Sports Media Musings: Conflicting Welker Reports, NBC 1510 & Bob Ryan? Thoughts on Olbermann/ESPN Reunion And More!

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Lots of media notes to get to today, but before we do it appears Wes Welker is deciding to test the free agent market. This would seemingly refute Mike Giardi‘s report Tuesday that the Patriots and Welker are “close” to a deal. Although, “close” is relative … maybe the two sides are nearing an agreement and going to the market is part of the negotiation process; then again, maybe they aren’t. To Giardi’s credit, he’s sticking by his report:

I wrote about Welker betting on himself today for Metro Boston.

From my column:

Consider this: Per Pro Football Reference, no other player has caught a 110 passes in a season more than twice in his career; Wes Welker has accomplished the feat in five of his six seasons as a Patriot. In fact, he holds three of the top seven spots in the all-time single-season most receptions list. And despite being a slot guy who doesn’t typically stretch the field, Welker racks up yards, compiling 8,580 in his nine seasons in the league. For perspective, assuming he signs a three-year deal and racks up over 1,000 yards during that time (totally doable), he’ll land somewhere in the top-20 all-time for most receiving yards.

It’s more than that, though. When Tom Brady needed it most, he looked to Welker. We’re constantly told about the importance of moving the chains, and Welker has ranked somewhere in the top-10 of players who have the most receptions that converted a first down in all but one season as a Patriot (the lone season he didn’t crack the top-10 was in 2010. Again, the comeback season).

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NBC Sports Radio 1510 is making moves to better position itself in the local radio wars, adding an hour to Danny Picard‘s show, “I’m Just Sayin.'” Picard will now be live 8:00 am – 10:00 am every weekday morning.

Also, BSMW hasn’t corroborated anything, but this feels worth mentioning:

Again, absolute conjecture at this point: But someone who can actually talk NBA? On the radio???? Color me excited.

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Your must read piece this week comes from Don Van Natta Jr., “His Game, His Rules.” It takes a look at Roger Goodell‘s suspect decision making during his tenure as NFL Commissioner thus far. Van Natta Jr., who covered the White House and CIA (post 9/11) for the New York Times, went on Bill Simmons‘s podcast to discuss the piece, stating his prior high-profile beats helped prepare him for this story. (Pretty jarring comparison.)

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Journalists write for exposure bucks all the time. I’ve done it. Quite often, actually. But here’s a hilarious exchange between longtime journalist Nate Thayer and The Atlantic. 14 million page views a month and they can’t pay more than $100 for freelance work? Yeesh.

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With the launch of Fox Sports 1, ESPN PR guru (and former BSMW media guy), David Scott, put together a post showing how much of a stranglehold ESPN has on the market.

ESPN is no stranger to competition, just like Fox, NBC and CBS both have 24/7 sports networks as well. Neither has posed much of a threat to the four-letter network. And frankly, I don’t see this being much different. ABC Sports reluctantly relented most of its live sporting coverage to ESPN, bringing the network to new heights. NBC Sports does the same with much of its hockey coverage; and CBS has, um, Jim Rome?

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[UPDATE]:

The Big Lead is reporting that ESPN executive John Skipper wants Keith Olbermann back:

But after poking around at ESPN, sources tell me this wasn’t a give-me-a-job plea from Olbermann. ESPN President John Skipper wants the cantankerous Olbermann back, multiple sources say, and they’re very likely going to get him – as early as late-May.

[END UPDATE]

Speaking of the WorldWide leader, Keith Olbermann wants a second chance to shine in Bristol. Although, it appears very unlikely.

From James Andrew Miller‘s story (Yes. The same guy who wrote the oral history of ESPN, “Those Guys Have All The Fun”):

“After the dinner, at that point, there was no real appropriate place for Keith to come back, nor did I feel like I was prepared to bring him back,” Skipper said.

“We don’t have a policy that says we won’t bring somebody back. We’re running a great business, and when we think we can get quality content, there’s no such thing as a condemned list. That said, this is not an easy place to get back into. There are not that many successful examples of people who have come back, in part because it’s like water filling a vacuum. When somebody leaves, somebody else fills their place.”

The general reaction Out There is that Olbermann’s combustible relationship with any entity he works with (See: MSNBC and, ahh, ESPN) validates him being blacklisted. The other prevailing thought is that too much has changed over in Bristol for Olbermann to work there.

My take? I know it’s not going to happen, but I’m not sure why. You’re telling me Chris Berman and Hank Goldberg  are still collecting paychecks and “change” is really a barricade to a guy like Olbermann to adapt to? Those guys have been doing the same thing since the early ’90s.

Olbermann made “SportsCenter” what it was, not is. Sure, in “Those Guys,” he comes off as a mercurial prick, but Olbermann also is described as a genius, who could cut great copy in an hour’s time. Basically, he gave us reason to watch. And I’d rather watch him rip off Bob Costas-like essays instead of Rick Reilly.

While ESPN notoriously steers away from network “stars,” I find no real reason to tune into “SportsCenter” anymore. What no one realizes is that just like the Internet (more specifically the blogosphere) crippled the newspaper industry, YouTube has hurt bland shows like “SportsCenter.” If there is a killer highlight, I’ll probably see it on YouTube, or a blog. And no, throwing it over to Stephen A. Smith‘s hyperbolic soliloquy is not impetus to stay tuned after a commercial break.

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Co-founder of Bleacher Report, Bryan Goldberg, gave a response in the form of an open letter to Will Leitch‘s Sports On Earth column killing the aggregator publication.

From Goldberg:

Finally, you point out that the company was “founded by business people trying to game the system.” Yes, I am a business person. I am an equally strong writer. But as for your suggestion that I “gamed the system” somehow? That would imply that the system was good enough to be gamed. Far from it. The system was so broken, that it really did not deserve the honor of being called a “system” at all. The smoldering wreckage of debris known as “the publishing business” is unfit to be called a “system,” because a system is assumed to be — at a minimum — self-sustaining.

I don’t think Leitch was arguing to save the newspaper industry, or traditional mainstream media for that matter. This was the guy who started Deadspin for crying out loud. I think he was insinuating that B/R’s reliance on superior SEO skill, rather than producing quality work, “gamed” the Internet system, and that the site’s actual work (mostly) is garbage.

  • Ted Sarandis

    Ryan, I enjoy your daily postings, though I find them difficult to read with all the bold, italics, underlines, cross outs, indents, etc.

  • JonFrum

    1. Giardi did not stand behind his initial report. ” As close to a deal as they’ve been in 2 years” is not the same as “close to a deal.” .

    2. Welker is high on the total first down statistic because he gets a lot of targets. On a percentage of receptions, Welker wasn’t in the top 20 last year. Most receivers have far fewer receptions because Brady goes to Welker on those five yard passes so often. Vincent Jackson turned 85% of his receptions into first downs. Welker – 61%. Megatron had 122 receptions, and 75% first downs. So Welker is not so special at getting first downs. Brady just can’t or won’t go deep, and constantly checks off to Welker.

  • GRBSPR

    What enrages me is that my cable bill is skyrocketing because of ESPN, which is turning into a complete Leftist outlet…Left-leaning commentary in every sound-bite. Olbermann just exacerbates that shift.

    • http://www.bostonsportsmediawatch.com/ bsmfan

      I hit on the decision in another post, don’t just hit on one network. You’re paying something like this:

      5.50 for “ABC” (ESPN)
      3.50 for NESN
      1.25 for CSNNE (est. and I don’t know how they calc with Comcast subscribers.)
      This summer, you’ll also get hit on the FOX bundling of FS1/FS2. They report an initial cost of $0.75 and want it above $1 within a year.

      All-in-all, you’re charged something like $20 a month for “Sports” even though less than 50% of the population with Cable watches them. Think about how little each of these networks also show what most people tune into them for (live sports).

      If you want to know more about all of this, Google around. There’s tons on it and ways to get out from paying it even though the cable companies don’t advertise non-Sports packages.

  • http://www.bostonsportsmediawatch.com/ bsmfan

    When NBC/CBS “launched” their sports networks, I think Bristol was too busy partying and laughing to bother with a SID/stats post. NBC is drowning already in ratings, even getting killed outside their sports, CBS has.. March Madness? SEC on CBS? (SEC is launching their own regional network, though, and ESPN is in-bed already) I would think their radio network is the only thing ESPN would like to have from their portfolio.

    Did ESPN do their history and see what happened in 1996 with Turner? The “this is how big we are” is a literary roar so the rest of the pride would hear who is still King of the Jungle. We can debate all day and fill up message boards with this.

    I have to think that Bristol Clown College does consider FOX a threat, though. We can all agree that ESPN has pioneered and does great things with sports but some of their lows are bad. Some competition would not hurt, and we all welcome it but what is not being mentioned (I posted this below) is how we’ll all be paying for it in the future.