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January 16, 2014 04:15 PM
Photo by:PATRICK E. MCCARTHY
When it comes to the tense relationship between broadcaster and property, Downs said it was just part of the job. “Virtually every college conference commissioner called me at one point and said, ‘Why did your announcer say this in that game?’ or ‘Because you’re restricting our distribution to this tiny part of the country, we are being ranked lower in the national polls and getting into worse bowl games’ and on and on. When we had our deal with the USGA for the U.S. Open on ABC Sports, they were critical of our coverage. And sometimes, honestly, they were right. Sometimes our announcers didn’t know what they were saying. But it is a very difficult dynamic. On one hand in programming, we are desperately trying to maintain a relationship with the promoter and the rights holder, and our announcers at the same time were trying to maintain credibility with the audience. If a guy drops a pass, say he drops the pass. It’s not, ‘Oh, bad luck.’
He bemoans what happened to boxing: “One of the sports I still follow and care about and wince over is boxing. There is a great example of a sport that has no leadership. There is nobody overseeing the sport, looking out for the good of the game and making long-term decisions. So everything about boxing is how much can I get paid to be in this one particular fight, whether it makes the sport better or not. It’s all about the money.”
On the BCS: “I’m actually very proud, and most people would laugh at this because they know what’s wrong with the BCS now, but when we first put together all the major bowls and ensured that they would have the champions of all the major conferences in attractive match ups. It was not necessarily a playoff of one versus two, but I thought that was fantastic. We did it by doing a long-term extension with the Rose Bowl, which prevented anyone else from getting into that. In putting together the BCS at the time was an historic breakthrough and it took the college bowl season from being a crazy free-for-all with no rhyme or reason, and a fairly frequent occurrence of co-number ones and so on, to a little bit more rhyme and reason. I understand a playoff would be better, but at the time, it was as far as anybody could go and it was a big step, and it took a lot of controlling and a lot of money. But ultimately I think it was a wonderful, positive step in putting some sanity to the bowl system without completely upsetting the U.S.”
On the growth of RSNs: “The growth of regional sports networks impacted our business in the sense of saturation. It became less and less special to see an individual college football game on ABC Sports if you have the option to watch 54 different college football games on a Saturday. That began happening with baseball, too. One of baseball’s issues and one of the NFL’s blessings is that the NFL has one very limited package. What really is the reason to watch the Red Sox on a Saturday game when you’ve watched them five times that week? So there is nothing really special about these games. That’s the problem that baseball has, that hockey has, that basketball has, is that it’s driven by the individual cities’ passion for the sport, and national packages are a little bit hard.”
January 16, 2014 03:04 PM
ESPN’s Chris Fowler, on Australian Open attendance at Rod Laver Arena: “The majority of the seats are in the shade, which is fortunate. That’s a tough thing to do, to sit in the sun. The crowds (are) way down. Who in their right mind would buy a grounds pass today and go out and sit in the sun and watch out of court matches?”
PRECAUTIONARY TALE: Australian Open Dir & CEO Craig Tiley, on extra precautions to protect spectators: “We have put in a lot of misters, more water fountains and provided more than 3,200-square meters of additional shade for our patrons. So it’s a decision around the players, but it’s also a decision around everyone’s comfort" ("Australian Open," ESPN2, 1/15).
WHAT’S IN A NAME? CNBC's Joe Kernen said of Colorado legalizing marijuana for recreational use, "Mike High Stadium has got a whole new connotation, doesn’t it? It used to be a loud place. I'm wondering if everyone's going to be like, 'Whoa man. Who's playing, man?’” ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 1/16).
BROWN OUT: ESPN's Michael Wilbon said fans in Cleveland see Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam III "as a Pittsburgh guy, a guy they're not even sure they really want to welcome him" ("PTI," ESPN, 1/15).
January 16, 2014 10:21 AM
Photo by:PATRICK E. MCCARTHY
Downs: “There are many great soccer nations, where soccer is indeed the No. 1 sport, where their league is basically serving as a feeder for the top 4-5 European leagues. I would cite three obvious examples: Brazil, Argentina, and the Netherlands, which is where I was born. The Netherlands produces wonderful soccer players, but the league isn’t at the status of the big five of Europe. That doesn’t mean they are any less of a soccer nation, but their small size and their relatively small economy hurts their league. They are an exporter of playing talent. And the MLS right now is an exporter. Even Brazil is an exporter. If you go the MLS games these days it’s a marvelous atmosphere. Usually two or three legitimate hardcore supporter groups for the home team. You really get that European atmosphere. It's not bad level of play on the field, either.”
“As the commissioner of the NASL it was very evident to me just how hard it is to be a professional soccer player in the United States even if we are talking Division II or Division III, let alone MLS. You have to be a phenomenal athlete to play at that level. But unfortunately the MLS doesn’t have the very best players, like Leo Messi, and Leo Messi is on TV here weekly and often a couple of times a week. And I fear soccer fans are likely to watch, on TV at least, what they think is the best version of the sport rather than MLS.”
In coaching today’s youth, he’s noticed a difference when it comes to soccer: “The difference, specifically in sports soccer, is the amount of soccer education that a 13-year-old boy will have today. On my prep school team I have kids that have had sophisticated training for seven or eight years. And it really tells me that the sport is taking hold in the United States, from a participant standpoint and a passion standpoint, the sport has reached the tipping point. I think what hurts it is the truly global nature of the sport right now. So you have Americans, Egyptians, Japanese, Africans, and South Americans playing alongside the English and other Europeans. And every match is televised in the United States. So if I wanted to watch a soccer game this afternoon, I could watch it.”
January 15, 2014 03:34 PM
Photo by:PATRICK E. MCCARTHY
“To convince people of that and get their per game attendance from an average of 3,000-to-4,000 to 6,000-to-7,000, that would make them financially healthy. And that’s a pretty easy proposition.”
When it comes to MLS, he says, “They have done a great job and I think the sport is here to stay in a big, big way. No longer can the MLS use the excuse that Americans aren’t interested in soccer. It’s just a matter of where they fit in this global sport. And that’s a challenge. The NBA and NHL are much more like the Premiership, in that the best players in the world gravitate to the United States and play in those leagues.”
He goes on: “There is almost too much soccer on television for any one fan to consume, and the highest level played in the world is available to me almost any time of the day, and that will probably work against MLS over time unless they can somehow shift the dynamics so that the best soccer players in the world are playing here instead of abroad. And I don’t know if that’s possible. In those countries, soccer is the be-all and end-all sport. In our country, there will always be competition from sports like basketball, baseball, football, hockey, etc. It’s going to be difficult for MLS to achieve what leagues like the NFL and the NBA are achieving today. That doesn't mean we are not a soccer nation with lots of soccer fans and players.”
January 15, 2014 03:27 PM
After the third full day of play at the '14 Australian Open, THE DAILY offers a sampling of interesting on-air commentary from ESPN's telecast.
MERCURY RISING: ESPN’s Darren Cahill joked of the heat at the Australian Open, “I’m not sure if it’s a little warmer outside today or the fact that Chris Evert has joined us on the desk.”
IMPROVED STATUS: ESPN’s Cliff Drysdale said of the ongoing improvements to the tennis facilities in Melbourne, “The Australian Open has really come of age in these last 30 years. Before that, there was talk about moving the fourth major to somewhere like Miami. … The facilities that they have built have become magnificent, in fact, the envy really of the other Slams” (“Australian Open,” ESPN2, 1/14).
STAYING ABROAD: Nets CEO Brett Yormark, on the NBA’s efforts to grow the sport in the U.K.: “There are a lot of grassroots efforts and it will take some time but I think it’s ultimately going to get there" ("Countdown," Bloomberg TV, 1/15).
CHANGING LANDSCAPE: ACC Commissioner John Swofford said of potential changes to the NCAA, “We're at a crossroads in terms of the NCAA and what it will look like going forward. I'm encouraged by the discussions that have been going on and I don’t think they'll be any definitive decisions made this week at the convention” ("The David Glenn Show," WCMC-FM, 1/14).
January 14, 2014 03:36 PM
LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan, on discussions to hold a multi-event playoff like the FedEx Cup: “Typically, when the NFL schedule starts it's better for us and TV ratings and for sponsors to move around the world" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 1/14).
UP IN SMOKE: FS1’s Michael Kosta said of the NFL possibly allowing medical marijuana in states where it is legal, “I like this. I think it’s cool. It’s showing a progressive idea and a thought we’ve talked about before and if you thought Doritos had a lot of Super Bowl commercials before” (“Crowd Goes Wild,” FS1, 1/13).
MIKEY LIKES IT: Finish Line President & CEO Glenn Lyon said of the chain's shoe sales, "We do about a third of our men's business in basketball and Michael Jordan's business is a very, very big and very important part of our business, and it always has" ("Mad Money," CNBC, 1/13).
ALEX IN WONDERLAND: ESPN's Keith Olbermann said of Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez possibly reporting to Spring Training, “Right now evidently the only thing the Yankees can do about it is to give him the silent treatment, shunt him off to minor league practice, stick their fingers in their ears and go, 'La la la la!!!! Can't hear you!'" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 1/13).DOWN BY THE BAY: Former 49ers President & CEO Carmen Policy said of moving into Levi's Stadium, "We all knew that Candlestick had come to the end of its time and so there had to be a new stadium, there had to be the opportunity for the 49ers to compete with the rest of the league from a business and from an accommodation standpoint” ("Yahoo Sports Talk Live," CSN Bay Area, 1/13).MEANWHILE....:After the second full day of play at the '14 Australian Open, THE DAILY offers a sampling of interesting on-air commentary from ESPN's telecast.
HARD TO BREATHE: ESPN’s Mary Joe Fernandez on the temperature at the Australian Open: “It’s steamy out there, you feel like you’re suffocating at times and sometimes, you can prepare all you want in the preseason but if you don’t have that body type that can deal with the heat, you struggle.” ESPN’s John McEnroe: “It’s a big national story here. I mean, it leads on the evening news, the heat wave, ‘Here's the things you need to do to be careful out there, take care of yourself.’”
SOME LIKE IT HOT: ESPN’s Chris Fowler said of the crowds at the Australian Open, “You’ve got to hand it to the fans out there on Court Two. A lot of them are shaded inside Rod Laver, but everybody out there is in the sun: 104 degrees, brutal sun and they are out there filling every seat.”
RACQUET CASE: Fowler, on Roger Federer changing to a bigger tennis racquet: “He said ‘more pop’ with the racket, which is a Wilson frame, 98 square-inches, really just getting in line with what most of the top players use. He had kept that same frame for his whole career, which is smaller” ("'14 Australian Open," ESPN2, 1/13).
January 13, 2014 03:32 PM
After the first full day of play at the '14 Australian Open, THE DAILY offers a sampling of interesting on-air commentary from ESPN's telecast.
PAM SHRIVER, FASHION GURU: ESPN’s Mary Joe Fernandez said, "We see all the fashions when the new year begins. What are we thinking Chris and Pam of Venus’ dress that she designed?” EPSN's Pam Shriver: "Two thumbs up from down here, but what do I know about fashion.” Chris Fowler added, “Of course, Venus, in the fashion world and her EleVen company continues to grow.” Gilbert, on Czech tennis player Tomas Berdych: “What is up with the kit that Berdych is wearing? ... I can’t get over that shirt, and shorts, and outfit that the Birdman is wearing today.” ESPN’s Cliff Drysdale said, “He signed this deal with H&M and they put him in pretty subdued clothes last year and apparently changed their mind this year.” Gilbert: “I'm going to give him a little grief on Twitter because we banter back and forth, and he’s a very funny guy.”
SHOW ME THE MONEY: ESPN’s Patrick McEnroe, on the ATP Challenger Tour: “There is actually a big issue happening, sort of around the tennis world now. There is actually not a lot of prize money in those tournaments. What there is a lot of, are points available for rankings. They can be anywhere from the lowest challenger on the men's tour is usually $50,000 dollars, that is total prize money, they go up to about $125,000, and the U.S. obviously has what they call the USTA Pro Circuit. In Europe, there’s lots of Challenger events, many of which are quite successful as far as fan involvement and sponsorship.” McEnroe added, “The highest level tournaments in the Challenger Tour are sort of the Triple-A of the tennis world if you compare it to baseball.”
JARS OF CLAY: McEnroe, on the court surface: “Part of the reason they changed the surface here years ago from, well first they changed it from grass to the Rebound Ace, which was the original surface here at Melbourne Park. Then Rebound Ace had a lot of players not only feeling the heat from this court surface, which was made of old tires, but also a lot of ankle, a lot of knee injuries from the stickiness of the court. So, now it’s more of an asphalt surface, similar to the US Open surface.” Shriver said, “Still, it feels like a lot more ankle turns, still down under.”
PERSONALITY CLASH? ESPN’s Chris McKendry said of star players being coached by former star players, “That’s the key to all these coaching arrangements. It’s the personality and the chemistry. … I still think the personality clashes could be fascinating, Boris Becker and Novak Djokovic.” ESPN’s Chris Evert: “It’ll either be really successful and Djokovic will win some grand slams, or Becker can be out in two weeks. It could be a clash, really confrontational” (“2014 Australian Open,” ESPN2, 1/12).
January 13, 2014 08:28 AM
January 13, 2014 08:27 AM
January 10, 2014 04:40 PM
More than 17.25 million U.S. Facebook users have liked a page for one of the 8 teams remaining in the NFL playoffs. By building county-by-county maps showing where these fans live, Facebook provided SBJ with a glimpse at how the loyalties of regions and states will be divided among those clubs this weekend.
Here's a look at the loyalty matchup between the Seahawks and the Saints. While the Seahawks (blue) have tremendous loyalty in the northwest, the Saints (gold) have more fans just about everywhere else:
Here's the fan loyalty matchup between the Patriots (red) and the Colts (blue).
Here's the fan loyalty matchup between the Chargers (yellow) and the Broncos (orange).
And here's the fan loyalty matchup between the 49ers (red) and the Panthers (blue).
To see a slideshow containing larger maps, click any image below.