ESPN To Radio Hosts: Stick To Management Script

Tuesday a book about ESPN, called Those Guys Have All The Fun, was released to the public. Co-Author Jim Miller, who was granted access to ESPN’s Bristol headquarters to conduct interviews with company employees for the book, hit the promotional media trail the same day to encourage sales of his 763-page work.

Those Tuesday appearances included stops on the national ESPN radio shows Mike and Mike In The Morning, The Scott Van Pelt Show and The Doug Gottlieb Show.

Though the book includes a minumum of negative material involving anyone at ESPN not already known for notorious behavior, it may have come as a surprise to some that ESPN would promote even a quasi-controversial endeavor about the company to its national audience.

Though from what I was told this week about the circumstances of Miller’s radio appearances that day, ESPN management did everything in its power to control what was asked of the author by the hosts of the shows.

When Miller was booked on the shows two weeks ago, ESPN management took the highly unusual step of drawing up talking points, in the form of six questions, that it highly encouraged on-air hosts adhere to while interviewing Miller.

Along with those talking points, ESPN management asked some of those involved in each show to make sure the word “dominate” was not used while engaging Miller on the air.

Needless to say, some of those involved in each show weren’t exactly overjoyed at the idea. In the case of Van Pelt and Russillo, I was told they flatly refused to entertain ESPN management’s suggested questions.

Thursday I went back and listened to all three interviews, and what I heard did little to dispute the notion that ESPN management did in fact attempt to control what was asked of ESPN book author Miller.

The first question of each interview is particularly striking, considering it was the same query in all three cases.

To paraphrase, Miller was asked, “Why ESPN?

From there, the interviews come off as - at best - perfunctory, with a noticeable lack of followup to Miller’s answers.

Miller was given a mere five minutes by Greenberg & Golic and Gottlieb while Miller’s audience with Van Pelt & Russillo lasted seven minutes.

None of that analysis is an indictment of any of those involved in the shows, on or off-air. If ESPN management saw fit to allow Miller to promote his book about ESPN over the company’s national radio airwaves, it had absolutely no business calling into question the professionalism of any of its on-air talent. (Which is what it did with the absurd talking points.)

If you ever wanted a material example of what monopoly wrought on an industry, the abject arrogance of ESPN executives in asserting editorial demands on its on-air talent is it.

UPDATE (4:42am PT): In lieu of the above revelation, a rather unfortunate quote from ESPN Network Senior VP/General Manager Mo Davenport from a post on this week touting the opening of the new ESPN radio studios on June 1:

“ESPN Radio consumers are no longer simply radio listeners. The June 1 festivities will celebrate our commitment to ensure that fans not only get their ESPN Radio content how they want it, but also when they want it, and where they want it.”

ESPN is a huge company with lots and lots of pot-tasters. In this particular case, the Gordon Ramsays involved did not come from the ranks of radio programming personnel.

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Bottom Feed: SbB Powerless Rankings Are Here

Here’s my first SbB Powerless Rankings, which note the least influential prominent sports figures of the moment. The criteria is simple: The folks on the list would have no relevance if it weren’t for blind luck or undue support from their employers.

SbB Powerless Rankings: It's Nothing Personal

1 ) BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock: Most-despised man in sports, yet he has no power to do anything. Figurehead designed to distract fans from the actual, tiny cabal responsible for college football’s dark ages. Pie-in-the-face guy. Light a candle for him.

Baghdad Bill Hancock Executive Director Of The BCS

(‘Baghdad Bill’ Hancock)

2 ) Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio: Without relentless over-promotion by ESPN’s monopoly-enabled monolith, show wouldn’t exist. Perhaps the finest example of just how powerful ESPN has become as a sports marketing machine. Greenberg at least has a semblance of talent in a controlled setting - witness his SportsCenter performances.

Mike & Mike Mike Greenberg Mike Golic

3 ) The McCourts: The underfunded couple was handed the Dodgers by Bud Selig and MLB Owners to artificially limit payrolls in MLB’s larger markets and the NL West. Stole $120M from franchise to fund their personal lifestyles. Anonymous in L.A. outside the ownership suite - even despite the recent coverage.

Frank and Jamie McCourt Divorce

4 ) Mark Cuban: Great at selling tickets and advertising but too enamored with his own, overrated basketball IQ. Needs to hire good basketball people and get out of the way. By alienating other owners and David Stern, doesn’t have nearly the influence in league matters that he should.

Mark Cuban mad

5 ) Jim Nantz: Rakes in millions in salary and perks from CBS gig, but would one less person watch a CBS sports telecast if he wasn’t calling the game? From local radio appearances, appears to have an interesting personality and provocative opinions, but once he’s national he goes dullard on us.

Jim Nantz

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Sports Guys Ads Help Nutri-System Lose $500M

Last week publicly-traded Nutri-System reported quarterly results to investors and, unlike the waistlines of its sports celebrity pitchmen, company profits have slimmed considerably. In the past quarter (three months), the value of the company’s stock has declined by 52%, equaling a $500 million dollar loss.

Chris Berman Nutri-System Ad Shoot

(For $500M, could they have lost the Men’s Wearhouse?)

Last Tuesday afternoon, the stock fell 16% in just a few minutes following an earnings report that included a prediction from company executives that declining sales were not expected to improve anytime soon. Previously, the company had predicted significant profits for the first quarter of ‘10, only to fall considerably short.

So as the economy slowly improves, why do Nutri-System losses continue to pile up? From what the company indicated last week, marketing expenditures are the culprit.

Nutri-System shoot with Dan Marino

(Patronizing your own Hooters casino steakhouse will do that)

In other words, Nutri-System as a company has lost half its value in the past three months in part because of an overextended ad campaign featuring Don Shula, Dan Marino, Chris Berman and (previously) Mike Golic, among others.

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ESPN’s Biggest Loser: Berman, Golic Or Gottlieb?

If you watch cable television for more than three seconds a decade, you’ve seen the (unintentionally) uproarious Nutri-System ads featuring Chris Berman and Mike Golic (Pot Roast!!) that apparently target those in the market for immediate organ donation.

Doug Gottlieb P90X Chris Berman Mike Golic

(Dude has some stones to post these)

While worthless weight loss aids, the spots do present a compelling case study for the remarkable advancement of TV optics slimming technology, liberal Photoshop application and unforgiving abdominal binders.

Today I’m happy to report that thanks to an eagle-eyed reader, I’ve discovered another ESPN personality hawking a diet plan! This time, ESPN college basketball analyst and radio host Doug Gottlieb is weighing in with something called P90X. (Either that or he’s promoting a captcha code.)

Doug Gottlieb P90X Chris Berman Mike Golic

(Gottlieb should know by now he doesn’t need that to get ripped)

Unfortunately though, it appears Gottlieb has taken all the fun out of following faux fat loss products. From his photos, P90X might actually work. (Or else T.J. Quinn recently subpoenaed Gottlieb’s phone records for an upcoming OTL episode.)

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$51,000 So Golic Can Blow One Out In Your House

Those in the main sports media call today the slowest sports news day of the year - because of the lack of games. Not coincidentally, ESPN always holds its “ESPYs” on this day in L.A., while devoting its full day of radio programming to an on-air auction designed to raise money for the Jimmy V. Cancer Foundation.

Mike and Mike Auction - $51,000 to cure cancer, blow up your toilet

(Sure hope winning bidder’s neighbors are similar humanitarians)

I missed those “ESPN experience” on-air auctions today, because I only listen to ESPN Radio during football season. (More specifically, when I’m prone over the urinal trough at USC home games.)

Mike Golic Flatulence Deodorizer

(Critical show production costs hopefully built into the bid!)

But an emailer was kind enough to point out the results of the “Mike & Mike Experience” auction. Read more…

NutriSystem Spokesman Golic Calls Food “Awful”

If you watch any sports television at all (and if you don’t, how did you end up on this site?) then you’ve seen the NutriSystem commercials featuring a bunch of aging fat sports figures like Dan Marino and Chris Berman (and Larry the Cable Guy?) talking about how it’s OK — and in fact delicious — for dudes to go on a diet.

Mike Golic

One of the most prominent spokesmen for NutriSystem on commercials airing on ESPN is their very own Mike Golic, who claims to have lost 51 pounds. Well, TMZ recently caught up with Golic and his morning co-host Mike Greenberg outside of David Letterman’s studio.

As he was signing a few autographs (yes, people actually gathered on 53rd Street to get their autographs), Golic had a few words about NutriSystem that the company may not be all that pleased with…

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Chicago Likes Mikes, Local Media “Embarrassed”

This is not a good sign for the state of sports talk radio in Chicago. Dan McNeil, the TV/radio columnist for the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, says that the most recent Arbitron ratings show a disturbing trend: ESPN’s nationally-syndicated “Mike and Mike in the Morning” has become the top-rated sports talk show in Chicago. Not just in its time slot, but of any show - including the big-shot local guys. And McNeil isn’t happy:

Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg, aka Mike and Mike

They do a fine show, but it’s best consumed in markets such as Bangor, Maine, or Enid, Okla., or Salem, Ore. In big towns like ours, local sports talk never should lose to a more vanilla national show. Shame on all of us.

Readers in Bangor, Enid or Salem, please contact me to get his email address. For everyone else: isn’t this pretty sad? Friends in Chicago frequently complain about the lack of quality of their sports talk shows, and when one of the big drive-time shows has a segment called “Who Ya’ Crappin’?,” we’re hardly talking Peabody Award-winning work here.

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Kiffin Career KO’d?; What Can Brown Do For You?

Lane Kiffin better be updating his resume, although he’s still currently employed by the Raiders - as of this writing, anyway.

Lane Kiffin wipes face

Ronnie Brown runs roughshod and passes perfectly over the Patriots.

Brady Quinn may finally get his big break with the Browns next weekend.

Mike Golic’s son gets caught in Notre Dame underage beer bust.

• SbB writer Scott shares his own special memories of Yankee Stadium, such as taking a leak between Bobby Murcer and Ron Santo.

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Tubby Smith’s Nephew Stabbed To Death At Party

Well this should put that big underage drinking bust at Notre Dame in perspective. Mike Golic’s son may be in some trouble for having the audacity to drink during his freshman year of college, but at least he survived the incident.

The same cannot be said for William L. Smith. Smith is the nephew of University of Minnesota head basketball coach, Tubby Smith, and he was attending an off-campus party near Becker College in Worcester, Mass. A fight broke out between Smith and some other uninvited guests, and it ended with a fatal stabbing.

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Heroic Bust Ends All Underage Drinking At ND

For whatever reason, boozy trouble seems to follow Mike Golic around. First, the roast for himself and radio co-host Mike Greenberg was overshadowed by Dana “Lenny Bruce” Jacobson’s vodka-fueled escapes. Now the AP reports that his son Mike Golic Jr., a freshman on the Notre Dame football team, was one of 41 people arrested for misdemeanor alcohol charges at a house party in South Bend on Sunday morning.

Mike Golic Jr. and Sr.

While that’s some measure of trouble for Golic Jr., it could be really bad news for teammate Will Yeatman, who has played in all three games at tight end for the Fighting Irish this season. It turns out he was arrested in January for allegedly driving drunk on a campus sidewalk. As the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES notes, the charges were only dropped after he agreed to  stay out of trouble for one year. Whoops.

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