The Media Learning Curve: Dec. 3-10

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In the New York Times’ obit on the passing this week of former ABC “Monday Night Football” analyst Don Meredith, it notes:

Joseph Donald Meredith was born on April 10, 1938. In high school, he acted in school plays, scored 52 points in a basketball tournament game, graduated second in his class and won a statewide contest for identifying shrubs.

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Some of the quotes that came out this week on his life:

== Frank Gifford, who got choked up when talking about Meredith when interviewed live at halftime on ESPN’s recent “MNF” telecast, told New York’s Newsday he went to Santa Fe, New Mexico for a final visit: “I saw him about three months ago. [His wife] Susan called me and said he was a little down in the dumps. He really wasn’t talking to anyone. He would just sit there and was on oxygen at the time and just every now and then he’d try to sing. She had an around-the-clock nurse for him. I figured it was getting close to the end. I just flew out one afternoon and spent two days with him and came back. He didn’t take very good care of himself, to say the least. Once he got to where he couldn’t do anything he just fell apart. Sad.”

== Dan Dierdorf, who did 12 years on “Monday Night Football” for ABC: “He was not a professional announcer and I think that’s really what endeared him to people. I think a lot of people looked at Don Meredith in the booth and thought to themselves, ‘That could be me.’”

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== Randy Galloway, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist: “As a huge Meredith fan, I once asked (Cowboys coach Tom) Landry about him while walking back from the practice fields at training camp in Thousand Oaks, Calif. ‘Coach, did you enjoy Don Meredith back in the day?’ A slight grin appeared, then Tom answered dryly, ‘he was different.’”

Personal aside: Without Meredith, there’s no Terry Bradshaw, Paul Maguire, Lee Corso, or anyone else who injects their over-the-top personality into a broadcast. You knew Meredith knew what he was doing, he was perfect for that time when “MNF” was bigger than just a game, kind of an interloper who played his role but had the credibility.

They say that all good things must end. This ended too soon.

The Cowboys plan to pay tribute to Meredith before Sunday night’s game against Philadelphia. The Dallas Morning News reports that Meredith never did attend a game at the new stadium before his death. He was invited for the regular season opener against the New York Giants in 2009, but was the only living member of the Ring of Honor at the time to decline the invitation.

Following up on today’s media column (linked here), the rest of the stuff that passes for our media ring of honor this weekend:

== The NFL slate for your L.A. television stations coming up:

= Sunday:
= 10 a.m., Channel 11: N.Y. Giants at Minnesota (with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman), instead of Fox’s other offerings: Green Bay-Detroit, Atlanta-Carolina and Tampa Bay-Washington.
= 10 a.m., Channel 2: Oakland at Jacksonville (with Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots). CBS also has Cleveland-Buffalo and Cincinnati-Pittsburgh.
= 1 p.m., Channel 2: Kansas City at San Diego (with Gus Johnson and Steve Tasker) instead of New England-Chicago (with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms), Denver-Arizona and Miami-N.Y. Jets. Fox also has St. Louis-New Orleans and Seattle-San Francisco.
= 5:15 p.m., Channel 4: Philadelphia at Dallas (with Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Andre Kremer).
= Monday:
= 5:30 p.m., ESPN: Baltimore at Houston (with Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski).
= Thursday:
= 5 p.m., NFL Network: San Francisco at San Diego (with Bob Papa, Matt Millen and Joe Theisman).

== With today’s updated technology, would any network ever try an announcer-less NFL game again? The NFL Network experimented with it by replaying a recent Thursday night game with only the game sounds (and eliminating the call of their three-broadcaster booth). Thirty years ago, NBC tried it, and whether it succeeded or not is debated on the latest ESPN “Outside the Lines” Sunday morning show (6 a.m.) with then-NBC executive producer Don Ohlmeyer (the current ESPN.com ombudsman) and director David Neal talking about how it went during that contest featuring the 3-12 New York Jets and 8-7 Miami Dolphins in an otherwise meaningless season-ending game (link to video preview here). Dick Enberg and Bryant Gumbel also are interviewed for the piece.

== How ESPN plans to handle Saturday’s Heisman ceremony with Cam Newton and all that stuff (linked here).

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== Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson call the 111th Army-Navy game (Chanel 2, 11:30 a.m., Saturday), the second year that the game is played on the second Saturday in December to end the college football regular-season, as part of CBS’ extended agreement to do the game through 2018. Tim Brando, Spencer Tillman and Aaron Taylor do the pregame show (11 a.m.) that includes an interview with Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who says his future plans which include becoming President of the United States in 2040.

== JP Dellacamera and John Harkes call the NCAA men’s College Cup, starting with the semifinals today (North Carolina-Louisville, 5:30 p.m., ESPNU; Michigan-Akron, 7 p.m., ESPN2) and the final on Sunday (1 p.m., ESPN2) from UC Santa Barbara.

== Big Ten Network has Fox Sports Detroit’s coverage of the Michigan-Michigan State outdoor hockey game (Saturday, noon) that is expected to fill the Big House — more than 109,000. The two teams played an outdoor game in 2001 at Spartain Stadium in East Lansing before 74,554. The 16-camera production uses Matt Shepard (play-by-play), former Michigan player and ex-Islanders colorman Billy Jaffe (analyst), Fred Pletsch (between the benches analyst), along with Mickey Redmond and John Keating (hosts/intermission interviews).

== ESPN has decided to unlease online columnist Bill Simmons as a guest analyst on tonight’s Miami-Golden State telecast (7:30 p.m.), joining Dan Shulman and Mark Jackson. At least it won’t happen during the ESPN coverage of the game preceeding it — Lakers at Chicago, with Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy.

== HBO’s final boxing event of the year sends Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Roy Jones Jr. (subbing for Emanuel Steward) to Las Vegas to see Amir Khan-Marcos Maidana and Victor Ortiz-Lamont Peterson (Saturday, 6:30 p.m.).

== Because it can, TNT has decided to send its studio team of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith to Staples Center prior to its coverage of the Lakers-Oklahoma City game on Martin Luther King Day (Monday, Jan. 17). Yes, they’ve been trying to get out more this season. They were at the Oct. 26 Boston-Miami opener, then at the Dec. 2 Miami-Cleveland game.

== A new ESPN-created college basketball “Champions Classic,” featuring “four of the sport’s winningest programs” playing each other in prime time on neutral sites over the next three years – and UCLA didn’t get an invite? In mid-November during the 2011, ’12 and ’13 seasons, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State (who all play in conferences tied to ESPN contracts) have agreed to matchups played as a double header in New York, Atlanta and Chicago. The ESPN director of programming and acquisitions calls it an event that creates “a tremendous pillar for the start of the college basketball season.” Maybe it gives the current UCLA program something to shoot for. Or organize their own event with the help of Fox Sports Net.

AND FINALLY:

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== Dreaming of a White Christmas and the 1960 World Series? MLB Network has it, thanks to Bing Crosby.

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The black-and-white kinescope of the ’60 World Series Game 7 which was thought to be lost but rediscovered earlier this year at the home of the late singer (who was part-owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates at the time) will be seen on TV Wednesday at 5 p.m. on the MLB Network for the first time since it was originally aired 50 years ago.

Bob Costas will include interviews with Bill Mazerowski, Dick Groat, Bill Virdon, Bobby Richardson, Vera Clemente (the widow of Roberto Clemente) and actor and Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton.

Interviews were recorded in front of a live audience of more than 1,000 at the historic Byham Theater in Pittsburgh on November 13, 2010, where the film of Game 7 was screened.

Hall of Fame broadcasters Mel Allen and Bob Prince alternate each half inning of the broadcast, which MLB Network worked with the Technicolor company to restore the picture and sound quality. The original production includes limited on-screen graphics and no instant replay.

Before the telecast, Costas will host a special “Bing and Baseball” at 4:30 p.m., to feature Crosby’s involvement with baseball. Interviews are done with Crosby’s widow Kathryn and his son Nathaniel

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