SBD/March 7, 2011/People and Pop Culture

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  • Televised Golf Innovator Frank Chirkinian Passes Away At Age Of 84

    Former CBS Sports Producer FRANK CHIRKINIAN passed away Friday at the age of 84 after battling cancer. In N.Y., Richard Goldstein wrote Chirkinian "defined televised golf as the innovative executive producer and director for CBS's coverage of the Masters tournament." Chirkinian first oversaw The Masters in '59, when televised golf was a "black-and-white affair with bulky stationary cameras." But he "transformed it into an imaginative spectacle, using more than two dozen mobile cameras as well as a camera in a blimp along with split screens showing two golfers putting at the same time." He "cut briskly from hole to hole," he "showed his audience where the leaders stood in relation to par as play progressed, not simply their total score, and he placed microphones on the greens to pick up chatter between the golfers and their caddies." Goldstein also noted Chirkinian was a "commanding presence, known as the Ayatollah for his often brusque orders to his production crew and to the CBS announcers on the course." Chirkinian also "directed coverage of the Winter Olympics, the United States Open tennis tournament, college and pro football, auto racing and thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown for CBS Sports," and he was a "four-time Emmy recipient." He was elected into the World Golf HOF last month, and he "will be posthumously inducted in May" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/6). Chirkinian also produced coverage of the Indianapolis 500 (PALM BEACH POST, 3/5).

    DEFINED GOLF ON TV: NBCSPORTS.com's Ryan Ballengee wrote Chirkinian's "vision for how golf should be broadcast on television continues to be the standard." Ballengee: "It starts on the tee, with boom mics at the tee box to pick up the sound of impact." He also "developed the idea of over and under par ... to make it easier for the fan to compare players at varying points in their round." He also "basically created the blimp fleet industry by [deciding] to attach a camera to a zeppelin" (NBCSPORTS.com, 3/5). In N.Y., Mike Lupica wrote Chirkinian was "one of the handful of true visionaries his business has ever produced." Lupica: "For all the innovations he brought to golf on television, Chirkinian's real genius was as a storyteller" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/6). In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes Chirkinian "created fascinating camera angles, integrated golf course sounds and was the first to utilize reporters on the course" (DENVER POST, 3/7). CBSSPORTS.com's Steve Elling wrote Chirkinian was a "titan in his field and revolutionized sports broadcasting, especially in golf circles." He "invented a broadcast template that to this day remains largely intact," and he "truly invented the sports as a broadcast entity at CBS Sports" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/5). YAHOO SPORTS' Brian Murphy wrote Chirkinian "had no peer when it came to inventing golf on TV" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/6). GOLF.com's Cameron Morfit wrote Chirkinian's "legacy will live on not just through all the sports-television advancements, but also through the talent he hired," including Nantz, GARY MCCORD and DAVID FEHERTY. SI's Gary Van Sickle wrote Chirkinian "turned telecasts from a collection of golf shots...into a show, a story with an ending." SI's Damon Hack: "Love that he instituted a 'don't talk while the ball is in the air' rule during the broadcast" (GOLF.com, 3/6).

    A GENIUS AND A VISIONARY: The Daily News' Lupica said, "Chirkinian was more than just a producer and director for golf. He was both a genius and a visionary, one of the seminal figures in broadcast history. He was loud and funny and profane and demanding, but always a storyteller. 'I want guys who can put words to my pictures, he said'" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 3/6). In N.Y., Larry Dorman wrote Chirkinian was a "boisterous visionary whose imagination gave birth to many of the innovations viewers now take for granted." Dorman: "He had a passion for providing pictures from new vantage points." Dorman added, "His commanding presence was augmented by a booming voice that could strike fear in big stars and understudies alike" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/6). CBS' JIM NANTZ said, "He took a sport that no one knew how to televise and made it interesting. He brought the Masters tournament to life" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/5). CBS Sports Golf and NFL Coordinating Producer LANCE BARROW: "He was never afraid to take a chance. Don't be afraid to do something different. Frank set the standard" (AUGUSTA CHRONICLE, 3/5). Golfer DAVIS LOVE III: "Frank invented golf, the scoring system for golf and then golf on TV. That's a pretty good resume" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/6).

    MASTER-PIECE THEATER: In Georgia, John Boyette wrote it was "at the Masters where Chirkinian shined," and his career "coincided with the rise of ARNOLD PALMER" (AUGUSTA CHRONICLE, 3/5). GOLF WORLD's Ron Sirak writes golf "emerged in the 1960s as a game for the masses," and one of the reasons "was CBS' coverage of the Masters." Sirak: "It was Chirkinian who captured the beauty of Augusta National GC and communicated the skill of Palmer, JACK NICKLAUS, GARY PLAYER and others" (GOLF WORLD MONDAY, 3/7 issue). Author JOHN FEINSTEIN said The Masters "became The Masters partly because of the golf course, partly because of the great players who won there, but also because ... of the way it was televised and Frank did capture every last bit of drama there was to capture" ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 3/4).

    REMEMBERING THE MAN: CBS Sports Chair SEAN MCMANUS said, "In his 38 years with CBS Sports, Frank Chirkinian's remarkable innovations and contributions have become the industry standard for the way we watch golf on television. Frank has left a legacy of excellence and creativity in golf broadcasting that will never be equaled and is a true Hall of Famer in all of sports television." Nantz said, "The cameras controlled by Chirkinian left indelible images that will be remembered for generations to come. A loyal leader of his crew, he transformed the sports landscape into a stage directing a script and telling a story that everyone had to see. ... I am comforted knowing, as long as there is golf being televised any where in the world; Frank Chirkinian lives." Barrow: "He did as much for the game as anyone who has ever been associated with golf. His legacy will live on forever" (CBS). NBC Sports Group Chair DICK EBERSOL: "There certainly would not have been a golf television business without him. He will be sorely missed but the game is better forever because of him." Nicklaus said, "Frank Chirkinian made Augusta National what it is today from a TV standpoint -- he made it theater. He was a pioneer" (PALM BEACH POST, 3/5). Chirkinian's son, FRANK CHIRKINIAN JR., said, "He squeezed every drop of life out of his 84 years. I don't think there was anything left." PGA Tour Commissioner TIM FINCHEM said Chirkinian was a "visionary in every sense of the word." Finchem: "He was an artist. The sport of golf was presented on television to generations of fans in innovative, imaginative and entertaining ways because of Frank" (GOLFWEEK.com, 3/4).

    HALL OF FAME BOUND: The L.A. TIMES noted Chirkinian was elected to the World Golf HOF "during an emergency vote after it became widely known he was undergoing treatment for cancer" (L.A. TIMES, 3/5). The N.Y. TIMES' Dorman noted Chirkinian taped an "acceptance speech for the ceremony." JOHN HAAS, who formerly co-Owned Emerald Hills Golf Club in West Palm Beach with Chirkinian, said, "He delivered the whole thing, for three or four minutes, and it was tremendous. ... It's really going to be something when they play it at the induction, almost like he's there" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/6). GOLF DIGEST's Tim Rosaforte noted, "Through the lobbying efforts of CBS host Jim Nantz, and the push of PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, one of the great oversights was rectified, and Frank would have his rightful place among the game's greats." Chirkinian was "able to savor knowing he would be in the Hall, but he would never make it to the induction" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 3/5). Chirkinian Jr. said his father's election to the HOF "really brightened his last few days." Chirkinian Jr.: "I think this was kind of the crowning achievement for his career" (GOLFWEEK.com, 3/4). Lupica: "They finally put him into the World Golf Hall of Fame a couple of weeks ago, much too late. But not too late" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 3/6).

    A NICE TOUCH: GOLF WORLD's E. Michael Johnson noted NBC during its Saturday broadcast of the PGA Tour Honda Classic made a "classy move" when "for several minutes the network went away from its coverage of the golf to pay homage to Chirkinian." As part of that segment, NBC's DAN HICKS interviewed Nantz, "who was in Chapel Hill, N.C., to work that evening's Duke-North Carolina basketball game." A "few things were noticeable" during the interview, including that Nantz "was wearing his CBS Sports blazer and there was no attempt by NBC to keep it out of view." However, Nantz "did not once try to take advantage of the opportunity on a rival network to plug the CBS brand." Johnson: "Instead we got what we so often fail to receive in this era of business-above-everything else attitudes -- two professionals talking solely about the topic, that being Chirkinian and his impact on the game" (GOLF WORLD MONDAY, 3/7 issue).

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  • Tom Werner Talks About NESV's Big Day On Both Sides Of The Pond

    Opening Day for the Red Sox is still weeks away, and the team is more than three years removed from its last World Series title. But New England Sports Ventures still had one of its all-time best days in the history of the company Sunday with Liverpool FC's 3-1 victory over archrival Manchester United, and CARL EDWARDS' win at NASCAR Sprint Cup Kobalt Tools 400 driving for Roush Fenway Racing. NESV Chair TOM WERNER spoke with SportsBusiness Journal Staff Writer Eric Fisher this morning about the big day.

    Q: What did you expect going into yesterday?
    Werner: We're working on a strategy for creating a global sports brand. I think very few people really know the connections between these entities. But yesterday was really great, a lot of fun between what was going on in Liverpool and in Las Vegas.

    Q: Were you on site for either event?
    Werner: No, we were watching the Liverpool match in Florida with JOHN [HENRY, principal owner] in Florida. We were down here in Ft. Myers for Spring Training over the weekend. John and I were then traveling later on [yesterday] and caught part of the race.

    Q: How do these two wins advance the efforts of NESV?
    Werner: We've got a really great team in place at each one. That's the thing I'm really pleased about. There's a lot of good spirit going around. Winning, as you know, is contagious.

    Q: With Liverpool, in particular, there's been a speculation as to what you might do or not do, particularly with the Anfield facility. What is happening there?
    Werner: We'd like to figure out a solution to add more seats because our biggest rival, Manchester United, has a big advantage when it comes to revenue coming in on match day. But we don't have a recommendation yet, and we're looking at two or three different options.

    Q: With the racing, between yesterday's events and the great story out of Daytona, it seems like this is a very different year already for NASCAR, that the halo around JIMMIE JOHNSON has been punctured a bit.
    Werner: The ratings thus far have been up significantly. I do think the fans are coming back to NASCAR. We've got some great drivers, not just in Sprint Cup, but what's coming up behind them, too.

    Q: How does yesterday compare to the day your team bought the Red Sox or the two World Series wins?
    Werner: It's pretty tough to beat bringing a World Series championship back to Boston after 86 years. But we think one of the great parts about Liverpool is that it's a global club with supporters all over the world. We were talking to IAN AYRE, our commercial director, and he thought more than 500 million people were watching the match yesterday. Now, it's hard to fully quantify Nielsen ratings around the world because the metrics aren't accurate everywhere as they are in the U.S. But we do know, as Fox said, it was "a match of the giants." And I think all Liverpool fans are smiling today.

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  • Executive Transactions

    MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez reported the Rangers Friday agreed to a four-year extension with GM JON DANIELS through '15. An extension for Assistant GM THAD LEVINE is "in the works" (MLB.com, 3/4). In Dallas, Evan Grant noted the extension puts Daniels "in position to become the longest-tenured GM in club history" (DALLASNEWS.com, 3/4).

    MAKING MOVES: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Eric Fisher reports Yahoo Sports "has made some management moves after the recent departure of KYLE LAUGHLIN to the Walt Disney Internet Group." The sports division is now being co-managed by DAVE MORGAN, Exec Editor for North America, and CLIFTON MA, Senior Manager of Business Operations for Yahoo Sports & Games. Morgan "will focus more on content and product initiatives," while Ma "will handle more of the core business-side and sales duties." Laughlin, who was head of Yahoo Sports & Games, "followed his former boss, JIMMY PITARO, who left Yahoo last October, over to Disney." Yahoo Sports "has now had six operational heads since 2005" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/7 issue).

    EXECS: Sportsman Channel has promoted Dir of Marketing BEN LINES to VP/Marketing (Sportsman Channel)....Unilever has hired MARC MATHIEU as Senior VP/Marketing, effective April 1 (MARKETINGMAGAZINE.co.uk, 3/3)....Former Breeders' Cup President & CEO GREG AVIOLI has signed an employment agreement as President & CEO of the racing and gaming division of MI Developments Inc. (MID)....The Nuggets have moved Media Relations Manager DAN TOLZMAN to Scouting Coordinator. The Nuggets have hired Warriors PR Assistant NICK O'HAYRE to replace Tolzman as Media Relations Manager (Nuggets).

    Do you have an executive announcement? If so, please send to editorial@sportsbusinessdaily.com.

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  • Names In The News

    In Charlotte, Michaela Duckett noted the logo for next year's Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) men's basketball tournament, which will mark the 100th anniversary of the event, bears the city's skyline. CIAA Commissioner LEON KERRY said, "We have the city in there, and it represents a partnership for CIAA, the city of Charlotte and basketball. I think it predicts a true feeling from us and how we feel about Charlotte." Kerry added that Charlotte is the "best place the tournament has ever been held." Kerry: "By coming to Charlotte, we have become a destination. We've done things I used to dream about" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/5). 

    A WINNING COMBINATION? Mavericks Owner MARK CUBAN last night confirmed that he has had "several conversations with" actor CHARLIE SHEEN recently about "developing programming for HDNet, the cable network Cuban owns." Cuban said that there "have been discussions about Sheen hosting a talk show or starring in a reality show on HDNet, but nothing is certain at this point" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 3/6). Cuban said it is a "unique opportunity." Cuban: "I like Charlie, he's pretty cool" (DALLASNEWS.com, 3/6). Cuban: "I reached out and we've had some conversations and I'm going to work on trying to do some things" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/7).

    STORY TELLERS: Warriors co-Owner and Mandalay Entertainment Group Chair & CEO PETER GUBER "explains the value of storytelling in business" in his new book, "TELL TO WIN." Guber said that Under Armour Chair, President & & CEO KEVIN PLANK, Heat President PAT RILEY, STEVE JOBS, JACK WELCH, DEEPAK CHORPA, ANDERSON COOPER and the late PRESIDENT REAGAN are among the leaders who "do an admirable job using the technique of story telling to get their point across" (USA TODAY, 3/7).

    BEST WISHES
    : SI.com's Peter King notes he and his wife had lunch with former SI NFL writer PAUL ZIMMERMAN and his wife, and NFL Network's MATT MILLEN and his wife, Tuesday at Cafe Gourmet in Parsippany, N.J., the day before Zimmerman had "surgery to ameliorate his spinal stenosis." Zimmerman suffered three strokes in '08, and he is "still not speaking coherently, and he's not able to totally comprehend everything he sees in a football game." King: "We're all holding out hope ... of returning to write someday" (SI.com, 3/7).

    NAMES: Saints Owner TOM BENSON has contributed $105,775 to Operation Homefront Louisiana. The group "helps military families and deployed and wounded service members by providing financial assistance with car and home repairs, gift certificates for items like food and clothing and grants for financial crises" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 3/6)....Former NBAer ALLEN IVERSON's six-bedroom, nine-bathroom house in Cherry Hills Village, Colo., is "under contract and expected to close on April 8, but not before Iverson quit paying the mortgage." Iverson, who bought the house for $3.875M in January '08, let the property "slip into foreclosure." EDIE MARKS, who reps the buyer, said the sale is expected to close for a price "close" to the asking price of $2.85M (DENVERPOST.com, 3/4)....Cubs radio announcer PAT HUGHES is "collaborating on a book that shares his remembrances of working alongside" late analyst RON SANTO. The book, "RON SANTO: A PERFECT 10," is scheduled to be released on Father's Day (June 19) and will include "anecdotes from former players, media, personal friends and fans" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/7)....Longball Cellars has produced charity wines for Red Sox Ps CLAY BUCHHOLZ and JON LESTER. Clay Buchholz: ChardonClay will benefit the Jimmy Fund, while Jon Lester: CabernAce will benefit the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The wines, produced by Selby Winery in Healdsburg, Calif., are expected to retail for about $14 a bottle and will be available in May (Longball Cellars).

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