Regional Roundup: NFL Week 17

All the Skittles in the world couldn't save Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle Seahawks from falling out of playoff contention, and that, combined with Cowboys/Giants being flexed to primetime, gives FOX a "single game" aura on Week 17.

It’s the final week of the regular season – and thus, the final opportunity to bring you a rundown of who will be calling what games on the last day of the 2011 NFL regular season – which actually falls on the first day of 2012. Go figure.

Week 17 is traditionally a gung-ho week in that both CBS and FOX have double-headers – save for the markets whose teams will be hosting a game, of course.

EARLY GAMES

CBS: With the NFL flexing many games possessing playoff implications into the late game window, it’s no coincidence that many of the games ending up (or staying) in the early game window don’t really have that much appeal – or they’ve lost a lot of the appeal that they might have had at least a month ago. Case in point: The New York Jets are now a longshot to make the playoffs after losing two straight games that they had a considerable chance of winning. Still, CBS is sending Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf to cover the Jets’ likely season finale in Miami, in a game that will be seen in roughly three quarters of the country. With the Texans clinching the AFC South division long ago, their game with the Titans is meaningless, but in a good way. Bill Macatee and Steve Tasker will call this game, which will be seen in the entire state of Texas; the entire state of Tennessee; and for some reason, Seattle, as well. Two of the reasons that the Texans were able to lock up the AFC South – the 4-11 Jaguars and the 2-13 Colts – will square off in Jacksonville; Spero Dedes and the venerable Steve Beuerlein will be handling this one; only the entire state of Indiana will see it, as well as Jacksonville. (Yes, they actually sold out another game!) And had Buffalo not lost seven straight games, perhaps their matchup with New England would have been flexed out to a later window – heck, maybe Gumbel and Dierdorf would have called it. Instead, CBS’ D-team of Don Criqui and Randy Cross will call this game, which will be seen in Atlanta, Oklahoma City and Portland, OR, in addition to the usual Northeast territories.

FOX: I suppose my previous statement about the early games in Week 17 not having enough spunk goes out the window with the announcement that FOX’s A-team, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, will be in New Orleans for the Panthers/Saints game. But they’ll possibly be witnessing some more history, as Drew Brees, one week (okay, six days since he last played on Monday Night Football) removed from breaking Dan Marino’s single-season passing yardage record, looks to build on that record – but it’s contingent on whether or not it will be a close game; figure if it’s a blowout on either side, Brees will be benched in preparation for the playoff run ahead. Though New Orleans could grab a first-round bye by the end of the day, so maybe Brees plays from start to finish. We’ll see – and if you’re in the bottom half of the country, or in the Northeast, chances are you will. Regardless, I’m sure Joe and Troy would rather be in East Rutherford to call the Cowboys/Giants game that will decide the winner of the NFC East, with the loser going home; alas, that was immediately flexed out to Sunday night to NBC, no sooner than a combination of the Giants beating the Jets, and Tim Tebow throwing multiple interceptions, took place. By the way, if you’re on the Eastern seaboard, you won’t be able to watch Panthers/Saints – you’ll be stuck watching the Redskins/Eagles game (aka the anti-NFC East championship game) being called by FOX’s F-team of Ron Pitts and Charles Davis; regardless of who wins this one, both teams will be going home. Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, where a strong Metrodome roof is a welcome sight these days, the Vikings host the Chicago Bears in what will be the season finale for both of these teams, as well; Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa will handle this one. Thom Brenneman and Brian Billick will be at Lambeau Field for the only game in the early window in which both teams could still be playing later in the month. We know the Packers have locked up everything but the kitchen sink; with that said, the Lions could be expecting a tame Packers team (pardon the pun) which could ease Detroit into the playoffs. And with the Lions actually being favored in this game, being played in Green Bay, even the Cowardly Lion thinks this Lions team has all the courage in the world to get a win. Finally, the 49ers visit St. Louis is what will likely be the final game for at least some major Rams personnel – the head coach and general manager have been rumored to be sent packing at season’s end – and Chris Myers and Tim Ryan will have the call.

LATE GAMES

CBS: Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself in anticipation of a future column subject, but have you noticed that ever since CBS won that wrestling match with NBC over who would air the Patriots/Broncos tilt, Denver has lost two straight games? And is it a coincidence that both of those games were called by The Eye Network’s top-tier booth of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms? Well, it just so happens that the duo will once again be calling a game in which the Broncos are involved, for a third straight week. Will it be three in a row in the “L” column, as well? We’ll find out, as the Chiefs, led by Kyle Orton – who, you may recall, had started the season with the Broncos – head to Sports Authority Field at Mile High to take on Tim Tebow and his crew. At the moment, Denver leads the AFC West, but a loss here, and it could possibly go to the Oakland Raiders – who are playing at the exact same time, against the San Diego Chargers, in a game that will be called by the legendary Marv Albert, and former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon. Figure that all but one team will be looking at the scoreboard – the Chargers will probably be looking at the clock on the scoreboard, because they can’t wait to get rid of Norv Turner and A.J. Smith. Also, the Cincinnati Bengals, who were able to successfully sell out a home game with a rare “two-for-the-price-of-one” ticket promotion – as long as it isn’t “ten-cent beer night,” right? – could successfully secure a wild card spot against the team that has all but secured a wild card spot themselves, the Baltimore Ravens. Both the Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers are tied atop the AFC North at 11-4 and are guaranteed playoff berths. And there’s a good chance that both of them will finish the afternoon at 12-4, because the Steelers will be playing the 4-11 Browns. By the way, Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts will be calling Ravens/Bengals, while Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots have Steelers/Browns. (Can’t forget the announcers; they’re the reason these posts were written in the first place!)

FOX: It might be a double-header week for both FOX and CBS, but it probably feels like FOX has the single game deal this week, what with one of the NFC games being shifted to primetime on NBC, and most of the games being played in the early game window. (Am I the only one who noticed how all eight AFC matchups on CBS were evenly divided between the two windows?) How bad is FOX’s Week 17 late game window? Only one of the teams in these two games – the Atlanta Falcons – even has a sniff of making the postseason. And considering they’re just off of a 29-point loss to the Saints, and their opponent is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are on what appears to be a 29-game losing streak, in any language, this could get ugly. And Dick Stockton and former Buccaneer John Lynch will call all the action – or lack thereof (sorry, Mr. Lynch). The other FOX late game sees Seattle – which had playoff implications up until last week – travel to Arizona; Sam Rosen and Chad Pennington will call that mess.

May you have a happy and healthy New Year. Thanks for reading!

Information from the506.com was used in this post.

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Auld Lang Sigh: Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against WIP Bigwig Another Black Eye For Sports Radio

A lawsuit filed against Marc Rayfield, who oversees several Philadelphia radio stations, including sports WIP-AM/FM, is yet another blow to sports radio in a year that has been totally out of bounds.

The former director of marketing communications for a Philadelphia news station is taking her former boss to court on grounds of sexual harassment.

Attorneys Samuel First and Christopher Wagner have filed a lawsuit against CBS Radio’s entities in New York and Philadelphia on behalf of their client, Shelley Kanther, who claims she endured a “highly offensive, discriminatory environment and culture at CBS Philly.” Kanther was fired from her position at KYW Newsradio 1060 in Philadelphia, an action that she thinks is “in retaliation for… complaints” about the “degrading and extremely upsetting” atmosphere that she and co-workers experienced while working at the top-rated all-news station in Market No. 7. “No remedial action of any kind was ever taken” at KYW, according to the lawsuit, “despite Ms. Kanther’s repeated complaints.”

Specifically identified in the lawsuit by Kanther is CBS Radio Philadelphia Senior Vice President and Market Manager Marc Rayfield, whom Kanther dubbed “one of the worst offenders” during her tenure at KYW.

In addition to KYW, Rayfield also oversees five other radio stations in the cluster, including WIP, which has been broadcasting a sports format on AM 610 for close to a quarter-century – and just this past fall, added a simulcast on 94.1 FM; the station now brands itself as “SportsRadio 94 WIP.” This is actually Rayfield’s second go-round working at WIP: in the early 1990’s, he had previously served as the station’s local sales manager when it was owned by Spectacor Broadcasting. He was hired in the same capacity by KYW in 1992, and worked his way up to station manager. Later, KYW owner CBS Radio merged with subsequent WIP owner Infinity Broadcasting, and Rayfield had assumed responsibilites for WIP.

I could go into detail about some of the graphic “locker room behavior” that is described in Kanther’s lawsuit, but I won’t. I’ll actually direct readers here. And when you read the alleged comments and actions depicted in the lawsuit, consider this quote from the same lawsuit picked up by this source:

“… Kanther once complained about the discriminatory treatment to another female employee, who in turn told Kanther that the harassment was par for the course, and that ‘that’s always how it has been here’…”

One wonders if WIP employees experienced the same “highly offensive” environment that Kanther has while at KYW. I myself am not alleging, nor confirming, that a similar workplace exists or has existed at WIP. But knowing that Rayfield manages five radio stations – actually, four, when legendary rock station WYSP flipped to a simulcast of what was then known as “Sports Radio 610” and is now known as WIP-FM, though AM 610 occasionally airs programming different from 94.1 FM at times – the immediate thought is whether or not the same behavior can be found in the work environments of all of the radio stations under Rayfield’s watch.

Not to single out WIP specifically, but when you read about the alleged tawdry goings-on at KYW, anyone familiar with Philadelphia radio may immediately ask themselves, “Is this business as usual at WIP?”

In fact, we are coming off of a year in which sports radio personalities have engaged in regrettable behavior, on and off the air. This past spring, former ESPN Radio 1000/Chicago personality Jay Mariotti, who is also seen on ESPN, was arrested in Los Angeles for assaulting his girlfriend. In August, nationally syndicated host Tony Bruno referred to Giants pitcher Ramon Ramirez on Twitter as an “illegal alien pitcher” after a pitch hit a Philles player, ensuing in a benches-clearing brawl. Just this week, we witnessed another lesson in how not to use Twitter as a sports radio personality, as Pittsburgh’s Mark Madden took an unwarranted shot at all women by instructing a female listener to “get in the kitchen, have a kid, dance ’round a pole.” (While the radio station Madden works for has an alternative music format, Madden has a strong sports background.) And, of course, there was the recent fallout with Albany sports radio host Bruce Jacobs and his comments about the WNBA which invoked gay slurs, which was first reported right here on sportsrants.com.

2011 also saw another lawsuit being filed, this one specifically against a sports radio station. Back in March, Jen Royle, reporter for Baltimore’s WJZ-FM “105.7 The Fan” – which is also owned by CBS Radio – hit rival sports station WNST, and its owner and main radio personality, Nestor Aparicio, with a defamation lawsuit stemming from comments Aparicio made on the air about Royle, including, among others, “that she looks like a stripper.” As you can imagine, radio station WNST, like its owner, Nestor, is nicknamed “nasty.” (Royle would drop the lawsuit right before Labor Day.)

And now, this latest lawsuit against one of the people in charge of one of the most well-known sports radio stations in the country.

Again, I’m not holding WIP or any of their personalities accountable. (Even former WIP host Mike Missanelli, who now holds down afternoon drive on rival WPEN-FM “97.5 The Fanatic.”) Yes, the lawsuit revolves around another radio station Rayfield oversees.

But to borrow an old adage, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Name-calling. Gay-bashing. Drunk-tweeting.

These are just some of the examples of things that sports radio can do without.

With all of the ugliness that has taken place amongst the sports radio landscape in 2011, what does 2012 have in store?

Hopefully, more on X’s and O’s, and not so much, T & A.

X Marks The Misogyny: Pittsburgh Sports Radio Host Demands Women "Get In The Kitchen, Have A Kid, Dance 'Round A Pole"

On Twitter, Mark Madden lashed out at a female listener - and then some - and deleted the tweet seconds later. He blamed his "radio character" for his angst.

Here we go again, folks.

For just the second time in a week, a veteran sports radio host has taken an ugly shot at women.

Like Bruce Jacobs, Mark Madden has a track record of divisive comments, in one case resulting in his being fired from a radio station.

But unlike Jacobs’ on-air shot at lesbians (and the gay community, for that matter) in mocking the WNBA, by incorporating gay slurs into reconfigured “team names,” Madden’s offense was off-air – but it was aimed at all women in general.

On Tuesday afternoon, a woman named Lacey Brunell who represents ThePensBlog.com had expressed her hate for Tim Benz, who hosts the morning show on WXDX-FM “105.9 The X” in Pittsburgh. The radio station not only carries Penguins hockey play-by-play, but they also have a 24/7 broadcast called “Penguins Radio,” available on WXDX’s HD Radio HD-2 subchannel.

When Madden, who hosts afternoons on WXDX, got wind of Lacey’s remark, he responded to her via Twitter, under his handle @MarkMaddenX. What ensued for about an hour was a back-and-forth between Madden and Lacey, using the handle @ZbynekGirl. Unfortunately, we only have one side of the conversation because, in an unforeseen turn of events, Lacey, for reasons unknown, deleted her Twitter account. So all that is available are Madden’s tweets to the now-defunct @ZbynekGirl account from Tuesday, including one in which he claimed she “[swore] like a longshoreman and babble[d] like a maniac”, and another where he dared Lacey to “call my bosses… get me fired or suspended.” Though one source reports that Lacey had referred to Madden as a “fat f**k”, and in another tweet, had told Madden that his “life is one big pathetic excuse.”

Regardless, Madden – like Jacobs exactly one week before him on his “104.5 The Team” radio show in Albany – crossed a line. It came when he addressed the following in a response to Lacey: “Look, you’re a girl, so… you know nothing, and your opinion is useless. Get in the kitchen, have a kid, dance ’round a pole, something.”

Madden deleted the tweet within seconds – but not before screenprints of the tweet ended up being forever recorded in Internet lore, via websites such as ThePensBlog.com and others.

Meanwhile, at around the time the “dance ’round a pole” tweet was struck from the record, Madden had written two additional tweets directed toward Lacey that were also degrading to women – and remain on the @MarkMaddenX Twitter account at press time. “You don’t matter,” one tweet partly reads, followed by the hashtag “#GetInTheKitchen.” That was followed ten minutes later by this gem: “Well, I haven’t been pulled off the air yet. You must not be as influential as you thought,” which is punctuated by the hashtag “#BarefootAndPregnant.”

But wait, there’s more. Dennis Lamme, market manager of Clear Channel Pittsburgh, calls Madden’s social networking repartee “unacceptable… completely inappropriate and out of line.” Lamme added that “appropriate measures will be taken to ensure that this does not happen again.”

“Appropriate measures” – like what, cut off one of his fingers?

Now, if Lacey did have an ax to grind with Mark Madden, then perhaps it is only fair for Madden to grind back at her – but her only. That should not be an opportunity to use her as a model for stereotypes. Once you start telling a woman things that (in his mind) the average woman should be doing, that opens it up to every single female of the human race, and not just the one you’re arguing with – and not even face-to-face, for that matter.

Madden did issue a statement and an apology in an email to Jezebel.com. He claims that Lacey “has always been abusive” toward him, and admitted he “got a bit carried away playing my radio character, which is a TV wrestling bad guy.”

Is Madden’s own ego that hideous that he has to resort to playing a “radio character” on the air? Ask The Greaseman how that “radio character” business worked out for him – just don’t mention Lauryn Hill to him, though.

Regarding his misogynistic tweets, Madden wrote: “I owe women in general an apology. Maybe not [Lacey]… I’m not sure I owe an apology to anyone who calls me a fat f**k.”

Certainly, it doesn’t make it right that Lacey addressed Madden as a “fat f**k”. But that shouldn’t give Madden the opportunity to try and “one-up” her. And if this is how a radio host responds to a person using his name in vain on Twitter, you can imagine how he’d deal with someone who cussed him out at a Penguins game.

And to top it all off, this Mark Madden misogyny incident goes down just one week after Bruce Jacobs’ homophobe episode. Not that I’m comparing the two situations, but there’s several parallels to these two individuals. Madden’s employer, Clear Channel, once hired Jacobs at KFYI in Phoenix, and as you read last week, even they could stand his diatribes for so long before giving him the boot.

In May 2008, Madden, then the afternoon host on “1250 ESPN” in Pittsburgh, noted the terminal health condition of Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, and said on the air that he had hoped Kennedy “would live long enough to be assassinated.” ESPN at first suspended Madden for that remark, and eventually fired him – but he wasn’t on the sidelines for long: WXDX would pick him up just months later.

In another twist of irony, the radio station in Albany that Bruce Jacobs works for – on which he made those gay-bashing, WNBA-mocking comments – is affiliated with ESPN.

Should Jacobs be sent packing in the Capital Region, one wonders if he’ll suddenly develop an appreciation for pierogis and Sidney Crosby overnight.

By the way, today – December 29 – just happens to be Mark Madden’s 51st birthday. Maybe he’ll finally get a birthday gift that he can use – a brain.

Or maybe he can settle for a new “radio character”?

Happy birthday. Clown.

Chucky Ram Tough? Gruden Could Bolt "MNF" Booth For NFL Coaching Job

I neglected to watch the end of the season finale of “Monday Night Football,” in which Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s single-season passing yard record, and in the process likely gave ESPN its most-watched football game (even dating back to when they had the “Sunday Night Football” franchise) in network history – if not the best of the entire season (let’s hear it for the Jaguars). So could anyone tell me if, when the three-man booth of Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden signed off last night, mumbled under his breath, “Meet me in St. Louis”?

An article published late Monday night by the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Gruden would tag along with the new general manager that would be hired by the St. Louis Rams at the conclusion of this season. Writer Kevin Acee projects that both the Rams, as well as the publication’s hometown Chargers, will both dismiss their respective head coaches and general managers, those being Steve Spagnuolo and Billy Devaney (Rams) and Norv Turner and A.J. Smith (Chargers). Acee then cites “league and agent sources” with the news that Smith would then be hired in the same capacity with the Rams, and also “bring along Jon Gruden as head coach.”

Acee also cites unspecific sources as saying Gruden “has decided to return to coaching in 2012 and that his current employer, ESPN, is already preparing for his departure.”

If this is indeed true, Gruden will not honor a single game in the five-year extension that he signed just this past October to remain in the “Monday Night Football” booth; the extension would have taken effect next September. The good news for ESPN is that the network won’t be stuck paying Gruden a salary, should he decide to return to the NFL sidelines: there is an out clause in the contract extension that allows Gruden to leave the network with the intention of being hired for an NFL coaching vacancy. The out clause is also good news for Gruden too, in that he doesn’t have to be married to the “Monday Night Football” booth and fulfill a commitment for a half-decade, when he would much rather enjoy coaching the games that he’s been providing color commentary for over the past three seasons – and earning two Sports Emmy nominations in the process.

So again, I ask: Did Gruden show any disinterest at all in any point of the Saints/Falcons Monday night contest? If so, I wouldn’t blame him, but looking ahead to your next opportunity, especially when you haven’t even been hired yet, is a lot like an NFL team with a winning record looking ahead to the playoffs, but falling to a lesser team in a game on the field. I trust Gruden has shown the same attention to the game that he’s shows for close to fifty Monday night games thus far.

Of course, Gruden did not provide a comment about the possible head coaching vacancy in St. Louis – perhaps Spagnuolo still holding that position might have something to do with that.

There would be two key factors that would throw weight against the possibility of Gruden becoming the 26th head coach of the Rams franchise: Gruden and A.J. Smith have been good friends since the late 1990’s; Bruce Allen, a close friend of Gruden, had introduced Gruden to Smith back when the two were working for the Raiders. Also, the Rams’ current COO and executive VP of operations is Kevin Demoff, with whom Gruden worked for three years in Tampa Bay – where the coach affectionately known as “Chucky” due to his resemblance to the creepy talking doll from the “Child’s Play” films, brought the Buccaneers their first and only Super Bowl championship.

Regional Roundup: NFL Week 16

When was the last time a regular season football game in which a network’s No. 1 team was instilled to call its action, was blacked out locally?

Well, if it never happened before, history will be made this weekend, as CBS sends their “A” team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, where the Bills, losers of seven straight games after a promising start, host the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos, with one Tim Tebow under center. Make no mistake, Tebow is the one and only reason for the presence of Nantz and Simms at the game. (Did I mention the Bills have a seven-game losing streak?) Keep in mind that the Week 17 Sunday Night Football game has yet to be scheduled, but regardless of any games that may have playoff implications by then – should there be any – NBC is expected to flex the Broncos/Chiefs game, which may have some strong playoff implications itself… let’s just say NBC brass are going to be secretly rooting for the Chiefs to beat the Raiders, and the Lions to upend the Chargers on Christmas Eve… just sayin’. So you really can’t blame CBS for sending Nantz and Simms shuffin’ off to blacked-out Buffalo for one more guaranteed dose of Tebow Time. (Buffalo has lost seven in a row!)

Thus begins our penultimate rundown of regional action in the 2011 NFL season. May you and yours have a festive and healthy Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or what have you.

FOX has the double-header this week.

EARLY GAMES

CBS: In addition to the blacked-out Tebowmania affair in upstate New York, the rest of the games on CBS’ early game slate are all divisional matchups. Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts will be in New England to call the Dolphins/Patriots matchup – you can bet had Tebow not been starting or, heaven forbid, were injured, Nantz and Simms would be calling this one. It bears mentioning that, upon the Broncos/Bills matchup being blacked out in Buffalo, the CBS stations in nearby Rochester and Syracuse switched to the Dolphins/Patriots game. Remember, the Patriots beat the Broncos just last week (in a game that could have been seen on NBC) ending a winning streak for Denver and Tebow… But this is not a case of WROC and WTVH playing favorites; because Rochester and Syracuse are within the 75-mile radius of Buffalo, they cannot show Broncos/Bills and must choose another game. Speaking of other games, Baltimore hosts Cleveland; that game will be handled by Spero Dedes and Rich Gannon. Meanwhile, Gannon’s old team, the Raiders, travel to Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs try to capitalize on their huge upset over the Green Bay Packers, derailing their perfect season; Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots will be in Kansas City for that one. And Bill Macatee and Steve Tasker host a rematch of the season opener between the Jaguars and Titans in Tennessee.

FOX: It’s the “Subway Bowl” – or, since the location is New Jersey, maybe it should be the “PATH Bowl”. Either way, New York’s Jets and Giants will square off as if they were the Jets and Sharks from “West Side Story.” Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa will cover this Gothamic game in East Rutherford, NJ. Also on the early game docket for Fox: The Rams take on the Steelers, still favored by two touchdowns despite the reported absence of Ben Roethlisberger due to injury; Dick Stockton and John Lynch will be at Heinz Field in a game that will likely find St. Louis playing a lot of “catchup”… get it? Usually, when you think Thom Brenneman calling an Arizona/Cincinnati game, you think Diamondbacks/Reds. It’s actually Cardinals/Bengals – but he’ll take it, as will Brian Billick. Meanwhile, Chris Myers and Tim Ryan will be in D.C. to call the Vikings/Redskins game. And in the lone divisional matchup offering on Fox’s early game slate, it’s the late-season-swooning Buccaneers traveling to Charlotte to take on the Panthers; that game will be called by San Rosen and Chad Pennington (think Chad would rather be calling Jets/Giants?).

LATE GAMES

CBS: The lone late game on CBS’ Christmas Eve plate will see the Chargers in Detroit to tame the Lions, in a game that will be called by Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf. This is kind of a bizarro reverse of last week; Fox’s only Week 15 late game involved the Lions and another West Coast team, but it was in Oakland. Chargers/Lions will be seen by about 35% of the country, including Los Angeles – apparently, KCBS is picking “Feliz Norv-idad” (hat tip to Tom Waddle for that phrase) over Tebow Time. By the way: noticeably absent from this week’s batch of CBS games is Marv Albert; here’s hoping he enjoys his holiday weekend… perhaps watching his brother call the New York/New York game on Fox.

FOX: Twitter neophyte Joe Buck will be in “Jerry World” in Dallas with Cowboys legend Troy Aikman for an NFC East showdown between the Eagles and the Cowboys, two teams that are both fighting for their playoff lives. The result of this game, as well as Jets/Giants earlier in the day, has major implications on the Giants/Cowboys game in Week 17, and perhaps the Eagles/Redskins finale if Philly is still in the hunt. (That said, NBC is also likely secretly rooting for the Cowboys to sew up the division this week, so the decision to flex Tebow, er, Broncos/Chiefs into primetime in week 17 will be an easier one.) The other late game in the Fox window is another divisional matchup, in which the NFC West-leading 49ers could eliminate the Seahawks from the playoffs – but they’ll have to do so in Seattle. Ron Pitts and Charles Davis will call this game from Qwest Field.

Information from the506.com was used in this post.

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year: MSG, Other Broadcasters Play Hardball With Cable Operators

A group of people representing Madison Square Garden is showing defense against a rival team.

And the funny thing is, the NBA season has yet to get underway.

No, I’m not talking about the New York Knicks, whose season tips off on Christmas Day against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden. I’m talking about an entity known as MSG Media, which controls networks including MSG Network and MSG+, which carry live games involving the Knicks, all three local NHL franchises (Rangers, Devils, Islanders) and other area teams. MSG Media is controlled by Cablevision, one of the major cable operators in New York, which up until last year, wholly owned the Knicks for more than a dozen years.

And now, MSG Media (Cablevision) is in the midst of a contract dispute with another major cable operator in New York, Time Warner Cable. MSG is asking for an increase upwards of 50% for the right to carry the sports networks – which is, by far, a huge difference from the “6.5 percent rate increase” a Time Warner Cable spokesperson claimed MSG was “in agreement” with, until they regened the deal earlier this month, and implored Time Warner to “pay fair and reasonable rates that are consistent with what other providers pay for our programming.” MSG argues that the current contract with Time Warner Cable was signed back in 2005, and given recent Knicks player signings including Carmelo Anthony, plus the recent renovation of the Madison Square Garden arena, whatever Time Warner Cable currently pays MSG is “way below what is currently market rate for our product.”

If the two sides cannot come to an agreement by January 1, Time Warner Cable may not deliver games featuring the aforementioned teams to the New York metropolitan area, plus Sabres hockey to upstate New York subscribers.

It doesn’t help matters that Time Warner has discontinued carrying Fuse, a MTV-knockoff (except that it actually airs music programming most of the time) which is operated by MSG Media. Time Warner reportedly paid as little as eight cents per subscriber per month for Fuse, whose popular programs include “Video On Trial” and “The Hip Hop Shop.” It also doesn’t help that MSG is running advertisements encouraging viewers to cancel their subscription with Time Warner Cable, and sign up with another area cable operator to ensure that they will continue watching Knicks and Rangers contests.

But what will happen when MSG’s contracts with other area cable operators is near expiration? Yep, they’ll more than likely run the same dog and pony show again – all at the expense of the cable subscriber.

The fact that a broadcast or cable network is demanding higher rates – usually retransmission fees, in the case cof broadcast networks – from a cable operator or satellite provider is nothing new. That these contracts usually go into effect on January 1 and expire on December 31, makes these skirmishes a familiar practice around New Year’s Eve. Just last year, Time Warner was involved with a contract negotiation dispute with the Sinclair Broadcast Group; the year before saw Time Warner go toe-to-toe with Fox, jeopardizing subscribers with the possibility of not being able to watch NFL playoff games, as well as other Fox network staples such as “Family Guy” and “New Girl.”

Cablevision is no stranger to these battles themselves. This past fall, they, too, were engaged in a dispute with Fox that threatened to black out World Series games to Cablevision customers. And in the spring of 2010, there was the infamous war between Cablevision and ABC/Disney, which led to ABC flagship station WABC in New York yanking their signal from Cablevision at around 12 midnight on March 7, 2010 – the day the annual Academy Awards telecast was scheduled. Right before pulling their signal, WABC ran a scroll on the bottom of the screen under the show it was airing, “Lost,” that was actually visible to all viewers of the station. “Cablevision has betrayed you again,” the scroll read. “First HGTV and Food Network, now you’ve lost ABC7.” The Cablevision/ABC skirmish came on the heels of another dispute, this one pitting the cable operator against Scripps Networks, owner of the two networks referred to in the WABC on-screen scroll. The Cablevision/Scripps squibble led to HGTV and Food Network being absent to Cablevision subscribers for three weeks starting on New Year’s Day 2010; the WABC outage lasted no more than 24 hours, as a deal was reached prior to the Academy Awards broadcast on March 7, 2010 (Philadelphia-area Cablevision subscribers were also affected by this episode, as the ABC station in Philly, WPVI, like WABC, is also an ABC owned-and-operated station).

As time passes and the ever-expanding cable universe gets even larger, and the cost of carrying sports content also increases, broadcasters will waste no time demanding an amount of money from a cable operator for their product, an amount which the operator, and usually its subscribers, deem an unfair and astronomical price. And while the operator may announce that they would not give into the broadcaster’s outrageous demands because it is not in the best interest of the subscriber, putting subscribers in the position of seeking a new operator to continue watching live sporting events is also not in their best interest.

That’s what makes the MSG/Time Warner Cable dispute so interesting – because MSG is owned by Cablevision. So we’ve got two cable giants going at it over the holiday season. And when the iconic ball drops in Times Square on January 1, we should know by then if both sides reach an agreement, or if either of them drop the proverbial ball.

Subscriber be damned.

Out Of Bounds: Sports Radio Host's Right-Wing Past Catches Up With Him

A veteran radio talk show host is in hot water for anti-gay comments made on his local program on a sports talk radio station in Albany, NY.

Bruce Jacobs, who had become the afternoon drive host on Townsquare Media-owned WTMM, known on-air as 104.5 The Team, this past September, was engaging in a discussion about women’s basketball, specifically, the WNBA league. He had referred to the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury franchises as the “Los Angeles Lesbians” and “Phoenix Dyke-ury,” respectively. (For the record, there is not even a WNBA franchise in Albany, NY; the closest franchises are located in the New York metropolitan area, the New York Liberty, and the Connecticut Sun team at Mohegan Sun in southeastern Connecticut.)

Jacobs’ anti-gay comments were first reported by sportsrants.com’s own Anthony DiMoro, via the website’s weekly “Rantin’ And Ravin'” radio program. DiMoro, along with co-host Katy Mitchel, expressed disgust with Jacobs’ choice of words, to the point that Jacobs was being compared to Howard Stern and other “shock jocks.”

Jacobs told the Albany Times-Union’s Pete Dougherty that he would issue an apology for these comments on his radio show on Wednesday. “I will not apologize by saying, if I offended someone,” he said, “I will apologize for even saying it.” Meanwhile, he admitted on the station’s Facebook page late Tuesday night, “if I felt I made a mistake, I would apologize.” And while he dubbed his WNBA barbs “dumb, sophomoric and amateurish” to the Albany Times-Union, he wrote on 104.5 The Team’s Facebook page, “I personally don’t think it was a gay slur.” Also, a Facebook page asking for Townsquare Media to fire Jacobs from WTMM quoted him as saying to a listener on his personal Facebook profile, “Actually, I didn’t say ‘dyke,’ I said, ‘Dykyury’ as in Mercury, so you didn’t hear it.”

What the casual sports radio listener may not know is that Jacobs has not only been a sports radio host. While in Phoenix, he had dabbled in conservative talk radio as the morning man on KFYI (Fox Newsradio 550). His low point was in the summer of 2008, in which Jacobs presented a diatribe against the widow of a Phoenix police officer, Nick Erfle, killed by an illegal immigrant in 2007. Upon the cop’s widow, Julie, announcing she was in support of “comprehensive” immigration law reform, Jacobs likened her stance to having “amnesty for all illegal immigrants”, adding that the next time a cop is killed, she should be blamed for it. The rant even drew the ire of Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts – who, like Jacobs, is a staunch conservative. Local police have even attempted to lead a boycott of Jacobs’ show in the wake of his comments.

Jacobs was eventually fired by KFYI in June 2009. Program director Smokey Rivers called it “a business decision” based on low ratings. Though Rivers made it a point that KFYI “is often controversial” and “controversy doesn’t scare us,” he said of Rivers’ firing: “We think we can do better.”

Bruce Jacobs resurfaced on Sporting News Radio, now known as Yahoo! Sports Radio, in 2010, before joining the local sports radio station in Albany, NY, affiliated with ESPN Radio.

At one time, Jacobs also worked for Fox Sports Radio. He even co-hosted a sports radio show in Phoenix with Mike Golic, who is now one-half of ESPN Radio and TV’s successful “Mike And Mike In The Morning.”

But maybe what Bruce Jacobs really wants to do is get back to the attacks on President Obama and anti-immigration rants that he was accustomed to on KFYI.

Maybe if 104.5 The Team decides to be a team player and dismisses Bruce Jacobs, he can have that opportunity.

We think they can do better.