NESN's News Department Is In A Real Pickle After Reporting Bogus Brian Urlacher Item







NESN's news ticker strikes out as they report former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher signs a one-day contract with the Green Bay Packers. The source of this "news" was Sportspickle, a sports satire news website.

NESN’s news ticker strikes out as they report former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher signs a one-day contract with the Green Bay Packers. The source of this “news” was Sportspickle, a sports satire news website.

Perhaps you’re accustomed to seeing that scrolling line of information that is the news ticker. Revolutionized by the cable news networks, and as far as sports is concerned, by ESPN, virtually all cable news and sports networks, regional and national, are maintaining their own version of the ticker in some form. And they’re usually chock full of news briefs from stories reported by such renowned sources as The New York Times, The Associated Press, Fox Sports, The Wall Street Journal, and Sportspickle.

Wait, what?

Yes, an item from the sports news satire website (think The Onion with a sports flair) actually passed off as serious news to NESN viewers.

Whoever was put in charge of loading the news items on NESN’s bottom-of-the-screen news ticker on Friday must be naive. During live coverage of the ACC Baseball Tournament, the first item that the ticker, which NESN dubs “The Edge,” focused on under “top stories” was Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who retired this week after spending thirteen seasons in the Windy City. That much is true.

But the item that NESN decided to report was the satirical news story originally posted Thursday on Sportspickle titled, “Brian Urlacher Retires As A Green Bay Packer.”

Fact is, Urlacher has not been aligned with any NFL team since he parted ways with the Bears in mid-March, and recently turned down a $2 million deal that the team proposed to him before finally calling it quits when no other NFL franchise could come to the table with a desirable offer.

And while there was a little buzz about one of the Bears’ divisional rivals, the Minnesota Vikings, possibly courting the eight-time Pro Bowler, it did not seem that the team that has controlled the NFC North for most of Urlacher’s career, the Green Bay Packers, would pursue him.

So one day after he made his decision official, Sportspickle seized the opportunity to pen a fantasy piece reporting that he had “[signed] a one-day contract with the team,” one that Urlacher was quoted as satirically saying is “unquestionably the best franchise in the NFC North throughout my career and, really, all of NFC North history.”

The piece continues: “Urlacher then fought back tears (fake tears) as he spoke about how much it means to him to no longer be a part of the Bears: ‘You dream of this your whole career but never really believe it could happen,’ he said, tears rolling down his cheeks.”

The pretend Urlacher also attested that “if my old Bears teammates are truthful, they’d all rather be on the Packers… even Jay Cutler. I’m sure the Packers would be happy to sign him to a one-day contract so he could retire as their third-string quarterback.”

Oh, and that “quote” from Urlacher about wanting to “go out a winner”? Yeah, that was included in NESN’s “Edge” blurb, too.

It’s the second time in as many years that a television network – or at least their employees who are supposed to be vetting the news before it makes it on the air – fell for a spoof sports story. Pittsburgh’s NBC affiliate had reported on their morning news broadcast that longtime Steelers wideout Hines Ward had signed with the rival Baltimore Ravens, after the website Bro Council presented a phony piece (which even tipped off to readers in big letters at the end that it was a “spoof”) on the player, who would eventually join NBC a couple of months later.

The station made up for the confusion by giving Ward his own seasonal series on Saturday nights.

With that said, how is Brian Urlacher, or for that matter, “Da Bears,” even remotely related to New England sports? He’s a native of Washington state, he attended school in New Mexico, and that wrestling match he participated in was in Tennessee. It seems like the only time he would spend on the entire East Coast would be exclusively on business.

As for NESN’s business, which includes delivering sports news, you could say it took a bit of a hit on Friday for, well, ‘Lach-ing journalistic credibility.

Jay Cutler Found Out Live On The Air That Lovie Smith Was Fired

This was the scene as Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler learned that head coach Lovie Smith will not be returning to the team.

With as many as a dozen head coaches potentially losing their jobs on the “Black Monday” following the 2012-13 season, it’s obvious that nobody’s job was safe.

Especially Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith.

Despite finishing with a 10-6 record, one that started 7-1, merely missing the playoffs claimed to be the dagger for Smith’s nine-year tenure on the Bears’ sidelines.

The timing of the announcement of the Bears parting ways with Smith couldn’t have come at a worse time for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. He learned of his coach’s fate right as he was on the air during a live appearance with WMVP/”ESPN 1000″ midday hosts Marc Silverman and former Bears wideout Tom Waddle, who also appears on NFL Network as well as the “Pro Football Weekly” TV series, which is filmed in Chicago.

Cutler was described as being “choked up a little” at the moment one of the hosts received a tweet from Adam Schefter announcing Smith’s dismissal. The reaction of the crowd that turned out at the live event at 115 Bourbon Street in Southside Chicago was anything but.

Listen as the awkwardness unfolds for Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, live on the air:

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.


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.


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!

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