The art of the billboard, NFL Fox style

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It went up in September. It was supposed to be a one-month run, until October. It’s still up, and it’s almost November.

Maybe because the billboard company can’t find another business that wants a sign that includes goal posts.

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A promotional campaign that led to Fox buying four billboards around the country — including one for Southern California, located north of the 405 at Hawthorne Blvd., in Lawndale — stands out for uniquiness in that you just don’t see larger-than-life yellow end-zone posts with flags on the top sticking out and around a freeway-side ad.

“Or billboard with actual pads around the goalposts below,” noted Eric Markgraf, the executive VP of Fox Sports Marketing Group.

Markgraf said doing this “mixed media” campaign was to stand out from the other new wave of digital billboards that need to be updated daily to make them relevant.

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Billboards like this one were also put up to promote the “NFL on Fox” pregame show in New York, Philadelphia and Dallas. In each of those cities, the pad around the post matched up with the local teams — Giants (not Jets), Eagles and Cowboys. It’s also an NFC thing, since that’s the Fox conference of choice.

“It’s really the first time we’ve seen anything like it,” said Markgraf, who worked with a company called New And Improved Media to do the buying and production. “In New York, we put it near the Holland Tunnel, and we were worried that someone might want to vandalize it. But we’ve had nothing but great feedback from it. People have noticed them.
Especially with the flags on the top. Very simplistic, not flashy.”

Now that Fox has only paid for a month’s worth of exposure, it’ll be interesting to see how much they stay up — based on the fact they probably can’t be easily taken down.

Remember back in the summer of ’07, when we drove around the city snapping our favorite sports-related billboards … maybe we gotta revive that one soon.

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World Series strange calls, 41 years apart

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At the same time that Fox is carrying live the Yankees-Phillies World Series Game 1 tonight, the MLB Network is showing the first game of the 1968 World Series between the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals.

The differences very much outweigh the similiarities.

The game 41 years ago is during the day, in St. Louis, a “hot and muggy day” as Curt Gowdy continues to remind the audience. The game tonight at the new Yankee Stadium is rainy, cold, with players blowing fog from their breaths.

But almost at the same time — at least, on the current clock — umpire controversy ensued.

Continue reading

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Getting baseball over the ump

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While we’ve apparently gone past the point of any way to introduce expanded instant replay for the 2009 World Series, which begins in a few hours from Yankee Stadium, it shouldn’t preclude those at Fox Sports from at least letting the MLB decision-makers know that the technology is in place to make it happen, should they choose to explore it.

Ed Goren, the Fox Sports executive producer and president, isn’t neither going to gently nudge, nor strong advice, the MLB on how it should do this from here, lest he be mistaken for someone who cares about the game’s future and its integrity beyond obviously blown calls by umpires throughout these playoffs.

“We don’t have a say in this,” said Goren. “We televise the games. When the NFL decided on replay, it wasn’t the network going to the NFL. Whatever the rules are, they are what they are. It’s a baseball issue and we leave it at that.”

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That’s for the record. Off the record, Fox and TBS be best showing MLB that it can turn around a disputed call within seconds based on its technology and replay machines on hand for playoff games. That’s Bud Selig’s strongest protest — replays will slow the game up even more. But it doesn’t have to — evidenced by the fact at how fast Fox was able to expose three blown calls in the ALCS Game 4 at Angels Stadium, two of them by crewchief Tim McClelland.

As Fox reporter Ken Rosenthal will likely point out on tonight’s telecast (4:30 p.m., Channel 11) as many as a dozen top-notch umps are not available to work these playoffs because of injuries. Seven of them are crew chiefs. There’s also an unusual rule that prevents umps from working two consective series in a row, from divisional series, to championship series, to World Series. Meaning, your best guys are likely in the ALDS and NLDS, so they can also do a World Series. And you’re lower level rewards are going to guys in the ALCS and NLCS? How is that a good thing?

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Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who’ll be part of the Fox pre- and post-game studio analysis from the gamesite, doesn’t sound as if he’s pushing for expanded replay. Maybe he just enjoys the art of arguing more with the men in blue.

“I was pushing for the home run (fair or foul) replay because that was something we needed,” Guillen said this week. “I trust the umpires. We can’t make the game a computer TV game. The fans have to respect that. Sometimes (wrong calls) make for good baseball, and the fans can disagree. That’s a positive for our game for so many years. My only problems with the umps is if they make a mistake, they should move on. It’s to early to put extra replays into the game.”

Goren expanded on his earlier thoughts about replay, especially for the postseason versus the regular season: “(The game) is certainly dramatically different in the postseason. Like the umpires who go out and want to get the calls right, our version is that if there’s a bang-bang play and something is questionable, we hope to have the definitive angle. In the regular season with fewer cameras and tape machines, and sometimes the local broadcastes vary from market to market, there’d be no consistency now. But let’s say we have the same issue in the NFL. How many times has a coach challenged a call and there was not enough evidence on the replay to overturn it? Most times, the play stands as called.”

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C’mon … a Griese taco reference gets you suspended now by ESPN? Have they also stopped running ads for “black tacos”?

ESPN decided to suspend college football analyst Bob Griese for a week based on an off-handed comment he made about NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya during last Saturday’s Minnesota-Ohio State telecast.

A graphic was shown during the game showing the top five drivers in NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup. Analyst Chris Spielman asked where Montoya was.

Griese replied that Montoya was “out having a taco.”

Montoya is a native of Columbia, not Mexico. And Griese apologized at the end of the game, as well as later in the day Saturday.

And the joke wasn’t even that funny. But was it offensive?

Steve Lyons was not available for comment.

Griese, 64, who has been with ABC and ESPN only since 1986 with no prior disgressions or stupid jokes, was scheduled to do Saturday’s Miami-Wake Forest telecast.

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Come for the Adenhart story, stay for Gumbel’s closing thoughts

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A reminder about tonight’s HBO “Real Sports” (10 p.m., with many replays) — Mary Carillo does a segment on how the Angels dealt with the April death of pitcher Nick Adenhart, talking to his parents as well as lone accident survivor Jon Wilhite.

“It’s a very tough story indeed,” Carillo said this morning. “We interviewed Nick’s parents and a few of his teammates, Jered Weaver, (agent) Scott Boras … every one of them talked about Nick as though it was still hard to believe he could be gone. Though we didn’t get it into the piece, Boras got very jammed up talking about the kid he’d been watching since high school. He told me about how he had to make a bunch of calls that night, and among them were calls to his kids.
” ‘You called them?’ I asked.
” ‘I called them to make sure they were safe…and to tell them I loved them.’ ”
“We went to the Little League field where Nick first showed his stuff as a kid — the field his father still visits every day, now named after his boy. His mother had not spoken about Nick until she talked to us. Boy, she’s a terrific woman. And her boy Henry, almost 16, who grew up idolizing Nick, is a very fine baseball player in his own right, and hopes to make the bigs as well.
“I happen to have a 22 year old boy myself, so this story got stuck between my ribs from the time I first heard of it.”

At the end of the program, host Bryant Gumbel offers this essay:

“Finally tonight, a few words about the New York Yankees. I will admit upfront to some bias, and I’ll certainly understand if the folks in Anaheim would beg to differ, but having the Yankees in the World Series is clearly in the best interest of Major League Baseball. As the most polarizing team in the game, they’re certain to make their matchup with the Phillies the most compelling fall classic in years.

“Now before you start throwing things at your screen, I would ask that you keep in mind one simple truth…that sports works best when there’s a gold standard…something or someone to be measured against. Like it or not, when Tiger Woods struts, when Bill Belichick cheats, when USC tops the football polls, when the Lakers are running…when the time tested best are winning, people care, no matter the sport. And no team has ever won more than the Yankees.

“With their rich, historic tradition and their obscene, exorbitant payroll, the Yankees represent, to many, all that’s right and wrong with Major League Baseball. They arouse levels of passion nationally that teams in most outposts can’t even fathom. And they remind true sports fans of why the national pastime is still baseball, and not betting on some point spread.

“Yes, Yankees fans are loud, passionate and often obnoxious. So too are these who see red when they see pinstripes. Some are provincial, some are envious, some would even claim to actually hate the Yankees…when, in truth, they probably don’t. For as Celtics great Bill Russell once wisely noted: the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy.”

If only the Yankees were playing the Dodgers ..

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