Friday, November 22, 2013

Ever Present (Costas), Presence (Tirico) and Presently (Finebaum) Play Out During an Interesting Week

During a busy week in the sports media world, three unrelated stories seem tied together because of personalities present as the respective protagonists.

In the story that will attract the most viewers, NBC Sports announced this week that Bob Costas would serve as host of the network's primetime Winter Olympics coverage from Feb. 6-23. It's his 10th such assignment. He'll also host late night coverage.

Since 1992, Costas, 61, has been the primetime host for every Olympics on NBC. That's six Summer Games and three Winter Games.

He's the ever-present face of the Games for many U.S. viewers and he brings an approach that works in terms of potential news and necessary storytelling -- especially with the Winter Games and sports that often do not get much exposure in the United States. With such softer fare, he's less likely to come off as overbearing or pompous, which some critics allege when he's working more mainstream sports and feels free to blur the line between hosting and taking an opportunity to opine.

That's not always an easy line and especially so for a play-by-play man, but ESPN's Mike Tirico handled such a case gracefully and professionally in a stellar example of presence earlier this week "Monday Night Football."

With the controversial non-call ending between the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers, Tirico stayed on top of things as they happened. He kept viewers engaged as what was initially flagged as a pass interference penalty in the end zone on the game's final play was waved off.

The "MNF" production team had the right replays and reaction shots at the right times, and Tirico made the most of that material while working in color commentator Jon Gruden and former official Gerry Austin. And, credit Austin for being more succinct and on point than usual, even if you disagree that he agreed with/confirmed the call.

Still, it was Tirico who directed the traffic and put his partners in a position to succeed. Good work by someone from whom we've come to expect such work.

Another person who knows how to do good work, because he knows his audience, is Paul Finebaum -- and his audience will broaden significantly Monday when ESPN adds him on its satellite radio lineup. The show will air from 2 to 6 p.m. on ESPN Xtra (Channel 85).

While he was still based in Birmingham, Ala., Finebaum's flavor and style -- and honestly the flavor and style of his callers -- found acceptance among callers all over the nation when it was on satellite radio. As a result, his return should be welcomed by many who listen faithfully to satellite radio.

In addition, he enhances his brand and value at ESPN with the move. Along with the radio show that had been on air regionally, he's become an interesting and regular part of the network's college football coverage (from "College GameDay" to weekday spots on several shows) and will no doubt be a big part of whatever happens related to the launch of the SEC Network next year.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Glazer Gets It: His Job, Network/Self Promotion

Jay Glazer
Kudos to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports for all his work related to the Miami Dolphins story.

He's been one of the leaders in regard to breaking and following the story since it first surfaced about two weeks ago. It's the kind of NFL reporting many have come to expect of Glazer.

Then, in the aftermath of his one-on-one interview with Richie Incognito that aired Sunday and Monday on different Fox Sports outlets, he has proven just as adept at promoting his home network and programs as well as his work.

With guest appearances on a variety of programs, including ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" and CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight," both of which he visited Tuesday, Glazer appropriately and tactfully drove home the point that his work appeared on Fox Sports programs.

It was self promotion, but it felt more factual than overstated. It's also the kind of thing that some suits at networks invariably worry about when a talent from a rival network appears on one of their shows. Still, that rarely happens, mostly because those doing the reporting (and then the talking about their reporting) are not as deft as Glazer.

In covering the story, and in shaping other people's coverage of the story while promoting his own efforts and network, Glazer has been consistently strong.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Reporters, former players a complement on Incognito

Thank you Adam Schefter, Chris Mortensen and Jay Glazer for the reporting on the Richie Incognito story. When things happen, viewers and listeners get the latest, or at least the latest that can be reported ... thankfully even with some context.

Still, their work -- and even moreso those of sports journalists who call South Florida home and regularly cover the Miami Dolphins -- is just the start of what listeners and viewers expect.

True context comes from the former NFL coaches and players. They have generally not been reactionary, and bring great perspectives to discussion about the issue. As a result, through the past few days of the story, it's been even better to hear from them than the reports.

It's an All-Pro list and a long list of those who have done well, too. In large part because they bring experience to the story that media members who have never played the game simply do not have -- no matter how long they've played the sport.

In that vein, Herman Edwards, Mark Schlereth, Marcellus Wiley and even the surprisingly strongly opinionated Tom Jackson have been among the best. Yes, my listening and viewing habits skew strongly toward ESPN. After three decades, and despite the silliness of "First Take" and obvious commercial moves and conflicts, they've earned my trust.

In the past few days the one-two punch of reporters and former players have proven again they deserve that faith.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Harassment, hazing story separates media, more

The ongoing NFL tale of hazing, workplace harassment, racism and more has provided fodder for every possible part of the sports media world.

Offensive lineman Richie Incognito's apparent mistreatment (and that's an understatement if all the accusations prove true) of Miami Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin has been examined in every way.

Sports-talk radio, TV sports debate shows, TV sports talking heads and TV sports news shows have all done what they should with the story. Cable and network news have chased the story as well. They have to -- it's interesting, it's unusual and it's the all-powerful NFL.

As a result, the potential aspects and impacts of the story have not been overlooked in terms of business, ethics, entertainment, law and any number of combination of those topics and more.

Still, the separations between serious news and silliness have never been more evident than with this story.

Those talking mostly to hear themselves, encourage debate or incite some type of reaction have done just that -- and done it well. Thankfully, those who bring some sense of measure, nuance and patience to the discussion have found a place as well. Granted, it's a much smaller place, but at least it's there.

At the same time, the separation between fans and the media, and between those in the media with a powerful politically correct perspective that appreciates only black-and-white discussions and those who know the gray that exists in professional sports has proven just as big.

It's clearly a right-and-wrong story. At the same time, the number of voices on all sides of the argument -- from those who have no hesitation vilifying Incognito to those who question the manner in which their teammate has been questioned -- has made the story all the more interesting.

With all the separations, though, fans, listeners and viewers all deserve more even more patience and persistence. Hopefully it will come. Eventually.