New season of 30 for 30s: Film on ‘Goodfellas’ game-fixer at Boston College

My favorite series on television returns for its fifth season. As always, I am pumped for the new slate of 30 for 30 films.

The opener, Playing for the Mob, looks like a can’t miss. Here is a link to the preview.

The official rundown:

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ESPN Films today revealed the films that will make up its fall 2014 30 for 30 slate. The series will return for a six-week runTuesday nights on ESPN beginning October 7, with one additional film in December. This October marks the fifth anniversary of 30 for 30’s launch in 2009.

The upcoming slate will kick off with “Playing for the Mob,” which delves into how mobster Henry Hill once helped orchestrate the fixing of Boston College basketball games. The film is narrated by actor Ray Liotta, who played Hill in the iconic movie “Goodfellas.” Other … Continue Reading

Urlacher quits role as analyst for Fox Sports 1; ‘Wanted to feel retired’

After only two games into the new season, Brian Urlacher has decided to quit his role as analyst at Fox Sports.

The former Bears linebacker informed the network that he is resigning his position so he could spend more time with his family. This season, Urlacher worked on Fox Sports 1’s “America’s Pregame” and Sunday morning’s “Fox NFL Kickoff.”

In an interview with Matt Spiegel and his former teammate Patrick Mannelly on WSCR-AM 670 this morning, Urlacher said traveling weekly to Fox’s studios in Los Angeles was taxing.

“I really enjoyed working with the guys at Fox Sports 1,” Urlacher said. “The travel to (Los Angeles) got to me quite a bit. I called the producers and they were understanding about my situation. I wanted to feel retired. That was my main reason. They were cool about it.”

Urlacher went … Continue Reading

Brutal week shows exposes how NFL could lose its hold with public

My latest column for the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana is on the impact of the week that was for the NFL.

From the column:

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The day after the opening Sunday of the new season, I was in the process of writing a column for this space about the massive popularity of the NFL. I asked the question of whether there was such a thing as too much.

Not to quote myself, but here were my opening paragraphs:

You probably would get sick if you had access to an endless supply of the world’s best chocolate. You might even get bored if you got to play Augusta National every day, although I would like to try.

Insert your favorite activity, food, whatever and chances are you will hit a tipping point where too much of a good thing Continue Reading

What they said: Pregame shows tackle brutal week for NFL

It wasn’t your typical week for the NFL pregame shows Sunday. Not with the NFL going through perhaps its worst week ever off the field.

Actual football talk was secondary to dissecting the various controversies. In some cases, it produced some raw honesty, such as Bart Scott on CBS admitting he is going through counseling to deal with his anger issues.

In case you missed it, here is a round-up of what was said:

CBS NFL Today

Bart Scott: This story is very personal to me.  Of course Ray Rice was a teammate of mine. This marks the fifth teammate that I’ve played with that’s either been accused or convicted of domestic violence. This is a problem in the NFL and has been a problem in the NFL. I think this video really forces the NFL and society to take a look and itself and make sure we do something about it. This offseason, … Continue Reading

Right move: Gus Johnson steps asides as Fox’s lead soccer announcer

I’m not a big soccer guy, but Fox Sports trying to make Gus Johnson its lead soccer announcer always seemed like a bad idea. The sports’ fans are a highly discerning bunch. With Fox Sports slated to do the Women’s World Cup next year and the World Cup in 2018, not to mention many important matches in between, Johnson was set up to vilified as the lead voice.

Now it won’t happen. Johnson said the demands of getting up to speed were taking a toll on him from a personal standpoint. From Richard Deitsch at SI.com.

Depending on your soccer broadcasting orthodoxy, the following news will be received as a cause for celebration or bitter disappointment:

Gus Johnson has stepped down as Fox’s No. 1 soccer broadcaster.

Johnson told Sports Illustrated on Sunday that he called Fox Sports president Eric Shanks last

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Rice factor? CBS does big rating in Thursday night opener

With all the focus on the Ray Rice story, the debut of the new Thursday night package on CBS and the NFL Network more than doubled last year’s opener for the comparable game on NFL Network.

The Baltimore-Pittsburgh game did a 13.7 overnight rating of major markets, up 108 percent from the 6.6 rating for the New York Jets-New England Thursday night game on NFL Network in 2013.

The NFL hoped to get a much higher rating for the Thursday night games with CBS’ promotional power and larger distribution; the game also was simulcast on NFL Network. The game delivered  CBS its best primetime rating since May, 2006.

It is hard to determine how much the Rice saga impacted the rating. However, clearly there was considerable interest with Baltimore playing its first game since it released Rice.

Let’s see what … Continue Reading

DVR alert: The Great ‘Mean Joe’ Greene featured on ‘A Football Life’

There is a scene in the new A Football Life that shows a White House ceremony in which Barack Obama says “Mean Joe” Greene captured his attention during his formative sports years as a child of the ’70s.

He wasn’t alone.

Greene was a big reason why I was a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan in the ’70s. As a kid, how could you not be captivated by someone with the nickname “Mean Joe?”

If you are like me, or simply want to learn about one of the greatest defensive players ever, check out tonight’s season premiere of A Football Life on NFL Network.

Here is a link to the preview.

The film not only documents what made Greene so great, but it also shows another side of “Mean Joe.” To his family, “Papa Joe” is the polar opposite of mean.… Continue Reading

CBS got it right by canceling theatrics to focus on Rice saga

Yesterday, I wrote in the Chicago Tribune that the Ray Rice fallout would blunt what should have been a festive night for CBS with the launching of its new Thursday night NFL package.

Later in the day, CBS decided the celebration will have to wait for another day.

CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus opted to can the theatrics to focus on the huge news that is rocking the NFL. From Richard Deitsch at SI.com:

CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said the network has also pulled an opener featuring actor Don Cheadle doing narration over Jay Z’s “Run This Town,” which is sung by Rihanna. A comedic segment was also jettisoned. 

“It’s important to realize we are not overreacting to this story but it is as big a story as has faced the NFL,”  McManus told SI.com from Baltimore Thursday afternoon.

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Hold the F-bombs: HBO won’t be doing 24/7 series on Winter Classic this year

Really disappointed to hear this news.

HBO announced it won’t be doing a “24/7: Road to the Winter Classic” this year.

.In a statement, HBO said:

“Everybody at HBO enjoyed working with the NHL and its teams on 24/7 the past four years. It was an exciting endeavor and we’re very proud of the never-before-seen presentation of the world of hockey that 24/7 was able to capture.

“There was never an expectation that HBO would chronicle the lead-up to the Winter Classic every year. So we will not be involved with the NHL this season.We wish the NHL the very best and the door will always remain open.”

I’m even more disappointed since I live in Chicago and this year’s Winter Classic will feature the Blackhawks at Washington on Jan. 1. I was looking forward to hearing the uncensored version … Continue Reading

Just stick to sports: 49ers radio announcer suspended for comments about Rice’s wife

Yet another example of a sports announcer stepping into a mine field when the topic veers into highly complicated social issues.

The latest case involves Ted Robinson, the 49ers radio voice who now will have a few weeks to think about what he said.

The team suspended Robinson for two games following comments he made about Janay Rice during an interview Monday on a local San Francisco radio station. He also was suspended for two games by the Pac 12 Network, where he also does play-by-play.

While discussing the Ray Rice controversy, Robinson said his wife’s decision to marry him was “pathetic.” He also said Janay Rice had a responsibility to speak up after she was knocked unconscious by her then-fiancee.

“That, to me, is the saddest part of it,” Robinson said.

Said 49ers president Paraag Marathe: “The comments made … Continue Reading