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"The George Michael Sports Machine" Ended
Its 27-Year Run In '07
SPORTS INNOVATOR: In DC, Lipscomb & Weber wrote Michael's death ended a "larger-than-life career marked by groundbreaking innovations and an outsized personality that loomed over a no-non sense sports town brimming with characters." Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder called Michael a "consummate reporter and a valuable friend." Snyder: "I doubt we'll ever again see a sports reporter who was so admired by the people he covered." Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis said Michael "always was well-prepared for any topic, fair in his commentary, opinionated in his comments and entertaining in his delivery." Leonsis: "He was a role model for sportscasters in D.C. and around the country." ESPN's Len Elmore said Michael was "never full of himself despite being the man around town." PBR CEO Randy Bernard said Michael was "one of the greatest friends the PBR could ever ask for." Bernard: "He was one of the first mainstream sportscasters to recognize and promote the competition of bull riding, and much of the PBR's success was due to his support early on" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 12/25).
REMEMBERING MICHAEL: In DC, Mike Wise wrote before he was a "good person to know in influence-heavy Washington, George Michael was simply a good person, whom we all should have had the privilege of genuinely getting to know" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/25). The WASHINGTON EXAMINER’s Jim Williams wrote Michael, a "former big-time disc jockey," knew "how to make sports entertaining no matter what the sport was." Michael, "in many ways, sparked the creation" of ESPN's "PTI," by pairing hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon "together and giving them a chance to spar on air" on two of his weekly shows (EXAMINER.com, 12/24). In DC, Leonard Shapiro wrote under the header, "Michael Leaves Legacy In All The Lives He Touched." But Shapiro noted Michael "had his critics, present company included, particularly in his earlier days on the air." In the beginning, he had an "annoying tendency to shy away from tough questions and too often got far too close to some of the athletes, coaches and owners he was supposed to be covering, a habit he never was able to break" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/24).
PIONEER IN THE FIELD: In DC, Michael Wilbon wrote, "Before cable TV was in millions of homes George Michael brought us the world weekly." Michael was "an American original," and he "outworked just about everybody, never conceded stories to newspapers like just about every other TV sportscaster." Wilbon: "By will and force of personality as much as anything, George Michael made himself must-see TV" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/25). ESPN.com's Jim Caple wrote Michael "delivered sports highlights to famished fans who didn't even realize their stomachs were empty." Caple: "We're so inundated with this sort of thing now that it's difficult to remember how captivating his 'Sports Machine' was at the time. ... 'Sports Machine' was better than owning your own satellite dish" (ESPN.com, 12/25). In N.Y., Bruce Weber writes Michael was "known as a hard-working reporter," but also a "large personality, a bravado interviewer and an irreverent commentator" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/25). NBC’s Bob Costas noted Michael’s passing during “Football Night in America” (NBC, 12/27).
CBS earned its second-highest NFL national window overnight rating of the season yesterday, with Broncos-Eagles in the majority of markets and Jets-Colts in about 40% of markets. CBS' 16.4 overnight was up 19% from Fox' 13.8 rating in the Week 16 national window last year, which featured Falcons-Vikings. NBC earned an 11.6 overnight Nielsen rating for last night's Cowboys-Redskins "SNF," down 10% from Panthers-Giants in Week 16 last season. The telecast was the top-rated show on all of TV in primetime and won the night for NBC. Dallas-Ft. Worth earned a 34.4 local rating, while DC earned a 24.5 rating (THE DAILY).NFL WEEK 16 OVERNIGHT NIELSEN RATINGSNET'09 GAMERAT.NET'08 GAMERAT.% +/-Fox(single)9.4CBS(single)14.3-34.3%CBS(regional)11.9Fox(regional)8.048.8%CBSBroncos-Eagles (57%)16.4FoxFalcons-Vikings (64%)13.818.8%NBCCowboys-Redskins11.6NBCPanthers-Giants12.9-10.1%
NET GAINS: The NFL Network's Christmas night Chargers-Titans game earned 6.9 million viewers, marking the network's third most-viewed telecast ever and second most-viewed this season. The game pulled a 3.3 U.S. rating (6.9 coverage area rating). Flush with a new carriage deal with Comcast, the NFL Net's eight-game package averaged 5.5 million viewers, up 49% from last season's 3.7 million average viewers and up 20% from the previous high of 4.6 million viewers in '07. In '09, NFL Network also had four of its five most-watched games ever (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
ROOKIE EVALUATIONS: In Houston, David Barron wrote of ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, "Perhaps not since Hank Stram's days as the gleeful, wise-cracking coach of the Kansas City Chiefs has a coach-turned-broadcaster brought such a clearly defined persona from sideline to broadcast booth" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 12/25). However, in DC, Leonard Shapiro wrote, "Wouldn't it be nice if [Gruden] toned down the hyperbole and stopped praising every player and coach on the planet during 'Monday Night Football?'" Shapiro added, "Wouldn't it be nicer if I didn't always have to ask myself whether it's Gruden talking, or Ron Jaworski? They really do sound alike." Meanwhile, Shapiro wrote it is time to "sing the praises of NBC broadcast rookies Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison," who have been "outstanding additions" to NBC's "Football Night In America." Dungy and Harrison offer "strong and more than occasionally controversial comments" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/24). In Dallas, Barry Horn wrote NBC "seems to have finally come up a winner with" Dungy and Harrison. Dungy is the "more low-key of the two, more X's and O's analytical," while Harrison has "blossomed in his role as a guy fresh from the field" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/26).
BOOTH REVIEW: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes while reports yesterday linked CBS studio analyst Bill Cowher with the Buccaneers coaching job, Cowher said "not a thing" about the reports during "The NFL Today." Jones: "One can respect Cowher's policy of not discussing a coaching job that is not open, but CBS dropped the ball. ... The fact that it was one of their own and he was sitting there available for comment made it more imperative for CBS to address it." Meanwhile, Jones writes while Fox play-by-play announcer Kenny Albert is "as solid as they get," he "just can't warm up to" analyst Daryl Johnston and sideline reporter Tony Siragusa. Johnston and Siragusa often "say things we already know" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 12/28).
ABC earned a 3.8 overnight rating for its Christmas Day Celtics-Magic telecast, up from the comparable Spurs-Suns on Christmas Day last year. In the late slot on ABC, Cavaliers-Lakers was down 17% from the comparable Celtics-Lakers matchup last year. On ESPN, the 12:00pm ET Heat-Knicks matchup was up 33% from Hornets-Magic in the same time slot last year. ESPN aired only one Christmas Day game in '08 (THE DAILY).CHRISTMAS DAY NBA OVERNIGHT RATINGS ON ABCGAMERATING'08 GAMERATING% +/-Celtics-Magic3.8Spurs-Suns3.65.6%Cavaliers-Lakers5.0Celtics-Lakers6.0-16.7%CHRISTMAS DAY NBA METERED-MARKET RATINGS ON ESPNHeat-Knicks2.0Hornets-Magic1.533.3%Clippers-Suns1.1n/an/an/aNuggets-Trail Blazers1.4n/an/an/a
CHRISTMAS CHEER? Magic coach Stan Van Gundy prior to his team's game against the Celtics Friday said, "If I had my way, we'd take a five-day break at Christmas. I think we get a little carried away with ourselves in sports thinking we're so much more important than everything else. But that's the way it is: there's nothing more important than the NBA, and it has to be the focal point of your Christmas Day. I guess that's the way it is." Van Gundy added, " I know this: I won't watch one second of any of the other four games today. I have no interest whatsoever. I'm a big basketball guy, but this is a day to spend time with your family. ... I actually feel sorry for people that have nothing better to do on Christmas Day than watch an NBA game." Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of playing on Christmas Day, "It's gonna happen, so why fight it? I tend to try to look at it as a reward for good play and us doing our jobs well" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 12/25).
Comcast and MASN have "reached a settlement" in their legal fight over carriage of the sports net, according to John Eggerton of MULTICHANNEL NEWS. The parties have "jointly asked, and been granted, dismissal of MASN's program carriage complaint," which was being considered by FCC Chief Administrative Law Judge Richard Sippel. That means certain unspecified Comcast markets will start carrying MASN as soon as the upcoming MLB season. MASN had alleged Comcast discriminated against it by refusing to carry the RSN in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the Tri-Cities region of southwestern Virginia, and Roanoke and Lynchburg, Virginia, as well as "in various cable systems in smaller communities where Comcast has cable systems within MASN's territory" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 12/23).
Tiger's '01 Best Seller Set
For Audio Book Release
SI Golf Editor Calls TMZ' Sourcing On
Tiger Woods Story "Beyond Flimsy"
WAVE OF THE FUTURE? In Detroit, Mitch Albom wrote over his years in the business, "when the game was over, when the quotes had been gathered, when the story had been written, I felt the job had been done for the day." Albom: "It wasn't my obligation to then follow the athlete into a bar or sneak around outside his hotel room. But I fear soon that's where 'sports news' may begin." Albom added, "Sex sells. Gossip sells. Bad behavior sells. The TMZ approach of capturing your worst moments and splashing them around the world will be a hard thing for more conservative news outlets to ignore" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 12/27). The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin wrote, "As the new decade begins, athletes are now grist for the paparazzi, and the food chain of sports journalism is scrambled beyond recognition" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 12/25).