Shooting from the lip/June 10th edition
The latest from the world of televised sports ...
Rights of the day
NBC has secured the rights to the next four Olympics -- 2014 to 2020 -- and, at the end of the day, it was about the money. Isn't it always?
NBC ponied up $4.38 billion for the rights, which was more than Fox and ESPN were willing to offer. But NBC did more than offer the biggest chunk of change. Apparently, it also tugged on the heartstrings of the Olympic organizers.
Word out of Switzerland is that NBC's presentation, introduced by Bob Costas, moved many of the organizers to tears. Part of the two-hour presentation was a film in which NBC staffers gave personal testimonies on why the Olympics are so important to them. Richard Deitsch, the outstanding sports media writer at Sports Illustrated, wrote a nicely detailed piece about NBC landing the Olympics and you can click here to read it.
Patrick Sandusky, the chief communications officer for the U.S. Olympic Committee, told Sports Illustrated, "That film left tears in some people's eyes. It was such a human moment at a business presentation.''
Richard Carrion, chairman of the IOC finance committee, told SI, "The numbers did enter into it, but I will tell you we were blown away by the presentation. The passion that this team has for the Olympic Games was very impressive and very evident to all of us.’''
So what does NBC getting the next four Olympics mean to us, the viewers? Well, for starters, more live coverage. In the past, NBC often favored taping events to save for the prime-time show, so it could charge more for advertising. NBC has not announced any plans for how it will cover the Games, but it is hinting that many of the events will be seen live on NBC and its partner stations, which now include Versus.
Speaking of Versus, the Olympics will be a perfect platform to raise the visibility of the network known mostly for its NHL coverage. The Olympics are also the hammer that Comcast/NBC needs to raise the number of Versus subscribers and, perhaps, raise the fees it charges cable companies to carry Versus. As always, it’s possible that those extra charges could, in part, be passed along to us in the form of higher cable bills.
Series of the day
The Stanley Cup final between the Canucks and Bruins is tied 2-2 as it heads back to Vancouver for Friday night's Game 5. If you're an avid hockey fan, you're probably enjoying this series. But the NHL should be worried about how this series is being viewed by the casual sports fan. Once again, the headlines in this series are for all the wrong reasons. There was the incident in Game 1 when Vancouver's Alex Burrows bit the finger of Boston's Patrice Bergeron. The next two games featured players taunting opponents by trying to stick fingers into mouths. And there was Game 3 when the Canucks' Aaron Rome put Bruins star Nathan Horton out for the series with a late and scary hit that left Horton with a concussion. Rome was then suspended for the balance of the series.Every game has had a nasty tone with plenty of after-whistle scrums and lots of dirty stick work.
Those who follow the sport closely know that some of this stuff is a part of the rivalry that builds up between two teams playing for the Cup. But the casual or nonhockey fan sees such shenanigans and thinks, "Ah, typical hockey'' and recites the old, tired joke about going to a fight and having a hockey game break out. Instead of celebrating the acrobatic goaltending of Boston's Tim Thomas or the enormous skill of Vancouver's Daniel Sedin, all anyone is talking about is how ugly the series has become.
The league is partly to blame. While it moved swiftly and strongly by suspending Rome, perhaps a lot of the nastiness could have been taken out of this series if it had suspended Burrows for a game for biting Bergeron's finger . Instead, the NHL chose not to suspend Burrows because it said there was no clear evidence that he actually bit Bergeron, even though NBC cameras caught the incident and Bergeron's finger held visible proof.
Maybe the rest of the series will get back to the business of hockey, but damage already has been done. For many, this series just validates what they already thought: Hockey is and always will be a violent game. Too bad; there is some really good hockey being played, too.
Announcer of the day
Assuming there will be a 2011 NFL season, how great is it that Marv Albert will be back in the television booth, calling NFL games on CBS? Albert called NFL games from 2002 to 2009 on Westwood One radio, but he hasn't called the NFL on television since 1997 for NBC. No word yet who will be Albert's partner, but it doesn't appear as if he will be a part of CBS's No. 1 announcing team. Unfortunately, that likely will continue to be Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.
The good news out of all of this is Albert will not be giving up his NBA duties. Albert, who is the best NBA announcer ever, will continue calling NBA games for TNT on Thursday nights, then call the NFL for CBS on Sundays when both sports are in season. Albert essentially replaces Gus Johnson, who has moved on to Fox, on CBS's roster. Personally, I'd like to see Albert become the network's play-by-play voice for the Final Four over Nantz.
And one last word on Albert. After his sex scandal in 1997, his career appeared pretty much dead. Yet what a remarkable resurgence, especially for a man who turns 70 on Sunday.
* Good news for NASCAR. After seeing declining television ratings the past couple of years, ratings are up significantly this year. Fox averaged 8.6 million viewers for its 13 Sprint Cup series telecasts, up from last year's average of 7.8 million viewers. The NASCAR season now switches to TNT for six races, starting this weekend from the Pocono Raceway.
* No surprise here but officially Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski will all be back for ESPN's Monday Night Football next season.
* The WTA announced that 116 million TV viewers in China watched Li Na defeat Francesca Schiavone in Saturday's French Open women's final. To put that into perspective, February's Super Bowl between the Packers and Steelers set a record with 111 million American viewers. It's believed the previous high to watch a tennis match in China was when 60 million watched Li lose to Kim Clijsters in this year’s Australian Open final.
Three things that popped into my head
1. It's the day before the Belmont and who cares except for gamblers and horse lovers? That's what happens when no Triple Crown is at stake.
2. Know who I miss? Akinori Iwamura.
3. Know who I don't miss? Pat Burrell. Still.