The Media Learning Curve: Feb. 4-18

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A red carpeted-quick catchup for the last two weeks of media notes, following today’s column (linked here), and hoping this ends without some sort of security check:

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== We can appreciate the sentiments of FoxSports.com’s Brian Lowry (linked here) about the extreme overkill involved in coverage, not just by TNT (and its 19 scheduled hours) but also ESPN and NBA TV on this weekend’s NBA All-Star Game, which includes festivities tonight and Saturday leading to Sunday’s exhibition.

He’s taken the paragraphs right out of our computer, without sounding like a burned-out TV watcher.

Lowry adds about TNT’s Kenny Smith “coaching” the Clippers’ Blake Griffin for the dunk contest, which we featured in today’s column: “The tradeoff, or price, for all this lavish coverage is that the host networks wind up insinuating themselves into the events … Having watched Griffin play some this year, let me assure you, the one thing he doesn’t need is advice on how to dunk.”

Lowry concluded:

“No doubt All-Star Weekend will yield a few high-flying highlights. But in terms of TNT’s cornucopia of coverage, the net effect might be simply to lose sight of the actual game amid the glare of all those lights.”

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== Following up to comments that ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser made about Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s suspect pole position in Sunday’s Daytona 500, and the reaction that came from Fox’s Darrell Waltrip (and mentioned in today’s “What Chokes” section), we also should mention that we have these conference call comments by ESPN/NASCAR related people who’ll also be covering the event this weekend:

=ESPN vice president of motorsports Rich Feinberg: “I did not see the show, but it’s been relayed to me what he said. It’s a show of opinion, and it’s primarily based on his and Michael’s (Wilbon) opinion … I disagree with what I was told he said. And I can tell you for sure that ESPN doesn’t agree with his opinion yesterday, but that’s the nature of commentary.”

=ESPN analyst Dale Jarrett: “It wouldn’t matter who said it or what network it might have been on, but it pisses me off that somebody thinks that from being inside, and knowing how hard a lot of years that myself and a lot of others that I worked with and around, worked on our race cars to try and make them the best. …. Did NASCAR plan that? Why hell no. … It aggravates you that that perception is out there. I can assure everyone that it can’t happen. … We have a very good sport with a lot of integrity out there and to have it questioned is unfortunate.”

=ESPN analyst Andy Petree: “We’re hearing opinions of people who really have no idea. … I can tell you I’ve never, ever in my life seen anybody get the call to have something done to their car. The integrity of this sport, I can vouch for after 30 years of doing it.”

== Fox will introduce something called a “Thermal-Cam” during its Daytona 500 coverage Sunday, a special camera designed to register the heat of objects that in the line of a driver’s sight. Fox says it plans to use the camera during the race to show how extreme temperatures develop during a typical race, especially as cars running in the rear get behind air flow while drafting and must switch places with the lead car to avoid overheating. The camera comes from FLIR, a Boston-based thermal imaging and stabllized camera system.

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== While CBS has the third and scheduled final rounds of the PGA’s Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club, Golf Channel’s coverage includes coming on with live coverage Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., then replaying CBS’ coverage later that night from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Terry Gannon is the lead play-by-play with analysts Brandel Chamblee, Peter Oosterhuis, David Feherty, Billy Andrade and Craig Perks.

== Golf Channel says it will take its “Big Break” series to Indian Wells for its 15th season in May, with 11 men competing for a sponsor’s exemption in a 2012 PGA Tour event. The 10-episode contest was filmed at Indian Wells Golf Resort in January.

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== The MLB Network announced plans to televise 83 spring training games, starting Feb. 26 (linked here), and will again do its “30 Clubs in 30 Days” features, hitting the Dodgers (March 6) and Angels (March 10) in Arizona.

== Fox’s 2011 MLB schedule includes three Saturday nights in a row of regionalized coverage, starting May 14 with a Red Sox-Yankees matchup and finishing on May 28 with six games, the most games that the network has ever offered in one window (one of those games is the Angels at Minnesota). Last year, Fox had two Saturday prime-time telecasts and saw a boost of more than 40 percent over similiar games held in the traditional afternoon spots.

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Fox’s opener is Saturday, April 2 (two days after ESPN opens on Thursday), taking the Dodgers’ home game against San Francisco as one of three regional games. The Giants have nine scheduled appearances this season, along with Atlanta, the Chicago Cubs, Detroit, the New York Mets, Philadelphia and St. Louis. The Dodgers are scheduled for seven dates, the Angels six — including a meeting with each other on June 25 from Dodger Stadium.

== ESPN has added former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, who spend the first two years of the MLB Network as a studio analyst, to its “Baseball Tonight” team.

== Any interest in what Jay Mariotti has to say about his lack of work these days (linked here)?

== NBC/Versus has nine hours of coverage during the first “Hockey Day in America” promotion Sunday, starting with a half-hour special (9 a.m., Channel 4) that is followed up by Philadelphia-N.Y. Rangers and Pittsburgh-Chicago, and is capped over on Versus with the NHL Heritage Classic at 3 p.m., an outdoor game between Montreal and Calgary from McMahon Stadium on the University of Calgary campus, called by Dave Strader, Andy Brickley and Brian Engblom.

Part of the half-hour special leading in a feature on a celebrity hockey league that takes place most Sunday nights at the Kings’ El Segundo facility played by actors, music label exec and TV and movie producers (like Jerry Bruckheimer) with a passion for the game.

NBC producer Sam Flood, on the origin of Hockey Day in America: “The genesis for this comes through Hockey Day in Canada and just watching what has been done in Canada through the years and their passion they have for that sport. I was up in Canada for the Olympics last year and saw Hockey Day in Canada on CBC and had been thinking for a while about a way to celebrate hockey in a bigger and better way in the United States…It has been a thought of mine for a couple of years now doing something bigger with hockey and celebrating it.

“(Just look at how) these parents across the country who get in their car at 6 am, pull their little tikes out of bed, throw them in the back seat and drive them to the rink so they get to be part of the greatest game in the world. And that’s what we’re going to celebrate — the hockey moms and the hockey dads who sacrifice so much to get their kids out to the rink. It’s the ritual of hockey.”

== Eight-month-old ESPN 3D, which will carry its first boxing matches tonight when it airs Friday Night Fights (6 p.m.), apparently has enough content to start streaming a 24/7 menu of events.

“As we continue to expand the number of 3D events on the channel, it made sense operationally to transition ESPN 3D to a 24-7 network,” ESPN’s Sean Bratches said during last month’s Consumer Electronics Show.

ESPN 3D is on Comcast, Time Warner Cable and DirecTV.

== CBS will rebrand its College Sports Network cable channel into the CBS Sports Network starting April 4. It says the focus will stay on college sports, but this allows for future expansion of what it will be willing to add to it, said Sean McManus, recently named the Chairman of CBS Sports. CBS bought CSTV in Jan., 2006, and rebranded it CBS College Sports Network in Feb., 2008. It is available in about 40 million homes, but will not be included in the upcoming CBS/TNT marriage of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament starting next month.

AND FINALLY:

== Does talking about sports beat watching it?

Jeff Pearlman, in the Wall Street Journal, talks about this idea (linked here):

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“No event better illustrates this than the annual NBA Slam Dunk Contest, which will be held in Los Angeles on Saturday. Ever since the modern version of the competition began in 1984, it has served as one of the NBA’s great conversation pieces. Dominique Wilkins vs. Michael Jordan. Tiny Spud Webb. Blindfolded Cedric Ceballos. Nate Robinson scaling Dwight Howard. The list of highlights is endless, and the slow-motion footage (especially when accompanied by music) makes for great promotional material.

“There’s just one problem: In person, the Slam Dunk Contest is boring. Really boring.

“‘If you’re lucky, there’ll be three memorable dunks all night,’ says Ben Osborne, the editor of Slam Magazine. ‘But there might be one, and sometimes there are zero. I’ve been to seven or eight contests, and with the exception of Vince Carter [in 2000], they’ve all been painful.’

“Mr. Osborne pauses, thinking about his readership. But they’re compelling to talk about,’ he says. ‘And the talk itself is half the fun’.”

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