Sports Media beat: Bob Ley on ESPN’s coverage of FIFA mess; Shirley Povich and automated game stories; New Ty Cobb book

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


The great Bob Ley shows why ESPN gave him a contract extension this week in anchoring the network’s coverage of the FIFA mess. A Q/A with Matt Yoder of Awful Announcing.

AA: You list off all those contributors that were brought in to the coverage. For you is this one of those days that represents everything ESPN can be as the self-proclaimed worldwide leader where you can go to Mallorca and Berlin and London to bring in world-renowned former players and commentators and journalists and put all those resources to their best use?

Ley: Once we’re done, and we’re never done because we’re taping things once we’re done live, but once you’re done yes you’re very proud that you were able to put 40 years of love for this sport and the contacts and the knowledge in that time and work on the fly and share that. The US soccer community has grown, but it’s still not very large. But all the people we had on today I would consider a friend. We all know each other and we’ve all had these conversations about FIFA off the air in airports and bars around the world and now we get a chance to put it out there. What you guard against is going too inside football and down into the politics of the federations of FIFA to lose people. You want to keep it as relevant as you can.

I was talking to Jay Harris as I left the office trying to remember the last off-the-field sports story that captivated the world like this. The last two, and maybe I’m missing something as I’m deprived of sustenance on the way home for dinner, would have been Ben Johnson testing positive for doping at the Olympics or Magic Johnson testing positive for HIV. This story with Blatter matters to every country in the world because soccer is the world’s game. If problems were to crop up in MLB, NBA, or the NFL there’d be a lot of people in South Asia that wouldn’t give a rat’s behind. They do about this.

Richard Sandomir of the New York Times interviews the author of a new Ty Cobb book that portrays a much different version of the baseball legend.

When he began work on a new biography, “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty” (Simon & Schuster), Charles Leerhsen expected to uncover fresh depictions of the player as a racist and a spikes-sharpening attacker of opposing infielders. If Cobb was the meanest man in baseball flannels, additional animosity would not be difficult to find.

“I thought I’d find new examples of monstrous monstrosity,” Leerhsen said in an interview last week. “Instead, I found a very different person than the myth. I was a little disappointed at first. He’s more normal than I thought.”

George Solomon, head of the Povich Center for Sports Journalism at Maryland, isn’t crazy about automated game stories.

Shirley Povich, the man the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism is named, tried to give his readers that “feel” as well. Every fall, the students in the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism’s sports reporting class listen (I hope) to my reciting Povich’s description of Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series: “The  million-to-one  shot came in. Hell froze over. A month of Sundays hit the calendar. Don Larsen today pitched a no-hit, no-run, no-man-reach- first game in a World Series.”

In his 1969 memoir, “ All Those Mornings,” Povich remembered what it was like trying to write for his readers of The Washington Post about the only perfect game ever pitched in the World Series:

“When it was over, my frightening task began: How to handle this aurora borealis?  I sat among four hundred other writers transfixed, my eyes staring at the Yankee Stadium turf, my mind trying to absorb and ponder the magnitude of the achievement, all the while knowing the clock is moving and the deadline is mocking. I shifted my stare to the empty white sheet of paper in my typewriter until snow-blindness threatened to set in. Then my fingers began moving across the keyboard of my portable and I was writing scared as the words began to come out.”

I’m sure my friends at the Associated Press will figure out what to do about game stories. So will the nation’s sports editors. Automation?  Perhaps.

I shudder to think the great sportswriters of today will not have the opportunity Povich had that autumn day in 1956, or Red Smith had covering Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning home run for the New York Giants over the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951 or Jimmy Cannon sitting ringside when Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling in 1938.

Richard Deitsch at interviews NBA writers about covering the Finals.

Beck: As I mentioned above, the access and the overabundance of media makes covering the Finals much more challenging. It’s not a complaint, just a reality.

Isola: I wish the postgame interviews could be handled a little better. Get the key players out on the podium quicker. Waiting for them to shower and dress is a deadline killer … for those of us in the newspaper business who still have deadlines. I get it; the players use the postgame press conference as their red carpet moment. They like to make fashion statements. But I think a better visual is the players in their uniform talking. I blame Michael Jordan. He started it. AndCarmelo Anthony is the league leader in taking an eternity to shower, get dressed, put on his fedora, and speak with reporters.

Lee: The late starts make it really tough for newspaper deadline purposes. The games usually end around midnight, leaving little time to process what happened and properly explain it to the masses. I always marvel at Internet writers pulling all-nighters when I’m walking out feeling like I just tried to microwave a turkey.

Recalling the career of Ron Bergman, the long-time beat writer for the Oakland A’s, who died last week.

Ron Bergman, the colorful, stylish sportswriter best known for documenting the Swingin’ A’s of the 1970s, died Thursday. He was 80.

Bergman was the Oakland Tribune’s original A’s beat writer when the franchise arrived from Kansas City in 1968 and went on to cover their three consecutive World Series titles.

His book “Mustache Gang” remains the best insider account of that wild cast of characters.

“It’s a great loss for all of us. He was a cool dude,” said Vida Blue, who won the MVP and Cy Young Award for the A’s in 1971. “Remember, this was the 1970s, and our relationship with the media was a lot different. He’d be on our flights. He’d be there for drinks. And nothing was off limits — the good and the bad.”

Bergman would hit the town with Catfish Hunter or Joe DiMaggio (an A’s coach at the time) and played bridge with the likes of Rollie Fingers and Ken Holtzman. As a result, Blue said, players confided in him, allowing Bergman to produce an almost daily parade of scoops.

Glenn Schwarz, who covered the A’s beat for the San Francisco Examiner during those years, said: “I was a so-called peer. But he was peerless. He was the best baseball writer of his time.”

My old Tribune colleague Richard Rothschild at recalls the ’75 Golden State Warriors, who broke my heart as a Bulls fan en route to winning the NBA title.

Rare Finals format. Because the Cow Palace could not be used over the Memorial Day weekend, the Finals were a 1-2-2-1-1 format. The Washington Bullets, who held home-court advantage, were given the choice of opening at Golden State and then playing Games 2 and 3 at home, or opening at home and playing Games 2 and 3 on the road. The Bullets opted to open at home but blew a 14-point lead to lose Game 1. The Warriors won Games 2 and 3 at Golden State and then swept swept the Bullets back at Landover, Md.

Michael Bradley of the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana writes on how ESPN turns up its promotion machine to full blast for the NBA Finals.

But ESPN has something they don’t. That, of course, is the ability to create a promotional cocoon around the finals that stays active 24 hours a day from (in this case) a week before the first game until after a team has claimed the title. It started somewhat subtly, with a series of 30-second or so promotional videos dropped randomly into “SportsCenter” broadcasts. There was no news whatsoever in the clips, which featured footage, sometimes in slow motion, of the teams and their stars, accompanied by dramatic music. There was no voiceover, no updates on injured players or strategic approaches. This was merely advertising for the finals, inserted into the SC mix under the guise of something more, designed to build awareness for the games, which will be shown on ABC, ESPN’s sporting partner.

Fox Sports is laying off writers at its regional sites, according to Awful Announcing.

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