The Media Learning Curve: Nov. 12-19

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The intersection of “Colin Cowherd” and “TV sit-com” as an Internet search for sanity turned up many strange-ish links, some more disturbing than others in the sports media world this week.

The fact, apparently, that CBS has green-lit a half-hour show based, or not, on his life (depending on who you talk to), would seem to heighten the brand name of the ESPN Radio and “SportsNation” TV show co-host and empower him to believe even more of his status in the world.

He comes off, granted, as a grounded, intelligent purveyor of the world, with sports as its context. But in giving him a show, it almost seems like a desperate case of a book publisher asking a fringe blogger to create a hardcover version of their craft, because there’s a market for multi-media beings and lateral expansion is the best way to cross promote and cash in on all different platforms.

The most troubling piece written on Cowherd this week came from Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch, in his monthly “power rankings” (linked here). Still, ranking him this Top 10 list clearly acknowledges his current rise in the tide. But it’s hardly a flattering endorsement about how Cowherd has led a “character assassination” of Washington Wizards rookie guard John Wall with an incongruent basis of facts.

Wrote Deitsch:

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“I take no issue with Cowherd floating his opinion, even when I disagree with him. .. But there is opinion, and then there is getting your facts wrong, a thesis highlighted by Ted Koppel on Sunday in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post where he cited an environment in which everyone ‘flaunts opinions as though they were facts.’

“Cowherd’s attack on Wall’s supposed unselfishness (“J-Wow’s 37-second ‘Yo dawg look at me I’m the man’ [dance], and his wild, out-of-control style, everybody else is buying his stock, and it told me all I need to know”‘ was not factual. Nor was calling Wall ‘an idiot’ and saying ‘he was not a sharp guy.’ Those are reckless and unfair assertions. After talking to people who actually know Wall, as well as interviewing him myself, I believe that he’s a bright kid who plays the game like a professional. But I’m biased, having actually reported on him.

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“I don’t expect ESPN to call Cowherd out in any meaningful fashion. (Perhaps the current ombudsman will weigh in after his Thanksgiving turkey.) The radio host is liked by ESPN brass and he’s delivered for his employer. He’s also entertaining. But unfair is unfair, so even though this is ultimately providing Cowherd with publicity, bravo to Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post and others such as Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News, Bethlehem Shoals and Tom Ziller of AOL Sports, and Sirius Hardcore radio host Bomani Jones (who said he did not understand why such ‘racially-loaded language’ was used in Cowherd’s riff) for calling him out.

“Do not expect Cowherd to apologize. … Cowherd is charged with getting people to listen to him, and he’s always been honest that his job is to be entertaining and get ratings. But I expect more from someone who has reached the highest level of his profession and has the imprimatur of a powerful brand such as ESPN Radio. Perhaps that makes me an idiot, too. … The Hollywood Reporter reported that Cowherd had sold his life story to CBS for a sitcom deal.”

And, laugh track or not, Cowherd may have the last laugh.

Cowherd also noted in USA Today this week that he’ll have a book out soon, “”little vignettes” he compiled only while flying because “every time I get on a plane, I write.”

Can’t wait for the video game: $h*! our radio sports-talk show host says.

After today’s media column on how people like Cowherd can confuse fact from fiction with the sports consumer these days (lined here), we blather forward:

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== ESPN.com’s Jason Sobel blogged (linked here) on the latest media damage control spin by Tiger Woods that, aside from launching a Twitter account, he “wrote” a first-person op-ed for Newsweek and showed up on the ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning” show Thursday:

“Consider it an all-too-apparent attempt to restore a public image that many considered irreparably damaged. Not that such a strategy is a bad maneuver. Woods’ response to his issues — ranging from complete silence to a globally televised speech to simple, mundane answers to questions — haven’t exactly endeared him to the many fans he’s lost along the way. So it’s best to try a new approach through the use of social media and other avenues.

“One question remains, though: Is it all too little, too late? Don’t count on it. While Woods endured a few hecklers along the way, his winless 2010 season was largely witnessed by galleries that wanted him to succeed. The optimal way for him to win over the remainder of the masses is to, in order, keep his name out of the tabloids and win golf tournaments. He has succeeded at the former as of late, and continues to work on the latter. …

“Woods is now arming himself with the necessary artillery to show that he’s a real human being with thoughts and feelings rather than the automaton we’ve so often seen on golf courses and in front of microphones. The scandal will always remain as a detrimental piece to his legacy, but if he can prove there’s a personality behind the pervading faade, it will go a long way toward restoring his image.”

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== Ian Darke, who did the U.S.-South Africa match earlier this week, will do play-by-play with John Harkes on the FC Dallas-Colorado MLS Cup from Toronto on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Alexi Lalas, who’ll be part of the studio team, admits this isn’t “a matchup many would have predicted, but it’s one with two very good teams that consistently preformed at a high level throughout the season. I don’t think there are underdogs in Major League Soccer, and I’m excited to head up to the Great White North and see it played out.”

As for the fact two Western Conference teams made it to the final for the second year in a row — last year, it was the Galaxy against Salt Lake, Lalas said: “The playoff format is one thing, I don’t care that a Western team won in the Eastern conference. Is it strange? Yeah, but maybe that’s just a matter of renaming the conferences going forward. You have to make sure teams that play well for seven months are properly rewarded and I think they’ll keep tinkering with it, maybe ranking every team one through eight. … I don’t think everything the playoffs are is wrong and I don’t buy into it being horrible that a Western Conference team won the Eastern Conference.”

== How the L.A. NFL TV schedule shapes up over the next seven days:

= Sunday
= 10 a.m., Channel 2: Oakland at Pittsburgh (with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts) instead of Baltimore-Carolina, Houston-N.Y. Jets, Buffalo-Cincinnati and Cleveland-Jacksonville.
= 10 a.m., Channel 11: Green Bay at Minnesota (with Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Pam Oliver), instead of Detroit-Dallas, Washington-Tennessee or Arizona-Kansas City.
= 1 p.m., Channel 2: Indianapolis at New England (with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms). CBS has no other game in this window. Fox also has Seattle-New Orleans, Tampa Bay-San Francisco and Atlanta-St. Louis in this window.
= 5:20 p.m., Channel 4: N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia (with Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Andrea Kremer)

= Monday
= 5:30 p.m., ESPN: Denver at San Diego (with Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden).

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= Thursday (Thanksgiving):
= 9:30 a.m., Channel 2: New England at Detroit (with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms)
= 1:30 p.m., Channel 11: New Orleans at Dallas (with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman)
= 5 p.m., NFL Network: Cincinnati at N.Y. Jets (with Bob Papa, Joe Theismann and Matt Millen).

== ABC will use Mark Neely, the San Diego Padres TV play-by-play man who was replaced this season by Dick Enberg, on the call of USC’s football game at Oregon State (Saturday, 5 p.m.), with analysts Brock Huard and Mike Bellotti. Usually, Carter Blackburn has been doing play-by-play with this team. There are three regional games wedged into this window, meaning the L.A. audience won’t see Nebraska at Texas A&M (with Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit and Heather Cox) or Florida State-Maryland (with Mike Patrick and Craig James).

== NBA TV announced that it will carry Sunday’s game featuring Allen Iverson and his new Besiktas Cola Turka team in Turkey play Fenerbache Ulker in Istanbul, starting at 12:30 p.m. Rick Kamla and Chris Webber will provide the commentary. Iverson scored 15 points in his debut on Nov. 16.

== Not a big surprise that Fox Sports will carry the first Big Ten football championships game on Dec. 3, 2011 in Indianapolis (and do it through 2016). Fox co-owns the Big Ten Network with the conference, a channel that’s now in 75 million homes.

== ESPN has Marty Reid, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree calling the final NASCAR race of the season, the Ford 400 from Miami, to close the Sprint Cup championship. NASCAR Countdown with Allen Bestwick, Rusty Wallace, Ray Evernham and Brad Daugherty starts at 9 a.m. Sunday, with the race at 10 a.m. Qualifying airs today at noon on ESPN2, with the Nationwide Series race (Ford 300) Saturday at 1:45 p.m. on ESPN2.

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== HBO will replay Manny Pacquiao’s decision over Antonio Margarito on Saturday (7 p.m.) as part of its live Sergio Martinez-Paul Williams II middleweight title bout coverage.

== More data from ESPN/ABC coverage of the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 5-6 from Churchill Downs: Final Nielsen data shows that more than 24.3 million people watched some of the two-day event, with the 1.1 overall rating up from 0.6 last year. The Zenyatta-led Classic had a 2.9 rating, a 163 percent increase from the 1.1 a year before.
144 percent up from a year ago (0.9).

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== Part of ESPN’s “enterprise” reporting this weekend looks at, ahem, whether the NFL will return to L.A. Steve Delsohn does the piece, which includes these comments:

= Eric Grubman, Executive Vice President, NFL Ventures and Business Operations, on a team in Los Angeles: “There has to be a franchise. We’re not in an expansion mood so that means you’d have to attract a franchise from another market.”

= L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: “(L.A. is) the second largest media market in the United States, the second largest city in the United States, a city that could easily support two football teams — doesn’t have one. It just doesn’t make sense.”

= NFL commissioner Roger Goodell: “We have to find the right way to come back and it does start with a stadium.”

== Next installment of the MLB Network series “Studio 42 with Bob Costas” focuses on Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn, who did a sitdown with Costas in Cooperstown, N.Y., last July. It airs today at 5 p.m.

AND FINALLY:

== Perhaps HBO’s “Real Sports” has run out of real sports stories. It was bound to happen.

Otherwise, maybe someone can explain how Episode 164 (debuts Tuesday, 10 p.m.) includes these stories:

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= Byrant Gumbel travels to Falkenstein, Austria to attend one of the biggest falconry meets of the year. Falconry … it dates back more than 2,000 years to ancient Mongolia and is considered one of the oldest sports in world. Watch how a falconer trains raptors to make airborne kills and return with the prey.

= Frank Deford examines a “troubling issue” of marching band hazing, especially at historically black universities in the South.

There are two other stories to be wedged into this hour, but at this point, why go any further? At least they don’t involve rodeo clowns or rock-paper-scissor championships.

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