No official column online or in print this week, so just filter through these items of note:
== Count us as surprised by the CBS/Turner Sports had the onions to officially announce this week that Bill Raftery and Grant Hill would effectively replace Steve Kerr and Greg Anthony as Jim Nantz’s analysts on the NCAA Final Four and April 6 national title game.
Raftery has put 33 years into calling NCAA Tournament games and 23 years on radio during the Final Four. The 71-year-old is well deserving of the elevation to this perch after all these seasons. His long-time commitment to CBS, while also doing games for ESPN and, lately, Fox Sports 1, on the Big East is finally being rewarded.
“I’ve been there a long time,” he said of the Final Four in an interview with USA Today.
“Unfortunately when I coached (at Seton Hall, from 1970-81) I couldn’t get my team there so I’m making it up for it now.”
Raftery would have been the likely choice to replace Kerr. But with Hill, however, he has only worked in the studio and still seems to be getting his broadcasting feet wet. The former Duke star parlayed a famous college career into 18 NBA seasons, his last with the Clippers in 2013. Raftery actually called some of Hill’s games at Duke, including the 1994 Final Four when Hill’s Duke team was in it.
You’re not asking us, but someone like Reggie Miller would have made a bit more sense than Hill for the third chair. Unless TNT saw too much of a conflict with him doing NBA games — which would not make sense because Kerr had the same issue a year ago.
Kerr since left the group to coach the Golden State Warriors to the best record in the Western Conference this season; Anthony was suspended by CBS after his arrest last month for prostitution solicitation and he entered a not guilty plea in the case this week.
The new Nantz-Raftery-Hill will appear for the first time on the Big Ten tournament semifinals and title game March 14-15, which does not give the trio much time to find its chemistry.
== Has anyone been able to explain yet how Sir Nick Faldo went bangers-and-mash on his Super Bowl pick — correct team and score — hours before the game was played, as it stood there in graphic form on the CBS’ PGA Tour telecast from Scottsdale that morning? Maybe he gets his rightful recognition when he joins Golf Channel on the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open from Torrey Pines on Thursday at noon.
(When I pointed this out to Jim Nantz earlier this week via email, he replied: “Just one of the many reasons why Her Majesty deemed him worthy of Knighthood.”)
FYI: A year earlier, David Feherty correctly predicted the Seahawks would win Super Bowl XLVIII — and even had the 43-8 win over Denver right.
== The day after, Cris Collinsworth still couldn’t believe the Seahawks’ play call. And the media sure piled on. And on. And on. And on. And on. And on, even with the Today show flying Matt Lauer to Seattle for an ‘exclusive’ followup?
== How did Al Michaels figure out off the top of his head that little-known New England rookie Malcolm Butler made the game-saving interception at the end of the game? He explains on an interview this week with the Mighty 1090 in San Diego. But Michaels won’t finish the conversation until he talks about minor-league hockey and how the NHL top affiliates are dotting Southern California cities.
== NBC Sports’ own “Pro Football Talk” blog gives Super Bowl producer Fred Gaudelli another opportunity to dispute a Deadspin take on why the network decided to cut away from the touchdown celebration by Seattle’s Doug Baldwin. “In every telecast there are always decisions we would like to have back,” says Gaudelli. “This isn’t one of them.”
Our only issue with this decision is there was no verbal explanation by the broadcasters why the Seahawks were given a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration. It kind of glossed over that aspect.
== As Nielsen’s numbers spit out a record 114.4 million viewers when it tallied up those in front of NBC’s telecast of Super Bowl 49 last Sunday — we suspect it was much higher, since bars aren’t counted, nor are the number adjusted for large in-home gatherings — the network also reported that those who consumed it online at desktops and tablets set a Super Bowl record for average viewers per minute (800,000), concurrent users (1.3 million) and total minutes (213 million) according to Adobe Analytics. That last number bested what CBS had for Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 (114.4 million) by 86 percent. The live stream also had 2.5 million unique users, up 9 percent from Fox’s numbers last year. The first ever live stream of a Super Bowl was when NBC did it in 2012.
NBC also says its “Sports Live Extra” app for mobile devices and tablets was downloaded more than 500,000 times last weekend.
== This writer at Wired may have a point about the public’s desire to access multiple broadcast analysts on a Super Bowl — and offering himself up for the job.
“We need to trash the boring veneer of impartiality that dulls down today’s NFL broadcasts,” he reasons. “Tune into the Seahawks Fan broadcast and hear some real tears at the end of the game. Want to listen to a woman call the game? This is the way that could finally happen. Gamblers’ Super Bowl? No problem. You enjoyed Drunk History? Wait till you try Drunk Superbowl. Personally, I’d go for a data heavy, FiveThirtyEight-style broadcast: the Databack.”
But then again, anyone who spells it “Superbowl” in the lead still isn’t quite up to speed.
== For those who continue to get a rise out of this Dan Patrick-Colin Cowherd finger poking, here’s some of Patrick’s systematic shredding of Cowherd earlier this week: “Enjoy your show. Enjoy your life. Because in one day, it’ll be over and no one will care. Just like nobody’s going to care what I’m saying right now.”
Patrick followed up on Wednesday after several callers continued to chime in with support: “I want to move on from it. I shouldn’t have even lowered myself to it. … It felt like he used (Skip Bayless and Jim Rome) to denigrate me and this show and I wouldn’t stand for it. … Just do your job (and) move on.”
This really doesn’t make much sense. It was Cowherd who years ago defied ESPN management and talked about how much Patrick meant to the company when Patrick was leaving his ESPN Radio show and wanted to do a star-studded blowout final week there but was sent away. When Cowherd talked to us last October, he specifically mentioned Patrick’s show as something he doesn’t want to overlap with guest-wise as to not tune out listeners. He spoke highly of Patrick at the time as well. It just doesn’t make sense in a lot of ways … but there it is.
== Fox Sports 1 has Greg Wolf, Richard Milgliore, Andy Serling, Simon Bray and Alyssa Ali on its coverage of four stakes races from Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park on Saturday (2:30 to-4:30 p.m.). The highlight of the day — a Breeders Cup Classic rematch between California Chrome and Shared Belief to start their 4-year-old seasons in the $500,000 San Antonio Stakes (see video above)
Shared Belief’s owner, radio talk show host Jim Rome, had been calling for a rematch since Bayern, who won the recent Breeders Cup Classic, clipped Shared Belief out of the gate and finished fourth, on spot behind eventual 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome. Bayern was also a possibility to enter this rematch race until an injury kept him out.
“Let’s hope for a clean race, no drama,” Rome said on his radio show last month. “Let’s see how it plays out. I accept what happened in that last race. That’s racing. Sometimes you have luck. Sometimes you don’t. We didn’t have it that day. I accept it. Period. I’m not going to point the finger at anybody. I accept it.
“But I do want to say for the record, you didn’t get our best shot. But I’m still proud of our horse for not spitting the bit, not quitting, not shutting it down. He still ran a big fourth and beat a lot of world-class horses, despite the adversity. Let’s do it again. All you clones can watch it. Let’s get all three horses there that day at Santa Anita. Let’s get it on. Let’s do it.”
== Ed Sherman’s first sports writing-related column for Poynter.org — long overdue — focuses on how dot.com writers by far outnumber newspaper scribes in getting work featured in the annual Best American Sports Writing. Feel the shift? Deadspin 2, Sports Illustrated 0. Series editor Glenn Stout: “You can see the shift from newspapers, to magazines becoming more dominant, and now mainly magazines and the web. But that’s the truth of the industry. It’s like the whack-a-mole. As one source gets knocked down, something else pops up.”
== Are we allowed to note the irony in that, as Keith Olbermann was explaining his lack of want for the National Signing Day on Wednesday, even pulling up this tweet by Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch to support his take, a scroll continued across the bottom of the screen of ESPN’s “Olbermann” show that touted the latest signing news — look, USC has a new recruit! Mixed message? You tell us one thing, and your network amplifies it by sharing your screen with up-to-the-minute decisions made by high schoolers committing to college programs.
== ESPN previously announced its April schedule for “Sunday Night Baseball.” No Dodgers or Angels in that month. Announcing the May schedule on Thursday, there’s only one Angels appearance — the last day of the month, when the Detroit Tigers visit Anaheim.
== The MLB Network has a hour-long documentary called “The Story of Billy Bean,” hosted by Bob Costas and premiering Tuesday at 6 p.m. Bean, the former Dodgers outfielder from Loyola Marymount University, came out after he left the game in 1996 at age 30, following the death of his partner. Bean wrote the book about his life in 2003, reissued last year when he was named the MLB Ambassador for Inclusion. A preview clip of the MLB Net program can be viewed here.
== Any more reaction from Giants broadcster Mike Krukow’s reaction to Yasiel Puig deciding the defending world champs were not the Dodgers’ greatest rival, but the Cardinals are? Ah, to be young and dumb again.
== Why Vin Scully no longer dreams of giant clams chasing him in his dreams. And kids at Servite High in Anaheim can dream of a Jaime Jarrin scholarship.
== Gearing up for another year of 30 baseball books in the 30 days of April, with Ron Kaplan of RonKaplansBaseballBookShelf.com kindly including me in a roundtable as we learn more about how others approach the genre.
== Still kind of odd to see ESPN announce talent re-signings, as the case this week of Stephen A. Smith signing a “new multi-year deal” that allows him to “continue to be seen and heard across a variety of platforms,” most notably ESPN2’s “First Take.”
“Stephen A. is one of the strongest and most distinct voices in sports commentary today and he will continue to enliven a wide variety of ESPN television and audio offerings with his thought-provoking takes on the news of the day and topical issues where sports and culture intersect,” John Wildhack, ESPN executive vice president, programming and production, said in a statement, followed by Smith’s reaction: “I’m incredibly honored and humbled by the faith shown in me. ESPN has been my professional home for years. To know I’ll be here for the long haul has me that much more excited, pumped and ready for everything to come. Can’t thank the family enough. Let’s get this party started.”
Quite frankly, Smith had a parting with ESPN in 2008, after joining them in 2003. He got back into the rotation by hosting local radio on KSPN-AM (710) and ESPN New York in 2011.
== Dave Rieff returns for his third season as the anchor of ESPN’s NHRA coverage when the Winternationals from Pomona air Saturday and Sunday. Former driver Mike Dunn is back as the analyst, with Gary Gerould and John Kernan in the pits. The NHRA starts its 15th season with ESPN, sticking with same-day telecasts of qualifying and eliminations. ESPN2’s coverage is Saturday (7 p.m.) and Sunday (4:30 p.m.) Also, ESPN3 has full coverage during eliminations starting Sunday at 11 a.m.. ESPN3 is available to 95 million homes at no additional cost to those who get their high-speed Internet connection or video subscription from an affiliated service provider. The network is also available at no cost to approximately 21 million U.S. college students and U.S.-based military personnel via computers, smartphones and tablets connected to on-campus educational and on-base military broadband and Wi-Fi networks.
== Bret Haber, Lindsay Davenport and Justin Gimbelstob are on the Tennis Channel’s coverage of Fed Cup play this weekend — specifically, Serena and Venus Williams playing for Team USA against Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday and Sunday (6 a.m. start each time).
== Adrian Healey and Taylor Twellman call the U.S. men’s national soccer team friendly against Panama from StubHub Center (Sunday, 12:55 p.m., ESPN), with Bob Ley and Kasey Keller doing the studio show. Earlier Sunday, ESPN2 has the U.S. women’s national team match against France in Lorient, France (8:50 a.m.). Ian Dark and Julie Foudy call that one from the site. Ley and Tony DiCicco have the pregame, halftime and post-game reports.
== Where in the world is Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski? Not at the Super Bowl, making Bob Costas blush, but this week with Terry Gannon, covering the European Figure Skating Championships from Stockholm, Sweden (Saturday at 1 p.m., Channel 4)
== And finally, how Sports Illustrated revealed to Hannah Davis that she was the Swimsuit issue covergirl, before she came out on Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” from L.A. on Wednesday night (above) — four days before the magazine even hits the stands. How did Ronda Rousey find out she was on the cover in name/tease only?