Let the hyperbole begin about the first weekend of December and how it was the greatest sports weekend of the year. Nay, ever. Okay, obviously this wasn't the greatest weekend ever, but it was a pretty darn good weekend of sports, with last-second wins in college and pro football, not to mention some big-time games on the hardwood. This was the kind of weekend – snowy on the east coast – where you snuggle up with a blanket, a cup of hot something (soup, chocolate, Joe) and make sure you don't lose the remote.
But if you thought you had a busy weekend of sports, you have nothing on CBS's Ian Eagle, who called the North Carolina-Kentucky game on Saturday, then did the Titans and undefeated Colts on Sunday. We spoke as he was waiting for his plane out of Indianapolis and he gave a rundown of his really busy week.
â‡¥I actually started out with the Nets record-breaker on Wednesday night, moving to 0-18 against the Dallas Mavericks. I then flew to Toronto on Thursday afternoon to call Jets and Bills on Westwood One on Thursday night. â‡¥We discussed having to do so many games in such a short amount of time, and while a lot of announcers call as many games in as many days, only a handful are asked to call national college basketball a day before calling a huge regular season NFL game on the same network. Add in two more games in three days and it had to be hard to keep the players straight – needing to know more than 250 players by a quick glance at the jersey number, was he concerned about having John Wall in the slot and Reggie Wayne at the two?
â‡¥I came back and flew to Cincinnati, took a car to Lexington and made it for practice for John Calipari and the Wildcats on Friday afternoon and called Kentucky-North Carolina on Saturday. Got in the car drove three hours for Colts and Titans on Sunday.â‡¥
â‡¥The biggest key is having a gameplan early in the week and then compartmentalizing the information. Being able to bounce between events is something I've been doing for years. I've been doing the Nets games for 16 years. I've been with CBS for 12 years and now this is my second year with Westwood One. So it's not as if this is the first time that's ever happened to me. I've probably doubled up five or six times over the course of the last 12 years doing college basketball and doing NFL, and if you throw the Nets into the mix, there have been weeks where I've had six games out of seven days. â‡¥The UNC-Kentucky game was the official kickoff of the CBS NCAA basketball coverage, which led to a theoretical discussion about how to call a game like that, knowing there is a huge national audience. Especially with so many young stars in the game, is it important to 'dumb it down' for the national audience that you would not do if it were a regional game going just to the two local markets?
â‡¥The reality is, when you've done the NCAA tournament and you've prepared for four games in one day, one game seems like a vacation. I know what I need. I prepare far enough in advance that I don't walk in with blank sheets of paper hoping to get through it. I could have done that college basketball game on Wednesday. I know how to divvy up my time now -- had this been my first year, it could have been a nightmare, but fortunately I've been doing this long enough that I know how to get ready for these events. â‡¥
â‡¥Nationally, you're serving so many masters and I'm certainly cognizant of that before I go into a game. But, comparing the national game on CBS to a regional game on CBS - no, I don't change the way I approach it. It would be an insult to me, to the audience that's getting the game on a regional level. I would never short-change the percentage of the audience that was getting the game I was broadcasting. â‡¥Last, in the most loaded questions of all, we discussed which event is more fun to call – in the booth for a big NFL contest with historical significance (especially if the Colts continue the season undefeated) or sitting courtside in a loud and energetic gym for a huge college basketball game with two top 10 teams?
â‡¥But I was absolutely aware of that [national viewers being unfamiliar with young stars] in this game, yes. The essence of what you do is still going to be the same, but there might be a little more attention to detail regarding the players involved, the storylines to make sure you're covering all the bases. When you know you're doing a game that's point-to-point – going to just those two markets and the surrounding areas – you probably don't have to go with a big-picture perspective. â‡¥â‡¥
â‡¥But you still have to be who you are. â‡¥
â‡¥It's like asking which of your children you like better. You love them both, but they both bring different attributes to the table. Any sportscaster that got into this business for the right reasons wants to be in that chair for a game like that on Saturday, where the environment is raucous, where the two teams are national factors where you've got a lot of talent on both sides. To me that's why you get into the business.â‡¥
â‡¥This [NFL game] was tailor-made, as well. If you're a football fan, 11-0 with a chance to move to 12-0 and an opportunity to make NFL history, that's what you want to be a part of too. â‡¥
I'm Going To Ask You This Question In a Box, Sir
Shoals responded to Ian Thomsen's column at SI.com on Friday regarding his take on a woman playing in the NBA in the next ten years. But Shoals looked at it more from a basketball perspective. I wanted to chime in from a media standpoint.
As Thomsen explained, this wasn't some NBA PR spin-machine talking point that the league came up with to illustrate how far the women's game has come. It was nothing more than a column idea by the SI scribe to get everyone talking – job well done by the by:
â‡¥The context is important, because this was not some kind of pet project that he leaked to me. Last month an SI editor asked me to come up with several thoughts on professional basketball for the next decade, and one of my predictions was that a woman will be playing in the NBA. Then I decided to ask Stern about it. Last week I requested a meeting with Stern and I made sure to mention that I would be asking him about the possibility of a woman playing in his league, because I didn't want to catch him off guard. You'll be able to see that he had thought about this, and that he fully realized the impact of what he was saying.That doesn't mean the question wasn't asked in a box. Just because a person is prepared for an unanswerable question, doesn't mean he'll come up with a better answer with time to think than he would if it were sprung on him out of the blue. Like, say, the author did to some NBA players, including Dirk Nowitzki who, Thomsen wrote, "asked me if I was serious. I don't think he meant disrespect; it was just that he had never considered the possibility."
You could give Stern 10 years to answer if a woman will be playing in the NBA in the next decade and he still won't be able to come up with a real answer. If he says yes, SI gets to write a column that leads with "David Stern believes women could be playing in the NBA within a decade." If he says no, the PR hit with both women's rights groups and even just fans of the WNBA would be enormous.
Regardless of the prep time, these questions were asked because Thomsen thought to ask them, not in reply to, say, another woman dunking or a WNBA player averaging a triple-double for the season.
Again, kudos for getting us talking, even based on the reply to an unanswerable question. The column is thorough, talking with Stern, NBA players and GMs and even former women's players like Ann Meyers Drysdale and Nancy Lieberman who have played with men before. Yet the line that's used to defend the proposition is, perhaps, the most damning to the entire hypothetical experiment Thomsen created.
â‡¥That's why, in order for this to have universal meaning, I'm convinced Stern and the NBA will wait for the right player to come along. If she really is the LeBron James of women's basketball, then she'll be welcomed by the stars throughout the NBA, and in turn the best players on her NBA team will have no choice but to respect her.Or if there comes along a "LeBron James" of women's basketball that turns the women's game into a 'must-see' event, why not have her stay in the WNBA, promote the heck out her games and get more fans interested in watching that league? Wouldn't that be a better business model for Stern, the NBA and the WNBA ... this year, or in 10 years? But Stern couldn't really answer the question that way, as he was asked it sitting inside a box. I can't wait until Gary Bettman is asked if alien life forms will ever play in the NHL. What if one has a 110 mph slap shot and is the Sidney Crosby of alien hockey players? Answer that one, Gary.
Fred-Ex (Con?) Hosting Radio This Week
Freddie Mitchell, the first-round bust of the Philaelphia Eagles some years back, was scheduled to host the mid-morning 10-12 slot on 97.5 The Fantatic in Philadelphia this week. When Fred-Ex came back to town this weekend, per CSN's Leslie Gudel, he was promptly arrested for failure to pay child support.
When reached for comment as to the future radio career (albeit a one-week guest slot) for Mitchell, 97.5 Program Director Matt Nahagian said that, "Freddie will be doing the show this week. 10a-12p."
I guess he probably needs the money. No word if this will be a topic of conversation on the show, or if they'll stick to on-the-field matters.
Spielman, Griese Back To Old Selves
For very different reasons, and one far-more serious and life-altering, Bob Griese and Chris Spielman haven't had the best few months. Griese, you recall, was suspended for the whole taco comment. Spielman lost his wife to cancer.
With the two teaming up with Dave Pasch for the Rutgers-West Virginia game on ESPN on Saturday, it was good to hear the crew still joking around, even if it was at a colleague's expense.
â‡¥Griese: Did I hear you say this Nebraska defensive lineman, Suh, might be a Heisman candidate? â‡¥Not exactly "who the hell is Mel Kiper," but more fun ribbing of ESPN resident draft expert. It'll be interesting to see if ESPN clips this up for Mel to refute leading up to draft-day ... only 137 days from now.
â‡¥Pasch: Let's talk NFL for a minute. If I have the No. 1 pick in the Draft, that's the guy I'm taking. I think he's the best player in college football overall. Suh at Nebraska.â‡¥
â‡¥Spielman: Did Sam Bradford go say he was going to play in the PGA?â‡¥
â‡¥Pasch: He's not going to be the No. 1 pick.â‡¥
â‡¥Spielman: (Indignantly) It depends on who drafts – who is drafting first. â‡¥
â‡¥Pasch: Well, Mel Kiper's last draft had Jimmy Clausen ahead of Sam Bradford.â‡¥
â‡¥Spielman: Mel Kiper had me going in the fifth round.â‡¥
â‡¥Pasch/Griese (Laughter): Still bitter about that?â‡¥
â‡¥Spielman: I'm still bitter. And I love Mel.â‡¥
â‡¥Griese: It finally came out ...â‡¥
â‡¥Spielman: If you need a quarterback, Sam Bradford's your guy by the way…
For a Good Laugh, @InsidetheBCS
The Twitter feed, INSIDEtheBCS only has 2,945 followers but seems to catch ire from every single one of them (us) multiple times a day. Nothing was like the last 24-hour barrage of tweets sent their way. There are really too many tweets to choose from, but we'll give the nod to SI's Andy Staples:
â‡¥RT @Andy_Staples: Welcome to Glendale, home of the Separate but Equal Bowl. Great work, @insidethebcs.It really is a must follow, if only for the hilarity of envisioning Ari Fleischer feverishly @replying away on a Blackberry to defend a clearly broken system.â†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.