Knicks G Jeremy Lin this week became the 13th athlete to appear on the cover of SI two weeks in a row, and SI Group Editor Terry McDonell said that Lin's "saga has been irresistible" to date, according to Neil Best of NEWSDAY. McDonell said, "Everything about it screams 'cover.' I have never had a story like it. It touches every bumper there is in sports, not just how many assists and points and whether they're winning and losing, but all of the sociology." McDonell noted that beyond the appeal of the story itself "was that a member of the writing staff, Pablo Torre, had known Lin since they were at Harvard together." Best notes what makes Lin's distinction "more remarkable is it came during the regular season; most of his predecessors were on multiple covers during postseason runs." Best notes the cover of SI remains the "most hallowed piece of real estate in print sports journalism." McDonell said that "choosing the subject is 'extremely collaborative' but that in the end someone must make the call -- him" (NEWSDAY, 2/24).
SLAP ON THE WRIST: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes if "anyone had a problem with" Knicks radio broadcaster Spero Dedes' controversial statement following the Knicks' home loss to the Hornets last Friday, then the "alleged 'disciplinary action' amounted to a tug on his ear lobe." Dedes was "not pulled from the air," as he called the Hawks-Knicks game on Wednesday night for MSG TV. A source said that Dedes in one of the days following the incident "received a tongue lashing from a Garden executive." Raissman writes, "Any way you dissect this, Dedes got off a lot more easily" than ESPN online editor Anthony Federico and "SportsCenter" anchor Max Bretos, who made the same reference. An ESPN source said that MSG "should have been tougher on Dedes." ESPN Radio 1050 N.Y. "owns the Knicks and Rangers radio rights, making it partners with MSG." Meanwhile, Raissman writes ESPN "administered cockeyed justice" concerning Federico and Bretos. Raissman: "Why does one guy lose his job and the other, who used the same phrase, receive only a suspension?" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/24). Also in N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes ESPN "went about punishing the innocent in the name of politically correct justice." The net "acknowledged that Bretos was guilty of nothing more than the innocent but ill-time use of an old and sustained phrase." Mushnick: "If Bretos spoke the phrase innocently, why would ESPN hang a 'RACIST' sign around his neck, even for a minute, let alone 30 days?" (N.Y. POST, 2/24).
RAISING THE RATINGS: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Alex Ben Block notes through the first seven games on MSG in which Lin has been a starter, the Knicks' "average household rating has increased" 138% compared to the prior 20 games. Lin's presence has also meant an 82% "increase in the average season to date household rating compared to the first" 27 games last season (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 2/23).
The fact that the NFL Scouting Combine has become such a big programming initiative for NFL Network comes as no surprise to some of the league's senior execs. "Our goal is to really own that period of time from the end of college to the NFL Draft," said NFL Network Senior VP/Programming & Production Mark Quenzel. "The Combine is where the rubber meets the road for a lot of players." NFL Network totaled 6.6 million viewers for its coverage of the '11 NFL Scouting Combine, up 27% over 5.2 million total viewers in '10. Quenzel still views it as a growth property for NFL Network. "It seems like a great time here. Overall interest in anything having to do with the NFL does well," he said. "It's not everybody's cup of tea. But it works because it's different from anything else you see on TV." One of the announcers NFL Network plans to lean on is Mike Mayock, who Quenzel describes as the star of NFL Network's Combine coverage. "He literally knows every fact on every kid there," Quenzel said. During this year's coverage, Quenzel said he is paying closer attention to the statistics that get thrown around, making sure NFL Network's 22 on-air talent at the event properly explains them. The network also will roll out a computer graphics program that demonstrates what some of the statistics really mean and compares, for example, one player's time in the 40-yard dash to another's.
TNT Friday announced that its coverage of the Sprite NBA Slam Dunk Contest “will carefully measure the force of balls going through the net in a dunk contest,” according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. The move came after Sprite “asked what could spice things up” with the event. TNT “turned to the MIT Media Lab, funded by a consortium of media outlets, which came up with this: so-called conductive fabric hidden in the net that measures net stretch to measure dunk force -- and present the data instantly to viewers.” Turner Sports VP/Emerging Media Peter Scott said that viewers “will see the data presented in an onscreen ‘intensity meter’ and see analogies to real-life -- like how a dunk's power compares to a ball thrown off a 10-story building” (USA TODAY, 2/24).
PAST ITS TIME? In Austin, Cedric Golden wrote the Slam Dunk Contest "used to be the highlight" of the NBA All-Star Weekend, but fans now are getting “a small number of non-All Stars showing up with little to no league credibility.” Golden: “If we can’t get the stars to compete anymore, let’s take this thing out behind the barn and put it out of our misery before someone we barely recognize gets hurt” (STATESMAN.com, 2/22). In Sacramento, Tom Couzens writes in a “star-driven league, most stars can't be bothered” to participate in the dunk contest. So if the NBA's top stars “think the slam-dunk contest is pointless, then what's the point?” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/23). The Chicago Tribune's Bob Foltman said, “None of the big names, they don’t do it anymore. I mean the dunk contest now -- you look at that lineup and it looks like witness protection. I have no idea who’s in the dunk contest now" (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 2/23). ESPN.com’s Roy S. Johnson said, “We won't see the stars until it becomes the ‘Nike Slam Dunk Competition’ and somebody puts a $10 million check on top of the backboard. It’s unfortunate. ... Some of the iconic images of the NBA are from the Slam Dunk Contest.” SportsNet N.Y.’s Brian Custer: "Too bad because these guys, you win it, if you're really good like a Blake Griffin, all of a sudden the endorsements come reigning in” (“The WheelHouse,” SportsNet N.Y., 2/22).
The AP erroneously reported Brewers LF Ryan Braun’s 50-game suspension had been upheld by an arbitrator before changing the copy to properly reflect Braun’s successful appeal. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt tweeted, “I've been told AP is reporting Braun lost his appeal. Believe me, Braun won.” Milwaukee-based WTMJ-NBC tweeted, “AP called our Newsroom, said typo on Braun announcement.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold tweeted, “Kudos to @Haudricourt who not only broke the Braun story but stood with his reporting when other outlets reported the opposite. (Applause)” (TWITTER.com, 2/23).
BREWING SOMETHING UP: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley noted FS Wisconsin is "scheduled to televise 150 of the 162 Brewers games in the regular season." Of the 12 games "not on FS Wisconsin's schedule, six of them are Fox Sports' Saturday package of regional telecasts." That leaves six games "that currently are not scheduled to be carried on TV." No Brewers games "will air on WMLW-TV this season, a departure from recent years." Brian Anderson will return "as the play-by-play announcer and analyst Bill Schroeder enters his eighteenth season as a Brewers broadcaster" (JSONLINE.com, 2/23).
SAME OLD REDS: In Cincinnati, John Kiesewetter notes it is the "same old ballgame" for FS Ohio's 145-game Reds TV schedule this season. Broadcasters Thom Brennaman, Jim Kelch, Chris Welsh and Jeff Brantley "will share TV work, with an assist from George Grande again." No guest commentators "are scheduled, as Sean Casey was last season." Opening Day on April 5 again will be "simulcast on WKRC-CBS, so everyone with a TV can see it free over the air." The pregame show "Reds Live" also "returns with co-hosts Jim Day and Jeff Piecoro, and reporter Brian Giesenschlag" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 2/24).
CARRIAGE DISPUTE: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes the dispute between FS Midwest and AT&T that "kept 20 of FSM's 148 Cardinals telecasts off AT&T's U-verse system last year has not been settled, so as it stands another 20 games are in line to be blacked out this season." FS Midwest will end up with "approximately 150 Cards telecasts (depending on how many games are picked up by networks)," and FS Midwest Media Relations Manager Geoff Goldman said that the decision "on which 20 games would be withheld from U-verse has not been finalized." The "call is FSM's" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/24).
CBS and Golf Channel were again the beneficiaries of Phil Mickelson’s strong play last weekend. CBS earned a 4.2 rating and 6.2 million viewers for the final round of the Northern Trust Open, which saw Bill Haas win the event after a playoff with Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. Those figures mark the highest-rated and most-viewed final round for the event in nine years, dating back to a 4.6 rating and 6.5 million viewers in ‘03 for Mike Weir’s playoff win over Charles Howell III. Tiger Woods finished fifth in the '03 event; he did not play the tournament this year. Sunday’s round peaked at 11.3 million viewers during the playoff from 7:00-7:21pm ET. The Northern Trust Open also wrapped up CBS’ coverage of the Tour’s “West Coast Swing,” with the eight weekend telecasts averaging a 2.6 rating and 3.8 million viewers, up 24% and 19%, respectively, from last year. Golf Channel's early coverage of the final round Sunday averaged 1.13 million viewers from 12:58-2:30pm, marking the net's most-viewed lead-in window ever for an event not featuring Woods. The audience figure beat out the 940,000 viewers for the final round lead-in at the Shell Houston Open last year, which Mickelson won.
ICE HOUSES: NBC averaged a 1.3 rating and 1.94 million viewers for its "Hockey Day In America" NHL regional coverage last Sunday from 12:30-3:14pm ET, which featured Sharks-Red Wings. The audience marking the most-viewed NHL regular-seaosn telecast, excluding Winter Classics, in six years, dating back to 1.96 million viewers for regional coverage on NBC. The net also earned a 0.9 rating for Bruins-Wild in the late window on Sunday.
NOTES: “BracketBusters” averaged 360,000 viewers last weekend for six telecasts across ESPN/ESPN2. The most-viewed game was Saturday night’s St. Mary’s-Murray State game, which drew 1.07 million viewers on ESPN. The event has aired solely on ESPN2 the past two seasons. In ’09, “BracketBusters” averaged 367,000 viewers when Butler-Davidson drew 1.13 million viewers for a game featuring G Stephen Curry….Comcast SportsNet Chicago is averaging a 5.92 local rating for Bulls games, marking the net’s highest-ever average leading into the All-Star break.
The charts below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings.
NASCAR Sprint Cup: Budweiser Shootout
PGA Tour: Northern Trust Open: Final Round
NASCAR Sprint Cup: Daytona 500 Qualifying
PGA Tour: Northern Trust Open: Third Round
NCAA Basketball: Michigan State-Purdue
Red Bull Signature Series: Crashed Ice Netherlands (taped)