Tag Archives: CBS

ESPN17: Start Bailing ‘Little Buddy,’ This Skipper Can’t Steer a Ship Either

4 May

ESPN president and Disney Suit John Skipper would never be confused on sight with Alan Hale’s seafaring TV character of the 1960s shipwreck comedy, Gilligan’s Island (’64-67 CBS). Now “Thurston Howell III,” Jim Backus’ sarcastic and always well-attired millionaire on the high-traffic but officially deserted key, he might bear a slightly better resemblance, at least in trappings.

Hale Jr. (“Skipper”), the son and near image of his famous actor father (mother was silent star Gretchen Hartman) and namesake who teamed with many greats including Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood (38) (“Little John”), played the perpetually frustrated captain with the half-dozen castaways and bore little physical likeness to the contemporary Cufflink and Columbia graduate.

But were you to compare the two on their judgment and disposition of respective charges (“S.S. Minnow” v. ESPN), “Mr. Howell” might very well say this of both leaders: ‘Now I say, Lovie, there are two men cut from the same cloth…burlap!’

Disney ≠ sports

Last week the Disney (ESPN) sports network made the real news page when they announced the firing of 100 or so employees, some of long standing like NFL reporter / insider, Ed Werder and anchor Jay Crawford.

You want details on the pink-slip parade? You’ll have to peruse the net yourself. I can’t afford the megabytes, not with usage rates soaring skyward (oy vey).

Suffice to write, if these terminations are consistent with the industry approach in recent years, most of the pinkees were male, white, older (35+) and performed their jobs with overall skill and dedication, i.e., too many college degrees for too few jobs and with too many niche markets to meet.

Do we care about the cut-down, even as sport fans? Hmmm, not really. Aside from the smidgen of camaraderie I feel for the majority in that I too am male, white, degreed and older, those fired should’ve seen this coming years ago and prepared accordingly with resume updates in phone #s and references.

This mass, forced exodus may be just one more phase in a pattern of ill-advised changes that’ve been steadily implemented since Skipper took to steering content calls in 2005. Though, in the case of fired NFL analyst Trent Dilfer, the former QB had not been the same since he seems to’ve taken that bad (saboteur-ish (?)) advice from “Kenny Mitchell” on the set to develop an edge (See; Rob Parker).

What the downsize does do is provide a sounding-board for this former Disney devotee to vent views on likely motivations behind the on-going chintzy changes being wrought by Skipper & Co. to the network’s motif & mission, and then the big markers along this sad journey that have turned what had been a sport fan dreamland (1979 – 2010) into a nightmare that seems to have no good end.

♫ Those Were The Days My Friend ♫

I was a regular of ESPN’s early entrée in the 1980s. I think those like me had grown up on ABC Wide World of Sport and figured this was the next best step.

Diversity in race, gender and games was absent in the anchorage and content in this Mercury stage of cable media, so to speak. But by Apollo phase (85 >) pay-load in variety had launched, hit pay-dirt ($) and has been in orbit ever since.

Bottom-line: Everybody was welcome. Male or female, black or white, young or old, USA-born or foreign, most viewers had a common thread running through their collective letter jacket: A sincere love of sport. We didn’t care if you were a purple octopus from Venus reading the copy, if you knew your stuff, we could tell and we watched. And if you didn’t, we could spot that too. But those fakes never showed up on the Sportscenter back then or were awful terrific actors.

If a fan of the American majors (MLB, NFL, etc.) and highlights, you were in clover. Sport news served piping hot, before poker (Zzzz), college aid (ESPNU), morning fashion plate, kid content (X Games), music promos, Sportscenter specialty segments and all those boorish talking heads. Had the foreign sporting fare been served up (soccer (fútbol), rugby, béisbol – 野球 – 야구), their fans too would be waxing sentimental and grinding their teeth over ESPN’s devolution.

And there was always the ticker at the bottom of the screen as your fall-back to get scores, sans the endless sabrmetric snooze for today‘s fantasy gambler.

For $12 a month, basic cable gave you a whole new world of information, not as broadly capable as the internet but less pricey and totally cool.

For news you got locals, networks and CNN Headline 24-7 with neutral anchors who just read the copy. For sport you got TBS (Braves), WGN (Cubs), USA network and Bristol-based ESPN: Also 24-7 with anchors in standard-issue blazers. Then came the acquisitions by ABC (‘84), Capital Cities Communications (‘85) and in 1996 the game-changer in The Walt Disney Company.

The anchor personalities were memorable (Tom Mees (d.1996) and Charley Steiner come to mind), all clear, often clever without being cute. There wasn’t a clunker among ‘em. The savvy Linda Cohn and Bob Ley are the two remaining but most moved on to greener pastures ($) only to fall off the map, so to speak.

And now it’s all gone, gone with the wind in Turner vernacular.

Youthenization

In the 90s began the serious expansion and then dilution of the ESPN product.

First came ESPN Radio (‘92), ESPN2 (93), ESPY nite (Only SAG name is worse) and then the X Games (95), the start of a youthenization that’s swept the TV dial (Expect a “Harry Potter” marathon on TCM in the not too distant future) and all consumerland (See; Honda Civic). All reasonable enough ventures but started a process of change that’s become OCD with the Suits & Skirts in charge.

With Disney’s stewardship an arrogant air began to permeate the place. Contra-indicated, given the history of Walt‘s baby, but this wasn‘t your father’s Disney.

Media high-hats arrived like Tony Kornheiser, Stephen Smith, Skip Bayless, most on the Sports Reporters not named Dick Shaap or John Saunders, radio Colin Cowherd, onliner Bill Simmons, host Trey Wingo and former jocks in Marcellus Wiley, Tedy Bruschi and Mark Schlereth, all displaying to differing degrees, that boyish bravado to stoke confrontation and then have come to define the new ESPN gestalt: Edgy and most often annoying as hell, for sport fans, anyway.

Once at the content wheel, John put his Disney-sized staple-remover to work.

Out went trusty ESPN News (b.96), bread & butter for the sport junkie.

SportsCentury, the hour-long documentaries hosted by Chris Fowler, before he took residence in the weight room, that did more for sport and history than anything Ken Burns ever did (or likely will), was given the boot in 2007.

Pulled from premium, mid-level satellite – cable package was ESPN Classic where light-hearted (Cheap Seats) and thought-provoking diversions (Woody’s World), made with equal parts of insight and comedy, were showcased.

And due to the network coined ‘instant classic’ phrase, any game, even from the nite before, qualified as vintage, meaning, Howe v. Hull, Lasorda v. Herzog, Bird v. Magic, Marino v. Kelly, were permanently shelved as pre-historic.

Then came the clearest sign that Disney no longer had any interest whatsoever in keeping up the pretense that their ESPN property was a sports network.

Even as 1st and 10 had became the most highly anticipated daily sport debate in all of American media (2003-11), sometimes as a segment (Cold Pizza / First Take (AM gab-fest format)), later stand-alone but always diverse, Skipper pulled the plug and replaced it with a niche-market sabrmetric / diversity combo show called Numbers Never Lie, then His & Hers. Perfect.

I don’t watch much Disney (ESPN) anymore. I’d suspect not many sport fans do (unless an engineer or heart surgeon, “numbers (can) lie” plenty). Why go where you’re not welcome, especially when the time allotted for real sport news is thinner than the newest female anchor?

Who’s likely to watch the “leader” in sport coverage nowadays?

1) College females and family with a connection to Title IX;
2) College males and young brothers with fantasy play lineups;
3) Foreign-born citizens and residents (ESPN Deportes 2004);
3) NBA followers; and
4) NFL fans who have by August developed a ravenous appetite for anything football. The exits of the too comfortable Tom Jackson – Chris Berman can only fuel the hunger to feast whatever‘s put onto the plate.

Cohn spoke recently about the firings, stating that she believes “politics” played a role in the employee upheaval. That’s very likely but something long standing, more deeply engrained in the Disney dynamic is really at its root.

Youthful whimsy in cartoon defined the Disney company Walt and his brother Roy began in 1923 Los Angeles. That core purpose in selling to children and adult sentimentalities to that end has remained the focus in today’s diversified media and entertainment giant. Modern empire-builders, the Disneys understood the emerging, malleable market that were Amercia’s youth (plus their giving parents) and designed a template for success that worked as a sort of incubator of early youthenization marketing which John has simply carried over to the ESPNs.

Even as yesteryear’s cartoons and theme-park pirate patches have been replaced on the network with slinky club-wear, rap music motifs, fantasy-driven stat-parades and ESPN phone-apps, the goal remains the same: Selling to kids.

What’s good for the Donald has not always been what’s good for the Daisy.

Most perplexing in John Skipper’s management of the ESPN monopoly is that in its multitude of channel options, sufficient to cater to all their target markets in kids, females, foreign fare and angry men (radio), he could’ve quite easily stayed connected to the substantive news format on one of those channels to retain the base viewership that had always been the network’s real sustenance.

But when a better, more sport-centric, likely more popular product is juxtaposed along-side a channel that runs so much niche stuff or downright gobbledygook, that arrangement can make programmers, not necessarily prospective viewers, very uncomfortable for having slotted the ephemera in the first place.

Me and my ilk departed from ESPN Islands long ago. There’s a free charter on the south end with weather updates on the hour. It’ll take you anywhere you want. All you need to board is a suitcase full o’ frustration and a love of sport.

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credit: TheWaltDisneyCompany, wordmark, wc.cca; A.Hale.Jr., 9.12.66, wc, GilligansIsland, CBS; ESPN, wc, word mark; ESPN2, wc, word mark; ESPN, wc, 2.26.10, Jaworski, Wingo, Schlereth, Bruschi, J.Kern; ESPN-studio, wc, Jkinsocal, Bristol-CT, 2.2.13; StraightShooter, citrus.fruit-label
Posted: 5.4.17 @ 12:28am EST, edit 5.4; Copyright © 2017

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NFL16 Cherry Picks W11: Pax Patriotana, Caesar Trumpus, Mamarazzi & the Demigoths

15 Nov

I started cutting my political teeth way back in 1968.

I remember the year because it was an event, a national tragedy that began the process: The assassination of Bobby Kennedy (d. 6.6.68), younger brother and AG of slain President John Kennedy (d. 11.22.63), who, after that dreadful day in Dallas, would go on to become Senator from New York and then Democratic presidential candidate, at a rally in the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles.

I can’t say any news outside the home, no matter its import, could’ve shook my young world at age six. But upon hearing the shocking report, my older brothers had headed over to the Humphrey – Muskie headquarters somewhere on the North Shore of Chicago, to throw their support behind the next most viable opponent of GOP front-runner, Richard Nixon. When they returned they had a cachet of campaign buttons, a few of which ended up in my tiny hands, along with a bumper sticker which still reads: “McCarthy Supporters Now For Humphrey.”

kennedys-wc-1-29-61-c-stoughton-626kAs for the turbulent Democratic convention about ten miles south, a ruckus that started in the streets and probably sealed the win for Nixon, I didn’t have a clue. Tooth enamel’s tough stuff.

It’s funny how a single event or piece of political paraphernalia, as ephemeral as it may be, can shape one’s life. I’ve had an interest in politics bordering on passion ever since. And, by jove, still have the mementos from that oh-so sad, significant day.

When my baby teeth fell out, I started to cutting the permanents.

I devoured my share of “heaping helping(s)” of empty TV calories for sure (Josie and the Pussycats, Gilligan’s Island, etc.) but ate up good servings of brain food in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, The Electric Company (1971), ABC Wide World of Sports and the evening news delivered by legends like Cronkite, Brinkley, Reasoner, Huntley, Walters and Chancellor.

And it was Parker Brothers and their board-game Landslide (1971) that gave me hands-on experience with the electoral college and how presidential campaigns must roll their own dice in strategizing on the States. My teeth were sharpening, though, my friend Tom who owned the board game must’ve had a Trump skill-set because he out-tallied me every time. Gotta’ romance those swing States.

But that passion turned downright frigid in lead-up to 2016’s election day.

Not a big fan of Donald or Hillary, I will, nonetheless, honor the November 8th win, respect the authority of Office and hope for the best, in opposite of that .00003174% of Americans, including LeBron James, Gregg Popovich (“sick to my stomach”) & Steve Kerr who’ve chosen to ‘take their ball and run home’ because they didn‘t like the result. Best advice for the Neo-Visigoths: Find a copy of Edward Everett Hale’s ‘The Man Without a Country (1863)’ and read in deep.

Clearly, the campaign to win and then keep basketball player’s “hearts and minds” is a never-ending effort for the NBA coach. So much for trust, eh? Ugh.

clinton-6-10-16-pp-wc-11-2m-l-shaullAnd Hillary Clinton is no loser.

Taking the popular vote is champion and aught win the White House in a democracy. But unlike Al Gore in 2000, whose loss of Florida’s electors constituted the biggest heist job in American history, with the DC Robes as accomplices after-the-fact (Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98), Ms. Clinton never came close to taking the college kitty. In short, the lady blew her chance.

But that doesn’t make her a mascot to suffer the mamarazzi.

Reference to Margo Gerster who, with baby-on-back, cornered Hill on a nature walk two days after the draining election, thinking it proper to void Hillary’s (& Bill’s) privacy to solicit a Facebook moment (What’s HC gonna’ do, tell mom to take a hike?), an image widely disseminated soon thereafter, finding CBS (“Hiker Crosses Paths”), CNN (Erin Burnett) and whomever else feeds the faux pas. Bad play, ladies. And where were the Secret Service? But I’m not surprised.

At first blush the electoral college appears antiquated, anti-democracy and whenever it veers off from the popular vote, always ends in GOP hands.

But a historical tidbit unbeknownst to Demigoths and the normally insightful Bill Maher, the EC is a test the Founders necessitated that a deserving candidate must pass, a test still relevant. The winner must possess the savvy, the wherewithal in mastering the map to sway voters State-by-State, and in the process acquiring a healthy respect for the union that is this United (50) States of America.

The first black president seems now an entitlement, the first female Commander-in-Chief knowing she must, in famous words of John Houseman, “eeeearn it.”

obama-trump-11-10-16-jesusemen-oni-voa-119kThe former First Lady lost the election long before the elector test or her “deplorable” line and had nearly nothing to do with any FBI commentary. In failing to distinguish herself from her former boss, President Barack Obama, majority voters in key States made a statement: ‘Not tough enough, and not again, or for awhile, anyway.’

Most Americans had high hopes when the first minority took up residence in the White House in 2009. Obama was short on experience, seemed, apart from the birth certificate confusion, almost too perfect for the post and resorted to his own form of flippancy when topics got hot, but his ready smile gave assurance and he seemed eager to take on the big challenges that awaited.

Obama will be remembered for four actions: 1) Brokering the deal with America’s healthcare “monster(s)” to create Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (NFIB (2012)), costing greedmeisters next to nothing yet heaping much of the tax burden upon the middle-class (contra-FDR); 2) advising on capture / execution of 9-11 designer, terrorist Osama bin Laden (2011); 3) taking sides in the Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman incident (2013) (“Martin could’ve been me 35 years ago”) after attacker Martin died of a gunshot fired by block watch volunteer Zimmerman who claimed self-defense, was charged and then acquitted, and 4) picking his NCAA basketball tourney bracket selections come March Madness.

Unfortunately, on the one issue that Obama was particularly well-suited to keep moving the nation forward, race-relations, he has instead presided over what can be called a period of race regression, a sorry state not seen since Reagan-Bush.

As for Donald, he’s sharp as a tack, has energy and an undeniable charisma, a pride in his person and nation and a certain maverickness that McCain the Senator never displayed, a trait lacking in Presidents for quite a spell (LBJ). But his anti-choice stand feels political, must check his habit to flippancy (global warming) and his disdain for regulation (Dodd-Frank), market-place competition and American jobs (monopolist) bespeaks of a boyish greed potentially more disastrous economically than Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down goof.

trump-wc-11-9-16-transition2017-450kMost troubling is that neither candidate exhibited the foresight, honesty, courage to put the voters to a test in self-sacrifice (“ask what you can do for your country (JFK)”), a national unifier if there ever was one. No measurable progress happens without it.

It’d be analogous to Roger Goodell having chutzpah to ditch pink-wear in favor of a field-friendly color for all cancer victims and research (dark green), to use his bully-pulpit to force NFLPA to institute serious PED-testing or to tell NFL fans and sport scribes who curry favor to stop the incessant whine on game officiating come each “Monday morning.” Ugh.

So what does Trump-the-President mean for the NFL and its fandom?

A President, no matter the political party, usually has little impact on League operations or policy. But if a particular Commander-in-Chief has a real interest in the gridiron game, any comments he makes will make news.

And this president-elect might actually have an interest.

President Obama put on a good show, giving warm congratulatory speeches in welcome to a steady stream of title teams that now visit the White House for one more pat-on-their-collective back. But while he’s a love for the links, Barack appears to have no interest in the combative sports (+b-ball). And though he lacks the competitive spirit that led the Kennedys to engage the pigskin for some lawn version touch-football, Don clearly has a curiosity for the National game.

Which toggles four sport topics on Trump: 1) The future of White House pep-rallies now that monarchial King LeBron has given thumbs-down with Trump-soon in residence; 2) What NFL team does Donald Trump favor; 3) how happy is Redskins owner Dan Snyder today, and 4) will the President-elect and his immigration blueprint alter future NFL – Mexico game plans?

redskins-chiefzee-wc-2-4m-k-allison-1-10-16Since the 1970s America’s seen a prodigious growth in sporting endeavors, champions of which nearly all seem to find their way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. So was born a new tradition that’s become about as tired as the never-ending supply of Law & Order reruns, diverting CICs from pressing duties or the down-time that a President must take to keep sound in mind & body in the most stressful job on Earth. Time then the custom gave way to common sense and got terminated by the new Prez. As Trump doesn’t need another reason to tick-off female Dems in cancelling only the less-popular women’s visits, if it happens (sure), expect him to can the whole kit n’ kaboodle.

Who’s Trump’s top NFL team? A New Yorker, he may be a Giants, Jets or Bills fan. If his ties to Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are sincere, it’s good chance he’s Foxborough friendly. Like Barack, he’s always working an angle so it’s hard to get a read. If it is the Pats, Don’s hitching his wagon to arguably the greatest pro football dynasty in history. In 2016, the Cowboys believe, Carroll’s crew never quits, Big Ben’s 5-star field general, John Harbaugh mastered the pros and Bruce Arians coaches the Cards, but it’s New England, with their rare loss (SEA 11.13), that remains Empire’s standard.

To the Washington Redskins and their war-in-defense of their 82 yr. old moniker against a niche effort spearheaded by Oneida’s Ray Halbritter and taken up in 2012 by johnny-come-latelies in corporate kids-for-change, malleable media, Democrat elite, a smattering of celebs and the Washington Post whose polling reported “9 of 10” aboriginal Americans are not offended by the motif, a new President in Republicrat Trump will undoubtedly lead to a more sensible, honest directive given the Department of Commerce and its Patent & Trademark Office. Court cases are pending but it’s likely this and other PC-appeasing stands taken by Dems held some sway over mod-voters in swingers. It didn’t help, anyway.

As for the impact the recent American election will have on the NFL – Mexico business relationship, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will publicly downplay its significance but if a border-wall does become reality (doubtful), it’s hard to imagine its continuation. It will be interesting to see if Texans v. Raiders MNF game will out-draw the last record-setting NFLM meet in 2005 between Arizona and San Francisco which drew 103,000+ at Estadio Azteca.

cherries-wc-cca-b-kua-6-1-08-3-3mCherry Picks Week 11: Thank goodness for the spread

Saints (4-5) @ Carolina (3-6): 11.17 NBC 8:30: NO wins
Ravens (5-4) @ Dallas (8-1): 11.20 CBS 1:00: BAL wins
Jacksonville (2-7) @ Lions (5-4): CBS 1:00: Lions win
Tennessee Titans (5-4) @ Indianapolis Colts (4-5): CBS 1:00: Indy wins
Buffalo Bills (4-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (3-5-1): Fox 1:00: Bengals win
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) @ Kansas City Chiefs: Fox 1:00: Chiefs win
Arizona Cardinals (4-4-1) @ Minnesota Vikings (5-4): Fox 1:00: Cards win
Miami Dolphins (5-4) @ Los Angeles Rams (4-5): Fox 4:05: Dolphins wins
Philadelphia (5-4) @ Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1): CBS 4:25: Seahawks win
Green Bay Pack (4-5) @ Washington Redskins (5-3-1): NBC 8:30: GB wins
Houston Texans (6-3) @ Oakland (Mex): 11.21 Disney 8:30: Houston wins

Record: 45 – 51 -2

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: B.Belichick, wc.cca, K.Allison, 8.28.9; Kennedys, wc, C.Stoughton, 1.29.61; H.Clinton, wc, 6.10.16, PlannedParenthood, L.Shaull; Trump-Obama, wc, 11.10.16, Jesusemen-Oni.VOA; D.Trump, wc, Transition2017, 11.9.16; M.Trump-M.Obama, theWhiteHouse, wc, 11.10.16; ChiefZee, Redskins-DC, K.Allison, 1.10.16, wc; cherries, wc, B.Kua, 6.1.08; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 11.15.16 @ 2:34pm, edit @ 11:36 EST; Copyright © 2016