The Best and (Mostly) Worst in Sports Media
The best and worst from the year in sports media, from a national perspective:
Most ridiculous comments: 1) ESPN’s Skip Bayless, last spring: “LeBron James doesn’t have any clutch genes. LeBron James is made for the regular season. Come postseason time, he’s the most overrated, overhyped superstar in my history in this business.” 2) ESPN’s Magic Johnson, last January: “My problem with Miami is they don’t (have) a will to win.”
Worst predictions: 1) ABC’s Jon Barry, last May: “The Heat doesn’t have the personnel. Maybe LeBron was right. They won’t win one, two, three, four. They won’t win any. They’re front-runners. LeBron and Dwyane (Wade ) don’t complement one another. They can’t be trusted. I’m done with them.” 2) ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, last spring: “The Heat has flagrantly failed to live up to expectations. They’re certainly not winning an NBA championship.” 3) ESPN’s Bill Simmons, last spring: “Nobody is beating the Spurs. They will roll through Miami.” 4) CBS’ Bill Cowher predicting the Kansas City Chiefs would make the playoffs.
Most regrettable comments: 1) ESPN’s Rob Parker asking if Robert Griffin III is “a brother or a cornball brother.” ESPN suspended him for 30 days. 2) ESPN’s Mitch Holthus saying Kansas State basketball player Angel Rodriguez let his “Puerto Rican temper” get the best of him.
Worst personnel moves: 1) ESPN using Matt Millen as its lead commentator to talk about the Freeh Report that detailed the findings of Penn State’s internal investigation into the Jerry Sandusky case. Millen, blindly loyal to Joe Paterno, regrettably tried to minimize Paterno’s culpability. 2) Fox hiring not-especially-funny comedian Rob Riggle to replace the immensely talented Frank Caliendo, who found work at ESPN. 3) ESPN deciding not to hire Stan Van Gundy.
Most ballyhooed personnel moves: 1) ESPN reassigning Ron Jaworski, leaving Jon Gruden as the sole analyst on Monday Night Football. Gruden handled the gig fine by himself, and Jaws strengthened ESPN’s studio shows. 2) Erin Andrews moving from ESPN to Fox, where she tried too hard to act “cool” anchoring a college football studio show that couldn’t match the quality of ESPN’s.
Best hire: ESPN adding Terry Francona to succeed Bobby Valentine on Sunday Night Baseball. But Francona left after one season to manage the Indians. John Kruk will replace him.
Worst programming decision: The Big Ten Network, claiming it’s not a news organization, not carrying the Freeh Report news conference after not airing last November’s news conference when Paterno was fired.
Best moves for fans: 1) The NFL expanding its Thursday night package from eight to 15 games. 2) NBC streaming virtually all Olympic events live, online. 3) Fox starting a Saturday night college football package, meaning more national exposure for Pac-12 and Big 12 games. 4) The NFL moving late-afternoon games from 4:15 to 4:25 p.m. on the doubleheader network, ensuring less overlap with early kickoffs.
Worst moves for fans: 1) NBC continuing to refuse to show live TV coverage of the biggest Olympic events. Why not show a few of them live, then replay them in prime time? 2) Baseball moving two playoff games to MLB Network, which is unavailable in more than 50 million homes.
Oops: NBC showing a Today show promo revealing that Missy Franklin had won an Olympic gold medal in swimming a short time before NBC aired the race.
Personnel move most designed to drive us nuts: ESPN reuniting Stephen A. Smith with Bayless on First Take. Why not just let them argue among themselves in a room without microphones?
Best game analysts: NBC’s Cris Collinsworth and ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy.
Most compelling non-event TV moment: HBO’s Hard Knocks airing the tape of Joe Philbin’s uncomfortable meeting with Chad Johnson during which the receiver was released.
Overkill award: ESPN’s unhealthy obsession with Tim Tebow, curtailed only when network president John Skipper told his producers to cool it.
Worst abuse of power: Southern California football coach Lane Kiffin attempting to ban a Los Angeles Times writer for reporting a USC kicker’s injury — information obtained legitimately.
Worst overreaction: ESPN firing a producer who used “chink in the armor” in a headline about Jeremy Lin. Even his boss said the producer had no idea it would be considered an ethnic slur. Anchor Max Bretos was unfairly suspended for 30 days for the same (unintentional) offense.
Most unwarranted criticism: Fans blasting Adam Schefter and others for reporting NFL Draft picks on Twitter or TV before the commissioner announced them. That’s their job, folks.
Best reporting: ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, who was right and first every step of the way in reporting on the Colts’ release of Peyton Manning and the free agent sweepstakes that followed.
Notable media deaths: NFL Films president Steve Sabol, college football pundit Beano Cook, Turner Sports essayist Jim Huber, boxing writer and sports historian Bert Sugar, and ESPN Radio announcer Jim Durham.
Pettiness award: To ESPN’s Bob Knight, who refused to utter the word “Kentucky” during last season’s NCAA Tournament because of his dislike for coach John Calipari. Knight referred to Kentucky as “that team from the SEC.”