Weekly sports media notes version 05.13.16 — Will Chuck Knox get some air time in HBO’s “Hard Knocks” with these Rams?

What’s coming for Sunday:

At the NFL owners meetings last March, HBO, NFL Films and the Rams got together and decided that, for the upcoming episode of documentary series “Hard Knocks” that would air this fall, the franchise that just got approved of a move from St. Louis back to Los Angeles was the no-brainer story worth telling.
“As soon as the announcement was made that the Rams were returning to Los Angeles, I really think it was a three-way tie between the organizations calling each other and saying, ‘This makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?'” said coordinating producer Ken Rodgers.
600x360-Hard-Knocks-Untitled-1So while the Rams have held workouts the last few weeks at a makeshift facility at a Marriott Residence Inn in Oxnard, drafting a new overall No. 1 quarterback along the way, HBO’s camera crews have already been there to record things.
Rodgers, along with “Hard Knocks” director Matt Dissinger, estimate they’ve already collected about 100 hours of material, sent via Internet portals to editing bays at the NFL Films’ offices in New Jersey.
But the crazy thing is, a great portion of that may never be used. It all depends on what happens when the Rams open camp in late July in Irvine, and the show begins its tape-to-edit-to-air process in early August for five episodes.
More heck could break loose between then and now. This is Hollywood, after all.
We caught up with the “Hard Knocks” execs after Thursday’s team workouts as they started to feel their way around this storyline — the first time that the series in its 11 incarnations has had to deal with a franchise transfer — and got their thoughts going into this project as the trailer for the show is already viewer-ready and Southern California News Group columnist Mark Whicker has already dived into the pros and cons of what the Rams face based on past “Hard Knocks” history.
And to say these “Hard Knocks” players with HBO and NFL Films aren’t riding something of a euphoric high: The show won two Sports Emmys at this past week’s ceremony in New York in the 37th annual ceremony, based on their work in 2015 chronicling the Houston Texans. It won for Outstanding Serialized Sports Documentary and Outstanding Post-Produced Audio/Sound.
That brings the total Emmys for the series over the years to … is it 14?
UPDATE: The link to the Sunday column is here.

What’s worth posting now:

== A 5,600-word piece on Vin Scully superbly crafted by Tom Verducci in the current issue of Sports Illustrated cuts to the heart of what Los Angeles has known for years — the Dodgers’ Hall of Fame broadcaster is just like your best friend. Verducci conveys that sentiment in what has become the latest in the media-generated celebration of Scully’s career as we get into what is presumed to be Scully’s 67th and final season
Add in the calculation by Verducci that Scully has broadcast nearly half of the Dodgers games ever played. The franchise began in 1890. Scully started in 1950. It boggles the mind.

400vin-scully-si-cover.0The two-part video Q-and-A on SINow.com — the first part on his career, and the second part on his legacy — is sugar-free frosting on the cake.
What’s new about this piece: Scully finally made the magazine’s cover, albeit a strange representation of half-photo, half-clay figure that looks like something out of the Tom  Hanks in “The Polar Express.”
Still, SI’s own managing editor Chris Stone calls it in a tweet: “Inarguably the most overdue cover in history.”
We asked Verducci if in the process of putting this long-form piece together, there were some gems he had to leave out.
What’s the writer’s cut from a project that could have gone on for volumes?
Verducci, who continues to write for SI.com, do game work and reporting for the MLB Network and, despite changes in the Fox Sports MLB lead team, is a game analyst, was kind enough to reply:

verdOne of the real treats in talking to Vin is listening to him talk about Jackie Robinson. I did write about the story of Vin being in a training room with Jackie and Pee Wee immediately after the Dodgers lost to the Giants in 1951 on the Bobby Thomson home run.
Vin also told the story about how Jackie wanted to challenge him to an ice skating race at Grossinger’s in New York during a Dodgers winter caravan – even though Jackie never had been on skates before. “The competitiveness would just drive him to learn to do something he had never even tried before,” Vin said.
They didn’t race, but they did pose for a picture.
And then there is something I hadn’t heard before:
“I remember a hot day in Philadelphia. Shibe Park. There was one exit, and I came out of the exit. The bus was right there. It was really hot. There was a man with a small table and he was cutting a watermelon, and as I came out he handed me his watermelon.
“‘Oh, great. Thanks.'”
“I got on the bus. All the players who had been ahead of me, they all had watermelon. Jackie came out the door, and when this man said, ‘Have a piece of watermelon.’
Jackie went ballistic.
sd2640-1947-brooklyn-dodgers-jackie-robinson-fridge-magnet-classic-vintage-style-logo-mlb-baseball“Now, I don’t mean to put on a big show or anything, but he was furious. The players hollered from the bus and held up Jackie. And then he realized, this man was actually giving cold slices of watermelon on a brutally hot day in Philadelphia.

“So he was right on the edge all the time, as you well imagined. So I guess this long winded answer to your question [about Jackie] is that he was a very complicated man who was able to control all of those burning desires he had right to the very end.”
For those fortunate enough to listen to Scully call that April 15 game recently between the Dodgers and Giants at Dodger Stadium for SportsNetLA — the annual Jackie Robinson Day celebration — they may recall that story. For those who didn’t, like Verducci, and for those who don’t mind hearing it again, it’s just another gem.

== Verducci goes on Dan Patrick’s show to talk about the interview (above).

== In Sports Illustrated’s history, there have been several pieces done on Scully going back to the 1964 gem by Robert Creamer called “The Transistor Kid.”
There was also the David J. Halberstam piece less than a year ago, with Scully looking back on his first season of 1950.
vinmagesAnd in 2010, Joe Posnanski did his own and re-purposed some of it in 2011.
And in 2008, Richard Hoffer did “In Vin, Veritas.”
And in 2005, Steve Rushin did “Diamonds in the Sky.”
In 1971, Jerry Kirshenbaum focused a piece primarily on Scully called “And Here, To Bring you the Play by Play …”
At one point, we tried to track them all down from the SIVault.com, but links disappeared. You can do a new search yourself.

== Also this week: The New York Daily News’ Christian Red did this 2,000-word piece on Scully, who declined an invitation by the Yankees to come with the Dodgers when the team travels to New York for a series in September. And New York WOR’s Howie Rose has a 17-minute conversation with Scully as well.

== Joe Davis, who we continue to be impressed with as he does a schedule of Dodgers’ road games thus far, is paired with Verducci and Ken Rosenthal on the Houston-Boston game from Fenway Park on Saturday (10 a.m., FS1), followed by Justin Kutcher and CJ Nitkowski at Minnesota-Cleveland (1 p.m.). Verducci is also on the team with Bob Costas and John Smoltz calling Washington-N.Y. Mets on Thursday at 4 p.m. for MLB Net.

== And in case you missed the call of how the Dodgers did not wrap up their victory at Toronto last Saturday, with verified video to help the radio description.

undef== Two years after Jason Whitlock was hired by ESPN to launch the website TheUndefeated.com, gave us the whole story about it a year ago, and then a month later was out, soon to defect back to Fox to try something new, the online home devoted to “the intersection of race, sports and culture” that vows to be “fearless but not reckless” at long last debuts on Tuesday.
In a sense, it has already been up and running under its brand name. A Ramona Shelburne piece on Kobe Bryant about a month ago came with TheUndefeated seemingly as a presenting sponsor. Marc Spears, another former L.A. Daily News writer now at ESPN, also recently posted a story about Dramon Green’s playoff diary with the Golden State Warriors. Jason Reid, a USC grad who started out covering sports at the Southern California News Group’s Daily Breeze before heading to the Washington Post, is also a featured staff writer for this site, which has also had a Twitter account up and running for a good while.
TheUndefeated.com was never defeated, despite all the effort used to stay alive and avoid that ironic headline that could have marked its demise before it even launched.
ESPN, in many ways, could not have afforded to let this one go away as easily as it did with Grantland.com, once Bill Simmons was no longer running it.
A piece about TheUndefeated on CNN.com notes that the “site’s target audience is black male sports fans between the ages of 18 and 35,” which is somewhat news to us. New editor in chief Kevin Merida, who had been at the Washington Post before taking over, is said to be “adamant about attracting strong engagement and generating interest across all demographics.”
Daily blogs, long-form stories, short films with Spike Lee and contributions from many ESPN staffers are promised, as well as coverage from the Republican and Democratic national conventions this summer.
We’re very interested to see where this site goes, how it evolves, and how even those like Rush Limbaugh — he’s still around? — respond to it.
Limbaugh, for the record, said this about the site back in February of this year:
“Now ESPN with their website, The Undefeated, which is one hundred percent African-American in content. As though that’s the only way the African-American audience at ESPN can be properly served. Just doesn’t seem like it’s going in the right direction to me. I know the word empowerment is used a lot and this will be seen as empowering the people who are employed to work on this website. And it’ll probably be said that it’s empowering the African-American audience of ESPN. But it’s still segregating, isn’t it? Is that what we’re out to do now? Is that the objective? Segregation?”

MikeWise== One of our favorite writers, the very wise Mike Wise, formerly of the Washington Post, was one of the first to be hired for TheUndefeated.com by Whitlock, and has seen the launch, near crash and “re”launch of the site now take place. He responded to an email Q&A we put forth to him as Tuesday’s date approached:
Q: Last time we talked about TheUndefeated was when Whitlock left last June. You took the leap of faith when the site was forming and endured all that’s happened since.  How do you see things going in this time with new leadership?
A: There are countless barbs inside the business about the time it’s taken to launch. But given the original seven hired often worried about the site ever formally launching, I’m blown away at the speed at which Kevin hired a genuine staff and kick-started the Undefeated.
Right after Jason was out last July, I joked with Jesse Washington when we went up to Bristol for a magazine brainstorming session. “Remember all the smart people in the company that spent time with us and pledged their resources at our Undefeated summit?” I said. “We were the cool kids on campus then. Now we might as well have cardboard signs around our necks that read, ‘Will Write For Food.'”
It wasn’t that bad, but it was fair to wonder what the future of the site held and whether we should pick another lane at ESPN to run in. All we kept hearing from above was, “Be patient. We’ll get it right. Don’t worry.”
And I have to say, going after Kevin aggressively, green-lighting him to put together the staff he did — I mean, from Danyel Smith to a crew of really smart and polished young journalists, we really have some tools in our toolbox now — John Skipper and Marie Donoghue came through big-time.
Now it’s time to reward the faith put in us by them, Kevin, the site and the mission.
Next Tuesday I’ll be caught between feeling, “This is surreal, it finally happened,” and, “Where the hell did the last year or so go?”
Sure, we all put out stuff under the Undefeated banner the past 18 months or so, and there’s been a truckload of content from us leading up to the launch on ESPN.com, Facebook, Twitter, wherever we felt the need to let people know we were coming.
But having our own digital destination just feels right and ready. It’s time.

Q: Does some of you feel as if Whitlock is still involved in some way, in spirit?
A: Anything any of us says about Jason is going to be taken two ways: One, that’s Whitlock’s hire, so of course they’d say that. Or two: They want to completely detach from the Whitlock Era at the Undefeated.
The truth is, for me anyway, Jason remains a friend. The revisionist history now about the time he was in charge borders on comical. You can question whether he was the right fit for the job as envisioned — in hindsight, even he might question that. But you can’t question his passion and big ideas. He was fully committed to making the Undefeated a go-to place for discussion on only the most seminal issues in sports and society.
In spirit? I haven’t asked him, but I don’t think he’d want that. He’s moved on to a great new gig at Fox and this is Kevin’s baby now. I think he roots for the site to succeed, especially because The Undefeated, among other aims, has the potential to really positively influence the black community. That was important to him.
But it’s such a different room now you can’t even compare. We had eight people under Jason. We’ve got almost three dozen under Kevin, a blend of youth and experience — of old- and new-school journalism — that gives the mission a genuine foundation to launch the right way.
Bottom line, all most of the staff knows — old and new — is we’ve been in this together the past five or six months. We always say Undefeated 1.0 and Undefeated 2.0, but I don’t get the sense there is anything but one collective thought right now: let’s do this. 

Q: You did had a piece ready to run last summer after going to South Africa. Did it ever run?
A: It ran last August. I’m not hurt you missed it because it’s only the greatest literary work known to man. (And then my alarm rang.). No really, here it is. Enjoy.

== As we mentioned months ago, we still think one should take another look at this piece by Michael McCarthy for The Sporting News: “Ex-ESPNers Bill Simmons and Jason Whitlock like to portray themselves as rebels challenging the corruption and corporate cronyism of sports. In fact, they’re pretty similar: They’re fake insurgents more interested in promoting their brands than speaking truth to power, and they’re thin-skinned narcissists who somehow feel persecuted despite being paid top dollar by the biggest sports media giants.”

== ESPN Radio plans a two-hour block (2-to-4 p.m.) on Saturday called “The Undefeated On ESPN Radio” hosted by senior writers Clinton Yates, Jill Hudson and Justin Tinsley, based in Bristol, Conn. The show should air on KSPN-AM (710) as well as ESPNRadio.com, the ESPN app, SiriusXM, Apple iTunes Radio, Slacker Radio and TuneIn.

2015_Fox_Sports_1_logo.svg== As we are apparently witness the beginning of the end of the “hot sports take,” the New York Times’ Richard Sandomir has this piece about FS1’s latest strategy with Jamie Horowitz giving Whitlock and Colin Cowherd their new debate show starting in June, as well as throwing an obscene amount of money at Skip Bayless to join in the fray.
The story included this quote from ESPN’s Rob King, the senior VP of “SportsCenter” and news: “There’s nothing wrong with debate and discussion as a tactic. But there’s not much new about it, either. … What is new and what continues to evolve is the sports fan of today. Fans are smarter and more diverse than ever before. Underestimate fans at your own peril. We’re aiming bigger.”
Did Deadspin.com really think Sandomir’s story was a puff piece?

atoc16-map620== The Tour of California’s 11 go-around starts in San Diego on Sunday (2-4 p.m., NBCSN) and maintains the same TV time and channel through the first seven stages. That includes Monday’s Stage 2 from South Pasadena to Newhall and Stage 3 from Thousand Oaks to Santa Barbara County. Coverage is also online at the Tour Tracker and phone app. Replays are each night, varying on time depending on NHL playoff coverage (usually between 9 and 11 p.m.) Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, Christian Vande Velde, Jens Voigt, Steve Schlanger and Steve Porino call it. More info here.
Also this week, NBC and AEG announced a media-right extension that will got through 2019.

== A thought-provoking piece on cable bundling and how regional baseball TV coverage (particularly with Fox Sports’ regionals) could factor into that success or failure, by TheBigLead.com’s Ty Duffy.

== The New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman, on how MLB replay puts broadcasters in an awkward position as much as anyone. And when the Dodgers or Angels venture into Yankee Stadium later this season, the New York Post’s Phil Mushnick warns how Yankees’ broadcaster John Sterling isn’t to be believed.

== Dan Patrick’s deftly-handled interview earlier this week with recently deposed ESPN MLB analyst Curt Schilling, and the thought floated that perhaps Schilling and Keith Olbermann put their brainpower and ego together to do a sports/political show for some desperate media outlet.
(And in light of this, we wonder how ESPN can justify hiring Abby Wambach as a new talking head.)

Mike-Tirico-starting-at-NBC-July-1-Sean-McDonough-joins-MNF== Mike Tirico, who officially will leave ESPN at the end of June for his new job at NBC, and Sean McDonough, who ESPN said this week it will promote to Tirico’s “Monday Night Football” play-by-play spot, are both represented by the same agent, Sandy Montag.
No wonder ESPN vice president Jay Rothman called the move by the two companies a “seamless transition.”
Tirico is one of the few, it seems, leaving the company on good terms.
ESPN said in a statement: “During his 25 years with the company, Mike has made tremendous contributions to ESPN across the variety of sports and properties he has touched; even more important, he has developed lasting friendships with his on-air colleagues and so many ESPN employees behind the camera. We thank Mike for all he’s done for ESPN and we wish him the best in this new chapter of his career.”
gettyimages-177613536-p_2016In another conference call this week, McDonough, who once was the lead MLB play-by-play man on CBS, said this was “a dream come true. One of my favorite memories of my childhood was watching Monday Night Football with my Dad (the late Boston Globe columnist and NBC reporter Will McDonough), who I know is smiling down on me today. I am humbled and deeply honored to have the opportunity to be a part of the most iconic franchise in the history of sports television.”
McDonough has been with ESPN since 2000, after also having a job there from 1989 to 1995. He’ll be the fifth to become the “MNF” play-by-play person in the franchise’s 46-year history.
He starts with Jon Gruden on the ESPN coverage of the Pro Football Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio on August 7.
Both Tirico and McDonough have known each other since their days some 30 years ago while attending Syracuse.
“I can tell you that Sean is one of my greatest, closest friends,” Tirico said. “Any chair that Sean McDonough sits in is one that is in great hands.”

== Jim Rome’s 22nd annual “Smack Off” is set for July 1. So, where does L.A. listen again?

== Marv Albert, Reggie Miller and Chris Webber are on the TNT team, with reporters Craig Sager and David Aldridge, calling the NBA’s Western Conference finals that start Monday, 6 p.m., with Oklahoma City at Golden State. The TNT studio crew has a one-hour pregame show at the game site. ESPN’s coverage of the Eastern Conference finals could begin Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on KABC-Channel 7 if Toronto finishes off Miami in Friday’s Game 6 of their conference semifinal series. If a Game 7 is needed, that will happen Sunday (12:30 p.m., Channel 7) and the Eastern Conference finals start Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN.

== Editor & Publisher wonders if a classroom of Journalism 500 students at Central Michigan University can figure out the future of the business?

== What is Will Ferrall’s obsession with A.C. Green’s ability to abstain from sex during his NBA career, spent mostly with the Lakers?
51npQz3sU4LFerrall narrates a new ESPN-posted, expertly edited 8 1/2-minute documentary called “A.C. Green: Iron Virgin” that debuted on the website Tuesday and will air it as part of Friday’s 3 p.m. “SportsCenter.” Ferrell’s FunnyOrDie.com partner in crime, Adam McKay, is the exec producer of this project (as is Ferrell), with Isaac Feder as the director.
Jeff Pearlman, author of “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers dynasty of the 1980s,” and actor Lou Gossett Jr. supply the non-Laker narrative to the storyline.
Of course, there’s Green himself. “I think Jesus would have been the kind of basketball player that … would have been unstoppable,” he says at one point.
But could have had handled all the women throwing themselves at him like Green did?
McKay explains his part in all this during a recent interview with TheDailyBeast.com: “I was driving to a basketball game with my friend, Todd [Schulman], who’s a producer on this, and we were talking about things we’d like to see on 30 for 30, and we both thought, ‘How come nobody’s done the A.C. Green story?’ The more we looked into it, the better it got: that he came up during the most debauched party time, ‘showtime’ era, and how his teammates would try to tempt him and it would just make him laugh. And the fact that it all led to him becoming the NBA’s all-time Iron Man, it’s just a crazy story.”

== Jim Watson and Kevin Stocker call USC at UCLA baseball for the Pac 12 Network,  Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. (only on P12LA), and Sunday at 6 p.m.

== NBC’s sports channels (and beyond) remain committed to the Premier League coverage of what it’s still selling as “Championship Sunday” (we were much more engaged when it was “Survival Sunday” or “Relegation Day”),” with 10 matches Sunday at 7 a.m. airing simultaneously on a different NBC channel, including KNBC-Channel 4. Some of the relegation was already taking place after Wednesday’s games this week — you need to be in the top 17 or you get send down. If there’s any confusion as to which game is on what channel,  the Sunday 6 a.m. pregame on CNBC with Steve Bower, Robbie Mustoe, Robbie Earle and Kyle Martino will clarify. They’ll return at 9 a.m. with a two-hour wrapup show on KNBC-Channel 4. Also at 11 a.m., NBCSN has a special show “The Champions: The Leicester City Story.”
Otherwise, here’s the roster:
= Swansea City v. Manchester City, NBC: Arlo White, Lee Dixon, Graeme Le Saux
= Manchester United v. Bournemouth, NBCSN: Jon Champion, Danny Mills
= Arsenal v. Aston Villa, Syfy: Tony Jones, Tony Gale
= Chelsea v. Leicester City, CNBC: Bill Leslie, Andy Hinchcliffe
= Everton v. Norwich City, Esquire Channel: Phil Blacker, Barry Horne
= Newcastle v. Tottenham, USA Network: Jonathan Beck, Garry Birtles
= Southampton v. Crystal Palace, E!: Gary Taphouse, Ray Houghton
= Stoke City v. West Ham United, Bravo: Jim Proudfoot, Don Hutchison
= Watford v. Sunderland, Oxygen: Don Johnson, Efan Ekoku
= West Bromwich Albion v. Liverpool, MSNBC: Joe Speight, Dean Sturridge

== And finally:
This was worth a retweet:

But apparently, Katie Nolan also won a Sports Emmy this week. AwfulAnnouncing.com not only confirmed it (“You beat out all these huge shows … What was it like?”) but got the scoop on the reaction.
And we did spot this classy tweet upon her winning for a category called “Outstanding Social TV Experience,” which got more than 8,000 little hearts:

It’s tough to be critical of a show we’ve never watched and have no real intention of doing so having seen enough of Nolan and what she has done already on social media and during her time with Regis Philbin on whatever that show was that FS1 once launched and then sunk.
Those who like her spunk and non-filter approach toward a sports show claim it to be a fun, balls-out (as it is) experience. She apparently is known for calling out bad behavior and things hypocritical in sports.
Best of luck.
And a list of all the winners. Because that’s what they truly are … winners.

*UPDATE: After we did this post on Friday, we were alerted to a post that the New York Post’s Phil Mushnick did about Nolan as well that posted Saturday online:
Class Dismissed: Katie Nolan, host of FOX Sports 1’s “Garbage Time” — well named, as her show is predicated on appealing to young males who could confuse a smug, vulgar, desperately un-clever young woman for entertainment — last week won a sports Emmy.

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Katie NolanPhoto: Getty Images

And to that she tweeted, unedited and all in upper case, “HOLY F***ING S**T YOU GUYS.” She stayed in character. If she was hired by FOX to perform like a no-upside, look-what-I-can-get-away-with bottom-feeder, she meets or exceeds the terms of her engagement.
Apparently, those who voted appreciate her on-air sexually explicit language and her mocking of unfortunates, including those with Tourette’s syndrome.
The category in which she won? “Outstanding TV Social Experience.” Seriously. Makes you wonder who — or what — finished second.

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