Brent Musburger said in a taped interview that aired Wednesday morning on ESPN’s “SportsCenter”:
“I am not shy from an opinion and I know many of my opinions are going to be controversial because there are many people who don’t like them. (The reaction to his comments on Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend at the 2013 college football championship) still to this day strikes me as the silliest controversy in the world. I became the villain in the eyes of the P.C. press because I dared to call a woman beautiful. I dared to call a beauty queen beautiful? Oh, my goodness, and I always thought, ‘What are you talking about?’”
In addition to a column posted on the news of Musburger’s pending retirement at age 77 — his final game will be Jan. 31 — we posted these notes leading into the weekend:
== ESPN was making news again for the way it wants to present news.
As part of a network repackage its Sunday morning presentation, it decided to eliminate the 29-year run of “The Sports Reporters,” as well as morph “Outside The Lines” into a 6 a.m. Sunday edition of “E:60,” hosted both by Bob Ley and Jeremy Schaap.
“Outside The Lines” with Ley continues as a weekday show at 10 a.m. on ESPN.
Shelving “The Sports Reporters,” which launched in 1988 under Dick Schaap, and then taken on by John Saunders — both of whom have passed on — surely did not sustain any traction with younger viewers no matter how panelists like Mike Lupica, Mitch Albom or Bob Ryan tried to lend their experience on issues of the day that would then get buried by those who scream more loudly during the week.
But this feels as strange as CBS deciding “Face The Nation” or NBC’s “Meet The Press” has run its course. “The Sports Reporters” has brand recognition and to sub it out for a show whose title looks more like an emoji seems to be as much admitting the format doesn’t work any longer or there are no more stable East Coast “reporters” to make it work any longer in one setting.
ESPN basically did this to itself by making “The Sports Reporters” less and less impactful even as the network says in a release announcing the changes that it “established an enduring legacy for thoughtful, diverse points of view, something that permeates throughout current-day sports media across many entities, including ESPN.”
The last edition of “The Sports Reporters” happens May 7.
Said “Pardon The Interruption” co-hosts Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon on their Tuesday show about the change:
“It was the first television exposure for many writers who you see regularly today, including Wilbon and me,” said Kornheiser. “All of us owe a great debt to this show and all the shows we are on.”
“This doesn’t make us sad, it makes us angry because back then when Bristol was afraid to say anything critical about anything, this necessary commentary was outsourced to sports writers and we are thankful and grateful to have been on that show many times over the years,” said Wilbon. “It’s too bad it’s going away.”
== Add to that: Why we tend to care less and less about what ESPN and FS1 say about each other’s debate-show lineup when “stories” like this make the rounds.
== The NHL Network’s plans for the NHL All-Star game includes 12 hours of live coverage with analysts E.J. Hradek, Mike Johnson, Mike Rupp and Kevin Weekes with hosts Jamie Hersch (a USC grad who hosts the “On The Fly” highlights show), Tony Luftman (a former UCLA men’s basketball team manager who graduated from the school in 2000) and Jamison Coyle.
Key programming includes Friday at 4 p.m. heading into the 100 Greatest Players special, Saturday’s media day at 10 a.m. as well as Gary Bettman’s state of the game press conference at 1:45 p.m., plus pre-game coverage of Sunday’s competition at 10 a.m.
== Remember 20-some years ago when Fox tried that glowing puck for NHL telecasts? Many still do and look back on it fondly through this Sports Business Daily story.
Fox debuted it at the 1996 NHL All-Star Game in Boston.
“I thought the All-Star Game was a great place to reveal it for the first time,” said Doc Emerick. “The All-Star Game needs something unique to add to it. In addition, the game had its own theatrics because, of all things, Raymond Bourque, one of the local guys, scored the winning goal late in the game. The contest itself was really good. But the added effects that the FoxTrax brought made it, probably, the most memorable All-Star Game that I’ve done.”
Added Lou D’Ermilio, Fox’s then VP of media relations: “There was a ton of publicity. It was on “World News Tonight” and Popular Mechanics. Letterman did a skit on it. I’ve never been contacted by Popular Mechanics before or since. It was so innovative and different. It was one of those situations where a lot of the press coverage came to us.”
== NBC is of course taking the “Hollywood” angle to the All-Star Game for the Sunday coverage, including a series of posters that make the game look like a movie.
Because Academy Award multi-nominated “La La Land” was too soon?
== Part of Fox Sports West’s contribution to the NHL All-Star game is replaying the annual exhibition that was played at the Forum in 1981 (Thursday, 7:30 p.m.) and the one from Staples Center in 2002 (Friday, 7:30 p.m.) There is also a special from 2:30-to-5 p.m. and 9-to-10:30 p.m. Saturday following up NHL All-Star Saturday.
== And if one can’t get enough of the NHL All-Star game, the American Hockey League’s All-Star Classic also happens Monday at 4 p.m. (Prime Ticket) from Allentown, Pa., with the Kings’ Ontario Reign affiliate filling the Pacific Division roster with three players and head coach Mike Stothers. The 3-on-3 format is the same as the NHL All-Star Game.
== CBS’ crew of Jim Nantz, Nick Faldo, Ian Baker-Finch, Gary McCord, Peter Kostis and Dottie Pepper start the PGA Tour coverage season with the first of 20 events — the Farmers Insurance Open from Torrey Pines (first two rounds are Thursday and Friday on Golf Channel at noon; rounds three and the final round on Channel 2 at noon).
The group will also be at Riviera Country Club in three weeks for the Genesis Open.
Said Faldo about Tiger Woods beginning his comeback with four events in five week: “This is a really important time in Tiger’s life. If he wants to stay a golfer, he has to commit and he has to be rewarded. Otherwise it will be hard luck…He’s a total dominant and he doesn’t want to just be a golfer, I don’t believe. Maybe he does, but he wants to somehow find a way to be competitive. And hey, we wish you well.”
== Dave Pasch is with Doris Burke on ESPN’s call of the Lakers at Portland, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Marv Albert, Chris Webber and Dennis Scott are on TNT’s call of the Lakers at Utah at 7:30 p.m. TNT also has the finalized NBA All Star roster announcements at 4 p.m. Thursday.
== MIke Tirico hosts the coverage of the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational from Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla., for NBC on Saturday (Channel 4, 1:30 p.m.) as California Chrome runs for the last time, battling rival Arrogate. Jerry Bailey, Randy Moss, Eddie Olczyk (before flying to L.A. for the NHL All Star Game), Laffit Pincay III and Donna Brothers are joining in as well.
== SportsNet LA covers the Dodgers FanFest from Dodger Stadium from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday with an endless run of repeats.
== The Pac-12 Network programming of interest:
= UCLA men’s volleyball vs. UC Santa Barbara, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. (Anne Marie Anderson and Al Scates, Pac-12 L.A. only, repeats at 10 p.m. on Pac-12 Network)
= USC men’s volleyball at Stanford, Thursday at 7 p.m. (Kevin Barnett and Dain Blanton, Pac-12 L.A. only, repeats at 11 p.m. on Pac-12 Network)
= UCLA women’s basketball vs. Arizona State, Friday at 8 p.m. (Anne Marie Anderson and Ros Gold-Onwude)
= USC women’s swimming at Stanford, Saturday at noon (Rich Burk, Amy Van Dyken)
= UCLA women’s gymnastics at Oregon State, Saturday at 1:30 p.m. (Daron Sutton, Sam Peszek, Pac-12 L.A. only; repeated at 9 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
= USC women’s basketball vs. Arizona State, Sunday at 3 p.m. (Anne Marie Anderson and Layshina Clarendon)
= UCLA men’s volleyball vs. Princeton, Sunday at 8 p.m. (Kevin Barnett, Al Scates)
== “The Barstool Rundown: Live from Houston” airs on Comedy Central starting Monday at midnight with Dave Portnoy, Kevin Clancy and Dan Katz going for the Super Bowl humor angle, writes Daily Variety. The four half-hour shows also air Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
== It’s called creating buzz and identifying bubble teams earlier than usual — As for more backround on the announcement this week that the NCAA Selection Committee for the men’s college basketball tournament will reveal an early look at how the bracket is shaping up with a special on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 9:30 a.m., chair Mark Hollis will be in the CBS studio with Greg Gumbel, Clark Kellog and Seth Davis to hear the current Top 16 seeds, and the four top of each region, a month before they are to be finalized. Jerry Palm will also join in the show to project the field of 68.
The bracket is out officially on March 12.
== Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden and Lisa Salters have to do the NFL Pro Bowl from Orlando, Fla., for ESPN, Sunday at 4:50 p.m.
== Andrea Joyce works with Ryan Bradley and Ben Agosto on NBCSN for the European Figure Skating Championships. NBCSN has it Wednesday (staqrting at 9 a.m.) through Saturday with the ladies free dance live at 6 p.m. and the men’s at 3 p.m.
== One time KNBC-Channel 4 sportscaster Bryant Gumbel, now 68, said it about his career at HBO’s “Real Sports,” which entered its 23rd season this week: “I used to care about Dodgers 3, Giants 2. Now I think it’s the least important thing about any sports event. The scores are a means to an end. I’m much more concerned about the people in it and the questions it raises.”
The latest edition, which debuted Tuesday, includes a very interesting piece by Jon Frankel that we talked to him about last week and is included in the notes of last Sunday’s column.
== Does Ted Cruz own Deadspin?
== Erin Andrews’ “The Pain You Can’t See” cancer treatment story began as an “exclusive interview” with Emily Kaplan launched on Sports Illustrated’s MMQB.com site before it’s inclusion in the magazine’s print edition that lands on newstands Thursday.
Just curious as to why Fox Sports, which employs her, apparently could not have received the exclusive based on … her employment? Or it doesn’t have enough of a media presence to do anything on line or in print that could take this to a higher level of “credibility.”
Maybe this falls in line with the way Andrews has framed her stories in the past with the media.