The idea for a sports/media/gambling column was hatched this summer and you can look for it every Wednesday. If you want to yell at me about something that appeared here – because let’s face it, on the internet, it’s outrage or nothing: Jmcintyre at thebiglead dot com.
The baseball postseason has been a joy so far, with close, compelling games producing a Final Four featuring the where-you-been Kansas City Royals, big-market Baltimore Orioles, and two popular teams in the National League, the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals. The stars have been jettisoned from the postseason – Mike Trout went out with a whimper, so did Yasiel Puig, and everyone’s going to miss Bryce Harper – but the storylines make for decent drama.
And that’s a good thing for Fox Sports 1, which has put all of its eggs in the baseball basket this October.
Last month, Fox Sports rolled out a most ambitious marketing campaign – eight figures? – aimed at getting some eyeballs on Fox Sports 1, the year-old network that hasn’t quite delivered the ratings expected in a tumultuous first year.
“October will be the most important month in our short history,” Robert Gottlieb, Fox Sports’ executive vice president of marketing told the Sports Business Journal in September. The NLDS produced plenty of drama, with the Giants winning three 1-run games, including one that went 18 innings. The Giants and Cardinals are expected to produce similar excitement.
Fox Sports 1 is praying they do.
One of the biggest complaints of the MLB postseason was that in the first five days, games were on six different TV channels. In a sports world where fans plop down on the sofa and their first thought is to flip on ESPN and see what’s happening, having to toggle around for TBS, FS1 and MLB Network looking for postseason baseball could be viewed as annoying. Yes, it only takes a couple of seconds to figure it out, but it almost feels like MLB’s early battles with You Tube: The young generation of sports fans hear about a great play/highlight/fight/whatever and go right to YouTube to find it. Greedy MLB wanted nothing to do with You Tube initially, and made fans go to its own website, and then navigate that to find highlights (after watching an ad, of course). In recent years, MLB began to soften that stance (a little), and started to put videos on YouTube.
Again, we’re talking about seconds here. But for better or worse, that’s the current internet climate – zero patience for searching, I want it right now, or I’m off to the next tab open on my browser, the next story to skim for highlights, the next headline in my facebook feed that I won’t click to read, the next tweet in my stream.
Please, baseball: Make it easy for us.
CBS Keeps Losing Writers
The list of writers who have departed CBS Sports.com willingly or without choice over the last few years is lengthy: Brett McMurphy, Mike Freeman, Clark Judge, Bruce Feldman, Jeff Goodman, Scott Miller, Danny Knobler and Jeremy Fowler to name just a few. The latest departure: Gregg Doyel, who is leaving CBS Sports to be a columnist at the Indianapolis Star. Doyel will replace the great Bob Kravitz, who recently left the paper.
While on the surface it may sound like a strange move – it is rare for writers to leave new media for old media – Doyel has for years been based out of the Cincinnati area, so perhaps instead of traveling around the country attending events, he would rather stay local and be near his family. (Doyel didn’t respond to a text message this AM.)
In his prime, when he was a dogged reporter, Doyel was a very good college basketball writer. In recent years he seemed to do more shouting and less reporting. This twitter exchange he had with Dan LeBatard last year is probably more memorable than anything he’s written recently.
Doyel is now part of the Gannett family (which owns this website).
LOCK OF THE WEEK
Like LL Cool J Sang and Brian Hoyer delivered, don’t call it a comeback! Favorites Baylor and Mississippi State covered, and underdogs Mississippi and TCU won outright, as the Lock of the Week went 4-0 to improve to a barely-respectable 6-5 on the season. It’ll be impossible to duplicate that effort, but picking four games again seems like the right move:
Texas A&M -2.5 vs. Mississippi. The Aggies, impressive in a win over suddenly-struggling South Carolina, and lucky against Arkansas, were shellacked at Mississippi State last week, 48-31. Now they face a third straight SEC test, this one against Ole Miss. The Rebels probably just finished up partying after the Katy Perry-inspired win over Alabama. Wonder how practice is going.
North Carolina +17 at Notre Dame. I’m aware the Tar Heels would struggle to stop some Division II teams right now – UNC surrendered 70 points to ECU and barely beat lowly San Diego State at home. How are these guys supposed to hang with the undefeated Fighting Irish, who just beat Stanford? Well, that’s part of it; the other part is that the Fighting Irish travel to Florida State next week. This game was in our college football trap games list, which is currently 3-0.
Auburn -2.5 at Mississippi State. A gut feeling here: Auburn is the best, most complete team in the country. Didn’t look that impressive in the (lucky?) road win over Kansas State, and Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott rang up 346 yards of total offense last year in a narrow 24-20 loss at Auburn.
Baylor -7.5 vs. TCU. Had Michigan -1 against Penn State here until someone mentioned the line in the Baylor game dipped to 7.5. The Horned Frogs had their biggest win in recent history last week against Chokelahoma, and can score in bunches. Baylor looked average at best struggling to put away Texas (and for the first time in awhile, not covering the 1st half line). I like TCU this season, but this is too tall an order on the road. Feels like a shootout for 2.5 quarters, then Baylor pulls away for a 59-35 win.
Fun with the sports media rumor mill: You know how Dan Patrick is hosting sports jeopardy? As the rumors go, this is a trial run for Patrick to possibly take over for Alex Trebek on Jeopardy when the longtime game show host departs in 2016. Trebek has hosted Jeopardy for three decades, but he’ll be 76 in 2016, and various outlets have reported he won’t be signing an extension. What other dominoes would fall if Patrick – who nearly got the Price is Right gig that Drew Carey landed – gets the Jeopardy job? Chatter at NBC has Josh Elliott sliding into Patrick’s chair on Sunday Night Football. It’s unclear what would happen with Patrick’s radio show … NHL sideline reporter Chantel McCabe got a DUI, and has been suspended by the team for three weeks … a Florida State beat writer was nailed for plagiarism, and then decided to try and explain herself in a blog post, wherein she called it a simple copy/paste mistake, but she decided to leave the paper anyway because of management. Then, she deleted the blog post … Brian Koppelman, a Hollywood screenwriter best known for Rounders, Ocean 13 and Runner Runner, blogged about the Bill Simmons suspension, and his challenging experience trying to write a show for ESPN in the late 90s … Antawm Jamison, who retired this summer after a 16-year NBA career, has joined Time Warner Cable Sportsnet … a Denver Post hockey writer was suspended for two weeks for using the word “pussy” on twitter to describe an NHL player. The twitter police came after him, because it’s social media, and you are contractually obligated to be outraged. His apology came a little late … remember how, in the first Inside Blitz column, we talked about Rich Eisen eventually taking Jay Mohr’s timeslot at Fox Sports radio? Well, it happened, and Mohr’s show is moving to 3-6 … there was a small, yet significant piece of news that happened inside ESPN yesterday: Inside Blitz obtained an internal memo that quietly announced Bristol veteran Mo Davenport (29 years at ESPN, most recently leading the radio division) was suddenly going to head the Talent Office. The office was ESPN President John Skipper’s creative brainchild, and headed by Laurie Orlando, who built a bright, young, energetic team. It’s far too early to tell what this means – or even why it happened – but suffice to say, it blindsided a lot of people, many of whom are shocked by the move for a variety of reasons.
VERNE LUNDQUIST, LEGEND
If you look at the announcing landscape in sports, the legends of the 80s and 90s are reaching the retirement point. Iconic Keith Jackson is gone. Legendary Brent Musburger is buried on the SEC Network. And much-loved Verne Lundquist is nearing the end of his illustrious career. Please put this documentary on your calendar.