Concussions, Linsanity And Tebowmania: Sports Media Journalists Look Back At 2012

In this scene from SNY’s “The Year In Review” of 2012, Daily News sports media columnist Bob Raissman takes the Post’s Phil Mushnick to school.

Christmas time means it’s almost the end of the year – and that means many year-end specials.

The regional sports network SNY has once again assembled a “Year In Sports” special for 2012, consisting in discussions of the biggest topics in the sports world not only in New York City, but nationally as well.

The local sports media panel consisted of Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News, Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, and Neil Best of New York Newsday, all of whom appeared on the 2011 edition of “The Year In Sports.” This year, the trio is joined by their counterpart from The New York Times, Ken Belson.

One of the topics discussed during the national window was the phenomenon that was Linsanity, when Jeremy Lin had led the Knicks for a remarkable stretch. He currently plays for the Houston Rockets – but the show’s moderator, Chris Carlin, asked if Linsanity would have even reached such heights if, say, Lin had never played in New York at all.

“Not one fan needed the media to tell you that that guy did something special to that team,” Mushnick contested. “No one had to read a paper, turn on the radio, watch TV, other than the [Knicks] game.”

“The beauty of the Linsanity story,” according to Best, “compared to Tebow, he actually did do something.”

In the same segment the brief Linsanity period in New York was discussed, the seemingly outgoing Tebowmania period in New York was also touched on.

“Jeremy Lin kind of came and went,” said Best. “The staying power of this Tebow story is amazing.”

“It’s driven by the media,” remarked Raissman on the media’s fixation with the Jets’ backup quarterback. “He’s not dressing, and they’re writing stories about him.”

Raissman also argued – as he has in past Daily News columns – that networks that covered Jets games this season showed more shots of Tebow on the sidelines than Jets players that are actually playing.

“We have to give this guy credit for the way he has handled this,” Best said, “because with this ridiculous spotlight on him, he has not wavered, not complained; he’s been accessible with the media.”

(By the way, not too long after the special was recorded, Tebow did kinda complain a bit.)

Also discussed by the New York sports media writers was the surreal year R.A. Dickey had for the New York Mets. “He’s a genuine character,” opined Belson. “He’ll stand at his locker and talk to you forever… You can’t help but like the guy.”

That did not seem to be the case when during the Mets’ Christmas party, he discussed his contract situation at length. “This guy was asked a question, and he gives what he always gives, an honest answer,” said Raissman. “It’s interesting to watch… the guy go from hero to bum.”

(Since the taping of the special, the Cy Young award winner has gone from New York to Toronto.)

The foursome also talked about the swift resolution of the Bernie Madoff situation involving the Mets; the future of the Yankees franchise if the team’s YES Network is sold to Fox magnate Rupert Murdoch (Raissman: “You look at everything Fox has gotten into and owns the majorityship: they’re not there to be sitting in the back of the bus; they’ll be driving the bus”); and the media’s role in the fate of the New York City Marathon after Hurricane Sandy crippled the city – and not one of them mentioned Mike Francesa – at least not in that discussion.

The locals were asked about the possibility of Francesa and his old WFAN on-air buddy, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, reuniting on the radio.

“I’m sure there’s a shot, but no,” answered Mushnick. “They’d be killing each other.”

Best affirmed that the two “do not hate each other,” they just “got sick of each other professionally.”

“Why pay them both the kind of money they’re making,” asked Raissman. “You think Francesa’s gonna give Dog part of his salary? The Pope would never do that… He’s doing his own thing with his ratings; [WFAN] don’t have to pay two guys.”

Best pointed out that Francesa could be retiring in 2014; Raissman suspects it’s a contract negotiation.

Best: “I think he’s serious about maybe walking away in 2014.”

Raissman: “Yeah, right… You’ll have to carry him out of that studio.”

The national panel consisted of Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand and Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch, both making return appearances this year; plus panel newcomers Rachel Cohen from the Associated Press, and the Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Futterman. The latter had a strong opinion on the impact of concussions in the NFL.

“It’s the old journalism adage, you have to follow the money. This is cigarettes, this is asbestos, this is another big liability case, and how do those cases end? Usually, they end in really big settlements. And at some point, the NFL is probably, I think, going to have to write a very large check to a lot of people, and I don’t think it’s gonna be five years. If you let this thing drag out for five years, it’s going to be a big mistake.”

Deitsch argued that only something “catastrophic” such as “deaths on the field” would negatively impact the league. “It is a violent game; I think people have accepted that.”

When the current NHL lockout and whether or not it could be a death knell to the hockey league was brought up, after Carlin pointed out “ratings have gone down continually” before the lockout, Deitsch chimed in with: “Chris, there’s nothing more I love than hunting and fishing shows on the NBC Sports Network.” (NBCSN would be airing NHL games right about now, had there been no lockout.) Deitsch believes that viewership and attendance levels will be retained, but at “a far lower base than the NFL and the NBA,” it will take between two and four years.”

“The fans might forgive once,” Cohen argued, “I don’t know if they’ll forgive twice.”

Ourand suggested that the league consider contration in order to survive. “There’s value to having teams… in Florida and… in Phoenix,” Futterman replied, “but if you’re going to do that, you have to figure out a way to support them, because those teams can’t seem to support themselves.”

As was the case with the New York sports media panel, the red meat that is Tim Tebow was also thrown out to the national sports media panel.

Ourand: “He is such a fascinating character nationally, and polarizing. People just want to know what’s happening with him.”

Carlin: “Why is he so fascinating, especially this year when he hasn’t been on the field?”

Deitsch: “Well, he’s fascinating for [ESPN boss] John Skipper because no network has ridden Tebow harder than ESPN.”

And with social media playing a huge role in the Olympics – for viewers as a complaining device, mostly – Twitter’s existence vis a vis sports events was also discussed.

“Twitter is a game changer,” Deitsch said. “It’s become the water cooler conversation for sports fans… The fact is, we now live in a universe where the second screen is how we watch TV: first screen, we look at TV; second screen, we want to be social with our friends and family, and Twitter is among the best social emdia services you can have for sports.”

“It feels like the event’s over, and you gotta keep looking at your computer, and looking at your iPhone,” Futterman said, adding that “it can be a little frustrating” and “distracting” to the sports fan.

It can also be distracting for athletes, in a way. “Every time you put an athlete on Twitter, you give him another excuse not to grant you an interview,” Futterman argued. “And that’s my real problem with it… I think we empower it sometimes too much, in the sense that — I don’t need to talk to you, just follow my Twitter feed.”

Warned Ourand: “You do have to worry much more about what you put out there and what you tweet… But it’s changed the way people watch sports, period.”

Ourand also commented on the changing landscape of college sports, predicting that there will be “more realignment” in college football to the tune of “four 16-team conferences.”

Quoth Deitsch: “Money is driving this ship.”

Cohen: “It’s very obvious, they’re following the money.”

Futterman joked that eventually in college football, there will be “two conferences: one would be ESPN, and the other is Fox.” Yet he added: “They [schools] need the money. They gotta get it from somewhere, and TV seems to be the place where they’re going to get it.”

Members of both panels were asked to choose what they thought was their biggest stories or personalities of 2012, and what they think will be the biggest story in 2013 – but I won’t spoil it for you. (Okay, I’ll share one: Ourand says he’s looking forward to the launch of the new Fox Sports One cable network. “It’s the latest potential competitor to ESPN, and I’m dying to see what it looks like.”)

Catch the “Geico SportsNite: 2012: The Year In Sports” special when it re-airs for the remainder of the year on SNY. The special will be rebroadcast on SNY at the following dates and times: Thursday, December 20, 2 PM; Sunday, December 23, 3 PM; Wednesday, December 26, 7:30 PM; Saturday, December 29, 9 PM; and Tuesday, January 1, 2013 (New Year’s Day) at 12 Noon (all times Eastern).

Philly AM Station Raptured By Family Radio

WPEN-AM in Philadelphia, the one-time “950 ESPN,” has been sold by Greater Media to Family Stations, Inc. Greater Media’s sports radio format will now exclusively be heard on sister station WPEN-FM, “97.5 The Fanatic,” which celebrates its fourth anniversary next month.

Once upon a time, the Philadelphia Flyers announced that they would be relocating from the market’s established sports radio station, WIP (610 AM/94.1 FM) to rival WPEN-FM (97.5 The Fanatic), with games simulcast on WPEN-AM 950, which was station owner Greater Media’s original frequency on the Philly radio dial for sports talk until they flipped 97.5 to “Philly’s first FM sports station” in the fall of 2009. This move came roughly one month after the 76ers abruptly shifted from WIP-AM/FM to WPEN-AM/FM as their flagship, effective with broadcasts of their 2012 postseason run. Up until then, WIP-AM/FM held the monopoly on radio play-by-play rights (sister station WPHT-AM is also the Phillies flagship). So the field is now split between Greater Media and CBS Radio, owner of WIP/WPHT.

And very soon, the programming between the AM and FM sides of both WIP and WPEN will be radically different. We already know that WIP-AM is going to become a 24/7 outlet for the new CBS Sports Radio network on January 2 of next year.

Now comes word that WPEN-AM, the one-time flagship station of the Phillies, has been sold to Family Stations, Inc. for an undisclosed price. For years, Family Radio had been heard in Philly via Camden-licensed WKDN-FM 106.9, but was sold earlier this year to Merlin Media. The sale of this station plus another in Washington, D.C. may have been brought on by the negative publicity Family Radio president Harold Camping received in 2011, when he predicted not one, but two raptures – May 21 and October 21 – that never came into fruition. (And for what it’s worth, the date of Family Radio’s acquisition of WPEN-AM is September 21.)

While Greater Media had planned to simulcast Flyers and Sixers games on both 950 AM and 97.5 FM, it would have been ideal for both frequencies to air both teams’ games in the event of a conflict (though upon the announcement of their new deal with Greater Media, the Flyers announced that some overflow games would be heard on sister station WMMR/93.3 FM). But with the NHL currently in lockout mode, thus no Flyers/Sixers conflicts to be concerned about, Greater Media likely decided that now would be the best time to unload AM 950. And at a time where the AM band is all but being phased out in favor of FM and smartphones, you’ll want to unload those AM sticks as soon as someone has a reasonable offer.

It’s likely that once the NHL lockout ends, Flyers games will be heard on WMMR by default, should a Sixers game be played at the same time (and heard on WPEN-FM – which would become simply WPEN once Family Radio receives a new callsign for AM 950).

But whither WFME in New York? The frequency, at 94.7 FM – which at one point Family Radio applied for the status of its license to be changed from its current non-commercial status to commercial – once rumored to be purchased by ESPN (which eventually turned out to be 98.7 FM in an LMA deal with Emmis Communications)? Does Family Radio’s buying back into the Philadelphia market mean Harold Camping’s got his groove back?

Well, the deal was made exactly three months before the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar

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.

An Anom-Eli: Giants' Manning Among Notable Super Bowl XLVI Players Missing From NFL's "Top 100"

Eli Manning will be playing for his second Super Bowl victory. Not bad for a player who didn't even make the "Top 100 Players" list that came out the year before. In fairness, Tom Brady was ranked No. 1 overall on the list, which was also turned into a ten-hour event on NFL Network last year.

We are at the dawning of what is known as Super Bowl Week – the six-and-a-half-day pre-game to the Big Game, where any and all amounts of parallels are made for the teams contending in the Super Bowl, as well as their players, amid the large amounts of hype being dished out to hungry sports media scribes.

You’ve been hearing about the usual Super Bowl XLII comparisons.

You’ve been hearing about how Eli Manning could win his second Super Bowl championship, which would give him twice as many titles as his big brother, Peyton.

And you’ve been hearing about how Eli could be taking care of business at the site of this year’s Super Bowl, Lucas Oil Field – which just so happens to be the home football stadium of his big brother, Peyton (although Peyton’s renewal of that lease is currently up in the air at the moment – possibly about three months’ worth of moments – thereby creating another subplot for this year’s Super Bowl).

But because there can be no shortage of talking points for Super Bowl Week, allow me to throw another slab of red meat into the mix – by reverting to the “Top 100 Players Of 2011” list. You remember this list: It was compiled based on votes from actual NFL players, and doubled as a ten-hour event on NFL Network airing in the spring of 2011, culminating on Fourth of July Weekend – and had an NFL lockout continued, no doubt would have been repeated dozens upon dozens of times this past fall.

Of the top 100 players voted by their peers, 12 of them were quarterbacks, and of these dozen QB’s, only half of their respective teams qualified for the 2011-12 NFL playoffs.

Of course, Tom Brady was ranked number one; he was among five Patriots players (defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, 35; guard Logan Mankins, 39; wide receiver Wes Welker, 50; linebacker Jerod Mayo, 62) that made the list. And there were only three Giants players that qualified for the list, and all of them were ranked in the bottom half of the Top 100 (defensive end Justin Tuck, 60; safety Antrel Rolle, 68; guard Chris Snee, 77).

That’s not a misprint. Eli Manning, who owns more Lombardi trophies than over half of the other quarterbacks that made the Top 100 list, and is about to embark on his quest for yet another one, is absent from this list.

Granted, “The Top 100 Players Of 2011,” as its title indicates, is based on the performance of the previous season by players on the list therein: the 10-6 Giants, for which Eli Manning had a touchdown-interception radio of 31:25, failed to make the playoffs; meanwhile, quarterbacks representing four of the teams that qualified for the 2010-11 NFL playoffs – Bears, Chiefs and Seahawks, all of whom won their respective divisions, as well as the other NFL franchise in New York, the Jets – didn’t make the cut.

Heck, if you wanted any indication that this Top 100 list wasn’t based on this year, I can sum it up in two words: Donovan McNabb. Yep, when this list was compiled, he had come off of his lone season with the Washington Redskins – a season in which he had more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (14). Yet, he just cracked the list, coming in at number 100.

McNabb wouldn’t even complete 100 passes (94) in his short tenure with the Minnesota Vikings the following season.

Now, some have argued whether or not any of the canonical list of Top 10 lists and Top 100 lists and Top 500 lists compiled over the years, in fields ranging from sports to spores, render any value whatsoever.

However, to say that this “Top 100 Players Of 2011” list is meaningless, especially vis a vis the results and ensuing Super Bowl matchup of the 2011-12 season, would be an insult to the NFL players whose input made this list possible in the first place.

I mean, you can’t blame the NFL players for not foreseeing that just six of the twelve quarterbacks they decided on (Brady; Drew Brees, 9; Aaron Rodgers, 11; Ben Roethlisberger, 41; Matt Ryan, 52; Joe Flacco, 90) would advance to the playoffs the following year, let alone one of the three quarterbacks in the top ten (that would be Peyton Manning, ranked second overall) not even playing a single snap. Or that Michael Vick (number 20 on the list), Philip Rivers (26) and Tony Romo (72) would just miss the playoffs. Or that the Buccaneers, led by Josh Freeman (86), would end the 2011 campaign on a ten-game losing streak. Or that McNabb would have an even worse season that the year before.

This much is certain: Regardless of the outcome of Super Bowl XLVI, Eli Manning will be a lock to make the top 20, when the NFL players put together their “Top 100 Players Of 2012” list, should one be compiled.

You can also figure twice as many Giants players that made the list in 2011, would factor into the 2012 version.

And you can bet that when these players are asked to come up with those worthy of making the 2012 Top 100 list, and such lists for years to come, Donovan McNabb will not even cross any of their minds.

Oh, and you can also guarantee that Tim Tebow will be ranked pretty high on the list, as well.

Though, give the players credit: one of the quarterbacks playing in this year’s Super Bowl just happened to be named the number one player on the “Top 100 Players Of 2011” list. Not too shabby.

The other quarterback? Nowhere to be found.

And if said other quarterback wins Super Bowl XLVI? Well, forget about Peyton Manning and the future of the Indianapolis Colts – it’s time to flip the script on these lists.