Hoosier New PD Of Sports Radio And "Soft Rock" In Indianapolis? It's Greg Rakestraw

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veteran sports broadcaster Greg Rakestraw, shown here with Marian University president Dan Elsener, is the new program director for "1070 The Fan" in Indianapolis. He had previously served as PD of another sports radio station in Indy from 2002-2009.

Veteran sports broadcaster Greg Rakestraw, shown here with Marian University president Dan Elsener, is the new program director for “1070 The Fan” in Indianapolis. He had previously served as PD of another sports radio station in Indy from 2002-2009.

Once in awhile, there will be a sports broadcaster that will land in a market, and work a host of sporting events in the area. In New York, it was Marv Albert. In Los Angeles, it was Dick Enberg.

And in Indiana, the person that best fits this description could be Greg Rakestraw.

His play-by-play resume consists mostly of college athletics; you may have seen him calling a game on ESPNU. He’s also served as pregame and postgame host on the Indianapolis Colts radio network, based at WFNI-AM/”1070 The Fan.” He’s actually been aligned with the station for a couple of years. Prior to, he had toiled at two other sports radio stations in Indy: WNDE-AM 1260, where he was a producer and reporter from 1996 until 2000; and WXLW-AM 950, the market’s former ESPN Radio affiliate, where he had been a jack of all trades, notably program director, for seven years (2002-2009).

Indy’s current ESPN Radio affiliate, Emmis Communications’ “1070 The Fan,” recently launched an FM translator at 107.5 FM which simulcasts some local programming, and also clears some shows from “the mothership”; local hosts on 1070 include ESPN announcer Dan Dakich.

Some of Rakestraw’s tasks at “The Fan” since 2011 include subbing for Dakich’s midday show, as well as the afternoon program hosted by John Michael Vincent (best known by his initials, “JMV”) when neither host is available for whatever reason. He’s also maintained a blog on the “Fan” website, titled “Rake’s Take.”

And now, Rake has but a giant take: he’s taking the program director position at the “Fan” tandem, a return to the PD chair for the revered local personality.

And even if he isn’t taking calls or doing play-by-play, Rakestraw will have a say in what you hear on the stations somehow.

“If you hear it on the air, Greg one way or another will have influence over it,” commented Bob Richards, the operations manager for Emmis’ cluster in Indianapolis, which includes WYXB-FM/”Soft Rock 105.7″.

In fact, as an added bonus, Rakestraw will be given the keys to operate the adult contemporary formatted music station as well.

This must be a first: a female-targeted music station that will be programmed by a man who’s worked in sports broadcasting for the last two decades. While the idea may sound far-fetched, it’s the current economics of the radio business that mostly dictates one person being a PD for two or more radio stations, regardless of the stations’ individual formats, and regardless of the programmers’ background in formats on radio.

That being said, Rakestraw’s following across the Hoosier State, combined with “Soft Rock 105.7” usually being the top-rated radio station in Indianapolis not playing country music, should make for a winning team. It’ll be an odd pairing, but with Rake’s involvement in the station, they should continue holding their own.

As for Emmis’ other station in the Indianapolis market, news/talk WIBC, which had been heard for seven decades at AM 1070 before migrating to 93.1 FM, their new PD is the old “Fan” PD, David Wood. So the entire cluster will not be under Rake’s watch. But something tells me he would be open to the challenge.

I’m sure Greg Rakestraw would somehow find a way to balance Steve Simpson, high school basketball, and Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love.”

Rams, Redskins, RG3 and… Rush?

The Washington Redskins traded four draft picks to the St. Louis Rams, in the hopes of drafting Robert Griffin III. But what if talk show host and former ESPN commentator Rush Limbaugh had been a part-owner of the Rams, as he had aspired to be back in 2009? With the recent Sandra Fluke controversy, would any teams have even fathomed a deal with the Rams?

Over the weekend, the Washington Redskins have agreed to a trade with the St. Louis Rams, giving them this year’s second overall pick in the NFL Draft, in exchange for their sixth and 39th overall picks in this year’s draft, plus their first-round draft picks in the next two years. With the deal, the Redskins effectively opt-out of the “Peyton Manning sweepstakes”, as the franchise has their sights set on Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III – provided the Indianapolis Colts don’t call an audible and grab Griffin themselves with the first overall draft pick, which the team is likely using for Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who would effectively replace Manning after fourteen seasons with the Colts.

The Redskins’ trade with the Rams, on paper, appears to be a coup for both teams: St. Louis, who had already drafted a quarterback two years ago in Sam Bradford, sensed that with two quarterbacks – Luck and Griffin, possibly in that order – projected to be drafted with the first two picks, they felt it was best to trade their pick away to a team that would best benefit from the services of “RG3”, while the Rams used the draft picks they would receive from said team to continue the rebuilding process.

And in “RG3,” the Redskins seem to have found the franchise quarterback they have needed since Joe Theismann took over under center in 1978, just as the league’s regular season tally expanded from 14 games to 16.

But imagine for a moment that this blockbuster trade may have never come into fruition. That’s right: there might have been a possibility that the Redskins, or any of the other NFL teams, for that matter, may have wished not to do business with the Rams for their second-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. All because of one man who had expressed interest in part-ownership of the franchise some two-and-a-half years ago: conservative talk radio titan Rush Limbaugh.

Georgia Frontiere, previous owner of the Rams, died in early 2008 due to complications from breast cancer. It was under her watch that the franchise moved from Los Angeles to her hometown of St. Louis in 1995. Prior to the 2008 season, Limbaugh, a native of Cape Girardeau, MO, which is just over 100 miles from St. Louis, expressed his interest in owning the Rams. “My desire to get involved [with NFL ownership] has not been a secret,” Limbaugh said at the time, adding that he knows “a lot of friends” in that capacity. And despite the Rams being located not too far from where he was born and raised, Limbaugh pleaded that such a move would be strictly “a business decision.”

Limbaugh’s desire to join the ranks of NFL ownership intensified in October 2009, when he announced that he would be joining a group led by St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts, who previously had been the president and CEO of Madison Square Garden through most of the 1990’s, in a bid for ownership of the Rams. This was met with much criticism, as several negative comments about the NFL from Limbaugh were resurfaced and rehashed ad nauseum, most notably his comparison of the league to “a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons” in 2007.

Also revisited was his ill-fated stint as commentator of “Sunday NFL Countdown” on ESPN in 2003. On the September 28, 2003 edition, the “Countdown” crew had been discussing the Philadelphia Eagles, who at the time were 0-2 – outscored 48-10 in the first two games at their then-new stadium, Lincoln Financial Field – and just coming off of a bye week. In those previous two games, quarterback Donovan McNabb had thrown for zero touchdowns and three interceptions, and was sacked a whopping ten times for a combined loss of 66 yards. This led Limbaugh to say about McNabb: “I’m sorry to say this, I don’t think he’s been that good from the get-go… I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well… he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn’t really deserve. The defense carried the team.”

Co-commentator Tom Jackson was quick to point out that McNabb had led the Eagles to “those championship games” in the previous two seasons – they had been eliminated by the Buccaneers in 2003, and the previous year, incidentally, by the Rams, both of which had advanced to and won Super Bowls in those years. “He has been a very effective quarterback for this football team over the last two or three years,” Jackson said of McNabb, “and they didn’t have any more talent then than they do now.” Limbaugh replied: “Oh, yes, they did: on defense… I think he got a lot of credit for the defensive side of the ball winning games for this team.”

Limbaugh also assured Jackson that McNabb was “a good investment” by the Eagles, but “I just don’t think he’s as good as everybody says he has been.” Fellow commentators Steve Young and Michael Irvin were not as dismissive on Limbaugh’s view as Jackson had been. “Don’t misunderstand,” said Limbaugh.

Whether or not the quarterback had “misunderstood” Limbaugh’s comments, McNabb spoke out about them in a newspaper interview: “It’s sad that you’ve got to go to skin color. I thought we were through with that whole deal.” This led to several athletes and noted Democratic figures, including civil rights activist Al Sharpton, dismissing Limbaugh’s comments about McNabb on ESPN, and an outfit known as the National Association of Black Journalists questioning “ESPN’s credibility as a journalism entity.” This led to ESPN issuing a statement on the night of Wednesday, October 1, 2003, announcing that they had informed Limbaugh that his comments about McNabb “were insensitive and inappropriate.”

Shortly after, Limbaugh would part ways with the Worldwide Leader, resigning his post on “Sunday NFL Countdown.”

Keep in mind that the next day, October 2, 2003, he would deliver the keynote speech at the annual National Assocation of Broadcasters convention – which just happened to be based in Philadelphia that year.

Fast forward six years, and ten days, later. In the wake of Limbaugh’s inclination to be part of a group making a bid for ownership of the St. Louis Rams, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, DeMaurice Smith, who is African-American, voiced his opposition of Limbaugh’s involvement with NFL ownership, saying his history of controversial comments that have been made, not only about McNabb on ESPN, but on his nationally syndicated radio show with roughly 600 affiliates – Rush has made no secret that he is not a fan of current U.S. President, Barack Obama – would mar the spirit of the NFL, which “overcomes division and rejects discrimination and hatred.”

Much like in 2003 after Limbaugh’s viewpoint on Donovan McNabb, several athletes did not take kindly to Limbaugh’s potential part-ownership of an NFL franchise. “Our players… know that there is an ugly part of history and we will not risk going backwards, giving up, giving in or lying down to it,” said Smith in 2009. “I am proud when they stand up, understand that this is their profession, and speak with candor and blunt honesty about how they feel.” The next day, the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, went on the record as saying Limbaugh’s comments, particularly about McNabb in 2003, were “divisive” and “polarizing,” and “would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL… Absolutely not.”

Make no mistake, Rush Limbaugh is a polarizing figure in the African-American community. It would be hard to fathom his involvement in the ownership of a team located in a city which, in 2010, roughly half of its population (49.2%) was African-American.

Shortly after Goodell voiced his displeasure in Limbaugh’s potential link to Rams ownership, Checketts had no choice but to shed Limbaugh from his ownership group. “It has become clear that his involvement in our group has become a complication and a distraction to our intentions,” Checketts said in a statement, adding that Limbaugh would have only been “a limited partner” who “would have had no say in the direction of the club or in any decisions regarding personnel or operations.” Checketts was optimistic that his group’s disassociation from Limbaugh would “eventually lead… to a successful conclusion” – that being, claiming ownership of the Rams franchise.

What appeared to be a strong desire by Checketts & Co. in the beginning of 2010 had fell by the wayside as the winter went on, and ownership of the team ultimately went to billionaire Stan Kroenke just prior to the start of the 2010-11 NFL season.

It’s clear that without Rush Limbaugh, the NFL is all the better for it.

But given the events of the last few weeks, I can’t help but wonder if: What if Rush Limbaugh was currently a part-owner of the St. Louis Rams? What if Rush Limbaugh had never been an employee of ESPN? What if Rush Limbaugh – as impossible as it may be to imagine – had never uttered a “divisive” thing about anyone or anything over the last 25 years?

It was on New Year’s Day 2012 that it was first reported on, ironically enough, ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” program, that junior quarterback Robert Griffin III of Baylor, just three weeks after winning the Heisman Trophy, was going to declare eligibility for the NFL Draft.

On February 24th, the Rams let it be known that they are willing to part with the second overall draft pick – for the right price. St. Louis, of course, is set at quarterback with Sam Bradford, so it’s not much of a necessity for them to draft Griffin.

The day before, on February 23rd, Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke had given testimony at a panel on Capitol Hill titled, “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?” Fluke had spoken in favor of contraception being covered by health insurance plans offered by employers, including regilious institutions.

On February 29th, on his radio show, Limbaugh spoke out against Fluke’s support for a federal contraception mandate. “What does it say about the college coed… who goes before a Congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex?,” he asked his listeners. “What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.” Limbaugh further continued skewering Fluke for the remainder of the week, culminating with his March 1 show, in which he voiced a request for Fluke, in exchange for her plea for taxpayers footing the bill for contraceptives, “to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

The verbal attacks on Fluke were so brutal that she received a call from President Obama on Friday, March 2. Amid mounting criticism, Limbaugh posted an apology on his website the next day – but by then, the damage would just start to be done, as seven sponsors announced that they would pull their advertising from Limbaugh’s radio show over the weekend. Since then, the list continues to grow. Two radio stations in the “blue state” of Massachusetts and the island of Hawaii even canceled Limbaugh’s show. And just recently, a trio of women’s rights activists led by Gloria Steinem urged people to file complaints with the Federal Communications Commission so that they may revoke the licenses of hundreds of radio stations that air Limbaugh’s “toxic hate speech.”

In the span of ten days, Rush Limbaugh had been under much scrutiny for his comments about Sandra Fluke, and rightly so.

Now, take that all in, and imagine if, amidst all of this controversy, he was a part-owner of the St. Louis Rams.

A St. Louis Rams team that would be openly willing to wheel and deal the second overall draft pick to other NFL teams.

There’s a good chance that the Rams would have been left at the altar.

Regardless of how talented and highly touted Robert Griffin III may be, Rush Limbaugh’s mere existence on the Rams ownership board would have been front office kryptonite, with Limbaugh’s comments about Fluke tainting such a deal before it would even be proposed.

“Well, I’m terribly sorry about Mr. Limbaugh’s comments regarding Ms. Fluke, but… RG3! Come on!”

There would have been no takers. Not even the NFL team representing Washington – where Georgetown University is located – and President Barack Obama currently resides.

It could have been the second case of Rush Limbaugh being in the wrong place at the wrong time since 2003, after he quit his gig at ESPN over controversial comments about the quarterback of Philadelphia’s NFL team – right before he was to give a speech at a broadcasting convention in Philadelphia.

Things could have been far worse: Could you picture a part-Limbaugh-owned Rams team making the draft pick megadeal with the Redskins, and then going on the radio to defame Sandra Fluke as a “prostitute” and a “slut”? The Rams, the Redskins, the entire NFL starting with Roger Goodell – they would have to spend the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft trying to remove all of the egg from their faces. Those comments clearly would have been a distraction as all 32 teams prepare for the draft, with the conversation of “Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin?” being relegated to a sideshow.

A distraction similar to the one that sprung up when Limbaugh first expressed interest in ownership of the francise.

There’s no way that anybody with a pulse can condone Rush Limbaugh’s many “divisive comments” over the years.

In the case of Rush Limbaugh, the aspiring part-owner of an NFL team, however, it’s somewhat bittersweet that he has made such comments, only in that the NFL has swiftly denied access to him joining the league’s franchise owners, because of those comments.

Such unnecessary roughness on Sandra Fluke may have resulted from him being banned from the league.

One more serving of food for thought: Would Rush Limbaugh have made those comments about Sandra Fluke, comments that the average woman took offense to, if he had been part-owner of the St. Louis Rams, continuing a legacy of franchise ownership previously upheld by… a woman?

If Georgia Frontiere heard some of the things Rush Limbaugh has said, whether he owned the Rams or not, she might roll over in her grave.

NFL Network Fumbles Breaking Peyton Manning News

NFL Network made up for lost time in reporting the breaking news of the Colts severing ties with Peyton Manning, They were beaten to the punch by about twenty minutes by ESPN - on the air, and on social networking.

It’s rare when a sports channel not named ESPN befuddles me.

It’s even rarer when that sports channel is NFL Network.

By now, you’ve probably heard that the Indianapolis Colts, in a long-expected move, will part ways with Peyton Manning, the franchise’s star quarterback since 1998, who missed all of the 2011 season due to neck issues.

The fact that this news, which is officially expected to be announced at a press conference on Wednesday, was bound to happen for quite some time – no later than Thursday – is no excuse for the cable network operated by the National Football League, NFL Network, to sleep on it, or at least appear to be.

ESPN broke the news of Manning’s officially-soon-to-be-official departure from the Colts at the top of the 6 PM (ET) hour on “SportsCenter.” In fact, Chris Mortensen tweeted that he would have “Manning news” at 6 PM sharp.

Colleague Adam Schefter, who has twice as many Twitter followers as Mortensen, tweeted the scoop from “Mort” at six minutes past the hour and reminded them to watch the “news on ESPN’ regarding this story.

Meanwhile, at 6:06 PM ET, NFL Network was airing regular programming, “Path To The Draft.” NFLN’s own Jason LaCanfora would not send a tweet mentioning Manning until roughly ten minutes later. And NFL Network would not break into regular programming until 6:20 PM – and not before they were finished airing a regularly scheduled commercial break (thank goodness there’s no lockout!).

Even once they hit the air with the news, there was a sense of uneasiness – Andrew Siciliano, who certainly holds his own, was joined to discuss this news by the universally hated Matt Millen. True, Siciliano referred to Millen’s “years of experience in the front office” – but I don’t need to remind you how much of a failure the Lions were under his watch. (And don’t forget, NFLN booted him from their own “Thursday Night Football” franchise after a couple of seasons.)

For what it’s worth, NFL Network did their usual splendid, comprehensive job breaking down Manning’s future (in spite of Millen). And to their credit, they’ve blown out at least two hours of a planned “Sound FX” marathon on Tuesday night for continuing coverage. But viewers were likely left wondering who was minding the story the first twenty minutes of the 6 PM hour – especially if they had found out about the Manning departure via Twitter and were already watching NFLN waiting for the news to break into “Path To The Draft.” Hell, even the popular Twitter personality known as “Peyton’s Head” acknowledged his likeness splitting with Indianapolis before NFL Network even did on Twitter.

If NFLN was spending the 15-20 minutes before going live with the Manning news confirming it first, then, to paraphrase current NFLN employee Dennis Green, I’ll let ’em off the hook.

You may say that ESPN has an advantage when it comes to breaking stories. In this case, ESPN may have doubly had an advantage in that their daily news program, “SportsCenter,” was already on the air at the time the news was broken about the Colts cutting Peyton Manning. NFLN’s daily news show, “Total Access,” doesn’t go on the air until 7 PM ET.

And of course, there is the fact that ESPN is cleared in more households than NFL Network – also in the Worldwide Leader’s favor. I honestly hope that cable systems like Time Warner and Cablevision eventually reconsider and make a deal with NFL Network, so that there’s a level playing field between NFLN and ESPN.

And next time a major story involving a major NFL player breaks, maybe NFL Network won’t be too busy running an old episode of “Top 10.”

Sports Media Gone Wild: The Boston Taunt Party (By Way Of Indy)

According to eyewitnesses at a Super Bowl party, ESPN Radio's Ryen Russillo attempted to settle a score with WEEI's John Dennis, whose feud goes back to when Russillo had worked for the Patriots radio network. They would duke it out on Twitter the following day.

Today, you might be hearing about a certain quarterback’s supermodel wife taking her frustration of the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants out on said quarterback’s teammates.

Before the Super Bowl, however, two sports radio hosts with a grudge nearly took their frustrations out on each other after crossing paths at a party late last week in Indianapolis – abstaining from a super brawl.

The grudge between John Dennis, longtime co-host of WEEI/Boston’s “Dennis & Callahan” morning show, and Ryen Russillo, who marks his sixth year with ESPN Radio this month, started in 2005, when Russillo, then a personality on the Patriots’ “Rock Radio Network” – their flagship at the time, the now-defunct legendary rock station WBCN – and also heard on radio station WWZN – which airs far less sports content these days than in recent years – allegedly made a pass at a woman identified as Dennis’ daughter. This obviously did not sit well with Dennis, which led to him leaving a three-minute, profanity-laced voicemail for Russillo (audio here; NSFW). This ultimately led to one of the two men losing their jobs – no, not Dennis, but Russillo, who was booted from the Patriots just weeks after being hired for their radio network. (Eventually, Russillo landed studio work for Celtics broadcasts, in addition to his hire at ESPN – for which he earned national praise not too long into his tenure at the Worldwide Leader.)

Fast forward to 2012. Friday night, February 3. Indianapolis, site of Super Bowl XLVI. Big game parties aplenty at the Bud Light Hotel (which, as I’ve come to find out, was actually a Hampton Inn with temporary naming rights). In addition to the Playboy Super Bowl Party you might have heard about (or the Playmates at said party you might have heard being berated by Darren Rovell), there was also an ESPN Super Bowl Party in the same building. WEEI’s Dennis was in the area. And ESPN’s Russillo was in the vicinity as well.

What happened next was about as swift as the Giants’ emergence over the Patriots in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLVI.

A partygoer claims Dennis and Russillo “ran into each other again, words were exchanged, and they nearly came to blows.” Another source tells Deadspin that the two were “in an alley outside the Bud Light Hotel… [Russillo] definitely got in Dennis’ face. Dennis didn’t make eye contact with Ryan and walked away.” The source added that Russillo “left with a few guys” and that the exchange was so brief, “[I] didn’t even have time to videotape anything.”

Next day, Saturday, February 4. You can get the sense that since Dennis diffused the would-be confrontation by not paying Russillo any mind, that cooler head had prevailed at this point. Not the case. Russillo was ready for round 2.

And what better venue for a sports media slobberknocker than Twitter?

“Always know,” Russillo tweeted to Dennis, “that when you looked in my eyes, you wanted nothing to do with me. You are a liar, and a fake tough guy [John].”

Dennis replied: “[You] were stumbling drunk, legless, and unintelligible. [You] embarrassed [yourself] and ESPN, and got thrown out by security.” Dennis punctuated the tweeted with the hashtag “alcoholic.”

If Dennis’ claims of Russillo being “thrown out by security” are true, it could be why he ended up in an “alley” outside the hotel.

Oh, yeah – Russillo was sure not to let that slide: “That’s one version,” he replied back. “Why didn’t you follow through on your promise? You threatened me, had me fired and then backed down.” (The “had me fired” part, of course, referring to him losing the Patriots radio gig in 2005, practically before he got started.)

About an hour later, Dennis responded: “[Your] friends [and] colleagues have long said [you’re] a real bad drunk.” He added, referring to Scott Van Pelt, whose ESPN Radio afternoon program he has been co-hosting since its inception in 2009, “SVP apologized saying [you] were way out of line.” Dennis closed the tweet with, “get some help,” and the hashtag, “#callAA.”

Which led to Russillo tweeting back, “You call me again, or we can get in a ring for charity. You in?”

Dennis never responded to the tweet. In fact, it appears that every single one of Russillo’s tweets from February 4 had been deleted. No word of it was by ESPN corporate mandate – after all, he did technically challenge somebody to a fight, which would go against one or two of ESPN’s social networking guidelines for its talent, would it not? Like this one: “At all times, exercise discretion, thoughtfulness and respect for colleagues, business associates and fans.” While Dennis isn’t an ESPN employee, he could be perceived as somewhat of a “business associate” of Russillo’s (I know, hard to imagine) in the spectrum of sports media. And let’s not forget the very first rule on the list: “Think before you tweet. Understand that at all times, you are representing ESPN.” Unless he was merely doing a Jim Everett impersonation, he clearly was representing Ryan Russillo and not ESPN.

At any rate, we do not know if ESPN has reprimanded or suspended Russillo for his actions Friday in Indianapolis, or Saturday in social networking, nor if they have any plans of doing so. As of Monday afternoon, Russillo was still representing ESPN and working for Van Pelt’s show, and even teased a new edition of his basketball podcast for ESPN, “The NBA Today,” on his Twitter account.

(No public comments from Van Pelt on his Twitter account, by the way – just some Howard Stern references made to Rich Eisen at around the time of Dennis and Russillo’s near-altercation, and little else.)

Does this mean we have heard the last of this New England sports media feud, or will the next salvo be fired in another seven years?

Will Dennis go into detail with Gerry Callahan about this incident?

Will Russillo actually take Dennis’ advice and “call AA”?

Stay tuned.

Party Pooper: Sounds Like Darren Rovell Is Canceling His Playboy Subscription

According to CNBC/NBC Sports Network's Darren Rovell, this tray of Bananas Foster puffs was the "best thing" at Playboy's Super Bowl Party in Indianapolis. Perhaps he now has an agenda against Playboy because they did not honor his request to take a photo at said party.

When your town hosts the Super Bowl, the week leading up to it is a big deal. Not only is there an influx of visitors, but as an added bonus, you get at least a dozen Playboy bunnies, to boot.

The Playboy Super Bowl Party has been a tradition that started in 2000 in Atlanta, the site of Super Bowl XXXIV. Each year since then (with the exception of the economic crisis-affected year of 2009), the publication – hoping not to be outdone by the likes of Sports Illustrated and Maxim – has booked a trendy venue in the city where the big game is played, throwing anything-goes raves at as little as $1,000 a head.

One of the regulars at these parties is Darren Rovell. He’s attended nearly every single one of these bashes – and he’s not afraid to let you know, either.

So Rovell, CNBC’s roving sports business reporter, who also hosts the weekly “Game On” program on NBC Sports Network, attended the 12th* annual Playboy Super Bowl Party on Friday night in Indianapolis at something called Bud Light Hotel. (You wonder if the front desk clerks at Bud Light Hotel are designated… but I digress.)

How satisfied was Playboy partygoer Rovell? “Dead serious,” he tweeted after 11 PM local time, “best thing at [this] Playboy party are these Bananas Foster puffs.” Rovell’s culinary compliment was accompanied by a photo of the puffs that he praised.

The day after, Rovell tweeted these thoughts: “[The] quality of Playboy Playmates last night was not what it used to be… Playboy not having gorgeous Playmates at its Super Bowl party does effect a brand that is already faltering #reality… In 1975, Playboy printed 7 million copies a month. Today, it’s down to 1.5 million.”

Actually, many magazines and newspapers have seen their circulations hemorrhage in recent years. That Internet’s a real bitch, isn’t it, Darren?

Rovell’s Hefner-phobic behavior had got the attention of several of his 175,000 followers – that’s another thing he’s not afraid to let you know, by the way… more on that later – including Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch. These two went at it about a few weeks ago in a Twitter argument over tennis.

“I imagine these women are saying the same thing about the quality of CNBC’s sports business reporters,” tweeted Deitsch to Rovell, referring to the Playmates he had blasted. Rovell replied: “if you’re saying I got hired at CNBC for my looks, I’m flattered.”

Deitsch proceeded to scold Rovell: “Even with our many disagreements, I guess I’m surprised that as working journalist for a respected place, [you’re] channeling your inner Bob Guccione. It’s not about the photo; it’s about being better than base evaluations.” (Disclosure: Guccione was the founder and publisher of Penthouse magazine, rival of Playboy.)

“People spend thousands on these parties, Rich. It’s a business. There was a lot of disappointment last night. I cover that.”

“Just so we’re clear: The ‘disappointment’ from those you spoke with was that the Playmates aren’t attractive women?”

“Yes, many were disappointed with the looks of the bunnies.”

Really, Darren? Did they tell you that the Bananas Foster puffs were hotter than the Playmates, too?

And if it’s the quality of the Playmates that he’s up in arms about, then why did he feel the need to cite Playboy’s plummeting circulation numbers? You can’t blame the Playmates for low magazine sales – it’s possible some subscribers are part of their “cyber club” and choose to no longer receive the print version.

What on Earth could be fueling Darren Rovell’s newfound distaste for Playboy?

I bet Jaime Edmondson knows. The bombshell from Bartow, Florida dropped a bombshell of her own – and then some.

“What really sparked the rude comment that [Darren] made (because I was there) is that when he asked to take a photo with me on the red carpet, the closest person to us was on the phone and advised they were unavailable because they were in the middle of handling an issue at VIP check in and to see if someone else could take it… He then said to me in a snotty fit, “Oh, not even for my 175,000 Twitter followers,” and stormed away.”

Wow. I’m willing to bet this happened right before he found solace in some Bananas Foster puffs.

And she wasn’t done with “that little bitter man” Darren Rovell. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all of the Playmates are beautiful women.”

So, the truth comes out. And who knew it would come out of Miss January 2010?

Let’s recap: Darren Rovell, who has “been at 11 out of 12 Playboy Super Bowl parties,” admitted to experiencing “a lot of disappointment” at the most recent one.

I think we know where that “disappointment” now stems from, don’t we?

Get ready for your close-up, “little bitter man.”

The Best Super Bowl XLVI Prop Bet With No Action: Will NBC Once Again Pipe In Salsa Music If Victor Cruz Scores A Touchdown?

Sure, you can bet on whether or not Kelly Clarkson will forget a word while singing the National Anthem at Super Bowl XLVI. But there should be a prop bet involving whether or not you'll hear a song if the Giants' Victor Cruz scores a touchdown in the big game, which is airing on NBC.

There are three major things that are related to the annual Super Bowl: commercials (another talking animal? lame), food consumption (burp) and gambling.

There are the usual Super Bowl pools that are mundane in most offices, but lately, there’s another class of gambling related to the big game that’s been growing in popularity in recent years: exotic bets, otherwise known as proposition bets (or “prop bets” for short).

The popular prop bets involve the singer who is scheduled to perform the National Anthem. For example, not only can you bet on whether or not Kelly Clarkson will forget a word or two when she belts out the Star-Spangled Banner at Lucas Oil Field before kickoff of Super Bowl XLVI, but you can also take wagers as to whether or not her belly button will be in view during the performance. (If Ed Sullivan were alive, he’d probably bet all of his life savings on “no”.) There is also the usual bet on what color the Gatorade will be when it is splashed on the head coach of the prevailing team.

Then, you have over-the-top prop bets. For example, two years ago, when the New Orleans Saints squared off against the Indianapolis Colts for Super Bowl XLIV in Miami, there were bets related to how many times CBS cameras would pan on Archie Manning, father of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, or Kim Kardashian, the girlfriend of Saints running back Reggie Bush at the time.

And last year, for Super Bowl XLV, which took place at the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, one exotic bet was if whether or not a punt from either the Green Bay Packers or Pittsburgh Steelers would hit one of its two high-definition scoreboards, which hang unusually low over the field (it took only the first exhibition game played at the stadium for that to happen).

This year, as you can imagine, there is a host of Super Bowl XLVI prop bets waiting for your hard-earned cash. You can bet on whether or not Tom Brady’s wife or son will be shown during the game. You can also bet on whether or not the number of rushing yards the Patriots’ BenJarvus Green-Ellis gets will be higher than Mitt Romney’s vote share in the Nevada Republican primaries, which are being held today.

You can even bet on whether or not Madonna will sport a hat when she performs at the halftime show.

But there’s one exotic bet missing that I believe should be getting action in Vegas. And with NBC carrying this year’s Super Bowl – and the New York Giants’ involvement in it – this prop bet should be a given.

Let’s go back to New Year’s Day, when NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” aired the “win and you’re in” contest between the Giants and the Dallas Cowboys, which would not only decide which team wins the NFC East, but advances to the playoffs. With five minutes left in the first quarter, Eli Manning connected with Victor Cruz for the first score of the game. Then, as Cruz proceeded to delight Giants fans with a six-second salsa dance, viewers could hear corresponding salsa music. Even Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were likely caught off-guard with the impromptu musical selection.

Later, Deadspin confirmed that the salsa snippet was indeed piped in by the NBC broadcast truck, but had Cruz hit paydirt on a crucial play, or had either team – specifically, the Giants – been down a large number of points at the time, NBC would not have went the rumba route.

Five weeks later, and the Giants are once again playing a primetime game on NBC, on football’s biggest stage. Why wouldn’t the NBC broadcast truck mix in a little merengue music a second time? Especially since NBC wasn’t even fined by the NFL over the bachata brouhaha back on January 1?

Go ahead and put your money on whether or not Victor Cruz has more receiving yards than Wes Welker.

I’m betting on Al and Cris receiving another salsa serenade when Cruz takes it to the house.

With no introduction whatsoever from Ed Sullivan.

Mike's Off: Francesa Falsely Reports Tim Tebow Turned Down Rosie O'Donnell Radio Show Due To "Her Lifestyle"

Mike Francesa told listeners that Tim Tebow refused to appear on Rosie O'Donnell's radio show "because of her lifestyle." That was moments after this photo, showing Tebow and O'Donnell sitting within feet of each other, was tweeted by Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, O'Donnell's current colleague - and Francesa's former colleague.

Time for another episode of “Punk Fiction” starting Mike Francesa as Winston (The Sports Radio Host Who Cried) Wolf.

At the top of his Friday afternoon “Mike’s On” show, Francesa – who was broadcasting from a hotel in Indianapolis, site of Super Bowl XLVI – said that Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow was making the rounds on “radio row,” dropping by several radio shows – except for Rosie O’Donnell’s SiriusXM show. Francesa told his millions of listeners, and many viewers on YES Network, that Tebow, the devout Christian known for post-touchdown praying formations that bear his name, refused to do O’Donnell’s radio show due to her sexual orientation.

Or as Francesa put it, “because of her lifestyle.”

Contrary to the new title of his show, Mike’s off on this one. Way off.

It’s no secret that Francesa has a history of making inaccurate statements on his show. In fact, right after the Giants and Patriots advanced to this year’s Super Bowl, Francesa recalled how the last time both teams faced each other in the Super Bowl four years ago (in which the Giants defeated the then-undefeated Patriots 20-17), he picked the Patriots to beat the Giants by a score of 20-17… only to have audio evidence surface that confirmed him actually picking New England to beat New York in Super Bowl XLII by a score of 35-17.

Yep, Mike’s off.

But he was off the chart with his Tim Tebow/Rosie O’Donnell “report.”

First off, Tim Tebow has not even played a full season in the NFL, and he’s already got a worldwide following amongst football fans and churchgoers alike. And when you can get two-hit wonder John Parr to re-record the bigger of his two hits to include references to you, you wear that as a badge of honor. For him to actually decide to blow off Rosie O’Donnell – who announced in 2002 that she is gay, and married her partner in San Francisco in 2004 – because of her sexuality, would be a major bonehead move on his part. Such an ignorant move would dramatically demolish his vast fan base. That certainly doesn’t sound like something Tim Tebow would do.

And given the source, Mike Francesa – The Sports Radio Host Who Cried Wolf – it’s no wonder the “report” didn’t spread like wildfire across the Twittersphere, let alone the news cycle, during the afternoon. Even a sports radio host with more credibility like Jim Rome – and that’s not saying much – might move the needle by suggesting Tebow would not want anything to do with O’Donnell because she’s gay.

And just when you thought this latest in a long line of lies from Francesa was sad, there was confirmation that Tebow did indeed appear on O’Donnell’s radio show for at least “30 seconds.” Unfortunately, unlike the revisionist history Super Bowl XLII pick, there’s no audio of Tebow’s appearance, but we have a photo that proves that they were within five feet of each other – because how does that saying go, a picture is worth proving a thousand fabrications of a sports radio host? Anyway, that’s Tim Tebow on the far right.

Here’s the kicker: The source of this photo was the man you see right there in the middle – Chris Russo. Mike Francesa’s former on-air partner. Just days ago on “radio row,” these two were all chummy on their respective radio shows.

The timestamp on that photo was 1:07 PM. Francesa had announced just seconds later that Tebow had denounced O’Donnell.

Would anyone be surprised if Tim Tebow filed a lawsuit against Mike Francesa on the grounds of libel or slander? Certainly, Francesa’s track record of mistruths is appalling. Yet he continues extending that track record, despite being caught in lies many, many times, to millions of listeners and viewers worldwide.

It seems the ultimate way to prove him wrong is to prove him guilty in a court of law.

Stretching the truth about a Super Bowl score is one thing.

Suggesting a popular football player is ostracizing a celebrity “because of her lifestyle” – why, even Bruce Jacobs would have to admit that’s pretty low.

In “Pulp Fiction,” Winston Wolf proclaims, “I solve problems.”

Mike (The Sports Radio Host Who Cried Wolf) Francesa? He is a problem.

UPDATE: Here is a better photo showing Tim Tebow enjoying Rosie O’Donnell’s company – further cementing how much of a habitual liar Mike Francesa is. (CREDIT: Getty Images.)