Weekly media notes version 05.29.15 — An ‘Undefeated’ mentality will push Whitlock’s site to become more than just a ‘Black Grantland’

With his playbook sitting on his desktop at his L.A. office,  Jason Whitlock will serve as editor-in-chief of ESPN's new website, TheUndefeated.com.  The site will focus on sports, race and culture and is set to launch this summer. (Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News)

With his playbook sitting on his desktop at his L.A. office, Jason Whitlock will serve as editor-in-chief of ESPN’s new website, TheUndefeated.com. The site will focus on sports, race and culture and is set to launch this summer. (Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News)

What’s coming up for Sunday’s weekly column:

Ken Fang over at AwfulAnnouncing.com decided it was time do draw up a list.
Since Bill Simmons has pretty much been wiped clean of the World Wide Leader in Sports — he was replaced this week by Chris Connelly as the interim Editor-in-Chief of Grantland.com, although the website continues to archive his stuff — it must be asked: Who stands next in line to be considered to the face of ESPN?
Because, “over the last five years, one could successfully argue that Bill Simmons was the star of ESPN,” Fang writes, without needing to note that Simmons made it to the No. 36 spot in the LA News Group’s recent 50 Most Powerful in L.A. Sports. “Now as ESPN goes deeper into the 21st Century, who will be that one person who can be most synonymous with the four letter network?”
For as much as the public looks at the network, this might be something of a flawed premise, since ESPN management does its best to make sure that no one person is bigger than the company. Not Berman, Olbermann, Patrick, Vitale …
The face of ESPN, for all intents and purposes, is someone in the leadership role like a George Bodenheimer, or, currently, John Skipper.
Never the less, and alphabetically, Fang floated the names: Skip Bayless, Michelle Beadle, Jay Bilas, John Buccigross, Colin Cowherd (who is a genius according to Dan Levy), Rece Davis, Chris Fowler, Dan Shulman, Stephen A. Smith, Scott Van Pelt and …
One more ….
Jason Whitlock.
“Another controversial choice,” Fang writes of that last one, “we put him here as he gets ready to launch ‘The Undefeated,’ which ESPN hopes to provide as much gravitas as Grantland. While we’ve heard of some bumps in the road for the launch, perhaps things can turn around and Whitlock can become a true leader of the site. We’ll see. And can he become a face of ESPN? As Kevin Garnett said, anything’s possible.”
Anything except this, we’re guessing. We just don’t get the sense that’s what Whitlock is going after here following our sit-down with The Undefeated’s editor in chief from his ESPN L.A. offices this week. The official launch of the site comes soon, but some things need to be put into place. It’s a process, one that Whitlock admits he’s coming at from a different angle of leadership.
He talked about that recently with Jeffrey Fox, author of “How to Become a Great Boss.”
We also caught up with Mike Wise, the former Washington Post columnist who just got back from South Africa to pursue a story idea that The Undefeated sent him on — look for his piece on Josia Thugwane, the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games marathon winner who was first black athlete to earn an Olympic gold for that country.
As @MikeWiseguy tweeted this week:


What’s worth inserting here for more thorough consumption:

Chris-Connelly== As for Connelly, whose work we have admired going back to his “My Wish” series for SportsCenter nearly 10 years ago and even further back when he came on as the host of an “Up Close” spinoff called “Unscripted” in 2001 over at the ESPN Orange County studios, the man often known more for music and pop culture reporting would seem to be a natural fit to replace Simmons.
“Bill Simmons had the vision to create Grantland, and his leadership, ideas, and inspiration made it singularly great,” said Connelly. “I’m looking forward to helping the writers, editors, and producers on this amazingly talented staff create more of the outstanding work for which they’ve rightly become known.”
Marie Donoghue, ESPN’s exec VP of global strategy and original content, says Connelly will “build on the smart, fun, adventurous, creative, unexpected and vital spirit of Grantland.”
ESPN points out as well that Grantland had its most traffic ever in the month of April going back to its 2011 launch.
Connelly has been working on ABC’s “20/20″ and other news programs covering pop culture and other features. He was at MTV for more than 12 years prior to coming to ESPN in 2001 and wrote for Rolling Stone and Premiere.

== ESPN’s beardless Bob Ley is shredding FIFA this morning, as caught by SBNation and TheBigLead.

== There’s a movie out, financed by FIFA, about FIFA? Continue reading

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ESPN’s glimpse of ‘Life on the Streets’ gives Rams’ Long, Hayes a reference point

On one hand, ESPN does show some initiative in putting together a “SportsCenter” feature that allows St. Louis Rams players Chris Long and William Hayes to pretend to be homeless for a 24-hour period for a piece called “Life on the Streets” that will air during the Sunday episodes.
Wearing second-hand clothes and makeup, the two took just $4 apiece and went out with no plan on where to sleep or eat. They are hooked up with small cameras and mikes, and are followed by an ESPN crew, as they mingle with the homeless community of St. Louis.
“It’s amazing though when that cop went to talk to me, just how unsettled that felt, compared to like if a cop normally talks to me walking down the street,” says Long, the 30-year-old son of Fox NFL studio analyst Howie Long.
On the other hand …
A “life” on the street is really more than just a 24-hour news cycle. This is more a very small window of examination. It will be a reference point for Long and Hayes.
It’s almost too easy knowing you can jump out of this experiment and go back to the comforts of an NFL lifestyle once you’re off the clock here.
What’s going to be the takeaway from this? That it’s not real fun to be “out there”? This is a new game of “Survival” to play amongst your friends?
ESPN says it’s “an effort to get a closer look at the hardships homeless people in America endure every day.” That’s pretty altruistic.
Still, the effort to learn more is far better than not caring at all. Just be realistic in what you can gain from a limited experience.
Dealing with folks who are mentally unstable is the most dangerous part of this whole experience, and it could put anyone at risk if the man or woman they are encountering feel they are being exploited here.
Perhaps when the Rams do eventually move back to L.A., Long and Hayes can take another eye-opening trip to Skid Row, meet with civic leaders and urban planners, perhaps even buy up some downtown property and turn it into homeless housing.
This is a story to be continued …

== More background on the project from ESPN’s media relations department. More on this story will be posted Sunday on ESPN.com

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The Emrick/Olczyk/McGuire Express goes coast-to-coast for a pair of Game 7s

51PmlcN2bzLHow much do Doc Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire love them some playoff hockey?
Enough to Duck Tape their eyes open, travel more than 2,500 miles with little sleep and say they’ve called two conference final Game 7s in a 24-hour period before the Stanley Cup Final begins.
It starts with NBC’s NHL A-Team doing the New York Rangers-Tampa Bay Lightning Eastern Conference Game 7 on Friday night from Madison Square Garden on Friday night (5 p.m., NBCSN).
NHLbroadcast_q4p2z8f3_yjx4c86wAfter that ends — and with endless overtime, of course, there’s no guarantees — the trio heads back to their hotel, presumably take a short nap, then catch a 6 a.m. flight out of Newark, N.J., headed for LAX. (Presumably, nothing would get them to Southern California any faster if they were pointed toward John Wayne Airport or even Burbank).
After a scheduled West Coast landing at 9:08 a.m. on Saturday — if all goes well — they will could catch an early-morning skate, go to their new hotel stop, change clothes, then call the Ducks-Chicago Blackhawks Western Conference Final Game 7 that night (5 p.m., Channel 4).
After that, it’s a red-eye out of LAX to their respective homes, at which point they’ll know where Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final begins on Wednesday.
As West Coast hockey viewers have come to expect, the NBC Sports’ plan usually suggests that any combination of play-by-play men like Dave Strader or Kenny Albert, with analysts such as Brian Engblom or Joe Micheletti, handle much of what’s in the Western Conference, while Emrick/Olczyk/McGuire do the East. Earlier in these playoffs, however, Emrick/Olczyk/McGuire were at the Ducks-Blackhawks’ Games 3 and 4 in Chicago — Olczyk’s hometown — while dancing back and forth between the Rangers-Lightning games.
But then again, as a reference point: Emrick/Olczyk/McGuire haven’t done a game at Anaheim’s Honda Center since Game 5 of the 2007 Stanley Cup Final. The Ducks won that game, 6-2, over Ottawa to claim the franchise’s only championship.
Meanwhile, it’s maybe time to break out the BINGO cards from a year ago and see where Emrick/Olczyk/McGuire get you in a real game of line changes. Albert could use the break in his schedule for some amusement anyway.

NBC Sports reports that, to this point, the Stanley Cup Playoffs on NBC Sports Live Extra are up 20 percent over last year in unique views and up 36 percent in minutes watched, averaging 48,000 uniques and 2.2 million minutes. Through 12 games, the NHL Conference Finals on Live Extra are up 43 percent in uniques and 65 percent in minutes watched, totaling 566,000 uniques and 53.5 million minutes watched.

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Vin Scully, and how Jonny Gomes once tangled with a wolf … with more tragedy to come

This clip from Monday’s SportsNet LA telecast of the Dodgers-Braves game has been getting a lot of replay because of the story Vin Scully tells about Atlanta’s Jonny Gomes’ encounter with a wolf once when he was 12.
“Jonny, to make the understatement of the day, has had a very tough life,” Scully said leading into the story during the fourth inning.
When Gomes came up a second time, Scully went into another story about Gomes — he was in a car with his best friend, with two girls up in the front seat. They supposedly flipped a coin to see who would sit where in the back seat. Then an accident occured, where Gomes’ best friend was killed.
Gomes apparantly had five near-death experiences in his life. With the Dodgers and Gomes set for two more appearances on SportsNet LA tonight and Wednesday, we thought we’d better give you a heads up. Tonight’s game is also on ESPN, but then again …

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Charter now promises to pick up Dodgers’ SportsNet L.A., but vague on timetable after TWC takeover announcement

BeryDjGCMAAC2wC1No timetable has been set for the Dodgers’ SportsNet L.A. channel being made available to some 300,000 Charter Communication cable subscribers in Southern California as promised after Tuesday’s announcement of Charter’s intent to take over Time Warner Cable in a $55.3 billion national deal.

TWC spokesman Andrew Fegyversei said: “Charter is committed to carrying SportsNet LA as soon as possible. We’re excited for Charter customers to enjoy the network’s games and in-depth programming.”

Charter spokesman Justin Venech added that the company “expects to launch the Dodgers network to its customers in L.A. in the coming weeks.”

Most of Charter’s customers in Southern California live in the San Gabriel Valley, Pasadena, and Burbank, with some in Long Beach and Malibu areas. That is only about 15 percent of the two million TWC cable customers already in this region that receives Dodgers broadcasts.

Tom Rutledge, the Charter Communications chief executive who will be in charge of the new organization if it passes government approval, was vague in telling the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday morning that “we are going to get the Dodgers on … we want the Dodgers on every outlet and we are committed to making that happen.”

Up to this point, Charter has stood with a group that included DirecTV, Dish Network, Comcast, Cox Verizon FIOS and AT&T U-verse that has defiantly resisted the reported $5-per-subscriber monthly fee involved in carrying the Dodgers-owned channel, which is being distributed by Time Warner Cable Sports.

DirecTV remains the lynchpin in the process of whether the channel eventually receives acceptance to competing dish and cable systems other than Time Warner Cable, which  has agreed to carry SportsNet L.A. since its launch in February, 2014.

Time Warner Cable was recently thwarted in an attempt to merge with Comcast Communications. The Charter merger with TWC is not expected to be completed until the end of this year, according to reports.

DirectTV remains in negotiations with a merger plan involving AT&T that, if completed, would likely lead to that company reopening talks with TWC on the SportsNet L.A. carriage, but will not guarantee its advancement. The government is expected to approve that DirecTV-AT&T merger in the coming months.

The Dodgers have made only one national TV appearance this year — ESPN carried the April 15 Jackie Robinson Day game when they hosted Seattle. The Dodgers-Atlanta contest is on both SportsNet L.A. and ESPN tonight at 7 p.m. The Dodgers’ game in St. Louis on Saturday will be on Fox-Channel 11 at 4:15 p.m.

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