Cranking Out The Friday Megalinks

Let’s do some Friday linkage for you.

MLB Postseason starts up really in earnest with four games on Saturday. College Football in full swing and the NFL completes its first month of games on Sunday. Your Weekend Viewing Picks have everything you need to know in sports and primetime programming.

To the linkage.

National

Michael Hiestand of USA Today writes that Fox Sports’ NASCAR coverage will be known for having the Brothers Waltrip next year.

Mike Reynolds of Broadcasting & Cable writes that Turner Sports will be all over the League Division Series for the first four days of the MLB Postseason.

Adweek has a graphic showing how much time we spend on watching football.

Bill Cromwell of Media Life Magazine writes that TBS and Fox should see good ratings for the MLB Postseason based on an exciting final night of the season on Wednesday.

Nelli Andreeva of Deadline reports that ESPN is developing an ABC sitcom based on Boston sports fans. That’s going to go over well.

Bill Hofheimer in ESPN’s Front Row blog talks with ESPN’s Jon Gruden about calling a “home game” this Monday.

Jim Romanesko of the Poynter Institute looks at the despicable reaction of Buffalo Bills fans to a column written by a female sportswriter at the Albany Times Union.

Bob’s Blitz has video of WFAN’s Mike Francesa attempting to add on the air.

Brandon Costa at Sports Video Group looks at ESPN placing microphones on various players and coaches during the WNBA Finals.

Brandon chronicles a wild Wednesday night at MLB Network.

CNBC’s Darren Rovell looks at the advantages or lack of thereof having a bigger payroll in MLB.

The Sports Biz Miss Kristi Dosh tells us that despite not making the playoffs, the Atlanta Braves and the Boston Red Sox still get a share of the postseason pie.

The Sports Media Watch looks at how the tumultuous Final Night of the MLB season led to a ratings bonanza for ESPN.

SMW says for the MLB season, ESPN’s ratings went up slightly.

SMW says TBS’ ratings for the MLB regular season were flat compared with last year.

Joe Favorito looks at how Dick Vitale has made himself into a viable brand.

The Daly Planet delves into the changes with the Fox Sports NASCAR crew.

The Influencer Economy has a look into Blogs with Balls 4 and the future of sports media.

East and Mid-Atlantic

Chad Finn at the Boston Globe (this is the last day I’ll be able to link to Chad as his columns go behind the dreaded paywall starting October 1) writes about NESN viewers unable to see analyst Dennis Eckersley on the last day of the season.

Bill Doyle of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette writes that Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy shares some blame in the Red Sox collapse.

Newsday’s Neil Best talks with TBS’ Brian Anderson who steps into the network’s lead spot for the MLB Postseason.

Justin Terranova of the New York Post has five questions for NBC Football Night in America analyst Rodney Harrison.

Pete Dougherty of the Albany Times Union writes that a new local sports talk show host isn’t spending any time discussing any local topics.

Ken McMillan at the Middletown (NY) Times Herald-Record writes about local radio stations picking up MLB League Division Series games.

To the New Jersey Newsroom where Evan Weiner says the college conference shuffle is making fans roll their collective eyes.

In the Allentown (PA) Morning Call, Keith Groller writes that MLB will have a hard act to follow in the postseason after a compelling final night of the regular season.

Laura Nachman says Comcast SportsNet will be all over the Phillies in the MLB Postseason.

In Press Box, Dave Hughes of DCRTV.com writes that sections of the Baltimore Sun’s sports website will go behind the dreaded paywall.

South

The Florida Times-Union reports that the Jacksonville Jaguars have avoided a blackout for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

To the St. Petersburg Times where Tom Jones says Sun Sports got big ratings for the Tampa Bay Rays’ march to the playoffs this week.

David Barron of the Houston Chronicle writes that MLB Network was all over the twists and turns from the final night of the regular season.

Mel Bracht of the Daily Oklahoman has his news and notes.

Midewest

John Kieswetter of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that a local CBS affiliate will provide halftime highlights during Bengals games at Paul Brown Stadium.

John writes that Saturday’s Cincinnati-Miami game will be seen live online and on local TV on tape delay.

Michael Zuidema of the Grand Rapids (MI) Press talks with Tigers TV voice Mario Impemba about the team’s chances of advancing in the MLB Postseason.

Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel speaks with Brewers TV voice Brian Anderson about getting the top gig for TBS for the playoffs.

Bob has a couple of quotes from CBS’ Phil Simms about Sunday’s Denver-Green Bay game.

To Crain’s Chicago Business and Ed Sherman who writes that Nebraska’s addition to the conference can only help the Big Ten Network.

Ed has his winners and losers in sports media and business.

In the Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin, Paul Christian talks with former Minnesota coach Tim Brewster who’s now patrolling the sidelines for Gus Johnson and FX’s college football game of the week.

Jennifer Mann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals TV voice Dan McLaughlin has been arrested on DUI charges for the second time this year.

Dan Caesar of the Post-Dispatch writes that Fox Sports Midwest has suspended McLaughlin indefinitely.

West

Bill Center in the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres expect to bring back its TV booth, but no word on the team’s radio announcers or new TV contract for next season.

The Union-Tribune says Sunday’s Chargers game against the Dolphins will be blacked out.

John Maffei of the North County Times says the Padres hope to have a new TV deal (with Fox Sports Net) in place by the New Year.

At the Ventura County Star, Jim Carlisle writes that Wednesday’s MLB season finale was Must See TV.

Jim says despite being on a losing team, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Matt Kemp is in the center of the MVP debate among TV analysts.

Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News looks at Jenn Brown’s endorsement deal with GNC.

Tom says Bill Macdonald’s full-time days with Fox Sports West are over.

Tom looks at TBS’ coverage of the MLB Postseason.

Tom wonders why the NFL pulled back the 1st half Thursday Night Football package from the table.

Canada

In the Toronto Globe and Mail, Bruce Dowbiggin says MLB got a shot in the arm on Wednesday.

The Canadian Sports Media Blog writes that TSN has locked up curling on TV in Canada through the end of the decade.

And that’s going to do it. I may have a few more links later tonight.

Daytona 500, NBA All Star Game Headline Weekend

This weekend brings us two high-profile sports events in the Daytona 500 and the NBA All Star Weekend.

The 50th Daytona 500 

FOX brings us a number of new technological advances to their broadcast, two being outlined in the exceprts from their press releases below:

On Sunday, February 17 (2:00 PM ET), FOX Sports proudly presents the 50th running of the Daytona 500 with an electrifying 80 minute prerace show to celebrate the races history and most memorable moments from the past 49 races. Hosted by Chris Myers along with analysts Jeff Hammond and Darrell Waltrip the show is a special tribute to living racing legends who have won the Daytona 500 including Bobby Allison, Richard Petty and FOX’s very own Waltrip. In addition to previewing Sunday’s race, FOX welcomes motorsports broadcasting legend Ken Squier as a special contributor to the broadcast, adding historical perspective. It was Squier who called the first live televised Daytona 500 back in 1979 and who coined the phrase “The Great American Race.” Also in the prerace, NASCAR on FOX analyst Larry McReynolds takes a look back at the late Dale Earnhardt’s first and only Daytona 500 win in 1998 where he served as crew chief.

GOPHER CAM PROVIDES “HOLE” NEW PERSPECTIVE — Imagine that your ultimate wish is to stand trackside at the world’s most famous superspeedway, inches away as the best drivers anywhere whiz by at a breathless 185 miles per hour during the nation’s most prestigious auto race.  That’s the view Gopher Cam provides at the 50th Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 17 (2:00 PM ET) and beyond.

Gopher Cam is a small, stationary high-definition point-of-view camera buried underneath the asphalt track surface, inches below the yellow line at Daytona International Speedway.  There are four Gopher Cams in-place for the 50th Daytona 500, one in each of the track’s four turns.  This is the first instance where a camera has been installed below the surface of a superspeedway, and this is the first time that a sub-track surface camera is HD caliber.  The cameras have also been paired with high quality condenser microphones, another first, for an unbelievably realistic audio/video experience.

“Television’s never-ending goal is to bring the viewer as close to the action as possible,” said FOX Sports Chairman David Hill.  “We’ve had great past success with Catcher-Cam and Diamond-Cam in our MLB coverage and Grass Cam and Wall-Cam in NASCAR on FOX broadcasts.  However, Gopher Cam, and forgive us for having some fun with the name, is different. These are HD cameras developed specifically for this use.  The pictures are phenomenal, and the audio that the mikes provide is mean and loud.  It’s a tremendous complement to our Emmy-caliber NASCAR broadcasts.” 

The camera hardware and electronics have been installed six inches below the asphalt, and is housed in a cylindrical stainless steel fixture.  The lens is less than a half-inch in diameter, and camera is angled slightly to see oncoming traffic.  The assembly is covered by a protective dome that is four-inches in diameter and rises less than one-quarter inch above the track surface.  Cars rolling over them will have no idea of their presence. The cameras are connected to FOX’s mobile production units outside DIS via copper wiring that was trenched in below the track and grass and run to where it meets up with the network’s advanced fiber optic wiring system. 

Live Online Q&A System To be Launched

This virtual Q&A is unlike others that may have preceded it.  On FOXSports.com, NASCAR on FOX analysts Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds, three of the sport’s most knowledgeable experts, can answer viewer’s questions in real time.  Each individual has been recorded providing simple, concise explanations to hundreds of potential questions that might arise during a NASCAR on FOX race.

“Every sport, including NASCAR, is loaded with unique terminology that many core viewers understand, but sometimes has others scratching their heads,” said FOX Sports Chairman David Hill.  “Our virtual Q&A is designed to enhance the viewing experience by helping the curious fan better understand what they’re seeing while they’re seeing it.”

FOX’s virtual Q&A is an adaptation of patented technology called Synthetic Interviews developed at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Penn., by Scott Stevens, Ph.D. and Michael Christel, Ph.D., computer researchers in CMU’s School of Computer Science and Entertainment Technology Center (ETC). 

“By enabling fans to interact with their favorite on-air personalities online, FOX Sports and FOXSports.com are delivering the type of engaging, multi-platform experience that users have come to expect from sports event coverage,” said Brian Grey, SVP and GM of FOX Sports Interactive.  “It’s these types of multi-platform programming experiences that deliver a new level of engagement for sports fans and also resonate with brand advertisers.”

Synthetic Interviews is a technology that allows users to ask questions and receive video answers as if they were engaged in a face-to-face conversation with a live person.  Specifically regarding this effort, one of the three NASCAR on FOX experts appears to answer the question or explain the term as though speaking directly to the viewer.  When the project is launched on

Sunday, over 300 terms frequently used during race coverage, such as wedge, marbles or camber can be explained by the FOX Sports Answer Man.  While not every possible question can be anticipated, items featured can be refreshed and updated based on demand.  

NBA All Star Weekend on TNT

TNT’s coverage of NBA All-Star Weekend festivities tips off Friday, February 15 at 9 p.m. ET with the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam. Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley will be courtside to call the action with Craig Sager reporting from the sidelines. Inside the NBA presented by Hyundai will follow with Johnson, Smith and Barkley.

The excitement continues on Saturday, February 16, when Inside the NBA presented by Hyundai tips off an exciting night at 5 p.m. ET. TNT guest analyst Magic Johnson and NBA Insider David Aldridge will join Ernie Johnson, Smith and Barkley live from the historic French Quarter of New Orleans. At 7 p.m. ET, TNT will present NBA’s Greatest Slam Dunk Contest: Airborne. Through first-person interviews of players and TNT announcers, ‘Airborne’ reflects on memorable NBA dunk contests and the host cities that served as backdrops to the dunks that made history. Beginning at 8 p.m. ET, TNT will televise exclusive live coverage of NBA All-Star Saturday Night presented by State Farm, which includes the Haier Shooting Stars competition, the Playstation Skills Challenge, the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout, and the Sprite Slam Dunk. The evening will be capped off by the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2008 presented on TNT by Old Spice Pro Strength at 11 p.m. ET/10:30 p.m. PT.

TNT’s All-Star coverage takes center stage on Sunday, February 17 at 8 p.m. ET with the 2008 NBA All-Star Game. Play-by-play announcer Marv Albert and analysts Doug Collins and Reggie Miller will be courtside with Craig Sager reporting from the sidelines.