Weekly sports media notes version 06.17.16: Open season again on Fox’s golf coverage

Bubba Watson, left, watches his tee shot on the sixth hole as his caddie looks during a practice round for the U.S. Open golf championship at Oakmont Country Club on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Bubba Watson, left, watches his tee shot on the sixth hole as his caddie looks during a practice round for the U.S. Open golf championship at Oakmont Country Club on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

What is more timely to post at this point in the weekend:

== At the end of last year’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, Wash., USA Today put together a list of the “19 worst things” about Fox’s coverage.
Take your pick. Some were nit-picking. Other things were quite lacking.
Among Golf Digest’s nine reasons why we “should be optimistic that Fox’s U.S. Open coverage will be better at Oakmont” this weekend, there are the obvious changes in the on-air talent: Paul Azinger and Curtis Strange are in analyzing, and Greg Norman isn’t.
Plus, there’s one more year of experience with Joe Buck at the control tower.
That could be the biggest game changer.

 Jordan Spieth with Fox's Joe Buck after Sunday's final round of the 2015 U.S. Open. (Michael Madrid-USA TODAY)

Jordan Spieth with Fox’s Joe Buck after Sunday’s final round of the 2015 U.S. Open. (Michael Madrid-USA TODAY)

“Going into last year’s U.S. Open and coming out of last year’s U.S. Open, I’ve never been more proud of an event we’ve covered at Fox, period,” Buck said in a conference call last week. “I refuse to apologize for 2015. That’s ridiculous. The critics who were unkind, that’s not a newsflash, that’s kind of the way of the world. When you start, you’ve got to earn your position and where I failed most of the time last year was injecting the heart and soul of what these guys are trying to do.
“I was completely caught up managing the scoreboard and back to the fairway and back to the tee and back to the green — there’s a lot of moving parts in golf and you make the mistake of thinking going in it’ll be slow, but it’s the opposite when you finally sit in that chair and don’t know what it’s like. Prior to 2015, I had no idea what it took. That’s where I’ll grow at this event is taking a step back and knowing I have the mechanics down as much as I can and inject more of the flavor of what’s going on in the players’ heads and hearing that from Paul and Curtis and Brad (Faxon).
“So if you’re begging for an apology for 2015, I’ll never do that. It was a great high-wire act and I’m glad we made it. It could have fallen apart but we had the drama all the way down the stretch. I know whatever we did in 2015 will be markedly better in 2016.”

And then he said a few more caustic things with a Barstool Sports podcast.

Fox’s coverage begins Thursday and Friday on Fox Sports 1 at 7 a.m. through 2 p.m., when Fox Channel 11 picks it up from 2-to-5 p.m. Fox Channel 11 has the third round Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the final round Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
If a playoff is needed — that’s a full 18 holes — Fox Channel 11 has it Monday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Aside from Buck, Azinger and Faxon in the booth and Strange on the ground, Fox employs Steve Flesch, Scott McCarron, Juli Inkster, Shane Bacon, Ken Brown, Bob Ford, Jaime Diaz, David Fay, Gil Hanse and Holly Sonders as part of their broadcast crew.

== In addition to our piece last Sunday on Azinger, here’s another enlightening one from Golf Digest’s Diaz.

High-definition VR cameras are set up on the 18th tee during a practice round for the U.S. Open golf championship at Oakmont Country Club on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

High-definition VR cameras are set up on the 18th tee during a practice round for the U.S. Open golf championship at Oakmont Country Club on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

== For those interested in the virtual reality angle of the U.S. Open — which is not like 3D of the past — the Associated Press has a view of it.
As part of Fox’s five-year deal with NextVR, some Darth Vadar-looking cameras will be positioned at Oakmont at the ninth, 17th and 18th holes, with roving capability at the neighboring Nos. 10 and 12. There will also be pre-packaged video on demand, including footage of players on the practice range each morning, a narrated history of Oakmont, two-minute “golf tips” and features on each hole. The coverage is available through the NextVR app for Samsung Gear VR owners.

== JP Dellacamera, Landon Donovan and Jenny Taft have the call of the U.S. matchup with Ecuador in Seattle on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on FS1 in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals. The hour-and-a-half pregame at 5 p.m. includes Rob Stone, Alexi Lalas, Fernando Fiore, Herculez Gomez and Aly Wagner.
“With Copa America setting multiple ratings records on our networks and the American team getting hot at the perfect time, an expanded studio presence is a natural addition as part of our unrivaled commitment to the sport,” said David Neal, Executive Producer, FIFA World Cup on Fox, said in a statement. “The atmosphere in Seattle is going to be electric, and we can’t wait to be a major part of what is going to be an incredible day in American sports from Seattle to Cleveland to Oakmont.”
The rest of the quarterfinals: John Strong and Stu Holden call Peru-Colombia (Friday, 5 p.m., FS1), Mark Followill and Eric Wynalda have Argentina-Venezuela (Saturday, 4 p.m., FX) and Strong, Brad Friedelm and Francisco X. Riviera call Mexico-Chile (Saturday, 7 p.m., FX). Grant Wahl is a roving reporter and Dr. Joe Machnik is there are rules analyst.

== TNT’s Craig Sager, who, as he continues treatment for leukemia and has had recent bouts with infections and pneumonia along the way, has accepted ESPN’s invitation to help with the NBA Finals coverage for Thursday’s Game 6 in Cleveland, went on with Mike Greenburg and Mike Golic earlier this week to talk about the announcement.
“I feel good,” he also told the New York Times. “My energy is there. I’m able to do my job with no complications.”
After Game 6, Sager said he would continue his clinical trial of eight days of chemotherapy every three weeks.
Next month, ESPN will give Sager an ESPY Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the LA Live ceremony. In August, he will join NBC for the Summer Olympics basketball coverage.

== The Clippers continue to explore ways of broadcasting games in non-traditional means, and they’ll be commissioning a study for a new “digital video service” that would involve streaming regular-season games, writes staffer Dan Woike.
The Clippers’ deal with Prime Ticket ended at the end of this season and the two are in negotiations to renew it.
Meanwhile, NBA commissioner Adam Silver, in an interview with CNBC.com, said the “transformation of television as we know it” is one of the things that keeps him up at night.
“I’m spending a lot of time watching the trends in terms of pay television. That’s still the mainstay of our business, certainly in the United States, so I’m very interested to follow those trends. ESPN is doing a wonderful job transferring customers from traditional TV to their app. … I’m spending a lot of time watching the trend from traditional television more towards more app-based viewership, tablet-based and smart phones. … We have such strong differientated content, there’s tremendous interest and want to make sure our platforms exist.”

== Moping up the NHL Stanley Cup Final coverage: Why ratings were the lowest since 2006.

== A tweet came out Wednesday morning at 6:12 a.m.:

Then this tweet came about six minutes later:

Who do we give credit for having this info first? ESPN’s Soltys, because he was simply tweeting out a story posted by ESPN’s Josh Krulewitz that the Sports Business Daily saw.
This can get way too complicated.

== ESPN’s coverage of the Dodgers-Washington series on Monday and Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. from Dodger Stadium will air simultaneously with SportsNet LA’s coverage (with Vin Scully on the call). Monday’s matchup is scheduled to have Clayton Kershaw against Stephen Strasburg, while Julio Urias throws on Wednesday.
Of the three regional MLB games on Fox Channel 11 on Saturday after the U.S. Open, Los Angeles gets Pittsburgh at Chicago Cubs (Matt Vasgersian, John Smoltz, Ken Rosenthal). Texas at St. Louis goes nationally on FS1 Saturday at 1 p.m. with Aaron Goldsmith and CJ Nitkowski.

== Bob Varsha and Brian Till are the main voices on Fox’s coverage of the 84th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, starting at 5:30 a.m. Saturday. After going over to FS2 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., 3-3:30 p.m., 4-4:30 p.m., and 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., it’s back on FS1 from 11:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Sunday. The entire race streams on Fox Sports GO. More on the coverage here.
The Petersen Automotive Museum will also host race viewing party on Saturday starting at 6 p.m.

== Colin Cowherd just wants you to like him, says the headline here. And Fox Sports wants you to like the guests they’ll be bringing onto shows hosted by Cowherd and others so much, the network announced the hiring of Aimee Leone from WME-IMG to be Senior VP/Talent, who’ll have to move from New York to L.A. to fulfill these duties.
Since, of course, Fox Sports is in L.A., not New York as everyone else wants to stay.
She starts in July.
“We are making an incredibly large bet that one of the ways for FS1 to distinguish itself in the marketplace is by acquiring transformational talent,” Fox Sports networks president Jamie Horowitz said in a release. “It takes an incredible amount of time and patience to manage people who go on the air every day. You need someone outside the show who can be a different voice with them. Aimee has the gifts that will make her a part-time executive, part-time therapist and part-time bartender.”
Horowitz has known Leone since the late ’90s when they both worked at NBC.

== Attn. Paul Sunderland, an NBA job opening: Mike Barrett and Mike Rice, the “Mike and Mike” of Portland for years on Trail Blazers TV games, are gone. So, too, is radio analyst Antonio Harvey, according to team president and CEO Chris McGowan.
Barrett has been the lead play-by-play man for 13 seasons and has 17 years in with the team. Rice has spent 11 of his 26 seasons with the team as the TV color man.
Brian Wheeler, who has called radio games for the Blazers the last 18 seasons, will return.

== Chris Marlowe, Kevin Wong and Carolyn Manno have NBC’s coverage of the AVP New York City Open live on Saturday (Channel 4, 1-3 p.m.) and Sunday (1:30-3 p.m.)

== The Epix Channel documentary on Serena Williams, entitled simply “Serena,” makes its TV premiere on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Matthew Goldberg and Brandon Carroll of  Film 45 produced it, and Ryan White directed, with Peter Berg as the executive producer.

== And finally:

firestoneroy-61516-getty-us-ftr_1sk1mpkga0ypn1moepute1vpeoMore are still gushing about ESPN’s unraveling “Made in America” O.J. Simpson documentary, cut up into five nightly segments. Still, we aren’t making time to watch it. We call it O.J. Fatigue.
Nor were we prepared to see Roy Firestone suddenly inserted into the fire storm.
The former ESPN “Up Close” host was lit up on social media during the airing of the series second installment, particularly by those on Twitter for the way he seemed to dance around an interview he did with Simpson some 27 years ago that was replayed as part of the doc narrative.
The purpose of the clip was to demonstrate how Firestone, as part of the media, basically glossed over domestic violence allegations against Simpson.
“The point I’m making, Juice … you were portrayed in the press for a while there like a wife beater!” Firestone says to Simpson.
Firestone responded on HuffingtonPost.com:
e98522b0-32fd-11e6-a230-4fd9e6c027fa_Screen-Shot-2016-06-15-at-9-34-05-AM“For me … there is anxiety, sadness and frustration attached to this program. … I asked him about an alleged incident of physical violence toward Nicole Brown on New Year Eve. He denied there was anything to the story. I believed him. There were no arrests, no charges filed, no criminal investigation, and I assumed, wrongly, that it was a private matter and the book was closed.
“Given the horrible events to come, I wish I had known more, questioned more, and I fault myself for that. I still do to this day. The clip which appears in the documentary makes it appear that I was chummy with Simpson. It makes it appear, even two years BEFORE the murders, that I was dismissing the seriousness of the issue of domestic violence. …To be in any way seen as lighthearted, chummy or even mildly enabling some monstrous issue like that still haunts me 22 years later. The Simpson interview is one of the most tragic examples of how the media (including me) and the public trusted and accommodated their heroes, believing their mythology and perpetuating their deification.”

But then Firestone went one step further into damage control.
Invited onto FS1’s “Speak For Yourself,” he further said how he was “disgusted” by that interview “in context and with distance.” He added that he was “not congratulating myself” on the fact that clip was introduced as evidence against Simpson in his 1995 murder trial but quickly rejected.
But when asked if he thought he should have been included by filmmaker Ezra Edleman in this documentary with a current interview, Firestone agreed that it “would have been more journalistically sound … that (invitation) wasn’t afforded me and because of that, it comes off out of nowhere and it damns me to the public to a certain extent.”
Yeah, not really. Edleman is making a piece of film, not so much journalism here, and it’s not as if he needed 10 more minutes of a Firestone fireside chat jammed into an already nearly eight-hour finished product. But keep thinking that.

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