The Media Learning Curve: The hardest workin’ blog in the sports media business goes more Q-n-A with JB


You quickly find there’s far more to James Brown that meets the eye of CBS.

Long before his broadcasting career launched at CBS, then flourished at Fox, then continued back at CBS, Brown was a high-school All-American basketball player at the famed DeMatha High in Maryland, decided to play at Harvard, and was a fourth-round pick of the Atlanta Hawks in 1974. He didn’t make the roster (having found a fast friend in Pete Maravich), and later tried out for the Boston Celtics.

That said, his broadcasting path took a greater meaning based on his faith seeing his athletic career end knowing he had an Ivy League education to fall back on.

Following up on today’s media column (linked here), we have more Q-and-A with JB, plus notes that need to be reported in some form or another:

Q: In your book, you mention about how, after you gave a commitment to Harvard to play basketball, you got a letter from John Wooden asking about your interest to come to UCLA. You wanted to take a trip, but your mother talked you out of it, based on the principle you already agreed to the previous school. Do you ever wonder how your life could have changed if you’d attended UCLA between 1969 and ’73 — having been on national title teams with Lew Alcindor, Curtis Rowe, Sidney Wicks, Henry Bibby, then later with Bill Walton and Keith Wilkes?

James Brown: “I do, heavens yes. Please …. UCLA was the mecca of basketball. It made me think about what Red Auerbach told me after I had a tryout with the Celtics but didn’t make it — he said I’d have had a better chance if I developed my game more in college. So who knows. At this stage in my life, I know the route I took was the right one. I gave (the NBA) two good shots, so I can look back and I’m comfortable with the decisions. I knew the Ivy League school was good enough for many athletes, including Bill Bradley, but the reason I didn’t make the NBA was my fault for failing to stay at the top of my game. I may not have played as much with all those stars — that’s one way of looking at it — but I would have liked to think I’d have improved, coming in as a two-time high school All-American. I needed to develop, probably not as a forward, but eventually as a big guard.”

Q: Where do you see yourself in the broadcasting field five or 10 years from now?

JB: “I’m always open to new challenges to keep my excitement level up. What I want to add to the mix is more work in the news division. I enjoyed doing the Michael Vick story for “60 Minutes” and my aim is to add more things like that. When something in news to the mix. Having worked at HBO with ‘Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,’ that was a great experience. But moving back to CBS and then Showtime (for ‘Inside the NFL’), I had to give up the HBO job. I’ve been blessed to do the NFL, NBA, Super Bowls, NCAA Final Four and a Winter Olympics … I’d love someday to work on a Summer Olympics and NCAA Final Four.”

The rest of the media notes:

== Great job by Ernie Johnson, who had his own battle with lymphoma, who did this interview with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a day after it was announced he has leukemia:

NBA TV talks to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Nov. 10, 2009 from Turner Sports on Vimeo.

On to what seem to be much more trivial matters:

== CBS says its Sunday NFL pregame show (hosted by JB) will include Frank Luntz, an “expert in communication and pioneer of the ‘Instant Response’ focus group” who will try to determine which coaches and players could run for political office and which would serve themselves best by not ever speaking based on their sound bites. Does that also apply with NFL studio analysts (i.e., Shannon Sharpe)?


== UCLA’s college basketball season opener at Pauley Pavilion against Cal State Fullerton (Monday, 9 p.m., with Dave Pasch and Doris Burke) launches ESPN’s 12-game, 24-hour “Tip-Off Marathon” (including ESPN2, ESPNU and that put some schools and players in ridiculous circumstances all for the lure of national TV exposure and the illusion of being apart of something greater than the game.

Because of this bizzarness stretching five time zones, Pasch and Burke not only call the opener, but also the closer — Tuesday, 8:30 p.m., from Tempe, Ariz., on ESPN2, with a matchup in the NIT preseason event that’s based on Monday’s results — it could be Cal State Northridge (which plays TCU in the opener) against Arizona State.

The most intrusive time windows include an 11 p.m. tipoff for San Diego State at St. Mary’s on Monday, and Hawaii hosting Northern Colorado at 10 p.m. local time (1 a.m. PDT/4 a.m. EDT) but that’s more the college kid’s body clock schedule than having to have games played with a 6 a.m. (Monmouth at St. Peter’s) and 8 a.m. (Drexel at Niagara) live tipoff — a first for ESPN after more than 8,200 live college basketball games over the last 30 years.

Among the broadcasters participating are Bob Knight (doing analysis on Arkansas-Louisville from St. Louis at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN2), Dick Vitale (on Memphis-Kansas from St. Louis at 7 p.m., Tuesday, ESPN) and Steve Lavin (doing analysis on Gonzaga-Michigan State, ESPN, 5 p.m. Tuesday). Eric Collins has Clemson-Liberty (10 a.m. local tip), Dan Shulman calls two games in the stretch (both Arkansas-Louisville and Memphis-Kansas) and Pam Ward calls two womens’ games (both from a tournament in San Antonio).

== The 250-plus women’s college basketball schedule on the ESPN family of nets actually begins Sunday with Baylor facing Tennessee (2 p.m., ESPN2, with Dave O’Brien, Carolyn Peck and Rebecca Lobo). Carol Stiff, the senior director of programming and acquisitions for ESPN’s groups, says the fact there is so many women’s games scheduled this season is reason to classify the women’s game as “healthy … We’re committing our resources … I think that bodes well for the game. There’s plenty of talent being cultivated and coming through the ranks. We have players that stay with us for four years. The sport is taking all steps in the right direction to grow this game for years to come.”

== We’d be remiss if we didn’t include the news that Jason Stewart’s new movie with Gina Gershon in “Ann Rule’s Everything She Always Wanted” (info linked here) airs on Lifetime this weekend — Part I Saturday at 5 p.m. and Part II Sunday at 5 p.m.. Gershon will be a guest on Jim Rome’s syndicated radio show today (9 a.m. to noon) to talk about her harrowing experience with longtime Rome call screener JStew.

== Tracy Austin returns as host of Tennis Channel’s “Academy” show that starts again Sunday at 3:30 p.m. More info: Espisode one goes to Ft. Lauderdale for focus on Harold Solomon, former U.S. Davis Cup winner and coach of such stars as Jim Courier, Jennifer Capriati, Monica Seles and current No. 5 singles player Elena Dementieva.

== Jim Barbar and Mac McCausland — Google ’em if you need to check their credentials — call tonight’s CSUN-Purdue college basketball game for (4 p.m.).


THE NFL ON CBS, home of Super Bowl XLIV and broadcasting its Golden Anniversary 50th year of the NFL, continues its 2009 NFL season on Sunday, Nov. 15 (1:00-7:00 PM, ET) beginning with THE NFL TODAY (12:00 Noon-1:00 PM, ET).

This week THE NFL TODAY welcomes expert in communication and pioneer of the “Instant Response” focus group, Frank Luntz, in the studio to rate sound bites of several coaches and players. Based on his expertise Luntz will answer, “What NFL coach should run for political office?” and “What controversial NFL star player is better off keeping his mouth shut?”

James Brown hosts THE NFL TODAY along with analysts Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason, Shannon Sharpe and Bill Cowher, NFL TODAY “General Manager” Charley Casserly, as well as Lesley Visser and Sam Ryan reporting.

== That overseas England exhibition kickball game on Saturday that David Beckham is missing because of his committment to getting the Galaxy to the MLS Cup airs on Fox Soccer Channel — Brazil vs. England in Quatar, 9 a.m., right after the U.S.-Slovakia friendly at 7 a.m.


== The last two episodes of “Mayne Street” go yard, with Ben Stiller’s appearance that debuted this week — chomp, chomp …

… and if you missed Jimmy Kimmel (“Are you really on television any more?”) the week before:

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