Which 8-8 team delivered highest NFL rating for CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN?

I overdosed on the Dallas Cowboys this year. It seemed like Jerry Jones’ mediocre bunch were featured more in Chicago than the Bears.

Yet there is no denying Cowboys can generate the ratings. Even after all these years, they still are America’s Team.

Barry Horn of the Dallas Morning News reports a game involving the Cowboys pulled the highest rating of the year for CBS, NBC, ESPN and Fox Sports.

Last Sunday’s Cowboys-Washington game on NBC had 30.3 million viewers, the most for a prime-time game since 1996.

Here’s the rundown of the top-ranked games for the network:

CBS -Steelers-Cowboys (Dec. 16): 26.9 million

Fox – Redskins-Cowboys (Nov. 22): 28.7 million

ESPN – Bears-Cowboys (Oct. 1): 16.6 million

NBC – Cowboys-Redskins (Dec. 30): 30.3 million

The Cowboys did not appear on NFL Network this year. Surely if they did, they would have had the top rating there too.

Imagine if Dallas actually was good and made the playoffs.



Lundquist recalls Laettner shot for CBS special: You hope you get call right

Received a nice holiday gift yesterday. Dan Sabreen of CBS Sports PR asked if I wanted to talk to Verne Lundquist.

Most definitely. Lundquist is an all-time favorite and one of the true all-world nice guys.

The focus of our interview is the kickoff of CBS’ special programming celebrating 75 years of the NCAA basketball tournament. The series begins Saturday, Dec. 29 (2 p.m. ET) with two shows: 75 years: Behind the Mic and 75 years: A Coach’s Perspective.

Lundquist has a segment in the “Mic” show. Naturally, it centers on his call of the best college basketball game of all-time: Duke-Kentucky in 1992 and the legendary Laettner shot. Below, Lunquist, Len Elmore, who was the analyst for that game, and Laettner recall an interesting incident from earlier in the game.

Here’s my Q/A with Lundquist on his memories of calling that game.

You went more than 10 years without watching a replay of that game. Why?

I thought I had a good broadcast. The truth of the matter is I didn’t want to intrude on the reality of my memories. I didn’t want to look at the tape and say, ‘For crying out loud, why did I do that?’

About 10 years ago, Billy Raftery and I were getting ready to do Marquette-Kentucky (in the NCAA tournament). He called and said they were airing the game on ESPN Classic. He knew I hadn’t watched it. I picked it up midway through the game. At the end, I thought I did a pretty good job.

What was going through your mind as Grant Hill got ready through the in-bounds pass?

At first, I was surprised that Rick Pitino didn’t have anyone guard him. I think if Rick had one do-over, he would have put somebody 6-8 on him.

Then for a split second, I remembered I announced Grant Hill’s birth on a Dallas TV station. His father, Calvin, and I were good friends. Now here’s this guy (Grant) about to throw in the pass. I thought, ‘Oh my God.’ It was very personal to me.

What was your assessment of the final call?

You hope you get the call right. Mine wasn’t particularly brilliant. I channeled my inner Marv Albert and yelled ‘Yes!’

Somebody once asked if I was proud of that call? I’m proud I didn’t muck it up. It wasn’t an innovative piece of broadcasting, but it captured the moment. Len and I then had the good sense to shut up and let (director Mike Arnold) do his job.


Sunday books: Q/A with Nick Faldo on his new instruction book; It’s all in the knees

I didn’t realize I was setting up Nick Faldo for an easy line.

In Faldo’s new book, A Swing for Life, he talks about the important of stable knees in the golf swing. Not that this 15-handicapper knows much about the game, but I told him that I’ve been trying to get my wife to focus on her knees on the rare occasion she plays.

“It helps her from swaying all over the place,” I said to Faldo.

Not missing a beat, Faldo quickly replied, “It’s not a good thing to have a wife that sways all over the place.”

Rim shot.

If you’re looking for a Christmas gift for your swaying golfer, you could do much worse than getting instruction from a six-time major winner. Technically, Faldo updated his 1995 version of the book.

However, the 2012 version features new pictures of Faldo demonstrating the swing. And here’s something you wouldn’t have found in 1995: The book includes at least one Microsoft Tag. When readers scan these tags with their smart phone, they’re taken directly to a video of Faldo giving a lesson within that section of the book.

Also, Faldo has a different perspective of the game since sitting in the tower at CBS. He has learned a thing or two through the years.

It’s interesting to see how Faldo breaks down the swing and his approach to the game. If only it was that easy.

Here’s my Q/A with Faldo:

If there’s one thing you emphasize over and over, it is the knees in the swing. Why?

If you stand correct at address and go to impact, you see how little the knees move. But boy, do people make it difficult. Their right knee might move a foot.

When I do clinics, I ask, ‘do your buddies say your head is moving in the backswing?’ They all put their hands up. I demonstrate the knees going over all the place. What happens to the head? It bobs up and down. If your knees move the right way, it’s quite amazing how everything works more efficiently.

Do golfers make the game too complicated?

When I walk the range, what are the pros working on? 7 of 10 will say grip, set-up, posture, alignment. They’re trying to get it to all click in place.

It all goes back to the building blocks. It’s like a building. If the brick are crooked, good luck. It’s the same thing for golf. You better get good building blocks.

I didn’t want to do a book on 1,001 ways to fix your swing. I’m trying to condense your thoughts. There are a half-dozen main areas that if you get right, it will make a big difference in your game.

How much has he learned in the booth?

Not a lot. I’m blessed that I picked golf. One of the great things is that you learn something about the game every day. Every round is different.

How has the booth changed your perspective?

You see the great players hit great shots. Yet they’ll take a bogey with a wedge in their hands. You think, ‘I’m the only person that’s ever done that.’ You beat yourself up playing this game.

When you sit in the tower, you see mistakes happen all the time to the great players. Then it’s about the guy who can recover from that and bounce back the best. You see the scramblers. You understand how everyone makes a score differently.





Goren stories of The Greek: He was bigger than life; recalls $10,000 debt never collected

Ed Goren has encountered many memorable characters during his 46 years in television. One, though, always has stood out: Dimetrios Georgios Synodinos, aka Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder.

During an interview for my recent Q/A with the longtime CBS and Fox Sports producer, Goren told a long story about The Greek. It was Goren and cohort Mike Pearl who set the wheels in motion for The Greek reinforcing his legend on CBS’ NFL Today.

Goren’s tales were so good; I figured The Greek deserved his own post. Here’s Goren recalling the man and the $10,000 debt he never collected:


First meetings: I was at CBS News doing the sports element of the daily affiliate feed (in the early 70s). I had an idea for this guy, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder. I thought maybe we could do something with him.

Back then, whenever there was a big sporting event, two people always called The Greek. One was Dave Anderson of The New York Times. And the other was my father, Herb Goren. He wrote Phil Rizzuto’s radio show on CBS. And if it involved politics, Jack Anderson would call him.

We went down to meet him at the Super Bowl. He had a 24-hour suite going at his hotel. There was an open bar, and everyone was there. Politicians, major executives, you name it. If you asked what his business was, he’d say he was a corporate PR guy. He really was a ‘hang guy.’ He’d go with executives to the race track. They’d say, ‘I was with The Greek.’ There are entertainment groupies, sports groupies. Those executives were Greek groupies.

What I had in mind is that Greek would do a two-minute segment that we could sell to the local stations. We couldn’t get one station to sign up. I mean, we couldn’t sell fish to hungry seals.

Months go by, and he calls us and says, ‘I’ve got a show for you.’ We tried a radio show. Pearl would go on the road with him. He’d beg him: ‘Could you find 15 minutes to do the show?’ He always was doing something else.

Take three with the Greek. He calls me and says, ‘I’ve got a great deal for us. We’re going to do a movie about a casino in Vegas.’ We’re shooting the 2nd World Series of Poker. There may have been one table. Those guys wouldn’t even let us film them. They’re thinking the IRS is going to get hold of this.

We make the film and Pearl goes to Vegas with the Greek to get the 10 grand (their fee), which was a lot of money back then. Pearl calls me and says, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news. They paid us 10 grand in cash.’ I said, ‘What’s the bad news?’ Pearl said, ‘Greek just bet it on the Gator Bowl.’ Sure enough, he loses the bet. The brilliance of Pearl and Goren, we never asked him for the money. He went to his grave owing us 10 grand.

On NFL Today: Because there’s no betting on football in this country according to the NFL, he wasn’t allowed to pick games against the spread. He had a big board and he would do check marks. He would pick who was going to win, which is a lot easier than picking against the spread.

If he had to pick against the spread, he probably would have been right 40 percent of the time. It would have blown the credibility of the segment. All in all, it was a wonderful scam we were forced into.

The people loved Greek. When I’d walk through an airport with him, I’d always fall back to see what the reaction was. He was bigger than life.

On the ending following his statements about black athletes: He didn’t have a racist bone in his body. It was played out like he was a racist bigot, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. He rounded up all these people to try to defend him. He even had Jesse Jackson. It didn’t matter. They fired him. I’m convinced he went to his grave not knowing what he did wrong.

A last word: He was something out of Guys & Dolls. He even dressed the part with that gold chain. If central casting was going to audition somebody to play a Vegas bookmaker, he would have gotten the role immediately. There never will be another like him.


Marv Albert at 71: I’m better now than I’ve ever been

It was my turn on the teleconference, and I asked Marv Albert how he felt about passing the big 7-0-mark in age in 2011 and whether he had any intention to slow down.

Albert, now 71, answered the question, and I didn’t think much about it.

However, the following day, I received word that Albert wanted to talk to me. A few minutes later, he was on the line.

“I didn’t feel like I gave you a very good answer to your question,” Albert said. “Your question caught off guard. I really haven’t been asked about it.”

Indeed, turning 70 isn’t news in this business anymore. It is just a speed bump for broadcasters and analysts these days. The landscape is jammed with guys who have blitzed past the notion of retirement age. Brent Musburger is 73; Verne Lundquist is 72. And heck, they’re just kids compared to Vin Scully, who turns 85 this month.

“The most important thing is that 70 is the new 68,” Albert joked.

Last week, he kicked off another NBA season on TNT, continuing a run that began in 1967 when at age 26 he became the voice of the Knicks.

With a bit more time to think about my question, here’s what Albert had to say:

“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 love what I’m doing. As long as I can stay at the same standard, there’s no reason to stop. It feels pretty good.”

Albert says he has cut back a bit in recent years, but it’s still a busy schedule. He calls an NFL game for CBS on Sundays; he was at Baltimore-Cincinnati Sunday. He has his basketball duties for TNT, and he picks up the NCAA basketball tournament for CBS and TNT in March, which has emerged as a favorite assignment.

The key for Albert?

“I still enjoy the preparation,” Albert said. “I look forward to getting ready to call a game.”

The real workhorse in the Albert family now is his son, Kenny. He does baseball and the NFL for Fox Sports; the Rangers games for MSG, along with other assignments.

“I ask my son, Kenny, ‘Why are you doing all this?'” Albert said. “And then I say, I did the same thing. You want to do everything.”

The new NBA season brings Albert back to his roots with the Nets moving to Brooklyn. He grew up in Brooklyn watching the Dodgers. He wrote a first-person piece in the New York Times last week.

In our interview, he talked about Brooklyn, the Nets and the impact on basketball in New York.

“It goes back to the Dodgers. It’s a very unique place. It’s very New York. I remember playing stick ball. The neighborhoods are unique. Coney Island. Brighton Beach, where I come from, playing roller hockey in the streets, taking the subway to go to Ebbetts Field.

“I don’t know if a large number of Knick fans will change to Net fans. I think the Nets will be a smash hit with the new arena. But you have to win. If they aren’t a winning team right away, that’ll be tough. They know that, which is the reason why they made the moves they did.”

Coming Friday: Albert in the latest edition of My First Job. Recreating minor league baseball games and sharing stage with Chubby Checker.





My First Job: Gottlieb predicts Patriots doomed with Brady at QB; Set to debut new CBS Sports Network show Monday

Doug Gottlieb is ready to roll on his new gig with CBS. Monday, he will debut a new show, Lead Off, on CBS Sports Network. Airing at Midnight ET, the nightly program will focus on the next day’s conversation in sports (Details below).

Also, Gottlieb soon will have an afternoon show on the new CBS Sports Radio Network and he will be part of CBS’ NCAA tournament coverage.

Now that he has reached the top, it seems to be a good time to reflect on how he got started. Gottlieb has come a long way since his days as a guard at Oklahoma State. Even back then, he was thinking about a career in broadcasting.

In the latest edition of My First Job, Gottlieb recalls his first jobs in the business and how he was just slightly off on his first prediction about a back up quarterback named Tom Brady.


When I was in school, I did some guest-hosting with Jim Traber in Oklahoma City. Then when I got out, I filled him for him. I got $100 per show, and $200 for a remote.

Also, I went on Jim Rome’s show as his college basketball analyst. Todd Wright at ESPN always had me on his all-night show.

My first show for ESPN Radio was filling in for Todd. They wanted him to go to Bristol the first week after 9/11. He wouldn’t go on a plane, so they asked me.

I watched all the (NFL) games on that Sunday. Drew Bledsoe got hurt that day. I said, ‘That’s it. The Patriots are finished. They can’t win with a quarterback who never played before.’ I had never heard of Tom Brady. So much for that prediction.

After I was done playing, ESPN called and asked if I wanted to do an audition. My first game was with Dave Revsine. It was Colorado-UNC Charlotte. We thought we killed it. We emptied our notebooks and gave everything we had.

When we got back, (a top executive) said, “You guys were horrible. You talked too much. You talked over each other.”

OK, that’s a nice start.

I eventually got on TV at ESPNNews. Then I did some stuff at ESPNU. I did a month of shows I believe nobody ever saw. Literally, there was one show where the lights went out on camera. But we kept going with the lights off. It was a memorable night, to say the least.


Here are the details of Gottlieb’s new show from CBS:

CBS Sports Network’s new live, late night show, LEAD OFF, which will air weekdays from 12:00-1:00 AM, ET, debuts Monday, Oct. 22. The show has added Allie LaForce as co-host, teaming with Doug Gottlieb. LEAD OFF will feature commentary and debate on the top stories and news with a focus on the next day’s conversation.

Gottlieb and LaForce will lead off together this week as contributors on ROME, which airs on CBS Sports Network from 6:00-6:30 PM, ET.

LaForce previously worked for Fox 8 News inCleveland,Ohioas a sports anchor, as well as a color analyst and sideline reporter for the regional sports network SportsTimeOhio. She also has been a studio host covering the Mid-American Conference and various high school championships.

LaForce graduated magna cum laude from Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She was a member of theOhioUniversitywomen’s basketball team for two years, before leaving to start her broadcasting career. In 2005, LaForce was named Miss Teen USA, the first winner from the state of Ohio.

LEAD OFF will provide perspective on the sports news of the day, advancing the storylines fans will be discussing in the morning. The show will serve as the first opportunity for sports fans to discuss and debate, ‘What’s next?’, while featuring a mix of live guests, highlights, energetic debate and commentary from Gottlieb, LaForce and others, reacting to the biggest stories and events of the day, with a targeted focus on the hot topics and tomorrow’s headlines.

LEAD OFF will be produced by dick clark productions, and originate from CBS Sports Network’s Orange County, California-based studio.



My first job: David Feherty trades clubs for microphone at age 37

David Feherty will be in my town next week for the Ryder Cup at Medinah. Among his many duties for the Golf Channel will be doing a special Chicago-edition of Feherty Live with Michael Phelps among the guests. It will air Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET.

Feherty usually pokes fun at his game, or lack thereof. However, he was a member of the 1991 European Ryder Cup team and had three top 7 finishes in majors, which meant he was a pretty good player in his day.

Feherty, though, decided to walk away from the game at the relatively young age of 37. In my special feature looking at people’s first job in the business, he discusses why he took up CBS on their offer to become an on-course analyst in 1996.

Here’s David:


I was standing at the bar at Akron, Ohio. I had won some tournament in a communist country and qualified for the World Series of Golf. I was drinking vodka and Gatorade because I still was an athlete. I was approached by two gentleman who said they were from CBS. Immediately, I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is 60 Minutes.’ I was drinking so heavily and hooked on narcotics and painkillers. I thought they’ve been through my room and found the stash.

They said they just lost Ben Wright and were looking for someone to report from the fairway. And they said I knew the players and knew the caddies. I’m thinking, ‘I know the caddies alright.’

It quickly occurred to me, ‘Wait a minute, they’re offering me a job?’ Then they told me how much they were going to pay me and I said, ‘Do you want to buy a set of clubs?’

I was 37 and I knew these jobs don’t come around very often, and I knew it was something I wanted to do. I thought, ‘Well hell, I’ll take a crack at that.’

On his first tournament: I worked the PGA Championship that year. I played a limited on-course role. I was very nervous. I had to wipe my ass with my microphone shield that particular tournament, as I recall. I wasn’t sure when I should speak and when I shouldn’t.

I just knew where I should be. As a player, I knew how close I should get. The caddies knew me and I got information from them that people hadn’t been getting before. What clubs and exact yardages? I sort of fell into it. I got it very quickly.

On transition from player to broadcaster: There was a period of time for the trust factor to mature. I went so quickly from being a player to broadcaster, there was a little confusion at first. But the players immediately knew I wasn’t just an ordinary journalist. I was a player. I wasn’t going to move my eyelashes. I was a piece of furniture that they knew wasn’t going to be a problem to them. I had that advantage.


Gottlieb lands new late-night show on CBS Sports Network

Doug Gottlieb now has a TV show to add to his radio duties at CBS. The package is a big reason why he left ESPN.

From CBS Sports Network:

CBS Sports Network is speeding up the daily sports conversation with a new weekday late night show, LEAD OFF. Hosted by Doug Gottlieb, LEAD OFF will provide perspective on the sports news of the day, advancing the storylines fans will be discussing in the morning. The one-hour show will air live weekdays (12:00 Midnight-1:00 AM, ET) and debuts Monday, Oct. 22.

Instead of waiting until the morning, LEAD OFF will serve as the first opportunity for sports fans to discuss and debate, ‘What’s next?’. The show will feature a mix of live guests, highlights, energetic debate and commentary from Gottlieb and others, reacting tothe biggest stories and events of the day, with a targeted focus on the hot topics and tomorrow’s headlines.

“We are aggressively expanding our programming and launching LEAD OFF is another important step in the evolution of CBS Sports Network. Together with ROME, we’re bracketing prime time by providing fans with informative, topical and entertaining programming,” said David Berson, Executive Vice President, CBS Sports and President, CBS Sports Network. “LEAD OFF will be a high energy and unique show. Instead of dissecting what just happened as most late night shows do, it will be forward looking, spinning the sports conversation ahead. Doug is perfectly suited for this role.”

LEAD OFF marks Gottlieb’s CBS Sports Network debut. It was announced in July that Gottlieb will join CBS and be featured across various CBS Sports properties, including hosting a daily radio show on the newly-created CBS Sports Radio, launching January 2013. He also will serve as a studio and game analyst for CBS Sports’ college basketball coverage and contribute to CBSSports.com.

Is it possible to get too much of this NFL? Are you kidding? Finally, real games

Remember that scene in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas where the people of Whoville stand around the tree and sing that song that I now can’t get out of my head?

That’s how I feel about the start of the NFL season.

Fah who for-aze! Fah who for-aze!

Welcome NFL, Welcome football,

Come this way! Come this way!

Ah yes, our fest begins tonight and doesn’t end until Super Sunday in February. Dallas at New York Giants on NBC and away we go.

Now more than ever before, we can’t get enough of this NFL. The networks keep feeding us more and more, as if that 48-ounce steak they once served now is a mere appetitzer.

Endless pregame shows, endless during-the-week shows on various networks, and a new slate of Thursday night games. Picture Homer Simpson sucking up a dump truck worth of doughnuts. That’s us.

“If the Cowboys play the Giants in a parking lot in March, it’s still going to be tremendous,” said NBC’s Al Michaels. “Football is king right now. The NFL is hotter than any sport than any time in the history of this country. I can’t wait to get started.”

Michaels’ partner, Cris Collinsworth, agreed.

“You can’t give people too much of it,” Collinsworth said. “Look at all the shows, look at all the websites. Look at all the radio shows. How much more people can take? As much as we want to give them they want more and more and more. I just think the interest is not waning at all no matter what happens.”

The NFL felt bullish enough to expand the Thursday night schedule on NFL Network from 8 to 13 games this year, beginning next week with Bears-Green Bay on Sept. 13.

Obviously, an extra primetime game means one less game for CBS and Fox Sports on Sunday afternoon. When you factor in bye weeks, I asked Fox Sports president Eric Shanks if he had any concerns about the inventory of good games being diminished.

Publically, the answer is no, although I’m sure Fox would have liked that Bears-Packers game.

“You can sit around and poke holes at what (NFL scheduling guru) Howard Katz and his guys do,” Shanks said. “But every year they put together a schedule that blows everyone away. It’s magic what they do. They’ve got it down to a science. It’s really hard to throw stones at the NFL right now.”

Nope, all you can do is sing its praises and ask the NFL to keep on feeding us more. And you know they will.

Fah who for-aze! Fah who for-aze!…


Agree? CBS’ McManus and Barrow not concerned about slow play in golf

Slow play has been a big issue in golf this year.

Listeners to my Saturday morning golf talk radio show on WSCR-AM 670 in Chicago know I hate slow play worse than taking four shots out of a bunker. Believe me, that’s not an unusual occurrence during one of my rounds.

The biggest slow-play culprits are the pros, some of whom have turned the game into a molasses fest.

The gridlock pace could get really bad at this week’s PGA Championship. If Pete Dye’s Kiawah course plays extremely difficult as forecast, the potential is there for marathon rounds.

During a conference call, I asked CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus and golf producer Lance Barrow if they were concerned about slow play this week, and golf in general. To my surprise, they weren’t.


 I’m not terribly concerned about it. Having watched a lot of golf this year, I know (slow play) has been a topic of discussion. But I haven’t seen it affect too many of the broadcasts. If they play slow because of the course conditions being tough at Kiawah, it adds to the drama.


 I know about what happened with Kevin Na (struggling to pull the trigger at the Players Championship). But I haven’t seen tournaments where slow play has been an issue.

It’s amazing when we have to finish at 6 or 7 (ET) how close they come to hitting that time. A lot of things come into play why players play slowly or quickly. I think a lot has to do with the weather. The wind will be a factor here, but I don’t worry about slow play.

You know when you go in, Keegan Bradley and Jim Furyk (part of the final pairing last Sunday) are not quick players. But you know their mannerisms. You can go to another hole and get another player.

Now, I respect both men and have been a long-time fan of Barrow. But I disagree with them here.

It routinely takes threesomes five hours or more complete a round during a tournament. Is that exciting to watch?

I remember they used to figure 3:50 for the final pairing way back when. Not anymore. It’s in the 4:20-4:30 range for a twosome that’s in contention during the weekend.

Does that make for good television? It’s like watching a movie. A good film at two hours will feel like it is dragging at 2:45.

Let’s hear from somebody other than me.

Earlier in the year, Annika Sorenstam said,  “You watch golf on TV, and it’s very slow.  It’s not moving.”

NBC’s Dottie Pepper was more blunt in her assessment.

“I think the PGA Tour is burying their head in the sand,” Pepper told USA  TODAY Sports. “The PGA Tour has more potential to change the pace of  play because they have more eyeballs on them day in, day out than any of  the other organizations, and they are the ones that can take the lead  on this.”

Pepper then said: “Nobody wins when play is slow.”

I think that’s my new slogan for golf.

For more on how slow play is ruining golf, check out GeoffShackelford.com. He’s got an entire file on the issue.