Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Media-themed bracket wise for local sports talk

Cory Giger's handwritten seeds for the "tournament."
It's not an original idea by any stretch of the imagination, but latching onto the NCAA Tournament with a regional "tournament" focused on the Most Annoying Media Member was a good move by the namesake of "Sports Talk with Cory Giger," which airs in the Altoona and State College media markets from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays.

Giger made himself the top seed in the event and built a 16-person field of personalities that his listeners know by their efforts, or at least their reputations.

After the first round of play -- contested by voting at Giger's Twitter account (@CoryGiger) -- trimmed the field in half, eight competitors remained. And it was an interesting mix.

Those quarterfinals featured:
1 Giger vs. 8 Neil Rudel
That's the Altoona Mirror sports writer and radio host vs. the same paper's managing editor (Rudel), known as one of the longest-tenured members on the Penn State sports beat. Giger had a a solid early lead in voting for Most Annoying among the pair. By job description alone, that probably makes sense. When he advances, Giger could face an interesting semifinal challenge.

2 Dave Jones vs. 10 Ron Musselman
This matchup features Patirot-News/Pennlive columnist Jones, perhaps the least self-effacing member of the Penn State media contingent. He's developed strong sources on the beat, though, and even when not present ranks as a presence in the media room. He's proven and solid at his job, and, in the mind of some Penn State fans, could rank as annoying. More interesting is that Musselman, absent from the Penn State beat and the media market overall until being hired in the past week or so by WJAC, advanced in the first round. He made news while covering Penn State when Joe Paterno was the coach (with a road rage story) and again when Bill O'Brien was in charge (with the coach famously calling the reporter by a different first name while knowing the difference). Those were during stints with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He also previously worked for StateCollege.com

3 Mark Madden vs. 6 Jerry Valeri
A late addition but a high seed, Madden might not be heard by many people in the Altoona/State College markets unless they are Pittsburgh Penguins fans, or die-hards who find his work online. There's no doubt he's polarizing, but that also means he's effective at his job. Sometimes, true to his affinity for pro wresting, it sometimes feels as if he's playing the heel, but he shows his journalistic chips often enough to offset the silliness -- at least for me. Conversely, Valeri, who does not work in sports, other than being a fans and some occasional Penn State public address opportunities, would seem to be a walkover opponent for Double M. Valeri can be annoying, but he has seemingly found his niche as a morning-drive host on a State College country station. He often does double duty, and more, for Forever Broadcasting. He might merit a spot in the field for conversation sake, but the six seed is generous and the Madden matchup seems tough.

4 Phil Grosz vs. 5 Dejan Kovacevic 
This quarterfinal matches the longtime publisher of Blue-White Illustrated (Grosz) and the entrepreneur and journalist who moved form newspapers to launch his own subscriber and sponsor driven website focused on Pittsburgh sports (Kovacevic). It's hard to paint Grosz as annoying in a bad manner. He's a character, a hard-working early adopter with recruiting coverage and has worked to keep his publication relevant as the market has gotten more cluttered. While Kovacevic's approach has gotten off to a strong start, it has been more than a business success. In the last week specifically, his site, http://dkpittsburghsports.com/, broke the news of the suspension of Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant -- and the reaction for people seeking more information subsequently broke the website. Briefly. Kovacevic's personal touch and strong opinions might make him annoying to some, and help him advance in this tournament, but that hardly makes him a bad guy.

The event will conclude in the next couple of days on Twitter, and, honestly, there's not a bad guy in the bunch. Giger has appropriately made the tournament a fun endeavor and hopefully those involved will as well. (Unfortunately, in an oversight, there was not a single women in the field.)

All who remain have a tough-enough skin to deal with an eventual Most Annoying Media Member title, and the semifinals seem primed to feature Giger, Kovacevic, Madden and Musselman -- in a slight upset. After that, Madden's bombast could propel him into a finals matchup with Giger.

The real winner in anything like this should be listeners, though.

Yes, it's contrived. Yes, it can seem self-serving but it's still decent radio and a way to drive some interest and interaction. It's a model used regularly across the nation -- and, in my mind, perfected years ago on Philadelphia sports-talk radio with regular "Field of 64" segments that drove a day's worth of conversation and even allowed the hosts to overrule decisions made by callers.