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 It pummels you over the head like a hard rain, and  it’s forever accompanied by outdated references (“Mel Kiper, to quote Stan  Laurel, ‘Here’s another mess you have gotten me into, Ollie.’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.”









Top newsmakers for 2012: No denying that everyone talked about Skip Bayless

When I launched ShermanReport on April 16, I had some initial concerns that there might not be enough fresh content to do a daily site.

Couldn’t have been more wrong.

There’s so much territory to cover, it can be overwhelming at times. For a solo performer, it is a challenge to keep up. It’s never dull, that’s for sure.

As 2012 nears a close, I’m going to reflect on the year in sports media this week. Today, I begin with newsmakers. My criteria is people who were interesting, intriguing, controversial, and generally seemed to be in the news cycle, for better or worse.

Here we go:

Skip Bayless: Yes, Skip Bayless. I can see your eyes rolling, but name me someone who has generated more sports media talk?

I know he is extremely polarizing, and he routinely gets obliterated from the critics. Twitter nearly exploded when he got nominated for a Sports Emmy.

This isn’t to say that Bayless and First Take rank as the best in 2012. The latest episode involving Rob Parker off-mark comments about Robert Griffin III are an example why many people feel the show is a stain on ESPN. A blow to its credibility.

However, whenever the topic is sports media in a podcast or elsewhere, I’m hard pressed to think of a time when the discussion didn’t include Bayless and First Take. My former Chicago Tribune colleague receives a remarkable amount of attention for a mid-morning show on ESPN2. Not exactly prime time. Love him or hate him, people tune in to hear Bayless’ and Stephen A. Smith’s views. The show continues to do a strong rating and Bayless has nearly 1 million followers on Twitter, up from 550,000 in April.

More so, athletes react over what he has to say. Kevin Durant, Jalen Rose, Charles Barkley, and Terrell Suggs, to name a few. Again, somebody must be listening.

In a Q/A I did with Bayless in April, I asked if he saw himself wearing the black hat. He said: “The thrust of our show is people trying to take me down. They just want to see me lose. That’s why they love Stephen A (Smith). He calls me Skip “Baseless.” Fine. Then I quickly prove to the audience that I’m not baseless and win the argument from him, using live ammo, real facts that he can’t refute.”

Will Bayless be at the top of the list again in 2013? I wouldn’t bet against him.

Bob Costas: Costas hit a milestone birthday, turning 60. While it’s just a number, he continued to define his status as perhaps the sportscaster of his generation in 2012. He tied it all together in hosting yet another Olympics for NBC. Even more so, he stepped out on controversial issues: The failure to do a memorial of the slain Israeli athletes at the Olympics and his anti-gun commentary during halftime of a Sunday night game. If sports has a social conscience and voice, it is Costas.

Mark Lazarus: Unlike his predecessor Dick Ebersol, the NBC Sports president took a low profile in being at the helm for his first Olympics. While the tape delay issue had viewers screaming, they still watched in record numbers. Bottom line: The Games even turned an unexpected profit for NBC. Lazarus didn’t have to say much more than that.

John Skipper: The ESPN president oversaw the network’s buying spree in 2012, locking in important long-term rights deals. Skipper also is refreshingly frank. He earned plaudits for admitting that ESPN went overboard with its Tim Tebow coverage.

Joe Posnanski: No sportswriter faced a more intense spotlight than Posnanski. His much-anticipated book Paterno was roundly criticized. The response was so extreme, Posnanski did limited interviews and virtually no public appearances. As a result, his move from Sports Illustrated to being the signature name for the SportsOnEarth site received little fanfare.

Clearly, Posnanski’s book was hurt by a deadline that was moved up to cash in on the timeliness of the story. But even worse, he appeared too close to Paterno and his family to write an objective book that this subject required.

Michelle Beadle: After several months of over-the-top speculation about her future, Beadle bolted ESPN for a package at NBC. She shined in a hosting role at the Olympics. Always entertaining, Beadle will add a new show at NBC Sports Network in 2013.

Erin Andrews: Speaking of over-the-top, Andrews also left ESPN and signed on at Fox Sports. The big lure was a chance to host a primetime college football studio show in advance of Fox’s Saturday night game. Alas, Andrews and the show generally got panned. Look for some changes in a second attempt in 2013.

Chris Berman: Speaking of polarizing figures, it’s often target practice on Berman. His act, once unique and fun in another decade, now is viewed as old and tired. It’s almost as if he has become a characterization of himself. If only he listened to the many people who have to be begging him to tone it down.

Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch blew him up several times. Following Berman hosting the NFL draft, he wrote: “The bellowing never stops. It pummels you over the head like a hard rain.”

Of the critics, Berman told Michael Hiestand of USA Today: ”I just talk to people everyday walking down the street,” he says. “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.”

That is quite true. He is not anywhere close to comparing his situation to Ted Williams’.

As for ESPN making any changes with Berman? Don’t count on it. He signed a long-term deal in 2012.

Jim Rome: Another escapee from ESPN, Rome took his act to CBS, where he was given many platforms. His daily show on CBS Sports Network reaches a limited audience simply because the network still doesn’t register in the mind of most sports viewers. He recently launched a weekly show on Showtime. We’ll see how that goes. In a few weeks, he will take his radio show to the new CBS Sports Radio Network.

The biggest Rome news occurred when he got in a flap with NBA Commissioner David Stern. It stemmed from a poorly-worded question about whether the draft was fixed.

The move to CBS clearly is a work in process for Rome. He knew it would take some time. However, he will want to see some progress in 2013.

Jeff Van Gundy: Van Gundy has emerged as a star for his blunt, honest analysis of the NBA for ESPN. You have to listen closely because he is capable of saying anything at any given moment. He wasn’t shy about criticizing the network when it backed out of a deal to hire his brother, Stan. He’s become one of my favorites.

Bill Simmons: ESPN’s franchise man on so many different platforms was given another toy by being added to NBA Countdown. The studio show is a work in progress, but Simmons’ addition has made for a different feel. A basketball junkie, he has a unique and at times quirky perspective on the game. I have found myself listening to hear what Simmons has to say.

Tim McCarver. The announcer called his 23rd World Series, a record. He also received the Ford Frick Award at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, an honor that was long overdue.

John Clayton: Who knew that the 58-year NFL analyst wore a ponytail, worshipped Slayer, and lived with his mother? The cult of John Clayton grew with one of the year’s best commercials. It even received a tweet from LeBron James.

Darren Rovell: Hey, somebody actually jumps to ESPN. What a concept. Rovell left a gig at CNBC where he was the big fish in a little sports pond. Now he’s swimming among fish of all sizes in the ESPN ocean that is the Pacific. The move has some risks, but Rovell felt when ESPN calls (a second time for him), you dive in.

Frank Deford and Vin Scully: Let’s finish with two legends who still are going strong. Deford wrote his memoirs in a terrific book, Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter. As you would expect from Deford, it was entertaining and insightful, covering more than a generation of sports writing. At age 74, Deford still goes strong with his commentaries for NPR and work on Real Sports for HBO.

What can you say about Scully, the ageless wonder? Now 85, he gave us the best gift possible by deciding to return for yet another year in 2013. Remarkable.










Lipsyte weighs in on Costas: ‘Shill becomes a journalist’

I was set to let the furor over Bob Costas’ anti-gun commentary runs it course. However, I have to make note of a Robert Lipsyte column on the subject.

Writing for Slate, the former New York Times columnist discusses their relationship and the impact of Costas’ actions on Sunday night.

First about the part of labeling Costas “a shill”:

Since 1993, Costas and I have been in an uneasy relationship of mutual regard and disagreement, each waiting for the other to fulfill unreasonable expectations. He wants me to be more open to the joy of sports. I want him to take advantage of his pulpit and be more of a journalist.

And to the point:

In our almost 20 years of dialogue, Costas has been most bothered by my use of the word shill to describe how he promotes sporting events. As I’ve written before, be believes that he drops in “enough commentary and insights in games” to be thought of as a journalist, and that he does it “not to throw fire bombs but to help hold the mainstream to account,” separating him from commentators on the Internet.

Calling Costas a shill is a bit extreme. Yes, there is a promotional element for the sports he covers. It comes with the territory. However, Costas has used to platform for frank critiques on many important issues. If only there were more like him.

Which brings us to Sunday’s commentary. Lipsyte writes:

Yet as more evidence piles up that repeated head traumas, however slight, can lead to disorientation and aggressive behavior, not to mention dementia and early death, the possible connection to Belcher becomes one worth exploring. I hope Costas will follow up his quick, bold stroke with such explorations. He has the intelligence and the platform.

Costas is gingerly stretching his reach. Last July, on the 40th anniversary of the Munich Massacre, as the Israeli team marched into the Olympic Stadium, he pointed out that the International Olympic Committee had refused requests for a moment of silence during the parade. He then fell quiet for 12 seconds, a rebuke to an NBC financial partner.

And he concludes:

While by the standards of contemporary journalism, it was distanced and measured, by the ground-floor bar of sports broadcasting, it was Murrow during the blitz.

Costas interview with Posnanski: Author believes Freeh report flawed; wasn’t going to write a takedown book

Perhaps this is why Joe Posnanski is not doing a big media tour to promote his book Paterno. It would take too much out of him to repeatedly defend a coach nobody wants to hear being defended.

Posnanski appears Wednesday on Costas Tonight (NBC Sports Network, 9 p.m. ET). The 90-Minute Show Includes Costas’ full November 2011 interview with Jerry Sandusky from Rock Center with Brian Williams with never-before-seen footage.

Posnanski has done limited interviews since release of the book last week. You can see why from the Costas interview. There are tough questions to be answered.

Here are some of the more interesting segments.

On the Freeh Report being flawed:

Costas: “Without getting bogged down in the particulars, this is the essence of Louis Freeh, former FBI director‘s report. The conclusion: In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, Paterno, among others, but again Paterno is the figure that the public gravitates toward here, repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from authorities, the university’s trustees, the Penn State community and the public. If that is true, as Freeh concluded, it is indefensible.”

Posnanski: “Absolutely”

Costas: “You don’t believe that though.”

Posnanski: “I don’t believe that, no. I honestly don’t. I honestly believe that what Louis Freeh did, and I have no qualms with the Louis Freeh report, he had his goals and his role in this thing.”

Costas: “Well if you don’t think that’s true, you must have qualms with his report.”

Posnanski: “He didn’t talk to Tim Curley; he didn’t talk to Gary Schultz; he didn’t talk to Joe Paterno; he didn’t talk to Jerry Sandusky; he didn’t talk to Tom Harmon; he didn’t talk to Mike McQueary. He didn’t talk to any of the major players in this and I think, I understand why he went to those conclusions, and he did, but I believe the report is very incomplete and I do believe that as things come out, it’s going to emerge that some of the people who wrote some of the emails and so on are going to say that everything has been misspoken.”

“My feeling again is, and I’m really not looking to dodge because there are so many things that we don’t understand and hard to know, but I have many of the same facts that I reported on my own that are in the Freeh report – he jumped to conclusions that I cannot jump to. I mean, I jump to definitely there was a sense that Joe Paterno knew more than he suggested; there’s definitely a sense that Joe Paterno should have done more. But the cover up, the idea that he was actively following it, these sorts of things, I think they’re still, to me, they’re still up in the air.”

On the tough reviews for the book:

Costas: “Obviously there has been mixed reaction to the book. Among the reviews we’ve seen so far, this is the most extreme, Paul Campos at salon.com, ‘Paterno is a disgraceful book and a minor literary crime. To say Posnanski botches his journalistic and literary opportunity is akin to saying that the Titanic’s maiden voyage might have gone more smoothly.’ Let’s concede that that’s at one end, what criticism somewhere towards the middle of that, do you concede correct or fair?”

Posnanski: “I kind of felt like those guys in Spinal Tap there when you were reading that review. I think this is a book that as people get away from this, and are less emotional about it; they’ll see what I was trying to do in this book. I think that some people see it now, fortunately. But I think as time goes on and as people get less emotional about it, a lot of people who have written reviews, frankly, came in with the same opinion that they went out with. I’ve been, as you know, taking a lot of hits long before the book came out.”

On his feelings about Paterno:

Costas: “(According to public opinion) the only acceptable take is that Paterno was fully culpable in the most extreme interpretation, and that he was, prior to that, a fraud and a hypocrite and this doesn’t just invalidate the good he may have done, it exposes that good as a fraud.”

Posnanski: “Exactly, and I think that’s what certain people wanted. That’s not the story, that’s not the book. I wasn’t going to write THAT book. Somebody else can if they want. I wrote the honest book, the book that I believe is true. I believe that I had better access than I’ll ever get again for a book and I believe that I used it as well as I could.”

Costas: “What did you come away thinking? What is your bottom line on Joe Paterno?”

Posnanski: “I think really what I come away with is what a complicated life it was and what a big life it was.”

Costas: “Do you view him as a good man who made a tragic mistake, be it of omission or commission? Or is he less of a good man because of that mistake?”

Posnanski: “It’s somewhere in the middle. That’s a tough one. I don’t want to dodge it. I think he did a lot of good in his life and I think he did make a tragic mistake.”

Costas: “At his best, was he a good man?”

Posnanski: “Definitely. At his best, I think it’s too long and too distinguished and too many achievements to think that it was worth nothing.”

My first job: Costas calls minor league hockey for $30 per game in Syracuse; McCarver recalls Costas’ Uncle Lenny

I’m launching a new feature today called My First Job.

For all the success and accomplishments people have in the business, virtually everyone had a first job that saw them start on the ground floor, or lower. Often, it was a humbling, if not sobering, experience that included a pitfall or two along the way. Call it  learning life’s lessons. The stories are pretty entertaining.

From time to time, I’m going to check in with the now rich and famous to write about where they started in the media game.

With the Olympics taking place, I figured Bob Costas would be a good first subject. Besides hosting the Olympics, he is known for his work on baseball, football, basketball and as an excellent interviewer.

Yet his first paid broadcast job came doing hockey. Here’s Costas:

I called games for the Syracuse Blazers of what was essentially the old Eastern Hockey League. It was the league that Slapshot was based on. I knew many of the people who were extras in the movie. The screenwriter (Nancy Dowd) was the sister of Ned Dowd, who was the goaltender for the Johnstown Jets. The character of Ogie Oglethorpe–and people who have watched this movie 100 times, and I know there are people like that, know this character–he’s based 100 percent on a guy named Bill Harpo, who played for the Syracuse Blazers.

I got $30 per game. I was a senior in Syracuse (Oct., ’73). They didn’t do home games; only road games on the theory that a radio broadcast would hurt the home gate. The team drew very well.

We went to Johnstown, Pa., Lewistown, Maine. They played in the (facility) where Ali knocked out Liston in ’65. We would ride the bus 7-8 hours. You’d get on the bus at 7 in morning. I’d literally be writing term papers and studying lineups at same time while riding the bus.

The learning curve was steep. Not just because I had to teach myself how to broadcast hockey, I wasn’t a polished broadcaster to begin with. I had only done college radio. I had no hockey background.

I got to where I was pretty good. I could definitely keep up with the action.

From there, almost a year later, I’m in St. Louis on KMOX doing Spirits of St. Louis basketball (of the old ABA). That team had the great Marvin Barnes.

When I got to KMOX, it was a broadcast mecca. The station had Jack Buck, Dan Kelly, Bob Starr, one of the best football announcers ever. These were people of real consequence. You had to get better in a hurry just to keep up. By osmosis, I’m sure I learned a lot and improved quicker than I otherwise would have.

Costas eventually went to NBC. In 1980, he worked his first network game with Tim McCarver, who was in his initial days as analyst after retiring from Philadelphia. McCarver remembers the experience:

Bob and I did our first game for the network (NBC) together in 1980. It was Red Sox-Angels. We were the back-up to the back-up game. Maybe six percent of the country saw it.

Bob had an Uncle Lenny. He sat in the truck, and he actually critiqued our broadcast. He was probably the only one who saw it. He said, “You could have done this better.”

I still have a picture from Bob. He signed it, “To Tim: Uncle Lenny would approve.”

We’re the only two people who know what that means.







Costas keeps vow: Honors slain Israeli athletes

Bob Costas did live up to his pledge to honor the Munich 11 during Friday’s night’s Opening Ceremonies. And given NBC’s relationship with the IOC, he walked a fine line by not hammering the committee for their refusal to have moment of silence for the slain Israeli athletes.

Here is what Costas said as the Israeli delegation walked in:

The Israeli athletes now enter behind their flag-bearer Shahar Zubari. These games mark the 40th anniversary of the 1972 tragedy in Munich, when 11 Israeli coaches and athletes were murdered by Palestinian terrorists. There have been calls from a number of quarters for the IOC to acknowledge that, with a moment of silence at some point in tonight’s ceremony.

The IOC denied that request, noting it had honored the victims on other occasions. And, in fact, this week (IOC President) Jacques Rogge led a moment of silence before about 100 people in the Athlete’s Village. Still, for many, tonight, with the world watching, is the true time and place to remember those who were lost, and how and why they died.

Then there was about 6 seconds of silence before Costas went to commercial.

It was exactly what I expected. Some people might have wanted a longer moment of silence, but Costas made his point.



NBC producer coy about Costas moment of silence for Israeli athletes

From listening to Jim Bell, NBC’s executive producer for the Olympics, I’d say Bob Costas definitely will speak out against the IOC’s refusal to have a moment of silence for the Munich 11 during NBC’s telecast of  opening ceremonies Friday.

But it remains to be seen whether Costas will go through with his vow to have a moment of silence to honor the athletes.

When pressed about the issue during a conference call Thursday, Bell said, “You’ll have to watch the coverage.”

Bell spoke of the coverage regarding the controversial issue being “measured and balanced,” and that it would be handled “respectfully.”

“If anybody knows how to handle that situation, to have the right tone, it would be Bob and (Matt Lauer),” Bell said.

Bell also stressed that even though NBC has a multi-billion dollar relationship with the IOC, it won’t shy away from criticizing the organization.

“We have a good relationship with the IOC,” Bell said. “But we will cover the Olympics as we want to cover them.”




Jewish Federations official: Bob Costas, NBC should ‘do right thing’ on honoring Munich 11

The Jewish Federations of North America expect Bob Costas to honor his pledge to observe a moment of silence for the Munich 11 during the opening ceremonies at the Olympics.

“We encourage (Costas) and NBC to do the right thing,” said William Daroff of the Jewish Federation.

Daroff spoke on a Jewish Federations conference call this morning. It included several members of Congress and Anke Spitzer, widow of slain Israeli coach Andre Spitzer. They are working to have an official moment of silence for the slain athletes included during the ceremonies.

Costas and NBC were lauded several times on the call for Costas’ strong stance on the issue. Costas is outraged at the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to observe the 40th anniversary of the tragic event.

However, I pointed out to officials Costas’ plan regarding the opening ceremonies isn’t a done deal as far as NBC is concerned.

In an earlier post this morning, the network said: "Our production plans for the Opening Ceremony are still being finalized and Bob is part of that planning."

Daroff responded: "We support those who are calling on the IOC to do the right thing. Bob Costas has said he is baffled by the decision not to have a moment of silence. He is quoted as saying when the cameras show the Israeli team walk in during the opening ceremonies, he will lead a personal minute of silence.

"We're grateful to him for that desire. We know Bob Costas is a man of conscious. He is a man as good as his word. He has to work through with whatever issues he has with his employer, but we encourage him to follow through, and we encourage NBC to do the right thing."

Daroff noted the Jewish Federations wrote to NBC last month to request the network to "engage in these sort of efforts." Daroff said he never received a reply from NBC.

I asked Daroff how he would feel if NBC, not wanting to alienate the IOC, told Costas not to follow through with his pledge?

Daroff said: "Bob Costas' announcement has been a game-changer. It already changed the focus. It brought added attention to this. We encourage him and NBC to do the right thing."







Will NBC force Costas to back off pledge to honor slain Israeli athletes during opening ceremonies?

I imagine there are some intense discussions taking place between Bob Costas and the high brass at NBC.

Last month, Costas told the Hollywood Reporter that he is planning his own tribute to the slain Israeli athletes in Munich during NBC’s telecast of the opening ceremonies Friday. The International Olympic Committee has turned down a request to honor the athletes on what is the 40th anniversary of that tragic event.

Costas said: “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.”

But will it happen? Ah, this is where it gets interesting.

When asked about Costas’ plan this week, NBC bounced back with a statement: "Our production plans for the Opening Ceremony are still being finalized and Bob is part of that planning."

Indeed, this is a sticky situation for NBC. If Costas goes ahead with his plan, it will put the network in the position of being critical of the IOC on an extremely sensitive issue.

The IOC clearly doesn't want to interject the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the opening ceremonies. There is a concern how the Arab nations would react to a moment of silence for the Israeli athletes.

Last week, IOC president Jacques Rogge said that the opening ceremony, "is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident."

So NBC-IOC relations aren't going to be helped if Costas injects his own moment of silence into the telecast. Not that the IOC will return the billions from NBC with a TV deal that runs through the 2020 Games, but the two parties have to interact on many issues during the next eight years. An angry IOC could make things more complicated, if you know what I mean.

I'm Jewish and the Munich Massacre had a profound effect on me growing up as a 12-year-old boy. I'll have more on that at a later date.

The issue for today isn’t whether the IOC should honor the Israeli athletes during the opening ceremonies. That’s not going to happen.

Rather, should Costas stage his own moment of silence on the telecast?

As a journalist, Costas is well within his bounds to note the controversy over the IOC decision regarding the Israeli athletes. It’s news.

But can he back off a pledge to take it to the next level? That would put Costas in a tough spot since Jewish leaders have lauded him for taking a stand.

From an Associated Press story:

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said support from Costas would be welcome. Foxman’s organization, which promotes Jewish causes, has backed an effort to bring notice to the Munich victims at opening ceremonies for years.

“I think he’s right, and I think it will make a difference because of who he is,” Foxman said. “It’s sad that one has to characterize it as courageous. It’s such a common sense thing to do.”

NBC and Costas have two more days to make a decision. Interesting discussions, to be sure.



Pressure to fill Ebersol’s shoes: NBC’s Larazus now squarely in Olympics spotlight

It’s finally here.

After all the countdowns, hype and preparation, the opening ceremonies are set for Friday.

Few people will be feeling the pressure more in London than Mark Lazarus. All the NBC Sports chairman has to do is step into the huge Olympics TV legacy left by Dick Ebersol.

Here’s my look at Lazarus and NBC in a story that also ran Sunday in the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune:


Mark Lazarus is an affable man, but he seems to prefer to be in the background.

The Olympics, though, will thrust him squarely in the intense spotlight created, in part, by his predecessor, Dick Ebersol.

Lazarus, 48, takes control when NBC begins its massive coverage of the Summer Olympics next week. When Ebersol resigned suddenly in a contract dispute in May, 2011, Lazarus stepped in as chairman of the NBC Sports Group; Ebersol will be on hand as a consultant in London.

Lazarus joins a select group. With a couple of exceptions (yes, CBS actually tabbed Tim McCarver to be a co-host for the ’92 Winter Games), Olympic television coverage in the U.S. has been guided by two men: Roone Arledge and Ebersol.

Arledge designed the up-close-and-personal template of getting Americans to develop a bond with the athletes during his Olympic TV days at ABC. His protégé, Ebersol, refined the approach to accommodate a seemingly endless amount of coverage during nine Olympics for NBC.

Lazarus now is charged with shepherding 5,535 hours of coverage across NBC’s multiple platforms. He ultimately will be held responsible for producing ratings and, just as important, critical acclaim for the network’s $1.18 billion investment in these Games.

Indeed, it is a daunting, if not overwhelming task. During a recent press conference in New York, which included his boss, Steve Burke, the CEO of NBC Universal, Lazarus seemed taken aback when asked about the potential for his Olympics legacy. NBC now has the rights for the Summer and Winter Games through 2020.

“I don’t think you can create a legacy with one Games,” Lazarus said. “So my strong preference is to be invited back to do the next one.”

Unlike Ebersol, who had an extensive production background, Lazarus worked his way up through the business side of the industry. He was president of Turner Entertainment Group before coming over to NBC.

So Lazarus won’t be literally calling every shot as Ebersol did; he doubled as executive producer during his Olympics run. Lazarus will consult with Ebersol, who uncharacteristically is keeping a low profile, denying media requests for interviews.

“My job is to help steward this enormous, talented team to help make judgments and decisions on where we’re going to air product and how we’re going to air product,” Lazarus said.

Lazarus did register a big first impression with his decision to make everything available live on NBCOlympics.com (with the exception of the opening and closing ceremonies). Previously, Ebersol had resisted real-time digital coverage for the marquee sports such as track, swimming and gymnastics, preferring to save it all the network’s prime-time telecasts.

However, when it comes to content, Lazarus isn’t looking to reinvent the Olympic wheel. Indeed, virtually every main cog of the NBC machine in London, from executive producer Jim Bell to host Bob Costas, was nurtured under Ebersol.

“What did I learn from Dick?” Bell said. “Oh, let’s see. Only everything.”

Ebersol taught Bell pacing (“keep it moving”), the importance of planning down to the minute for the primetime telecast, and how to change those plans when the unexpected occurs.

At the core, carrying the link back to Arledge, is storytelling, Bell said.

The Olympics doesn’t deliver a typical sports audience. According to its surveys, NBC says 69 million people who tuned into the Beijing Olympics in 2008 never watched a single NFL football game that season. Typically, women make up more than half the viewership for an Olympics.

“Storytelling is the guiding principle of Olympic coverage,” Bell said. “You’re talking about sports that most people don’t follow. So it is important to personalize those athletes.”

Ultimately, regardless of all the planning, NBC needs good, compelling stories from the competition. NBC’s rating built as swimmer Michael Phelps continued his bid for eight gold medals in 2008. NBC could use similar storylines in 2012.

“By one-hundredth of a second or less, in the second of eight gold medal races, if Michael Phelps take silver there, his teammates take silver in a relay race, then the whole storyline changes,” Costas said.  “And that undoubtedly diminishes the rating.”

Thanks to creative scheduling in Beijing, NBC was able to air swimming and other events live in primetime. That won’t be the case in London (eight hours ahead of Los Angeles).

Without live coverage in primetime, Lazarus said ratings for this year’s Olympics likely will be lower than 2008. And even with the massive amount of commercials, NBC still expects to lose money on the Games, he said.

Lazarus will be held ultimately accountable from all angles. Typically, he tried to downplay his role.

“I don’t have an individual goal on the mark I want to leave on the games,” Lazarus said.  “I think that we want to come out of this with a sense that the viewing population of America says, ‘That was a fun two weeks, I can’t wait to do it again.’”

Yet Lazarus knows—everyone knows—what is at stake for him as head of his first Olympic. If things go awry, Costas, noting that the 2014 Winter Games are in a remote part of Russia, warned Lazarus of the consequences.

“You’re going to Sochi, if only as punishment,” Costas said.