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ESPN drew an 11.2 overnight for Michigan State’s 24-20 win over Stanford in the Rose Bowl yesterday afternoon, up 16.7% from a 9.6 overnight for last year’s Stanford-Wisconsin matchup. Last year's game had the lowest rating for the Rose Bowl since at least ‘85. Yesterday's 11.2 rating also is up 13.1% from a 9.9 overnight for the Oregon-Wisconsin matchup in ’12, but down 4.3% from an 11.7 for TCU-Wisconsin in '11, which was the first year the game moved from ABC to ESPN. The '14 Rose Bowl drew a 27.9 local rating in Detroit, marking the net’s best bowl rating ever in the market (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
LET'S HUG IT OUT: Blogger Larry Brown wrote ESPN's Tom Rinaldi "displayed some questionable journalistic ethics" when he hugged Mark Dantonio after "completing an interview with the Michigan State coach following the Rose Bowl." After a five-question interview, Rinaldi was seen "on camera going in to give Dantonio a hug." The hug was "not included in the video shared on ESPN’s website" (LARRYBROWNSPORTS.com, 1/1). The Baltimore Sun's Ron Fritz wrote, "Did I really see ESPN's Tom Rinaldi hug Sparty coach Mark Dantonio after interview? Dantonio abused ESPN sideline reporters during season." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Carvell wrote, "That was kinda awkward seeing ESPN's Tom Rinaldi hugging the Michigan State coach after interviewing him." Sportswriter Joey Kaufman wrote, "Imagine the Internet response if it was Heather Cox, not Tom Rinaldi, who hugged Mark Dantonio."
CHIPS & SALSA: ESPN earned a 7.1 overnight for UCF’s 52-42 win over Baylor in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last night. That figure is up 9.2% from a 6.5 overnight for the Florida State-Northern Illinois Discover Orange Bowl last season, which aired in the same time slot. The UCF-Baylor overnight is down from a 7.7 rating for the Oregon-Kansas State Fiesta Bowl last year, which aired on Jan. 3 (Karp). ESPN's Sean McDonough and Chris Spielman called the game, and NESN's Gerry Callahan wrote on his Twitter account, "The sport doesn't matter. Never has. Sean McDonough is as good as any play by play guy out there. He should get the Musburger gig." Fox' Troy Aikman wrote, "Always enjoy @chris_spielman analyzing games. One of the game's great competitors and a real pro" (TWITTER.com, 1/2). Meanwhile, DEADSPIN's Sean Newell noted ESPN previewed the Fiesta Bowl broadcast during halftime of the Rose Bowl with McDonough and Spielman standing in front of a green screen that showed them at field level. Newell wrote, "We're coming to you live from somewhere near the field before tonight's Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. As you can clearly see by the various shots of the stadium as well as lovely Glendale, we are probably here, somewhere, but not on the field, where we'd really prefer you to think we are coming to you live" (DEADSPIN.com, 1/1). Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey wrote on his Twitter feed, "The whole green screen thing going on behind the Fiesta Bowl announcers is jarring and unnecessary." FS1's Rob Stone wrote, "Baffled by the green screen in the Fiesta Bowl announce booth. Wanting @chris_spielman to talk about a low pressure system."
JOHNNY ON THE SPOT: Texas A&M's comeback win over Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve drew a 5.3 overnight for ESPN, marking the net’s best overnight on record for a non-BCS bowl game. The overnight is up 17.8% from a 4.5 for the Clemson-LSU matchup last year (Karp).
NBC drew a 2.9 overnight rating for the Maple Leafs-Red Wings NHL Winter Classic yesterday afternoon, a figure which is tied with the ’09 Winter Classic as NBC’s best overnight yet for an NHL regular-season game. The Maple Leafs-Red Wings game also is up from 21% from a Winter Classic-low 2.4 overnight in ’12 for the Rangers-Flyers matchup. There was no game last year due to the extended NHL lockout. This year’s telecast drew an 18.0 overnight in Detroit. Toronto is not a rated market for U.S. telecasts (NBC). ESPN’s Colin Cowherd said of the 2.9 rating, “For hockey, that’s unbelievable. They're doing back flips on Park Avenue.” However, he noted the Rose Parade earned a 4.5 overnight and said, “The parade beat hockey. People would rather watch floats than hockey” (“The Herd,” ESPN Radio, 1/2).
PRAISE FOR DOC: ESPN Radio 1000 Chicago's Marc Silverman wrote on his Twitter account, "No announcer captures the drama of a final minute flurry like Doc Emrick." SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote, "It will never be said enough: Mike Emrick is what every play by play person should strive to be." Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick wrote, "Mike Emrick is the second best play-by-play guy alive -- after Vin Scully -- and there's no close third." Meanwhile, NESN's Jack Edwards wrote, "Full marks to NBC's @Mike_Doc_Emrick & Ed Olczyk -- tough sightlines & really hard to articulate when your face, toes, and hands are frozen!"
ESPN on Monday hired free agent QB Tim Tebow as an analyst for the SEC Network, and Tebow said he plans to be "positive but also be someone that is objective." He added, "I've never had a hard time saying what I believed or standing up for something, and hopefully I can continue to be that same person as an analyst and sharing what I believe about players, about teams, about games." SEC Network VP/Production Stephanie Druley said Tebow is "a football junkie." She added, "He lives, breathes and eats the game. That's what you look for in an analyst, and the best analysts teach somebody, teach the viewers about the game." Druley: "If criticism is warranted, I think he'll give criticism." ESPN Senior VP/Programming Justin Connolly said of Tebow using his new platform to espouse his views on Christianity, "We hired him for his football opinions and his analysis of football and his experience and his view and knowledge of the SEC and the SEC fans and playing in the SEC. ... That's what the focus of the relationship is going to be." Tebow said of covering his alma mater, "I'll always be a Gator, but I have to be objective, as well, and I believe I can do that." Druley: "I expect him to be a new voice, an exciting voice, and a different perspective than we've heard before." The SEC Network is based in Charlotte, but Tebow said he is "not sure where I'll be living." He said, "I know we have to travel a lot every single week, so I'm sure I'll be on the road a lot" (THE DAILY). Tebow's primary role will be as an analyst for "SEC Nation," the network's traveling pregame show that will originate from a different SEC campus each week. In the months leading up to the network's launch and after, Tebow will contribute to a variety of ESPN platforms, including "SportsCenter," ESPN Radio and the network's Heisman Trophy coverage. Tebow will make his debut as an ESPN analyst on Monday during pregame coverage of the Vizio BCS National Championship. He also will be part of studio coverage for the new College Football Playoff. Tebow is the first college football analyst hired for the SEC Network. Meanwhile, Tebow's contract with ESPN has a clause that will not preclude him from continuing to pursue playing opportunities in the NFL (ESPN).
WE GO TOGETHER: SI.com's Richard Deitsch noted ESPN "has pushed a singular mantra when it comes to college football: You can never have too much SEC." The network in similar fashion "has ridden news surrounding Tim Tebow with a Justin Bieber-like fervor." Now, these "two forces have come together, and it should make for an interesting ride." The initial question is "how successful will Tebow be as an analyst." He is one of the "most popular (and likeable) athletes in the country, and he'll no doubt work hard to learn the craft." Still, his "opinions on football have mostly been vanilla" (SI.com, 12/30). Deitsch, following the Tebow conference call, wrote, "For those seeking an instant broadcasting take, Tebow is a super-nice kid, stays on script like Daniel Day-Lewis and will not be a critical analyst in any shape or form, at least not initially" (SI.com, 12/31).
WORK IN PROGRESS: SPORTS ON EARTH's Colin McGowan wrote Tebow "could have been an NFL washout with Frankenstein mechanics, but Bristol chose to make him a star." However, it is "hard to imagine him being good at his new job." His "lack of substance will be laid bare, in the same way someone like Mike Ditka’s mystique dissipated once he had to speak into a camera." Tebow "won’t fall so hard, because he does seem like a pleasant guy." His "strong takes on fun and teamwork will add little to whatever broadcast he’s on, but he will be Tim Tebow, and, terrifyingly, discouragingly, that might be enough" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 12/31). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Michael David Smith wrote, "Realistically, it’s unlikely that Tebow will be in the NFL next year, so it’s good news for him that he now has another way to make a living." Tebow’s public statements "tend to be bland and free of controversy, which wouldn’t seem to make him a good fit as a TV commentator, but his following is big enough that he’ll immediately become one of ESPN’s most popular on-air personalities" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 12/30). CANADA.com's Rob Brodie wrote, "Not surprisingly, the news was greeted with a certain level of cynicism among those who a) wonder if good guy Tebow will ever have it in him to be critical as a broadcaster and b) aren’t the least bit surprised that ESPN -- which has worshipped at the altar of Tebow for years -- would now try to turn him into a TV star" (CANADA.com, 12/30). In Florida, David Jones wrote, "I'm not so sure this was a great idea." The SEC already is "the smug, rich kid. ... Now this?" (FLORIDA TODAY, 1/1).
TWITTER REAX: CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman wrote, "Curious how Tebow will do on TV. He's certainly comfortable in his own skin & in Joe Tess, he couldn't ask for a better TV teammate." The Birmingham News' Jon Solomon: "One unpleasant option: ESPN turns Tebow-Finebaum into good-cop, bad-cop routine mirroring Holtz and May." Solomon added, "Tebow is a natural fit for SEC Network's goal: Get viewers. Will be interesting to see if he will offer critical analysis." LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann wrote, "Love him or not, #Tebow guarantees ratings, relevance for @SECNetwork. A masterful hire." The N.Y. Post's Bart Hubbuch: "On a serious note, I'm not sure what ESPN thinks it's getting with Tebow. Nicest guy you could meet, but he's a terrible interview. Woeful." The AP's Ralph Russo wrote, "Tebow and SEC Network. The perfect marriage. Mazel Tov to the happy couple." USA Today's Dan Wolken: "My question on Tebow as an analyst: Will he be critical? If he's willing to do that he could be good."
ESPN Ombudsman Robert Lipsyte in his most recent column noted an ad titled "Tree of Hope 2013" was "initially turned down by ESPN because it did not meet its advertising standards," but the net after "a storm of protest ... reversed its decision, stating that the ad did meet its standards, after all." The Missouri Valley Conference on Dec. 5 received a new PSA from St. Louis-based Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, then "submitted the ad to run on ESPN and, per contract, sought approval from the network’s commercial operations department." The ad "would be run without cost to the hospital" as a PSA and was slated to run on Dec. 14 during ESPNU’s VCU-Northern Iowa men's basketball game. However, Christian references in the ad "raised red flags at ESPN, and the spot was turned down, based on ESPN’s Guidelines for Standards and Practices on Advertising." Producers for Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" by Dec. 11 were calling ESPN and told the net there "would be an O’Reilly report on the matter that night." ESPN Exec VP/Administration Ed Durso said he then "made a decision, a business decision." Durso: "We accepted the original spot because this was not worth all this trouble." Durso said of ESPN's advertising policy, "Our overarching effort is not to choose sides. We don’t want to pick and choose. We want to stay neutral. We’re not a vehicle for social, religious, political issues. It’s not what we do." Lipsyte asked, "How will ESPN handle the coming minefield of issues surrounding the 2014 Olympics in Sochi?" Russia has "come under fierce criticism for passing national laws banning 'gay propaganda.'" Durso said, "We won’t take ads from GLAAD or from supporters of Russian attitudes against gay rights. We are not in that business" (ESPN.com, 12/31).