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 It pummels you over the head like a hard rain, and  it’s forever accompanied by outdated references (“Mel Kiper, to quote Stan  Laurel, ‘Here’s another mess you have gotten me into, Ollie.’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









My view: Why sportswriters shouldn’t vote for Heisman, Hall of Fame, MVP and all other awards

My view is based on an experience that occurred more than 20 years ago.

When it comes to the issue of whether sportswriters should vote for prestigious awards and the Hall of Fame in various sports, I flash back to a day in Miami in 1991. I saw my name in large type in the Miami Herald and realized I had become news.

It seems timely to weigh in on the subject after heavy traffic and reaction generated by a post I did yesterday on Notre Dame beat writer Brian Hamilton. He was conflicted over what to do with his Heisman Trophy ballot in light of Irish linebacker Manti Te’o being a top candidate. Eventually, the Chicago Tribune decided to use an internal staff poll to determine Hamilton’s vote.

Hamilton’s dilemma underscored the possible pitfalls and conflicts that result when writers engage in this exercise. He is to be commended for bringing up the issue with his sports editor Mike Kellams.

Based on my experience, I don’t think writers should participate in votes for major awards and the ultimate honor, election into a Hall of Fame. I fall back on that old axiom: Reporters cover the news. They don’t make the news.

I come to this perspective as someone who once voted for the biggest trophies in sports.

I became the Tribune’s baseball writer for the White Sox in 1986. At the end of the year, I was allowed to participate in voting for the American League MVP and Cy Young Award. There were only 28 voters for each award.

I was only 26 at the time. Only a decade or so earlier, I was collecting baseball cards. Now I was voting for AL MVP. Talk about a powerful feeling. It was intoxicating.

In 1988, I became the Tribune’s national college football reporter. Soon, I was awarded a Heisman Trophy vote. But even bigger, I was asked to be among the voters for the Associated Press writer’s poll.

In the old days before the BCS, the writer’s and UPI coaches’ polls determined the national champion. Again, it was an incredible power surge. This athletically-challenged sportswriter was going to have a say on No. 1.

My epiphany, if you will, came in 1991. The polls were split between Miami and Washington. As a result, I was fielding calls from reporters about my vote for No. 1. It started to dawn on me that there was something not right about this.

Then it really hit me one November day when I was in Miami to cover the Hurricanes. The Miami Herald did a major story on the polls. They splashed a big pullout quote across the top of the front page. I had to do a double take.

The quote was mine.

I remember it was a really uneasy feeling. I felt like a line had been crossed. My vote was news.

It was magnified even more when Miami won the AP poll by a two-point margin thanks in part to my vote for the Hurricanes. If I had gone the other way and it ended in a tie, history would have been different. My vote clearly helped Miami players and coaches win that ring.

Did I realize it fully back then? No, I still was a bit naive. Even though I felt uncomfortable about it, I continued to vote in the AP poll until I came off the beat in 1994. Looking back, it wasn’t right.

Later, the Associated Press reviewed its stance, deciding in 2004 not to allow its poll to be used in the BCS’ wacky equations.

As for sportswriters participating elsewhere, let’s make this clear: their votes go beyond somebody winning a trophy. Baseball players get six-figure bonuses for winning top awards. You could be sure Texas A&M will heavily market Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy, and not just this year but many years to come. And Manziel’s marketing power will be much greater once he turns pro.

For people who say there’s no money involved with Hall of Fame votes, guess again. A Hall of Famer sees a huge jump in demand and appearance fees. There’s nothing like being able to sign an autograph that includes the tagline: “HOF.”

Aside from the money, there’s prestige involved for the athletes with these honors, and in the case of the Hall of Fame, a legacy and sense of immortality.

I can go on forever about the potential conflicts for sportswriters being involved in these awards. The Tribune’s Hamilton faced them with his vote.

Ultimately, though, most sportswriters are responsible and do the right thing. In many respects, they are best qualified to do the job. But that isn’t the point.

Basically, it’s very simple: This is all about reporters not making news. Repeat, reporters DO NOT make news.

Sportswriters made news Saturday night when their votes for the Heisman Trophy were disclosed. It’ll be huge news in January when the Baseball Hall of Fame reveals their votes for the 2013 class. Will it include first-time eligibles Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa?

Baseball writers will be reporting on news they created with their votes. Is that right?

You wouldn’t allow a court reporter to be on a jury and then write about the case. I respect the political reporters who decide not to vote in elections so they can maintain an appearance of objectivity.

Several newspapers, such as the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, have decided not to allow their staffers to participate in votes. Others, such as my former paper at the Chicago Tribune, are OK with their writers being part of the process.

There are plenty of views on the subject. I just know how I felt on that morning in Miami in 1991.

I didn’t like seeing my name in that big pullout quote. I didn’t like making news.

What’s your view?








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 a condensed version in this Q/A.

Mariotti has been mostly on the sidelines ever since. However, he says he is ready to jump back in, and that there are opportunities out there for him. And if you think Mariotti has mellowed, well, guess again.

So here is “context” from Mariotti.

Why have you been off for two years? Obviously, you know the speculation out there. People don’t believe it is by choice.

Mariotti: “People” need to stop guessing when they really have no clue about me and what’s happening in my life. How irresponsible is that? They don’t realize what a great life I have here in Los Angeles. As I write this, I’m sitting under a blue sky by the pool in Santa Monica, with the ocean a few yards away. I read, write, ride my bike and work out here every day. Not really missing two bogus Sun-Times deadlines in Green Bay, eating bratwurst at halftime and getting back to Chicago at 4 a.m. That was a kamikaze mission for a failing newspaper — this is the good life.

When I’ve written more than 6,000 columns, done 1,800 TV shows on ESPN and 1,000 radio shows, covered 14 Olympics and 24 Super Bowls and dozens of golf majors and seen the world — and made a very comfortable living doing so — what possibly is wrong with voluntarily taking some time off in a beautiful place? I’m fortunate to not have to work, and I’ve taken advantage and cleared my head with two wonderful years away from the media business. I’ve had a rewarding and successful career, and not unlike some people in sports and Hollywood, I’m chilling until the opportunities are just right. I poured about 50 years of hard work into two decades. I’m preparing wisely for my next two decades in media.

Taking this break HAS been my choice, and whatever the speculation is, I can’t say I care when my two daughters are healthy and well and I don’t have to work for a corrupt Chicago newspaper as I did for 17 years. I’ve never been in better physical shape, and I’ll be back in sports media when the timing is right.

And just because I haven’t worked in sports media doesn’t mean I haven’t worked. I’m thick into a documentary project, for instance, and being in L.A. has opened new avenues to creativity. I’ve spoken to virtually all the big players in national sports media, including some the last few weeks. Right now, I’m mulling over three possibilities — all terrific jobs. If they happen, great. If not, Mumford & Sons are coming to the Hollywood Bowl next week. I would pay to see Alvin and the Chipmunks at the Hollywood Bowl — not exactly Tinley Park, you know?

Why did you decide to do the ChicagoSide columns? What was the reaction?

Jon Eig, the editor, is a best-selling author who wants to do a smart, responsible sports site. I like smart, responsible sports sites because there are too many bad, amateur-hour sites that are sludging up the business like rat feces. Jon asked me to do pieces when the urge strikes. He said the reaction has been great and the site traffic off the charts. I suggested a piece on the White Sox when they were in first place so I could show people I’m not the anti-Christ of the South Side.

What happened? The Sox choked out here in Anaheim and faded away. I had to write it. Can’t win with that franchise.

Jon then suggested a piece on why I still love sportswriting. It attracted national attention, and I did an hour on Sirius/XM Radio about it. No doubt I still resonate, and I very much appreciate all the nice words from folks.

Do you want to work again? And in what capacity?

Again, I have been “working” — I’m doing documentary work, wrote a detailed book about my career and court case and have a standing offer to do another book. When I regularly return to the sports media, I assume it will be in a mutimedia capacity — TV, radio, writing. And maybe for more than one employer — I’ve always worked for two or three at a time.

Have there been any previous offers? If so, why did you turn them down?

Yes. I’ve turned down some sports media things. One would have required a cross-country move to do a daily afternoon-drive radio show. Another involved a book that didn’t interest me. Someone wanted me to invest in a restaurant — thought about it, said no. I’d actually like to be a roadie for the Black Keys, but they haven’t asked. I have an agent out here at Octagon, a Chicago native. He talks to people all the time about me.

How have/will your legal issues impact your ability to get hired? For lack of a better word, are you “tainted”?

That’s a fine word. And the answer is no, I’m not tainted. Anyone who knows the real story, as I’ve written in meticulous detail in my Amazon/Kindle book, knows I was victimized by a system that enabled a troubled and vindictive woman to lie about me, abuse me and stalk me in the neighborhood in which I live. I’m pleased that top executives at some major media companies have taken time to read the book — one said it was commendable that I spent many months trying to help the woman, who was broke and had personal problems after being fired from her advertising job and going through a divorce.

Ever see “Fatal Attraction,” the movie? I often felt like Michael Douglas. But that doesn’t matter in post-O.J. Simpson L.A., where even a battered man doesn’t stand a chance when a couple is arguing on a street and a third-party witness calls 911. Prosecutors saw an opportunity for a quick series of headlines in the L.A. Times. They never wanted to hear my side of the story; they just funneled me through a preliminary hearing and left it up to me to take it to a trial, not caring about the invaluable witnesses we brought to the courtroom and my $250,000 in legal expenses, plenty of which made its way to a financially ailing city via outrageous court costs. I could have taken the case to trial, but what a circus that would have been. How do I know a jury wouldn’t profile me unfairly, as an opinionated ESPN commentator of Italian heritage, and assume guilt regardless of the truth? I chose to take a no-contest plea bargain for one low-level misdemeanor, which allowed this person to stalk me in attempts to entrap me and cause me more trouble.

It appeared I was headed back to work for AOL, where I was the lead sports columnist. It was the best job in the business, with unlimited travel and terrific camaraderie among the staffers, unlike the Sun-Times insane asylum. But the company suddenly cut me a large financial settlement while not telling me or anyone else that it was dumping the sports site while doing a lucrative deal with Arianna Huffington. I was not “fired” because of this court case. That hasn’t stopped sleazy bloggers from writing otherwise. Wish these guys would take some journalism classes and stop being reckless gossips.

Since then, the woman and her attorneys have demanded money. I have refused to pay a cent. If my fellow journalists do their due diligence instead of just assuming I’m guilty — or, worse, WANTING to assume I’m guilty — then they’ll see what this was: a desperate money grab. I was put through a hellish ordeal despite never going to jail or pleading guilty. I was exploited as a public figure, lied about by bloggers who don’t corroborate their wild guesses — one said I was going to jail for 12 years — and harassed by lawyers who wanted to make a quick buck in a settlement. I’m proud to say I didn’t budge, but that decision still hurt me because the woman then told more lies to police and prosecutors, who were all ears. All of these details are in my book. Thank God it’s over, and shame on the legal system for allowing the chaos to interrupt my life.

Everyone makes mistakes — and mine was getting involved with a person who clearly was using me. It’s no coincidence that since I wrote the book, everyone has gone away — lawyers, prosecutors, the person herself — while the presiding judge says he is strongly considering an expungement of the entire case so that it’s completely wiped off my otherwise clean record. In more than two decades of marriage, we never had such problems in a loving, peaceful household in suburban Chicago. The LAPD is reckless. The system out here is a money-gouging, plea-bargain machine. And it didn’t help that the Times — owned by the Chicago Tribune, my rival for 17 years — was basically re-running the district attorney’s press releases.

I don’t hit women — never have, never will. As the father of two daughters, I abhor domestic abuse. In truth, I was the one abused in the relationship; one night, she punched me 22 times in the chest, right against the stent inserted during my 2007 heart attack. I’ve discussed all of this on two Fox Sports podcasts and in a Sirius/XM interview. I’ve written a book about it. Now it’s time for everyone to move on and realize that men, too, can be victims of domestic abuse. Sometimes life can be so messed up, you have no choice but to smile, be happy that you and your loved ones are well and just enjoy another beautiful day in paradise.

I read your book and your version of what went down. However, the vast majority of people won’t read your book. All they know is that you were involved in a domestic violence incident. Is there any way for you to undo that perception about you?

The book manuscript was sent to a couple of thousand people — family members, friends and media. While it’s available on Amazon, I didn’t feel it was appropriate to aggressively market it. It’s a for-the-record narrative that corrects the preposterous lies and reckless investigative work. Once I return to the media, I assume more people will read it. I just want it out there to counter all the lies that were reported.

Perception? Only two people know what actually happened. One is a successful sports media personality with two successful, well-adjusted daughters; the other was broke, jobless, abusive and emotionally unbalanced. Shame on anyone else who pretends to know more than they do, which is nothing.

And who says no one is reading the book? The numbers were excellent initially, but when you change the pricing and update content on Amazon, the sales numbers start over. I wasn’t consciously monitoring sales, but one day, an alert popped up and said I’d cracked the top 30 among media authors, ahead of Dan Rather and Chuck Klosterman. My mother must have bought extra copies that day.

You wrote columns about athletes involved in domestic violence issues. Has your perspective changed? I’m coming at it from the angle of the rush to judgement and people not knowing both sides of the story, as you feel was the case in what happened to you.

Uh, remember Tiger Woods and the SUV? I wrote that night that we shouldn’t rush to judgment. Turns out I was too soft initially on his marital infidelities, which shows it’s wrong to categorize me as an impulsive hatchet man. I’ve criticized athletes for many transgressions, and most deserved it. But I sure will think twice — or maybe three or four times — before assuming guilt in the future.

Yes, after my first brush with the law in 50 years of life, I now have a keener understanding of how the truth can be manipulated for financial motives. I’ve met a few bad people in my life, many in the media or wanting a piece of my wealth as a media person. Away from the public eye, it has been nice to meet terrific people.

Could you write a column about domestic violence given what happened to you?

No one is better qualified. I know what it’s like to be physically abused. Remember Chuck Finley, the former major-league pitcher? People in sports laughed when he was abused by Tawny Kitaen, the actress. Well, guess what? It’s 2012. Men are abused, too, by women who know they can manipulate the system. Know how many times I wanted to call the police or a hotel front desk? I couldn’t because I worried about the fallout, even if the headline might say, “ESPN analyst accuses woman of domestic abuse.” Even that would have been frowned upon in Bristol. Such is the pressure.

How do you feel about ESPN?

I’ve been to Bristol twice this year. Starting with John Skipper, they’ve been very supportive. The network has a zero-tolerance behavorial policy because of its powerful brand name and recent issues with personnel, and I made the mistake of not getting out of a toxic relationship when I knew a person could hurt me professionally. I always had been extra-careful about my associations in the public eye, but I had a blind spot in this case. ESPN had every right to be disappointed in me, but our chats have been very positive.

I am concerned about the network and its ability, with so many business deals in place with sports leagues, to let its commentators have editorial freedom. That might be a bigger issue in my situation than you think. People such as Bud Selig and Jerry Reinsdorf weren’t happy I was on a five-day-a-week TV show on the flagship, and if ESPN really did reject Stan Van Gundy because David Stern didn’t want him on the air, I’m frightened for the network’s future. Somehow, I lasted eight years there.

For now, I’d like Adam Schefter and Kirk Herbstreit to stop posing in front of those little football helmets in their home-office studios. They look like little kids. What will we see next, their Hot Wheels collections?

Much has happened in the last two years in our industry. What stands out for you?

A softening of commentary. Rather than writing the tough piece for the readers, too many writers are writing marshmallowy crap for each other. And those with the guts to speak their minds with conviction — Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith — are maligned for it. Please. When did the business become so mushy? Are people that scared for their jobs? On the sleazy side of the spectrum are these numbnuts who put $12,000 in a paper bag for alleged pictures of Brett Favre’s penis. I hope that blogger’s parents are proud of him, but I doubt it.

More distressing is the lack of investigative sports journalism. Other than the new USA Today initiative, documentaries and profiles on HBO, the New York Times and a few people at Yahoo, who is busting big stories?

You wonder why I’ve taken my time returning. It’s not as if sports media is a sacred cause. There are some good, genuine, honest people in the business. But there are more sellouts, creeps, liars, cowards and lazy asses.

Do you think you still have your fastball? After being out for two years, do you think you’ll be able to summon the same fire/passion for a topic.

Theo Epstein is a fraud.

Curt Schilling should be in jail.

Too many people are piling on Lance Armstrong and forgetting the great work he has done in the cancer fight, which still outweighs his shame as a juicer.

The Bulls are doing Derrick Rose an injustice by not surrounding him with better talent. Why do the Lakers have four major stars and the Bulls one? When did Chicago stop acting like a major market?

Without Michael Jordan, whom he inherited, Jerry Reinsdorf would be 1-for-62 as a sports owner. That percentage would make him a bum if he owned teams in his native New York.

Until the Bears beat a real good team, slow down on the Super Bowl jabber. I still don’t trust Cutler and Lovie in the biggest moments.

The Sun-Times will die in 2013. The Tribune will die in 2015.

Fastball up near 100.

Will you be working in 2013?

Yep, assuming I’m alive.






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 on the emotional spectrum, where the best commentators can profile a wonderful moment as easily as they rage over the latest scandal, where the essence of it all—you’re-wrong-and-I’m-right debate—remains a vital American exercise that turns ESPN rabble-rousers Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith into polarizing national figures.

And more love:

The ongoing dramas of organized competition reflect life in its rawest form—meaning nothing, really, to the ultimate condition of the world yet evoking mass reaction that keeps emotional juices flowing like no other genre. What would you want me to write about, Obama and Romney? My subjective objectivity would be shot down as biased by rotten political media types with agendas. Music? Yeah, I want to try explaining the Katy Perry phenomenon. Business? Only if fortified by a steady stream of Zoloft. Hollywood? Phonies everywhere.

There’s a reason, through history, why so many acclaimed writers have chosen sports or dabbled in it. Simply, it offers the meatiest subject matter with some of the highest readership.

Clearly, Mariotti wants back in. ChicagoSide, headed by Jonathan Eig, whose work includes excellent books on Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson, is giving him the platform for now.

While ChicagoSide does a nice job as a new site that offers a menu of diverse stories, Mariotti, who lives in Los Angeles, wants a bigger stage. And make no mistake: He is available.

Is he is reaching out to some outlets here?:

For every punk hack trying to increase hit totals by ripping an ESPN sportscaster, there thankfully are places such as The New York Times, USA Today and ESPN.com that have moved into the digital era by doing sports journalism the right way.

Later, he writes:

Someone asked if I prefer to have my old jobs back. Nope. I want my new job—multimedia in nature, commenting at large, dictated by the most important stories instead of each day’s news.

Finally, Mariotti concludes:

I hope Mr. Eig now understands why sports writing is a lifelong passion for me, assuming my life lasts much longer. Why do I like it? Because I’m pretty good at it, when others are not. And because I still know why sports matter, when others do not.

Mariotti writes in the piece, “I’ve merrily taken two years off in L.A. to recharge for the next 25.”

Merrily? I hope that’s the case, for Mariotti’s sake. But people who know him suspect two years on the sidelines has been very difficult. Jay doesn’t just chill.

From what I’ve heard, Mariotti wants to work again. Make that: Needs to work again.

But will anyone hire him? He still has that domestic violence incident with a former girlfriend that derailed his career. It hangs out there, regardless of what Mariotti claims really happened. He wrote an e-book, The System: A Manual on Surviving Liars, Loons, Law, Life, which is available on Amazon.

It’s been two years. Why isn’t he back to work on a full-time gig? Is it because of his own choice, or because nobody has called? Or nobody has called with the right offer?

Say what you will about him, Mariotti is a gifted writer and a polarizing figure who can command the room. But will a large entity give him another chance?

Mariotti is awaiting your call.





New role: Former USA Today reporter launches new sports business blog

Michael McCarthy is the latest installment of journalists looking to reinvent themselves in the new media age. Welcome to the club, Mike.

A veteran sports business and media reporter, McCarthy saw his 12-year career at USA Today end last spring. However, he saw no reason to change what he had been doing at the paper.

Last week, McCarthy unveiled a new site, Sportsbizusa.com. The site will examine all facets of sports business, from sponsorship to rights deals and beyond.

Here’s Mike on USA Today and his new endeavor:

On covering sports business: It’s something I’ve always been interested in. For two years, I worked on the Game On blog for USA Today. I saw the great reaction to sports business news. Sometimes, it was the most read posts on the entire website.

I saw a real market for the game within a game, looking at the many sides of why things get done.

On leaving USA Today: Nothing was a surprise. The only surprise was who was going to stay and who was going to go. I felt fine. I felt a lot worse for the people who had been there 30 years and helped build the paper. I knew I’d be able to do something else.

On his hopes for his site: I want to focus on opinion and original reporting as much as I do on the news. It’ll be my take on sports business. I’m going to do my best to beat the competition, but I’m also looking to be a voice in this business. I think I’ve got the track record to do it. I’ve shown I have the track record to do it.

On what currently interests him in sports business: I think it is the whole social media thing. Athletes have become their own newspapers, their own PR men. Half the time, it winds up blowing up in their faces. Vince Young sent out a tweet that he was released from Buffalo before the team announced it. Is that a smart move? It’s all going to be interesting to watch.







Is Sports on Earth another version of Grantland?

ESPN’s Grantland has been around for just over a year and it already has an imitator. Impressive.

At first glance, the new Sports on Earth site looks to be another version of Grantland. After a soft launch during the Olympics, the site made its full-blown debut this morning. It is a new joint development venture between USA TODAY Sports and MLB Advanced Media LLC (MLBAM).

Sports on Earth has many of the same traits as Grantland. It will feature excellent writers writing about the predictable (the upcoming college and pro football seasons) and the unpredictable (Dave Kindred’s great piece on the 40th anniversary reunion of the 1972 U.S. basketball team that got screwed out of a gold medal).

The showcase star for Sports on Earth is Joe Posnanski. The former Sports Illustrated writer, who is in the headlines for his Paterno biography, wrote the welcome for the site.

He writes:

Today, we start up here at Sports on Earth, and we feel that electricity of the opening bell. The idea here is to build a sports website around great writing. That’s not exactly a new idea. There is a lot of great sports writing out there and has been pretty much since people carved sports figures on cave walls. But we think it’s a timeless idea. There are so many ways to enjoy sports in today’s high-definition, fantasy-sports, Twitter-saturated, 3-D-glasses world. And reading a great story, laughing at a fun analysis, getting angry at an opposing opinion, picking up a small insight that helps you enjoy the game more, joining in with the community of sports believers and storytellers and jokers  — we believe these are all a big part of the fun.

Later, he adds:

We all have the obvious hopes and ambitions about Sports on Earth, that it will be piercing and surprising and thoughtful and moving and ecstatic and a hundred other adjectives. But those hopes and ambitions are pregame talk, too. You know how at the beginning of sporting events they crank up “Let’s Get It Started” or “Start Me Up?” I cannot stand those songs. But at the beginning of games, I like them. Let’s get it started. Start me up.

I’m in favor of any new journalism enterprise these days, and doubly in favor of getting to read Posnanski on a regular basis. While he has taken some hits for his Paterno book, he is a prolific, insightful and entertaining writer.

Besides Kindred, the site has a piece from Leigh Montville, another one of the all-time greats. Will Leitch of Deadspin fame also is on board as a contributor.

Again at first glance, the big difference between Sports on Earth and Grantland is that Sports on Earth doesn’t appear as if it is going to veer into pop culture. Pop culture is part of Grantland’s label.

If people say Sports on Earth is another Grantland, that’s not a bad thing. Any outlet for good writers producing good, if not great, stories is fine by me.

It’s way too early to judge on one day. Let’s see how the site plays out.

Welcome to Sports on Earth. We’ll be watching and reading.





My first job: Bob Ryan covers Celtics for Boston Globe at 23: Intern class of ’68 included Gammons

Bob Ryan is hanging it up as a regular columnist for the Boston Globe after the Olympics. It’s been a great run. Ryan has been a distinctive voice in the Northeast for more than three decades.

I remember a long night at Runyon’s in New York with Ryan, Malcolm Moran of the New York Times and Jackie MacMullan of the Boston Globe. Moran had a train to catch to get back home, but thanks to Ryan, the conversation was so lively, Moran kept saying, “I’ll catch the next one.” Not sure if he ever made it home.

In honor of Ryan’s last columns for the Globe, it seems fitting to look back at how it all started. I had a chance to talk to him a few years back for a project about sportswriters.

It turns out Ryan didn’t have to wait long to get the plum assignment that eventually defined his career.

Here’s Ryan:


My real beginning is that I always was interested in the idea of the newspaper being the validation of a sporting event.

I grew up in Trenton, N.J. It was a very good sports town. It was a big high school basketball town. My father was involved in sports. He was a promoter and publicity man-type. He was an assistant AD at Villanova. My whole orientation was sports.

I liked to read too. If we went to a high school basketball game, I didn’t think it was validated until I read about it the next day. It’s just the way my mind worked. From (a young age) I was interested in newspapers.

I started as a summer intern at the Boston Globe on June 10, 1968. There was this other guy named Peter Gammons. That’s when we met.

As an intern, I did sidebar stories at the ballpark, feature stories on off beat stuff. Boston had a soccer team in the North American Soccer League. Dick Walsh was the new commissioner. He had been a longtime baseball executive. He comes to Boston on a publicity tour and is available for an interview. Who do they send? The lowest man on the totem pole. Me. He laughed about it. He said, “This is what I’ve become.”

(Eventually), they brought me back as an office boy with a verbal promise that I would get the next opening. I got married in May, ’69. I was making the princely sum of $72.50 per week. My wife was teaching school.

By October, the sports editor came up to me and said, ‘You probably thought I forgot all about you.’ The guy who had been covering the Celtics left. That created an opening.

The next night on a Friday, I was covering the home opener for the Celtics against the Cincinnati Royals and their new head coach, Bob Cousy. It was the first year of the post-Russell era. Tom Heinsohn was a rookie coach, and I was the rookie beat man.

Despite all their titles, the Celtics still were on the backburner in Boston compared to Bruins. I did mostly home games. We didn’t travel much.

I was 23. I was exactly the same age as the rookies and not that much younger than the key guys. They took me under their wing. It was a tremendous thrill.

There was a whole different set of circumstances when it came to access. We had almost unlimited access. You could come in and go to practice. You could hang out and sit in the locker room and shoot the breeze for an hour. You’d hang out after practice. You might even go have lunch with them.

I knew how to write, I thought, but I needed to learn the NBA. Nobody taught me a thing about how to cover a team. You have to figure that out yourself.

Heinsohn thought it was to his benefit to fill my head with what he wanted me to know, and it was my benefit to listen. I spent many hours hanging out with him. I got a crash course in learning the NBA.

I know during the first year all kinds of stuff went on. Until this day I have no idea what happened. Later on, I would know automatically, but back then I didn’t have a clue.

I became the beat man in 69-70. It was the first of seven years on the beat. I wound up doing it three different times.

Tommy Boswell once told me when you’re talking about spreading your wings, never be shy about having an expertise in something.

I got two titles out of that run and three in the Bird years. I’ve done many things, but people always identify me with the Celtics. I’m proud of that.