The Media Learning Curve: July 23-30


New Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott doesn’t have many more details in his attempt to launch a network for his business partners so they can publicize their sporting events and make money. It just seems as if he’s got new ideas on how it will come about, most likely in 2012, based on some recent media reports.

“We’re not that far along in our planning,” Scott told the New York Times this week (linked here).

Yet, in taking his message to the East Coast earlier this week before Thursday’s gathering at the Rose Bowl for Pac-10 media day, Scott told the paper that a Pac-10 Network would be similiar to the one the Big Ten started in 2007, but with more “quality” games than those that are currently farmed out to ESPN or Fox Sports Net for bigger paydays and viewership.

Adding Utah and Colorado to the conference next year will automatically increase the TV households from 16 million to 18.5 million.

Scott also told Darren Rovell at CNBC (linked here) that he has has done plenty of due diligence about creating the network, including a visit with Big Ten Network chied Mark Silverman.

“I went through the whole process and understood that it’s not as profitable to the partners as people think because you do have to invest in the production and distribution of all the other sports,” said Scott.

That said, the Pac-10 network would be more of a marketing tool than something seen as a money maker right away.

“UCLA has had more titles than any other school, Stanford is always competing for the Director’s Cup … A network would create more awareness and understanding of how powerful and balanced our conference really is among all sports, Scott told CNBC.

Scott also appeared on ESPN’s “College Football Live” to talk about how Utah and Colorado give the soon-to-be-Pac-12 a time zone closer to the East for many starts.

“We’re the only conference that could be late-night East Coast exclusively,” he said. “I think you are going to see us willing to play in more different kinds of time windows. That’s one step. The other thing we’ve got to do is obviously get more exposure for the programs outside of USC.”

Yup, it always comes around to USC.

Some of the other media notes after today’s column (linked here) that are worth packing in:


== Thanks to the Sports Business Daily, here’s a roundup of some of the things written right after it was apparent that pulled Arash Markazi’s story on the LeBron James Las Vegas party:

Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard on ESPN’s own “Pardon the Interruption”: “The way the relationship is with LeBron James though, and this network’s relationship after ‘The Decision,’ makes it complicated because there is the perception that ESPN is in bed with him. Now you bring more attention to the story when you pull it. You bring more attention than if you had just run it and left it alone because it’s a pretty harmless piece.”

Boston Globe media critic Mark Leccese: “First of all: Wow. Not ‘wow’ that James behaved badly. … It’s that ESPN pulled the thing … (it) “exposes ESPN as a positive publicity machine for James and the NBA and damages its reputation as a news provider. … It’s not a little, dumb thing — it is a manifestation of ESPN’s corporate values. … Other than fear of libel suit, the only possible reasons to pull the story are 1) the editors don’t trust the reporter (doubtful); and 2) to avoid offending James or the NBA.”

== Newday’s Neil Best: “This was’s call. But why? The story was kind of interesting and offered insights into ‘Entourage’ in real life.”

== The Desert News’ Jamshid Ghazi Askar: “Color ESPN as officially beholden to Bron-Bron.”

== The N.Y. Observer’s Zeke Turner: “Unless’s editors can show evidence that there are errors in the piece, this was a terrible mistake. Their motives, to say the least, are suspect.”

== The Sporting News’ Chris Littmann: “Right now I’ve got to think @ArashMarkazi feels a little bit like William Miller in ‘Almost Famous.'” He added: “But isn’t this just classic? Like the Jordan Crawford dunk video, the decision to yank/hide this will attract more attention than the story.”

== Yahoo Sports’ Kelly Dwyer: “I’m sorry, but when Arash Markazi is too edgy and critical of athletes for your taste, it’s time to look in the mirror, ESPN.”

== Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy: “At least the ombudsman has something to write about next time.”

==’s Bethlehem Shoals: “Iin this climate, Arash’s piece was bound to come off as salacious, even inflammatory, and stand their ground accordingly. … In between ‘The Decision’ and The Cover-Up, there was, simply, The Mistake. … (James’ reps) “should have known better … this depiction of LeBron simply reinforces everything nasty said about him this summer.”

A story on this in today’s New York Times (linked here) goes much more indepth about the timeline of what happened, and how Markazi presented himself.


== Fox and ESPN have taken custody of the Dodgers-Giants games on Saturday (1 p.m., Channel 11, with Kenny Albert, Eric Karros and Chris Rose) and Sunday (5 p.m., ESPN, with Jon Miller, Joe Morgan and Orel Hershiser). Fox reporter Ken Rosenthal, who will be monitoring all the trade rumors happening on the trading deadline, will be at Fox’s Detroit-Boston game (going to 37 percent of the country, with Dick Stockton and Mark Grace). The most seen game for Fox on Saturday is Atlanta-Cincinnati (with Thom Brennaman and Kevin Millar, to 42 percent). TBS’s Sunday morning game (10:30 a.m.) goes with the Yankees-Rays from Tampa with Ernie Johnson, Buck Martinez and Dennis Eckersley. MLB Network also has Yankees-Rays on Saturday at 4 p.m.


Meanwhile, the MLB Network plans to air five hours of live trade deadline coverage on Saturday starting at 8 a.m. with Peter Gammons, John Hart, Jon Heyman, Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci. It leads into a countdown as the “40 Most Memorable Trades in MLB History” documentary starting at 3 p.m.
ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” has a trade deadline show starting at 9 p.m. Saturday with Tim Kurkjian, Buster Olney, J.P. Ricciardi and Eduardo Perez.

== The benefit of catching MLB Network: During Wednesday’s “MLB Tonight Live,” the “ballpark cam” system that is in place for the “Batting Practice Live” daily shows at all stadiums captured Joel Pineiro warming up about before his scheduled 12:35 p.m. start for the Angels against Boston at Angel Stadium. There was a slight delay as the trainer approached Pineiro at about 12:25 p.m., but then it was live when Pineiro had been scratched and Scot Shields started warming up at 12:29 p.m.

== Jim Lampley, Emanuel Steward and Harold Lederman will call Saturday’s HBO PPV bout ($49.95) of Juan Manuel “Dinamita” Marquez’s rematch against Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz. It starts at 6 p.m. from Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.


== Versus has its second live UFC fight Sunday, 6 p.m., from the San Diego Sports Arena matching light heavyweight Jon “Bones” Jones (in the red trunks) and Vladimir Matyushenko. Versus’ first UFC live fight on March 21 averaged 1.24 million viewers. A new wrinkle: At least six commercials presented during the telecast will run split-screen, to not interrupt the coverage over seeing fighters in their corners and in the locker room (they will not air during fight action). It is similar to what Versus does during its IRL coverage.

== Former ESPN head of programming and production Mark Shapiro has been hired by the NFL Network by his old boss, Steve Bornstein, to consult for ways of improving the league-owned network’s game-day presentation. Shapiro left ESPN in 2005 to join Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and run Six Flags amusement parks, and he’s currently president of Dick Clark Productions. The NFL Network has already announced this week that Fox’s Daryl Johnston and Jay Glazer will be part of its studio shows.



==’s Richard Deitsch (linked here) reports more on the upcoming ESPN book by Tom Shales and Jim Miller — it has a title. “Those Guys Have All The Fun: Inside the World of ESPN” will come out early next year and goes all the way up to the LeBron James “The Decision” show earlier this month. Miller says in Deitsch’s story that of the 472 subjects interviewed over the last two years, there were three different types of people among the current and former ESPN employees.
“The first type is the person who says, ‘I love or loved being at ESPN. It was the greatest experience of my life. What can I tell you?'” said Miller. “The second person says, ‘It’s a great place but it certainly has its challenges and problems and I’ll be happy to share both.’ Then there’s the third person who is resentful and angry and was maybe even scorned.
“I think there are many people there looking forward to the book, and I think there are many people wondering, ‘Can we trust these guys? ‘What are they up to? Are they out to get us?”
ESPN officials respectfully declined to cooperate with the book.. Said ESPN Senior VP/Corporate Communications Chris LaPlaca: “Two primiary reasons: First, time. Officially devoting company resources to a book of this proportion was a concern. Secondly, our general policy is not to officially ‘endorse’ any publication.”

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Coming Friday: Arash to judgment?


The last couple of days have been interesting to watch the process by which ESPN has decided not to run a story written by reporter Arash Markasi about a party he attended with LeBron James in Las Vegas.

Within the last hour, ESPN announced it would not run the story after meeting upon meeting about what happened. They decided that Markasi did not identify himself as a reporter at the party, thus, the material was not collected on the up and up.

“ will not be posting the story in any form,” said Rob King, Vice President & Editor-in-Chief of ESPN Digital Media, in a statement. “We looked into the situation thoroughly and found that Arash did not properly identify himself as a reporter or clearly state his intentions to write a story. As a result, we are not comfortable with the content, even in an edited version, because of the manner in which the story was reported.
“We’ve been discussing the situation with Arash and he completely understands. To be clear, the decisions to pull the prematurely published story and then not to run it were made completely by ESPN editorial staff without influence from any outside party.”


Markazi then offered this official statement: “I have been in conversations with’s editors and, upon their complete review, understand their decision not to run the story. It is important to note that I stand by the accuracy of the story in its entirety, but should have been clearer in representing my intent to write about the events I observed.”

The story was never posted, either on or on ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz explained that it was “posted on the server and accessible through searches only during the period it was up. That has also been widely misunderstood.”

So, for those who haven’t seen it, it’s been accessable through various sources (linked here). This draft of Markasi’s story, as described by Will Leitch on his New York magazine blog (linked here), “might not have been the most artful thing we’d ever read, but Markazi — a friendly, competent fellow known for rather cozy relationships with athletes — had almost otherworldly access, a fleeting glimpse behind the curtain of How Superstar Athletes Live. It’s little wonder ESPN spiked it.”

It included this excerpt:

“(Maverick) Carter, LeBron’s’ childhood friend and manager, begins dancing around James like Puff Daddy in a Notorious B.I.G video. A giant red crown-shaped cake is brought over to James while go-go dancers dressed in skimpy red and black outfits raise four lettered placards that spell out, “KING.” Carter grabs a bottle of Grey Goose and pours a quarter of it on the floor and raises it up before passing it off.”

“Just enough pseudo-embarrassing stuff that it was inevitable ESPN would spike the story,” writes Leitch.

Sure, it looks bad. Like ESPN is protecting James, in light of being in kahoots with his “Decision” on their network just a few weeks ago, and so much backlash involved there.

Our take? We’re still processing, and will have more about it in Friday’s media column.

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The next batch of ESPN ’30 For 30′ documentaries

The fall schedule for ESPN Films’ “30 For 30” series includes:


== Tuesday, Aug. 24, 5 p.m. – Jordan Rides the Bus (Ron Shelton): Michael Jordan walks away from the NBA in 1993, joins the White Sox’s minor-league Birmingham Barons, with manager Terry Francona, and tries to figure out life. Why did he do it? The man who made the movie “Bull Durham” takes a crack at it.

== Tuesday, Aug. 31, 5 p.m. – Little Big Men (Al Szymanski and Peter Franchella): On August 28, 1982, Cody Webster and friends from Kirkland, Wash., went to the Little League World Series. Whatever happened to them?

== Tuesday, Sept. 7, 5 p.m. – One Night in Vegas (Reggie Bythewood):
On September 7, 1996, WBC heavyweight champ Mike Tyson fought Bruce Seldon at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Afterward, Tyson was supposed to meet with his friend, rapper Tupac Shakur. But Shakur never arrived. He was gunned down.

== Tuesday, Sept. 14, 5 p.m. – Unmatched (Directors: Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern Winters; Producer: Hannah Storm): Eighty times, Chris Evert faced Martina Navratilova. The first time when only a few hundred spectators saw the 18-year-old Evert face the 16-year-old Czech in 1973. Now they tell the story of their rivalry.

== Tuesday, Sept. 21, 5 p.m. – The House of Steinbrenner (Barbara Kopple): Two-time Oscar-winning filmmaker Kopple documents the historic moment of transition for the Yankees as they moved into a new stadium and won the World Series.


== Tuesday, Sept. 28, 5 p.m. – Into The Wind (Steve Nash): The NBA All-Star guard shares the 1980 story of Terry Fox and his fight againts bone cancer by running across Canada.

== Tuesday, Oct. 5, 5 p.m. – Four Days in October (Major League Baseball Productions): With the Yankees leading the Red Sox three games to none in the 2004 ALCS, and up 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth in Game 4 against Mariano Rivera, was there any hope that Boston could come back, then win the World Series?

== Tuesday, Oct. 12, 5 pm. – Once Brothers (NBA Entertainment): Drazen Petrovic and Vlade Divac were two friends who grew up together sharing the common bond of basketball in Yugoslavia, then in the NBA. Then the country split into Croatia and Serbia during a war. Then, on the fateful night of June 7, 1993, Drazen Petrovic was killed in an auto accident before they had a chance to reconcile.

== Tuesday, Oct. 19, 5 p.m. – Tim Richmond: To the Limit (Rory Karpf ): The rock-star NASCAR driver of the 1980s came to grips with AIDS. Although he returned to race in 1987, he was gone the next year and died on Aug. 13, 1989 at age 34.


== Tuesday, Oct. 26, 5 p.m. – Steve Bartman: Catching Hell (Alex Gibney) : Did he curse the Cubs during NLCS Game 6 when Moises Alou couldn’t catch the foul ball down the left-field line? He released an apology, but he remains ostracized from a community he lives in and a team he once loved. Oscar-winning documentarian Gibney relates the scapegoat compulsion to his own frustration as a Red Sox fan when Bill Buckner was similarly singled out for letting a fateful ground ball go through his legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Gibney engages Buckner and his story as a means of exploring what has kept Bartman so silent despite highly lucrative offers to tell his side of the story.


== Tuesday, Nov. 2, 5 p.m. – Marion Jones: Press Pause (John Singleton) : The former Thousand Oaks High sprinter, who denied for years speculation of performance enhancing drugs, admitted to doing it in 2007, went to prison for six months and saw her Olympic achivements erase. She takes time to reflect on all that with the Oscar-nominated director.

== Tuesday, Nov. 9, 5 p.m. – Pony Excess (Thaddeus D. Matula): Southern Methodist University had the best record in college football from 1981-84, with the “Pony Express” backfield of Eric Dickerson and Craig James. Then the program came apart, and the NCAA, on February 25, 1987, handed it the “death penalty” for the first and only time in history. No football for two years. How long did it take the program to recover? Not until it won the 2009 Hawaii Bowl, maybe. SMU film school grad Matula documents it.

== Saturday, Dec. 11, 5 p.m. – The Best That Never Was (Jonathan Hock): The two-hour documentary will look at the football career of running back Marcus Dupree, and how he used football later to redeem himself.

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We found Roy Firestone to be pretty much the same as when we lost him

So — not that anyone really has been asking — but whatever happened to Roy Firestone?

It’s a story we’ve considered pursuing the last few years. For some reason or another, found something better to write about. Not better, as in content. But better, in that, we sort of knew the answer, and weren’t that compelled to let you know about it.

We’d see some ads in our own paper publicizing a show he was doing somewhere, and someone would say, “Let’s go down and see it!”


So, again, what’s he been up to? Sports Illustrated to the rescue, in its latest edition.


Time was, you couldn’t get enough of “Mr. Saturday Afternoon” — the nickname I gave him once upon a time. Not quite up to the Billy Crystal character in the movie “Mr. Saturday Night,” but an incredible simulation.

The longtime Encino resident turned his sportscasting career into that of a smaltzy nightclub performer, very self-indulgent. He reinvented himself into some kind of pre-karaoke singer mixed in with impressions, stories about himself and motivational talks to corporations looking for a “sports guy” who could really entertain their employees.

“Roy Firestone is one of the nation’s most sought after live corporate performers, keynote speakers and lecturers.” It says so on his website.

He made it work. Somehow. And still does. Somehow.

Roy, roy, roy ….

(It also begs the question: Whatever happened to Joe Piscopo?)


Stop your crying, Rod Tidwell. Show me the current issue of SI.

The latest “Where Are They Now?” issue includes a piece by Lee Jenkins on how it’s a crying shame that Firestone doesn’t have an interview show any more.

And Roy, it seems, wants to get back into the game. He wants his own sports show again. He says so, not so subtly, in the story — which also mentions that his youngest son plays basketball at Harvard-Westlake.

Writes Jenkins: “He was a creation of the explosion in sports media and a casualty of it. While in the ’80s fans were still being introduced to players as people, by the mid-’90s there was a sense we knew it all …. That Firestone wants a show and does not have one is less a statement about him than about the industry. Despite the overwhelming demand for access to athletes, no long-form sports interview show exists anymore.”

The former KCBS-Channel 2 sports anchor (’77-’85), overlapping with 10 years on ESPN’s “Up Close” (’80-’90), where he interviewed about 5,000 athletes — many of which can be seen on ESPN Classic’s “Up Close Classics.” He also had that time on the USA Network with “Sports Look,” which we can even remember Ira Fistel contributing.

Remember when Firestone was actually a game analyst on ESPN “Sunday Night Football” in the late ’80s? Us neither.

If you have an iPad with the SI “Inside Report,” you can watch anchor Maggie Gray interview Firestone “about his life and legacy,” according to the SI release.

Legacy? That might be two books he’s written and a CD he’s produced as well.


Easier to access, if you miss him that much, he’s got his own website (linked here, with a creepy intro), which reveals he has a performance on Aug. 18, 8 p.m., at the Typhoon Restaurant at the Santa Monica Airport.

And seriously, click on the music and books link and there are 10 songs you can hear Roy sing. Not karaoke. Like “Whenever You Call Me, I’ll Be There … I’ll Be Around.”

Yup, he’s around. Just call him. Please.

Now, it’s on to flipping over in the SI issue to the story about the 30th anniversary of “Caddyshack.”

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Ted Sobel’s excellent adventure abroad


KFWB reporter Ted Sobel interviews Tiger Woods after the final round of the British Open on July 18.

Ted Sobel’s excellent adventure in Europe last week could have been better.

“If not for getting sick, it would have been really amazing,” said the sports reporter for KFWB-AM (980) and KNX-AM (1070), whose recent working vacation included covering the semifinals and finals at Wimbledon in England, the entire British Open golf tournament in Scotland and even filing a report on the Tour de France from his hotel room in Paris during a three-week stretch.


A bad cough he picked up on the first day of his stop at Wimbledon, where he interviewed Serena Williams after her women’s title, led to him visiting a hospital in Italy about a week later, which was just two days before he flew to Scotland.

Still, the trip of a sports reporter’s lifetime was worth it.

“I’d been thinking about doing this for a handful of years, and one day, after looking at the schedule, then scrambling to get the credentials, it happened,” said Sobel, who was gone from June 30 to July 20, using the days in between the sporting events to visit spots in Italy.


The highlight: During the wind delay in the second round of the British Open, Sobel said Phil Mickelson, who had just finished his round, took him aside to talk off the record about how upset he was about the stoppage of play, which could have helped him move up the leaderboard had others been forced to still play through it while he then sat on the cut line.

“It was just so funny how he suddenly started confiding in me for about 10 minutes, just venting,” said Sobel. “All off the record.”

Sobel paraphrased the story when he did one of four reports to KFWB’s morning shows, giving sports anchor Bret Lewis material to work with.

Once Sobel returned to his Sherman Oaks home in the middle of last week, the jet lag kicked in.

“I woke up dizzy on Wednesday morning, and I’m sitting up in the dark, it’s 4 a.m., I’m looking around, and I think, ‘I’m in France,’ and nothing familiar,” he said. “Then I stood up, turned on a light . . . wait a minute, I’m home.”

And after getting some sleep, he was out at Dodger Stadium that night collecting interview audio for the climax of the Dodgers-Giants series.

This week, Sobel has been filing reports at the ATP tennis event from UCLA — as well as acting as the court announcer and doing a play-by-play telecast that can be heard by spectators through a local radio feed.

“Nothing much has changed – I’ve been non-stop ever since,” he said.

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