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The Rangers extended the NHL season by beating the Kings 2-1 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final last night, and NBCSN earned a 2.8 overnight rating for the contest. The rating is the third-highest for a Final game on NBCSN, behind Games 2 and 3 from last year's Blackhawks-Bruins series. The 2.8 mark is up 65% from a 1.7 overnight for Kings-Devils Game 4 on NBCSN in ’12, which also featured the Kings on the cusp on winning the Cup. N.Y. and L.A. predictably has the two highest local-market ratings, with an 8.1 and 7.3, respectively. Last year’s Blackhawks-Bruins Game 4 aired on NBC and drew a 4.6 overnight (THE DAILY).
WE THREE KINGS: NBCSN finished with a 1.7 rating and 2.893 million viewers for Kings-Rangers Game 3, down 15% and 27%, respectively, from a 2.0 rating and 3.964 million viewers for Blackhawks-Bruins Game 3 last year. Viewership for Monday night’s Game 3 peaked at 3.67 million viewers from 9:30-9:45pm ET. While down from ’13, this year’s Game 3 was up 70% and 66%, respectively, from a 1.0 rating and 1.743 million viewers for Kings-Devils Game 3 (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
UNFINISHED BUSINESS: In Chicago, Ed Sherman reported NBC's Mike Emrick "wouldn't be surprised" if his broadcast partner Ed Olczyk "eventually leaves the booth to take a position with a team." Olczyk, who was fired as Penguins coach in '05, "continues to say he has 'unfinished business' in the game." Emrick: "He offers so much in the telecasts in terms of teaching the game. He still has a lot of coach left in him" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/11).
Galaxy F Landon Donovan is serving as an analyst for ESPN during the FIFA World Cup, and in his first on-air appearance he "immediately ripped" U.S. men's national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann for saying the squad cannot realistically be expected to win the event, according to Filip Bondy of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Donovan, who was controversially left off the U.S. World Cup roster, said, “This will come as a surprise to nobody, but I don’t agree with Jurgen." Bondy reports Donovan joining ESPN's coverage "came as something of an unpleasant surprise to U.S. Soccer, since he was still in theory eligible to be added to the team roster over the next three days, in case of an injury." U.S. Soccer did "not know about the arrangement with ESPN until the network made the announcement" late yesterday morning. Donovan is "thought to want a future in broadcasting" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/12). Donovan will serve as a studio analyst based in L.A. focusing on the U.S. team's three group stage matches. He will appear on pre- and post-match segments, halftimes and editions of "SportsCenter," "World Cup Tonight" and other shows (ESPN). ESPN President John Skipper: "We're going to have him concentrate on the day before the U.S. games, the day of the U.S. games. It is not our expectation to put him on the spot." He added, "We're much more interested in tactics and his reaction to how they are playing. He knows the team" (AP, 6/11). U.S. F Jozy Altidore, when asked if it was odd Donovan was joining ESPN, said, "Not really. Landon is a smart guy. He knows the game very well. It was always going to happen, right, him to be a commentator?" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 6/11).
GALAXY QUEST: In Las Vegas, Kira Terry reports the Galaxy yesterday released a 49-second video showing what Donovan "will be doing during the World Cup." The YouTube video, titled “Skip Work. Watch the World Cup,” shows Donovan, dressed in a U.S. uniform, "sitting alone in the Galaxy offices at the StubHub Center taking calls, getting frustrated that no one else is working." He later is shown "playing some foosball by himself." It shows that "even Donovan has a sense of humor" about Klinsmann’s roster decision (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 6/12).
ESPN has dedicated "considerable resources to its the presentation of the FIFA World Cup and is betting there will be many more casual viewers" in the U.S. than during the '10 tournament, according to Bob Wolfley of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. ESPN Senior VP & Exec Producer for the World Cup Jed Drake contends that since the '10 event in South Africa, the net "has helped melt" an attitude of indifference to the World Cup. He said, "This is a global event that people, I believe now, even in the United States, will tune into because of the sheer scope and magnitude of it" (JSONLINE.com, 6/11). In Chicago, Ed Sherman noted World Cup ratings "likely will soar if the U.S. team makes a decent showing." But even if it "doesn't, Drake believes the spectacle of the World Cup, coupled with the passion for soccer in Brazil, will lure viewers in record numbers." The net's "invasion of Brazil will consist of hundreds of ESPN staffers scattered throughout the country to cover every aspect of the Cup." It will be "as close to NBC's armada for the Olympics as it gets for a major sporting event." Drake said, "What we did in 2010 is rather remarkable in that you could make the argument that the United States was really the last holdout, if you will, for somewhat of a level of indifference in the World Cup. We fundamentally changed that in 2010. We did so through a production and marketing approach that made people understand how important this even it to the rest of the planet" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/11).
BALANCING ACT: USA TODAY's Mike Foss noted as soccer's fan base has grown in the U.S., it has "demanded a higher level of commentary, production and care from networks." ESPN's Ian Darke and Taylor Twellman will call the U.S. matches, and the pairing is "generally well-received by audiences at a time when fans are more educated -- and critical -- of soccer coverage on TV." Twellman said, "We’re not dumbing the game down for people. We don’t need to apologize for being soccer fans, and we owe it to fans to call the game the right way." But Foss noted Darke "isn’t interested in trying to Europeanize the American television experience." If anything, when he "approaches a broadcast on ESPN, he’s looking for opportunities to let American influences come through." Darke: "My general view of broadcasting in America is to respect the culture and how it is here. I don’t think any of us should be sniffy, I don’t like that at all, the same way if an American was calling a match in England. You have to be culturally aware" (USA TODAY, 6/11).
TAKING IT ALL IN: In Newark, Michael Fensom conducted a Q&A with with ESPN World Cup studio analysts Bob Ley and Alexi Lalas, who discussed what the on-air personnel are "paying attention to and discussing" when the matches are going on. Lalas said, "We are in the studio. It’s an insulated environment with huge monitors all over the place. We’re watching from a tactical perspective who is having problems, individually or in their zone of the field. We need to come back at halftime and say, ‘These are where the problems are and these are possible solutions.’ But there is also an element of watching as a fan and enjoying it. We are hooting and hollering at the screen when someone does something incredible. All of that bleeds back to what we’re talking about." Ley added, "It’s the same discussion we have on air, the same we have at the hotel bars or over cards or at dinner -- just with time constraints and language restraints" (NJ.com, 6/10). Meanwhile, the AP's David Bauder writes it is possible Lalas and fellow analyst Michael Ballack "go at it a few times on ESPN, particularly with the U.S. and German teams in the same group." The net has "adjusted its schedule to encourage spirited debate among its analysts." ESPN in '10 "found that some of the best soccer discussions happened in the hotel bar after the cameras turned off." Producers this year will "try to capture some of that passion, with a regular 'World Cup Tonight' discussion on an informal set" (AP, 6/12).
NBC Sports Group insists that it "will try to take a business-as-usual approach" for this week's U.S. Open despite the fact that this will be the net's final time airing the tournament before Fox takes over next year, according to Ed Sherman in a special to GOLF DIGEST. Fox landed the rights last summer, and NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said of NBC Sports Golf Producer Tommy Roy, "When this all happened, Tommy called me and said, 'How do you want us to cover the last U.S. Open?' I said, 'Tommy, I want you to do the best job you can do and be proud of whatever you put on the air.' He said, 'Thank you for that'" (GOLF DIGEST, 6/9 issue). In Jacksonville, Garry Smits noted Roy "wants the action this week to be the story and pledged the best possible job of his production staff." Roy: "The story will not be about being NBC’s last U.S. Open. ... But it's been a real privilege to televise a major and we’re giving maximum effort to deliver our best shows yet." Roy noted that he "has been asked frequently if NBC will cut back and cut corners on the final Open telecast." He said, "I can absolutely assure you that’s not in our team’s DNA." Roy did acknowledge that at some point "towards the end of Sunday’s coverage, a reference to NBC’s final U.S. Open will be made on the air" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 6/10). USGA Exec Dir Mike Davis and President Tom O'Toole yesterday prior to the start of the tournament both had high praise for NBC and ESPN, which have broadcast the Open for 20 and 32 years, respectively. Davis said, "I can tell you that with my 25 years with the USGA, to see -- in the case of NBC -- how they've elevated our championship and the innovations they've used have just been wonderful." O'Toole added the USGA would "not be the strong and healthy organization we are today" without the work of NBC and ESPN (Josh Carpenter, Staff Writer).
MILLER TIME: SI's Alan Shipnuck wrote he is "genuinely bummed" that this will be the last U.S. Open NBC's Johnny Miller calls, as he has "made us much smarter fans." Miller is an "obsessive preparer," who, during tournament weeks, "spends as much time on the putting surfaces as any caddie." His style "isn't for everybody," as he is like the "cranky old uncle who is likely to break up a dinner party with his blunt observations." But golf, "especially the U.S. Open, won't be the same without him." Miller is under contract with NBC through '15, and it is a "no-brainer to have him welcome the sport back to the Olympics" in '16. But this week "is the beginning of the long goodbye" (SI GOLF+, 6/9 issue).
CANDID CAMERAS: USA TODAY's Steve DiMeglio notes there will be 57 cameras at Pinehurst, including "many that will capture play in super slow motion, and action cams along the right side of the 18th green, to the left of the first tee and over the clubhouse." On the ground, there "will be multiple point of-view cameras, including some in bunkers." One camera "will be locked on the Payne Stewart statue by the 18th green, which is a gathering place for spectators." Multiple cameras with 3D "pinpoint capabilities will be situated near the greens to capture from all angles the undulation challenges the players will face." Because the U.S. Women's Open "comes the week after the men's, flyovers of each hole will indicate which tee box the women will use" (USA TODAY, 6/12).
NOT JUMPING THE SHARK: GOLF DIGEST's Sam Weinman wrote though Fox golf analyst Greg Norman "will be leaning" on Joe Buck and Fox Coordinating Producer for Golf Mark Loomis to "learn some of the intricacies of broadcasting, he said he hasn't sought out advice from other golfers who have dabbled in the booth." Norman: "You've got to have your own approach. Obviously there are certain things Fox likes us to do, the message and the mannerisms we're trying to convey. It's about having fun out there. I had a lot of fun playing the game and I will have a lot of fun commentating" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 6/11).
ESPN’s Rick Reilly has officially “retired” from sports writing after his final column was posted on ESPN.com earlier this week. Reilly plans to move to Italy for several months in order to pursue other interests and “drink every Chianti known to man.” He said before being inducted into the NSSA HOF on Monday night that he has three movie ideas and two book ideas that he would like to work on, but declined to elaborate on any of them. As for why he is giving up sports writing, Reilly, an 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year and dubbed by USA Today as "the closest thing sportswriting has ever had to a rockstar," cited a lesson he learned from his mentor, late L.A. Times columnist Jim Murray. “He always said, ‘Writing a column is like riding a tiger: you’d like to get off, but you don’t know how,’” Reilly said. “He died writing a column. … He was an incredible historian, he loved reading -- and not just sports -- he never got to do that. He always wanted to see all these places he never got to see while he was having to cover the Super Bowl.” Reilly said that he will return to the U.S. at the beginning of the NFL season to assume an on-air TV role at ESPN and will continue to be involved with his UN Foundation campaign, Nothing But Nets. As for the legacy he hopes to have left, Reilly said, “I hope that I wrote the stories that made you feel better about life or feel good about things. Maybe helped you talk to your grandfather again. I love those kind of stories” (Alex Silverman, Staff Writer).
SAYING GOODBYE: Reilly in his farewell column wrote, "I see now how I was raised by sports, how it became my second family, and how I learned at its feet every day." Reilly: "Never let anyone tell you sports doesn't matter. Never let them tell you it's all about the wins, the losses and the stats. Sports is so much more than that." He added, "So why leave the best job in the world after 36 years? To see what else is out there. To learn new lessons from new teachers. To live in Italy, make amends to my piano and never have to care about groin pulls again." Reilly wrote, "It's been my privilege to be your sports writer. If I'd have known so many people would reach out and say so many kind things, I'd have quit years ago. To be told by a young journalist that you were the reason she got into the business; to be told by a grieving son that you made his dying mother laugh; to be told by a reader that a column you wrote changed the direction of his life? It swells the heart." He added, "You've been better to me than I deserve. No writer in history is more flawed than me, but it was never for lack of trying. It was always in my attempt to get to the truth, or to make it fun, or to make it add up to something meaningful to you" (ESPN.com, 6/10).