From folks who bring you Awful Announcing: The Comeback, a new sports and pop culture site

Congratulations to Ben Koo and his staff on this week’s launch of The Comeback.

An excerpt of Koo’s welcome note to readers.

Hello and thanks for stopping by. We hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend. Enough with the pleasantries though, you may be wondering- so what’s the deal with this site?

The Comeback is a sports and pop culture blog. Hopefully we’ll be a good one. A successful one.  One worthy of your time.

The Comeback is the companion site of Awful Announcing, our successful blog covering sports media. Over the years, Awful Announcing grew its coverage, refined its voice, elevated its quality, and grew its stature in the sports media world. It was the most exciting thing I have worked on and the thing we’re all the most proud of.

We found as Awful Announcing grew, we were limited in by the site’s niche focus in what we could write about. After starting a new company specifically to grow Awful Announcing, the decision was made to start a general sports and pop culture blog. So with much of the DNA of Awful Announcing’s voice, here we are at the launch of The Comeback.

Bill Dwyre, one of the great sports editors of the era, says goodbye to the LA Times

DwyreAnother in a series of farewell columns. This time, it is Bill Dwyre.

Dwyre has been writing columns since 2006. Yet he is known for building a truly great staff during 25 years as sports editor of the Los Angeles Times. His work was recognized by his peers when he received the prestigious Red Smith Award from the Associated Press Sports Editors in 1996 for service to sports journalism.

Now it helps to have a clean-up hitter like Jim Murray as your columnist, as was the case during much of Dwyre’s long run as sports editor. But Dwyre also launched and nurtured the careers of many sportswriters. There’s this entry from his Wikipedia page:

Dwyre rose to national prominence with the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Olympics, for which he mobilized a staff of more than 100, including 59 credentialed reporters, at that time the largest of its kind for Olympic coverage. The staff published 24 special daily editions, most of them 44 pages, of Olympic coverage in addition to the paper’s regular sports section. It was an unprecedented display of newspaper Olympic coverage for which Dwyre had seemingly boundless budgetary and personnel resources. The success of the ’84 Summer Games as reflected in the excellence of the L.A. Times’ coverage garnered Dwyre several awards, including National Editor of the Year from the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.; the National Headliner Award from the Press Club of Atlantic City; and the Los Angeles Times Award for Sustained Excellence, all conferred in 1985. 

Dwyre also excelled in his Act 2 as a columnist. I always looked forward to reading his columns on golf’s majors in the Chicago Tribune.

In his farewell column, he wrote about “a red-haired college grad who found a way to feed his family and fell in love with that way.”

(He) never forgot the feeling he had one day, back in Milwaukee, a stop along his way. He was so green he could hide in front of Jack’s beanstalk, but he talked his way into a chance to write an actual story.

He was assigned to a high school cross-country meet. There may be lower-profile news in sports, but you’d have to look long and hard.

He so badly wanted to write something that didn’t belabor the obvious, a disease on many sports pages. But there wasn’t anything. Teenage boys ran, some faster than others. Their coaches were either happy or unhappy. He saw no story. He had no hope.

And then, as if dropped from heaven, came a tiny figure climbing the final hill, struggling. His name was Torre Fricano, he was an undersized freshman at a high school named Messmer. He was so far behind in dead last that he was in danger of missing the team bus.

He collapsed across the finish line and was scooped up by a man the size and build of a big bear. He was Don Simeth, Fricano’s coach, and his gentle message to the sobbing youngster was that finishing last was not a bad thing. Not finishing was.

The young reporter wrote about that. Not the winner. Not the best team. Not the course or weather. He wrote about the freshman last-place finisher and his burly coach.

It got in the paper that way. He was called in and told he should have at least mentioned the winner. Three or four callers to the sports desk said the same thing.

He never felt he had done it wrong. He found a story where there wasn’t one. He learned there is always a story, that you just have to look harder. He never forgot the lesson, or Fricano and Simeth.




Let’s not forget the copy editors who also are leaving their jobs

As I noted previously, there have numerous veteran journalists leaving their jobs due to cut backs in the industry. It seems like every day there’s another farewell column from a departing writer.

Alan Sutton, who had a long career as a writer and editor at the Chicago Tribune, did a Facebook post that bears mentioning here:

Re: all the Tribune I’m-saying-bye-bye essays. It’s nice that reporters get to do this — to relive the highlights (and lowlights?) of their careers. But I’d love to read the tales of what some editors — from the ones on the copy desks to the assistant MEs — have to say about what really goes on during 35-40 years in a newsroom.

Indeed, my salutations also go out to them too. Many of them saved my butt back then, and the current copy editors still do it for me today. For that, I always will be grateful.


Two of the best: Fred Mitchell, Phil Hersh say farewell to Chicago Tribune

fredmitchellHershEvery day, it seems my Twitter and Facebook feeds are filled with farewell columns from old friends leaving their newspapers after decades of fine work. It is yet another depressing commentary about the state of the industry.

Two of the best said goodbye to the Chicago Tribune Sunday: Fred Mitchell and Phil Hersh.

Both sportswriters were mentors, role models, and trusted teammates to me. As a young reporter, I remember being dazzled by Hersh’s exceptional talent. His profile of Jim McMahon was one of the best stories to ever grace the Tribune’s sports pages.

As for Mitchell, I can recall my old sports editor Gene Quinn citing one of his ledes as an example of simple, concise, yet elegant writing. After the Cubs lost Game 5 to San Diego in the 1984 NLCS, denying their fans the pennant everyone thought was in the bag, Mitchell wrote: “The Cubs flag flies at half-mast today.”

More than anything else, I will remember the good times I had with both of them. I always have said the friends you make in newsrooms and press boxes are the best part of this business.

Thankfully, both sportswriters aren’t retiring. Hersh still plans to write about the Olympics. Meanwhile, I am sure Mitchell, one of the most versatile talents in the business, will be busier than ever.

Here’s hoping their long runs continue for many years.

An excerpt from Hersh’s farewell column:

The events included 15 Olympics (following my first two, the 1980 and 1984 Winter Games, for the Chicago Sun-Times), 10 outdoor World Track and Field championships, 17 World Figure Skating Championships, 30 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, 24 U.S. Track and Field Championships / Olympic Trials and seven soccer World Cups (four men, three women), three Wimbledons and one Elfstedentocht.

That doesn’t count the more mainstream events I covered for the Tribune, most notably the 1986 Super Bowl, where my assignment was “cosmic significance,” and my byline is on the front-page story immortalized in various commemorative items.

That was one of my approximately 6,200 bylines during 31 1/2 years as a Tribune staff writer.

Some were on stories as small as 140 words. One is on the 5,486-word profile of Jim McMahon that appeared a month before the 1986 Super Bowl.

And this story is my last as a full-time Tribune employee.

The lure of a generous, voluntary buyout offer means the first day of the rest of my life is Thanksgiving.

That timing is perfect, given how thankful I am for the Tribune having provided me a chance to bring the stories of athletes from dozens of countries a little closer to Chicago – and to readers kind enough to have taken the journey with me, even if they sometimes didn’t like its direction.

Mitchell wrote about his most memorable encounters with athletes he covered:

Charlotte Ditka and Mike Ditka Sr.: Mike Ditka’s parents showed me family photos in their modest government-subsidized house in Aliquippa, Pa., right after the Bears fired their famous son. “Whatever he wants to do is all right. But I would like to see him take a year off and get that hip fixed up and quit that golf long enough to get that hip right,” Mike Sr., wearing a Bears sweatshirt, said.

Bill Belichick: I made the generally grumpy Patriots coach smile and start chatting away in the locker room at Soldier Field a few years ago when I came up to him and told him my college coach was Bill Edwards, his godfather. His eyes sparkled as he talked about “spending happy summers with Bill and Dorothy” as a child. I had to cut short our conversation and walk away to finish getting interviews with players.

Minnie Minoso: I helped the Cuban Comet get into the Sox locker room to join in the 2005 World Series celebration when Astros security personnel did not recognize him. “Thank you, my friend,” Minoso said to me.

Is Peyton Manning next? Players Tribune becomes new outlet for superstars to announce upcoming retirement

KobeDavid Ortiz, Steve Nash. Now Kobe Bryant.

Clearly, there is a trend developing. The Players Tribune has become the new outlet for the megastars to announce they are calling it a career.

Ortiz did it with a video on the site. Then last night, Bryant broke the news on The Players Tribune that he will be taking his victory lap this year, assuming he can stay healthy.

Of course, Bryant has more than a passing interest in The Players Tribune. He invested some money in the endeavor and is listed as the editorial director. Soon, he will have plenty of time to vet those stories.

Many other big-name athletes will take note and ask for their agents to arrange for the same set-up with The Players Tribune when it comes time to say goodbye. It is going to become a status thing for them.

Hello, Peyton Manning? The Players Tribune is waiting for your call.

Much will be made of athletes circumventing conventional media by using The Players Tribune as a platform for these announcements. The reality is that they are making it a two-step process.

First the announcement on The Players Tribune. In this case, Bryant wrote a poem. Then the subsequent press conference in which the athlete discusses his retirement.

That’s two days in the news cycle instead of one. Makes plenty of sense from a PR perspective, doesn’t it?





Dave Wannstedt: Unlikely media star; ‘I just get caught up talking about football’

WannstedtExcerpts from my latest column for the Chicago Tribune:


Dave Wannstedt is walking down Michigan Avenue on an overcast November morning after finishing his regular Tuesday morning sports radio appearance. He ducks into a store to get a cup of coffee even though he already appears to be fully caffeinated.

Wannstedt always gets amped talking about college and pro football. Above everything else, his rapid-fire, high-energy broadcast persona makes him completely engaging. Must-listen radio. Mike Mulligan, co-host of WSCR-AM 670’s “Mully & Hanley Show,” says, “It is the best segment on our show.”

The on-air version of Wannstedt is a stark contrast to how Bears fans remember him.

“I always was protective with the media,” Wannstedt said, in explaining why he didn’t reveal that outgoing side during his days as Bears coach from 1993-99 and later as head coach with the Dolphins and in college at Pitt. “I always was cordial, but I never wanted to let them inside Dave Wannstedt’s personality. I don’t know why. I wish I knew why.”

The 63-year-old Wannstedt, though, doesn’t waste any time doing a deep examination because he is way too busy talking football everywhere and anywhere these days. His schedule is a whirlwind.

Wannstedt’s week includes commutes to Los Angeles to be a studio analyst for Fox Sports’ college football coverage. On Sundays mornings, he appears on Fox’s early NFL pregame show, “NFL Kickoff.” Then Wannstedt immediately returns to Chicago, usually watching the Bears game on the plane, so he can make a Sunday night appearance on Comcast SportsNet. He also has regular weekly spots on BTN and CSN, including “Pro Football Weekly.”

Wannstedt’s plate could be even fuller.

“Everyone is calling,” said Bryan Harlan, his agent. “We’ve turned down a lot of things.”


When Wannstedt decided to go the broadcasting route, Harlan said he had to follow a strict mandate if he wanted to be successful. Harlan told him he couldn’t be worried about whether his comments would affect his ability to land another coaching job.

“Bryan said I couldn’t be guarded because I was thinking about what a general manager or an athletic director might think,” Wannstedt said. “I had to be honest. I had to let my personality come out.”

Thanksgiving flashback: No. 1 Nebraska vs. No. 2 Oklahoma in 1971; Best Turkey Day game ever

As we prepare to settle in for too much football and way too much food, I thought I would flash back to the best Thanksgiving Day football game ever. And it didn’t come courtesy of the NFL.

On Thanksgiving Day 1971, No. 1 Nebraska played No. 2 Oklahoma in what also might have been the best college football game ever. Definitely in the top 5. Check in around the 1:10 mark for Johnny Rodgers’ sensational punt return.

And it always is good to hear the voice of Chris Schenkel, one of the all-time greats.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Also, since this is a big week for rivalries, Richard Rothschild of selects the best showdowns of the last 50 years.

Former ESPN Magazine writer worked as clubhouse attendant; other laid-off sportswriters share their stories

Jeff BradleyAn excerpt of my latest column for Poynter:


For the bulk of his professional life, Jeff Bradley has spent his summers at a Major League ballpark. He had high-profile beats covering baseball for ESPN The Magazine and the Newark Star-Ledger.

But last summer was different. Struggling to make ends meet ever since being let go by the Star-Ledger in Jan., 2013, Bradley worked as a clubhouse attendant at a country club near his home in New Jersey. He shined shoes, vacuumed the carpet and kept the bathrooms clean.

Bradley likely is the only clubhouse attendant who also has written about Derek Jeter for national publications. A few times, Bradley was mistaken for being a member. On other occasions, he ran into people who knew him as “the sportswriter,” prompting the inevitable questions of what happened?

“Sure, it was embarrassing sometimes,” Bradley said. “But most people, if they have heart, say, ‘I respect what you’re doing. You’re doing what you’ve got to do [for your family].”

Bradley decided to write about his situation on his website last week. In a phone interview, he said he didn’t rehash the frustrations and hardships he has endured so “people could feel sorry for me.”

“I just felt like this is what has come to for a lot of people who used to work as journalists,” said Bradley, whose resume also includes stints at Sports Illustrated and the New York Daily News.

Indeed, the comments to Bradley’s post depict a depressing snapshot of an industry where long-time sportswriters find themselves in no-man’s land. Several veterans commiserated with Bradley by sharing similar experiences after being jettisoned from their jobs.

Rachel Shuster, formerly of USA Today, writes:  “I drive for Uber, where if I happen to mention, no, this is not my life’s dream.”

Diane Pucin, formerly of the Los Angeles Times, writes: “This is pretty much my story…Even been rejected for a grocery store checked out job.”


Sport Media Friday: ‘Brave’ vision for ESPN’s Undefeated; Play bad, ratings up for NFL

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports media:

Kevin Merida discusses his plans for ESPN’s The Undefeated with Richard Deitsch.

RD: What is your vision about what this site should be?

KM: The Undefeated should be vibrant, soulful, smart, cool. And brave. Not predictable, not ideological, and never boring. The subject material is certainly there. Sports/race/culture is a rich mix that will keep on giving. We talk about The Undefeated as a site. But I see it as more than ‘a site,’ which is really a desktop concept in a mobile age of sharing content and discussing it online. We want to do the work that people will talk about and remember and share with their friends—long form, short form, provocative, engaging commentary, visually driven journalism, revelatory reporting, and all the rest. But ultimately we want to cultivate and grow an audience, an Undefeated community. So I could see us doing an Undefeated lecture series in which athletes talk about the things they rarely get asked about, like love, anger, leadership. You may see an Undefeated music video. We want to be digitally innovative, and to engage people not only on The Undefeated’s site, but wherever they are.

Bill Simmons did an interview with President Obama for GQ. President laments that Simmons is no longer with Grantland.

Brandon Marshall thinks the media has too much access.

The quality of play may be down, but NFL ratings continue to soar.

Ken Fang of Awful Announcing has a favorable review of Joe Buck’s new interview show, which debuted this week.

Fox Sports analyst Joel Klatt is standing up for the Big 12.

Donovan McNabb is no longer with Fox Sports.

Michael Bradley explains why he told a college sophomore to steer clear of sports media.

Why TV sports ratings are more important than attendance at games.

A podcast with soccer announcer Andres Cantor.