NFL TV experience still doesn’t compare to being at a game

I took the family to a Bears game a few weeks ago. I froze despite wearing long underwear; I had limited perspective with seats in the endzone; and somebody forgot to put the chocolate in the hot chocolate I ordered at the concession stand.

And I loved being there.

There has been some concern of late that the TV production quality for NFL games is so superior that people will choose the comforts of their couch over popping for those high-priced tickets. None other than commish Roger Goodell said: “One of our biggest challenges is the fan experience at home. HD is only going to get better.”

ESPN’s Outside the Lines dedicated Sunday’s show to the issue with a report from Darren Rovell. ESPN.com’s Rick Reilly gave more reasons to skip the drive to the stadium. He writes:

7) The yellow first down line.

8)

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Wilbon on why he still writes: It’s who I am; does columns for ESPNChicago.com

Part 3 of my Q/A with Michael Wilbon:

Michael Wilbon was at Soldier Field to write a column off the Bears-Houston game last Sunday. And he plans to be at San Francisco to do the same drill for the Bears-49ers game Monday.

Why?

I am not alone in asking this question. Wilbon already has a packed schedule with two shows at ESPN: Pardon The Interruption and NBA Countdown. And he has various other duties, projects and speaking engagements that keep him plenty busy.

Wilbon earns crazy money, as in excess of seven figures annually. He isn’t grinding out 80 or so columns per year for the money. Knock a couple zeros off of Wilbon’s contract, and that’s what a sportswriter earns.

And Wilbon isn’t even writing for ESPN’s biggest online platform. Most of his columns run at ESPNChicago.com. Hence, his … Continue Reading

Q/A with Jay Mariotti: On two years out of spotlight; his side of what happened on that night and aftermath; and his next step

The email in my inbox had a familiar name: Jay Mariotti.

Earlier that day a couple weeks ago, I had written a post about Mariotti. I wondered why he had taken two years off and if anybody would hire him again?

The email read: “You’re welcome to ask me questions. Don’t have to guess when I can give you context.”

Mariotti has a point. If I am going to comment and speculate about him, I should allow him to give his side. That’s the way I operate.

I followed up, asking if he was up for doing a Q/A. Prior to sending out questions, I did read his book on Amazon, The System: A Manual on Surviving Liars, Loons, Law, Life. Much of the book is Mariotti’s account of a domestic violence incident with a woman he was dating in 2010. He gives … Continue Reading

Q/A with ‘Benji’ directors: New 30 for 30 has dramatic interview with Wilson’s killer; powerful message about youth violence

What did I just see?

While watching a screening of ESPN’s new 30 for 30 Benji (Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET), I nearly fell out of my seat about 2/3s into the film.

The documentary recalls the tragic story of Ben Wilson, the No. 1 ranked high school player in the country who was shot down outside his Chicago high school prior to the start of the 1984 season. A 6-8 guard, Wilson drew comparisons to Magic Johnson.

It was a senseless act of violence that rocked Chicago and became a huge national story (opening from the film, below). More than 10,000 people attended Wilson’s funeral.

I covered the story for the Chicago Tribune. While the film was powerful and extremely moving, much of the content was familiar territory for me.

And then appeared the last person I expected to see.

Suddenly, there … Continue Reading

Will Jay Mariotti ever land another big-time gig? Says he still loves sportswriting

Jay Mariotti is back–sort of.

The former Chicago Sun-Times columnist wrote his third column this morning for ChicagoSide. The headline read: “Mariotti: Why I Still Love Sportswriting.”

He writes:

Why continue to embrace a craft that literally almost killed me, a profession currently diluted by so many unskilled bloggers and corporate suckups that it has lost much of its soul?

My answer remains the same as it has for three decades: Because I still love sports, and because I still love to write. Sports + writing = sportswriter.

His love letter continues:

After all the madness, all the liars and loons, why would I want to continue writing about sports? Wouldn’t I rather be a factory worker in China? An elephant sperm collector? Not a chance.

There’s no better place on the literary landscape that regularly strikes every nerve

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Payton book in paperback: Author hopes for a second chance in Chicago

Jeff Pearlman hopes release of his Walter Payton biography in paperback this week will help right a wrong, especially in Chicago.

When excerpts of Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton ran in Sports Illustrated last fall, Pearlman was vilified. It couldn’t have been worse if he dressed in green and gold and staged a Green Bay Packers rally on Michigan Ave.

The excerpt detailed Payton’s troubled life after football; addiction to painkillers, issues with depression, affairs and a non-existent marriage. It hardly was the picture Bears fans saw of the valiant warrior during a spectacular 13-year career.

Reaction was harsh in Chicago. Mike Ditka said he would “spit” on the book. Everyone follows ”Da Coach” here and you could have filled Lake Michigan with all the saliva. Not a pretty image.

“To me, it was crushing,” Pearlman said.

Pearlman tried to do … Continue Reading

Saturday flashback: Interview with LeBron James at 16; check out the hair

Before all the hoopla, LeBron James was just a high school kid with an earring and a big mound of hair.

Actually, he never was a normal kid, given all of his talents that were noticed early on. But a Fox Sports Ohio interview with Kerry Sayers (now in Chicago) gives an interesting early glimpse of a young James as he entered his junior year. He talks about prom and his friends. And he had plenty of confidence.

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Forget about records: Horrible Cubs-disappointing Red Sox game still gets Buck-McCarver treatment from Fox

I asked Tim McCarver a simple question:

When was the last time he and Joe Buck worked a game in mid-June featuring two last-place teams and with one of those teams having the worst record in baseball?

McCarver replied: “I don’t know. I can’t think of one.”

Fox Sports’ No. 1 crew will be on hand for tonight’s game, which will go out to 39 percent of the country. The telecast will be about the uniqueness of the two historic franchises playing a game and the ivy of Wrigley Field.

Forget about the records. Please, especially in Chicago where the Cubs are epic bad.

“There’s something about these two teams playing in Wrigley Field,” McCarver said.

Clearly, it isn’t the best match-up Saturday. The top game is the Yankees at Washington. So why not primetime for that game?

According to … Continue Reading

Sunday bookshelf: Ozzie’s School of Management; Kruk teaches him art of F-word

In Rick Morrissey’s new book, Ozzie’s School of Management, the most used word begins with F; second is a word that begins with “mother.”

The Chicago Sun-Times columnist, and my former colleague at the Chicago Tribune, chronicles the unique management style of Ozzie Guillen. The book focuses on Guillen’s tumultuous final season in Chicago and lays the foundation for his first year in Miami. It foreshadows the eventual controversy that erupted following Guillen’s comments about Fidel Castro.

It’s a fascinating read, and I’m going to have more on the book in a future interview with Morrissey. Last Sunday, the Sun-Times ran an excerpt. It details how John Kruk taught Guillen the art of swearing when both were young players in the San Diego farm system. At the time, Guillen, a native of Venezuela, knew little English. Thanks to Kruk, two words … Continue Reading

Jordan looks forward to Ryder Cup; Rolfing show focuses on Chicago

Michael Jordan doesn’t do much in the way of sit down interviews these days. Especially if the questions are about the Charlotte Bobcats.

However, there are two reasons why Mark Rolfing got a chat with him; he is good friends with the basketball legend and the subject was the Ryder Cup.

An interview with Jordan will be featured on the latest edition of Rolfing’s Global Golf Adventure, which airs Saturday on NBC at 1 p.m. ET. The show focuses on the Ryder Cup coming to Chicago in September.

The Ryder Cup is Jordan’s favorite sporting event. He never misses it. And with the Ryder Cup in Chicago, where he remains a sporting God, and at Medinah Country Club, where he is a member, you can bet he will receive plenty of love from NBC’s cameras.

Said Jordan during the interview with Rolfing:

“I

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