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Entries in ESPN (23)


ESPN Fails To Ask LeBron James The Most Obvious Question

LeBron James

NBA Star Enjoys Media
Treatment Fit For A King

One Great Season

I just got done watching the third and final part of Rachel Nichols' interview with the Miami Ego Machine and I have only one thing to say: Nichols, Jim Gray and Michael Wilbon all have failed with LeBron-A-Palooza over the last week. Which means, ESPN has failed in covering perhaps its biggest story of the year.

Is anyone going to ask LeBron if he thought he could have broken Cleveland's heart without the circus? And if someone does, will he or she follow up with some much-needed pushback when he gives his emotionless PR spin that he gives every time he speaks?


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As Cleveland prints up Quitness T-shirts, the traumatized masses there and everywhere are calling James a traitor and hurling other similar insults. I'm a Cleveland native and as disappointing as this has been, my problem will never be with James' decision to leave. It's how he did it. Why hasn't he been pressed on this?

I don't forgive Gray or Wilbon, but I think Nichols is even more guilty because she interviewed LeBron -- along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh -- after a few days of fallout. Surely she knew what needed to be asked after countless columns (particularly scorchers from Adrian Wojnarowski, Jason Whitlock and Matt Taibbi) ripped LeBron for his tragically misguided self-celebration. And she sat down with them for presumably much more time than Gray and Wilbon had with James on the night of "The Decision."

ESPN gets most things right, but sometimes the right questions are the hard ones, and they must be asked from time to time. If you're the worldwide leader, maybe think about asking the one question to which every one of your viewers wants an answer.


College GameDay Kicks Off In 1,294 Hours

ESPN College GameDay Host Chris Fowler Has The Best Job In Television

ESPN Moves To Extend Popular
CFB Show To Three Hours

One Great Season

ESPN made a great decision and announced Monday that the best program on its family of channels will expand from two to three hours.

Beginning Saturday, Sept. 4, "College Gameday" will kick off at 9 a.m. ET on ESPNU, before the popular show moves over to ESPN at 10 a.m. ET. It's assumed, but not confirmed, that the familiar Big & Rich video will open the 9 a.m. hour, but I doubt there'd be any complaints if ESPN played the anthem at the top of each hour. This video gets many college football fans out of bed on Saturday mornings in the fall, and is really the only time you'd ever want a country act to announce it's coming to your city.

ESPN College GameDay Personality Kirk Herbstreit Is The Best Analyst In The Business In another smart Disney move, popular sideline reporter Erin Andrews will join the GameDay crew on Saturday mornings. Here's to hoping she might down a few cheeseburgers between now and then; her turn on "Dancing With The Stars" appeared to have turned her into an aspiring Hollywood anorexic.

For those scoring at home, host Chris Fowler has the best job in television, analyst Kirk Herbstreit is the best at his job, Desmond Howard has become a pretty likable on-air personality and everybody loves Andrews. Surprised it's taken this long to adopt the three-hour format.


World Cup 2010: ESPN Releases Viewer Ratings


USA-England Match
Most Watched USMNT
Game Since 1994

One Great Season

ESPN released some weekend World Cup ratings details Monday night. Here are a few key takeaways:

+ ABC's telecast of the United States-England match was the most-watched World Cup first-round match among households and viewers, and the most-viewed U.S. Men’s National Team game since 1994. U.S.-England enjoyed a 7.3 rating. The two-hour match window (2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET) averaged a 7.3 household rating, 8.4 million households, and almost 13 million viewers.

+ Through eight weekend matches, ESPN and ABC averaged 3 million households and 4.25 million viewers – up 75 percent and 80 percent, respectively, from the first eight games of the 2006 World Cup (1.7 million and 2.4 million viewers).

+ The most-watched game from Sunday was ABC's Germany-Australia debacle – a 2.8 household rating, 3.3 million households, and 4.7 million viewers, while Serbia-Ghana delivered a 2.3 household coverage rating with 2.2 million households and 3 million viewers earlier in the day on ESPN.

Below are the top five most-viewed FIFA World Cup telecasts (1994-present):

1. U.S.-China, Women's World Cup Final (ABC, 7/10/99) – 18 million viewers (11.4 rating)
2. Brazil-Italy, World Cup Final (ABC, 7/17/94) – 14.5 (9.5 rating)
3. Brazil-U.S., World Cup Round of 16 (ABC, 7/4/94) – 13.7 (9.3 rating)
4. Italy-France, World Cup Final (ABC, 7/9/06) – 12.0 (7.0 rating)
5. U.S.-England, World Cup First Round (ABC, 6/12/10) – 10.8 (6.1 rating)

Click here for Mike's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


Kornheiser's Comments Inappropriate, But Accurate

Tony Kornheiser, Hannah Storm

One Great Season

By all means, Tony Kornheiser should have been suspended from his excellent show, "PTI," for his remarks about Hannah Storm.

And while Kornheiser will be the subject of many conversations the rest of the week -- on television, the radio and especially the blogosphere -- one thing will get lost in the shuffle.

Though his comments were inappropriate and hurtful, they were 100 percent accurate.

YOUR THOUGHTS: Does Hannah Storm Dress Appropriately For Television?

Storm has no business wearing many of the outfits she wears. But we'll never know whether she just shows up in anyoldthing each weekday morning to do "SportsCenter," or if her employers might offer up the occasional verbal nudge for her to push the envelope with some of those form-fitting numbers. And don't even get me started on her frosting-fueled finger fellatio last summer.

Once Fox News realized it had a mega-hottie in Megyn Kelly a few years back, did you notice how her morning show with Bill Hemmer started to use more wide shots? There she sat on the set with the handsome Hemmer, but all eyes were fixed on Kelly's long, thin, brown legs, straight out of a Nair commercial, just perfect enough to prompt a priest to kick out a stained-glass window.

I get that television broadcasters use the sexy if they can, but have we forgotten about moderation? Storm's cake-suck effort and other similar behaviors have no place on live professional television. If anyone wasn't sleeping off a hangover Sunday morning, perhaps you caught her sexy red dress on "Sports Reporters" of all venues? Does anybody even think about credibility anymore?

The very self-aware ESPN, the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader In Sports, should certainly know its sports-addicted male audience still would be loyal if Storm, Sage Steele and Cindy Brunson worked elsewhere. Personally, I think Steele is average at her job and Brunson is worse, and with their makeup cakes and hurricane-proof hair, neither looks anything like a woman I would ever see in real life.

But apparently they rate well, so it's on with the show. Quality script-reading and skillful set banter be damned.

So, ESPN, if you're reading, let's make a deal. You use less of the sex appeal and skimpy outfits and I'll promise to enjoy "SportsCenter" a little more.

Are you following me on Twitter? @onegreatseason | @johnpwise


Franklin, Davis Lead Excellent Baylor-Kansas Broadcast

Xavier Henry

One Great Season

Good television met up with good basketball on ESPN late in the exciting Baylor-Kansas game Wednesday night.

With about nine minutes left, Hubert Davis did something analysts don't do all that often. He spoke critically of another team, also in the Big 12, saying it had been a disappointment so far this season.

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"I really thought Iowa State was going to be good enough to get into the NCAA Tournament this year," is a pretty close paraphrase to what Davis said.

He continued by naming a couple players in particular who haven't developed the way they should have, and overall, as a team, Iowa State just hasn't gotten it done they way it should be getting it done considering the talent level the Cyclones enjoy.

Then, with about six minutes left, on a possession after Lacederius Dunn drained a contested three to pull Baylor to within seven, a KU player missed the front end of a one-and-one. The rebound quickly got poked back out to Sherron Collins, who didn't waste a moment before launching -- and swishing -- a three. Baylor coach Scott Drew promptly called a timeout.

And during the short break, ESPN play-by-play star Ron Franklin started talking to his stat guy, not knowing his mic was still hot. Franklin thought the broadcast had gone into commercial.

It was hardly the end of the world; I actually thought it might have been interesting for folks curious about the behind-the-scenes of broadcasting.

Then when a producer or someone presumably told him his mic was hot, he offered up an amused chuckle and apologized to his audience while explaining to it what stat he was inquiring about in the first place: turnovers.

As I finished typing the above paragraphs, Baylor ended consecutive possessions with authoritative dunks to tie the game on each occasion.

And a moment later, Franklin asked Davis to evaluate Baylor's Dunn.

"He's a complete guard, and he's also a great defender as well," Davis said. "He's one of the best two guards in the country."

Davis continued by heaping more praise on Dunn's backcourtmate, point guard Tweety Carter, but Kansas got some separation, hit a few late free throws and held off a game group of Bears. KU won at home for the 53rd straight time, 81-75.


The Kirk Herbstreit Interview That Never Happened

Kirk Herbstreit

One Great Season

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- ESPN College GameDay analyst Desmond Howard won a Heisman Trophy two decades ago, but it was his more popular colleague who gave me the stiff-arm in Fort Worth the other day.

I'd been trying to get an interview with any of the GameDay people since the second week of the season, when the crews from both ESPN and One Great Season were in Columbus for the USC-Ohio State game.

And by ESPN crew, I mean about 100 or so people, and by One Great Season crew, I mean all three of us -- me, myself and I.

Anyway, back in September, the ESPN PR guy was nice enough to return my emails asking for a few minutes alone with Kirk Herbstreit and/or Desmond Howard and/or Chris Fowler. But logistics and schedules just made it difficult and an interview never happened.

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The same guy did not return my emails when I reached out during Week Five in Baton Rouge, or in Week Nine in Eugene.

So I went a different route last week a few days before fourth-ranked TCU welcomed the GameDay circus to Fort Worth. Instead of trying that PR guy, I reached out to one of the producers of the show, which, if you subscribe to my Tweets, you know I think is by far the best two hours on television. Not just because it's all about America's greatest sport, but from technical and production points of view, no show is better.

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It took a minute, but the producer did eventually get back to me and said I'd easily be able to get at the very least a few minutes with Herbie. He also said he looked forward to hearing about my project. As the independent little guy, this was a small victory for me.

I arrived at 12:15 p.m. Friday, exactly the time the producer told me to show up, but he wasn't there. Instead, another friendly producer welcomed me into the ESPN compound and introduced me to Herbie, who at the time was in the make-up chair. As the artist applied the foundation, Herbie asked about my tour and what kinds of things I'd be looking for from him. He seemed genuine and assured me he'd make himself available after a live hit he had coming up shortly on SportsCenter.

Desmond Howard

I came back out to the newsroom where the producers were working, as was Desmond, who, like me, is a Cleveland native. Desmond was up against a deadline, so I didn't bother him, but still a non-introduction in my opinion creates more awkwardness than any 30-second inconvenience that could arise from meeting someone sitting so close to you in a quiet and small space. Nonetheless, Desmond made no acknowledgment that there was a new face about six feet across from him; I kept my nose in a magazine.

A short time later, Fowler and Tom Rinaldi arrived. Fowler -- who has the best job in television -- did the Thursday night game at Rutgers the night before, so that's why he flew in on Friday, and as Rinaldi was arriving he was talking about his recent run in the New York City Marathon. I've always loved Rinaldi's stories, particularly on GameDay. Again, if you read my Tweets, you know I recommend keeping a box of Kleenex nearby whenever Rinaldi turns one of his tales.

I introduced myself to Fowler, and told him my buddies and I had ESPN on speed dial a dozen years ago and we'd call and harass him and other late-night, on-air SportsCenter folks after coming home from the bars. I'd heard from multiple ESPN friends over the years that Fowler can be a bit of a diva, but I'd say he initially gave me a fair shake with my weak attempt to be friendly.

A short minute later, Lee Corso walked in and eventually sat with a producer who took the veteran's typically stat-heavy dictation.

Around that time, the producer I'd communicated with the previous couple of days had arrived and although we exchanged a friendly hello, his interest in my project seemed to have disappeared after he sent me the email the night before. He made no inquiry about it, nor did he try too hard to facilitate a short visit for me with Herbstreit.

I've been in newsrooms for 15 years and I know all the personality types. I've also read a couple of books and countless columns or articles about ESPN and I think I had a handle on where my place was that day trying to get some time with some of the most recognized faces in the sport. My little-engine-that-could Web site sat in the basement on the list of priorities in that makeshift newsroom that day, and I fully accepted that and was content to sit quietly, follow instructions and wait my turn.

Chris Fowler

Once everyone said hello and enjoyed a few minutes of light-hearted college football talk, it was time to get down to business. The volume that didn't seem to bother the others in the room the first hour I was there apparently was too much for Fowler, so he turned off the television and donned some headphones. Again, my nose was in a magazine. Again, just waiting my turn, bothering precisely nobody.

Eventually, Fowler called that producer into an office and the two spoke quietly behind a closed door for about five minutes. The room was directly behind me, so I couldn't see the door open, but I did hear the knob turn and from that exact moment I doubt I could have finished saying, "One Mississippi" before I heard this from the producer:

"Hey John, Herbie's still out there lingering on the set and by the time he gets back here, we're going to be starting our production meeting, so you might have better luck trying to grab him out there."

That's probably not verbatim, but it's pretty accurate. It also might be code for something far less sanitized than anything that was said behind a close door a minute earlier.

I packed my bag and not at all to my surprise, no one was sad to see me leave. I hustled outside to join the rest of the throng, and since I had no credential to be inside that oh-so coveted GameDay gate, I basically looked the part of another adoring ESPN fan.

But I did see Herbie make a move to flee the set, so I put on my stalker hat and followed him back toward the compound, accompanied by a state-trooper lookin' fella. I got Herbie's attention and he said we'd still be able to do it, but he just needed a few minutes. I waited outside for, again, longer than I was expecting, and when he re-emerged from the building with another security guy about 20 minutes later, he shook his head from afar, then walked right past me without so much as a glance as he got closer.

Am I disappointed I didn't get the interview? Yes. But what bothered me way more was that the ESPN people weren't the only ones with work to do last Friday. If someone isn't able or even interested in talking to me, just have the courage to say so and then I can go spend those two-and-a-half-hours more productively. But don't make a 15-year news veteran feel like a stalker for chasing the interview that easily could have happened.


Monday Notebook

One Great Season

HOUSTON -- Sitting at Houston's Intercontinental Airport on a Monday afternoon, waiting for my flight to San Jose, I couldn't help but continue to be obsessed about college football. Here are some observations four weeks in:

+ It's turning into one great season indeed. I feel like we're on the way to a very 2007-like campaign full of upsets, unpredictability and an ever-changing Top 25.

+ Not that the Top 25 is the most important aspect of the sport, but if one thing has been proven so far about an early season poll ranking, it's that it's the one thing about the business of college football -- unlike the BCS bowl format -- that is truly for the fans. Perhaps the most significant thing that preseason rankings -- Cal? Ole Miss? -- do is warm things up for the bloggers and radio talk show hosts, and of course their audiences. College football fans might be the most passionate of all sports observers, and rankings in August and September give them plenty to cry about.

+ ESPN and others need to stop using the term "must-win" or "virtual must-win" in September. Notre Dame, anyone? 2007 proved you can lose -- and lose late in the season like Ohio State did -- and still play for the national championship. Already this season, we have four one-loss teams ranked among the top nine. And as I look at the calendar, it tells me it's not yet October.

+ I just got my credential confirmed for the Oct. 10 Florida game at LSU. Thanks go out to the fine people in the LSU Sports Information Department!

+ I covered Tony Pike one time some years back. Not on the field, but when I was freelancing some sports stories for the Cincinnati Enquirer. He was certainly a good quarterback at Reading High School, but at 7 feet tall and no more than 90 pounds, hardly seemed the type of guy who'd be a Heisman  Trophy candidate years later. But do you know what does seem quite Heisman-like at this point? Pike's stat line through four games, all Cincinnati Bearcat victories:

71 percent completion rate | 11 touchdowns | 2 interceptions | 306 ypg passing | 173 quarterback rating.

Kid is nice. Cincinnati is my alma mater, so I definitely root for the Bearcats, but those who claim the Bearcats are the best college team in the state of Ohio should still check themselves.


Businessman Describes Confrontation at OSU

One Great Season

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- I met a dude at an Ohio State tailgate party last Saturday who had an interesting story to tell.

He tried to hold up a sign behind ESPN's "College GameDay" set during a shoot last Friday night, then was told to leave because the sign had his Web site address on it. He went and put the sign away, then returned with a shirt that also had the site on it.

I'll let him tell the rest of the story.

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