Fred Gaudelli Justifies Keeping Underperforming Cowboys, Eagles On "Sunday Night Football"

“Sunday Night Football” producer Fred Gaudelli defends NBC’s decision not to flex out the Eagles/Cowboys game, despite both teams’ sub-.500 records. The rivalry between the two teams factored into it, as well as the Cowboys’ vast fan base.

This is a rare week in the NFL where there is no action in the NFC East division until the final two games of the week.

And before the New York Giants square off against the Washington Redskins on Monday night, the Dallas Cowboys will host the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.

Yes, the Cowboys, losers of five of their last eight games, including their most recent one on Thanksgiving, and the Eagles, who haven’t won a game since Week 4.

To borrow an old NBC slogan: Must-see TV.

Or is it?

Right before Thanksgiving, NBC announced that they opted not to flex out this week’s Cowboys/Eagles game on “Sunday Night Football.” This even as the teams involved in the game aren’t necessarily having their best seasons on the field. The Cowboys are bad, but the Eagles are far worse.

One might think that keeping this game, a game with a double dog of a pair of teams, in primetime, would be like polishing dog excrement.

And so, it’s up to “Sunday Night Football” executive producer Fred Gaudelli to put some lipstick on this pig.

He appeared on Angelo Cataldi’s morning show on WIP-AM/FM in Philadelphia and explained why mass appeal still exists for a game between two teams that initially was good on paper, but as the month of December starts, there’s a good chance that either one might mail it in.

And as much as the people in Philly didn’t want to hear it, a lot of it had to do with their next opponent.

“The Dallas Cowboys are akin to the TV series ‘Dallas’,” Gaudelli argued. “There’s just drama swirling constantly, no matter what it is.”

And team owner Jerry Jones? “He’s J.R., for a fact.”

And just like the old CBS drama that starred the recently departed Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing, viewers tune into Cowboys broadcasts in droves, due to the team’s national following across the country, as well as sports fans that thrive to see the proverbial Ewings foiled at their game.

“As many people who want to see them win,” Gaudelli admitted, “there’s probably twice as many people who want to see them lose.”

But the Cowboys aren’t the only NFC East team that’s a force to be reckoned with on “Sunday Night Football.” With this weekend’s tilt, the Cowboys will be playing their 21st Sunday night game on NBC; this is without counting the Wednesday night kickoff game this year, or the Cowboys/Eagles game played on Christmas night (a Monday) in 2006, or any playoff telecasts on Wild Card Weekend. The New York Giants have the second most appearances on Sunday night with 19; again, this is without counting NBC games played on other nights (the Giants had two midweek kickoff games) or weekend playoff games. The Philadelphia Eagles are right behind the Giants with 17 Sunday nighters on NBC; again, this figure does not count wild card playoff games, nor the aforementioned Christmas (Monday) night game, nor the “SNF” broadcast that was moved to a Tuesday night in 2010 due to inclement weather in Philadelphia. And with the exception of playoff games or a Thursday night kickoff game against the Giants, the Washington Redskins bring up the rear in NFC East representations on Sunday nights with just eight appearances – and mind you, those are all in a five-year span: After two home games on NBC in a six-week period in 2010 – and the first, unflexable half of the season, at that – the Redskins have not played on NBC over the last two regular seasons. And like the 2008 season opener, six of those eight Redskins Sunday night games were against division rivals.

In fact, during the “SNF” era, including season kickoff games, this weekend brings the grand total of regular season NFC East division matchups on NBC to 24. While the Cowboys have played the Giants on NBC six times thus far (including a span of three regular season games in five weeks), NFL schedule makers kept NBC in mind in regards to the Cowboys’ rivalry with the Eagles. With the exception of the 2008 season, at least one Cowboys/Eagles game was scheduled on NBC (in 2009, they lucked out and got two, including a playoff game in Dallas).

So it’s no surprise that NBC decided to stand pat with the Cowboys/Eagles contest scheduled on the network this year. Said Fred Gaudelli: “We think it’s still one of the best rivalries in the NFL.”

Mind you, both teams come into this game with sub-.500 records – including a streak of seven losses and counting for the Eagles.

“People associate them with winning,” Gaudelli said. “And unfortunately for them, the wheels have kinda fallen off the wagon this year.”

He thinks that a combination of the turmoil surrounding the Eagles, especially their lame duck head coach Andy Reid – who’s about five more losses away from being a gold lamé head coach – and the aforementioned “drama” that always follows the Cowboys makes for “a matchup that people would want to see… in a different kind of way.”

Despite there being a few games between teams with records above .500 (Bears/Seahawks, Packers/Vikings, Broncos/Buccaneers, as well as Ravens/Steelers, who were just on NBC’s air earlier this month) that might better pique viewers’ interest – and ironically, it was a Bears/Seahawks game in Week 11 of 2007 that was the first-ever game to be flexed out of primetime – NBC decided that a game between two teams with a combined total of eight wins would have “the most national interest, even though (it was) not for the reasons we would have thought… back in April.”

Granted, there are three games this weekend which pits teams that have a lower amount of combined wins against each other – but Oakland vs. Cleveland or Buffalo vs. Jacksonville just doesn’t have the same ring to it as Dallas vs. Philadelphia.

Of course, if on this week, NBC was scheduled to air, say, Dallas vs. Oakland, there’s a possibility it would have been played earlier in the day, as opposed to under the lights, and in primetime.

As Gaudelli explained, if the Cowboys were facing “a team with a lesser pedigree, we’d probably move out of the game, but we didn’t think there was good enough reason to [use flex scheduling].”

This isn’t the first time Gaudelli, approaching a quarter-century of producing NFL broadcasts, including “Monday Night Football,” as well as games on the previous home of Sunday night football, ESPN, has sung the praises of the “ratings punch” that the Cowboys can provide. “John Madden used to have a saying, ‘When in doubt, the Cowboys’,” he said in 2010. “I think that still holds true.”

This year, “Sunday Night Football” has consistently finished each week as one of the top-rated, if not the top-rated, shows watched. The Week 3 Patriots/Ravens game outranked the annual Emmy Awards broadcast, and the Week 8 telecast of a Saints/Broncos tilt got a better rating than the final game of this year’s World Series.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily prove that the NFL can plunk a Kansas City Chiefs/New York Jets game on Sunday night and expect ratings magic. But if NBC gets an equally sizable viewership for this week’s Cowboys/Eagles game, despite the fact that both teams may likely miss the playoffs, it’s a testament not just to both teams’ national fan bases (moreso the Cowboys) but to the network’s decision making when it comes to flex scheduling. It’s not to say that upper echelon teams are immune to flex scheduling: believe it or not, the New England Patriots have had the most games (three) flexed out of “SNF”, mostly due to the underperformance of the opponent over the course of the season (e.g. last year’s Patriots/Colts matchup, which really lacked its juice with Peyton Manning being inactive) – and one of those games were in 2008, the year Tom Brady missed virtually the entire season; so yes, this had a little to do with the Patriots, as well.

The Cowboys’ star running back, Demarco Murray, could return after missing several weeks; while they’ve seen many defensive players land on injured reserve. On the other side of the field, the Eagles – well, they’re a mess: Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy have been ruled out, and DeSean Jackson was just added to the “I.R.” this week.

Obviously, Nick Foles, Bryce Brown and Jason Avant aren’t household names.

And this Sunday night, they’ll all have mere walk-on roles in a brand-new episode of “Dallas” on NBC.

With Jerry Jones as J.R. Ewing.

Of course, it’s a little too late now to find out if J.R. Ewing the owner would fire J.R. Ewing the general manager.

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Mike Francesa Rips Bully At Yankee Game (Audio)

WFAN’s Mike Francesa complained about how he went to a Yankee game days after his infamous sleep-inducing interview, and endured a heckler harassing him “for nine innings… He rode me the whole game.”

The high point of 2012 for Mike Francesa was being named the number one personality on the first-ever “sports talk heavy hundred” list compiled by Talkers Magazine, which presents its popular “heavy hundred” list of regular radio talk show hosts each year.

And without question, the lowest point of the year for the WFAN/New York late midday/afternoon drive host was when YES Network cameras caught him sleeping during a segment.

Despite the clip going viral, and now fielding crank calls on his radio show jibing him about it on a regular basis as a result, Francesa still has his head held high and continues living his life off the air in the public eye.

On his radio show on Thursday, he confessed of an incident stemming from his big sleep, that lasted as long as a Yankee game.

In fact, it took place during a Yankee game.

Francesa recalled going to a game at Yankee Stadium, just days after his schmooze-and-snooze interview with Sweeny Murti, which would place him on the weekend of September 14-16, when the Yankees hosted the Tampa Bay Rays. (We’re guessing it was the Friday night game, when the Yankees lost; Francesa can be home team kryptonite.)

“There was a guy three rows behind me,” Francesa said. “He killed me for the whole game… He gave it to me for nine innings… He gave it to me… He rode me the whole game.”

Given the unique confrontational style that we’ve come to know from Francesa, one would expect him to react to the fan at the Yankee game – which could possibly turn into a bigger story about him than the one a few days before.

But Francesa took his lumps like a man, not once turning around to look at his heckler, or send his friend/driver Julio over to straighten him out.

“It comes with the territory,” he said. “It’s part of the deal, if you’re a public person.”

He also made it a point to be as conspicuous as possible during that week in September, just so he can put the fallout over him falling asleep behind him.

“I purposely didn’t go hide that week,” Francesa revealed to listeners. “I went out, because I said, ‘You know, I gotta get this over with.’

“That was an easy one,” he said of his decision to go to a Yankee game, and the vulnerability it presents after having fallen asleep during a tet-a-tet with Murti, WFAN’s resident Yankees reporter. “I knew it was gonna happen.”

Francesa added that it would be a different situation if the fan got testy with the host, or if members of Francesa’s family accompanied him to the game. “I don’t think my kids should be subjected to that,” he said.

And considering how he fell asleep on the air again in recent weeks, there’s not as much of a buzz as there was with the original. Now, had he exploded on the taunting Yankee fan, people might be looking at that second on-air snooze a little differently.

Hear the entire three-minute diatribe here:

And once Mike Francesa confessed about the time he was heckled at Yankee Stadium, the first thought that came to a lot of people’s minds was: How come no video of the fan heckling Mike Francesa exists?

But if Francesa says it, then it must be true… or is it?

Doug Gottlieb Compares Bobby Petrino To R. Kelly

On a recent installment of the “CBS Sports Radio Minute,” Doug Gottlieb likened the chances of Auburn hiring Bobby Petrino as their next football coach, to that of singer R. Kelly, who once had a relationship with an underage girl, being hired as “a chaperone at a junior high dance.”

As you know, the CBS Sports Radio Network doesn’t launch fulltime for another six weeks or so. Until then, CBS Sports talent such as Boomer Esiason (“The NFL Today”) are lending their voices and opinions to a daily feature called “The CBS Sports Radio Minute.”

Also among those participating in this venture is Doug Gottlieb, who will be hosting a daily afternoon drive show on CBSSR starting January 2.

Among the topics of his several minutes of minutiae on Tuesday was the rumors circulating that embattled Arkansas Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino – you might remember him from a little motorcycle mishap with a mistress, Jessica Dorrell – is the favorite to become the new head coach for Auburn’s football program.

“Bobby Petrino isn’t hireable,” Gottlieb argues. “It’s not because he cheated on his wife with somebody else’s fiancee; it isn’t because he lied to Louisville about meeting with Auburn back in the day when he was Louisville head coach; it isn’t because he left the Atlanta Falcons in the middle of his first year by leaving notes in the players’ locker in the middle of the night; not because he lied to the cops in Fayetteville, or to his boss at Arkansas. It’s because he hired his side dime (Jessica Dorrell) as recruiting coordinator and violated state and federal hiring laws.

“Bobby Petrino is about as hireable now,” Gottlieb concludes, “as R. Kelly is as a chaperone at a junior high dance.”

Whoa, was that Doug Gottlieb or Dennis Miller with a “CBS Sports Radio Minute”?

Gottlieb obviously made a strong, detailed argument as to why Petrino is damaged goods for Auburn’s sideline. But at the same time, he also chose to exhibit his comedic wit (“side dime” – hilarious!). He also has a tendency to work in topical cliches into his sixty-second soliloquys. For example, in another minute on Tuesday on the frontrunners in the Heisman Trophy race, the underlying theme was, “the Mayans.” He also took a page out of the same “the world is ending on December 21” playbook in a “sports radio minute” last week.

It has gotten to the point that the hosts on CBS Radio’s own sports talk stations are starting to dislike the guy. For example, Philadelphia’s late midday/afternoon drive duo of Anthony Gargano and Glen Macnow on 94 WIP have started a new unofficial feature on their show, once the Gottlieb-voiced “CBS Sports Radio Minutes” start rolling in at 3 PM: an immediate one-minute rebuttal of Gottlieb’s piece by the WIP hosts (Macnow mostly) explaining to listeners that what they just heard was excruciatingly awful on so many levels.

And in New York, WFAN’s Mike Francesa (or a reasonable facsimile) had a bone to pick with Doug.

If Doug Gottlieb is going to go Doug Stanhope during his one-minute rants, he should toe the line of caution: In the past, some have made comparisons to controversial people in making a point. Four years ago, in a column for ESPN’s now-defunct “Page 2,” Jemele Hill likened being a fan of the Boston Celtics to “saying Hitler was a victim”; she would be suspended for her choice of words and later issue an apology.

Then again, maybe this is the audience that CBS Sports Radio is attempting to cater to. After all, one of the co-hosts of its brand new morning show once compared himself to Anne Frank.

Next time on the CBS Sports Radio Minute, Doug Gottlieb might tell us that Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid should not consider starting Michael Vick as his quarterback if he recovers from a concussion, because the way the season has turned out, Reid doesn’t have a dog in this fight.

The Torg Hits The Fan In Cleveland

Former Columbus sports radio host Scott Torgerson has resurfaced in Cleveland as a part-time personality on 92.3 The Fan. But it looks like he still won’t let go of his hard feelings following his dismissal at 97.1 The Fan, where he co-hosted a top-rated afternoon drive show.

After sending a wish via Twitter for ESPN analyst Desmond Howard to “die or get fired” for the ultimate enjoyment of “College GameDay” led to his eventual termination as afternoon drive co-host on WBNS-FM/97.1 The Fan in Columbus, nobody wanted to touch Scott Torgerson.

It only took all of four weeks – and in another part of Ohio – to find a new radio gig, albeit temporarily.

“I am now a CBS employee at 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland,” wrote The Torg on his blog. While it’s only “part time,” he vows to “kick so much ass that the PD will have to find a spot for me.”

Hard to tell how much proverbial ass he could kick on Thanksgiving weekend, when regular radio listening habits might be affected. His first duties at WKRK-FM were a preview of that weekend’s Ohio State-Michigan game on the afternoon drive “Bull & Fox” show – the way it’s written on Torg’s blog (“2-7 pm”) might lead people to believe he was actually filling in for one of the hosts, but per audio on the 92.3 The Fan website, Torgerson “joined” the regular hosts to talk about the game, which the Buckeyes won on the strength of four Drew Basil field goals – and hosting a live call-in show immediately following the game on Saturday.

Also, a post on The Fan’s Facebook page on Tuesday officially welcoming The Torg had originally announced co-hosting duties with the station’s nighttime personality, Ken Carman.

So, why Cleveland? “I feel the city is a good fit for me, since we talked so much Cleveland sports” on the old “Common Man And The Torg” program. He also explained that while he still does “love all the folks in C-Bus,” a no-compete clause in his contract with WBNS-FM’s owner, Dispatch Media Group, which forbids him to work at a rival radio station in the Columbus market for a certain period of time following his exit at 97.1 The Fan, makes it next to impossible for Torgerson to resume kicking so much ass on the radio so soon.

And don’t forget, he has a wife with a medical condition and three children to support.

Torgerson promised future appearances on the station in the month of December, no doubt some more vacation relief shifts.

In thanking WKRK-FM program director Andy Roth for the opportunity, Torgerson said he was “so happy to be on the air again”.

But it now appears that 92.3 The Fan has their own Tim Tebow situation on their hands, in that they’ll have a polarizing figure that will rarely be used, and all the while, maintaining that his “ultimate goal” would be a new full-time position on sports radio, be it in Cleveland or Columbus.

And it appears he still won’t live down the fateful tweet that only numbered his days as co-host of the self-proclaimed “second-highest ranked sports talk show in the country.” On Saturday afternoon, as he was on the air at 92.3 The Fan during the OSU postgame show, he retweeted and responded to a listener who brought to his attention a similar predicament involving Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the currently locked-out National Hockey League.

“Heard someone tweeted they wanted the NHL commish dead,” wrote high school football coach Matt Finkes. “[Torg], not you, right?”

Replied Torgerson: “No. But I wonder if he will be ripped like I was.”

Easy, Torg. You barely have a full toe in the door of your next broadcasting employer, and you’re still obsessed with how the success at your last radio gig came to an abrupt end.

Isn’t it enough that your beloved Ohio State Buckeyes beat the hated Michigan Wolverines, for which Desmond Howard played for?

I guess not, if you’re going to tweet that nonsense after the game.

While you’re on the air, no less.

Daughter Of Kevin McHale Dead At 22 Due To Complications From Lupus

Alexandra “Sasha” McHale, daughter of former TNT/NBA TV analyst and current Houston Rockets coach, Hall of Famer Kevin McHale, has died at age 22 due to an illness related to lupus.

SportsRantz sends our condolences to the family of Kevin McHale. Over the weekend, his second youngest child, Alexandra, who had been hospitalized for two weeks due to a condition related to lupus, a disease she had fought throughout most of her young life, passed away at the very young age of 22.

An NBA Hall of Fame inductee in 1999 for his dozen seasons as a forward for the Boston Celtics, McHale is currently the head coach of the Houston Rockets. Previously, he had held the same position for the Minnesota Timberwolves; he is a native of the state and during his college years, played for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. McHale’s wife, Lynn, and family currently call the state their home.

And it was at a Minneapolis hospital where Alexandra, nicknamed “Sasha” by her family, was admitted earlier this month. Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson has been interim coach since McHale took a leave of absence on November 10 to be with his ill daughter and the rest of the family.

The owner of the Rockets, Leslie Alexander, released this statement: “I extend my deepest condolences to Kevin and Lynn for the loss of their beautiful daughter, Sasha, on Saturday afternoon. Kevin and Lynn are loving and dedicated parents who will need our continued support throughout this very difficult time.  Our entire organization is mourning the McHale family’s loss and we ask that you keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”

Details for funeral or memorial services for “Sasha” are not known at this time.

In between NBA coaching gigs, McHale appeared as a game and studio analyst for TNT’s NBA coverage. He also served in similar capacities on the league-owned NBA TV network during the same timeframe.

Brian Billick Late Scratch For Falcons/Buccaneers On Fox

With Brian Billick sidelined due to a back ailment, Charles Davis will work today’s Falcons/Buccaneers game with Thom Brennaman.

Going into the holiday weekend, Fox had assigned the duo of Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick to work an NFC South showdown between the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a game that had since been blacked out in the Tampa area as a result of low ticket sales.

As it turns out, not only will this matchup lose viewers because of a blackout, but the analyst originally assigned to call the contest will not be able to do so because, well, his back’s out.

Hours before the start of the game, Charles Davis, another Fox analyst who occasionally appears on NFL Network, tweeted the following: “Get well wishes to @CoachBillick, for whom I humbly call [Atlanta/Tampa Bay] today while he cares for his back. Hurry back, Coach!”

Davis had worked alongside Brennaman in the past, mostly on the college football broadcasting circuit. So at least they’ll be somewhat familiar with each other as they depict the action of a game between two division rivals that could probably defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide.