Media Circus Mailbag: The best football broadcast duo, PGA hunting for a new TV deal, the Pac-12 over breakfast, more notes (2024)

Welcome to the 15thMedia Mailbag forThe Athletic.Writing a mailbag — as egocentric as it is — is always a fun exercise. So thanks for sending in your questions viaThe Athleticwebsite and app. Let’s get started.

If you had to pick one college football play-by-play and color analyst duo who would it be? Do the same for NFL. —Brendan, Augusta, Ga.

The NFL is easy. I consider Tony Romo the best analyst in the history of NFL broadcasting. So it’s him and Jim Nantz, assuming you want me to select current broadcasting teams. Kevin Harlan and Kurt Warner on the Westwood One Sports broadcast are a very close second for me. The best working college football group for me is ESPN’s Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe.


I’ve been curious about how the MLB broadcasting booth works relative to other sports, particularly CFB since it’s my favorite. The idea of teams having their own broadcasts with the teams having control of who is part of that broadcast team seems like it should fit in CFB. With all of the bandwidth and partnerships across the conferences & TV networks, how have CFB teams, especially the bluebloods, not come up with their own broadcasts and dedicated broadcast teams? — Andrew C.

For some quality insight from someone who has written about this extensively, I asked colleague Andy Staples to answer your question

Said Staples: “I think it has to do with inventory and delivery method. A pro baseball, pro basketball or pro hockey team plays far more games than a college football team. Most of those games get sold to an RSN, which will broadcast to an audience consisting largely of that team’s fans. So it makes sense to hire someone with the last name Caray or someone who goes by Hawk to broadcast those 130 or those 60 games to a mostly partisan audience. With the exception of Notre Dame and Army, college football TV rights get sold by the conferences to networks that broadcast nationally to audiences that include fans of both teams playing as well as a large number of non-partisan viewers. (If it’s Tuesday night MACtion, we call this last group by its true name — degenerate gamblers.) There are only 12 games per team in the regular season, so there isn’t a need to hire announcers specific to each team. Each network can get by with a number of rotating crews that get assigned based on the prestige of the individual game. You’ve seen ESPN use “homer” announce teams for the national title game on additional channels, but the networks don’t have the bandwidth to do that during the season. Plus, there’s a very easy way for most college football fans to get a partisan broadcast of their team’s game. They can turn down the TV and turn up the radio (or the Internet stream of their team’s radio broadcast). That way, those fans can hear Eli Gold or Jim Brandstatter call the game from their point of view instead of Chris Fowler calling it the down the middle.”

Is ESPN’s budget for NFL analysts endless? It’s astounding how many players retire and get a job for ESPN almost immediately, Rob Ninkovich and Josh McCown being two of the more recent ones. — Eric Z.

If ESPN wants to hire a former NFL coach or player, they have an unlimited budget. Hiring writers, reporters, producers and editors? Not unlimited.

What are your thoughts on Pat McAfee joining the college football announcer crew on ESPN? As a biased Colts fan, I’m just thrilled to hear him again, but his personality certainly brings something unique to the broadcast booth. — Josh A.

I think it’s a great hire. McAfee is a unique football voice who follows his own beat. There’s a reason he has an immense loyal podcast following — viewers relate to him.


Does NBC have any new wrinkles in store for their Premier League coverage this season? — Adam S.

The Premier League returns within a week. What do you expect from the NBC and NBCSN coverage: Growth, stagnation, stability? Also, does the number of matches aired on the full network seem too low from your perspective? It is difficult to imagine that lesser sports warrant NBC coverage over Saturday morning/early afternoon EPL excitement each week. If NBC expects to grow its audience, it should commit to more matches on its airwaves instead of on the sports cable tier. — Barry S.

This is the first year VAR will be used in the Premier League for goals, penalties, direct red cards, and mistaken identity, so that’s a new element of the game for broadcasters to interpret and analyze. There will be expanded digital content including a new YouTube original series, “Crossroads,” which explore pivotal moments in Premier League history. The current “2 Robbies Podcast” will also debut as a weekly YouTube show recapping each match weekend’s events. As part of its collaboration with Sky Sports, viewers will see the first-ever production from Sky Studios for transfer deadline day on August 8. Regarding growth in the property, I would expect it to be flat. Last year’s Premier League season averaged 457,000 viewers per match window for the NBC Sports Group, up 2 percent from 2018 (449,000), but down from 2015-16 (514,000).

Sports Business Daily’s John Ourand reported that the PGA is looking for a new deal soon (it expires in two years). If you had to make a prediction on who will secure the Tour’s rights, which networks would it be? Is it possible the PGA could split the Tour into multiple packages? — Matty B.

Here’s what Ourand wrote on this: “Even though two years remain on its current U.S. deals, the PGA Tour will invite media companies to deliver formal pitches in the coming weeks. The Tour already has held informal talks with the incumbent networks, as well as others like Amazon, ESPN, Fox and WarnerMedia. The Tour hopes to have a new media-rights deal in place by the end of the year.”

If you want a prediction, I think the Tour sticks with CBS, NBC and Golf Channel and adds an additional partner such as WarnerMedia.

Thanks for your dedication and work ethic towards all sports, Richard. NBC just wrapped up three weeks of what had to be the most exciting Tour de France in a few decades. It must be a crazy event to cover logistically, and they also were dealing with the sad aftermath of longtime color commentator Paul Sherwin’s passing. Any idea if the ratings met their expectations? I hope the event is profitable for them, because the sport really benefits awareness they create. — Paul M.

I’d like to add a question about the Tour. Paul M is right that this year’s Tour was incredibly exciting and I thought NBC did an excellent job in covering the race. Losing Paul Sherwin was difficult. On the other hand, I thought Chris Horner was terrific. Any chance of an interview with him or any of the other broadcasters from NBC? — Bill D.

NBC does a terrific job with the Tour coverage and this year’s race was thrilling television. (Here’s a nice look at how NBC does its coverage from Fred Dreier of Velo News.) The network said this year’s Tour averaged 359,000 viewers on NBC and NBCSN, up 11 percent from 2018 and the most-watched Tour since 2015. The problem is without an American cycling star competing in the race, I’m not sure how many more viewers exist. When Lance Armstrong competed in the Tour in 2009, Versus (which aired the race then) averaged 530,000 for the 21 stages. I’m not sure we will soon see those numbers again. But it’s a quality property, with high demos, and it fits in nicely with NBC’s global properties (Olympics, soccer). I’ll put someone on NBC’s Tour team on the list as a podcast guest down the road.

At what point do the NBA’s international investments become real revenue streams? I hear about 50 million people watching games in China, but don’t hear any chatter that international revenue is a factor in the new CBA discussions. — Matthew M.

That’s already happened. In 2015, the New York Times reported that the NBA and Chinese Internet company Tencent Holdings Limited signed a deal worth at least $500 million to carry games, highlights and other league content on its digital platforms. Last week, the NBA announced it had renewed for five years and expanded the partnership. Shlomo Sprung, for Forbes, provides more details on China’s NBA media consumption.


Does Fox have a specific strategy for advancing FS1 in the ever-present competition with ESPN? It feels like the addition of the Big Ten a couple years ago was a big step forward, but there is still an enormous gap between the two networks. — Adam S.

The current FS1 leadership understands that competing 1v1 against ESPN is a losing battle. The Fox Sports strategy is to acquire as many live properties as possible (think of the recent WWE partnership) and buttress those properties on Fox and FS1 around their debate and opinion shows.

Will there ever be any females in booth on some of the main games (not the random Cardinals vs Bucs boring games)? And will ESPN hire someone not corny for MNF? (i.e. Witten, Gruden) – Tyrone

Already happening: Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer are returning to Amazon Prime Video to call “Thursday Night Football” games for the second season. That’s a national primetime package. I expect Beth Mowins to eventually get a full season of games for CBS. As for ESPN, corny is in the eye of the beholder. The good news for you: Gruden and Witten will only appear on MNF this year as a coach and player.

How likely is it that the Pac-12 follows through on the 9, 10, 11 a.m. Pacific time kickoffs idea being shopped around? Would the early morning visibility on the East Coast be worth it financially? Worth the mockery of empty stadiums? — Brett S.

Your take on Pac-12 exploring 9 a.m. PT kickoff times? I would rather 9 a.m. than 7:30 p.m. with a two-hour commute to the University of Washington. When I’m on East Coast, I’d rather watch at noon than 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. (Interesting tidbit: Chris Petersen coached Boise St at SJSU for a 9 a.m. kickoff in 2004 and said it was terrible — students waking up at 4 a.m. not just on game day but early for practices leading up to it.) — Chad S.

First, I think it is an absurd proposal for the athletes involved and ridiculous to ask students to come out this early. Worth reading on this are Jon Wilner of the Bay Arena News Group and Bryan Fischer, who broke the news. Personally, I don’t think the payoff will be as great as the Pac-12 might think given the other conferences playing games at that time. If the Pac 12 could get on Fox at noon ET, sure, it would draw better numbers than late-night games, but again, is a Pac 12 game really going to draw Midwest and Southern eyeballs away from games in those regions? No.

Hi Richard. When reporters combine to report a scoop — for example when Adam Schefter tweets “___ plans to sign with the New York Jets when free agency opens, via Chris Mortensen and me” — how does that process happen? Is there like an ongoing text chat where reporters are talking to each other about if they are hearing something about ___ (player) going to ___ (team) or whatever the case may be? —Thanks, Jeremy S.

Source guessing is a foolish game to play. That said, undoubtedly player agents and team personnel provide a lot of the transactional data to the top national news-breaking reporters. In the case of Schefter and Mortensen, they work for the same place so those joint announcements are coordinated between the two of them and ESPN’s NFL editors/producers.

With the current media landscape shifting so heavily towards streaming, is there a chance we might see a new emerging TV streaming rights company step forward, similar to how DAZN has emerged in the fight world, something like NHL on Netflix or NHL on Disney+/ESPN Go. So many companies stepping forward with streaming services, a sport being gobbled into one makes a lot of sense as the fanbase is already there. — Tru W.

For deeper insight, I asked one of our favorite experts, Eric Fisher, the U.S. editor for SportBusiness Group:

“The sports world has closely watched for several years to see if the largest digital-first players in the media and technology industries will make a major move into acquiring top-tier sports rights. So much so that many major U.S. leagues also now commonly use the FANG acronym first coined by CNBC’s Jim Cramer six years ago to denote Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google, and was later expanded to FAANG to also incorporate Apple.

For the most part, the big tech players thus far have largely stayed more on the margins with lower-tier sports rights packages. Think things like Amazon’s non-exclusive streaming of NFL “Thursday Night Football,” or the small smatterings of weekday afternoon MLB games, though exclusive, aired on Facebook and YouTube. Several Major League Soccer clubs have also aligned with YouTube as their primary local broadcaster. YouTube has additionally been an active purchaser of sports sponsorship rights, such as its presenting sponsorships of the World Series and NBA Finals.


All these efforts to date are still a step, or multiple steps, below one of these companies taking on a sizable, exclusive chunk of a particular league’s national media rights, and paying market value for it. But one can start to feel things changing, and fast. DAZN, as you correctly point out, has become very aggressive, and its MLB whiparound show “ChangeUp” is meant in part as a direct signal to other major leagues that they want more rights, and are willing to create new programming to do it. ESPN is putting a lot of muscle behind ESPN+ and has openly signaled its intent to make that service in part the de facto destination for global soccer.

The most notable comment in this area lately, perhaps surprisingly, came from AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson, who told investors that “you should assume that ultimately HBO Max will have live elements: Unique live sports and premium sports. Those are going to be really, really important elements for HBO Max.”

AT&T’s WarnerMedia already has a wide variety of pro league rights through its Turner and Bleacher Report platforms. But it will be interesting to see what among those rights also find their way to HBO Max, which is scheduled to debut next year and is eyed as the company’s broad-based response to competing streaming outlets such as Netflix, Hulu, and the forthcoming Disney+.

If Stephenson is correct, HBO Max will have eventually live sports standing alongside the coveted streaming rights it has already picked up for “Friends” beginning next year. Similarly, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said recently he is anticipating “additional players” and “different platforms” to be part of that league’s next round of media rights negotiations, likely meaning a bigger role for a digital outlet.

How is it acceptable photojournalism for outlets like SI and ESPN to use photoshopped pics of athletes in new team unis? It’s been going on for years and I’ve never understood why it’s considered accurate reporting to use a fake image. — Chad C.

I think most people understand that such art is a fun way to show a player on a new team, no? I would not consider this photojournalism. It falls under a graphic to me.

There have been reports that the NBA league office has had discussions or at least entertained the thought of moving the playoffs to a 1-16 seeding format from the traditional 8-per-conference seeding. Regardless of its feasibility, there have been a lot of benefits and downsides discussed as a result. I feel like one potential downside from a ratings perspective that I haven’t seen is if this format was implemented, what if two West Coast teams made the finals? I feel like it would be a tough sell to start every Finals game at 9 p.m. ET. This could be combated by making the start time 8-8:30 p.m. ET, but then you’re jeopardizing starting the game when the West Coast is still at work/commuting. Thoughts? Do you think this is a factor the league has considered (among the hundreds)? — Sean A.

I don’t think the start times for the NBA Finals would change with a different playoff seeding. The league and ESPN/ABC know full well that the 9-midnight ET window is their best opportunity to maximize audience. I love the idea of 1 vs. 16 personally, and I think it would result in a short-term viewership pop. Like most non-NFL sports programming, the matchups are a major factor when it comes to viewership. I don’t think having an Eastern Conference team in the Finals means guaranteed East Coast viewership. But the NBA definitely would prefer large East Coast markets such as Boston, New York and Philadelphia to go deep in the playoffs.

What is UConn’s TV football looking like? They are brutal, but it has name recognition. — Matt B.

Long term it all depends on where they end up conference-wise. Read this from Dan Brechlin of the Hartford Courant and Matt Fortuna of The Athletic. They could try to set up their own TV deal regionally but I’m not sure how much money revenue that would draw.


Why isn’t Howard Bryant part of the future-hosts-of-OTL discussion? Should he be? Methinks he’d be great.— Tyler G.

The network has pretty much decided that the hosts heading forward in the post-Bob Ley-era are Ryan Smith and Jeremy Schaap.

What happened to NASCAR over the past several years? It feels like it was one of the hottest sports properties six to ten years ago but now seems like a complete afterthought. Have the ratings shown a significant decline in this time? — Adam S.

Per Sports Business Daily: The 2018 Cup Series season averaged 3.34 million viewers on FOX, FS1, NBC and NBCSN, down 18 percent from 2017 (4.07 million) and the smallest average on record. Viewership is less than half of what it was a decade ago (6.92 million). Sports Media Watch has a race by race chart from 2018. The numbers for 2019 have improved in some races but we have also seen some record lows on races including the Daytona 500. The 2019 race drew 9.17 million viewers on Fox, down 1 percent in viewership from last year and down 23 percent from 2017 (11.92 million), per Sports Media Watch.

What are we looking at for the FIBA World Cup, both in coverage in ratings? Basketball popularity and discourse seems way up from the last one, but no stars are playing. — Matt B.

While there are not stars at the level of LeBron or K.D., you’ll see a number of NBA stars at the FIBA World Cup across teams. But the time difference (China) is a killer for TV viewership. Here’s the schedule. ESPN owns the rights in the States. I haven’t seen a production schedule yet.

Why is there no TSN (Canada) and Sportsnet (Canada) in the States? As a big hockey fan, I wish I had the amounts of hockey talk as basketball talk and feel like those would be a big way to have that. — Avi B.

The short answer is Sportsnet and TSN are Canadian networks and due to broadcast regulations and geographic restrictions, they are not available outside of Canada, and specifically not available in the U.S. CBC is different. It’s a national public broadcaster and a basic cable channel, with no subscription necessary, so you can get them in some U.S. cities with close proximity to the border such as Buffalo.

How has the 6 p.m. “SportsCenter” been doing in the ratings since the show went back to its “traditional” format? — Kevin J.

Ourand reported that since April 2018, ESPN says the 6 p.m. “SportsCenter” had posted viewership increases in 13 of 15 months. In terms of viewership, using the last show that is available, the 6 p.m. “SportsCenter” last Thursday drew 360,000 viewers. I pulled a random Thursday from April 2018 and found on April 17, 2018 the “SportsCenter” at 6 p.m. drew 456,000 viewers.

What do you think the new plan will be for TNT’s Tuesday games now that Players Only is no more? I think that a good way to slowly move Marv Albert away from the No. 1 seat would be to move him to Tuesday and let Harlan and Anderson handle Thursday’s games. — Andrew V.

I think it’s clear either Harlan or Anderson will be calling the conference finals soon for Turner. But it’s worth noting that Turner has a ton of inventory when it comes to the NBA. The Thursday night TNT games are higher profile but the difference between the No. 1 and No. 2 and No. 3 NBA assignments at Turner are small until the postseason. Plenty of room for all and your idea seems as sensible as any.

How stable and how significant is the LLWS to ESPN? — Matt B.

Per Sports Business Daily: ESPN has the rights to the Little League World Series through 2022. They pay around $60 million or $7.5 million per year, per SBJ. The rights deal is small, the production isn’t costly, and it provides ESPN a ton of summer inventory. It gets very good ratings given what it is. ESPN platforms will carry 345 Little League Baseball and Softball games in 2019, including the full championship events from all divisions for the first time. The games will air across ABC, ESPN’s linear networks and ESPN+. It would only become unstable if public sentiment decided such coverage was excessive given the ages of the kids.


The Ink Report

1. Rare is the play-by-play broadcaster who morphs from the WNBA to MLB in the same week, but last week was quite a journey for Ryan Ruocco, who at 32 is one of the emerging multi-sport voices in sports broadcasting.

The ESPN and YES Network broadcaster — he also co-hosts the popular R2C2 podcast with Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia — called the Yankees-Diamondbacks last Tuesday and Wednesday on the YES Network before taking a 7 a.m. ET Delta flight from New York’s JFK Airport to Los Angeles to call ESPN2’s coverage of the Los Angeles Sparks-Las Vegas Aces WNBA game on Thursday night.

“As soon as I landed at LAX Airport I took a taxi to the Staples Center for the Sparks and Aces shootaround,” Ruocco said. “Then we had a production meeting/lunch with Rebecca Lobo, Holly Rowe and (injured WNBA MVP) Breanna Stewart, who was joining us on the broadcast. As soon as the game was over, I bolted to LAX for a red-eye back to JFK. I landed in New York around 10 a.m. ET Friday morning, got back to my apartment around 11 a.m., took an hour and a half nap, did some prep, and then headed to Yankee Stadium around 2 p.m. so I could be there for when the clubhouse opened at 3:20.”

Ruocco then called the Yanks-Red Sox game with colleagues David Cone, Paul O’Neil and Meredith Marakovits on Friday night for the YES Network. (The game drew 431,000 viewers, the most-watched Yankees telecast since August 2, 2018). Ruocco has been the primary replacement for the longtime Yankees television announcer Michael Kay, who underwent vocal cord surgery three weeks ago.

I asked Ruocco about how the prep works for two different sports in such a small window.

“I’m obsessive about my prep,” Ruocco said. “Obviously in those time constraints it can be a little more challenging. On Wednesday night after the Yankees game, there were a variety of WNBA stories I read via a clips email I get every day from WNBA Communications. Then Thursday morning after napping the first two hours of my flight to LA, I went through stats and stories while on the plane. We get a few different graphic emails from our internal research as well as helpful leaguewide stats from Elias (Sports Bureau). I also employed Jeff Chapman’s S.T.A.T company to electronically do my game boards for Aces-Sparks. I enjoy the process of writing everything out on my Manila folders but when I’m in a spot like this they’re a huge help. At the arena Rebecca, Holly and I had conversations with Aces coach Bill Laimbeer, Sparks guard Chelsea Gray and Sparks coach Derek Fisher. I always think this is the best aspect of our prep because we’re provided with exclusive access and able to get info that’s unique that we can then disseminate to the fans. The other part of this prep was chatting with Breanna about what’s on her mind about the league and prepping her for some things we’d like to dive into with her expertise and perspective. Once I got back to the hotel I printed out the electronic boards S.T.A.T had made for me and stapled them to the Manila folders which I had been writing down interesting stats and stories during the flight. Also, something to keep in mind prep-wise: For an ESPN game between the Sparks and Aces, I am trying to paint the picture of players with a broader stroke for the audience since it’s national and since a lot of our audience is still getting familiar with some of these players. Tim Corrigan, our awesome coordinating producer for the NBA on ESPN uses that phrase, ‘Be kind to the accidental viewer.’

“The Yankees telecast on YES is a little different prep. You’re going to be much more about the here and now and what’s specifically interesting for that day. If I start talking broadly about Gleyber Torres and say ‘Here’s Gleyber Torres who the Yankees acquired in the Aroldis Chapman trade,’ the audience is going be like ‘thanks pal WE KNOW!’ It’s much more about what’s happening right now. I’ve been doing games all month because of Michael’s vocal injury so I’m already working with a base of everyday knowledge from being around the team. I’m in the clubhouse every day talking to the guys. Some of those conversations get used immediately and some you end up storing for later which ends up like a form of advanced prep. Something the YES Network provides is called a ‘One Sheet,’ which is the single most helpful source of prep material I get across any network in any sport. It’s fantastic! It takes about 60 minutes to get through and is chock full of great nuggets.


“I always like to say you prep as if you’re broadcasting in a silo and then you get on air and have this army of help and it makes so much easier to perform. My producers and stats guys, as well as my analysts on both sports at both networks, are so damn good at what they do that it really lightens the load for the play-by-play person. It makes those hours on air just an absolute blast.”

2. Episode 63 of the Sports Media Podcast with Richard Deitsch features Sports Business Daily media reporter John Ourand. In this podcast, Deitsch and Ourand project how NFL viewership will fare in 2019; why last year’s NFL viewership was up five percent across the board; the impact of close games and matchups early in the season on ratings; the impact of the Bears and Browns on national ratings; the Pac-12’s prospects of 9 a.m. ET kickoffs; what we think of college football viewership for 2019; the latest on local baseball viewership and why some markets have dropped considerably; how local viewership impacts national viewership; ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast; Ourand’s story on the PGA Tour rights and WarnerMedia telling the PGA Tour that it would consider converting one of its existing TV channels into a golf-focused one; where the PGA Tour might land; ESPN+ investment in “Peyton’s Places;” whether Peyton Manning would consider doing an ABC package of NFL games and more. You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, and more.

The podcast will be out on Tuesday. Here’s the page if interested in listening.

3. One of the sports media stories to watch this Fall — or any Fall, really — is NFL viewership. The 2018 regular season saw a viewership rebound from 2017, with game audiences averaging 15.76 million viewers across CBS, ESPN, Fox, NBC and NFL Network. That was up from 14.96 million in 2017 but down from 2016 (16.5 million viewers). All the NFL-airing networks were up last year.

The first viewership number of the exhibition arrived last week with the Broncos-Falcons Hall of Fame game averaging 5.329 million viewers on NBC. The game was down 21 percent from last year when the Bears-Ravens averaged 6.779 million viewers — and down even more from the Cowboys-Cardinals (8.2 million) in 2017.

Time to sound the alarm? Of course not. I think this as much about the markets (when compared to previous markets) as anything else.

Also, keep this stat from Sports Media Watch in mind: Last year’s NFL Hall of Fame Game viewership drew a larger audience than 226 of the 244 NBA games on ESPN, ABC and TNT in the 2018-19 season (regular season + playoffs).


3a. Per Sports Media Watch: The MLS All-Star Game against Atletico Madrid averaged 808,000 viewers across UniMas, Univision Deportes Network and FS1, down 15 percent from last year on UniMas/UDN and ESPN (947,ooo), and down 58 percent from 2017 on Univision/UDN and FS1. Sports Media Watch reported that viewership did increase on UniMas and UDN (626,000 viewers) by 26 percent and was the third-most watched MLS All-Star Game on the Univision family of networks, behind 2017 (1.48 million) and 2011 (665,000).

4. Sports pieces of note

  • Via Mike Kessler and Mark Fainaru-Wada: 44 years. 41 Allegations. How the past caught up to a former Olympian.
  • From Kent Babb of The Washington Post: Olympic cyclist Kelly Catlin could do it all. Until it all became too much.
  • Via Elizabeth Merrill of ESPN: Whatever happened to Villanova basketball star Shelly Pennefather? ‘So I made this deal with God.’
  • ”I was sexually assaulted at 17. Here’s why I’m telling my story now.” By Ashley Wagner, for USA Today.
  • From Jackie MacMullan of ESPN: Coaching in an NBA where stars call the shots.
  • Yahoo Sports’ Alex Wong on Blue Jay president and CEO Mark Shapiro.
  • From Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic: How college football powerhouses are taking on the future of attendance.
  • Via Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated: How David Griffin Rebuilt the Pelicans and His World.
  • In between her time as a teenage squash prodigy and her recent provincial championship, Becks Dudley survived multiple suicide attempts and many nights living on the streets. This is the story of one of sports’ greatest comebacks. From Evan Rosser of Sportsnet.

Non-sports pieces of note:

  • From the staff of The San Francisco Chronicle 24 Hours Inside SF’s Homeless Crisis.
  • Via The Washington Post: A North Korean soldier makes midnight dash to freedom across DMZ.
  • A Texas con artist made millions promising prisoners’ families the thing they wanted most: To bring their children home. By Christie Thompson of The Marshall Project.
  • By Jeff Asher of the New York Times: How Four Cities Can Predict Murder.
  • Via The Wall Street Journal’s AnnaMaria Andriotis, Ken Brown and Shane Shifflett: Families Go Deep in Debt to Stay in the Middle Class.
  • For Bill Thomas, his sister Cathy’s murder is a deeply personal tragedy. For millions of true-crime fans, it’s entertainment. By Britt Peterson of The Washington Post Magazine.
  • The L.A. Times’ disappointing digital numbers show the game’s not just about drawing in subscribers — it’s about keeping them. By Joshua Benton.
  • How we became suckers for the hard labor of self-optimization. By Jia Tolentino, for The Guardian.
  • Via Jodi S. Cohen and Melissa Sanchez of Pro Publica: Parents are giving up custody of their kids to get need-based college financial aid.
  • Dying grasp of one local newspaper. By Richard Fausset of The New York Times.
  • A friendship born out of the ruins of a nation, a dangerous journey home, and a 40-year search for the truth. By Brent Crane.
  • Read this for a newspaper farewell party unlike any other. Via Victor Fiorillo of Philadelphia Magazine.

5. It is hard to process that Don Banks has died because he was a man filled with so much life. We were colleagues at Sports Illustrated for more than a decade and he was also a longtime regular on Sportsnet 590’s Prime Time Sports, the sports-talk show I am part of in Toronto. Late Sunday night the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Banks had died in his sleep early Sunday morning after attending the Hall of Fame ceremonies in North Canton. He was 56. Don is survived by his wife, Alissa, and two adult children, Matt, and Micah. Peter King, one of Don’s closest friends and also a longtime colleague, wrote a beautiful tribute to Donthat was published Monday morning.

I was fortunate to spend some time with Don thanks to The MMQB getting staff together, the occasional visits he would make to New York City to visit Sports Illustrated’s offices, and a couple of Super Bowl media weeks I attended. But most of our interactions were by phone and email and they were just so enjoyable. One of my favorite professional memories of working with Don was blogging Super Bowl Media Day, which I did semi-annually at SI. The highlight for me for each of these columns was calling Banks (who was always at Media Day in person) where he would proceed to have me laughing my ass off with his brutally honest evaluation of that media circus. One of the great running jokes of his Prime Time Sports appearances with host Bob McCown was Bob joking with Don about his current location since Banks had moved so frequently across the U.S. during his career. Indeed, he had just taken a job with the Review-Journal this month and his debut piece was published last Thursday — a look back at HBO’s “Hard Knocks” featuring the Browns and what lessons the Raiders (this year’s “Hard Knocks” team) might glean from them.

I am left with nothing wise to say about this, no great lessons to take away, no fancy close to this column. Banks was a good man, a terrific football voice, and great company. He has left this world far too young.

(Top photo: Cindy Ord / Getty Images)

Media Circus Mailbag: The best football broadcast duo, PGA hunting for a new TV deal, the Pac-12 over breakfast, more notes (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Annamae Dooley

Last Updated:

Views: 5355

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (65 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Annamae Dooley

Birthday: 2001-07-26

Address: 9687 Tambra Meadow, Bradleyhaven, TN 53219

Phone: +9316045904039

Job: Future Coordinator

Hobby: Archery, Couponing, Poi, Kite flying, Knitting, Rappelling, Baseball

Introduction: My name is Annamae Dooley, I am a witty, quaint, lovely, clever, rich, sparkling, powerful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.