[Weekly Rundown] Muhammad Ali tributes; Uncle Verne and Joe Buck; a Christian rocker comes out; what is tronc?

Today, we’re sports-heavy – honoring The Greatest, more Baylor fallout (now featuring Mississippi State), and sports broadcasters accused of bias. That, plus a Christian rocker comes out, social media faces censorship, and something called tronc.

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Muhammad Ali died Saturday night. If you only knew him as a boxer, I hope you’ll take all the tributes as an opportunity to learn more.

The news broke as I was finalizing this week’s rundown, but people more attuned to great sports writing have been curating your must-reads. I recommend this list from Don Van Natta and Jacob Feldman’s Sunday Long Read newsletter.

From a sports media perspective, ESPN did something I can’t recall seeing before. They went live in the wee hours Saturday with their top journalistic talent. Bob Ley and Jeremy Schaap anchored a SportsCenter that was relaxed in pace, letting both men and their guests share longform stories about Ali. Deadspin, who loves to hate on the Worldwide Leader, offered praise, and captured a 12-minute segment for you to watch. SI’s Richard Deitsch has the behind-the-scenes look at how the late-night broadcast came together.

This probably isn’t your first time to see the photo at the top of today’s post. It was taken by Neil Leifer for Sports Illustrated in 1965, and remains one of history’s most iconic sports photographs. Many stories have been written about it since. Here’s a longread by Dave Mondy published about a year ago that explores the photographer and the fighters he captured. Continue reading “[Weekly Rundown] Muhammad Ali tributes; Uncle Verne and Joe Buck; a Christian rocker comes out; what is tronc?”

[Weekly Rundown] Hulk v Gawk gets a Bond villain; New NFL media policies; Bad headlines

Hulk Hogan’s legdrop on Gawker is tainted by outside interference, Baylor gets busted, the Buffalo Bills block beat reporters, and SEC fandom exposes problems for a local newspaper following a media conglomerate’s process. That, plus paying to sit at a park, that guy with the water bottle, and more.

Summer means my return to semi-regular blogging! Join me as I experiment with a weekly rundown of stories I found interesting.


Was Hulk Hogan a pawn in a billionaire’s vendetta against a media company? It’s not a wrestling storyline. This week, we learned that Hogan’s lawsuit against online tabloid Gawker was anonymously financed by Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist who was a co-founder and CEO of PayPal and sits on the Facebook board of directors. Why? Because Gawker outed Thiel as gay in 2007. Continue reading “[Weekly Rundown] Hulk v Gawk gets a Bond villain; New NFL media policies; Bad headlines”

What was Clickworthy in 2013

Back when I had time to blog, I’d occasionally write quick comments about popular topics circulating around the Internet, usually highlighting one article, essay, or video in particular that had an especially interesting or useful take on said issue. I labeled the posts “Clickworthy,” and if you search for that tag, you’ll find them.

If you follow me on Twitter (which you should!), you know that the Clickworthy principle captures most of what I do there. But alas, 140 characters doesn’t leave much space for introspection (or even a summary).

So, in the spirit of the overused year-end list, I have combed through a year of Tweets to present to you a lists of links that promise to be entertaining, informative, sometimes both, and occasionally neither. Without further ado, What was Clickworthy in 2013.

Clickworthy 2013 Features:
Boston Marathon Bombing  |  Surveillance, Snowden, and the Press

Continue reading “What was Clickworthy in 2013”

NCAA hammers Penn State with ‘near-death penalty’ after Sandusky coverup

The Penn State football program won’t be relevant again until the third decade of the 21st century after it got hit with the most severe long-term punishment in the history of the NCAA.

NCAA President Mark Emmert bypassed the normal bureaucratic snares. No formal investigations, no review process, no appeals. After Penn State’s own internal (yet independent) Freeh Report unveiled widespread knowledge and concealment within the athletic department of Jerry Sandusky’s molestation of children, Emmert had heard all he needed to hear. Action needed to be taken.

Monday, Emmert announced that the Penn State football program would face:

  • A four-year postseason bowl ban (including the Big Ten Championship Game and the playoffs beginning in 2014)
  • A loss of 10 football scholarships a year for four years (Division I schools are normally allowed 85 scholarship players at a time, and may recruit up to 25 scholarship players per year.)
  • The waiving of the Division I transfer restriction for all current players (including the incoming class of 2012), meaning that players can change universities without sitting out one year
  • A $60 million fine, which must be paid from football revenues, to establish an endowment to help victims of child sexual abuse
  • The vacating of every Penn State football victory since 1998 – the year of Sandusky’s first reported molestation on the campus – a total of 111 wins removed from the record books

It’s arguably the most devastating punishment issued by the NCAA since 1987, when it shut down the football program at Southern Methodist University for a season and a half in response to the university using booster money to pay players. SMU football has never been the same, and the sanctions are now known as the “death penalty.”

The only reason I use the qualifier “arguably,” is because some argue the actions against Penn State are even more damaging because of their duration. It’s not important, but I disagree. SMU’s postseason ban was briefer, but the program lost more scholarships, had all kinds of recruiting restrictions, and didn’t even play football for an entire year. No revenues; no player development; no nothing. It’s not the same punishment, but it will set Penn State back at least eight years (the first time the team will be able to field a full team of post-sanction players is 2020) and that’s a heavy blow.

Today, the conversation is not over the merits of the sanctions – the judicial process has found Sandusky guilty and the Freeh Report has found Penn State administrators, including head coach Joe Paterno, complicit. Rather, it is the fairness of the punishment that inspires debate.

Continue reading “NCAA hammers Penn State with ‘near-death penalty’ after Sandusky coverup”

Sports blackout rules don’t fit Internet Age

In a society whose entertainment is increasingly Web-centric, it was only a matter of time before technology caught up with our desire for streaming video anywhere, anytime. For most, that now means Hulu and Netflix. For sports fans, the next generation arrived with ESPN360 ESPN3 WatchESPN (Reliable service; inconsistent branding). Loads and loads of sporting events from the worldwide leader. Stuff that was airing on ESPN or ESPN2, plus tons of smaller college and second-tier sports not televised anywhere. Watch it live, watch a replay, watch on your computer, on your TV, on your phone. The future is now! Unless:

“We’re sorry, this game is not available in your area.”

Ah, the regional blackout. Designed to protect television and radio networks from hemorrhaging audience share to competing outlets, thus insuring lucrative broadcast rights, blackouts are part of making the games work financially for all parties. Traditionally, it kept national broadcasters from airing games in the two teams’ hometown markets. So, if ESPN wanted to nationally televise a game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Detroit Tigers, they can do so. But, folks in Florida and Michigan wouldn’t be able to see the ESPN broadcast, because local television contracts require that the hometown broadcast be the only show in town. Same thing for the NBA, NHL, and major college athletics. There are exceptions, but you get the general principle.

(The NFL blackout policy is much worse. Comparable to a ransom, it further requires a team to sellout its stadium before a game can be televised in that team’s home market. You want TV? Buy up our outrageously priced tickets. At times, it has led to TV stations and advertisers buying up remaining seats at the league’s 72-hours-to-kickoff deadline.)

The Internet messed this up. People are becoming more accustomed to receiving content whenever and wherever they please. And they can… except when it comes to sports, where the old blackout rules carried over into the digital age.

Continue reading “Sports blackout rules don’t fit Internet Age”

[Clickworthy] How the media may have already doomed Jerry Sandusky

Diogenes would have an easier time finding an honest man than one who honestly presumes that Jerry Sandusky is innocent. In part, after his shockingly incriminating interview with NBC, Sandusky has himself and his lawyer to blame for widespread presumptions of his guilt. But before he ever sat for the interview, the former assistant football coach had been convicted in the press.

With the end of the semester approaching, I haven’t had enough time to blog lately. If I had, this is largely what I would have written. Wendy Kaminer’s piece on The Atlantic today highlights what happens when the world of sports journalism collides with a story far beyond the scope of sport.

I’m not one to demean sports journalists. After all, my out-of-class alter ego is a sports broadcaster. They are great at what they do, and what they do is far more than telling stories about brawny guys smashing into each other or trying to hit a ball with a stick.

But the Jerry Sandusky story is not what sports journalists do. When the narrative moves off the football field and into the courtroom; when people charged with, but not convicted of, crimes await their fair trial… sports journalists aren’t the best to preserve due process.

Bob Costas would be the exception. His phone interview with Sandusky – a remarkably ill-advised move by the former Penn State Defensive Coordinator – was as uncomfortable as it gets. And, let’s face it, Sandusky did not portray himself in a good light at all. Still, Costas never broke. He never made it sound as if Sandusky was already guilty; his facial expressions didn’t even hint at condemnation or disbelief.

His colleagues have not performed as admirably, which Kaminer highlights in the article. I listen to the Dan Patrick radio show most days at work. Patrick, an Emmy-award-winning sports journalist who is as careful and slow to judgment as they come, has called Sandusky every name in the book, and suggests his guilt almost every hour. Patrick had Costas on his show the day after the phone interview, desiring to know how Costas really felt about Sandusky. Costas responded that he “Probably shouldn’t say. It’s a story I, and perhaps you, will be covering in an ongoing way.”

Patrick, like so many other people – never mind journalists – are emotionally impacted by this story. The accusations are graphic and sickening. The kinds of things that cause otherwise mild-mannered men to respond viscerally. We want Sandusky to pay. Except he hasn’t gone to trial. For all we know, he could be exonerated. Not that anyone would notice…

We have a special hate toward those who sexually abuse children, as we should. But we cannot go all Nancy Grace Mode and convict them in the press. What newspaper columns and talk radio shows and television programs around the country have done in the past week violate journalistic integrity and responsibility. Sandusky might turn out to be as guilty as the world thinks he is. But in our democracy, judge and jury convict, not some yahoo with a hot microphone and a hot temper.

[Clickworthy] Once again athletes, think before you tweet

If twitter were a loaded gun, no telling how many athletes would have shot themselves in the foot – or worse.

A great piece in this morning’s (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion Ledger by legendary sports columnist Rick Cleveland on the hazards of 140-character public statements by (particularly) college athletes. Included are eight maxims of Tweeting that everyone should be aware of, but so few seem to be (I’m looking at you, Mr. Weiner).

C.J. Johnson, a 5-star recruit heading to Ole Miss in the fall, was the latest public figure to not realize that he was one. SportsbyBrooks preserved a host of obscene tweets, many of them denigrating to women, and a few more relating to a new vehicle Johnson supposedly obtained during his recruitment period (the link is but one screenshot, and it does contain offensive language).

Johnson’s tweets aren’t uncharacteristic. High schoolers and college freshmen say stupid things. But until recently, they haven’t been said so publicly, which tends to become a problem when that everyday high schooler/freshman suddenly becomes a person of public interest.

His tweets are also part of a greater unfortunate trend among black Twitter users. Patrice J. Williams wrote a thoughtful article in January about the habits of the disproportionately large number of African-Americans on Twitter. She observes how “Black Twitter” serves to reinforce negative stereotypes about the community as a whole – and especially black youth. Johnson bears the weight, however misappropriated, of adding to that regrettable portrayal.

Johnson closed his Twitter account shortly after the story broke (he deactivated his Facebook account months earlier after getting into a public dispute with Mississippi State fans). Cleveland suggests that the potential star football player go further than that – to consider all of his words as just the type of public statements they now are, and to, perhaps a little sooner than the typical incoming college freshman, grow up.

See something in the news that you think is Clickworthy? Email Dylan.