Press Coverage: Phillips Fired, Deadspin Sued, Best Disappears, Simmons Explodes & More

Sports in the social media age are a strange thing to cover. While the big story of the weekend is the culmination of a dream scenario for Major League Baseball – the Yankees making it to the World Series – the nightmare scenario for one of the networks that covers MLB seemed to take top billing in the world of @ replies and hashtags Sunday night. Simply put, don't expect the Blog Buzz to fit into this morning's SportsCenter. ↵

↵And that's obviously because the blogs, the papers, the sports talk radio and everyone in between was talking and posting about Steve Phillips being fired by ESPN. Per ESPNPR: ↵

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↵⇥"Steve Phillips is no longer working for ESPN. His ability to be an effective representative for ESPN has been significantly and irreparably damaged, and it became evident it was time to part ways." ↵
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↵Morals aside, the quote from ESPN is true – if a member of your staff has his reputation sullied to the point that his opinion can no longer be respected and taken seriously, then what are you keeping him around for? This isn't an athlete who can still hit a fastball. This is a guy in a suit who gives his opinion. And when his voice or his face makes people, at best, chuckle, and at worst, change the channel, it stands to reason that he'd be fired. Then there's that whole sleeping with a subordinate thing, too. ↵

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↵To add one obvious twist to the story, Jon Heyman reported yesterday that Phillips is planning some 'me' time. From Phillips' agent Steve Lefkowitz: ↵

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↵⇥"Steve Phillips is voluntarily admitting himself to an inpatient treatment facility to address his personal issues." ↵
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↵Is this a PR 'duck and cover' situation to get away from the media scrutiny? Is this a way to salvage some of his estate in the reported divorce that he'll be faced with soon? Or is there something really wrong with Phillips that he needs fixing – like a sexual addiction or some problem with substances that has yet to come out? Time will tell. ↵

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↵And speaking of time, what a difference a season makes. I interviewed Phillips as part of my season preview on April 2, and asked him why he got into TV after getting fired as the Mets GM. Was it a stopgap, or did he see a future in it? ↵

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↵⇥"I got started in it and quite honestly I was looking for corporate positions in New York. I didn't want to relocate. I've got four boys and we didn't want to move and chase that next assistant GM job and move around the country. ↵⇥

↵⇥So I started the broadcasting I thought, 'well it's not going to work for me,' because the next big, sexy name – whether it's Mike Piazza or Al Leiter or whomever that's going to be – I'll get pushed out of the way for that guy. ↵⇥

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↵Phillips went on to explain that he found his own GM-style niche at ESPN and, "I've enjoyed it." It will be interesting now, with fewer strings tethered to his family after his wife filed for divorce, if Phillips tries to stay in TV or disappears into the corporate world. ↵

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↵Quickly to the other side of the story. On Friday, the NY Post reported as part a story citing TMZ about a restraining order, that Brooke Hundley, the production assistant with whom Phillips had this affair, is on leave from her job. I asked ESPN for an update and confirmation on that news and Josh Krulewitz replied, "we're not commenting." ↵
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↵UPDATE: ESPN is now confirming that Hundley no longer works for them. ↵

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↵Wanna Sue Deadspin? Line Starts Behind Salisbury ↵
↵Deadspin themselves (always breaking news on the blogosphere!) reported late Saturday night that Sean Salisbury has made good on his threat to sue them, Gawker and presumably anyone directly involved with the series of posts that were made about the embattled former ESPNer. Per the report: ↵

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↵⇥"What we hope to prove is that blog sites like Deadspin are accountable," said Salisbury attorney Todd Harlow, according to the McKinney (Tex.) Courier-Gazette. "They can't simply attack someone and make a concerted effort to destroy the lives and careers of people without any ramifications. The difference between other news outlets and Deadspin is at least the other news outlets try to get it right. We hope to make a statement that if sites are going to behave like this, there are consequences and they are long overdue for that." ↵
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↵It's interesting timing for Salisbury, especially after Daulerio went "oh yeah, look what I can do" on current ESPN employees last week. I spoke with the Deadspin editor on my show on Friday and he explained that while the posts about Erik Kuselias and Kate Lacey may have seemed un-vetted and reckless, they were anything but. It was interesting that Daulerio seemed to admit he went into a bit of a 'hissy fit' after learning that the Post got the Phillips story before he did. On several occasions he pointed out that another barrage on ESPN employees would 'probably not' happen. So what was the Deleted Scenes post about Linda Cohn on Friday all about (not linking to that – find it on your own)? Cohn had previously done an interview for her book with Daulerio and, if memory serves, wanted to make certain that nothing was off limits unless it would potentially embarrass her kids. Well, they can forget about that. Get in line behind Salisbury, Linda. ↵

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↵And speaking of this actual lawsuit by the lifetime-backup-turned-television-bully, what say the brass at Gawker? Daulerio couldn't comment pointing me in the direction of Nick Denton. Mr. Denton replied with the following late last night: ↵

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↵⇥I'd love to help -- but haven't had time to look at the complaint yet. In the meantime, all I can say is something anodyne like this. ↵⇥

↵⇥There is a Google application called Goggles which stops one sending email at specified times, like late at night. Sean Salisbury should install it. ↵⇥

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↵Newsday Goes Behind the Stone Wall, Brings Best With Them ↵
↵What was the lead story for this post Saturday afternoon has become somewhat of a footnote. Starting Wednesday, Newsday will be shutting out the non-paying world. If you aren't a subscriber to the paper or the local internet service on Long Island, good luck seeing anything that takes place in Massapequa or Hempstead or, for the purposes here, Neil Best's blog. Best is, well, the best sports media writer in New York and with the traffic that New York drives around the country, Best has one of the most influential voices in the sports media reporting world. Sorry, had, because when the drawbridge goes up and the stone wall surrounds Newsday's website, Best will be stuck inside with them. After talking with his own blog commenters throughout the weekend, Best replied to some of my WTFs as well. ↵

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↵⇥"Here's the problem with people from around the country reading our stuff", Best explained. "For business purposes, they do not help us much. Why does Joe's Car Wash in Levittown care if someone in Boise sees his ad on our Web site? Our paper has decided to focus more than ever on our home market, both in terms of coverage and advertising." ↵
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↵His logic makes sense, but I countered with the fact that there should always be something pretty to look at in the window. Wouldn't the advertisers be happy to know they are associated with a product that isn't just popular locally, but has good standing around New York City and much of the rest of the country? And forget about Boise, what about Parsippany or Sheepshead Bay? Wouldn't people in Jersey or any of the five boroughs be interested in a good deal an advertiser on Long Island is offering? They care about the same teams, right? This insular model may work for news and local politics, but unless they only plan to cover the Islanders, they should want their writers out there to the rest of the New York media market. So is Best, himself, upset that he'll go from influential to regionally-irrelevant? ↵

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↵⇥"It's going to be a strange new world as of 10/28. Actually, a strange old world, going back to being primarily a local entity. That's the way it was for my first 15 or 20 years in the business, when there was not an assumption everything we wrote could and/or would be read anywhere on Earth by anyone with a working Internet connection. So it's back to the future. I will adjust to it, just as I did to the current model." ↵
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↵Prepare for the Wide World of Simmons ↵
↵You probably saw the Bill Simmons quotes that started somewhat of an internet firestorm last week. Simmons told the Huffington Post that, at some point, he'd love to be the little guy again: ↵

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↵⇥Part of me can't shake the temptation of being the underdog again -- like, launching my own sports site, hiring some talented writers and designers and trying to compete with the big guns. Like what Frank Deford did with the National. All right, the National lost $100 million. Bad example. ↵
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↵Did Simmons say that to collect a barrage of clips from aspiring Sports Guys? Did he say it to get a little blog buzz for his new basketball book? You, or perhaps I, can ask him those questions this week as he embarks on his tour to promote the book, landing today in Washington D.C., Tuesday in Philly and Wednesday in New York. I don't know if being in D.C. the same day as a Monday Night Football game, then Philly and New York during the lead up to the World Series is a great way to promote a book about basketball or a nightmare for him. Being a general sports columnist who has particular feelings about the Yankees, Simmons will undoubtedly be able to hold his own. One just wonders how many basketball books the next few days will push. ↵

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↵And if you recall a few months back we reported that Simmons wouldn't be Pardoning any Interruptions with Dan LeBatard during the Kornheiser/Wilbon summer vacations, we have an update. Simmons will be taping PTI today for air tomorrow. But he won't be co-hosting. He'll be the Five Good Minutes guest to promote the NBA season and, obviously, his book. ↵

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↵Odds, Ends, Ratings ↵
↵I took some heat in emails and on Facebook after my post last week saying that people in London don't care about the NFL coming a year. In fact, the game sold out quickly. There was some buzz about this contest and yes, Roger Goodell is pushing this venture like it's a viable business model. But how? Is it any different than Manchester United and other top soccer squads traveling to the States to promote their brand? It sells a ton of jerseys and gets some interest going in the product, but the chances of a Premiership team playing in America are nil. And, thus far, none of the games on American soil have been regular season contests or matches that mean anything at all. ↵

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↵Goodell seems to love this plan of global outreach and expansion. Yet stadiums in America are having trouble selling out every week of the season. So while fans in local American markets, who would love to spend their money on football if only they had any, get blacked out, the NFL is flying overseas for new, more valuable dollars. Or quid – whatever they use over there. ↵

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↵Last, and speaking of the NFL's reach, it will be interesting when the overnight ratings come out to see, both locally in New York and nationally, if the Yankees outdrew the Giants. In an informal online poll I took yesterday, the bulk of New Yorkers were watching Yankees while flipping to the Giants. The smart ones wheeled in two TVs. ↵

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↵UPDATE: SBD has the ratings numbers: ↵

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↵⇥RT @Ourand_SBJ: NBC's "SNF" pulled impressive 10.4 overnt for NY-ARIZ. Not as high as Fox 11.4 for ALCS but higher than I thought it wd be. ↵
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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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