College Football’s Inconvenient Truth

Based on his MAC championship turnaround of a Buffalo Bulls football team that had been the worst in Division I-A when he took over in 2005, one would think Turner Gill would have already been money-whipped by a bigger football factory school by now. But no, Syracuse passed him over for Doug Marrone, who has never been a head coach at the pro or college level (although reports say Gill wasn’t really convinced that ‘Cuse was right for him), and in one of the dumber coaching hires since I’ve been following the sport, Auburn decided on Gene Chizik for its head coaching vacancy. Yes, the same Gene Chizik who went 5-19 in two years at Iowa State.

This is the kind of environment black coaches are in, now with their ranks up to 4 out of 119 D-IA schools as head coaches.  Outside the Lines looked at the number in its Sunday report, based on an article by Dr. Richard Lapchick making recommendations on how to remedy the problem — and this was even before Chizik’s hiring.

The OTL show is in four parts. I’ll link to them, since WordPress hates outside video players not YouTube or DailyMotion:

  • Bob Ley’s tracked piece on Gill and the hiring issue
  • Discussion with Mike Locksley, the new HC at New Mexico and Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin
  • Another discussion, this time with Ohio State’s AD, a member of the board of trustees at Michigan State, and Floyd Keith, the head of the Black Coaches Association
  • Roundtable with Lapchick, an NCAA diversity administrator, and ESPN’s Mark Schlabach

OK, so you’ve likely watched all of them by this point — or I hope you have, because Schlabach made an absolutely stunning statement, or it would be to people who think we’ve somehow gotten past institutional racism in less than half a century:

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Pushing The Narratives

The benefit of my current work schedule is the ability to watch Pardon the Interruption, which remains the only ESPN piece of programming worth investing too much time in.  SportsCenter is not as essential as it used to be; much of the analyst shows focused on individual sports are background fodder. Outside The Lines can be very hit or miss, and is subject to the typical ESPN/mainstream blinders on much of its subject matter. Anyway, back to it.

The Four-Letter’s $3 million a year poaching, Rick Reilly, subbed for Tony Kornheiser on PTI yesterday, via satellite from Denver with Michael Wilbon in-studio in D.C., and parroted what I’m fairly sure may be a common impulse among a certain segment of sportswriters regarding the current state of the baseball playoffs: he stated his preference for a Red Sox-Dodgers World Series, proclaiming the Tampa Bay Rays “bad for baseball.”

We probably need to separate that “bad for baseball” comment into two categories: bad for the sport and bad for the business of the sport. There is a vast difference: any die-hard baseball fan or one who merely follows the sport regularly would say a worst-to-first story is not only good for the sport, but also compelling and justifying smart moves by a front office.  Tampa’s entry into the playoffs already yielded more attention to manager Joe Maddon in SI, a likely Rookie of the Year award for third baseman Evan Longoria, and a front office that assembled a solid starting line-up and a roster of budding stars. That’s good for the sport; it gives some leverage behind the idea that baseball’s uncapped salary structure can still yield good things for teams who use their money wisely.

However, if you look at Reilly’s comment in the business sense, it fits. Tampa was 12th out of 14 AL teams in attendance this year, not helped by the reported shittiness of Tropicana Field, and locals are right to ignore a lousy team in a bad park for a while. That doesn’t change overnight, and it’s also part of the trend of questioning whether Florida is really interested in regular-season baseball. (We really won’t have an idea until both the Rays and Marlins’ new facilities open.)  The Dodgers and Red Sox are two of several “glamour teams”; ones that matter to people outside their home markets (the others, in my eyes, are the Cubs, Yankees, Cardinals, and Braves*.) Those are teams that have bandwagons, intense home fans, and ones who don’t drop loyalties when they move in the age of the Internet and MLB.tv.

Dodgers-Red Sox is an easier World Series to sell, and I’m sure it’s the one Fox is clamoring or as we speak.  The Rays aren’t, although everyone loves an underdog story — because there’s not enough to sell. The lore bheind L.A.-Boston is too much, two big cities, Manny Ramirez back in Betantown, the Sox seeking back-to-back titles, etc.  That’s a narrative that writes columns; that’s how Reilly kind of thinks., and it’s what Bud Selig would love to see. (Philadelphia doesn’t have the same pull as Dodgers-Sox, but it’s better to MLB than the other AL choice.)

The Tampa Bay Rays going from worst to first and capping it with a world championship is just another Marlins team beating Cleveland or the Yankees, or a Diamondbacks bloop single. It’s a blip, and won’t register outside of those of us who pay attention. Of course, you know what happens when the narrative gets openly expressed: the underdog shocks us all, and considering my loathing of both the Dodgers nad Phils, along with a need for Boston teams to cool off, I’m riding the Rays right now.

Fuck the cheap narratives, though. Let ’em do some work. Tampa is full of new stories, and that’s good for the sport.

(*I include the Braves because of their near stranglehold on the South until recently thanks to TBS and the lack of pro baseball anywhere else in that region.)

Turn That Pep Talk Heartbeat Over Again

Stacey tried
I was halfway crucified
I was high upon the uprights
Of no tomorrow
You zapped in
And my life began again
Saved me from another weekend
Of football-free sorrow
All day long
We would sing that old fight song
And every word we sang
I knew was true

Are you with me, Doctor Lou?
Are you really just a shadow
Of the man that I once knew?
Are you crazy? Are you high?
Or just an ordinary guy?
Have you done all you can do?
Are you with me, Doctor?

Don’t seem right
I’ve been strung out here all night
I’ve been waiting for the hits
You said you’d bring to me
An edit bay
Where the football highlights play all day
I went searching for the words
You used to say to me


Wendi lies
You could see it in her eyes
But imagine my surprise
When I saw you

Are you with me, Doctor Lou?
Are you really just a shadow
Of the man that I once knew?
The money’s lovely, your bosses sly
And you’re an ordinary guy
Have they finally got to you?
Can you hear me, Doctor?
Are you with me, Doctor?

(Thanks to Awful Announcing and Saturday Sound-Offs for the first video, and apologies to Fagen and Becker.)

Why Someone Ought To Outbid NBC For The Olympics

I have griped about the Peacock’s amazingly stupid mentality towards tape delaying events during the Beijing Olympics, and this is above and beyond the usual tape-delay frustrations because NBC is not alerting the telecasts in any way to make it clear to viewers West of the Mississippi that none of the content is live. In the wake of Usain Bolt’s record-breaking 200-meter win that none of us will see on television until later tonight (both Awful Announcing and With Leather are hosting video until the copyright police go after it), I am absolutely excited at the thought of ESPN formally bidding with the IOC for the rights, starting with the 2016 Winter Olympics.

In a sports and media world driven by the Internet and up to the minute results, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to have so few of the events by live in one half of the country and not live everywhere else — and, as NBC Universal is wont to do, get bent out of shape when the video leaks.

This leaves affiliate sports directors in the quandary of not publicizing the results of matches due to be aired on their stations AFTER local news goes off the air for the night — for example, if you are covering Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers in men’s volleyball because they happen to be from your market, and you know they’ve advanced to the gold medal match, but the match has not aired — you have no highlights and are even conflicted about reporting whether they’ve won in order not to spoil it for viewers who might be sticking around at 1 A.M.

The problem is that ESPN shouldn’t have a lock on all the important sporting events, but considering that they would actually rotate their cable networks’ schedule to do a lot more live coverage of events across the U.S., the trade-off is worth considering.  It goes without saying that ESPN would produce certain stuff that ABC could air live and probably delay to the Mountain and Pacific time zones, but so much more of the content would be live on the other channels.

Then again, also in NBC’s favor is that their presentation for sporting events (graphics, etc.) is just head and shoulders above other networks. ESPN’s work for ABC always seems kind of cut rate compared to how CBS handles college football and basketball and NBC handles football and the Olympics, and I keep thinking that the Four-Letter would underwhelm in this department.

Would you trade a near-monopoly on live sports to be able to see some actual Olympic content live?

Photo: Reuteurs/Kai Pfaffenbach

This Is The Dumbest Review I’ve Ever Seen And I’ve Not Seen The Movie Yet

Someone captured the video of Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith on First Take debating how good The Dark Knight was, and Fire Joe Morgan has it, along with some notes.

Now, I’m going to go see it either tomorrow or the day after — but despite the possibility that Maggie Gyllenhaal sucks in this movie (Katie Holmes was a waste of space in Batman Begins, but that’s half her fault and half the nature of the film — the “tail” parts in superhero movies are rarely ever more than one-dimensional) — but even I could tell you that Smith’s statement about getting Halle Berry, Sanaa Lathan, or Gabrielle Union in as Batman’s love interest is quite possibly one of the more ridiculous pieces of movie criticism I’ve heard.

Not that the “we need more African American actresses in serious, high-profile roles” thing is dumb or incorrect, but considering that Gyllenhaal is playing an already established character who is white because of the casting of a prior actress, it would be a bit silly to increase Rachel Dawes’ (that’s the character’s name, right?) melanin content between films.

This hurts because I kind of like Stephen A., especially when he hands Bayless his contrarian ass on the show, but keep the both of them away from talking about anything in pop culture, please.

Gee, You Think You Know The Media Narrative Of A Guy…

Let us note this while laughing. Not at Sam Alipour, who recounts in an ESPN.com Page 2 column about Cowboys WR Terrell Owens helping him out and saving him after he was hit by a car and rolled up on the windshield while hailing a cab outside the ESPYs last week — but at the coverage in response to the incident. I am currently watching a Headline News report that takes Owens’ past in San Francisco, Philly, and the incidents in Dallas, and labels it a complete change to what we’re used to from the malcontent.

Alipour’s column recounts his shock at seeing T.O. as his helper, the person who stayed with him as the EMTs came riding along, and after he was carried away, this exchange came in:

“So, T.O. was nice, huh?” says the medic who took my blood pressure inside the ambulance. “Boy, you think you know somebody, but the media doesn’t tell you the whole story. You never know how they really are.”

Guilty as charged.

When the medics were done with the paperwork (note: patient has lacerations, bruised knee, stained shorts, etc.) I headed back to the street to deal with the police, meet the driver and thank my hero … but T.O. was gone. He didn’t care to wait for the cameras, the spotlight, the attention. Didn’t need to hear my thanks. He simply vanished into the dark night, alone (well, with his bodyguard, also a nice man) like a samurai, his work complete.

I wonder if we’ll hear as much about his helping someone out as we hear about his “25 million reasons to live” or his status as a team cancer back in Philly. Now, Owens brought a lot of it on himself, but the way the narrative has jocked him even as he’s been a team player in Dallas (and so valuable that Jerry Jones extended him at the age of 35) has been a little less than fair.

A night of unexpected heroes at ’08 ESPYs [Page 2]

Evidence Of The Summer Baseball Lull

The police blotter mentality in sports media is overkill, and this little piece on Derrick Rose is only contributing to the mess because ti made the “SportsCenter Right Now” segments all morning.

What did Rose do to earn the ink? He got a speeding ticket. Seriously. It’s just a speeding ticket from April that he’s going to court for soon and because he is the #1 pick overall, it’s apparently of merit, just like LeBron James’ speeding ticket from a few months back. Rose was doing 100+ in a 65 zone, and will be in court a week from Friday. He’s likely to only get traffic school and a fine, since it’s a misdemeanor and he’s a first-time offender.

So, who the fuck cares and why is it on my television? Eventually you have to start buying into the theories that the sports media truly does dislike athletes, because there’s really no other reason this makes anything more than minor AP wire copy. It doesn’t deserve even ten seconds on ESPN, because that happens to everyone: people speed excessively, they get caught, and they have to go to court for it. Most go to traffic school, get fined, some in extreme cases as repeat speeders get probation or licenses suspended.

It’s just because we’re bored and need to fill the 24-7 TV news cycle. That, and maybe every athlete has to look like a malcontent or threat to society.

Photo: AP/Charles Rex Abrogast