This is a (hopefully) weekly column. A series of sports media-related stories and news, with some videos and links to stories I thought were interesting over the previous week. For those of you who follow sports media like I do, you’ll know the weekly Media Circus column on Sports Illustrated’s website written by their phenomenal media writer Richard Deitsch. Think of my column as a Deitschian offset. A much less professional (See: Tagline of my site) version of his weekly piece, without all of the sources and connections and actual news-gathering abilities and skills. But other than that, it’s exactly the same.
So, in the style of Deitsch’s column and Peter King’s massive Monday Morning Quarterback columns, I’ll number each story with corresponding 1a, 2b, etc. to connect each story together instead of having a cluster of stories all merging into one word jumble.
Here goes nothing.
1. There are 37 days until college football begins again, and the networks that air these games are gearing up for their pregame shows. Fox Sports, and its new national cable channel Fox Sports 1, is retooling their pregame show. The dominant force in Saturday morning sports programming is the ESPN tentpole “College Gameday” with Chris Fowler and Lee Corso and Tom Rinaldi’s piano, but Fox would love for viewers to change the channel to their new pregame show, hosted by Erin Andrews. Andrews hosted a version of “College Gameday” on ESPNU before the real one started during her time at ESPN and hosted the nighttime pregame show preceding a Fox network game last year, but she has been “promoted” up the dial to go head-to-head with her former gig.
“Fox College Saturday” will air from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1 (directly against “Gameday”) and will feature Andrews in a hosting role with former Ohio State and Heisman Trophy-winning running back Eddie George, former Colorado QB and radio host Joel Klatt and former USC running back and current Los Angeles audio-feedback producer Petros Papadakis as her panel of analysts. Andrews and the crew will frequently be joined by former NFL and NCAA official Mike Pereira and college football writer and beard-wearer Clay Travis. Travis and his site Outkick The Coverage have joined the Fox Sports group, making OKTC “the official college football blog of FoxSports.com,” according to the network’s press release.
Moving into the primetime pregame hosting duties is Fox Soccer Channel studio host Rob Stone. George and Klatt will be analysts on this 30-minute pregame show, as well. Stone will also host the studio coverage of Fox Sports 1’s Thursday night games. Andrews’ other co-host from last year’s primetime show, Joey Harrington, has been moved out of the studio and into the booth. He’ll serve as the color commentator with Craig Bolerjack this fall.
Fox Sports has a very competent host in Andrews, who can only get better with time. Their problem is throwing together a group of analysts with her and hoping they get along. Chemistry is everything with these types of shows and “College Gameday” has a monopoly on chemistry. And they’re already the benchmark, with an outstanding host, Chris Fowler. Fox Sports and Fox Sports 1 will have to be excellent to rip away from “Gameday’s” ratings.
1a. While being a tentpole and a mandatory Saturday morning activity for even the most casual college football fan, “College Gameday” is always trying to improve. The addition of Desmond Howard as a third analyst was a great decision, and David Pollack, Samantha Ponder and especially Scott Van Pelt have only advanced the viewing experience of the traveling tailgate show. Sports Illustrated’s aforementioned media columnist Richard Deitsch interviewed ESPN Coordinating Producer and Gameday guy Lee Fitting, who said that the biggest change to the show will be analyst and mascot head enthusiast Lee Corso eventually leaving. “Corso, who turns 78 on Aug. 11, signed a two-year extension last year that will take him through the end of the 2013-14 season,” according to Deitsch.
“ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Lee Fitting told SI.com this week that representatives from both the White House and Woods have reached out to express interest in appearing on the show.
“The President has expressed interest and as crazy as it sounds, he might come whenever he can fit in,” said Fitting, who has produced GameDay for the last 10 years. “It sounds crazy to even talk about, I know. Tiger has also expressed interest and we have talked to his agent, Mark Steinberg. He just has to work it into his schedule. We are talking about going to Stanford for it.”
2. On Monday, Sports Illustrated’s lead NFL writer Peter King launched his new venture “TheMMQB.com” (MMQB.com was taken by a furniture blog). This site could be seen as SI’s response to ESPN and Bill Simmons’ Grantland, but theMMQB is only about the NFL, as opposed to Grantland’s every sport and TV, movies and music. King has written his tome-length Monday Morning Quarterback column for SI since 1997 and only recently thought of starting his own site under the same name.
King’s column started as a “Notes” column for SI and has evolved into thousands of words covering the NFL from top to bottom, as well as the “Tweets of the Week,” pictures that King has taken or foods he’s eaten and other musings. The column attracts nearly 10 million pageviews per month during football season, according to the Boston Globe’s Chad Finn. King’s site launched at 9 a.m., when else? Monday morning. But before he created this site, King pondered his future when his contract at SI was running out.
“I was asking myself for about the past year, what do I want to do next, and this just emerged as a possibility,” said King, who signed a new contract with Sports Illustrated in March, told Finn. “The more I thought about it, the more fun I thought I could have. So I asked Sports Illustrated about the possibility of something like this while my status was a little bit up in the air. I was fortunate they said yes.”
2a. King’s site is for the “smart football fan.” For the site, he recruited Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe, Robert Klemko of USA Today and Jenny Vrentas of the Newark Star-Ledger to be the primary writers. Deitsch will have an NFL media column, ESPN analyst Andrew Brandt – a former NFL executive with the Green Bay Packers – will have an NFL business column and write about what goes on inside NFL front offices. SI’s Jim Trotter, Don Banks, Andy Staples and Andy Benoit will also contribute and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is listed on the site as a contributor but I have no idea what he’ll write about other than “How To Trash Talk Tom Brady.” This site will be more like a Grantland than a breaking news site. For up-to-the-minute coverage of news events, the MMQB won’t be the place. It will be a magazine-like site where stories can be told.
2b. King is still unsure how the site will even handle the actual NFL season, as far as story assignments go. In a Q&A with media writer Ed Sherman, King said, “We’re not going to run NFL statistics. There are plenty of places to find that. We’re still talking about how we’re going to cover fantasy football. We don’t know if we’re going to cover games. We’re still making the decision.”
“It’s all about figuring out what the consumer of the NFL wants. I don’t know what the consumer of the NFL wants, but I have a gut feeling they want us to get to as many games as possible.”
2c. Here’s a video of King explaining his new site. It’s like Friday Night Lights meets some old sportswriter.
2d. And here’s a piece by Deadspin’s John Koblin about the new site and an interview with King: “Differential Spirit: How Peter King Became the NFL’s Bob Woodward.”
2e. And finally, here is King’s inaugural MMQB column on the new site. 8,900 words or something.
3. I wrote about the report that the New York Times statistical savant Nate Silver was leaving for ESPN a few days ago. ESPN confirmed this news today with a conference call featuring Silver and company president John Skipper. As I wrote in the article, Silver will be featured on “Olbermann” and will have a heavy role on ESPN.com with maybe a contributor’s role on Grantland, but what was not known at the time was that he relinquished his “FiveThirtyEight” blog brand to ESPN. (He had previously licensed the blog to the New York Times, but retained ownership.) While ESPN now owns his site, Silver will maintain editorial control and hire his own staff to increase the output of the site, much like Simmons did with Grantland.
According to an ESPN press release, “Silver will serve as the editor-in-chief of the site and will build a team of journalists, editors, analysts and contributors in the coming months. Much like Grantland, which ESPN launched in 2011, the site will retain an independent brand sensibility and editorial point-of-view, while interfacing with other websites in the ESPN and Disney families. The site will return to its original URL, http://www.FiveThirtyEight.com.”
Silver said in the same press release, “This is a dream job for me. I’m excited to expand FiveThirtyEight’s data-driven approach into new areas, while also reuniting with my love of sports. I’m thrilled that we’re going to be able to create jobs for a great team of journalists, writers and analysts. And I think that I’ve found the perfect place to do it. The variety and quality of the assets ESPN and ABC News presented to me was compelling and unparalleled. I can’t wait to get started.”
4. ESPN concluded its stellar coverage of the Open Championship golf tournament, Sunday. This was yet another example of the network’s total excellence when the right people are involved. Scott Van Pelt, Mike Tirico, Paul Azinger and the rest of the network’s studio hosts and analysts were exemplary. The coverage was precisely what the Major needed.
4b. Along with the solid coverage of the tournament itself, ESPN and Bluefoot Entertainment produced some fantastic features. All of the pieces are narrated by actor Ian McShane, they are written by ESPN’s Wright Thompson or Tom Rinaldi. They show the landscapes and tell the stories of Scotland and the Open Championship and were aired throughout the tournament.
5. Before the college football season can get started, each coach has to make their annual pilgrimage to Bristol, Conn. to pay homage to the Mothership that broadcasts their gridiron glory to the millions. The Bristol “Carwash” as it’s known is when a coach or athlete comes to the ESPN campus and appears on a wide variety of TV shows, radio shows, online videos and podcasts. They’re pulled in every direction for a day and sent back to ready their teams for the season.
ESPN says that 50 coaches will grace the grounds of Bristol this year. The SEC will visit July 22-23; The PAC 12 will come on July 24-25; The ACC on July 29-30 and the B1G Ten will stop by on July 31-Aug. 1. Every coach from each respective conference is scheduled to appear, most notably Alabama’s Nick Saban on July 22, Steve Spurrier on July 23, Stanford’s David Shaw on July 24 and USC’s Lane Kiffin on July 25. Ohio State’s Urban Meyer returns to ESPN for one of the first times since serving as an analyst at the network during his post-Florida, pre-Ohio State sabbatical.
5a. The PAC 12 coaches will visit Bristol and then hop on a plane to Los Angeles where PAC 12 Media Day is being held on July 26. Each coach will bring one player from his offense and one from his defense to the Sony Studios in Los Angeles to meet with the media. Instead of the three-day circus that the SEC Media Days are, the PAC 12 is a much more subtle one day extravaganza. Here’s the schedule for the event, per ESPN. All times PT:
9 a.m. Larry Scott, Pac-12 commissioner
9:15 a.m. Washington State — Coach Mike Leach, Elliott Bosch (OL),Deone Bucannon (DB)
9:30 a.m. California — Coach Sonny Dykes, Bryce Treggs (WR), Nick Forbes (LB)
9:45 a.m. Washington — Coach Steve Sarkisian, Keith Price (QB), Sean Parker (DB)
10 a.m. Oregon State — Coach Mike Riley, Brandin Cooks (WR), Rashaad Reynolds (DB)
10:15 a.m. Oregon — Coach Mark Helfrich, Marcus Mariota (QB), Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB)
10:30 a.m. Stanford — Coach David Shaw, David Yankey (OL), Shayne Skov (LB)
10:45 a.m. Break
11 a.m. Colorado — Coach Mike MacIntyre, Paul Richardson (WR), Chidera Uzo-Diribe(DE)
11:15 a.m. Utah — Coach Kyle Whittingham, Jake Murphy (TE), Trevor Reilly (DE)
11:30 a.m. Arizona — Coach Rich Rodriguez, Terrence Miller (WR), Jake Fischer (LB)
11:45 a.m. USC — Coach Lane Kiffin, Marqise Lee (WR), Hayes Pullard (LB)
Noon Arizona State — Coach Todd Graham, Taylor Kelly (QB), Will Sutton (DT)
12:15 p.m. UCLA — Coach Jim Mora, Xavier Su’a Filo (OL), Anthony Barr (LB)