By Tom Hoffarth
Our latest sports media piece for the Los Angeles Times has our consernational compass pointed at Stephen A. Smith and ESPN’s plans to keep him gainfully employed, Jessica Mendoza’s confusion over a gray area in what kind of access she can get as an ESPN employee, stories that try to keep normalizing gambling, and a new Lindsey Vonn HBO documentary.
And one more thing while we’re thinking about it:
* If you’re going to be honest in advertising, David Feherty’s “Brilliantly Stupid Not So Special Year End Special” (Golf Channel, Tuesday, 6 p.m. with several replays) does a swell job when compared to other programming on the network that has one believing his golf game will actually improve by investing an hour into an infomercial/how to improve your short game.
By Tom Hoffarth
Jay Bilas isn’t leading a self-endorsed 2020 presidential campaign to head up the NCAA’s hierarchy. It won’t stop others to crusade on his behalf. Going into 25 years as an ESPN college basketball analyst, Bilas says he doesn’t believe “there’s a snowball’s chance” of him soon replacing NCAA CEO Mark Emmert, entrenched since 2010 and a frequent Bilas social media foil. Read more
By Tom Hoffarth
Is this where ESPN suffers a mid-life crisis like the rest of us when we hit 40? The network’s launch on Sept. 7, 1979 was likely before many today were even born. And they will remind us of that. For us, it landed three months after our high school graduation and pretty much at the time college started. Right in our wheelhouse, right? We didn’t get it. Literally, figuratively or whatever other way you want to frame it. The network plans all sorts of ways to mark this ruby anniversary. One of them is a Sept. 10 episode of “E:60” where they found the first live event the network ever telecast — a professional slo-pitch softball game between the Kentucky Bourbons and the Milwaukee Schlitzes that aired that night, has not aired since, and the video that somehow had gone missing was recently found. As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of our 20th high school reunion, and try to remember what really was the most compelling sports shows of 1979 — and incredulous at how Fran Tarkenton got to be a co-host of “That’s Incredible!” — this is an opportunity to list the 40 things that pop into our head about ESPN’s run to this point.
Cutcliffe and Mortensen go way back. Cutcliffe was the quarterbacks coach for Peyton Manning at Tennessee and Eli Manning at Ole Miss, and still believes rookie Daniel Jones will be the real deal with the New York Giants:
“I’m in Atlanta for the Alabama-Duke game — my son, Alex, is one of Nick Saban’s offensive analysts — and I know ‘Cut’ will be there. He’s a great human being. I left him a long-winded message on his cellphone telling him I was coming to the game, Alex is on the other side, maybe I could say hi before kickoff. It turns out I get to this airport hotel and there’s a big sign welcoming the Duke team. He’s staying at my same hotel. So it’s seven hours before kickoff, they’re at the morning team meal, and I got in there and spent a half hour just visiting.
“He says to me, ‘Promise me one thing, Mort. Someday, you’ll write a book with 32 chapters, and each one will be about all the things you know about that NFL team that you’ve never talked about or written about. You need to tell those stories. It’ll be a magnificent book, because every time we talk, I find out something new I never knew about.’
“The truth is, I probably on disclose about five percent of what I know,” Mortensen added. “But when you’ve been in the business 50 years, that’s a pretty big slice. It’s all relative.” Read more
Producer Jon Fish said he got a call about a month ago from ESPN execs to see if he could possibly speed up the editing process of his “SC Featured” documentary called “The Return,” based on former Pittsburgh Steelers running back and Army veteran Rocky Bleier agreeing to come revisit the Vietnam site where he was injured and earned a Purple Heart.
Bob Ley was the one guy we envisioned during his 40-year run at ESPN who didn’t “have all the fun,” like the book title said.
While self-inflicted, self-centered chaos broke out around him, he was the one who had to ask those around his cubical to please hold it down because he couldn’t hear his phone conversation with Arthur Ashe.
Oral histories of the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports have documented a cacophonous collection of egos and attention seekers, crossing lines of decorum. In more recent times, ESPN has devolved into SportsCenter personalities unable to get out of their own way in Twitter feuds with the sitting U.S. president.
Ley was known as the General for the leeway he had in navigating through the corporate business relationship landmines, reinforcing that his way was most often the right way.
By Tom Hoffarth
It might not be the ideal time or place to look into the window of Major League Baseball’s soul. But if a lugubrious subject like children sex trafficking fits into a conversation on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” telecast, would everything be cool if Clayton Kershaw and his wife Ellen were the driving force behind it?
When the Dodgers face the Chicago Cubs on the upcoming Father’s Day national telecast from Dodger Stadium, there’s a decent chance this topic will come up.
Please don’t balk.
ESPN baseball analyst Jessica Mendoza found herself embedded on a trip to the Dominican Republic in January with Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, a learning tour about what actually happens in this lurid criminal world far beyond a baseball diamond.
The result is this video and our account of it in the weekly L.A. Times media piece:
Imagine what Jackie Robinson could have accomplished in his messaging with modern-day media platforms. “It would have been amazing,” Doug Glanville says. “He was a prolific letter writer to start with — but he really was viral before there was viral, even with just the traditional media outlets covering him.”The 48-year-old former MLB outfielder in his latest role at ESPN considers himself to be a media multitasker, thanks to his “crash course in every way one can express ideas.” He’s also thankful to be back as part of the network’s litany of Jackie Robinson Day remembrances on Monday — including L.A. receiving the national coverage of the Dodgers-Reds contest at Dodger Stadium that will include Rachel Robinson and two of her children. Read more
The latest nothingness about LeBron James news is nothing that a stiff cup of Carson-based truckers’ high-octane coffee can’t cure. Tom Hoffarth, Steve Lowery, Jon McKelvy, plus interns Elizabeth and Nicole, try to make sense of how journalists try to stay journalistic in the wake of rumor mongering about the NBA free-agent period, plus an extended “Two Minute Business Drill” that covers how LeBron will make his decision, the Disney-Fox merger details, and what makes a Hall of Fame selection. Running time: 38 minutesRead more