Tom Hoffarth / FartherOffTheWall.com
Our monthly Sports Media Misery Index is a standard check and imbalance of what we’ve loathed, liked or learned from a measured consumption of the various media platforms.
It’s our dysfunctional erectile thermometer, pointing true south. See if you can follow along without getting ticketed:
TESTING OUR PAIN THRESHOLD
Anyone seemingly connected to the New York Yankees — team, fans, George Constanza wannabes — who believe there is an inherent need for any network from ESPN to TBS to the Home Shopping Network to risk a live cut-in to follow Aaron Judge’s swing-and-a-miss chase for … what is it now? … the American League (and franchise) single-season home run record … Naw, we’re good.
The only treat is listening to YES Network play-by-play caller Michael Kay try to set the scene “for those joining us now” as the moment unfolds. Those who are there against their will pretty much can be heard screaming on social media immediately, which gives context and angst to this whole New York-shout-it-into-existence charade. The languish is almost over — four more telecasts in Texas (Monday at 4 p.m., Tuesday DH at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., and the Wednesday finale at 1 p.m., all Pacific times). Check local listings, then cringe.
We actually know where to go if we truly needed access — and now know what to avoid. How about some live cut-ins when Shoehei Ohtani is throwing his next no-hit bid? He’s back for the Angels’ season finale in Oakland on Wednesday.
On Amazon Prime’s rocket launch of its first NFL Thursday Night Football telecast of the season — that rib-bashing Sept. 15 Chargers-Chiefs matchup, if you’ll recall — they managed to wait until five minutes before halftime before the obligatory shot into the luxury suits to find Roger Goodell with Jeff Bezos.
Unexpectedly, we actually felt as twisted as the NFL Commissioner’s body language as he made his Sit of Shame to fill the frame with this latest deal-with-the-devil financial funder to The League. It was made even more demeaning when Bezos’ gal pal, former TV news person Lauren Sanchez, saw her chance to squeeze into the shot to share a Dr. Evil moment together.
Bezos decided to pay about $1 billion a year for the package last March when the league held hostage all its rights holders to cover an 11-year stretch to the tune of about $100 billion. Amazon’s deal wasn’t supposed to start until 2023, but they decided why not go now, because it “creates incremental economic and strategic value for the League and our fans,” the NFL said in a statement.
Amazon has 200 million Prime subscribers around the world. This is one expensive home page screen shot.
It’s been noted that in our current streaming-of-consciousness existence, viewers may push back on how Apple+ has become a tough-to-find platform on the MLB’s new sellout for Friday night games (insufferable minor-league broadcasting crew aside). But the much easier to track down Al Michaels-Kirk Herbstreit tag-team for the Amazon Prime access shows its acceptance and reach. If you enjoyed watching this, you might also enjoy … Much easier, of course, for those digital natives. They field the phone calls from their parents right after kickoff asking: “Is this game on Anaheim Live or Omicron Prime Booster?”
We anticipated this happening last week — Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, helped off the field in a groggy, unnerving state, and the scroll reads: “Based on your viewing, you may also like the movie “Concussion” starring Will Smith. Rents for $2.99″)
We’re still extremely uncomfortable with this whole idea that Bezos/Amazon can continue to worm its way into acting as our sports viewing fulfillment center. As well as its impact in the journalism world with a problematic Washington Post ownership. Just hope the NFL lawyers have checked the legal terms of Bezos’ return policy.
The LIV Golf tour’s inevitable rejection from all the major media players, and at a point where it will apparently just buy airtime to have a TV partnership with FS1, has finally made the existence of the USFL not look so desperate. Considering how often Fox channels replay those persistent ads trying to track down Camp Lejeune Water Contamination victims, the LIV Golf people have probably found their right demographic.
Besides, Fox, as a football company, has enough problems as they realize weekly they’ve lost the latest game of musical NFL analyst chairs.
The Reggie Bush Redemption Tour, supplemented with income from spotty commercial spots for Wendys, only serves to embarrass the former USC tailback and the food-adjacent delivery company. “You can’t take this away from me … back to its rightful owner,” as he says in the tagline, a confusing way for Bush to make light of the fact the Heisman people haven’t returned his trophy in the aftermath of … what? Are they legally obligated to do so? It’s their trophy.
The laugh’s still on Bush and he doesn’t get that he’s the punchline. What’s his beef? If he really wants that Heisman back, trying to shame the old folks in New York into doing it through this kind of desperate playground messaging just shows how detached from reality the somehow still current Fox Sports college football studio analyst must be. Try doing some ads instead for Depends. Lots of potential for laughs there, after the Fox network execs someday realize they can appeal more to younger viewers by replacing him with Lyle, Lyle Crocodile.
Once ESPN decided that two weeks into its “College GameDay Built by The Home Depot” show had a need for Pat McAfee to pollute its set with well-respected dignitaries like Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, Lee Corso and Desmond Howard, we’ve stopped making the effort to rise early or even DVR it for later consumption. “GameDay” has a comfortable vibe going. This will prove to be an unnecessary disrupter. McAfee, 35, with his talk show on YouTube and appearances on WWE’s “Friday Night Smackdown” and a $120 million deal to promote FanDuel, brings with him a built-in social media fan base. Other media companies hopefully have learned that isn’t such a wise gameplan (see: L.A. Times/Arash Markasi). This has the feel of 20 years ago when ESPN brought in Rush Limbaugh to be on its Sunday NFL Countdown pregame set. No, it didn’t end well – but what did they expect? Learn from history.
The 2022 local MLB broadcast in review interruption:
= The Dodgers’ rotation on SportsNet LA of Orel Hershiser anchoring the game analyst chair on home games, then pivoting to Eric Karros, Dontrelle Willis, Jessica Mendoza, Nomar Garciaparia and even Rick Monday on roadies, managed to keep things fresh without confusion. There was definitely a different tone each one brought based on their personality, and it was then up to test Joe Davis’ versatility to figure it all out — perhaps against his will, but he masterfully made it work to his immense credit. It’s a feat no other Dodgers broadcaster has ever had to endure, and its degree of difficulty made obvious when he needed to jump off on weekends for a Fox national MLB or NFL broadcast, and the remarkably pedestrian Tim Neverett (never was, never will be) was never going to be our Plan B, but there it. Karros and Willis are keepers for their energy, knowledge and chemistry. Mendoza’s nervous laughs and somewhat muted audio was never really helpful. Kristin Watson finally looks comfortable and actually informative on the field, and David Vassegh as the occasionally fill-in has learned to jump into a broadcast for dutiful updates without breaking a leg in the process. Only wish we could have seen more of Jose Mota, who seems to be the most likely candidate to slide into Jaime Jarrin’s chair on the Spanish-language radio broadcast.
= The Angels’ stagnant offerings on Bally Sports West and KLAA-AM (830) go against all that is supposed to happen in a major media market like Southern California. In the absence of Victor Rojas (nice knowing you) and an inconsistent post-COVID lockdown appearance rotation of Matt Vasgersian after fumbles with Daron Sutton and Rich Waltz (gone and goner), resorting to a very green Patrick O’Neal making an apparent cost-efficient segue from field reporter/studio host up to TV play-by-play was a Double-A attempt to solve a MLB issue. There are plenty of other seasoned broadcasters who put in the reps and may have been more deserving. A very likeable, personal professional, O’Neal must realize this really isn’t his strength, but the audience didn’t need to be on the other side of the two-way mirror watching the audition play out, especially with historic performances playing out by Shohei Ohtani in need of the proper captioning rather than jaw-dropping hyperbole. If all he was asked to do was set and serve to longtime Angels broadcast fixture Mark Gubicza, O’Neal wasn’t put into a position to succeed as he naturally tried too hard to add his own knowledge and mix in too many cliche captions. They’ve got an offseason to study the tapes and come back with a new gameplan. On radio, it will forever be an untenable, unlistenable mix of Terry “Smithers” Smith (really, in his 21st season?) and Mark Langston that has somehow been as sustainable as a daily series of paper cuts. Please, just cut your losses. New ownership will have to take ownership of this marketing mold.
Here’s an idea:
A HIGHER TOLERANCE
The “Saturday Night Live” cold open paying homage to ESPN’s Monday Night Football “ManningCast” shows how quickly this alternative viewing set up has become part of our mindset. If only ESPN could figure out a way to have Joe Buck and Troy Aikman come in as a guest for Peyton and Eli Manning, to remind folks they’re still doing a game on the other channel. Tonight’s Rams-49ers telecast might be the time to test that idea. Because if one really wants to learn how a quarterback thinks during the fourth-quarter chaos, this is the place to default after the first three quarters. Our only suggestion: Find a way to get former SNL cast member Tracy Morgan five minutes on each broadcast, maybe for halftime analysis, we’d make a point to never miss it.
(On that note: Tonight’s Rams-49ers contest airs in the L.A. market on KABC-Channel 7 and ESPN. Which means it pushes ABC’s syndicated version of “Jeopardy!” to … where? It remains absent tonight/Tuesday AM on our TV menu. Unacceptable.)
The semi-annual Clippers-Ball Sports West contract renewal played out as expected — they’ll stay connected in an act of convenience, not real love, until the team figures out how he can cut ties and move into its own TV-controlled situation. The fact the team announced a deal with KTLA-Channel 5 before last weekend’s formal announcement to air a handful of games was only the result of anticipated NHL schedule conflicts with Bally Sports West’s Kings games. There will be more bluster from the team and how it handles its local TV rights after it settles into a new arena and tries to establish its own narrative.