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 ….
“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:
Took another tour of @TheUndefeated. Good nucleus. Lot of heart, talent. Nice facilities. Decent workout room. Glad I signed.
— Mike Wise (@MikeWiseguy) May 28, 2015
What’s worth inserting here for more thorough consumption:
== 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.