ESPN Blocks The Vote, Rejects NASCAR Driver's Ad Allegedly Due To "Religious Overtones"

ESPN, which airs all NASCAR Nationwide races, informed Nationwide driver Blake Koch that they have rejected an ad featuring his likeness due to "religious overtones." Yet they have no problem airing commercials featuring devout Christian Tim Tebow (inset). ESPN has since backtracked and claimed his "personal religious beliefs played no role".

Blake Koch is a very talented driver. He made his debut in the NASCAR Nationwide Series last year, and finished in the top 20 in four races, enough to rank 18th overall in 2011. Currently in his second season, Koch rounds out the top 20 after five Nationwide races. Not too shabby. The kid’s obviously got a bright future.

Unfortunately, his future in publicizing voter registration awareness is not off to a good start.

The website RiseUpAndRegister.com has affiliated itself with Koch in encouraging “the entire NASCAR nation to rise up and make our voices heard this election.” A quote from Koch on the website reads, “Over half of all race fans didn’t bother to vote in the last election. I know I was one of them.” He’s spearheading a promotion where, if you join Rise Up And Register via text, you’ll be in the running to win a Chevrolet Camaro, which Koch even promises to “deliver… myself.”

There is a 30-second advertisement promoting the cause, the contest, and of course, the website.

Koch and crew hoped that the advertisement would run on ESPN, whose family of networks carry coverage of the Nationwide circuit all season long. Much to Koch’s chagrin, ESPN waved a caution flag.

On Thursday, ESPN released a statement stating that they rejected the ad, saying it “did not meet our guidelines in regard to advocacy messaging.” The Worldwide Leader also claims “Koch’s personal religious beliefs played no role in our evaluation.”

But Koch is claiming otherwise. Koch told Bob Pockrass, NASCAR journalist for Scene Daily, which has been officially rebranded as the NASCAR section of SportingNews.com, that he had been informed way back on February 24 “that they weren’t going to air the commercials due to political and religious overtones… particularly on the BlakeKoch.com website.” (The “Rise Up And Register” spot was uploaded to YouTube on February 29.)

As a result of ESPN’s refusal to run the ad, Pockrass is also reporting that the organization “has now decided to stop sponsoring the Rick Ware Racing car.” Though, as of post time, references to Rise Up And Register (including photos of Koch donning gear bearing the organization’s logo) appear on Koch’s website, and of course, likewise on Rise Up And Register’s website. And Koch tweeted today that Rise Up And Register would honor their commitment to sponsor 20 races and “they are trying [their] best to make that happen.”

Koch also appeared on Fox News Channel’s morning show and played audio of a voice mail left by Rosa Gatti, ESPN Senior Vice President of Communication, who explained it “was declined for poitical and religious overtones which we avoid by all of our standards.” Note that the spot does not make a single reference to religion or Christianity, yet ESPN, according to Gatti, believes that they “do see the religious aspects of” the campaign by looking “at Blake’s website.”

The ESPN employee’s voice mail is a complete contrast from the official statement ESPN issued last week citing his “personal religious beliefs played no role” in their decision to deny the spot.

Oh, I see. So maybe it would only be a conflict of interest because President Obama makes regular appearances on ESPN.

Yeah, right.

Let’s take a closer look at Blake Koch’s website. Part of his bio reads, “Blake’s ambition is to promote God back into the American family.” On the “Outreach” page, it promotes appearances that Koch plans to make at churches in cities where upcoming Nationwide races are scheduled to take place. And did you see one of the T-shirts that Koch is selling? It reads “For One Nation Under God.” Additionally, a link on the bottom right of the Rise Up And Register website asks visitors to “bring Blake Koch to your church!”

Likewise, Koch made no secret of his belief in his Christian faith when he appeared on Fox News. “One thing I will not do is deny my faith just because a particular sponsor might not like the way I express my faith… I didn’t think that my faith in Christ would have an impact on whether or not a sponsor could air a commercial or not.”

Whether the Worldwide Leader is playing a game of “CYA” or not with their statement issued on Thursday, the bottom line is that Blake Koch learned straight from the source that “religious overtones” played into ESPN’s decision not to air Koch’s ad for Rise Up And Register.

This is the same ESPN that has devoted hours upon hours of coverage to another outspoken Christian athlete – you probably heard of him… His name is Tim Tebow.

The same Tim Tebow that ESPN devoted not one, but two special editions of “SportsCenter” to.

The same Tim Tebow whose introductory New York Jets press conference aired, not only on ESPN, but in stereo on ESPN2 – with a tweeting Skip Bayless as a subwoofer.

And the same Tim Tebow whose commercials endorsing the energy drink FRS have ran on, you guessed it, ESPN.

Let’s pay a visit to FRS’ website, shall we? We already know what “religious overtones” to expect when we go to Tebow’s official website. Ah, there it is: Tim Tebow’s personal profile on FRS.com, which, in the middle of the page, has a shameless plug for the Tim Tebow Foundation, which “utilizes the public platform that” – wait for it – “God has blessed Tim Tebow with to inspire and make a difference in people’s lives throughout the world.” There it is! A reference to Tebow’s Lord and savior Jesus Christ on FRS’ website! Who knew? (By the way, FRS: You may want to update that part on your Tebow page about him being the “starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.”)

Does anybody know if Rosa Gatti or anyone from ESPN decided to take a look at Tim Tebow’s website, or perhaps his profile on the FRS website before airing the Tim Tebow FRS commercial? We wouldn’t want ESPN viewers to be fed any “religious overtones” if they saw that commercial, would we?

There’s a reason why you get over 2 million search results if you Google “ESPN” and “hypocrites”: because the Worldwide Leader is guilty of so many double standards. They won’t promote politics or religion unless it benefits them. In fact, when ESPN fired longtime “Monday Night Football” theme crooner Hank Wiliams Jr. after his controversial appearance on Fox News Channel, many were quick to point out ESPN’s political bias.

While there are no signs of Koch’s political preference on his personal website, when he says, “over half of all race fans didn’t bother to vote in the last election” – an election in which Democrat Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain – and concedes that “I know I was one of them”, and is now the face of a campaign encouraging all of “NASCAR nation” to “rise up and register” to vote in this year’s election, some people could draw their own conclusions. Especially when you consider ESPN’s decision to not accept Koch’s advertisement, yet they fawn all ower Tim Tebow – who has been seen in the same room as President Obama (just sayin’).

And here’s the kicker: In the ultimate sign of disrespect to Blake Koch, not only is Rise Up And Register not listed as his main sponsor on ESPN’s website, he’s still listed as a driver for Chip Ganassi Racing – and the driver of a Dodge, to boot. Somebody please alert ESPN that Blake Koch has joined Rick Ware Racing and now drives a Chevrolet – and he’s going to give one lucky race fan his or her own Chevy Camaro if they sign up for Rise Up And Register – on second thought, just tell them that he’s joined Rick Ware Racing.

Blake Koch. The latest in a long line of people to which ESPN owes a major apology – for another bout in a recurring disease known as hypocrisy.

UPDATE: Jerry Wilson of Examiner.com is reporting that not only did ESPN reverse its decision not to run the Rise Up And Register spot, but it was the organization’s “failure to fulfill its financial obligations to ESPN” that is the main reason why the spot was not run on their air. Additionally, the group “has failed to make payment to Rick Ware Racing for sponsorship of the car” – this likely lends creedence to Koch’s earlier tweet that both sides were working to “make that happen.” Stay tuned.

Could Free Agent Keith Olbermann Step Up To The Plate And Join MLB Network?

With the news that former ESPN, NBC and FOX Sports personality Keith Olbermann has parted ways with Current TV, there may be a chance that, after concentrating on political news content for the greater part of the last nine years, he may go back to his sports broadcasting roots and resurface on MLB Network or CBS Sports Network.

Former sports broadcaster Keith Olbermann is once again out of a non-sports broadcasting television job.

His political news program “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” which he had hosted for nearly eight years at MSNBC, has been canceled by Current TV after just nine months, and fifteen months after Olbermann joined the network. According to The New York Times’ Brian Stelter, who broke the story, Current severed ties with Olbermann after citing that he has violated the channel’s “values” as “an authentic progressive outlet.” Olbermann’s program content on “Countdown’ reflected his Democratic political leaning, which conformed with the demographic of Current, and MSNBC before it. (Both networks’ programming is mostly of a progressive political persuasion.)

There is a saying: When one door closes, another one opens. Perhaps there’s a chance that Keith Olbermann could return to sports broadcasting – provided there are any takers.

Such a move would bring Olbermann’s career full circle. In the late 1970’s, while he was concentrating on academics at Hackley School and Cornell University, he had dabbled in those schools’ radio stations. He would get his first round of face time when he joined the upstart CNN in 1981, where he would anchor sports updates. For the remainder of the 1980’s, Olbermann would hold sports anchor jobs in radio and television, in top markets such as New York, Los Angeles and Boston.

It was at ESPN where his star flourished in the mid-1990’s. His pairing with Dan Patrick was said to be the most popular “SportsCenter” anchor era of all time. That would come to an abrupt end in 1997, when former colleague Craig Kilborn, invited Olbermann to appear on his new Comedy Central program, “The Daily Show.” At the end of the segment, Kilborn did a “Five Questions” bit with Olbermann. One of the questions was: “What is the most God forsaken place on the East Coast?” Olbermann’s answer: “Bristol, Connecticut.” That counted as a correct answer, at least on the show. But not in the Worldwide Leader’s eyes. And it didn’t help that Olbermann’s appearance on “The Daily Show” was not authorized by ESPN. Olbermann would eventually leave ESPN later that year. (Kilborn would voluntarily leave “The Daily Show” in 1999; the show has since been hosted by Jon Stewart.)

In the dozen years that followed, Olbermann would work odd sports jobs at other outlets: his three-year relationship with FOX included a weekly program on FOX Sports Net. His tenure would come to an end in 2001 when he reported on FOX about rumors that the Dodgers were being sold by owner Rupert Murdoch, which also owns News Corporation, which owns FOX. (Murdoch would sell the team to Frank McCourt, who sold it to a group including Magic Johnson just this week.) He provided daily sports commentary segments for ABC Radio. And he spent three years as a co-host of NBC’s “Football Night In America” from 2007 to 2010.

As Olbermann donned his sports broadcasting hat, he would also work, at times simultaneously, in news journalism. When he left ESPN in 1997, he started a nightly program on MSNBC that was originally titled, “The Big Show with Keith Olbermann.” The next year, at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal involving former President Bill Clinton, his program has focused on “Intern-Gate”, much to his chagrin. It was at that point that he left MSNBC for FOX.

Olbermann would return to MSNBC in 2003 to host “Countdown.” As he verbally sparred with FOX News Channel host Bill O’Reilly – whose “O’Reilly Factor” aired opposite “Countdown” – and President George W. Bush, during and after his second term, he would become one of cable news’ most polarizing personalities. Despite that, NBC signed him as a co-host for their “Sunday Night Football” extended pregame show, which recapped the NFL games played earlier that day. When NBC brought his old pal Dan Patrick on board, it was just like old times, if only for once a week: The duo would spark “SportsCenter” nostalgia in the hopes that it would help the ratings of “Football Night,” which were never stellar, especially when airing opposite late games that went into overtime, or, simply, prime time. (You will recall “Football Night” also hired one Tiki Barber.) Olbermann would be removed from the program in 2010, at the behest of his bosses at MSNBC, over concerns that the extracurricular NBC program was a distraction; clearly, “Countdown” had been Olbermann’s bread and butter.

Later that fall, it would be revealed that Olbermann had sent $2,400 in campaign contributions to three Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2010 elections, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who, unfortunately, resigned her seat over a year after she was tragically shot in the head. When MSNBC learned of this, they had suspended Olbermann indefinitely. Like his appearance on Comedy Central years ago, his political contributions were not authorized by management of the network signing his checks. Olbermann and MSNBC would part ways in January of 2011.

Olbermann was hired by Current TV in February 2011 with the title of “chief news officer”. The channel, co-owned by Al Gore, who served as Vice President under Clinton in the 1990’s, would relaunch “Countdown” in June 2011. Despite a “rocky relationship” with network brass, the former veep would give Olbermann a vote of confidence. (Sports fans: You already know how valuable votes of confidence are in sports.) Apparently, the situation between the anchor and the network came to a head, as Current abruptly severed ties with Olbermann this afternoon.

Already, many are wondering what the next stop for Olbermann will be – if at all.

Based on this recap of his career in news and sports broadcasting, it may give the impression that he’s not a good employee when the cameras are off. Certainly, Olbermann has been notorious for burning bridges with his former employers. So you can already cross a few media entities off the list: ESPN/ABC (where he didn’t just burn bridges, “he napalmed them“); FOX (especially if it’s still under Murdoch’s watch; Murdoch himself was once quoted as calling Olbermann “crazy”); and his most recent cable news employers, Current and MSNBC.

The very post that you’re reading may be a case of deja vu. When Olbermann left MSNBC last year, there were many speculating whether it would be possible for Olbermann to return to sports broadcasting. Of course, back then, there were two fewer cable sports networks at the time. CBS Sports Network launched in April 2011, with NBC Sports Network following on the day after New Year’s Day 2012. And incidentally, word on the street this week is that FOX is planning to launch a new general cable sports network. Obviously, FOX’s new network is not an option, and it isn’t even on the air yet. But it certainly is not out of the question for Olbermann to resurface at CBS Sports Network, or perhaps, even NBC Sports Network: remember that in 2011, Olbermann was discharged by MSNBC, not NBC or NBC Sports; it was MSNBC that ended his association with NBC Sports. And I don’t recall Olbermann trashing NBC in the wake of his departure from MSNBC, so there is a possibility he could appear on NBC Sports Network – but it’s not a lock.

The lock in this instance would be CBS Sports Network. With all of the many stops on Olbermann’s storied resume, his only employment for CBS was at the network’s owned-and-operated Los Angeles station, KCBS, in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. Also, he has a good friendship with CBS late night host David Letterman. That in and of itself would be a huge endorsement for Olbermann’s future at CBS, if not CBS Sports Network. CBSSN could benefit from a huge name; they’re already going all in with Jim Rome, the former ESPN program host whose new show on CBSSN launches next week. Olbermann might bring a slightly higher demographic to CBSSN than Rome, but he brings experience and a wealth of knowledge to the table. Olbermann could be best suited for a baseball-themed show. He’s maintained a blog (endorsed by Major League Baseball) going back to the days when he balanced football on NBC and politics on MSNBC. In fact, he just posted a new blog entry previewing the season ahead for the American League East just hours before his departure from Current TV was made public.

Which leads to another possibility of a future television employer, and perhaps a more likely landing spot: the three-year-old MLB Network. They, too, could use Olbermann’s vast knowledge and star power. A nightly highlight show in the vein of “SportsCenter” would be ideal. In case you missed it, the title of his MLB-sanctioned blog is “Baseball Nerd.” He’s even authored baseball-themed stories on “Countdown.” An Olbermann/MLB Network marriage would benefit both sides. And it wouldn’t be Olbermann’s first appearance on MLB Network: He had appeared on the January 12 edition of “Clubhouse Confidential“. And given his political penchant, it didn’t take long before posters on a thread promoting the appearance on MLB Network’s Facebook page started mentioning the likes of Ron Paul and Rush Limbaugh.

Of course, of concern to any future employer, such as CBS or MLB Network, is Olbermann’s history of “burning bridges” and excess baggage, but most importantly, his political patronizing over the last decade. There are thousands of videos on YouTube of Olbermann’s old MSNBC shows, specifically his popular “Special Comment” segments, in which shades of anger are regularly exhibited, that could turn a network off, depending on what clip they were looking at. But it’s not his fault. When he chose to delve into a political news niche, that was a decision that he believed in, and he gained a loyal following from his days at MSNBC. Because Keith Olbermann may be known in recent years as a bridge burner, and an anger spewer on television, it should not ensconce the days of sports broadcasting that put Keith Olbermann on the map.

While mollifying his political pep may be a requirement if hired by a sports outlet, such as CBS Sports Network, it’s possible Keith Olbermann may find it in his heart to do so.

This is obviously contingent on whether or not he wants to return to sports broadcasting in the first place.

But there could be a couple of opportunities knocking in the form of CBS and MLB Network – and I’m sure Keith’s got a few more innings left in him.

UPDATE: Since this blog was first posted, there’s been new developments: As Olbermann vowed to take legal action against Current over breach of contract, Current claims Olbermann himself was in breach of contract by missing “19 out of 41 working days” over the first two months of 2012 alone (did we mention his appearance on MLB Network was in January?); apparently, network management was incensed when Olbermann asked for another vacation day in March and, despite not being an approved vacation day, he took it anyway.

Incidentally, I wonder if Olbermann had asked Current about taking a vacation day for this upcoming Thursday, April 5 – that’s when he will once again be reunited with Dan Patrick for a live seminar at New York’s Paley Center titled “Twentieth Anniversary Of The Big Show: Keith Olbermann And Dan Patrick Together Again.” It will be moderated by Jim Miller, co-author of the book “Those Guys Have All The Fun: Inside The World Of ESPN” – and already, his Twitter followers are taking bets on whether or not he’ll show up. Stay tuned.

FOX Sports To ESPN – And Magic Johnson: Game On

Sources say FOX is planning to launch a new national cable sports network, perhaps as soon as this year, with ESPN in its sights. Revenue from such a network could offset high sports broadcast contracts, potentially if they were to land a new deal with the Dodgers, now partly-owned by Magic Johnson (shown here from his old show "The Magic Hour" on FOX TV).

Get ready for another sports cable network with intentions of national distribution.

On the heels of CBS transforming its College Sports network to CBS Sports Network, and subsequently, NBC replacing Versus with NBC Sports Network, FOX is planning to launch its own sports network – and they’re gunning for sports behemoth ESPN (or if you prefer, the ABC sports network).

Anonymous sources revealed that FOX’s parent owner, News Corporation, “is assembling the required rights from pay-TV carriers and sports organizations,” and clearly has the Worldwide Leader in their crosshairs.

To ignite this battle with ESPN, FOX is going to add fuel to the fire – that is, Fuel TV, the action-sports oriented network currently cleared in about 36 million homes – or less than a third of the available cable households.

Keep in mind, FOX also owns other existing sports cable networks with different niches: FOX Soccer Channel; FOX College Sports; Big Ten Network; and SPEED, which specializes in auto racing, especially NASCAR: SPEED airs original live pre-race and post-race programming every race day. In addition, FOX operates dozens of regional sports cable networks across the country, either under the name “FSN” or “Root Sports”; their existences on the cable dial are usually buoyed by local sports broadcast contracts.

Currently, Fuel TV specializes in UFC-oriented programming; the network landed rights to the mixed martial arts sport just last year. This year, Fuel TV’s logo changed to a font that looks strikingly similar to the one used by UFC for their logo. Fuel TV also carries motocross programming which, if need be, could easily move over to sister cable network SPEED.

Word of FOX’s plans to launch their own version of ESPN came no less than 24 hours after a group featuring NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson successfully placed a bid for ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. The Dodgers’ current television contract with FOX Sports West/Prime Ticket – the great Vin Scully still going strong at 84, by the way – expires after the 2013 season. After locking up lucrative long-term contracts with the Texas Rangers and Anaheim Angels, at $3 billion and 20 years each, for their respective regional sports cable networks, FOX will be chomping at the bit to lock up a like deal with the Dodgers. Or, Johnson and the rest of the new Dodgers ownership could choose to start their own regional sports network, likely a partnership with the popular cable operator in Southern California, Time Warner Cable.

Points of irony here: Last year, Time Warner struck a twenty-year deal, effective this fall, for two new local sports channels (English and Spanish) with exclusive broadcast rights to the Los Angeles Lakers – Johnson’s former team. Johnson was once a FOX employee, though for a rather forgettable project: the short-lived late-night program, “The Magic Hour.” And Johnson currently is an NBA analyst with ESPN – the very entity that FOX is now going up against.

If FOX is able to ink a new long-term deal with the Dodgers, with a figure that potentially could trump both the Angels and Rangers deals combined, the revenue generated from a traditional sports network in the vein of ESPN could offset some of these high rights fees in the long run.

But first, FOX has to set the table. They have to make pitches to sports teams and leagues for live content. They should continue coming up with new ideas for original programming (perhaps a daily show a la NBC Sports Network’s “NBC Sports Talk,” or NFL Network’s “Total Access,” or, of course, ESPN’s “SportsCenter”). But above all this, they must nail down double, if not triple, the availability of the canvas of the new channel, which, while there is no official word, is expected to be Fuel TV – especially if, according to a source, the new network “could begin service by the end of this year.”

One thing is for sure: You won’t find “Magic Hour” reruns on the new FOX sports network.

Third Time's A Charm: Giants, Cowboys To Kickoff 2012 NFL Season, Play Third NBC Game In Nine Months

The NFL has announced that the Dallas Cowboys will square off against the New York Giants in the 2012 season "kickoff game" on Wednesday, September 5. This will be the third time in a row that these teams will be playing on NBC, and the third year in a row that the Cowboys will open their season on NBC.

A month ago, we told you that the 2012 NFL season would be kicking off on a Wednesday night. And, of course, it would involve the world champion New York Giants.

Now, we know who the first opponent in the Giants’ defense of their 2011-12 championship will be. It’s a familiar one. And it is a division rival.

But it won’t be the Washington Redskins, who opened their season with the Giants for the previous two seasons.

Instead, it’ll be the Dallas Cowboys. That’s right: for an unprecedented third time in a row, the Giants and Cowboys will be playing a regular season game on NBC. Their first regular season matchup of 2011 was not until Week 14, with their Week 17 contest flexed into “Sunday Night Football” given the “win and you’re in” factor of the game.

And now, these teams will be playing the first NFL game to be played on a Wednesday night in 64 years.

So it shall be the Giants opening the 2012 season against a team they swept last year (Cowboys), as opposed to the Redskins, who despite their 6-10 record, managed to win both games against the Giants in 2011.

No matter how much apathy you might exhibit at this decision (and there’s been quite a few on my own Twitter timeline after the announcement was first made), it was the right decision.

Considering the Redskins were players (albeit not favorites, but on the radar) in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, had the former Colts quarterback headed to the Nation’s Capital, you can bet that it would be the Redskins, and not the Cowboys, opening the 2012 season, for the simple fact that it would be Peyton, barring a setback in his neck surgery recovery, against his little brother Eli, who has now won twice as many Super Bowls as his older brother. Of course, playing against his brother was a factor in Peyton choosing to stay in the AFC, and joining the Broncos.

And while Robert Griffin III, expected to be drafted by the Redskins, is as dynamic as the scouts say he is, he probably wouldn’t generate as much ratings gold as Tony Romo and company would deliver when they clash with the G-Men, as evidenced by their January 1 “playoffs or bust” showdown.

As for the Cowboys on NBC, the magic number is 3: Not only will this be the third consecutive time their game against the Giants will be shown on the Peacock Network, but it’s the third year in a row that the Cowboys have opened their season with a game on NBC. They hosted the Redskins on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 1 in 2010, and traveled to the Meadowlands to face the Jets in Week 1 last year. The Cowboys would lose both of those games.

And the odds don’t appear to be in the Cowboys’ favor for this year’s opener: The Super Bowl champion is a perfect 8-0 in the season “kickoff game” dating back to 2004. Throw in the Redskins’ win over the Jets in 2003, and you have nine years in a row that the home team won the “kickoff game.” (The lone road win was in 2002 by the 49ers; the team on the losing end of that one just happened to be the Giants.)

Also, as Inside Football’s Patricia Traina reminds us, the Giants have an astounding 5-1 record on games played on Wednesdays, including a perfect 2-0 in season openers played on “hump day.” (Note that these games were played way back in the mid-’20’s and early ’30’s.) This will be the first Wednesday game for the Giants in 78 years. (Efforting to get the last time, if at all, the Cowboys played a Wednesday game…)

The rest of the NFL schedule is slated to be released in the third week of April, possibly April 18 – though prior to, the league may share the matchups for certain games such as the trio to be played on Thanksgiving – the night game to be played for the first time on NBC.

But not before the first Wednesday NFL game since the merger is to be played on NBC.

Skip Bayless, Sports Emmy Nominee, Shown Live Tweeting Tebow Jets Intro Presser On ESPN2

 

While ESPN was carrying the Tim Tebow New York Jets introductory press conference, sister network ESPN2 showed it on a split screen with Skip Bayless from "First Take" tweeting his immediate thoughts about Tebow's thoughts. Compare that to NFL Network's much more humane coverage of the presser.

You probably missed the big lunchtime presser at the Jets’ fieldhouse introducing the new second-string quarterback phenomenon Tim Tebow. Maybe you DVR’ed it, like I have. And if you did, your choice of which network’s coverage to record might have been NFL Network, if your cable provider is privileged to carry it.

It’s days like today when more people may start to gravitate toward NFL Network for their football news, as opposed to ESPN’s family of networks. Today, ESPN proved why they are the Goofus to NFLN’s Gallant.

Like NFL Network, ESPN carried the Tebow press conference from Florham Park, NJ. But it was the coverage of the same press conference on ESPN2 – home of the daily “First Take” program featuring Tebow apologist Skip Bayless – that really drew everyone’s attention, for all the wrong reasons.

In a widely panned move, ESPN aired a split screen with Tebow on the top left, and Bayless in a window underneath him from the ESPN studio… tweeting! And the right half of the screen consisted of tweets submitted by Bayless for the duration of the presser.

“There’s a bird chirping inside the indoor practice facility,” read one tweet. “Even the birds are excited.”

I’m so excited, I’m about to vomit.

If this is an example of going overboard, then the Worldwide Leader is still drying themselves off tonight.

They say Tebow’s addition to the Jets could turn the team into a circus. Well, ESPN is the big top in the Tebowmania sports media circus. And it’s no secret that Bayless, recently nominated for a Sports Emmy award, is the number one Tebow fan in the entire world. In fact, there was a special edition of “First Take” last Friday night dedicated to Tebow joining the Jets. To show Bayless live tweeting the Tebow presser is the height of overkill.

Compare it to NFL Network, and their coverage. Their occasional split screens included footage of Tebow with the Broncos, Jets first-string (for now) quarterback Mark Sanchez, and Jets coach Rex Ryan (including the memorable clip where he threw his headset to the ground… an interesting selection when shown next to the cool and calm Tebow).

In fact, guess what the top story was on “Total Access”? No, not Tebow, but the rumor that Bill Parcells could be stepping in for the suspended Sean Payton for the Saints. Even co-host Lindsay Rhodes (nee Soto) acknowledged that it was “about the only story that could bump this one out of lead story status.”

NFL Network knows how to take a story or a talking point and not wring every ounce of worth out of it.

At least they didn’t show Michael Irvin sitting in a studio in L.A. tweeting about Tebow’s press conference.

And the fact that the “Skip Screen” of the Tebow presser was on ESPN2, and not ESPN, is beside the point. The fact that this idea was even fathomed by a cable network available in virtually all households, let alone executed, is ludicrous. ESPN basically gave the Tebow presser the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” treatment, albeit in tweet form.

Wouldn’t it just be more convenient for us to fire up our computers or smartphones and open the @RealSkipBayless feed as we watched the Tim Tebow press conference live? When did ESPN decide that they would be the arbiter of how we’re going to watch breaking sports news at it happens – in this case, through Skip Bayless?

Our only hope is that, when all is said and done, and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences comes knocking for inductees for next year’s Sports Emmy Awards, ESPN submits this footage from today to the Academy for their consideration.

Keep it Goofus, ESPN!

Warren Sapp Isn't Gone From NFL Network – But His Twitter Handle Is

What's wrong with this picture? Eagle-eyed viewers of NFL Network may have noticed that, while Warren Sapp has not been suspended after fingering Jeremy Shockey as the "snitch" of the Saints' Bountygate scandal, his Twitter likeness, @QBKilla, has been missing from his individual NFL Network chyrons since Thursday.

Regular NFL Network viewers this week may have noticed that Warren Sapp – an analyst who is officially an independent contractor with the network – remains on their air in the wake of being given a talking-to by network management after relaying alleged information from a “source” close to the New Orleans Saints bounty sanctions saga that former Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey (who spent the previous season with the Panthers and is currently a free agent) was the one who was the “snitch” on the whole thing.

In fact, much to the chagrin of Shockey – and many viewers who have let their feelings be known about the analyst on the network’s Facebook page – Sapp has appeared on NFL Network’s “Total Access” program for three consecutive days following the Twitter incident on Wednesday – including Thursday, the day he was reprimanded by the network for it.

However, you may have noticed there was something a bit different about his appearances on the network since Thursday – particularly in the network’s graphics.

That’s because the Twitter handle of Warren Sapp – @QBKilla – is no longer identified alongside Sapp’s name on NFL Network’s chyrons – while other NFL Network talent continue to have their Twitter identities branded on their individual chryons.

First, here’s a screengrab of Warren Sapp from Wednesday night’s edition of “Total Access” – mind you, hours after Sapp had appeared on the network earleir in the day to break down the “snitch” information he received:

Thursday. One day after Sapp went public with his “source” on Shockey. Not counting situations where he was identified along with other talent on the same shot, there were three different instances where Sapp was identified individually, with his Twitter handle nowhere to be found. We start with his appearance in the A-block, and his participation in a group discussion about whether or not newly acquired quarterback Tim Tebow can “coexist” on the Jets with former first-round draft pick Mark Sanchez. Torry Holt’s chryon included his Twitter handle @BigGame81. Michael Irvin – who has appeared to have taken a Twitter sabbatical for all of 2010 and 2011 – is also identified by his identity on the social networking site, @MichaelIrvin88. As for Warren Sapp’s chyron, the red area where Holt’s and Irvin’s Twitter names were displayed, in lieu of @QBKilla, it just read, “NFL Resume”:

Compare that with this still from an appearance also from Wednesday’s installment of “Total Access”:

At the bottom of the hour, Sapp authored a telestrator piece depicting how the Jets would be using Tebow “in the red zone… all year long.” Once again, his name is not accompanied by his Twitter handle:

And in the penultimate segment of Thursday’s edition of “Total Access,” Sapp was asked by co-host Kara Henderson how the signing of defensive end Mario Williams would impact the Buffalo Bills, in a “State Of The Franchise” segment on the team. Yet again, @QBKilla was nowhere to be found:

Friday. Yet another debate about the Jets’ quarterback situation was featured in the A-block of “Total Access.” This time, the program decided to “go Brady Bunch” (using a term from co-host Andrew Siciliano from the segment) with Sapp, Brian Billick and Jamie Dukes in answering the question, “How should Mark Sanchez… respond” in the wake of Tebow’s addition to the Jets roster. Viewers would see Dukes’ name alongside his Twitter handle @JamieDukes on his individual chyron, and Billick’s chyron branded with his Twitter identity @CoachBillick. But not before Sapp and yet another chyron sans @QBKilla:

And then there’s Saturday. The weekend edition of “Total Access” consists mostly of replays of the top segments from the past week, but usually is led off by a pre-recorded A-block – which Sapp had appeared on. Yet again, the Twitter handle on his chyron was MIA:

No doubt, the removal of Sapp’s Twitter identity from his individual chyrons on NFL Network is related to his being reprimanded by the network for labeling Shockey a “snitch” for Bountygate. But it leaves us with several questions: Whose idea was it to disassociate Sapp’s Twitter handle from how he’s identified on NFL Network’s air? Was it somebody from network management who suggested it? Perhaps it was a request from Shockey himself (though if he had his druthers, he’d rather see him off NFL Network’s air entirely)? Or was the network responding to viewer reaction? Which leads to another question: Is it because Sapp’s Twitter handle is @QBKilla that the network yanked any and all mentions of it from his on-air graphics? Or is it mainly because Sapp’s outing of Shockey as the alleged Bountygate “snitch” initially happened on his Twitter account? (Recall that one of the network’s higher-ups had vehemently distinguished that Sapp used “his personal Twitter account” to relay the “snitch” information, and “not on NFL Network or any platform related to NFL Media.”) And the obvious question: Is NFL Network’s removal of Sapp’s Twitter handle temporary? In other words, will we see the return of @QBKilla mentions on NFL Network’s air once this situation with Shockey dies down?

We attempted to contact NFL Network through NFL.com, but there is not even an option on their website for leaving a comment or a question related to their television programming, though there is an option for inquiries about “radio”.

I’m actually surprised that after three days, I’m the first person to notice this – and it’s concerning to me mostly because it gives the impression that a darn good program like “Total Access” isn’t getting the viewership it deserves – but should.

One thing’s for certain: At least for the time being, NFL Network has an on-air talent other than Tom Waddle without a Twitter handle attached to their chyron!

Miami Alum Dan Sileo Is Talking Trash About Miami Alum Warren Sapp For Ratting Out Miami Alum Jeremy Shockey

Recently displaced from his gig as Tampa Bay sports radio host, Dan Sileo is finding ways to make his free time useful, like, picking a fight with University of Miami alum Warren Sapp, because he claimed that fellow Miami alum Jeremy Shockey was the "snitch" in the whole Saints "Bountygate" thing.

Remember how Warren Sapp got flak for reporting via his “source” that it was Jeremy Shockey, former Saints tight end most recently with the Panthers, who blew the whistle on the Saints “Bountygate” scandal?

Well, one person isn’t taking it sitting down. That person is newly unemployed Tampa Bay sports radio host Dan Sileo, who takes pride in his education at the University of Miami – so much so that he became incensed that one Hurricanes alum would throw a fellow Hurricanes alum under the bus.

“What a piece of SHIT Warren Sapp is,” he tweeted on Saturday, adding, “I spoke to some Saints coaches… WOW!”

Maybe if Sileo had credited “sources” like Sapp did, his claim might have held some water. (Not that we’re discrediting it.)

Sileo later responded to a follower that “Sapp pisses all over” his affiliation with the University of Miami.

That’s when Sapp trolled Sileo a little.

“Mad you can’t measure, little fella?”, Sapp asked.

Sapp had another question for Sileo, who informed another follower that he had attended Miami for two years: “Couldn’t pass the test to attend all four years?”

Sileo never responded to Sapp on either tweet directed to him. Yet Sileo found plenty of time to respond to his other followers… talking about things like… Warren Sapp.

Oh, and at one point, he claimed that “I was NOT FIRED for [that] monkey comment. I was [fired] because I refused to listen to CC [Clear Channel].”

Makes us wonder if Sileo would carry out this feud with Sapp on Twitter had he still been on the radio in Tampa.

Here’s a few screenshots of the Sileo/Sapp feud, along with replies from other tweeps.