The Sports Media Misery Index: November 2022

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 various media platforms.
Now we regurgitate. Follow along at your own risk.

TESTING OUR PAIN THRESHOLD

This 2022 World Series should be remembered years from now as the baptism of broadcaster Joe Davis, preserving his historic calls during what sets up to be an intriguing Houston-Philadelphia match up. The real shame, at least on our end, is we’ve stopped watching since after the first inning of Game 1. And we were even warned.

Maybe that, in a small way, will be information Fox Sports and its parent company can use to better understand why World Series viewership continues on a downward spiral. It has already reported that 11.6 million viewed Game 1 between TV and streaming, and it was 10.9 million on Saturday for Game 2.

Whatever metrics Fox chooses in the end to spin this, it won’t be as fowl as the “Citizens for Sanity” ads.

Fox has apparently no shame in accepting payment for and airing them during the sports’ most important national prime-time exposure. Worse, Major League Baseball remains compliantly silent as well as Commissioner Rob Manfred can’t even man up and address it properly when asked for accountability by media members.

So you may ask – as does the ad – how did we get here?

(And does the gentleman pictured in this latest hate ad kind of look like Juan Marichal?)

Formal acknowledgement of the dog-whistle, fact-challenged 30-second spots go back to when an alert L.A. Times reporter dug deeper into its germination during the Dodgers-Padres NLDS. That aired on FS1. It continued during FS1/Fox Sports NLCS. The group then doubled down for the Fox Sports’ World Series ad inventory, placing two more updated spots in Game 1. We see by more reports, it also wormed its way into Game 2.

Why fan more flames to the determent of baseball fans just trying to get away from this caustic diatribe and find some entertainment? Maybe Fox and MLB and all these concerned citizens for truth and justice are aligned in a belief system that this is a way to connect with an aging demographic. One that is comfortably loud in trying to regain some color-coordinated foothold on public policy as the upcoming elections near.

For a sport that once led the way in civil rights and common decency, this is beyond a “not a good look” category. Stay classy, MLB as you go silent while this bag of manure lit on fire is left burning on our porch during this Fall-en Classic.

Why these ads matter in today’s sports culture and landscape, and why this can’t be normalized.

Listen up:

One good Manning idea doth not guarantee future success in one’s media investment portfolio.

The concept of offering up an alternative viewing experience continues to be fine tuned, but there are too many bland leaps of faith beyond what the Brothers Manning are doing to re-engage viewership of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” (and does the network really want to siphon off viewers from its overpaid Joe Buck-Troy Aikman feed?).

That Omaha Productions (and co-produced by Mr. SAS Productions and ESPN) is behind the latest experiment to see if it can get Stephen A. Smith some NBA-type exposure may .end up having more viewership than what it tried to do with the substandard Alex Rodriguez-Michael Kay sleepover on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” platform. The bottom line for the network — it’s another way to cross pollinate and promote other Disney/ESPN/ABC shows and events in the name of expanding its reach.

ESPN’s 2014 invention of the College Football Championship Game “MegaCast” isn’t about adding more to less any longer. It’s trying to see what sticks.

Stephen A. Smith’s inaugural “NBA in Stephen A’s World” ancillary viewing on ESPN2 last week running parallel to ESPN’s Brooklyn-Milwaukee contest drew 10 percent (202,000 viewers) of the 2.0 million overall who watched, ESPN reported. The next one was supposed to be Wednesday (Memphis-Portland) but he has a positive COVID test — that’s still a thing? — so it will be delayed until Dec. 2 (Lakers-Bucks in Milwaukee).

The worst that can happen here is Stephen A. Smith becomes a watered-down, over-exposed commodity who exhausts himself by natural causes. A death by paper-cut ranting.

Cuts, also coming from his forthcoming book, “Straight Shooter: A Memoir of Second Chances and First Takes,” due to come out this January (Gallery Book Group/13A, 288 pages, $28.99) — part of a new Simon & Shuster imprint dedicated to publishing “renowned, relevant, Black voices in culture and politics.”

Looks like something you’d have to get the audio version of just to hear the real deal.

So, yes, we just uncovered its possible underlying value.

And on that note:

Because a piece was generated by AwfulAnnouncing.com’s Michael Grant on blowback to how one should measure the success of 25-year-old broadcaster Noah Eagle — some are leaning the crutch of the “N” word … as in nepotism – we thought it prudent to enlighten some again that Ian Eagle’s son doesn’t shy away from such naive assessments.

Our piece on Noah Eagle’s choice as the Clippers’ radio voice in November of 2019 explained how the then-22-year-old fresh out of Syracuse caught the attention of those team and network decision makers impressed by his abilities, not because of who his dad could put in a good word for on his behalf.

“I don’t run away from that because why should I?” Noah said. “My dad is a great person and has been a great mentor and teacher for me. I know I’m young, but I want to try to use that to my advantage. I think I’m an old soul living in a young body, and I will try as much to get a quote in from [the movie] “Airplane!” while at the same time try to drop a lyric from A Boogie wit da Hoodie’s newest album.”

Fox hired Ian Eagle to call the NFL San Francisco-Philadelphia regional game recently in addition to some higher-profile college football telecasts. His presence on CBS’ Nickelodeon kid-friendly broadcast of NFL playoff game has also come to be noteworthy.

Sure, the NBC employee currently calling Notre Dame football and on the pregame show for its NFL “Sunday Night Football” broadcast that leads into his dad’s analysis is a thing. But here, there’s nothing “there” if someone is trying to stretch and compare the worthiness of a Collinsworth to an Eagle. Shut your beaks.

In more Noah/Ian Eagle news:

MID-LEVEL UNCOMFORTABLE

Back to alternative NBA viewing: Your 3-4 Clippers (who remind us they have 11 straight winning seasons, the longest active streak in the NBA, with nothing much to show for it in the playoffs) have expanded its fan-friendly offering with its own DTC (direct to consumer, if you don’t know the code) service called “ClipperVision” for $199.99 (or less than $1 a day for a full season, or $17 a month, as they pitch it).

It has six streams to go fishing for entertainment, none of which we’ve been compelled to sample yet. If we do, perhaps the Korean-language feed will be our first choice. So we don’t understand the mess that’s going on, but it might sound better with different words.

Two of the feeds are “powered by AWS,” which we try to avoid in sharing our personal info.

Here’s all your vital info, including the chance to get a Clippers-branded jacket (which looks like you’re working security at a team party) and access to BallSports+ (another real investment in not much).

The fact the Clippers have this generated before the Lakers can be worth chest-thumping on their part.

It’s our understanding Charles Barkley, the greatest sports character on live TV for the last decade, will be paid an obscene amount of money ($200 mil?) for the next 10 years to remain tethered to TNT’s “Inside the NBA” crew.

Even if the network’s current deal with the NBA ends after the 2024-25 season.

Barkley will be about 70 years old at that point, but the point is to keep him on staff before someone else (Apple/Amazon) try to lure him away when it starts bidding on streaming rights. Barkley’s worth during the show’s 33-year-run seems to justify any payout for him to likely gamble away on frivolity or join the LIV Golf mess.

His life has been an open book: Just in time for the Nov. 1 launch of “Barkley: A Biography,” by Timothy Bella (Hanover Square Press/Harper Collins, 576 pages, $29.99).

Yes, 576 pages. And he’s turning 60 this February. Plenty of time for an update in 2032.

If Tom Brady can squeeze a reported $375 million to do 10 years of work for Fox when he retires, or Tony Romo and Troy Aikmen are worth $18 million to CBS and ESPN respectively for NFL yammering, Barkley’s bill of goods is justifiable.

Even if those watching at home have no concept of what those numbers will ever mean.

All we understand: “Inside the NBA” was inducted into the Broadcast & Cable Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as its first ever Transformative Media Award to the show in 2020. The show also has a four-part Sports Emmy nominated documentary series, The Inside Story, created by Turner Sports.

A HIGHER TOLERANCE

Brad Pitts in the pits at the F1 event in Austin, Tex.

No questioning that F1 has full-thrust itself as A1 real estate these days.

Its recent media-based rediscovery with the Netflix “docudrama” series, “Drive to Survive,” launched in 2019, came at the right moment for COVID binge-watching. A fourth season landed last March, with a season five and six in the works. It recently won a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Documentary Series – Serialized. Its editing and sound mixing have also been acclaimed. SI.com is now trying to get viewers up to speed with the five episodes to watch if you’re looking to get into wave.

So what’s new? ESPN announced recently, before the Oct. 23 F1 event in Austin, Tex., it would extend its contract three more years, commercial free, through 2025, and air more races on ABC as well as package more shows for streaming. Its ratings continue to burst at the seams. ESPN chief of original content Burke Magnus assessed:

“Five years ago, when we got back into this, it was made clear that the U.S. was a priority market for F1 to grow its fanbase. We didn’t expect to get back in, so we had a little bit of a lift to try to clear the best broadcast window we could on the highest platforms that we could, but slowly, over time, we’ve been able to push in that regard. … So, more races on ABC, more races on ESPN …

“Obviously, having Drive to Survive on Netflix, it helped as well to build new fans in a different way. By the way, I’m all for this sort of off-channel marketing for us. I don’t mind when someone is pushing the stories and the personalities and getting people invested in Formula 1, because in this country, you have to turn over to our networks to watch the actual races, which is why we are all here.”

The Austin race was also a reveal about a Brad Pitt/Jerry Bruckheimer F1 movie about to be shot. The Sports Business Journal was reporting talks between Apple CEO Tim Cook and Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei about more media projects.

In the same way U.S. viewers make an effort to rise early on Sundays for Premier League football/soccer/kickball matches, the F1 following is just as phenomenal with this generation of gawkiness. It makes us wonder if the Grand Prix of Long Beach would ever consider going retro – it was F1 in ’76, a year after its launch, as a way to try to replicate the magic of Monaco along the Pacific waterfront shoreline with a Hollywood-adjacent vibe. We got to know Emerson Fittipaldi, Clay Regazonni, Gilles Villeneuve, Nelson Piquet and Niki Lauda. It switched to CART Indy in ’84, then IndyCar in ‘09.

There are new U.S. F1 homes, expanding from Austin to Miami this year, and to Las Vegas next year. Long Beach will test things in its April 15-16, 2023 event with an “Historic Formula 1 Challenge” sanctioned by an historic racing society.

New in the sports literary world we’d enjoy reading. Probably. But haven’t felt compelled to purchase. A review copy would be really cool:

= “The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson,” by Jeff Pearlman (Mariner Books/Harper Collins, 496 pages, $29.95, released Oct. 25). The blurb: “By the New York Times bestselling author of Showtime — the source for HBO’s Winning Time — the definitive biography of mythic multi-sport star Bo Jackson. We flipped open to the photos the other day and saw one from April, 1986, showing Bo Jackson, with suit and tie, at Angel Stadium with owner Gene Autry and Reggie Jackson. They were trying to persuade him to become an Angel, since he was already in SoCal to play for the NFL’s L.A. Raiders (four seasons, ’87 to ’90). The photo caption:”It was a recruiting trip that went poorly. ‘Once I got to meet Reggie,’ Bo said later, ‘I was sorry that we have the same last name. He is an asshole.'” He played for Kansas City in ’86 at age 23. He eventually joined the Angels for 75 games in 1994 at age 31 at the end of his eight-year MLB career. It’ll be worth making the effort to see Pearlman at Chavalier’s Books in Larchmont Village on Nov. 10.

= “The Grandest Stage: A History of The World Series,” by Tyler Kepner (Doubleday/Knopf/Penguin/Random House, 336 page, $30, released Oct. 11). Part of the blurb: “It probes the mysteries behind magic moments — did Babe Ruth call his shot in 1932? How could Dennis Eckersley walk Mike Davis to get to Kirk Gibson in 1988?

And …

New in the doc world we plan to watch this month, accessible at various levels:

= “Ball Four Turns 40,” an hour-long piece crafted by Jon Leonoudakis. When the Baseball Reliquary invited Jim Bouton to a standing-room-only crowd at the Burbank Central Library in September, 2010 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his iconic book, the takeway wasn’t just the former MLB pitcher reliving chapters of his journal of the 1969 season he spent in Seattle and Houston. It was also having characters from the book present — Greg Goossen and Tommy Davis. Baseball Reliquary director Terry Cannon relished in the turnout that also included filmmaker Ron Shelton, author Jean Ardell and local literary figure David Kipen, to talk about “Ball Four” and its historical context. Bouton, Goossen, Davis and Cannon have all passed away (as well as Joe McDonnell, an interested visitor), but this event can live on. It is available for $8 on Patreon starting Nov. 12. Above: That’s Leonoudakis with Bouton at the event, talking about the nuances of the knuckleball. We were at this gathering and enjoyed every Budweiser-pounding second of it as we wrote about it at the time.

Here is the trailer:

= “Shaq,” a four-part HBO series that starts Nov. 23 and wraps up Dec. 14. “We kept this documentary real from the start, and I do feel like it is the most honest look into my life and career up until this point,” the 50 year old said in a press release. “This process allowed me to reflect publicly in a way I haven’t before, and I’m so proud of the work everyone has done to put it all together.” Interviewed in this project: Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, Jerry West, Penny Hardaway, Dwyane Wade, Brian Shaw, Derek Fisher and Rick Fox, as well as his mother Lucille O’Neal, siblings Jamal and Lateefah Harrison, and his children Taahirah, Shareef, and Myles. There have already been docs done on him, and a multi-part series on his existence. Why will this be different? Who knows.

= “Say Hey, Willie Mays!” launches Nov. 8 on HBO Sports/stream on HBO Max. Interviews include Vin Scully, Barry Bonds and his biographer, John Shea. Colin Hanks is one of the producers, with LeBron James and Maveric Carter part of the exec producer team.

The trailer:


When you can learn a new word in the sports vocabulary, try to use it as much as possible.

Like foozle. Golf Digest explains: “Dictionary.com defines “foozle” as a botched or bungled attempt at something, usually a shot in golf.” And Merriam-Webster confirms it’s “a bungling golf stroke.” By the way, “bungle” is also a great term. We need to use that one more as well.”

In one of our last conversations with Vin Scully – October of 2021 — he agreed to do a video tribute for the Dodgers’ Justin Turner, who was to receive an Humanitarian Award by Catholic Charities L.A. for his work with veterans outreach. Scully recorded his comments as he stood in front of a large fireplace. When we thanked him later for pulling that off as well as showing off the fireplace, he replied: “Well, it’s something we have out in the patio. We never use it.” When you’ve got an 11,000-square-foot property hidden away in Hidden Hills – and now it’s well known since it is up for sale – you’re bound to have these kind of newly discovered places.

POST SCRIPT:

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