Tag Archives: Tedy Bruschi

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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NFL14 Cherry Picks W4: Calling Mrs. Miniver

26 Sep

“A (football) by any other name would (sail) as sweet”

Oh, how we could use more souls like “Mrs. Miniver” on this side of the pond, to advise & consent those who occupy our seats power. The nasty John Oliver, he you can have back, England, but “Kay,” oh my gosh, more like her we need.

One of those Chairs-in-Command sits in America’s fourth branch: the media monopolies, who’ve apparently ordered their army of producers, scribes & staff to take offensive to try toppling NFL’s head honcho, Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Mrs. Miniver (‘42) is William Wyler’s heart-warming film that tells the tale of a fictional matriarch running a household in England at outbreak of WWII and how she & family cope with the trials & tribulations on the home-front that befall soon after their nation’s entrance into the War (‘39) upon Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland.

.........G.Garson.wc.cca.42.R.Harvest.thumb

Why a reference here in sport article to a beautiful lass from Hollywood’s golden age?

Week 4 on the NFL schedule sees the start of London-fest, with the first of three games slated to be played at Wembley Stadium. Phase I features the Miami Dolphins versus the home-designated Oakland Raiders. That means, of course, the Sir Francis Drake and Sir Henry Morgan fan-clubs should be in full attendance:

Gangway, ye scallywags & scurvy dogs! Mess with me booty (grog, fish & chips) and you’ll be keelhauled quicker than a pirate can separate a dandy from his coin purse!

No movie gave American audiences a better dramatic window through which to view the lives of our British Allies across the Atlantic in their lonely fight to halt Axis powers Westward blitzkrieg, than did this film gem starring the redheaded Greer Garson, who’d captivated movie goers three years earlier w/Robert Donat in the classic, Goodbye, Mr. Chips (’39).

Garson’s inspirational character was cinematic but certainly emblematic of millions of women, people, who held down the home front for the fighting forces, working arsenal of democracy, keeping a semblance of sanity in place and sometimes sacrificing their lives.

World War 2 exposed a frightening & prevalent capacity in our human race for organized cruelty & greed by way of the Axis powers (ESPN still shamelessly employs their own version of “Axis” visual gadgetry). But by good triumphing over evil, the grace of god or simply better military strategies, the resolute Allied forces prevailed.

Watching Mrs. Miniver last weekend (TCM), I couldn’t help but appreciate how different were the eras, the spirit of community and mental approach taken to trying times.

Today’s mental tack: mountains made of media mole-hills, privacy exposed for profit, self sacrifice too rarely afforded, patience is anything but a virtue,…you get the idea.

Charming, easy-on-the-eyes, neighborly, strong of constitution, even stops to smell roses and appreciates history (“Richard I“), maybe “Kay’s” most endearing trait today would be her ability to defuse the explosive situation, i.e, angry blue bloods (“Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty)” and armed & dangerous, downed German pilots (Helmut Dantine).

..........Goodell.thumbnail.flag

Roger Goodell may wish he’d booked a flight to “Kay’s” old stomping grounds for this weekend’s festivities, offering him a brief escape from the Hounds of the Barkervilles.

Because of the politicized protest on domestic violence that’s quickly turned lynch-mob in tenor, lacking a more constructive, practical, honest purpose & tone, it’s come clear now that the anti-Goodell campaign is really the anti-Redskins push (‘12 / Nike joins NFL) in different garb, w/assorted malicious mercenaries joining the horde:

Grudge-holders (Bountygate, Simultaneous-gate, ex-players (Bruschi)); PED-punished player entourages; profit-seeking ($) opportunists (TMZ, Oliver, ESPN, Costas, etc.), and simply those who just don‘t like sport and believe those that do are moronic, some w/ agenda (NOW), others a prejudice. Not a big group, but a big megaphone (Disney, Time Inc., etc.).

To be concerned, a bit angered by recent wave of player criminal arrests is appreciable.

But to make Goodell scapegoat for this rare confluence of badness, spotlighted by tabloid tape drop (TMZ) after an initial League response (Rice 2g) that was not atypical, as news & leisure-media grant immunity to NFLPA, is shameful, and more so, unbelievable.

..........P.Tagliabue.wc.cca.8.4.02.G.Mitchell.thumb

As a plan took shape in the 90s under then Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to bring kids & female consumers into the NFL fold, the failure to use their bully-pulpit to expose player refusal (NFLPA) to raise their own standard of behavior to a level comporting better with the new audience, chiefly, drug use, in particular PEDs, sowed seeds of trouble and either innocently or negligently created environment where Rice-gate was bound to happen.

In a highly flammable state where player misdeeds start the burn, fanned by all the above (“Grudge-holders, etc.), and a Commissioner who, ever since Tagliabue vacated Bounty-gate suspensions (12-‘12) (after arbitrator voided (9) & NFL reinstate (10)), has had his authority, prestige severely undercut, NFL’s leadership post itself has been compromised no matter who sits atop, leaving the direction, value & health of the League uncertain.

The only thing that’d make matters worse for NFL would be election of a polarizing, poli-operative, faux-football proponent (C. Rice) or like celebrity into Commissioner’s post, one even the earlier Iron Maiden, “Mrs. Miniver,” would hesitate to take.

......NFL.wikiproject.6kb

“Who (brought) the dogs (in), woof, woof?”

The Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers has been doing something this week to which he’s almost entirely unaccustomed: quelling a growing chorus of grumblers in Packerland.

As result of Green Bay’s lethargic loss in the Silverdome last Sunday (19-7), a game where Packers’ defense actually played what normally would’ve been fine enough for a win, the Cheese Squad has fallen to 1-2 in what had been a hopeful outlook for ‘14.

The natives are restless but the Packers stellar QB is taking it in stride, as any former champ & MVP should: “Relax, we’re going to be fine,” he said on Wednesday. Okay.

..........A.Rodgers.wc.cca.M.Morbeck.08.thumb

But unless I’m mistaken (I am), those are the exact words Napoleon spoke to his Grande Armée when things were looking bleak at Waterloo (and the Duke of Wellington was closing the deal): ‘Détendez-vous, nous allons bien.’

You’re probably, right, Aaron, the offense will find its rhythm. But if losing continues, you (& MM) just want to make sure you bring the dog in at night (See; Dan Devine ‘74).

Off the Schneid

Week 3 Sunday was a time of redemption for four previously winless teams, picked by many prognosticators to contend (It‘s only Week 4): the Giants (1-2), Colts, Saints and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Most likely to run-the-table rest of the way? the Saints, KC, Indy and, sure, the Giants.

“Stay Classy,” Coach

NFL has its share of lopsided scores (W3: ATL 56 v. TB 14), and if loppy enough, will be scornfully referred to as ‘piling-it-on.’ NFL: troubled, but not w/out standard.

But on the college scene where idyllic pronouncements are carved into marble facades, good sportsmanship gets thrown under the visitor’s bus when poll positioning is at stake.

The Michigan State Spartans, long in proud tradition, hosted intra-State rival E. Michigan last Saturday and put a 73 – 14 thumping on the Mid-American member. The small school record-enhancer will get a nice check, but in these match-ups, with big disparity in score & recruitment, 70 is the jerk-line and “winning (like that, isn’t) everything,” Coach Dantonio.

Secret Agenda Man?

Add former Patriots linebacker and current ESPN “analyst” Tedy Bruschi to the list of celebrities to call for Roger Goodell’s resignation. On Friday after Goodell’s ill-advised presser, the former Patriot stated this on ESPN:

..........T.Bruschi.wc.cca.J.Kern.ESPN.11.3.11.thumb

“One of the only ways Roger Goodell could’ve lived up to standards he placed on us as players…was to step down because he’s (NFL‘s) ultimate (“Tedy” / USAT / Lisk / 9-19).”

Ted Bruschi has always been Ted Bruschi’s biggest fan.

And for a guy whose NFL legacy benefited from Roger’s even handling of Spygate, it’s safe to assume gratitude is not high atop Bruschi’s list of values. That probably means the former Patriot gives no credit to the Commissioner for his role in bringing NFL’s PED prevention program into the 21st century with recent upgrade (blood draws), sending a hopeful message to young athletes that NFLPA “players” resisted giving for so long. Analyze that, Tedy.

Mueller Time

Though he doesn’t possess power to compel evidence, the man heading up the NFL’s Ray Rice – Janay Palmer investigation (NFLPA has followed Suit (Smith)), former FBI Director Robert Mueller will have something almost as good working for him: experience.

..........R.Mueller.wc.cca.2011.FBI

And for the naysayers predicting a whitewash: when such people seek and will only accept one outcome, what else could you expect but apathy? Besides, would a man who likely has a few million secured away and reputation for ethics on the line, allow a business affiliation to turn into a conflict of interest? Not bloody likely, mate.

One result I’d hope comes from Mueller’s search for truth is determination on chain-of-custody issue (evidence) and tabloid acquisition of such. TMZ is seen by most as Paul Revere but more accurately a golden calf for those of weak faith. And when investigation is complete, whether result shows up, down or middling for RG, the nation will accept it because the Boards of Directors of the corporate sponsors will accept it. Go Green!

Curious Quotes

“How successful can you be, given the (weapons at your disposal)?” Query from ESPN post-game field reporter for Ted Bridgewater after he’d subbed for injured Matt Cassel in Vikes 20-9 loss to the Saints. Pose questions for the players, Ma’am, not statements.

.........Cherries.on.cloth.thumb

Cherry Picks Week 4: London Calling

Giants (1-2) @ Redskins (1-2): 9-25 CBS 8:30 EST: NYG wins
Packers (1-2) @ Bears (2-1): 9-28 Fox 1:00: Green Bay wins
Bills (2-1) @ Texans (2-1): CBS 1:00: Houston wins
Panthers (2-1) @ Ravens (2-1) CBS 1:00: Baltimore wins
Dolphins (1-2) @ Raiders (0-3) CBS 1:00: Miami wins, Arrgh!
Eagles (3-0) @ 49ers: Fox 4:30 (Clash-of-the-Week): SF wins
Saints (1-2) @ Cowboys (2-1): NBC 8:35: New Orleans wins
Patriots (2-1) @ Chiefs (1-2): 9-29 ESPN 8:35: KC wins

Record: 19 – 9

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo credits: G.Garson / 1940 – MGM – P&P / wc.cca / 36k; G.Garson / 1942 – MGM – R.Harvest / wc.cca / 19k; R.Goodell / wc.cca / 8.30.12 / SSG T.Wade / USMA; P.Tagliabue / wc.cca / 8.4.02 / G.Mitchell – USNavy; A.Rodgers / wc.cca / M.Morbeck / 2008; T.Bruschi / wc.cca / 11.3.11 / ESPN / J.Kern; R.Mueller / wc.cca / 2011 / US – FBI; Cherries on cloth / wc.cca / picdrome / 6.11.11

Posted: 9-25-14 @ 11:00pm EST