Ray Frager

Good News For Ray

Those of you who have read SMJ for the last few months have noted the contributions of Ray Frager.  Ray joined us in early May after he was let go as Assistant Editor and Sports Media Columnist for the Baltimore Sun.

Ray’s addition to our staff came quite coincidentally.  I was reading his last blog post over at the Sun where he mentioned his lay-off and his interest in starting his own sports media blog.  I e-mailed Ray, introduced him to SMJ, and invited home to join us to write on the topics of his choosing and for as long as he wished.

To my surprise Ray took me up on the offer and began writing for us on May 5th.   Our agreement was Ray would write for us until he was fortunate enough to once again attain gainful employment.   Thankfully for him that day has come.

Ray is now back in business of writing sports professionally and I could not be more happier for him.  Even though I never met Ray personally, in our conversations it was apparent to me that he is one of the good guys.

So on this day we celebrate work, I’m glad that Ray is back among us working stiffs.  We wish him all the best.

MNF: It’s just a football game

Some of the quotes coming out of last week’s ESPN media event in Bristol — and so sorry I couldn’t attend, but my travel visa to leave Maryland has expired — spoke to how Monday Night Football should continue to be viewed as a big deal. Sure, some of that is a push-back against NBC’s Sunday night NFL extravaganza, but one can also take the view that, if you have to talk about the subject, MNF‘s prominence must be very much in question.

That’s not to say ESPN hasn’t had ratings success on Monday nights and with the plethora of NFL programming attached to the weekly telecast across it various platforms. But MNF long ago had become simply the last NFL game of the week — albeit one with high production values and frequently featuring the league’s brightest lights.

The last gasp of presenting MNF as something bigger ended with the departure of non-football personage Tony Kornheiser (and was I the only one in America who enjoyed him on the telecasts?) with the soon-to-be rumored next coach for several teams, Jon Gruden. Already, ESPN had retreated from the celebs in the booth to put the focus more on just football.

And that’s perfectly fine. ESPN presents the games about as well as they can be shown, though I prefer NBC’s version of the NFL at Night (maybe it’s Faith Hill over Hank Jr.). We can’t expect to return to the days when MNF was a pop cultural touchstone. Back when sports and news were the only kinds of reality TV and you were lucky to receive more than six channels, Frank and Howard and Dandy Don presided over a weekly show where Ronald Reagan and John Lennon might drop by for a visit.

But maybe we’ll see the Giffer and the Gipper as MNF marks its 40th season during this year’s telecasts.

Synergy at Little League World Series

That amazing coincidence of actors connected to the network carrying a sporting event appearing on the telecast has worked its way down to the Little League World Series. ESPN is using Moises Arias as a “reporter” during its LLWS games. Arias appears on Disney’s Hannah Montana. And he just so happens to be in the movie The Perfect Game, about Mexico’s Little League champions of 1957, though, to be fair — something I just hate to be — that isn’t a Disney film.

All the way from Memphis

Memphis’ 2008 trip to the Final Four has been “vacated,” the NCAA has ruled. So it’s as if it never happened. Wipe it from your memory. The NCAA says it’s all a blank. If they could get one of those mind eraser thingees from Men in Black, NCAA officials might be going coast to coast right now and knocking on the doors of everyone who watched the men’s basketball final two seasons ago.

But short of that occurrence, fans aren’t going to forget Derrick Rose and Co., regardless whether any of the victories officially count. So I wouldn’t bet on the media pretending as if the team never existed. Yes, Memphis must give money back, so that is a real penalty. However, in the real world beyond the NCAA offices, everyone is going to count Memphis’ Final Four appearance.

Let’s say the Tigers reach the national semifinals this coming season. Do you believe media reports will say it’s Memphis first trip to the Final Four since 1985? Well, no. How can we be sure? For one thing, when the Tigers reached in 2008, the stories said it was their first appearance in 23 years, but that 1985 Final Four also was vacated for rules violations, so we should have heard it was actually their first appearance since 1973.

We’ll sooner forget the Mott the Hoople classic from which this entry gets its title than anything the NCAA says we’re supposed to forget.

Drama at the PGA

As dramatic as the final round of the PGA Championship ended up being, one thing that occurred to me during CBS’ Sunday coverage was just how superior the network’s telecasts of the Masters are. That’s because the Masters mandates fewer commercials. The drama would have built to even greater levels Sunday if we hadn’t been pulled away several times for breaks after Tiger Woods and Y.E. Yang had hit their tee shots.

I don’t begrudge CBS its revenue — and the final holes were handled without undue interruptions — but I couldn’t help but think about how much better the viewing experience would have been.

(Which reminds me about how enjoyable it was to watch the season debut of AMC’s terrific Mad Men with limited commercial breaks.)

# # #

In what once would have been awarded the Dreaded Glitch in USA Today, CBS flubbed its pictures when Woods teed off on the 13th. As announcers described what a marvelous shot he had struck, we were stuck on a picture of some clouds over the course. Then, as Jim Nantz switched to someone finishing on the 18th green, the video was of Woods and Yang walking down the fairway.

# # #

Talk about bad timing. Shortly after Padraig Harrington had shot himself out of contention with a disastrous 8 on a par-3 hole, he was featured in a commercial for one of his major sponsors. The thrust of the ad was how it is important to adjust to changing conditions — something Harrington had just failed to do.

Hard Knocks and reality

Watching the first episode of this year’s GooseHard Knocks — which, like just about everything HBO does, was extremely well-produced — I was reminded of conversations I had with The Sun‘s Ravens reporters about the initial year of the series, set at Ravens training camp. They said many Ravens very much played to the cameras, acting in ways that could be quite different from their normal demeanors. In particular, one veteran — who usually was at best indifferent and otherwise disdainful when it came to rookies — acted far more concerned about a first-year player than he did in previous camps without HBO’s presence.

That’s not saying any of the Bengals are “acting.” But I’m just sayin’.

Sorry

Apologies to Troy Smith for last month’s post about what appeared to be crude messages sent by him via Twitter. My post expressed some small doubt the tweets might actually be from Smith, but not enough. In Wednesday’s Sun, the Ravens backup quarterback said he doesn’t use Twitter and the tweets weren’t his. Again, I am sorry.

You love to watch the NFL, even an exhibition

I’m put in mind of the great Rolling Stones song “Out of Time” — You don’t know what’s going on/You’ve been away for far too long …
You’re out of touch, my baby.

That would be me. Again.

Just days after I wrote about my disregard for the NFL preseason, NBC’s telecast of the Hall of Fame Game between the Bills and Titans crushed ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball featuring the sport’s premier matchup of the Yankees and Red Sox. Though the baseball game scored well for ESPN with a 3.0 rating and 4.7 million viewers, the Bills-Titans drew a 4.9 rating and 7.9 million.

With the public’s affection for even an exhibition taste of the NFL, you’d think the least Terrell Owens could have done was play more than one series.


NFL works of Art

Baltimore-centric note: I happened to catch a few minutes of the Scott and Anita chat-fest from 105.7 the Fan via MASN today. A caller made an interesting point in light of how Rod Woodson’s championing Art Modell’s Hall of Fame candidacy was roundly booed at the ceremony in Canton Saturday.

The caller noted how Steelers iconic owner Art Rooney was voted into the Hall in 1964, when his team’s history was mostly one of failure. Scott Garceau agreed with the caller, though the host didn’t elaborate on how Rooney obviously was voted into the Hall — and rightly so — for playing a key role from the NFL’s earliest days. It could be noted, however, that at the point Rooney was elected, his teams had posted seven winning seasons out of 31 and been in one playoff game. On the other hand, Modell’s Cleveland teams made 15 playoff appearances in 35 years, including one NFL championship, and his Ravens won a Super Bowl.

Yes, the Steelers went on to become an NFL powerhouse, but that didn’t happen until after Rooney had made the Hall. The point is to compare the relative merits of two owners at the point of election. One was beloved and a rock upon which the league was built, but also the owner of a franchise known for its futility on the field. The other helped launch the league into the modern television age that made everyone richer and pro football even more popular while also fielding teams that had long runs of success. Of course, Modell’s resume comes with the stain of his move from Cleveland to Baltimore. The booing in Canton tells you that stain has yet to fade.

Then again, Al Davis, an original AFL mover and shaker — and quite literally a mover — made it into the Hall in the ’90s.

All of which might have bogged down the talk show a bit.

Anti-social (media) in the NFL

A day after we read about how the Dolphins don’t want anyone — media or fans — using Twitter at training camp, Twitter was shut down today for hours by some kind of hack attack. You don’t mess with Bill Parcells.

Twitter has been very much in the sports news lately. The Dolphins story comes on the heels of a little brouhaha over ESPN’s directives regarding its employees’ use of social media. (For the record, I agree with our esteemed site host, Keith, on this matter.)

To avoid disturbing golfers with ringing and calls, tournaments make spectators surrender cell phones before entering a course, but this is an entirely different matter. An NFL team making sure you can’t tweet from the stands while it runs through drills is the height of football paranoia. If what happens on the field is that super secret, why are the practices and scrimmages open to the public?

Hope I didn’t risk having this site shut down by expressing that opinion.