Back, back, back when we were once lancing free at the Los Angeles Times, the creation of the maniacal Sports Media Misery Index was our small-but-regular check and balance on the temperature of what sort of things we learned, liked and loathed at various points in time during our media consumption.
Our own dysfunctional erectile thermometer pointing true south.
With the complete acknowledgment that perhaps we’ve missed this more than you did, here’s a calculated risk in trying to make a call to the bullpen and bring this back when we feel it becomes slightly necessary.
With summer all but gone, and the fantasy of football coming back to haunt us, the Sports Media Index labors into September, 2021:
A NOT-SO-LOW THRESHOLD
There is still joy in listening to Vin Scully call a game, reinforced the other day on SportsNet LA — one of those “Timeless Dodger” telecasts from June, 2016, Vin’s final season. The headline was giving us the chance to watch Corey Seager’s three-homer game versus Atlanta during his Rookie of the Year season. But we didn’t stick with it because of that.
At one point, the TV camera points to the dugout. There’s the 22-year-old Seager, after one his fencebusters, sitting next to and talking with the 19-year-old Julio Urias.
Scully comments, rather matter-of-factly, about how these two young men will someday lead the team to greater feats and accomplishments. As if he knew that would give us chills five years later when were to recall how the 2020 World Series played out.
How does he do that? Still?
With all the anxieties and imperfections and upside-down MLB decisions that keeps getting thrown at our psyche, who couldn’t use a refresher batch of a Scully Marathon. Not just to fill programming on a 24/7 channel loop, but do wonders for the soul. Sirius XM has channels devoted to the Beatles, Springsteen, Elvis and the Beach Boys (which somehow they moved and we can’t find it, just as they’ve released a new retro boxed set). They devote a channel to the Rolling Stones after the passing of Charlie Watts, and it’s brilliant to hear their songs again, to interpret the drum beats and the authentic way he contributed to their sound.
The Sounds of Scully could be alone the price of the monthly RSN fees for SportsNet LA, which doesn’t seem to be doing too badly these days in its musical chairs distribution game.
That said, at least during this SportsNet LA airing, there were no commercials popping up for the latest Scully-related things to knee-jerkingly consider purchasing.
Scully, who will turn 94 in November, was telling us recently that he’s doing good but a bit lonely. He’d been watching a lot of things on TV in his room — especially English soccer. A sport he says he’d have the nerve to call because “I have no idea what’s going on.” We had a nice long talk, and I posted a few highlights. Nothing on the record. Then the L.A. Times’ Bill Plaschke did his own Q&A with Scully shortly thereafter, and that’s the story, morning glory.
Last September, Scully was talked into getting a Twitter account, which could then promote the fact he was going to sell off a bunch of his memorabilia — rings, awards, golf clubs. He raised about $1 million and said the proceeds were going to charity as well as his family.
All fine and dandy.
But lately, something popped up called shopvinscully.com, where someone is in the process of peddling “Vin Scully merch.” It’s not clear who is behind it, where the proceeds go, or, most importantly, why it’s needed. Adult T-shirts are selling for $35 each, a youth shirt at $30 and an adult sweatshirt for $67. If only there was a small blanket we could wrap ourselves into in a time of need, but … who’d really be getting fleeced?
This comes on the heels of Scully’s business manager, Dennis Gilbert, introducing him the bizarreness of selling off NFT — something of course Scully had to have explained to him.
The auction included a chance to go to a game with Gilbert in those backstop seats — Scully said he wasn’t part of the package. It topped out at $5,800. All 140 of Scully’s story about Kirk Gibson and the 1988 World Series sold out at $88 apiece. There are still less than 100 left of the original 255 of Scully talking about Sandy Amorous’ 1955 World Series catch at $32 each.
How about as we go forward, pump the breaks on Scully Branding opportunities tugging at our nostalgic heartstrings — fungible or otherwise.
His relationship to Twitter still draws a smile, especially when he discovered how he could personal make something trend. His participation on Twitter now is a sweet deal — it hasn’t moved to a pay tier yet, but that’s always a business plan someone might consider.
Twitter is free, but still doesn’t seem to fit his personality. There is too much sniping on the social media site that forces some of us to just give it up on some days. With Vin, it’s a win-win situation to dictate a post, just to check in. But it now seems to have ulterior motives, to keep his brand fresh with hip demographics so that it can be monetized when the mood strikes.
And, for the record: Please, no Go-Go Gilbert ideas about Vin pitching reverse mortgages or Cameo calls. Or as Vin might be paraphrased, if you want to make God smile, tell him your memory-milking schemes.
A legal-binding shot-gun wedding this past June blissfully uniting Fox Sports with Clay Travis apparently bypassed any sort objection by someone who didn’t want to hold their piece of credibility. It is a marriage of convenience — the parent company network that leans on its crutch of fact-challenged bloviation united with one who provides the same guaranteed nerve reactions in the sports world by Travis’ Outkick.com platform.
A place that really isn’t “OK” as the logo implies, and asks one immediately if they want to sign up for “facts” delivered to their inbox every morning, with the choices of “Yes, Count Me In” or “No, I Prefer Mainstream Bias.”
Give an idiot two choices, and he’ll pick the one that he doesn’t even realize proves what everyone else already knows about him. Or her. Or them. Or whatever they hate these days.
This relationship’s first act of attention-grabbing anarchy is having Travis become an element of their otherwise predictably re-unwatchable (now that Urban Meyer has left) “Big Noon Kickoff,” where Clay will be traveling to Fox- and FS1-covered college football games — played in the South, speaking to his backward fan base.
It starts with Georgia-Clemson on Saturday. Then to Texas-Arkansas in Week 2 and Alabama-Florida in Week 3 — complete with a tour bus with an oddly decorated photograph to attract the months.
You can just look away, as most with some sense of personal protection should. But if you enjoy the pain, check out the many disturbing facets to this farcical arrangement, which Fox explains in its press release:
“Outkick is an omnichannel leader in sports, opinion, politics, and pop culture content across its radio, podcasts, online and social outlets, as well as being one of the foremost sources of sports wagering information in the United States. Further, Outkick has an incredible track record in the wagering category, serving as one of the most successful sources of referrals to FanDuel sportsbook.”
In the hands of that Southern base, Clay becomes more clayful, to mould into their own NIL.
Best get a vaccination shot if you plan to be within 100 yards of his coverage.
Writes man above from the South with dozens of followers.
Perhaps forgive them, for they not know how far they E-I-E-I-owe Fox to continue as their beacon of hateful hope while submerged too far into their own howdy doody.
Anyone who tries to give ESPN a pass in this whole Bishop Sycamore-IMG high school football game telecast debacle hasn’t been paying to all the info dug up in the AwfulAnnouncing.com ball-to-ball coverage, with even the dubious Deadspin.com as well. It’s right in their wheelhouses.
ESPN’s passing the buck on this one is even more hypocritically and morally obtuse than anything else it has tried to bait-and-switch this past month — it doesn’t even come close to the Jump-the-shark yarn that festered to the New York Times’ radar and led to the departure of Maria Taylor because of what Rachel What’s-Her-Name told someone on a recorded phone call mess. Those who chased their own tails trying to follow on that one must realize now they were sucked into “ESPN has a pervasive race problem” narrative with something that sounds like another bad episode of “Friends” must see now that the real exploitation of some high school kids who trust adults to help them make life-altering decisions is far more tragic, and ESPN is complicit in the crime to kids predominantly of minority races.
So … what if on whatever high school games that come on this year on ESPN (with the help of its accomplices in the contracted marketing company), fans in the stands buy up and start wearing these Bishop Sycamore T-shirts. It may not be that obvious to the casual viewer, but those who know, will know, and realize that Centurions Lives Matter.
And there’s a very good reason why Tigers game analyst and Baseball Hall of Fame jackass Jack Morris won the battle for Deadspin Idiot of the Month honors for August. “If I offended you …” Maybe you didn’t. But that apology sure did. Shoulda listened to how Stephen A. Smith did his.
Bet we can wrap up the NBC Tokyo Olympics coverage in one tweet.
OK, have at it:
Speaking of The Real Vin Scully …
David J. Halbertstam, a sports broadcasting industry veteran (and no relation to the real David Halberstam, author extraordinaire), has achieved a variety of roles in the business, and luckily votes on the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for lifetime achievement.
He decided to post a list in mid-August on his website of what he believes to be “Southern California’s top all-time play-by-play voices.”
His Top 16 is topped off by Scully, Chick Hearn and Dick Enberg. He decided to wedge in Ralph Lawler ahead of Bob Miller — perhaps not our choice, but then we did push Lawler to finally get recognition in the Basketball Hall of Fame before his retirement with the Clippers, but always knew Miller was Hockey Hall of Fame material and needed no campaign (same with Nick Nickson).
It starts to run out of some steam with Jerry Doggett somehow included, ahead of Tom Kelly, and Bob Starr, and Pete Arbogast …
The particulars are there for debate. The beauty of lists, it must be pointed out. We all read and learn.
In 2013, we did a similar exercise — the “most influential” of all time. We wanted to keep it at 10, but went to 11 to include the Raiders’ Bill King. We didn’t rank our picks, but we look back now and are pleased our choices included the likes of Frick Award winner Jaime Jarrin, Dick Lane (famed for roller derby and boxing) as well as Fred Haney, a Pacific Coast League broadcaster who influenced the likes of Enberg growing up in the San Fernando Valley.
We showed Halberstam our list, which he said he’d never seen before. As long as he was impressed, we’re good.
We at least could agree on another thing: Charley Steiner would likely never be on any sort of “best of” lists, no matter his length of service in the L.A. market.
We actually recruited Halberstam to help us with a critique of Steiner around the 2018 World Series — when we had enough of his “contagiously imprecise descriptions” and put forth the idea that his time on the air must have been affecting his ability to do simple things, like follow the flight of a ball.
Maybe it’s time soon to compare notes with Halberstam on an all-time worst list.
Got any ideas?
The Dodgers’ set of media notes prior to their Aug. 27 game included the fact that Steiner, in his 17th year with the team, was announced as part of the “25th Mountain Valley Conference Hall of Fame class” as a 1971 graduate of Bradley University — a school that allowed him to buy the naming rights to its “Charley Steiner School of Sports Communication,” and notes that it is “the first named sports communication school in the nation.” He was also included in the National Radio Hall of Fame in November 2013.
More power to him trying to follow the trajectory of his career from here until retirement as he tries to dream up another rehearsed ad-lib he can use on the air from his living room watching on TV if the Dodgers win back-to-back titles.
One of the newest show on ESPN’s pay-to-view platform called ESPN+ (we don’t get it, on many levels, no matter how Disney wants to us to bundle and save as if we were buying unprogressive car and home insurance) involves Mike Greenberg hosting a dramatization of some of the wacky things that can happen in sports gambling.
So cool to see the promo for it during the Little League World Series, the latest step in normalizing sports wagering.
C’mon, it’s all innocent fun. Just like watching 12-year-old kids on TV crying after their team loses a game in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. This year, they don’t have to worry about all those foreign teams coming over to challenge them for the title. COVID says you’re welcome.
Premiere channels to draw viewer money is like paying the extra $50 at Disneyland to park closer to the entrance, or giving up and finally kicking in the extra $5 a month for USA Today to read some exclusive rewrite of a press release. One can find value in it.
But inch by inch, we’re watching our freedoms monetized. Because they can be, and will be, for someone else’s benefits.
ESPN+ is a minus when it comes to another tier of disconcerting programming that plays into how sports channels are getting viewers comfortable with having more live events diverted onto their premium services.
So just weeks after NBC laid on us an abundance of prime-time beach volleyball from Tokyo during the Summer Olympics, it recently bypassed showing any of the iconic AVP Manhattan Beach Open on its NBC network of NBCSN all-sports cable feeds (the later of which will soon fade away).
Instead, it harness all the content onto Peacock streaming service — one level is free, then there are two more that run $4.99 and $9.99 a month. Notre Dame’s first college football home game of the season against Toledo on Sept. 11 (after the Irish opener at Florida State this Sunday afternoon on ABC) will be on Peacock Premium upgrade, but there is surely a lure to sign up for free just to get you situated, like the frog in the cool pot of water that doesn’t notice how the flame underneath is at a low setting so that it can get acclimated to a warmer and warmer surrounding, soon to perish under the boil.
Because by that time, you’ll already be somewhat OK with an idea somewhere sooner than later that a Super Bowl can be justified worthy of a premium service stream just like a boxing event or a fantastically phony WWE spectacle.
On August, 18, KLAA-AM (830) afternoon drive talk show host Roger Lodge lost his longtime producer, James Allen. He lost a bout with COVID. The greater loss is to Allen’s wife and four daughters. A service in Whittier is coming up Tuesday. A GoFundMe page has nearly raised $50,000 to help the family he leaves behind.
Please, on as many levels as you can comprehend this, do what you can to prevent something this tragic from happening to those you love. It should be that difficult.
A HIGHER TOLERANCE
Bon voyage to the good ship Jackie MacMullan, exiting ESPN’s “Around the Horn” this week on her final show Tuesday filled with a variety of really sweet tributes. She was then pit against Bob Ryan in the final segment and, of course, declared the winner. Whatever you win on that thing.
Now, at age 60, she says he’s retiring.
In 2012, she was part of a story we did about the 40th anniversary of Title IX impact on women in sports journalism. MacMullen, a former Boston Globe and Sports Illustrated columnist, was fittingly the first woman to receive the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame media award
Otherwise, she still hasn’t Tweeted since June, 2011. That’s an achievement in itself. And this one still holds up.
Without the lanes paved by the likes of MacMullan, we don’t doubt there would be any sort of legitimate discussion about how someone like Mina Kines could be using her appearances on the ESPN sports-blabbering circuit to reach a point in any conversation about how someday she could legit join the ESPN “Monday Night Football” team.
Not sideline reporter. As analyst/color commentator/information provider.
This possibility has been on many a radar for awhile, yet it wasn’t really broached in this L.A. Times profile last September. It finally was pushed more forward during a Twitter exchange with former ESPN TV mate Dan LeBatard in early August:
There’s good reason why Kimes was given a couple of reps during the NFL exhibition season to put on her sizzle reel. ESPN allowed her to join the Disney-owned KABC-Channel 7 broadcast team of pro’s pro Andrew Siciliano and the otherwise undecipherable Aqub Talib on a Rams’ home and road contest. That first one was also simulcast on the NFL Network.
There’s work to be done in the live-game shaping, but at the very least, she was never caught with her pants down on the Rams’ telecasts, never sounding like a frilly, misplaced sideline reporter who kept turning on her mike at the 40 yard line to prove she had inside info. Kimes’ development in this area, on the heels of what Andrea Kremer was doing with Thursday Night Amazon Prime streaming in 2018, continues to prove that it’s a talent that needs its reps, and reinforces how someone like an Erin Andrews has absolutely no shot at this kind of consideration no matter what network employs her despite her own feelings of import.
If a MNF crew could once sub in non-NFL types like Dennis Miller or Tony Kornheiser at various points in the show’s de-evolution, the thinking is that there would be progress in many ways if more was bestowed on Kimes, if something could be slow grilling to be ready for the start of the 2022 season opening doubleheader. When perhaps Kimes could work with Beth Mowins and possibly put that idea out there that began in 2017.
Kimes over Rex Ryan, any day.
Add to that, Kimes has this story and video produced on her discussion with Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert — more proof she’s got the goods.
A few more specific links to stories and other assorted whatnot that brightened up our previous August:
5 thoughts on “The Sports Media Misery Index: September, 2021”
I SO loved this column. I have missed these immensely. Your unique viewpoint and style. Love the little jabs, which oughta be bigger jabs in my book
From your keyboard to someone’s ears…
Let me know if you’re down in Redondo Beach for a bikeride. we are overdue for a meet and greet
Thanks, Tom, for sending this mammoth piece of work. It must of taken a lot time putting it together.
On Fri, Sep 3, 2021 at 5:58 PM Tom Hoffarth’s The Drill: More Farther Off the Wall wrote:
> fartheroffthewall posted: ” When we were once lancing free at the Los > Angeles Times, creating the maniacal Sports Media Misery Index was just our > little way to check the temperature of what we learned, liked and loathed > at certain points in time during our media consumption. It was” >
Thanks for your support!