What made it into this week’s column:
The 15-minute video that ESPN aired on Sunday just hours after the passing of “SportsCenter” anchor Stuart Scott was nothing short of brilliant. SI.com’s Richard Deitsch explained how it was started in July, when Scott made his speech at the Nokia Theater at LA Live during the ESPY Awards, and finished in mid-September, as staffers hoped it would never have to air.
On his radio show Monday, Dan Patrick, a former Scott partner on “SportsCenter,” asked another one, Steve Levy, if Scott would have wanted to see that tribute piece. Their conversation was excerpted in the current edition of Sports Illustrated.
“I think he’d say, ‘Bring it’,” said Levy. “President Obama? Are you kidding? LeBron James. Tiger Woods. Michael Jordan.”
Patrick also talked about how he remembered when Scott was pushing the envelope at ESPN, the “management was trying to prevent another Chris Berman … and they didn’t do a very good job. But thankfully, they didn’t do a very good job because Stuart was able to be himself and give you a voice you had never heard before.
“There were times when I anchored with him when I didn’t know what he was saying. But I knew there were those who did know.”
The tributes continue for the anchor who died from the latest bout with cancer at the age of 49. L.A. graffiti artists tweeted out their latest on Thursday (above).
Having had a few days to listen to discussion on Scott’s impact and absorb their meaning, we felt compelled to offer up our own observations and expressions, sad in a way that all this explanation of what Scott meant and did came out after he was gone rather than while he was still here. For all the times I really didn’t get what Scott was saying, it may have been no different than if I was watching the X Games and had no clue what the commentators were talking about. Again, it depends on what audience you’re trying to connect with.
The column is posted here.
We also wanted to make note of the piece Michael Wilbon wrote for ESPN.com about Scott’s impact on sports language:
“I was brought up in a buttoned-up world of traditional journalism where the person reporting/commenting/analyzing didn’t call attention to himself. Stuart, very deliberately and without much fear, was in the process of taking us to a new world of sports coverage, one where you let your emotion come pouring out much of the time, where personality would infuse the coverage.
“It wasn’t just that a Scott-delivered story sounded ‘blacker’ — and it did, it sounded younger, and hipper, had greater edge and connected with an entire population of viewers who had been ignored. … More than anybody working then or now, Stuart Scott changed the very language used to discuss sports every day. He updated it, freshened it, made it more inclusive. And he took hell for it. . . . There is now an entire generation of young media folks, black and white, male and female, who don’t feel the need to conform, and that is an enormous and admirable part of his professional legacy.”
(And how did “boo-yah” go forward? Slate.com picks some L.A. connections).
Among the various ESPN tributes about Scott this week, people like Andy Katz were saying on “Outside the Lines” that Scott was “a model not just for African Americans but for all broadcasters who seek to find their own voice and can sell it well without the content being compromised.”
Then there was this essay by Keith Olbermann on his Monday “Olbermann” ESPN2 show:
The funeral arrangements for Scott are for a service at the Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., on Saturday morning. A larger memorial will be held at a later date, ESPN said.
== Expanding on what Dr. Todd Boyd, aka the Notorious Ph.D. from USC, told us this week about Scott’s legacy:
“Stu wasn’t the first African American sportscaster. Those pioneer battles were fought long before he arrived. This was a black guy on a national network who would not be square pegged into a round hole. The significance is ESPN allowed him to do his thing.
“In one era, it’s important to have black representation. But in another era, it’s not just representation, but being allowed to represent someone in a culturally-specific way. That’s beyond face recognition and tokenism. We could see how ESPN had hired black sportscasters, but it wasn’t until many years later that style and how you talked sports went to another plateau. Over time, what may be controversial is common place.”
== Sports Business Daily data shows that ESPN was the most-watched U.S. cable network in primetime in 2014 with an average of 2.32 million viewers (up five percent from 2013), knocking the USA Network (2.12 million, down 20 percent from 2013) out of the No. 1 spot for the first time in nine years. Among all cable channels on a total-day basis, ESPN was No. 7, up three spots from 2013.
ESPN2 was the second-most watched prime-time sports cable channel at an 469,000 average, ahead of the NFL Network. Fox Sports 1 was fourth, up 38 percent in prime time from 2013.
TNT, meanwhile, the home of many NBA telecasts, was No. 3 in prime-time viewers of all cable channels with 1.99 million.
== ESPN itself, meanwhile, reported its most-viewed week in its 35-year history from Monday, Dec. 29, 2014 to Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, when it had an average of 4.119 million viewers. During that week, the network had both the Ohio State-Alabama Sugar Bowl in prime time (28.7 million viewers) and the Oregon-Florida State Rose Bowl (28.1 million viewers) on Jan. 1, as well as its first NFL playoff game, Arizona at Carolina (21.6 million viewers) on Jan. 3. Also, ESPN2 had an average of 6.4 million viewers for the Wisconsin-Auburn Outback Bowl that went into overtime on Jan. 1, the greatest telecast on that network’s history.
== ESPN also announced its 20th season of Major League Soccer coverage will launch on March 8 with two expansion teams — Orlando City SC vs. New York City SC from Orlando’s Citrus Bowl. The league and the network recently did an eight-year deal that goes through 2022. The ESPN/ESPN2 deal for 2015 has 29 of the 33 matches on Sunday at 5 p.m.
Of the 34 Galaxy matches, five are on ESPN (including April 26 when they visit the N.Y. Red Bulls) and five on Fox with four on Univision in Spanish.
== How the power of Al Michaels’ words led to a San Fernando Valley couple to move to Pittsburgh to improve their quality of life.
== That tweet that Jim Rome sent out on New Year’s Day (and sense deleted) about marching band “dorks” didn’t sit well, as we suspected when we first saw it. Even the Army responded. And a former Texas player who played in the Texas band, with his uni on and did actually look dorky.
== How did a group in Bakersfield get Vin Scully to speak at their fund raiser? They moved the up to mid-March, apparently.
== Why doesn’t Olbermann, or Bob Costas, or Brian Kenny have a Baseball Hall of Fame vote? It doesn’t make much sense considering some who do along with an outdated policy that excludes TV and radio members from the BBWAA.
== The NFL playoff game lineup this weekend:
= Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya have Baltimore-New England (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Channel 4)
= Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch and — look here — Pam Oliver, have Carolina-Seattle (Saturday, 5 p.m., Channel 11)
= Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and — you guessed it — Erin Andrews, have Dallas-Green bay (Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 11)
= Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson (whatever happened to Steve Tasker?) have Indianapolis-Denver (Sunday, 1:30 p.m., Channel 2)
ESPN’s counterprogramming on Sunday: The PBA world championship live from Las Vegas (Sunday, 10 a.m.). It’s the first PBA world championship using the “blue oil” lanes so viewers can see the patterns of the rolls. The five finalists – Stuart Williams, Todd Book, Ronnie Russell, Mike Fagan and Wes Malott — actually qualified back in November. They’ll do the traditional stepladder format to determine the winner, with Malott in at No. 1 in the title match.
== The NFL Network has the 15 finalist named for the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame class today (Thursday) at 6 p.m. Chris Rose hosts the one-hour show from the NFL Net studios in Culver City.
== According to this count, the Dodgers have five living Baseball Hall of Famers: Sandy Koufax, Don Sutton, Tommy Lasorda, Vin Scully and Jamie Jarrin. The Angels have four: Nolan Ryan, Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson, Bert Blyleven. The criteria is a player is counted with the team if he played/managed at least four seasons with them. Joe Torre was the Dodgers manager for three years, so he’s counted among the 10 living Yankees.