John Saunders, second from right, works with Jamelle Hill, Bob Ryan and Mike Lupica on a 2013 episode of “The Sports Reporters”
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.”