The Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame held its induction ceremony last month at the Waldorf-Astoria after missing 2020 because of the pandemic. Charles Barkley became the first former NBA player to be inducted into both the Basketball and Sports Broadcasting halls of fame. In his acceptance speech, Barkley said he never minded going out on a limb or saying things which bordered on the ridiculous because the most important thing is entertaining his audience.
James Brown, the amiable anchor of CBS’s “NFL Today” studio show, was also honored. Not surprisingly, many of JB’s CBS colleagues were there to cheer him on, including his “NFL Today” co-stars Bill “Coach” Cowher and Nate Burleson.
Burleson is not only on “NFL Today,” but he also co-hosts “CBS Mornings” and a sports show on Nickelodeon called, naturally, “NFL Slimetime.” Burleson chuckled when I called him “Mr. Viacom,” and asked him when he was going to become a correspondent on “60 Minutes.” I asked if television success has overshadowed his NFL career where he was a terrific wide receiver for 11 years. “I have a feeling I have changed that narrative,” he replied with mixed emotions.
I joked with CBS Sports CEO Sean McManus, whose network broadcasts the futile New York Jets most weeks, about Gang Green. “Are you a Jets fan?” he asked. “No, but I know who the biggest Jets fans are — Spero Dedes and Andrew Catalon. They get to broadcast to the nation’s biggest market every week even though they are down the CBS sportscaster depth chart.” “You’re probably right about!” he said with a smile.
“Sunday Night Football” executive producer Fred Gaudelli, known for his wit, was inducted. I jokingly asked him when the Jets or Giants would make a Sunday appearance on NBC. He replied without hesitation, “Not anytime soon!”
Fellow executive producer John Filippelli, who heads the YES Network, was also inducted. He took pride in the number of women he has hired for sportscasting positions, such as Sarah Kustok, Nancy Newman and Michelle Beadle.
The MLB Network parted with Ken Rosenthal, allegedly because he wrote a column critical of baseball commissioner Rob Manfred. Manfred may be thin-skinned, but journalists should never be compensated by the industry that they cover.
No one is going to have to start a GoFundMe page for Rosenthal. He is well-compensated by both Fox Sports and the Athletic, the overhyped sports website which was sold for $550 million to The New York Times last week, even though it has been hemorrhaging red ink for years. The Times has a questionable history when it comes to acquisitions, and this was further proof.
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There are always quirky playoff-implication scenarios going into the last weekend of the regular season. It’s safe to say this year was a doozy in that regard.
The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens in overtime Sunday afternoon to put themselves in practically a lock to make the NFL postseason. The only scenario where they would not qualify was if the Sunday night football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders ended in a tie. On the NBC “Football Night in America” pregame show, NBC News stats guy Steve Kornacki said the possibility of that happening was about three-tenths of one percent, so any talk of a tie seemed like anecdotal fodder.
Sure enough, the Chargers-Raiders game went into overtime and speculation turned to the risks each team was willing to take. The consensus from broadcasters Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth was if the game were still going on with less than two minutes left, both sides would settle for the tie. When the Chargers called a timeout with 38 seconds left, Michaels and Collinsworth became apoplectic trying to figure out what LA coach Brandon Staley was thinking. My guess is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell may have played a part in Staley doing that.
Comedian Bill Maher does a bit on his HBO “Real Time” show called “I can’t prove it, but I know it’s true!” Channeling my inner Maher, I wouldn’t be surprised if Goodell called the owners of both the Chargers and the Raiders and told them “I don’t care who wins but I want one team to win this game or else!”
Goodell knew that if the game ended in a tie because each side became ultra-conservative, the outcries about game integrity would be deafening. He also didn’t need Pennsylvania elected officials, and those running for statewide office in 2022, to start calling for investigations into the NFL. Hey, some of those folks still cannot believe Joe Biden carried Pennsylvania in 2020 despite no proof to the contrary. Goodell also knew the media would run with any story about how someone made a fortune by betting on the tie scenario.
It is safe to say Goodell breathed a deep sigh of relief when Raiders’ kicker Dan Carlson booted a 47-yard field goal with two seconds left to win the game for his team, 32-29.
If you are feeling down about the baseball lockout and need a good laugh, pick up a copy of “What’s Up, Ramrod?” authored by former Cardinals and Royals relief pitcher Mark Littell. This is Littell’s third book, and you can think of him as a modern-day Jim Bouton as he humorously describes his life as a coach in Australia and in the minor leagues of the good old USA. The language is sometimes salty, but the laughs are immense.
It is to be seen whether the legalization of sports wagering on mobile devices in the Empire State will enrich state coffers as much as they will benefit radio and television ad departments. Caesars has spared no expense by hiring comedian JB Smoove, the first family of football, the Mannings and Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry for a series of commercials which are fun to watch. Wynn Casinos has countered by hiring film star Ben Affleck for its spots.
The Belmont Stakes will be shifting from NBC to Fox Sports effective June 2023. Fox Sports has taken a far more active role in the world of wagering than the other broadcast networks. They already hold a 25 percent equity stake in NYRA Bets, the New York Racing Association’s off-track wagering arm, so Fox’s move to handle NYRA’s biggest racing event of the year is not surprising.
Life and style
NBC has found a way to bring back a long dormant television genre, the variety show, with “That’s My Jam,” hosted by Jimmy Fallon. The ostensible format is a game show focused on music with two teams of celebrities squaring off against each other to win money for their favorite charities. That is quickly an afterthought as the focus is on comedy. Last week, singer Josh Groban had to sing a tune by imitating Barry Gibb and Barry White on alternating lyrics, while Chance the Rapper got spritzed with water when he did not know the lyric to a hit song. “That’s My Jam” is a fun spoof of both “Name That Tune!” and “Shazam!”
On Jan. 30, Fox will debut “Monarch,” a weekly soap opera about a high-profile country music family starring the controversial Susan Sarandon, and real-life country music superstar Trace Adkins whose booming deep voice is frequently heard on commercials.
As a way of encouraging both interest in this show and for encouraging its viewers to learn how to play the guitar, or improve their skills, FOX has signed an agreement with Zealot Interactive in which viewers can learn how to play the songs featured on “Monarch.”
Hulu will be launching an eight-episode series, “Pam & Tommy,” on Feb. 2. “Pam & Tommy” is a dramatization of the marriage of ingenue Pamela Anderson (Lily James) and Motley Crue drummer, Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan). The emphasis is on a sex tape which they made for their private fun but was stolen and sold to the public. It became one of the first headline cases of the internet destroying privacy. Hulu’s tagline for the series is “The greatest story ever sold!”
Last month the city Parks Department opened Battery Playscape at Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park. The children’s park has various sized slides made of granite instead of metal, and treehouses. It would be nice if the Playscape concept comes to a Queens park soon.