Earlier this week, I did a USA Today story on 70-plus announcers/analysts who still are thriving in the business. Naturally a main focus was on Dick Vitale, 74 going on 17.
While talking to Vitale, he told a great tale on how he reluctantly got into broadcasting after being fired from the Detroit Pistons. It turns out a couple legends helped plant the seeds.
Here is video of that first ESPN game, DePaul-Wisconsin in 1979.
Here’s Dickie V on how he wound up behind the microphone.
The last game I coached (for Detroit) was in Lexington. We were playing Michigan (in the NCAA Sweet 16). We had a good team.
We’re at practice and there are three guys in the stands. Two of them are Curt Gowdy and John Wooden. I’m saying, “What is this?”
The third guy comes … Continue Reading
Tuesday, I did a long story in USA Today about the significant number of announcers/analysts still going strong in their 70s, and even 80s, in TV sports at the national and local levels. It is unprecedented.
The list includes Vin Scully, Dick Vitale, Marv Albert, Verne Lundquist, Lee Corso, among others.
I talked to several of the prominent names, except one: Brent Musburger, still going strong at 74.
A little background: My connection with Musburger goes deep into my sports roots. Prior to becoming a big national star at CBS, he was the local sports anchor for WBBM-Ch. 2 during the 70s in Chicago. In the days before ESPN and the Internet, I grew up getting my sports news from Musburger. He was tremendous back then, and it didn’t take long before CBS Sports gave him the keys to the … Continue Reading
I did a piece for USA Today on a remarkable trend: A huge number of announcers/analysts in their 70s who still are working the big games. It is unprecedented in TV history.
An excerpt from the story.
Dick Vitale turns 75 in June. He has been around so long that sports viewers born in 1979, when he began at ESPN, are veering toward middle age.
Yet Vitale, the former college and NBA coach, has no intention of getting off the thrill ride that has been his sportscasting career. And why should he? When he walks into arenas, the first sight of the familiar bald head sparks cries of “Awesome, Baby!” and “PTPer” from college kids who still devour his shtick the way their parents did at that age.
Vitale absorbs the energy that comes his way as if … Continue Reading
I have said it before and I will say it again. The rise of the Chicago Blackhawks is the best thing to happen to the NHL in years.
The Blackhawks and Chicago delivered again Saturday for NBC and the NHL.
Saturday’s Blackhawks-Pittsburgh outdoor game at Soldier Field in primetime did a 2.1 overnight rating for NBC; complete national numbers will be available today. It was NBC’s highest rating ever for a regular-season, non Winter Classic game.
Here’s why: Chicago did a whopping 14.9 local rating. That means the nation’s third largest market saw an estimated 525,000 homes tuned into the game, or nearly 25 percent of the total viewership for the entire country.
Pittsburgh also did its part with a 13.3 rating. That translates to an estimated 156,000 homes for the nation’s 23rd ranked Nielsen market.
Clearly, though, Chicago, by … Continue Reading
The Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre reports that Fox Sports plans to go with a three-man booth for its new No. 1 baseball team this year. Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci will join Joe Buck.
The move to bring in Reynolds, who has been at MLB Network since 2009, as a replacement for Tim McCarver hardly is a surprise. His name has been at the top of speculation for months. It will cap a huge comeback for the former Seattle Mariner, whose broadcast career was in shambles after he was dismissed by ESPN in 2006 over sexual harassment allegations. He later sued for wrongful termination and the case was settled out of court.
The decision to give Verducci such a high-profile role is a major surprise. The veteran baseball writer for Sports Illustrated has some experience calling games for TBS, MLB … Continue Reading
I did a comprehensive story for USA Today on the loom battle for distribution of SportsNet LA, the new 24/7 Dodgers channel in Los Angeles. The cable and satellite companies are balking at paying the high fee, which will be passed along to consumers.
The impasse has national implications. More so than ever before, the big carriers are pushing back more than ever before when it comes to adding additional sports networks.
From the story.
The website has been active for awhile, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and Time Warner Cable are counting on a surge in traffic this week.
SportsNet LA, a glitzy 24/7 Dodgers channel, made its debut Tuesday. However, a large segment of fans in the team’s viewing area weren’t able to view the rollout due to distribution issues with various cable and satellite companies.
Enter … Continue Reading
It seems ridiculous for the NHL to even have a second-thought about whether it will participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
The ratings were huge again in Sochi. Even more importantly, so was the buzz about hockey.
People interrupted their work during the day to watch the big games. Hockey led sports reports. It was No. 1 on the sports agenda for the past week.
When does that happen in February? Heck, it doesn’t even occur in June during the Stanley Cup Final.
The Olympics are an unparalleled promotion opportunity to expand hockey beyond the die-hards in the U.S. and beyond. It is worth the high price of shutting down the NHL once every four years.
NBC obviously wants to see NHL players in South Korea in 2018. However, it isn’t that easy.
During a conference call … Continue Reading
It is the four-year ritual for Al Michaels. When the Winter Olympics rolls around, he repeatedly gets asked about his legendary “Do you believe in miracles?” call which punctuated the United States’ legendary victory over Russia.
Michaels is quick to point out that 34 years have passed since the 1980 Olympics.
“If you’re under 40, you don’t remember it,” Michaels said.
The call, though, remains vibrant to the next generation thanks to the movie, Miracle, starring Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks.
“I can’t tell you how many youth coaches tell me they show that movie at the beginning of the season,” Michaels said. “The movie has given it a different life.”
However, here’s the kicker: Michaels’ famous call almost didn’t make it into the movie. I’ll let Michaels take it from here:
The director (Gavin O’Connor), a terrific … Continue Reading
NBC is doing a documentary on the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding affair. It is scheduled to air on Sunday, although it could be sooner depending on what happens with the weather at the Olympics. In an interview with Mary Carillo, Kerrigan talks for the first time about the infamous whack to the knee.
You will notice footage of the infamous incident contains the Intersport logo. Here’s why. Intersport’s Gene Samuels was the only cameraman to record the historical scene below. Intersport president Charlie Besser continues to cash in on the copyrighted footage, especially this year with the 20th anniversary retrospectives. He contends the dramatic video helped lift the story to a level never seen before or since.
Besser: We were doing a live one-hour TV special previewing the OIympics. We approached Campbell’s. Their spokesperson was Nancy Kerrigan. They were interested in … Continue Reading
Perhaps the founders of a new site haven’t heard. Negative sells on the Internet. Just look at my pals at Deadspin.
Thrive Sports, though, is looking to buck the trend. It is banking that there is a market for–get this–inspirational, positive stories.
Thrive Sports focuses on telling the stories of athletes who participate in amateur and Olympics-style sports. The Minneapolis-based site has been going hard on the games in Sochi with behind-the-scene tales and videos on the participants and their families.
Several stories were done by Dylan Brown, the brother of figure skater Jason Brown and my son’s good friend. Dylan wrote, “Before he was a high level skater, he was already an incredible brother and person.”
Judging by the quality of the site and an initial advertising push, Thrive Sports has some money behind it. One of its … Continue Reading