The year in sports media 2012
Newsday's Neil Best looks back at 12 of the more memorable moments in sports media involving New York players and personalities.
WELCOME, TIM TEBOW!
Even at the time, it seemed over the top. In retrospect, it looks even sillier. On March 26 Tim Tebow, the Jets’ new backup quarterback, met the New York media in a Super Bowl-style (and Super Bowl-sized) news conference at the team’s practice facility while the owner, GM and coach were away at the NFL meetings. Tebow said the event wasn’t his idea. But he did use variations of the word “excited” several dozen times. Nine months later, he was less so.
The fan and media frenzy around Jeremy Lin was notable not for any one moment but for its ability to sustain itself over a memorable three-week stretch in February during which the Knicks guard was featured in some form on the Newsday sports section cover each day. He also made the covers of two consecutive Sports Illustrateds. And the American media mania was tame compared to that in his ancestral homes of Taiwan and mainland China.
FINISH LINE FOR MARATHON
Whether the news media just reflected public opinion or helped to stoke it, there was no denying withering criticism of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York Road Runners Club eventually prompted the mayor to change course and cancel the New York City Marathon. From Mike Francesa on WFAN to scathing coverage by tabloid newspapers, a consensus quickly built: It simply was too soon after superstorm Sandy to be running for fun through the city’s streets.
MIKE AND THE MAD DOG, REDUX
For 20 manic, memorable minutes on WFAN on Tuesday of Super Bowl week, Mike Francesa and Chris Russo held an impromptu reunion on Radio Row in Indianapolis. Later, Francesa went on Russo’s program on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. The two caught up on sports news, and on each other, in their first on-air meeting since the 2009 ALCS. It was all in good fun, but caused fans of their old show to get their hopes up for a permanent reunion. Don’t count on it.
FRANCESA TO TURN DIAL?
On the first business day of 2012 Mike Francesa told Newsday he is leaning toward leaving WFAN at the end of his contract early in 2014. His deal originally was to expire at the end of 2013, but he extended it to include the leadup to the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium. Francesa has not said anything publicly on the subject since then, but there does not appear to be any sign of an imminent extension. His ratings remain strong more than four years after his split with Chris (Mad Dog) Russo.
MIKE FRANCESA DOZES OFF
Three Mike Francesa items on a 12-item list?! You’d understand if you saw what Big Mike does to our page views. In September he appeared to doze off on the air (as seen on his YES simulcast) while listening to Sweeny Murti talk about the Yankees. The incident got huge attention, so Francesa explained that he had been up late the night before because his son was ill. But rather than poke fun at himself (and/or of Murti), he grew defensive and denied he fell asleep.
ANOTHER YEAR FOR JOHN AND SUZYN
The Yankees announced in August they would keep their games on WCBS-AM for at least one more season, and thankfully added that the colorful, polarizing duo of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman would be back as the team’s radio voices. Beyond 2013, though, radio rights to both local baseball teams are up in the air - as are John and Suzyn - with ESPN expected to put up a serious fight to wrest at least one of the teams from CBS Radio.
LOCAL SPORTS TALK GOES FM
In 2012, both ESPN New York and WFAN moved to the FM dial, which the industry considers far more appealing than AM. ESPN made the leap first to 98.7 FM, turning over its weak former signal at 1050 AM to Spanish-language sports talk. WFAN began simulcasting on 101.9 FM but didn’t abandon its old 660 AM location. For now, WFAN will be heard on both outlets, but CBS someday could use the AM station for its new national sports radio network.
ELI VISITS ‘SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE’
Eli Manning had turned down invitations to host “Saturday Night Live” before, but after winning his second Super Bowl ring, he decided to follow in his brother Peyton’s footsteps and did the job in May. It didn’t surprise anyone given his laidback personality that Eli did not quite live up to Peyton’s high comic-acting standards. But he did have his moments, notably in a pre-recorded piece about little brothers getting revenge against their older siblings.
TOUGH TIMES FOR REX
There may be no New York sports figure whose image suffered more in 2012 than Jets coach Rex Ryan, who began the year intending to tone down his bluster and shtick, which he did. But he was affected by the Tim Tebow debacle to the point that by late 2012, he was being accused of evasions at best and fibs at worst. He did have a great line about Greg McElroy’s 11-sack start at QB: “When he wasn’t on his back, I thought he did some good things.”
ESPN GOES GA-GA FOR TEBOW
ESPN’s long obsession with Tim Tebow – including live reports from training camp in Cortland – led to criticism both inside and outside the company. Finally, the president of the network, John Skipper, acknowledged in an interview with Sports Business Journal that he had instructed producers to back off. Not that Tebow had stopped being a ratings magic wand, but because Skipper felt a more journalistically sound perspective had gotten lost in the Tebowmania.
MICHAEL JOINS KELLY
Throughout his long career with the Giants, Michael Strahan seemed destined to find a successful post-player life on television. And so he has as a Fox NFL studio analyst. But he has expanded his reach far beyond sports, both as a commercial pitchman and most notably by landing a gig replacing Regis Philbin alongside Kelly Ripa as a morning chat show co-host on ABC. It was a wildly counterintuitive casting move, but so far it has clicked with an audience that is primarily female.
NFL NETWORK COMES TO CABLEVISION
The NFL Network’s long climb to wider distribution reached a significant milestone in August when it announced a carriage agreement with Cablevision, which owns Newsday. Adding Cablevision enabled the network to gain far more visibility in the New York area, which had been a longtime source of frustration for the league and its TV outlet. The deal also gave Cablevision customers access to the NFL RedZone Channel.