New Showtime documentary: The scheme ‘Bear’ Bryant used to bring black players to Alabama

The latest from Showtime and producer Ross Greenburg is a don’t-miss.

Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News wrote his column on the documentary.

But after he joined Showtime last March, Greenburg decided to go back and serve as a driving force behind “Against The Tide” with George Roy and Steve Stern as key storytellers.

“We only devoted about six to seven minutes on that game (in the HBO documentary), and that just didn’t do justice to the depths of the story,” Greenburg explained. “It was much more intriguing and complex. It needed the full treatment.

 “To me, it remains as fascinating a story now as it was then. But it’s really a 12-year process of how it happened for Bear Bryant, and how it finally unfolded with the help of his friend, John McKay. That’s a whole other story, too.”

Here’s the official rundown from Showtime:

Did University of Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant schedule the historic 1970 showdown with the University of Southern California as a statement against integration?  “AGAINST THE TIDE,” a full-length documentary examining the subject and the controversy surrounding one of the most important college football games in history, premieres this Friday, Nov. 15 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on SHOWTIME.

SHOWTIME Sports presented a private screening of upcoming documentary “AGAINST THE TIDE” Friday night at Cobb Theaters in Tuscaloosa, Ala.  The feature-length film, which premieres this Friday, Nov. 15 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on SHOWTIME, paints a vivid picture of Bryant, the state of the turbulent South during the Civil Rights Movement, and the 1960’s era football program at the University of Alabama, one of collegiate athletics’ most dominant programs in any sport.

In attendance at the screening were Executive Vice President and General Manager of SHOWTIME Sports Stephen Espinoza, Executive Producer Ross Greenburg, Civil Rights activist Percy Jones. former Alabama quarterback who led the Crimson Tide during the 1970 game Scott Hunter, former Alabama federal judge U.W. Clemon, and former Alabama State Senator Fred Horn.

The following are key quotes from the screening:


“When I was a freshman there were 62 black students out of 13,000 students.  Now when I come back here 45 years later, I see the progress that has been made.”


“It takes a lot of courage for people in television to go back and do these stories. It doesn’t happen so easily.  When old stories are rich like this they need to be told. I thank Stephen Espinoza personally for giving me the opportunity to tell this one and many more.”

“When we do these stories and then we put them together, you’re always thinking of all these people that helped us make it. You want them to sit in a room like this and screen it, and when the credits roll at the end, to have them say, ‘that’s the story.’  As long as you get their confirmation that you did it right, that’s all I need. Then I can sleep at night. If it becomes entertaining and grabs at your heart, then we’ve done our jobs. But at the end of the day, if you’ve told the story of the subjects that lived it, then that’s all you can really do.”



“Over time, stories like this tend to become over-simplified. You tend to lose the complexities and the subtleties. This game didn’t integrate Alabama football, as Ross clearly points out. There were already steps in place, but over time those maybe outside the state of Alabama looked at this game and said, ‘that’s the game that made Alabama football become integrated.’ Even though you’re telling a story of decades, it’s a very personal story. Hearing Scott Hunter and Percy Jones talk candidly and tell a very personal story, or hearing Jimmy Jones talk about players taking weapons to the game – it puts you in the moment in a very real way. That gets lost over time if the story is not retold.”



60 Minutes Sports: Armen Keteyian reports on first black NFL quarterbacks

Highly recommended: The latest edition of 60 Minutes Sports (Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET, Showtime) features a compelling report from Armen Keteyian. Here’s a preview with insights from Keteyian with the rundown below.

From Showtime:

Two decades after Jackie Robinson broke pro baseball’s color line the NFL still had no black quarterbacks, even as African Americans excelled at every other position on the field. It was pro-football’s open secret: the quarterback position was for whites only.   A handful of pioneers began to change this in 1968 and three of them tell their humiliating and often emotional stories to correspondent Armen Keteyian about an unpopular chapter in the history of America’s most-popular sport.  Keteyian also talks to the black QBs of the 1980s and ‘90s whose paths were paved by those pioneers in this rarely told story for the next edition of 60 MINUTES SPORTS, Wednesday,  August  7 at 9 p.m. ET/PT only on SHOWTIME.

Marlin Briscoe, who still holds the Denver Broncos rookie passing record of 14 touchdowns in five games, was the first African American to start an NFL game on Oct. 6, 1968.  Despite this successful beginning, he was not even invited to a post-season meeting about the quarterback position. They would find a white player to replace the starter he substituted for.  He joined the Buffalo Bills and then the Miami Dolphins, playing the rest of his career as a wide receiver. Was it institutional racism? “About 95 percent,” Briscoe tells Keteyian.

Star black quarterbacks in high school and college got drafted into the NFL in the 1950s and ‘60s, but a disturbing thing happened when they got there. It happened to Briscoe.   “Well, they tell me that, you know, I am an athlete.”  The implication was he and other blacks would have to be receivers or defensive backs to be successful in the NFL.

The first black to start the season at quarterback in the NFL, James Harris, didn’t switch. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King and groomed to be the first NFL starting quarterback by his coach at Grambling, the legendary Eddie Robinson, Harris overcame humiliation and frustration.  Drafted by the Buffalo Bills, he was told to play wide receiver while learning quarterback, had to stay at the YMCA instead of the players’ hotel and suffered the indignity of working in the equipment room cleaning spikes. “I knew that was out of line,” says Harris.  But in 1969, Harris persevered, just as Robinson knew he would.  He went on to play 13 seasons; leading the LA Rams to the NFC Championship in 1974, but it was hard.

He received death threats, withstood racial epithets and was never considered the face of any of the franchises he played for.  He tells Keteyian he was a black quarterback and every article that was written referred to him in that way. “It affected my play. …I tried to play perfect.”

In 1978, quarterback Warren Moon led the University of Washington to an upset victory in the Rose Bowl.  He was not even drafted by the NFL. “I was…very, very bitter,” he says.  Forced to go to the Canadian Football League, he did so well there that six years later, NFL teams started a bidding war for him and Moon wound up being, for a time, the highest paid player in the NFL.  He played so well for 17 seasons in the NFL that he became the first black quarterback admitted to the Football Hall of Fame in 2006. He, too, earned it the hard way.

Moon endured the racial epithets and death threats like the others.  It was a burden, but one he took advantage of he tells Keteyian. “I pretty much played my whole career…with a chip on my shoulder…and that drive helped me play for as long as I did and for as high a level as I did,” he says.  “You felt like not only did you have to play well for yourself, but you were playing for your race…You knew you were doing something that was going to help another generation of guys,” says Moon.

Keteyian also talks to Doug Williams, whose exploits took the Washington Redskins past the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII in 1988, earning him the game MVP Award – the first for a black quarterback and a milestone in the integration of the position.  It was a special day for men like Moon and Harris and even more important for Briscoe, who had fallen on hard times after his football career and another as a stock broker.  He watched the game in a San Diego jail, locked up for drug possession. He had become addicted to crack cocaine.

“I just cried when the game was over…just made me feel so proud. And I felt I had something to do with this,” he tells Keteyian.   Briscoe says he cried tears of joy for Williams and the black race, but also tears for himself for being where he was now after helping pave the way for such a feat.  “And after I got out of the San Diego jail, I moved back to LA, didn’t do drugs since,” says Briscoe.  “That day probably saved my live.”

New 60 Minutes Sports: Lara Logan seems very enthralled with Chris Berman; makes him squirm about his wallet

The latest edition of 60 Minutes Sports (Showtime, Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET) features a Chris Berman profile by Lara Logan.

Judging from the clip below, it seems as if Logan was very much taken by Berman.

“Some guys are just funny,” Logan said. “He’s funny…He loves what he does. He cares about people.”

Hopefully, Logan will bring up the criticism that has been leveled at Berman in recent years.

Also, near the end of the video, check out Berman’s ridiculously overstuffed wallet, and how Logan makes him squirm.

Mayweather’s new deal with Showtime: ‘Richest individual athlete deal in all sports’

This is big. From Showtime:

Undefeated eight-time world champion Floyd “Money” Mayweather, boxing’s pound-for-pound king and the highest paid athlete in the world (Forbes, 2012), has entered into a groundbreaking pay-per-view deal with Showtime Networks Inc. and its parent company, CBS Corporation. Under the new deal, SHOWTIME PPV® will collaborate with CBS Corporation to comprehensively promote Mayweather’s events on the CBS Television Network and via the corporation’s expansive media platforms.

The deal—a unique revenue-sharing arrangement between SHOWTIME PPV and Mayweather—will enable him to fight up to six times over a period of 30 months, with the first mega-event taking place on May 4, 2013, when Mayweather will fight Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero. More details of this upcoming event will be announced shortly.

 Mayweather’s new deal is by far the biggest in the sport of boxing (specific financial details are contractually confidential). Mayweather is the PPV king and averages over 1 million PPV buys per event, which is the highest PPV buy average of any boxer in history. At this record-setting PPV performance level, if all six fights contemplated by this deal occur, it will be the richest individual athlete deal in all of sports.

How rich? Jake Emen of Yahoo! Sports estimates it likely is worth more than $50 million per fight:

Financial details of the arrangement have not been made public, but what we do know is that Mayweather will fight up to six times over the next 30 months, exclusively on Showtime Pay-Per-View. His fights will also receive extensive promotion and coverage on CBS and the various other channels and platforms under the CBS Corporation umbrella.

It’s an ambitious plan, as Mayweather’s next fight will be just his third in a three year span. However, it sounds as if Mayweather won’t have to fight that many times, but could simply seek out and fill that sort of busy schedule if he wanted to. It would certainly be great for boxing to have Mayweather being so active, and taking on the best challengers available.

Programming alert: 60 Minutes Sports debuts tonight on Showtime: More Armstrong allegations

60 Minutes has done plenty of sports stories through the years. So doing a monthly sports show with 60 Minutes branding makes a lot of sense.

60 Minutes Sports is bringing out the heavy hitters for the debut on Showtime (tonight, 9 p.m. ET). Scott Pelley will have more bad news for Lance Armstrong; Bob Simon has a feature on Lionel Messi; and a report from Lara Logan on rock climbing.

I’m all for more sports journalism on TV.

Here’s the official rundown from Showtime:

The first edition of 60 MINUTES SPORTS will feature a rare interview with Lionel Messi, the record-breaking soccer player considered by many to be the best of all time.  Bob Simon went to Spain to talk to Messi, an Argentine who plays for FC Barcelona, to interview the man who just broke the 40-yr.-old record for scoring the most goals in a calendar year.  Messi is only 25 years old.  The profile will be featured on the series premiere of 60 MINUTES SPORTS, a new magazine program from the makers of the iconic CBS News series 60 MINUTES, the originator of the television genre.  The monthly, one-hour 60 MINUTES SPORTS premieres on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on SHOWTIME and represents the first time original 60 MINUTES content will air on premium television.

Messi was already being compared to soccer legends like Pele and Diego Maradona and last Sunday scored his 86th goal of 2012 to break the record set by Germany’s Gerd Muller in 1972.   Messi tells Simon he’s hungry for goals and, given his appetite, more records should fall.  “I always want more. Whether it’s a goal or winning in a game  I am never satisfied… I always push my limits. And I always try to get better every day,” says Messi, who has years ahead of him in an already historic career.                                 

Also on the 60 MINUTES SPORTS  premiere will be a Scott Pelley report that looks inside the case against Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team that led to the stripping of the cyclist’s seven Tour de France wins.  

A third story will feature Lara Logan’s update of her 60 MINUTES story on free solo climber Alex Honnold, who climbs rock walls using only his hands and feet.

Jim Rome: New Showtime show key piece in his CBS puzzle

Tonight is a big night for Jim Rome. His new Jim Rome on Showtime series will debut at 10 p.m. ET.

It is a weekly one-hour show featuring interviews with athletes and celebrities. Rome has an impressive guest list for the opener: Kobe Bryant, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Perry, and Hollywood producer and franchise owner Peter Gruber.

But mostly it will be about Rome, as you can see in this clip.

Rome says, “I don’t think I’ve had my best broadcast moment yet. I’m still chasing it.”

The Showtime show is a big reason why Rome left ESPN for CBS earlier this year. The package includes a Monday-Friday show on CBS Sports Network and his radio show will be moving to the new CBS Sports Radio Network in January.

In a Q/A with me in May, Rome discussed his big move:

Am I a risk guy?  Doing nothing would have been a greater risk. But I’m pretty calculating. Sometimes, you have to push yourself.

I’m trying to get in and hopefully make a difference. It’s a big swing. Guys like us who have done this a long time, you’ve got to take a shot.

Showtime now gives him the best platform to pull it altogether. He could reach a large audience and won’t have to work within the constraints of conventional television. “Unconventional” is a word Rome uses over and over in describing the show.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Rome said:

One of the biggest pieces of the puzzle is the Showtime show. I think it’s going to work. It’s different in a lot of ways, far and away the most challenging show I’ve ever taken on … there’s nothing else like it on television. I’ve always done that daily topical half-hour show, come in, rant, interview, panel, rant, thanks for coming. That’s not what this show is. It’s nice to know if I want to go to another place and push another envelope, I can do that. There’ll be a crossover element. People in the arts, politicians, literary people … who have an opinion on sports.

And Rome added this comment to Eric Deggans of the National Sports Journalism Center:

“I can go with an f-bomb if I need it,” he said, laughing again. “I never felt the need to go with that on the air before. But it’s nice to know it’s there if I need it.”

A successful Showtime show could help him attract viewers to his daily show on the CBS Sports Network. While he already has a healthy radio audience, Showtime provides him with a chance to reach new listeners.

Yet pulling off this kind of hybrid sports/entertainment vehicle isn’t easy. If it is a flop, it will be a big black mark on his move to CBS.

Rome, though, is confident he can get it done. If there’s one thing he doesn’t lack, it’s confidence.

Should be interesting to see if he can pull it off.



Jim Rome to debut new Showtime show on Nov. 21

First there was a daily show on CBS Sports Network. Then he moved his radio show to the new CBS Sports Radio Network, beginning in January.

Now here’s the next addition to Rome’s bounty in leaving ESPN for CBS. On Nov. 21, Rome will host a new weekly show on Showtime. Appropriately, it will be named Jim Rome on Showtime.

Here’s the lowdown from Showtime. More to come:

Continuing to expand on his multi-year deal with CBS, JIM ROME ON SHOWTIME will make its premiere on Wednesday, November 21stat 10 p.m. ET/PT. The new, one-hour series will showcase Rome’s trademark style and opinions that have made him one of the most famous and outspoken sports broadcasters of his generation. Weekly episodes will feature a combination of provocative monologues and interviews, along with in-depth features and profiles of relevant and influential figures in the world of sports and entertainment. The show will tape in Los Angeles. The announcement was made today by David Nevins, President of Entertainment, Showtime Networks Inc.

“We’ve been very focused on increasing the amount and profile of sports programming on our air at SHOWTIME,” said Nevins. “Jim Rome is someone I’ve listened to for years; he is one of the top voices in the American sports world, and bringing him to the network in a fresh and premium format is a key part of accomplishing that goal.”

“Jim Rome’s sensibilities and perspective on the hottest topics in sports and entertainment make him a natural fit for this network,” said Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President and General Manager, SHOWTIME Sports. “JIM ROME ON SHOWTIME delivers on our promise to bring the most compelling and provocative programming to our subscribers.”

Showtime pulls early plug on Marlins series; Hard Knocks won’t have Johnson this week

Miami: Home of the reality sports series this year.

Showtime evidently has seen enough of the Miami Marlins. The Franchise will conclude Wednesday, a week earlier than originally planned.

Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen doesn’t blame Showtime for an early bailout on the massively disappointing Marlins. He said in the Miami Herald.

“The way we play, who wants to watch that [expletive]?” Guillen said. “I don’t want to watch it. Every time I watch an episode, I get depressed. With the voice of the [narrator] … ‘And the Marlins lost again. And they have a tough time …’

Meanwhile, the third installment of HBO’s Hard Knocks airs tonight at 10 p.m. ET. The series generated huge ratings for the Chad Johnson saga last week. Was it enough to keep viewers interested for the remainder of the series?


Ozzie fatigue: Yet another dose of Guillen on Showtime series

I have to admit I’m suffering from Ozzie Guillen fatigue. I’ve known Ozzie since 1986 when I became the White Sox beat reporter for the Chicago Tribune. We’ve had a great relationship through the years.

However, it ended badly for Guillen in Chicago. The soap opera drama went over the top.

So perhaps that’s why I’m not all that excited about the new Showtime series, The Franchise, which debuts Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET.

Didn’t we just see this show in 2010, when MLB Network did The Club, a behind-the-scenes look at the White Sox?

The Showtime series will have many of the same elements, only without the bleeps for Guillen’s colorful language. As you can see from the trailer, it’ll be more of “Ozzie being Ozzie.”

Also, there’s a new book out on Ozzie, written by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Morrissey.

Listen, the act wore thin in Chicago. As a White Sox fan, I couldn’t be more pleased with the sense of calm new manager Robin Ventura has brought to the team. And the results couldn’t be better with the Sox sitting in first place at the break.

Meanwhile, Ozzie’s Marlins are 41-44, 9 games back. Yes, we are taking note here.

Having said all that, it’s always interesting to see an inside look at a team. Grantland’s Michael Kruse wrote a piece examining the production of the series.

He writes:

This is documentary work. Fly on the wall. Immersion reporting. Two dozen people work full-time on The Franchise. It’s admirable in scope and intent. There’s a sincerity of purpose and craft that frankly — I’m sorry — I wasn’t expecting.

They’ve got great stuff.

They have players wired during batting practice. They have players wired during games. They have Zambrano wired during a game in which he pitched. That’s a first. It’s never been done. They have players watching scouting videos before at-bats. They have third baseman Hanley Ramirez feeding Yoplait to his little daughter son. They have aerial shots taken from high-priced helicopters. They have cameras set up all over the ballpark for attractive time-lapse material. They have what they call “the natural sound of victory.” They have … the opposite. There’s a place in some of the notes of the producers and editors that I picked up in Secaucus in which the following sequence of words appears: “Eccentric team pres … body waxed for double marathon.” The access, at times, is astonishing.

It’s the most compelling kind of nonfiction. Let whatever’s going to happen … happen. Watch and wait. The aim in the end, according to executive producer David Check, is “to be true to the ebb and flow of the season. We document the season as it unfolds.” There’s no picking the plot. Reality comes as is. The reality here is that the Marlins aren’t very good. And it’s not because there’s an extra set of cameras and that’s a distraction. The Marlins aren’t very good because the Marlins aren’t very good. Those thousands of hours have started to look like an all-access archive of reasons.