NCAA tourney viewer’s guide, Barkley’s odd CBS relationship, more – SI.com


The Noise Report

Charles Barkley

SI.com examines some of the more notable sports media stories of the past week


1. Though he would not name specific colleagues, Barkley said Turner’s NBA announcers were given the cold shoulder from CBS’s on-air college basketball staffers at the beginning of the CBS/Turner partnership. “Some of these guys are jerk—s,” he said, refusing to name names when pressed. “They didn’t treat us very well because they thought we were trying to take their jobs. You could just tell there was a little tension in the beginning. ‘Dude, I’m not trying to take your job. I’m not even sure we want to do this.’ But Dan Bonner was great to me and called me and said here’s my number and anytime you want to talk about players or teams. He was a great resource. Some of these guys were a little distant. I should not call them jerk—s. But they were a little distant. They looked at it like a competition. I mean, dude, we’re not trying to take your job. Relax. They have gotten a lot better, because I think they realize, number one, they didn’t lose their job. We are in this together. And we are going to do this during March Madness. I think the tension has eased and we’ve done a lot better, but the first time we got together they weren’t very friendly.”


1a. If Barkley were NBA commissioner, he would make one immediate change: No player can enter the NBA draft until the completion of his sophomore year of college. Here’s some other Chuckster thoughts on the Knicks and Phil Jackson.


1b. ESPN recorded its most-viewed college basketball regular season this year, averaging 1,454,000 viewers. For the season, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU combined to televise 586 games exclusively and averaged 501,000 viewers across those platforms.


1c. The most-viewed ESPN college basketball game this season came on Feb. 1 when Syracuse defeated Duke 91-89 in overtime. The game averaged 4,745,000 viewers, the network’s third most-viewed regular-season men’s college basketball game on record (since 1991-92 season). ESPN’s most-watched game was March 8, 2008, when North Carolina at Duke drew 5,612,000 viewers.


1d. For the 12th consecutive year, Louisville was the highest-rated local market for ESPN’s regular-season telecasts. Greensboro, N.C., Kansas City and Raleigh-Durham finished tied for second. The remaining top 10: Memphis, Columbus, Cincinnati, Knoxville, Dayton, and Indianapolis.


1e. If you want an example of how tough it is to defeat ESPN for fledgling networks: Fox Sports 1 televised 145 college basketball games this season, averaging 75,000 viewers. ESPN aired 117 games, and averaged 1.1 million viewers.


1f. CBS Sports producer Charlie Bloom consistently does exceptional work. Here’s his piece on the charity work of Marquette basketball coach Buzz Williams.


1g. Nantz missed the Big Ten tournament to be with his wife, Courtney, who gave birth to a baby girl.


2. Trading emails with … Adam Schefter, after one of the best weeks of his career:


SI.com: What kind of hours did you put in last week?


Schefter: On free agency or this questionnaire? I actually sat down to do this at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday afternoon and just as I started, Ben Tate landed a two-year, $7 million deal in Cleveland. And then, when I got back to the questionnaire, Julian Edelman re-upped with New England. Back to the questionnaire, and former Saints safety Roman Harper landed a two-year deal in the NFC South with the Carolina Panthers. And then, an hour later, I was back to doing this questionnaire. That’s a long way of saying that it never stopped all week. Every night last week that I went back to the Bristol hotel, I thought and hoped maybe this will be the night I get some rest. One night was Jonathan Martin, Aqib Talib, Austin Howard and DeMarcus Ware traveling to Denver. The next night it was Darrelle Revis reaching agreement with New England, Rodger Saffold flunking his physical in Oakland and heading back to St. Louis while Eric Decker was re-signing with the Jets. Basically, when it comes to the NFL, but especially in weeks of firings and hirings, free agency and the draft, there is no punching out on the clock.


SI.com: How competitive are you with other NFL news outlets on such a week?


Schefter: You’re aware of them, of course, but you’re just trying to dig in and do the best job that you can. We have such a great and deep team with so many people chipping in on a week like this. From the day I got to ESPN, nobody has been more welcoming and gracious than Mort (NFL reporter Chris Mortensen) and I can’t imagine covering the league without him. I respect and love him. Josina Anderson distinguished herself last week, nailing the Julius Peppers-to-the-Packers story. Adam Caplan is a grinder who had the Zane Beadles deal to Jacksonville. Ed Werder reported Dallas finally had cut DeMarcus Ware. If all of our people are doing their job as well as they do, I’m confident we’ll get more than our fair share of the news.


Believe it or not, what drives me is my boss, Seth Markman. He knows how to push my buttons. Before free agency every year, he gives me a list of players and the stories he wants me to get. This year he dubbed it “The Markman 50.” He promised me $1 — very Trading Places-ish — for each name I got. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I was obsessed with landing every player I could on The Markman 50. It had nothing to do with the dollar, and everything with the competition with him. We would argue about whether guys belonged, where the credit should be. Even when a player like Ravens linebacker and Markman 50er member Daryl Smith re-signed, it brought me far more gratification than it should. When Seth first sent me this year’s list, he wrote he expected 45 of the 50 stories. So considerate of him to leave such a wide margin of error. All week I felt like I was competing to get as many players as possible on The Markman 50. I told him he’s driving me like a mule. He offered not to do it next year. I told him it’s like going through boot camp; you’re better for having gone through it.


SI.com: Out of all the stories you reported this past week, was there one news break that stood out above the rest on process, and if so, why?


Schefter: Interestingly enough, the one story that stands out came Wednesday night, as my producer Ashoka Moore — who did a great job this week handling all the ESPN show requests — was dropping me off back at my hotel. Before I got out of the car, he told me that in the nine years he has worked at ESPN, he never had as much fun as he did the past two days, which were Tuesday and Wednesday. We were working in the ESPN green room, grinding away, digging up stories, putting them out, and repeating the cycle. A bunch of guys like Tedy Bruschi, Mark Schlereth, Ryan Clark, Herm Edwards, Bill Polian and Ashoka were all hanging out in the green room, talking about all the moves. They were watching me, making fun of me, laughing at me because I’m in my own world at a time like that, where nothing else in the world matters. Most of those guys also commented about how much fun they had those two days; Ryan Clark loved it. When your co-workers are enjoying all the things that we’re doing as a team, and they tell you that they never had that much fun in all their time there, that’s more memorable than any story that week.


SI.com: How often do you feel other places do not accurately cite your reporting?


Schefter: Really don’t worry about it too much. What irks me is how much criticism ESPN gets for that when I believe we do a better job of any media outlet crediting the outlets that break the news. ESPN has worked hard to craft a crediting policy, spent a lot of time on it, and while it’s not perfect, this I know: It’s better than the way most places credit. Then again, what does it really matter? The public just wants NFL information as fast as it can get it. We had a fun and memorable week trying to make it happy. I’m just glad it slowed down enough Saturday afternoon to finally get done this questionnaire.


3. Last Wednesday the official word came down that Brent Musburger will no longer call ABC’s Saturday Night Football package or the national title game. Instead, Musburger and Jesse Palmer will serve as the lead broadcast team for the upcoming SEC Network when it launches in August. The new team will debut on Aug. 28, when the Aggies visit the Gamecocks. Musburger, who turns 75 in May, said in an interview with SI.com on Thursday that he was told that he would not call next season’s national championship in the press box prior to the BCS title game in January by ESPN president John Skipper and ESPN executive vice president for programming and production John Wildhack. He did have advance warning where management was heading that day, given his brother and agent, Todd, had asked ESPN management what direction they were going in with the Saturday Night package and title games.


On merit, as far as I’m concerned, Musburger should still have his job. But ESPN also needs a successor for a 70-something broadcaster, and the candidates for the job had both the skill sets and contractual leverage. Musburger, in an interview with SI.com, took the high road. “I’m enthused about doing SEC games,” he said. “This is not, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m not doing the national championship game.’ I’m going to spend that night, in fact, with my wife and sons in Montana. We’ll sell (betting) squares, and have a great time. I’m in a very good place. I’m an old guy with a three-year contract and I can afford to buy my own beer.” You can read the rest of the Musburger interview here.


4. The winner of Musburger sweepstakes? Chris Fowler. The longtime ESPN standout will be Musburger’s play-by-play replacement for ABC’s Saturday Night Football package. Fowler will work with analyst Kirk Herbstreit and sideline reporter Heather Cox on the assignment, as well as become the voice of the college football playoff, including the national championship game. Also important to college football fans, Fowler will continue to host College GameDay, a position he has held since 1990. The 51-year old will also remain a commentator on ESPN’s tennis coverage, which includes the Australian Open, French Open, U.S. Open and Wimbledon. James Andrew Miller, who wrote a best-selling book on the history of ESPN, tweeted that Fowler’s new contract (which runs through 2023) is worth $35 million with a yearly average in the mid-$3 million range. Here’s the SI.com story on Fowler getting the job.


5. The next talent domino for ESPN management to address is Rece Davis, a standout studio and game performer whose contract is coming up. Davis was also interested in becoming Musburger’s replacement, and currently calls ESPN’s Thursday Night college football package, along with hosting college football and college basketball studio shows. “We love Rece Davis,” Wildhack said in an SI.com interview last Thursday. “We love the work he does for us. Rece is a very important and valued contributor to what we do in the college space. I would like to see him remain in that position for years to come. We want him for a long, long time.”


6. ESPN NFL analyst Chris Mortensen was noticeably absent during last week’s free-agency frenzy reporting. Said an ESPN spokesperson: “Nothing to it. He played a big role for us at the Combine and you will see him lots next week at the NFL owners meetings, when NFL Insiders will be live from Orlando. We are fortunate to have Adam Schefter and a deep roster. Mort’s one of our top guys. Nothing’s changed there.”


7. Sports pieces of note:


• Boston Globe reporter Bob Hohler on ‘When Goodfellas collided with BC basketball.’


• Richard Sandomir on ESPN anchor Stuart Scott’s approach to cancer.


• USA Today sports staffer Mike Foss on the death of his best friend.


• Former NBA and Kentucky basketball player Rex Chapman on being stalked by a fan.


• Akron Beacon Journal Cavaliers writer Jason Lloyd had a really thoughtful piece on what happens when sports news breaks at odd hours.


• Seattle Times reporter Jayson Jenks on what killed former Seahawk Grant Feasel.


Plenty of non-sports pieces of note:


• Cannot encourage you enough to read and share this Ron Suskind piece on reaching his autistic son through Disney.


• This is a great Wall Street Journal column on attempting to decipher your boss’s email — a place we’ve all been.


• Via The Atlantic: “My Life As A Retail Worker.”


• The Economist explains what doxxing is, and why it matters.


• Why Aren’t Doctors Drug Tested?


• One of the great personalized obituaries.


• Bloomberg News created a map of the 83 large aircraft that have disappeared since 1948.


• Putin On The Couch. America’s leading Putinologists to get inside the head of the Kremlin strongman.


• Why Black Women Die of Cancer.


• Kevin Lincoln on the death of the bargain bin.


• Just another day in the life of BBC News camerawoman Rachel Price.


• If you are under 35, you’ll have thoughts on this piece.


• Anna Hiatt examines the future of digital longform.


• The Washington Post on what happens if Hillary Clinton does not run in 2016.

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