Memorial: Steve Sabol heads list of losses on sports media front in 2012

We said goodbye in 2012 to many individuals who elevated the level of sports media. With gratitude.

Steve Sabol: A true genius who revolutionized how we watch the NFL. His favorite quote:

“My dad has a great expression. “Tell me a fact, and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth, and I’ll believe. But tell me a story, and it will live in my heart forever.'”

Sabol’s stories will live forever.

Beano Cook: ESPN’s colorful college football analyst who had a unique perspective on the game. Unfortunately, he wasn’t granted this wish:

“I’d like to do the last scoreboard show and then go,” he once said. “I don’t want to die in the middle of the football season. I have to know who’s No. 1 in the last polls.”

Even though Cook died during the middle of the season, I’m fairly sure he is giving heaven the lowdown on Notre Dame-Alabama.

Robert Creamer: The long-time writer and editor for Sports Illustrated and the author of Babe, perhaps the best sports biography. Just before he died, he wrote about what he enjoyed about baseball:

“That’s easy– the wonder of ‘What happens next?’

“When I’m watching a game between teams I’m interested in, sometimes that wonder — and the fullfilment of it, as in the sixth game of the 2011 World Series — can be excruciatingly exciting, and its fullfilment as you watch and wait can be almost literally incredible.”

Furman Bisher: The legendary columnist in Atlanta who still was churning them out in his 90s. Dave Kindred recalled his old friend:

“One time, two years ago, his glorious wife, Linda, called him in the Augusta  press room and Furman became a high school kid in love. “I just finished,  honey,” he said. “It wasn’t much. I keep trying. I’ll do that perfect column  someday.”

Jim Huber: One of my favorites, the Turner Broadcasting analyst was known for his writing and terrific essays. This was the opening to his last book on Tom Watson’s near miss at the 2009 British Open.

“He climbed out of bed for what must have been the tenth time that interminable Sunday night. Making certain he did not awaken his wife, he made his way silently onto the balcony off the bedroom of the hotel high atop a hill. Clouds hung low over the dark Irish Sea, but he could still see the outline of the Ailsa Craig miles off the shoreline. A sliver of Scottish moon sprinkled shadows across the land.

“The grandstands, empty and cold now, hid the 18th green from view, but there was no shrouding the huge, familiar old yellow scoreboard off to the left. He did not have to squint to read the names still at the top. He would see them imprinted on his intricate mind for all time.”

Well done, Jim.

Jim Durham: The veteran play-by-play for the Bulls and ESPN. His long-time partner, Jack Ramsey, had this assessment when Durham was honored by the Hall of Fame in 2011:

“He’s the best I’ve ever heard on radio,” Ramsey said. “He seems to have been taken for granted because he’s such a self effacing guy. But he has everything—the great voice, the instinct for coming to the exciting parts of the game so that you can feel it in his voice. He never misses a tip, a pass, deflection, every shot, every defensive play and with great recall. He’s just amazing. This was long overdue.”

Chris Economaki: A pioneer as a motor sports journalist. From no less than A.J. Foyt:

“He saw the sport grow to where it is today and how it grew, including NASCAR. And he contributed to that growth. I’d say when he was in his heyday of writing that more people would read his column than any column that’s been written today by far. I know I did.”

Bert Sugar: The colorful boxing writer and sports historian. From Sports Illustrated’s Richard Hoffer:

“Mostly, though, he was there to provide atmosphere, some of it coming from his  ever-present cigar, to be sure. Just the sight of him in his equally  ever-present fedora (no one — nobody — ever saw the actual top of his head),  his plaid pants, waving that cigar in one hand and a glass of vodka in the  other, was enough to restore the sport to its Golden Age. He was a one-man  re-enactment of a Toots Shor bar scene, a gentle reminder that this is all  nonsense, not to be taken too seriously, that to truly witness greatness demands  a jaundiced eye as well as jaundice.”

Bill Jauss: The veteran Chicago Tribune sportswriter who was part of the cult show, Sportswriters on TV. From Rick Telander, a panelist on the show:

“Jauss loved the little guy. He spoke — he likes to say — for Joe and Jane Six-Pack. But he sells himself short. He spoke for Joe and Jane Martini, too. He spoke for everyone with a heart.”





More what they said in 2012: Olympics, NHL, ESPN, state of sportswriting and more

Part 2

More of using quotes to tell the tale of sports media in 2012. These range from August through the end of the year.

NBC executive Alan Wurtzel on the Olympics: “We know the people who are watching the streaming are more likely to watch in primetime. Some of them want to see the movie again. Some of them want to hear the comments and analysis. In an interesting way, streaming has served as a barker. They watch and tell their friends, ‘I can’t believe what I just saw.’ Basically, it’s 1 + 1 = 3.”

Buzz Bissinger tweet: “But Comcast/NBC doesn’t give shit. Ratings off the roof. All they care about. Fuck the first amendment. Fuck free speech. Fuck Comcast/NBC.”

New York Times’ Jere Longeman on LoLo Jones: “Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games. This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign. Essentially, Jones has decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be — vixen, virgin, victim — to draw attention to herself and the many products she endorses.”

NBC Sports Network president Jon Miller back in August: “I’m not a big Twitter follower, but I do follow the NHL on Twitter to find out as much as I can about the situation. It’s very important for us for the two sides to come together and for the season to start on time. The NHL is our most important property. To not have a start of the season would be tough on us.

Notre Dame radio analyst Allen Pinkett in an interview: “I’ve always felt like, to have a successful team, you gotta have a few bad citizens on the team,” Pinkett told The McNeil and Spiegel Show. “I mean, that’s how Ohio State used to win all the time. They would have two or three guys that were criminals. That just adds to the chemistry of the team. I think Notre Dame is growing because maybe they have some guys that are doing something worthy of a suspension, which creates edge on the football team. You can’t have a football team full of choir boys. You get your butt kicked if you have a team full of choir boys. You gotta have a little bit of edge, but the coach has to be the dictator and ultimate ruler.”

Jason Whitlock: “Seriously, most puddles are deeper than Paterno. It’s the antithesis of John Feinstein’s “A Season on the Brink” and Buzz Bissinger’s “Friday Night Lights.” Paterno is “A Tuesday with JoePa (and Guido).”

ESPN executive producer Mark Gross on Little League World Series: “If the kid is crying his eyes out, we don’t dwell on it. We’re respectful of the kids and how they play. It’s not about dwelling on the negative. We’re not looking to embarrass anybody. We’re just looking to document the event. Do you see a kid crying? It is part of the game. Ten minutes later, you might see him running to an arcade game.”

White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf:  If it were up to me, there wouldn’t be homerism. It’s not up to me. It’s up to the fans and they get what they want.”

Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan on stepping aside: “What matters most to me as I wind down my association with this great newspaper is that I firmly believe I have been a member of a true All-Star team in sports journalism for the entire 44 years. We tend to judge sports figures by the number of championship rings they have been fortunate enough to accumulate. I want to be judged by the people I’ve worked with. Lists are dangerous, because someone obvious invariably is left off. So I won’t risk that. Just appreciate that I have been in a killer lineup for 44 years.”

Jeremy Schaap on E:60: “To me, that’s what I do. I understand, it’s not what drives the ratings, although we (E:60) hold our own. Our commitment to journalism is there. In the conversation about what’s on ESPN, the focus is going to be on the less edifying stuff. But I don’t think we’re there as a counterweight. I think there’s a sincere interest in doing this kind of journalism.”

David Feherty on hosting live show for the Golf Channel at the Ryder Cup:  “I was jumpier than a box of frogs until the bell rang last night.  That’s typically ‑‑ I’d be worried if I wasn’t, because like I said in the opening monologue, confidence is that warm, fuzzy feeling you get before you fall on your ass.”

John Clayton on ESPN commercial: “I mean more than 2 million hits on YouTube. Whoa. You’re looking on Twitter and you see LeBron James saying I’m hilarious in the commercial. I mean, c’mon.”

Mike Tirico on two-man booth for Monday Night Football:  “I would say the difference, simply, having more of a conversation with one person, as opposed to spreading it out back and forth. That’s where the dynamic of the broadcast changes. People were under the false impression that a three‑man booth led to more chatter. Like any other broadcast ‑‑ there are no plays that go by with complete silence so, there’s just as much real estate.”

Sally Jenkins on Lance Armstrong: “I can tell you that while my thoughts are complicated Lance remains a friend of mine, and my personal opinion of him was never based on what he did or didn’t do while riding a bike up an Alp. I like the guy.”

Jay Mariotti: “Why continue to embrace a craft that literally almost killed me, a profession currently diluted by so many unskilled bloggers and corporate suckups that it has lost much of its soul? My answer remains the same as it has for three decades: Because I still love sports, and because I still love to write. Sports + writing = sportswriter.”

Jerry Reinsdorf to sports radio founder Jeff Smulyan: “You certainly have the undying, lasting envy of every sports owner and athlete in sports as the guy who created sports radio. Before you came along, the only thing we had to deal with was the idiots in the newspapers.  Now you’ve managed to give a microphone to every moron in the world.”

Dino Costa: “I can answer in a way that talks about the industry of sports talk radio. On balance, all sports talk radio sounds exactly the same. There is a status quo that underwhelms me. It’s homogenized garbage that deals with the lowest common denominator. The predictability is frightening. The same subject, same comments every day. It stays in the same lane and drones on and on.”

APSE President Gerry Hearn: “There have been a lot of brushfires this year that are new, and these issues will continue to happen unless we as sports editors and sports management step up. They want to control the information at universities not just for traffic, but as competitors. “We have to ensure as best we can the access that our reporters need to do their jobs.”

Malcolm Moran, new head of National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana: “For the first time in the history of the industry, a 20-something journalist could have an advantage over a 40-something candidate. Graduates as recent as the class of 2007 have told me they feel as though they missed out on having the new technology included in their course work. If a younger candidate can meet all the timeless expectations of the industry, and demonstrate that he or she can tell stories across platforms, the assumption is that the candidate will handle the technology more easily than the more experienced veteran. Media outlets are willing to sacrifice institutional memory – and the higher salaries that comes with that – for more cost-effective, techno-savvy candidates. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying it’s happening.”

Michael Wilbon on state of sportswriting: “There’s not as much good stuff as there used to be. Don’t get me wrong. I turned down some good pieces. But I know what it used to be. There’s not enough stuff that compels me. The volume (of quality writing) is not close.

“We’re all chasing the same story. Most of it I don’t care about. Where’s LeBron going? Even the great writers aren’t as great as they used to be. They’re smarter. They may be good reporters. They may get information we care about, but they’re not as good at writing. I’m not as great as I used to be. You’re too busy trying to get it posted before Yahoo! does. It’s all a rush to get it posted, to be first.”

Marv Albert on being 71: “I feel I’m better now than I ever have been. You learn so much as you’re doing it. I’m watching tapes and I’ll see things that get me annoyed and where I know I can improve. I understand better letting the crowd play more. I’ve always said it was important for me who I was working with, because I like to kid around a lot. But I’ve also learned to use my partner better.

“I’m feeling good. There’s no reason to stop.”

ESPN president John Skipper: “We have standards of journalism that are at the highest order. There’s a separate question, which is, ‘Are we adhering to them?’ But at least our intention and what we publish is that we are going to adhere to high standards. We don’t discourage the scrutiny, we welcome it. Generally, we react to it.”

Ed Goren, former Fox Sports executive producer: “When is enough enough? I mean, how does ESPN do it paying $55 million for one Monday night game? The business is becoming more difficult because of the elevated rights fees. It’s challenging. Maybe I’m not quite smart enough to figure it out. Hopefully, the people at the various networks are smarter than me.”

Jack Whitaker, 88, receiving Hall of Fame honor: “Thank you for giving me this award and for giving it to me in time for me to remember I got it.”

What they said in 2012: Quotes tell tale of year in sports media

Part 1:

I’m a big quote guy, as evidenced by the quote I run at the top of this site.

While going through my review of sports media in 2012, I came across so many relevant quotes from my reporting and elsewhere, I decided to share them. Some are insightful; some are funny; some are just plain stupid. Yet they all tell a tale of what occurred on this beat.

I had so many, I decided to split them into two posts. Part 1 covers the beginning of the site in April through early August.

Frank Deford on current state of sportswriting: “Unfortunately, we’ve gotten swamped by the numbers. People have gotten buried under the numbers. Statistics. That has become everything. Pitch count is more interesting than what the guy is made of. I think that’s a shame because so much of sports is drama.”

Keith Olbermman tweet: “Mickey Mantle debuted in NY in an exhibition vs Dodgers 1951. Bryce Harper debuts vs Dodgers tonight. Announcer then and now? Vin Scully.”

Adam Schefter on taking heat for tweeting during the NFL draft: “I approach the draft just like any other NFL news story. When I learn informaton, it’s my job to report it. I didn’t report every pick; I was more interested in the trades, actually. But if someone felt it detracted from their experience, they could have unfollowed me or not paid attention to Twitter.”

Ohio State president Gordon Gee (a true goof): “‘Sporting News,’ ‘Sports Illustrated,’ a lot of them I don’t read. It’s bad journalism. And, so, why buy them?”

David Feherty on Hank Haney’s book on Tiger Woods: “The fact that Hank wrote the book – I wouldn’t have written the book. I just don’t think it has any class to it at all.”

SI’s Richard Deitsch on Chris Berman: “The bellowing never stops. It pummels you over the head like a hard rain, and  it’s forever accompanied by outdated references (“Mel Kiper, to quote Stan  Laurel, ‘Here’s another mess you have gotten me into, Ollie.’ “) and long-winded  intros that last nearly as long as a Presidential campaign. Mostly, there is  Chris Berman simply talking and talking and talking.”

Chris Berman:  “I just talk to people everyday walking down the street. That’s what I care about. That’s good enough for me. They didn’t like Ted Williams either. Now, I’m not Ted Williams.”

ESPN exec John Wildhack defending Chris Berman: “It seems that at times, criticizing Chris has become a pastime for some, as opposed to presenting an actual review of the work he does. What’s important is he works hard, he’s prepared, he’s extremely passionate about it and he is a huge sports fan which allows him to connect with the sports fans we serve.”

Bill Simmons in a tweet on Grantland being denied a credential to a NHL playoff game: “Still laughing that the Blues denied @katiebakes for a media credential last week. The NHL is the best. DON’T COVER US!!! STAY AWAY!”

Dave Kindred on the late Furman Bisher: “One time, two years ago, his glorious wife, Linda, called him in the Augusta  press room and Furman became a high school kid in love. “I just finished,  honey,” he said. “It wasn’t much. I keep trying. I’ll do that perfect column  someday.”

Saints owner Tom Benson on demise of the New Orleans Times-Picuyane: “It is hard for me to imagine no Times-Picayune on Monday, February 4, 2013, the day after our city hosts Super Bowl XLVII.”

Veteran sportswriter Tom Pedulla on being fired from USA Today: “If you think someone’s job was in jeopardy, you’d want to do it face-to-face to make the best possible decision. I never got a face-to-face interview to keep a job I had for 31 years.”

Former Fox Sports chairman David Hill on the future of sports TV:  “The next big development for all of us is the second-screen experience. I don’t believe that has been explored in terms of potential as it should be. If you look at multi-tasking that is going on, a valid second screen experience (people watching a second screen in addition to the primary screen) – which could be American Idol – is going to be a huge development down the road.”

Tiger Woods on new media: “You’ve got to be able to stand out somehow to get eyes going to your site or to your media, and I think that’s one of the reasons why there’s the criticism that there is. I was looking at it the other day, if LeBron didn’t have a good game, then the Heat are done and he should retire.  I’m like, geez, guys, he just won MVP.  But I think that’s just the nature of the volatility of the new media in which we are involved in now.”

Phil Mushnick controversial column on Jay-Z: “As long as the Nets are allowing Jay-Z to call their  marketing shots — what a shock that he chose black and white as the new team  colors to stress, as the Nets explained, their new “urban” home — why not have  him apply the full Jay-Z treatment?

“Why the Brooklyn Nets when they can be the New York N——s? The  cheerleaders could be the Brooklyn B—-hes or Hoes. Team logo? A 9 mm with  hollow-tip shell casings strewn beneath. Wanna be Jay-Z hip? Then go all the way!”

Michelle Beadle on rampant speculation about her future: “I find it ridiculous. It’s a little stupid. I’ve changed jobs a couple dozen times since I started in an amusement park at 16. … I got a little sick of myself. It’s been an odd situation. Hopefully, it will come and go and everybody will get back to their business. Very weird. Who knew?”

Ozzie Guillen on Twitter: “Yeah, I hate Twitter. Everybody following me can (expletive) his pants. You can quote me on that one. … Don’t follow me anymore. Twitter is a stupid thing. I never make money out of that. When you speak Spanish, you speak Spanish. When you speak English, you don’t know how to spell ‘English.’ Get a real job, get a life. I don’t make money out of that. I’m done.”

Colin Cowherd on hockey writers: “Hockey doesn’t get the cream of the crop in our business…What do you think I’m giving the kid out of Fordham? The New York Islanders. He’s cheap, he’s bright, and his brother used to play hockey.”

John Skipper on NBC Sports Network: “We’ve been doing this for 32 years and I do think  there’s a little too much respect paid to the great brand names. Everybody sort  of assumes, ‘Oh, my gosh, NBC is going to a 24/7 network and it’s a two-horse  race.” But they don’t look like we look. You guys saw all the stuff today –  mobile, Internet. We have more viewers in an average minute on ESPN mobile than  they have on NBC Sports Network.”

NBC Sports response: “The NBC Sports Group brands are among the most powerful brands in sports. We don’t look like anyone else and we’re very proud of that fact. They’ve been at this a long time and at a significantly higher cost to consumers. Our audience and market share are increasing as evidenced by the NHL playoffs and at great value to our viewers.”

CBC’s Ron McLean invoking images of 9/11 in open to a NHL playoff game: “From the capital of the U.S. of A., it’s New York and Washington. The economic and political engines of America, united in the birth of the country, they’re also linked in tragedy. They were the twin targets of the coordinated attacks on 9/11. It’s crazy to compare what the emergency responders did during that time, but a spirit has to start somewhere. And as you enjoy this series between the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals — Game 6 comin’ up, 3-2 New York.”

Dan Jenkins: “Who is the best the sportswriter who wore shorts? I keep trying to envision Grantland Rice or John Lardner in shorts. It never occurred to me to wear shorts. I’d look too silly to wear shorts.”

ESPN’s Vince Doria on hockey: “It’s a sport that engenders a very passionate local following. If you’re a Blackhawks fan in Chicago, you’re a hardcore fan. But it doesn’t translate to television, and where it really doesn’t transfer much to is a national discussion, which is something that typifies what we do.”

Donna  de Varona on 40th anniversary of Title IX: “My work in Title IX gave me a voice I wanted to have as a broadcaster. But there was a lot of pushback. My visibility was often threatened. I often got comments about my activism being an issue, forcing me to make choices. That did two things for me: It made me fight harder and stay at ABC, and also to work on Capitol Hill.”

Darren Rovell announcing in a tweet (what else?) that he is jumping to ESPN: “I’m thrilled to have reached an agreement in principle with ESPN. No matter how others bash it, Bristol is truly a magical place.”

APSE president Michael A. Anastasi in speech to sports editors: “Many of you have heard me say this before, but I think it’s worth repeating. With so much change, so much challenge, so much new, this is exactly the wrong time for editors to stop talking to each other.”

ESPN’s Vince Doria: “If social networking never existed, we wouldn’t miss it. We wouldn’t know it ever existed. We wouldn’t feel our life was impaired in any way. We lived without e-mail. How did we operate without it?”

Geoff Ogilvy’s wife, Julie, on Twitter: “How does Johnny Miller have a job when he speaks such nonsense???”

Phil Mushnick: “Allowing ESPN’s Chris Berman to call golf’s U.S. Open is like giving the Class Clown a jumbo can of Silly String.”

Skip Bayless: “Miami was the heavy favorite to win it all and I’m not backing off. I’m not writing them off. I’m sticking with them in seven games, because they’re still the Miami Heat.”

Ken Harrelson after over-the-top criticism of an umpire: “I talked to Bud Selig yesterday. We had a talk. Actually, Bud talked and I listened. If it was a prize fight, they would have stopped it in the first round.”

Bob Costas on slain Israeli athletes not being honored at Olympics: “I intend to note that the IOC denied the request. Many people find that denial more than puzzling but insensitive. Here’s a minute of silence right now.”

BTN president Mark Silverman on his network not covering important Penn State press conference: “We wanted to have covered it. Frankly, it was human error. There was an internal communications issue. We regret not having shown that press conference.”

Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertham on Joe Posnanski’s Paterno book: “The great lesson that Paterno may have taught (a player) pales in comparison to the cover-up. People who read the book will say they don’t care about (his great deeds). I worry this will be the literary version of the Matt Millen fiasco.”

Joe Buck on Tim McCarver going into Hall of Fame: “When I had him sitting to my right and I had him seconding an opinion of mine, it gave me instant credibility. I owe him a lot and I’ll be there, the proudest one there not at the podium when he goes in on Saturday.”

Tim McCarver: “If somebody told me back in 1980 that I would have a 32-year career, and that I’d be receiving this honor, I’d say no way. For three years, I couldn’t even break into the Phillies broadcast booth. I was just hoping to make it, much less be mentioned as a Ford Frick winner. Believe me, when I started out, this award wasn’t even close to being on the radar.”

Bob Costas on turning 60: “It doesn’t seem that long ago to me that the word irreverent seemed affixed to my name. ‘Irreverant newcomer.’ I went from irreverent to venerable in what seems to me like the blink of an eye.”