The Media Learning Curve: Aug. 20-27

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Denver Post sports columnist Dave Kreiger is tired of being singled out as working with a bunch of idiots.

So here’s a dumb idea: Strength in numbers. Odd, even or prime.

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In his latest column (linked here), he suggests starting a new media organization called “Dumbest Guys in the Room.”

“This organization is open to men, women and any other primates capable of composing an e-mail. Applications for membership should be sent to dumbestguysintheroom@gmx.com.”

Why?

“The mission of Dumbest Guys in the Room will be to restore sports media’s good name. Or give it a good name for the first time. Whichever.

“It will not be an easy task. The media in general already rank down there with mortgage brokers, politicians and Lindsay Lohan in public esteem. On the bright side, the fact that I just mentioned Lindsay Lohan should improve the search-engine optimization of this column.

“The deterioration of our reputation is easier to figure out than the solution. To stem declines in readership and viewership, we embraced provocation and sensation because provocative and sensational sell better than considered and correct. Political parties are discovering pretty much the same thing.”

It concludes, for those too dumb to click on that link above and read it for yourself, thus giving the newspaper another click on its website so someone counting beans and quantifying current Internet ad revenue possibilities will have something to do:

“It’s a zoo out there. There are shrill, self-righteous arbiters of human behavior such as ESPN’s (Jay) Mariotti; thoughtful, self-conscious judges such as (Miami Herald columnist Dan) Le Batard; and thousands of writers and editors doing their best to be considered and correct. It is little different from the sprawling range of behavior among doctors, lawyers and, yes, even Internet entrepreneurs.

“It is, in short, the spectrum of human nature, from glorious to hideous. I think I can report with a fair degree of certainty that this variety is not unique to our business. But it is true that provocative and sensational get a disproportionate share of the attention.

“We can do better. And even if we are the Dumbest Guys in the Room, we aim to try.”

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Not a dumb idea at all. Who but us to clean up our image?

Maybe we should start by issuing Smart Phones to all the smart alecks out there who have remained in this profession rather than thrown in the towel, or started a bed and breakfast somewhere in Oxnard-annex.

What else you need to know in the media world aside from today’s column (linked here):

== Derek Fisher is the guest host today on ESPN”s “Jim Rome Is Burning” (1:30 p.m.) and his in-studio guest: Kobe Bryant.

== John McEnroe, speak (linked here).

== CBS’ NFL broadcasting lineup includes paring Lakers radio play-by-play man Spero Dedes with former Crespi High and UCLA star Randy Cross on regional games. Dedes’ first three assignments: Cleveland at Tampa Bay (Sept. 12); Buffalo at Green Bay (Sept. 19) and Oakland at Arizona (Sept. 26).

The rest of the CBS teams: Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf, Ian Eagle (replacing Dick Enberg) and Dan Fouts, Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots, Gus Johnson and Steve Tasker, Bill Macatee and Rich Gannon, and Don Criqui with Steve Beuerlein.

== Pam Ward and Doris Burke will call the Sparks’ WNBA playoff game against Seattle (Saturday, noon, Staples Center, ESPN2).

== Showtime confirmed that “Inside the NFL” will return with James Brown, Cris Collinsworth, Phil Simms and Warren Sapp, starting Wednesday, Sept. 8 at 10 p.m.

== NBC’s coverage of the U.S. Amateur golf championship from Washington goes Saturday and Sunday from 1-3 p.m. Dan Hicks, Gary Koch, Roger Maltbie and Dottie Pepper will do it. As the leadins: NBC also has the highlights from U.S. Open of Surfing championship from Huntington Beach on Saturday (noon, Channel 4) hosted by Pat Parnell, while Paul Sunderland is joined by Ato Boldon, Lewis Johnson and Dwight Stones on the taped coverage of the Diamond League Track and Field event Sunday (noon, Channel 4) from Brussels, Belgium.

== CBS has Bill Macatee and Mary Carillo at the final of the WTA’s Pilot Pen Tennis event from New Haven, Conn. (Channel 2, 11 a.m., Sunday), the final women’s tournament before the U.S. Open.

== The Baseball Hall of Fame will begin posting candidates for its 2011 Ford C. Frick Award given to a broadcaster. From Sept. 1-30, fans can vote through the museum’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/baseballhall) to pick three candidates that will be included on the final 10-name ballot for the award, which is voted on by a 20-member panel that includes Vin Scully, Jaime Jarrin and Jerry Coleman and will be announced in December.

== Fox goes with Philadelphia at San Diego (Saturday, 1 p.m., Channel 11) with Josh Lewis and Eric Karros as its MLB Game of the Week. ESPN’s Sunday game: Boston at Tampa Bay; TBS takes N.Y. Yankees at Chicago White Sox at 11 a.m. Sunday.

== A reminder: A celebration of the life of former Kings colorman and L.A. radio legend Dan Avey will be today in the Empire Room at the Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City from 4-7 p.m.

AND FINALLY:

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AOL’s FanHouse announced Thursday morning that it has suspended columnist Jay Mariotti indefinitely following his weekend arrest on suspicion of felony domestic assault.

FanHouse told Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch (linked here): “We are continuing to gather all the facts. In the meantime, we have suspended Jay Mariotti and are not featuring any new work from him.”

Also, Mariotti won’t be on ESPN’s “Around The Horn” ianytime soon. The show has been thankfully off the air this week with the Little League World Series coverage, and an ESPN spokesman said Mariotti is “not scheduled” for next week. Mariotti had also been subbing on local ESPN affiliate, KSPN-AM (710) in the last few weeks. Not that we know much more than that, because whenever we heard his voice, we’d switch to NPR.

Earlier this week, Deitsch examined the sort of glee that some blogs are experiencing in “reporting” on this Mariotti story (linked here).

On our radar, like Glenn Beck, we’ve tuned Mariotti out months ago. Nothing gained, nothing lost. Not even the irony of this whole mess, and its message, is amusing enough to muse about. Except to say: Karma.

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Coming Friday: John Brenkus, crash-testing the party

Friday’s media column sends us to a warehouse near the Bob Hope Airport runway in Burbank, to BASE Production studios, where Calabasas’ John Brenkus breaks it down on how his “Sport Science” works.

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You’ve seen him act as his own crash-test dummy, first in the weekly series that started (and still runs) on Fox Sports Net, and now in the speciality-made segments that ESPN finds a way to get into their live-game action or on “SportsCenter” hits.

Check out the video above of the 5-foot-8, 160-pounder getting pounded from all angles in the name of science.

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In actuality, it’s like a more scientific verson of “Pros Vs. Joes,” where Brenkus acts as the better-than-average weekend warrior, but when put up against the professional, his lack of necessary abilities are painfully exposed. And it puts everything, hopefully, into better context.

Like, what would it be like to be hit off the line by Ndamukong Suh? Or, be taken into submission — literally choked out — by an MMA star like Gina Carano? Or have an attack dog attack him, simulating what Evander Holyfield may have felt having his ear chomped on by Mike Tyson?

A baseball to the gonads may not be as pleasant as G-forces taken in a fighter jet, but you get the picture. It’s pain.

One of the experiments you can see on tonight’s ESPN Indianapolis-Green Bay exhibition game at halftime is a breakdown on how Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney puts his spin move on an opponent (linked here).

With Brenkus along for the ride.

“It’s really counter-intuiative to see a 270-pound guy not just doing a spin move and turning his back on the opponent, but then he leaves his feet — two things a coach will tell you to never do,” said Brenkus of the Freeney piece. “We found out that when he’s spinning, based on his weight and angular velocity, he’s going as fast as an Olympic ice skater doing a double-toe loop. And that’s what that creates his space. It’s hard enough for a blocker to keep Freeney in front of him. But then he leaves his feet, and you ask, ‘Why?’

“We sensored him up to measure his spin and then we figured out the force of his hit — on me. It was pretty outrageous.”

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Brenkus also has a new book coming out next week, “The Perfection Point: Sport Science Predicts the Fastest Man, The Highest jump and the Limits of Athletic Performance” (Harper, $26.99. 242 pages), which can be pre-ordered online before its Sept. 1 release (linked here).

== Brenkus’ ESPN “Sport Science” website (linked here)

== More background on the “Sport Science” show (linked here)

== Brenkus’ BASE Productions website (linked here), which also produces programming for many other TV networks, and is responsible for the New Year’s Eve extreme sports programming on ESPN.

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Things can get a little squirrely when the balls come flying back on the field

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The Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. — A fan has been banned for life from Richmond Flying Squirrels home games after a foul ball he threw back onto the field hit the opposing team’s pitcher as he stood on the mound.

The ball thrown from the upper deck along the third base line struck Reading Phillies pitcher J.C. Ramirez in the left leg Tuesday night.

The Double-A game was stopped briefly and the unidentified fan was removed. Ramirez remained in the game but gave up RBI singles to the next two hitters before leaving.

Flying Squirrels spokesman Anthony Oppermann declined to identify the fan.

“One of the ground rules for the stadium is you can’t throw objects onto the field at any time,” Oppermann said. “He threw a ball onto the field, and worse yet it struck a player.”

Ramirez, a 22-year-old prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies organization, said he hadn’t decided whether to press charges.

Todd Parnell, the Squirrels’ vice president and chief operating officer, said the fan told stadium security he’d seen balls thrown back on the field following opponents’ home runs at Chicago Cubs games and that he wasn’t trying to hit anybody.

“But the bottom line is the field is sacred,” Parnell said. “That shouldn’t happen, and it won’t happen here. We won’t tolerate it.”

An e-mail apology was forwarded from the fan to Reading’s manager, Parnell said. The Squirrels didn’t disclose the fan’s identity and Reading spokesman Tommy Viola didn’t immediately return a telephone message.

In addition to the lifetime ban, the fan also cannot attend any other event at the Richmond ballpark.

“Our fans have been tremendous,” Oppermann said. “I think they realize that was just poor judgment by one fan. I don’t think in any way it embodies what our fans are like here in Richmond.”

Director of broadcasting Jon Laaser suggested that if fans are lucky enough to catch a foul ball, “put it in your pocket and cherish the souvenir.”

Richmond, an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, is in its debut season.

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How Matt Kemp has impressed his predecessors with his H ‘n’ H … not a higgledy-piggledy effort?

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AP Photo/Danny Moloshok

First two words that pop into your allerative head with describing the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp?

Alphabetically, potential and perplexing rank below heart and hustle, but they can easily be transposed.

The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association begs to differ.

That group, according to a press release that landed in the in-box, is “pleased to announce” that Kemp is the winner of the Dodgers’ “Heart and Hustle Award,” which will be presented to him by Maury Wills in a pregame ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 4.

Directly, again, from the MLBPAA press release about how they will honor Kemp:

“This esteemed award honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit, and tradition of the game. The MLBPAA formed 30 committees, comprised of Alumni players with established relationships to each team. One player from each Major League team is chosen by the committees based on the passion, desire, and work ethic demonstrated both on and off the field. These players will be recognized prior to an upcoming home game. As the season draws to a close, all Alumni and active players will vote to select the final winner from the 30 team winners. The previous overall winners are David Eckstein (2005), Craig Biggio (2006, 2007), Grady Sizemore (2008), and Albert Pujols (2009).”

The final winner will be announced Nov. 5 at the 11th Annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York.

Please, let it be Kemp.

We come not to bash him, but …

Did you see him the other night in Milwaukee square around to bunt, flinch backward, have the ball hit the bat and actually put the bunt down, but Kemp took one step toward first, apparently felt stupid, and didn’t run it out while the pitcher fielded the ball, then threw to first to record the out. Not that the pitcher could have overthrown it and allowed Kemp the free base. It was too late. Kemp had already picked up his helmet, felt embarassed, and was talking back to the dugout.

The next night: Kemp, in the batter’s box, decides the pitcher has taken too long to deliver the pitch, so he waves to the ump to call time, then steps out of the box. The umpire takes some offense to this. And takes his mask off. He explains to Kemp: You can request the time out, but I have to grant it. If the pitcher stops like he just did, that’s a balk, because I never called time out. Understand? After Kemp flied out — recording a sacrifice fly in the process — he had words again with the ump on the way back, leading to Joe Torre to come out and discuss the situation.

Oh, and Kemp homered in the game to give the Dodgers the lead. The ball, in fact, lodged in the center-field scoreboard:

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AP Photo/Morry Gash

The love of HRs conquers all.

== More on the MLBPAA: www.baseballalumni.com.

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Greed vs. Greed: With a week to go, who to side with in TW vs. ABC/ESPN?

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Once upon a Time Warner Cable, we knew who are enemies were.

Time Warner Cable, for one. ESPN, sometimes. Depending on how much either is trying to throw their power plays around.

A week from now, we’re told, your ESPN channels can disappear from the said cable company because of another dispute. You’re being asked, again, to “roll over or get tough.”

We’ve heard this sad refrain before. Like, last fall. TWC, remember, was supposed to never again air “The Simpsons” when it was in a dispute with Fox. And your Fox Sports Net channels would go away, too. It was a Homer call. It didn’t seem to work.

It’s Burr vs. Hamilton. Except no one’s willing to pull the trigger.

One of the donkeys always give in. And all is calm.

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With Disney as the target this time, we’re just getting goofy all over again.

TWC, which had a reported net income of more than $1 bil last year, says it will pull the plug on all Disney-related channels when the contract expires on Sept. 2. That’s the same day USC opens its football season with a game in Hawaii — ESPN, 8 p.m.

Other cable (Verizon FIOS) and satellite (DirecTV, Dish) services love this. They run full-page ads putting fear into TWC subscribers, with the tag line: Come to us. We wouldn’t think of doing such a thing.

Not now, at least.

We’ve read up on the arguments about subscriber fees, channel designations, transmission fees, basic cable costs, premium tiers, revenue streams, customer service, video on demand, pay-per-view, fiber optics, FCC petitions, retransmission guidelines, consumer advocats, blackouts, net neutrality, preferential treatment, natural competition, broadband influence, monopolies, duopolies and triple casting.

That last one, not really. We just miss the old TripleCast that NBC tried with the 1996 Summer Olympics.

So, what if TWC really did go ahead and follow through with a threat? What if, in the name of consumer watchdogging, it told Disney, sorry, but we’re not going to share this huge pile of money with you this time? We’ll wait it out until you blink.

Not good business? It could be.

There’s a cable system in Indiana that’s been running ads that go this way:

“You’ve probably heard rumblings that ESPN may remove its channels from our lineup. We can think of a few other highly-publicized channel negotiations where the same threats were made. The end result — the channels stayed on, with no interruption for viewers.”

Made you blink.

Over at ihavechoices.com (a site run by Disney), it reads: “It is in the best interests of consumers, as well as both companies, for us to successfully conclude these negotiations before the deadline to avoid interrupting service.”

C’mon. Follow through on this.

If Disney disappeared from TWC, who’d be the real bad guy? Would the consumer care? Would it rebel agains both Disney/ESPN and TWC — switching to a new service, and then boycotting Disney/ESPN?

Makes too much sense. But as a DirecTV customer — happily, for many years — I can say that when the system took away Versus, then brought it back after a long stretch without NHL regular-season coverage, my life wasn’t all that better or worse.

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Just sounds like Dibs being Dibs

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The Associated Press

Washington Nationals TV analyst Rob Dibble will take some time off two days after making comments critical of rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg.

MASN spokesman Todd Webster said Dibble would not work tonight’s game against the Chicago Cubs and is “taking a few days off.” Webster said Dibble requested the time off but did not say whether the absence was related to the comments about Strasburg.

Dibble on Monday lashed out at the young pitcher, who has been placed on the disabled list twice in the last month. Dibble said on Sirius XM Radio that “You can’t have the cavalry come in and save your butt every time you feel a little stiff shoulder, sore elbow.”

The Nationals have been protective of Strasburg, removing him from games when there has been any sign of a possible injury. He is scheduled to have an MRI on Thursday to determine the extent of his latest injury.

Dibble, a former major league reliever, has become known for his off-the-cuff style since joining the MASN booth at the start of last season. He recently apologized for making comments about two women he saw talking nonstop in the stands during a game.

“There must be a sale tomorrow going on here or something,” he said, pointing out the women. “Their husbands are going, ‘Man, don’t bring your wife next time.’”

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The Love of an 90-footer

Again, with the help of John Brenkus’ “Sport Science” show, we wanted to get more on the background of what went into the episode last year when former UCLA star Kevin Love set what is considered the longest basketball shot ever — a 90 footer, in the airplane hanger set up in Hawthorne.

The show was trying to explain how duplicating Baron Davis’ actual made shot in an NBA game — a throw from nearly the end of the 94-foot court — is almost impossible.

The odds: 1,500-to-1. And Love, after hundreds of attempts, over four hours, he hadn’t done it. He proved the theory right. Despite his power and finesse.

“Normally, you have to create some drama, but literally this was the last shot,” said Brenkus. “He shot over and over and over. I had to tell him: ‘You’re costing me so much money. I have to pay all these people. We’ve gotta move on.’ And he says, ‘One more shot.’ And I’m on camera: ‘This is it.’ Go ahead, shoot your little shot, it’s never going in.

“He shot it and made it. We’re like, ‘Oh, my God.’ It was amazing.”

“A shot that long doesn’t go straight. The ball curves. Like every other ball. You can’t throw a ball 90 feet and have it go straight. The force it took him to throw a ball that far — I can only get it past half court. He finally hit it on the last shot. That’s when I knew this show was going well. I want to continue.”

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Nationally, Kings appear to be a bit more appealing … not so much for the Ducks

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The 2010-11 NHL national TV schedule schedule came out today, with the Kings receiving much more favorable attention than in seasons past.

The team from the league’s second-biggest TV market has two appearances on NBC and five more on Versus. The schedule for local cable channel Fox Sports West will come out later.

As it stands now:

Sept. 25 at Minnesota: Versus, 5 p.m.
Dec. 13 at Detroit: Versus, 5 p.m.
January 3 at Chicago: Versus, 6 p.m.
January 17 at Dallas: Versus, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 13 at Philadelphia: 4 p.m., NBC
March 13 at Dallas: Noon, NBC
April 4 at San Jose, Versus, 7 p.m.

On Canada’s CBC, TSN2, RDS he NHL Network, the Kings will appear Oct. 9 at Calgary, Nov. 12 vs. Atlanta, Oct. 25 at Minnesota, Nov. 11 vs. Dallas, Nov. 15 at San Jose, Nov. 24 at Montreal, Dec. 2 vs. Florida, Dec. 13 at Detroit, Jan. 15 vs. Edmonton, Jan. 17 at Dallas, Feb. 2 at Calgary, Feb. 28 vs. Detroit andch 29 at Edmonton.

Versus will carry 78 games this season (13 more than 2009-10) in year six of its contract with the NHL, starting with nine games in the first seven days. It starts with a triple-header on Thursday, Oct. 7 — Carolina-Minnesota from Finland at 9 a.m., Philadelphia-Pittsburgh at 4 p.m. and Colorado-Chicago at 7 p.m. Versus will also do the NHL Hertiage Classic between Montreal and Calgary from McMahon Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. — the first outdoor hockey game in Canada since 2003.

Mike “Doc” Emrick will return as the lead play-by-play man.

Defending-champion Chicago, Detroit, Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh and the N.Y. Rangers made the most appearances on Versus — 11. Buffalo, Minnesota and Philadelphia are on nine times.

The Anaheim Ducks are on just once — Dec. 20 (at Boston, 4:30 p.m.).

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Revisiting the Kobe car jump — it was not the episode when ‘Sport Science’ jumped the shark

Because we spent the afternoon yesterday with John Brenkus, the creator of “Sport Science” for ESPN’s programming, and we see that the episode he did a couple of years ago for Fox Sports Net trying to prove (or disprove) that Kobe Bryant could actually jump over a speeding Aston Martin, we thought it worth a revisit.

And not just to see Rony Turiaf get another laugh out of it.

After the Bryant Nike commercial went viral in April, 2008, Brenkus’ “Sport Science” team tried to replicate it. Were they successful, or did they trick the audience?

“The way we played it was we pretended that (our test athlete) made it, then we pulled back the curtain and showed everyone, this is how we did it (by hooking him up to cables for his own safety),” said Brenkus.

“In the Kobe example, there was probably no cables at all – just have him jump and make it composite of the car driving by, it’s very simple. We didn’t have to have cables here, but we wanted to take it to the next level.

“He absolutely could have done it. Kobe could have done it. Our athlete (a Hollywood stunt man) could have done it. But the timing is so improbable, literally one hundreth of a second margin of error. It’s extraordinary unlikely to do.”

So why risk someone’s life for the sake of proving something on TV?

Find the episode today if you have the package of FSN channels — it’s on at different times on different parts of the country. FSW plans to reair it Saturday at 4 p.m.

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