• Vonn’s role with Olympics starts with a whimper on “Today”

    If I’m an executive at NBC Sports, I’m certainly hoping Lindsey Vonn brings more energy and enthusiasm to her new role as an Olympic on-air correspondent than she did during this morning’s promotional interview with Matt Lauer.

    She appeared via satellite on her couch in a knee brace and bandages while petting her dog, Leo, on her lap. Truthfully, I can’t even imagine how difficult it is for Vonn to deal with the bitter disappointment of not being able to ski in Sochi, and it was clearly evident that pain remains during this morning’s interview. 

    Showing little emotion or enthusiasm, she flatly responded that she was “recovering well” from her recent surgery. She was honest while admitting, “It’s going to be really, really hard to watch the alpine events.” She said, “It’s already hard enough. You guys run commercials about Sochi every two minutes, and it’s killing me.”

    Lauer tried to lighten the mood by adding a humorous, “You’re welcome.” But Vonn didn’t take the bait. When he transitioned to promoting her role during the Games, instead of saying what she was looking forward to, she instead flipped it, “I’m NOT looking forward to waking up this early. That’s not going to be fun.” 

    Again, Lauer tried to make light by saying, “You’re welcome.” She finally concluded saying, “I’m looking forward to this new challenge.” Maybe it was the early wake-up call, or still struggling with the immense disappointment of not going to Sochi, but Vonn didn’t bring her “A” game for this one. Following Twitter after, I thought this person, Diane Kaufman, summed it up well:

    Tags: On the Ground
  • TV Timeout: Seven-Day Forecast

    N.Y. Daily News' Mike Lupica, on the cold-weather Super Bowl in N.Y.: “Next Sunday we’ll find out if the broadcast rights should have gone to The Weather Channel” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 1/26).

    MONEY MACHINE: ESPN’s Bob Ley, on Seahawks CB Richard Sherman’s marketability: “Sherman is already marketing T-shirts based on last Sunday’s interview. I probably just sold a bunch for him. You’re welcome, Richard. … Sherman is a capitalist and long may he wave. But he needs to ensure that his play can cash the checks that his mouth is writing” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 1/26).

    TRAIN IN VAIN? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said placing a franchise in London "is still down the path but if we continue to see the kind of growth and passion in our fan base over there, yes, a franchise could be possible someday" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 1/27).

  • SBJ Champions Podcast: Rick Hendrick

    Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and motorsports writer Tripp Mickle introduce Rick Hendrick as one of this year's Champions: Pioneers & Innovators in Sports Business. In 30 years as a NASCAR team owner, Hendrick has won 11 Cup Series championships and nearly 300 races. This is the first in a series of six profiles of the 2014 class of The Champions.

    Tags: Champion, Champions, Motorsports, NASCAR, CES, SBJSBD Podcast
  • The NHL Shift: Numbers and notes, 1/24/2014

    A look at the past week in the NHL and a glimpse at what’s ahead:

    47 percent:
    The percentage of the league’s teams (14 of 30) that continue to average at least 100 percent in home attendance now well past the midway mark of the season. Last year, 16 of 30 posted at 100% for the entire lockout-shortened season — though those home slates were 24 games per team and started in January.

    John Isley and Southside Johnny of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes perform at Hard Rock Live! in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on March 7, 2013, in Hollywood, Fla.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    07712: The ZIP code of Asbury Park, N.J. — the stomping grounds of rockers Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, who are the musical performers at the Rangers-Devils game Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. How excited was the group about the gig? The league didn’t officially announce the appearance until this morning, but the band broke the news on its Facebook page earlier in the week.

    23,351: The Red Wings’ per-game average — though a wee-bit skewed in that it in factors in the more than 105,000 fans who packed Michigan Stadium for the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1 (compared to the usual Joe Louis Arena home-game capacity of 20,066). The other 13 clubs at capacity have not benefited from an outdoor game spike, but the Los Angeles Kings (18,130 average) would see a bump to their number after their Coors Light Stadium Series game on Saturday night against the Ducks at Dodger Stadium. The Devils and Islanders, who are the home teams for the two games next week at Yankee Stadium, are not at 100 percent, so the high crowd counts will be especially welcome for them.

    3 p.m.: The time of a special open practice the St. Louis Blues are having today at Yale University as a teamwide show of support to Blues player Jaden Schwartz, whose sister, Mandi — a former player at Yale — died in 2011 at age 23 of acute myeloid leukemia. The Blues also will attend tonight’s game between Yale and Brown, which is Yale’s fourth annual White Out for Mandi event, where fans are asked to wear white and encouraged to make donations to the Mandi Schwartz Foundation.

    7 for 7: After finalizing a sponsorship agreement this week with the Edmonton Oilers, Scotiabank now has deals with all seven Canadian NHL franchises. Scotiabank is the “official bank” of the Oilers, Canucks, Jets, Maple Leafs, Senators and Flames and is a sponsor of the Canadiens. It also is the official bank of the NHL.

    17 hours: That’s how long the coming Carolina-Ottawa game in Raleigh was postponed — from 7 p.m. tonight until noon tomorrow — after Carolina’s scheduled game in Philadelphia was moved from Tuesday to Wednesday because of a snowstorm. The Hurricanes played in Buffalo last night, a makeup of a previously snowed-out game (yes, that’s two snow-postponements for the Canes), and an NHL rule prohibits teams from playing games on three consecutive days. The Hurricanes are offering ticket exchanges to fans unable to change their plans from Friday night to Saturday afternoon — and we’re told that could be a lot — but for fans who can make the Saturday matinee, the team is offering popcorn for $1 and soda for $2.

    Stick Tap
    To executive producer Ross Greenburg and the 75 staffers working on “NHL Revealed,” which debuted Wednesday night on NBCSN. Greenburg and company were able to capture a special personal moment as part of the program, as a crew rode with the Islanders’ Kyle Okposo and wife Danielle to the hospital, staying along in the waiting room until Danielle gave birth to the couple’s first child.

    Looking Ahead
    What else? The Coors Light Stadium Series finally arrives. The NHL continues to say “limited tickets are available” for the Dodger Stadium game tomorrow night and the Rangers-Islanders game at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday; we’re told there’s more than 3,000 left for each. The Rangers-Devils game at the ballpark in the Bronx on Sunday is sold out. Capacity at Dodger Stadium: More than 50,000; Yankee Stadium: more than 45,000.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • TV Timeout: 'Cause I'm The Cashman

    After yesterday's signing of Japanese P Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees GM Brian Cashman discussed how he and General Partner Hal Steinbrenner manage the team. Cashman: "I get to manage things at 5,000 feet, he has to manage things at 30,000 feet. ... He has to take a global view of all aspects of our fan base, which is our customer service side of it, our network and every business stream that goes into this entire model that are the Yankees. And so there's no question that there are certain things that drive interest and drive people to come to the ballpark and turn on the YES Network” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 1/23). Meanwhile, the N.Y. Daily News' Frank Isola said, "This is how you honor the memory of George Steinbrenner. You spend, spend and spend " ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 1/22).

    HOW WAS THE TRIP? NBC's Richard Engel, on trying to enter through security to the "coastal cluster" of venues in Sochi: "It is not easy to get in here. It took us two hours of having our bags checked and x-rayed, you can't go anywhere without a badge. We've seen police wearing portable chemical weapons detectors. This area certainly feels tightly controlled" ("Nightly News," NBC, 1/22).

    FOR THE LAYMEN: NBC Olympic Broadcast Group President Gary Zenkel said, “It's not a traditional sports audience that just wants to know who won and who lost, and because the result may be known in advance means people are going to turn away. In fact, we've seen in London the opposite is true" ("Street Smart," Bloomberg TV, 1/22).

    AN AWARD BY ANY OTHER NAME: Denver Post columnist Woody Paige, on MLB Commissioner Bud Selig winning the first-ever Commissioner Bud Selig Leadership Award: "Cy Young never won the Cy Young Award, Bud. Vince Lombardi never won the Vince Lombardi Award. Why in the world would you even accept an award in your name? Just back off and wait until you actually accomplish something" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 1/22).

    DEAR RICHARD: ESPN's Jemele Hill, on Seahawks CB Richard Sherman: "Don't try to sell me on this idea that you're sorry about the attention but you're capitalizing on all the attention" ("Numbers Never Lie," ESPN2, 1/22).

  • TV Timeout: Dangers In The Safety Dance

    Fox' Daryl Johnston, on the NFL looking into doing away with PATs: “When you talk about safety, how long is it going to be until they change the game at its foundation point? I think this is one of those changes” (“Fox Football Daily,” FS1, 1/21).

    YOU'VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY: Former PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman: "I thought, when I played the tour that golf was undervalued and the athletes were under paid and I thought that golf should be a major sport when I became commissioner with a minor sport. It took 20 years to really put the framework together. ... The NFL Super Bowl had been played for 13 or 14 years, so we knew big money was already in sports. But it certainly wasn't in golf from the standpoint of the organization. It was big because of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, and they made a lot of money, but the rest of the players did not” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 1/21).

    BITING THE HAND THAT FEEDS: CBS Sports Network's Allie LaForce said of Alex Rodriguez suing the MLBPA, “That is the strongest union in all of pro sports. They have developed the reputation as the sternest and best union when it comes to protecting their players and this guy’s going to try to bring them down with him? The players union is the reason that he’s getting his contract still. ... If this were the NFL, he would've been done a long time ago” (“Lead Off,” CBSSN, 1/21). 

  • TV Timeout: The Importance Of Being Peyton

    Indianapolis Star’s Bob Kravitz, on Broncos QB Peyton Manning’s impact on the city of Indianapolis: “We wouldn’t have Lucas Oil Stadium without Peyton Manning, we wouldn’t have had the Super Bowl which was such a rousing success here in Indianapolis and quite honestly, I don’t know that we would still have this franchise in Indianapolis” (“OTL,” ESPN2, 1/19).

    GOING NUTS? ESPN’s Jemele Hill said of Dodgers P Clayton Kershaw‘s new contract, “If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result than it's official, the Dodgers are nuts” (“Sports Reporters,” ESPN2, 1/19).

    BANNER YEAR: CBS Sports Net’s Jason  La Canfora, on who makes the final decision for the Browns’ head coaching hire: “Its (CEO) Joe Banner’s team, he was given the keys to that kingdom. Mind, body, spirit, soul, it’s yours” (“That Other Pregame Show,” CBSSN, 1/19).

    GLOBAL INFLUENCE: ESPN’s Darren Cahill said of Japanese tennis player Kei Nishikori, “He’s also one of the wealthiest young men in tennis. He has 11 key sponsorships, ranging from Uniqlo, the company that he is wearing with his clothes, to adidas shoes, to Wilson tennis rackets, to Delta Airlines. I think he’s No. 3 or 4 behind Nadal, Djokovic and Federer in money earned off the court in tennis” (“Australian Open,” ESPN2, 1/19).

  • SBJ Podcast: Our thoughts on David Stern

    NBA writer John Lombardo and Executive Editor Abraham Madkour discuss David Stern's impact on the NBA and what his future might hold, in conjunction with SBJ's tribute to Stern's 30 years as commissioner of the league.

    Tags: NBA, SBJSBD Podcast
  • The NHL Shift: Numbers and notes, 1/17/2014

    A look at the past week in the NHL and a glimpse at what’s ahead:

    12 hours:
    That’s the length of time between the end of the Kings-Ducks game at Dodger Stadium next Saturday (Jan. 25) and the start of the Rangers-Devils game at Yankee Stadium the following afternoon — yet Jeremy Roenick will be at both. The former NHL star will serve as an NBC Sports Network analyst for the Stadium Series game in Los Angeles and then will board a flight immediately after to work the game in the Bronx for NBC. The telecast from Dodger Stadium is expected to end at 12:30 a.m. ET; NBC’s pregame show from New York begins at 12:30 p.m. ET.
    50 schools: That’s how many Southern California institutions were the beneficiaries of donations of street hockey equipment by the NHL, the Kings and Ducks, and NHL corporate partners earlier this week. The donation was made as part of the NHL’s Legacy Initiative, through which the league supports community organizations in the host city of an NHL event — in this case, the Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium.

    1,000 regular-season games: The Columbus Blue Jackets will reach that milestone when they host the Flyers on Thursday. As part of the celebration, all fans will receive a commemorative ticket. There also will be giveaways, including 1,000 pizzas from team sponsor Papa John’s. The Blue Jackets played their first game on Oct. 7, 2000, but reaching 1,000 took longer than hoped. The franchise has had the misfortune of having its game schedule halted by a pair of long lockouts. (Fellow 2000 expansion club Minnesota played its 1,000th game last night.)

    1 million viewers: That was the mark hit by the Montreal Canadiens for the latest episode of the club’s weekly all-access show, “24CH.” The show is broadcast in English on CTV and TSN and in French on RDS. Excluding additional viewing on NHL Network and on-demand, the program is averaging 730,000 viewers per episode.
    5 years: That’s the length of the endorsement deal that Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos has signed with Sport Chek, a Canadian sporting goods retailer. Stamkos will appear in the company’s advertising campaigns, make in-store appearances and participate in a digital series documenting his life in the NHL.
    44 years: That’s how long Baltimore-based company STX has been in the lacrosse business before now moving into the hockey market — something it will do this spring with a line of sticks, gloves and other equipment. The company has signed a four-year deal to become an official sponsor and equipment supplier of USA Hockey and also has entered into a multiyear endorsement deal with Sabres left wing Matt Moulson.
    Looking Ahead
    “NHL Revealed,” the league’s seven-part documentary focusing on players in this season’s outdoor games, premieres on NBCSN, with a showing the next night in Canada on CBC. Among the stars expected to be highlighted are Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, John Tavares, and Daniel and Henrik Sedin. The series is produced by Toronto-based Bristow Global Media. Ross Greenburg is an executive producer on behalf of the NHL, and IMG Productions SVP Steve Mayer also is serving as an executive producer.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Catching up with David Downs — bonus, part 3

    Here are a few other outtakes from my conversation with former ABC Sports executive and NASL Commissioner David Downs.

    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.”

    Tags: On the Ground
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