On the surface, this lede hardly is memorable:

“North Carolina grabbed the lead in the top of the 10th inning as a wild pitch by Clark Labitan allowed Colin Moran to score the go-ahead run. The Tar Heels held on to defeat Virginia Tech 9-8.”

Jim Murray, it is not, but dig a bit deeper and the significance of this lede comes into clear focus. It wasn’t written by a reporter who covered a game. Instead, it was composed by a computer.

Later this month, the Associated Press will be churning out similar computer-generated ledes and stories on college baseball in a new deal with the NCAA. The pact calls for AP to employ “automation technology” to cover college sports beyond big-time football and basketball, including those at the Division II … Continue Reading

Bill Simmons will be hard-pressed to match ‘dream job’ he had at ESPN

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

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I have been blessed with many wonderful assignments during my career, but I can’t say I ever had a “dream job.”

I never had anyone tab me to write 5,000-word columns and be the featured voice for the website of the world’s most influential sports network. I never had a podcast that gave me the opportunity to talk sports with Larry David, not to mention numerous other big-name stars and athletes.

I never had the chance to create an award-winning documentary series and a website, both of which produce excellent and different perspectives on sports. I never was selected to be part of a network’s studio show for my favorite sport, the NBA. I never had that network then give me my own NBA-based show.

And I most … Continue Reading

APSE columnist winner Sielski: ‘Greatest advantage is our access’

An excerpt from my Poynter column on Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski, named the top columnist in APSE contest in papers with circulation of 175,000 and over.

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Sielski’s victory speaks to the importance of access. He seeks to take readers to places they never get to see. Sielski tries to base his perspective by observing his subject, such as a column on Pete Rose speaking at a Philadelphia church.

Sielski wrote of Rose:

This initially would seem an ill-suited venue for Pete Rose: among evangelicals. But to sit in on the services was to see how fitting the setting actually was. He and Jones sat across from each other on stage in an auditorium, and more than 2,000 people whooped and cheered and chuckled at his stories and one-liners. A teenage boy who distributed bread and wine at communion

Continue Reading

Adam Schefter, master Tweeter: Reporting on NFL in 140 characters

An excerpt from my latest column for Poynter:

Update: After saying he planned not to be on Twitter during Thursday’s first round, Schefter actually did do a few tweets. However, he didn’t tip any picks.

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Schefter admits being told not to tweet during the draft “feels very odd.” Yet when he shut it down prior to last year’s opening round, he also found it liberating.

“If someone else tweets out news, my bosses don’t care,” Schefter said. “I’m almost granted immunity. It was refreshing. I was able to concentrate on reporting stories (for the telecast) without having to worry about putting up tweets. It almost felt like what it was like to be a sportswriter 20 years ago.”

Schefter was that reporter 20 years ago when he covered the Denver Broncos for the Denver Post. He had plenty … Continue Reading

Lessons learned from Bryan Price tirade

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

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Adam Silver gets it. Bryan Price does not.

There was much written last week about the Cincinnati manager’s profanity-laced rant at Reds beat reporter C. Trent Rosencrans. Price’s liberal use of F-bombs assured him a place in the Tirade Hall of Fame. However, the bad words wouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve ever spent any time in a baseball locker room. Literally every other word heard wouldn’t be suitable for the Disney Channel.

Still, managers usually clean it up when there are microphones in their faces. Otherwise, you wind up going viral when the language gets overly colorful, a lesson manager Price learned last week.

Price was thoroughly ripped for contending that beat writers should withhold information if it hurts the team they are covering. Let’s all agree … Continue Reading

How NFL draft helped put ESPN on the TV map

An excerpt from my latest Chicago Tribune column:

Plus some video from the 1981 draft in which Sam Rosen questions why the Giants would use the second pick on Lawrence Taylor. How did that work out?

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Chris Berman has told the story so many times it now feels like he was there for the meeting.

Back in 1979, Chet Simmons, president of a new network called ESPN, made a proposal to Pete Rozelle to air live coverage of the NFL draft. While Rozelle might have been the most media-savvy commissioner in sports history, even he couldn’t comprehend why ESPN would bother covering an event where basically nothing happened from a visual standpoint.

“To Pete, it sounded like reading names from the phone book,” Berman said. “Everyone said, ‘Who’s going to watch?’”

Simmons, though, persisted and ESPN covered … Continue Reading

McHenry fallout: Peeping-Tom journalism will have TV personalities on best behavior

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

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This is a guarantee: Every personality in TV sports, big or small, now will be the nicest people in the world in the wake of what happened to Britt McHenry.

Chris Berman will bring flowers to the IRS auditor who will be dissecting his taxes. After making a trip to renew his driver’s license only to hear he is missing a form, Bob Costas will flash a big smile and tell the DMV clerk, “Oh, you’re so kind.”

And you can sure if a big TV sports star gets a car towed, he or she will merrily pay the fee and depart by telling the person in the booth, “Have a lovely day.”

Nobody will dare make the same mistake McHenry did in verbally abusing a towing attendantContinue Reading