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).

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Frank Isola Wants To See "Thick" Women At "12/12/12 Concert"

A tweet sent by Frank Isola, Knicks beat reporter for the New York Daily News, from the “12/12/12 Concert” at Madison Square Garden may have been reminiscent of an infamous comment made by Don Imus.

I’m sure as you were watching the “12/12/12 Concert For Sandy Relief” (and how could you avoid it, it was on dozens of channels), you were also plugged into social networking to gauge the reaction of others in your circle that were watching the show.

And in many a big event, there’s usually going to be at least one person on Twitter that might take things a bit out of hand.

Some of the most biting commentary on the concert came from New York Daily News basketball columnist Frank Isola, who at times appears on TNT and NBA TV as well as the regional sports network SNY.

The cause of the concert aside – benefit for victims of Hurricane Sandy – such big events were made for being criticized on Twitter.

But one of the tweets I read from Isola, who actually attended the concert in person, may have been a little over the line.

I’m not talking about the one where he observed that “this crowd is whiter than a Rangers game.” (He followed that up with a belief that “some of the concert proceeds should go to teaching everyone in the audience some rhythm” – which likely explains the previous tweet.)

It’s a tweet that he posted just after a Bruce Springsteen set (with special guest, fellow New Jersey native Jon Bon Jovi) at the event had wrapped up: “Let’s get a real New Jersey legend on the stage: J.R. Smith. Can you imagine how hot (and thick) his backup singers and dancers would be. Wow.”

Isola, of course, is referring to J.R. Smith, the guard on the New York Knicks team that he covers for the Daily News.

The same J.R. Smith that tweeted a photo of a female companion’s rear end during a hotel stay this past spring – and was subsequently fined for it by NBA commissioner David Stern.

It’s one thing if you’re going to make a reference to that little affair.

But if you’re using a term like “thick” – a term commonly used in the African-American community – to describe women, that’s when you start playing with fire.

Need I remind anyone what happened before the dawning of Twitter, when Don Imus described female basketball players – mostly African-American – during the national championship game between the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Tennessee Lady Volunteers in the NCAA Women’s Final Four as “nappy headed hos”?

While Imus had a visual to work with, it’s clear to see which direction Isola is going, especially if you factor in Smith and his “booty photo”.

Of course, Imus ended up being fired from WFAN/Westwood One and MSNBC, but he eventually landed a new radio/TV gig with Cumulus Media (nee ABC Radio/Citadel) and Fox Business Network. And just this week, Cumulus extended their contract with the I-Man.

Isola might have some explaining to do. It may not take a beer summit to fix it.

Pitch Black? Mets' SNY Network Might Be Victim Of Madoff Settlement

The New York Mets, who had been involved with the infamous Ponzi scheme of Bernie Madoff, reached a settlement with a Madoff trustee, preventing the case from going to trial. The Mets own 65% in the regional cable network SNY, and failure to reap enough funds for the Madoff settlement could lead to big changes at the network. Pictured, ironically, is how SNY broke the news of the settlement on their air.

On Monday, a trustee, representing hundreds of victims of Ponzi scheme artist, Bernard Madoff, was set to go to trial, in which he would seek upwards of $300 million from the New York Mets, a trial which would no doubt serve as a disconcerting sideshow to a 2012 season that many sports prognosticators project will be a futile one well before the first pitch of the regular season is even thrown.

Just before jury selection was set to begin for the trial, Mets chairman/CEO Fred Wilpon and team president Saul Katz have reached a settlement with the trustee, Irving Picard, for $162 million, or just over half of Picard’s original asking price.

Still saddled by the franchise’s involvement with Madoff, the Mets will likely find it difficult to invest in talent, and could be confined to the basement of the National League East division – if not the league itself – possibly until their current player that bears the highest price tag, injury-plagued pitcher Johan Santana, turns 40.

Which makes you wonder about SportsNet New York, or SNY. A network which the Mets own roughly two-thirds of (and in return, SNY owns 16% of the Mets). A network that itself may have been financed by Madoff: Katz tried passing off a $54 million payment in 2004 from Madoff’s wife, Ruth, as an investment toward the initial capital of SNY, which went on the air exactly six years ago on Friday, March 16; though last year, a general counsel for the Mets said that payment was deemed unnecessary and returned within 24 hours.

One part of the settlement agreement is that the Mets aren’t obligated to make any payments until 2015. Which should give them a good deal of time to raise some of the assets. But with a team projected to be a cellar dweller long into the next President term, their ability to do so will be limited. Earlier this year, it was reported that revenues at the Mets’ ballpark, CitiField, had dropped significantly since the stadium opened its doors three years ago, with sales for premium seats cut literally in half, from $99.3 million in 2009 to $50.6 million last year.

It’s bad enough thinking about how many empty seats, premium or otherwise, there will be at CitiField in the years ahead. Imagine how many eyeballs will be chomping at the bit to rush to SNY to watch the team.

At the midseason point last year, the regional cable network’s average ratings suffered a 29% decrease from that same point in 2010, with their market share among the worst in Major League Baseball.

Buoyed by its existence in the largest market, the Mets’ average of 175,000 homes placed that number in the top 5 in terms of home viewership. But that can only take you so far. It’s possible that with the underperforming play that everybody expects, this team can fall out of this category’s upper echelon.

This would be a convenient time to remind you that the Mets’ current radio home, sports radio pioneer WFAN, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this summer, is set to start what is speculated to be the final year of a thirty-year relationship with the team,┬ádating back to WFAN’s predecessor, country station WHN. As the New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman accurately predicted in February 2011, WFAN sister station WCBS-AM, the current radio home of the New York Yankees, re-upped with the Pinstripes for only one year, which would coincide with the expiration of the current WFAN/Mets deal. All signs point to WFAN obtaining Yankees radio rights in 2013, and kicking the Mets to the curb.

In fact, the future of the Mets is so dire, their longtime Albany affiliate dropped them in favor of the Red Sox. (In fairness, they recently added a new affiliate in the area last week.)

Even though a settlement means the Mets are absolved the responsibility of $141 million (perhaps more) to Madoff’s victims, it’s clear that the foreseeable fortunes of this franchise are bleak. Which is why, if ticket sales and television ratings fall even further, the Mets may have no choice but to gut SNY.

Just as the Mets are hard-pressed to hold onto popular players due to their financial predicament, SNY’s talent roster may also be forced to part ways with the network, as well. Everyone from the famed Mets field reported Kevin Burkhardt to studio host Adam Schein (also heard on SiriusXM’s NFL Radio) might be affected. (By the way, how’s that deal with Tiki Barber working for them?)

It may very well be in the realm of possibility that SNY could air more infomercials than the ones currently running in the late-night and mid-morning hours. Hard to fathom, given the fare currently offered by the network.

But if you’re a cash-strapped team that needs to come up with mime figures, to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs – or, in the Mets’ case, breaking loose with notable talent.

Indefatigueable New York Times columnist Richard Sandomir, who has been on this Mets/Madoff saga like white on rice (he was at the courthouse and immediately tweeted that there would be a settlement no sooner than it was announced) respectfully disagreed with my view. “I don’t see any effect,” he told me via Twitter. “It operates separately from the Mets, with healthy subscriber fees that pay the freight.” (Remember that the Mets owns 65% of SNY.)

That’s another thing to keep in mind: Cable subscribers, like you and me, end up footing the bill for many networks, such as ESPN. These are based on agreements between the networks and the respective cable systems. So ratings may not have much of an impact. But it should be interesting to see what happens when Cablevision’s current carriage deal with SNY expires – keep in mind that about a quarter of the network is owned by rival Time Warner Cable… and we all remember how both sides were at an impasse for close to two months on Time Warner coming to terms on a new carriage agreement with MSG Network, owned by Cablevision. In fact, SNY’s first week on the air was denied to Cablevision subscribers, as a result of a carriage tiff. If the Mets perform poorly for the duration of SNY’s current Cablevision contract, I don’t think even Jeremy Lin would be able to save the day in the SNY/Cablevision squabble that is bound to take place.

Bottom line: Mets baseball over the next several years may not be television worth watching on SNY.

But if the Mets are not successful in raising enough funds to put toward the Madoff settlement, the situation behind the scenes at SNY will be.

Tiki Barber Follows Failed NFL Comeback With Failed Television Comeback

Desperate and destitute, Tiki Barber will be making a television comeback this weekend, after his former team, the New York Giants, play in the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. But it appears that fate has had the last laugh on Tiki Barber.

What a tumultuous last year it’s been for Tiki Barber.

Or five.

You may recall when the second-round draft-picked running back, who spent his entire football career with the New York Giants, decided to pull a Jim Brown and embark on an exciting new career in television at the conclusion of the 2006 NFL season.

Quite frankly, Tiki fell flat as a media figure. He had actually started dabbling with a television career, auditioning on Fox News Channel during his final season with the Giants. Hard to believe, as many as four networks actually competed for the free-agent TV talent’s services, with NBC becoming the eventual winner – or shall I say, eventual loser. What started as a giant (no pun intended) role on “The Today Show” effectively turned into a demotion as a studio-host-cum-roving-early-game-correspondent on “Football Night In America.” Apparently, NBC had seen enough when they unceremoniously dumped him in the summer of 2010. You know, kinda like how Tiki unceremoniously dumped his eight-months-pregnant-with-twins wife for an NBC intern just months earlier.

Around that time, the former grid great who made O.J. Simpson look like a ladies’ man admitted he was financially unable to pay his divorce settlement with his newly-estranged ex-wife.

He was flat broke – just like his flat television career.

WWTD: What would Tiki do?

Four years removed from the game of football, and probably putting on a hell of a lot more than the ten pounds the traditional camera puts on, Tiki Barber decided to unretire.

Teams such as the Steelers, the Dolphins, and even the Buccaneers – who have been signing the paychecks of his twin brother Ronde for the last fifteen years (and probably has had a brighter media career than Tiki, at this point) – gave him a look.

But there would be no takers.

Which meant no new revenue stream.

Which meant no money to put toward his former wife.

Or the wedding with his future wife.

To say Tiki Barber is at a point of desperation is an understatement. Even Shelley Long has no sympathy for Tiki Barber.

How desperate is Tiki Barber, you may ask? Well, he just signed on to be a talking head for SNY, the regional sports network which is mostly owned by the New York Mets – the baseball franchise involved in Bernie Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scheme.

When you have to resort to a Madoff victim for extra cash, clearly, you have hit rock bottom.

Anyway, Barber’s television comeback will start with the Giants/49ers postgame program on SNY, which begins after the final snap in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday night.

Said Barber of the hire: “I am looking forward to providing my insights.” Translation: “I am looking forward to providing a spectacular honeymoon suite for Traci Lynn Johnson.”

“Hopefully it will be after a Giants win.” Translation 1: “… because the more appearances I make on television, the more opportunities there are for a Giant pay day!” Translation 2: “Hopefully, the Giants will lose because I can’t wait to rip them again.”

You may recall back in the summer of 2007, back when Tiki Barber’s floundering TV career was in its fledgling stage, when during the halftime show of a “Sunday Night Football” preseason game between the Giants and Baltimore Ravens, one of the first games Big Blue played since his departure, he questioned quarterback Eli Manning’s leadership, calling it “comical.”

And all Manning did was lead the Tiki-free Giants to a Super Bowl victory.

Salt, meet wound.

It’s hard to tell if Barber is more bitter than desperate. The Giants had made the playoffs for half of the ten seasons Barber suited up with them, and four of those five playoff appearances were one-and-dones; Barber’s personal postseason record is 2-5, with the two lone wins coming in the Super Bowl also-ran 2000-01 postseason. Since Tiki took his ball and went home, the Giants’ postseason record is 6-1, and with a victory in San Francisco on Sunday, they’ll be sniffing another Lombardi trophy.

Again: salt, meet wound.

At the cusp of a scurried, post-lockout 2011 preseason, when all 32 teams finalized their rosters, Barber’s agent, Mark Lepselter, said he was “flabbergasted that Tiki has not had an opportunity with any team.”

I’m flabbergasted that Mark Lepselter wasn’t very flabbergasted by his client’s Anne Frank comparison, enough that Lepselter still represents him.

And now, a network in which the Mets have a 65% ownership in has rewarded the fallen football star, who had experienced an even greater fall than Humpty Dumpty on television, with a stint on their NFC Championship game postgame show.

Could you imagine if David Einhorn had successfully became a minority owner of the Mets? That idea probably would have been sacked in a second.

Perhaps it’s poetic justice, with Tiki Barber abandoning his wife of eleven years while she was carrying two twin daughters in the latter half of their third trimester, that he now has to resort to odd jobs in television in the wake of a TV career that has collapsed worse than that playoff game in San Francisco.

Submitted for your approval: His appearances on the revival of the PBS series, “The Electric Company.” I’m sure if he were alive, even George Carlin (the raunchy comedian who doubled as “Mr. Conductor” on “Shining Time Station”) would think that’s a questionable move.

Now, he’s making his second go-round on non-public television with the conclusion of the NFC Championship Game featuring his former team. Sounds like an installment of “Prankster Planet,” if you ask me.

By the way, just to give you an idea of just how bad things have gotten for Tiki Barber: Earlier this month, while at a New York City courthouse for a divorce proceeding conference, he was reportedly “rushed by a dozen court staffers in the waiting area.” And according to a court source, Tiki was reprotedly “loving it.”

Tiki will be lucky if he gets as much attention this Sunday night on SNY.

Tiki Barber’s fall from grace has been, to say the least, just flabbergasting.

WWTD(F$): What would Tiki do (for money)?