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.