Blogs > The Back Page

The musings of a Detroit-area sportswriter in the digital age.

Monday, June 10, 2013

ESPN adds intrigue to WNBA with "Ref Cam"

It's not a cyborg referee, it's ESPN's "Ref Cam"
I'll admit I don't watch much WNBA action, but something caught my eye from afar as I ran on the treadmill at my gym: The screen next to the Tigers game was showing eye-level  action — as shaky as it was — as a part of the replay during a WNBA game.
It was referee Lamont Simpson as the guinea pig for ESPN's "Ref Cam,", and he told The Associated Press the glasses were an easy adjustment to his routine.
"It was fun," Simpson said. "We made some adjustments at halftime and the second half it was almost like it wasn't there," he said.
After watching what was being called the "first wedding proposal using Google Glass" days earlier, I assumed ESPN and the WNBA were deploying the new technology on the hardwood. The network was not specific about the technology, but it doesn't appear to be Google's latest goggles or the popular Go Pro cameras made popular by extreme athletes.
The league is reportedly considering using the glasses in future games.
If Major League Baseball isn't about to surrender to instant replay, maybe it could consider using similar technology at least to share with viewers what umpires are seeing when they make atrocious calls.
Watch the camera's debut below:

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Reasons for Tom Gores to move the Pistons to downtown Detroit

I wrote a story last week about business mogul Dan Gilbert's comments that fellow NBA owner Tom Gores should move the Pistons to downtown Detroit. The only good reason I can think to keep the Pistons in Auburn Hills is my "selfish" desire to avoid another Pontiac Silverdome degradation scenario. Below are comments for and against relocation from Oakland Press readers:
  • Andrew_60: "I'll admit there is quite an ambiance at Ford Field with the 'downtown city street' look." 
  • John: "Driving to a giant parking lot is a drag." 
  • Andrew_60: "There are least a dozen great restaurants within a few miles for pre-game libations as well. It is a winter sport so 'walking' around town isn't really an issue."
  • Springfieldres: "Dan-I have an idea how about you send your kids to school in Detroit and we keep the Pistons in our 'Farm Field.' "  
  • Aamazed: "Like Detroit needs another sports team where patrons are greeted after the games with beggars soliciting for money have to walk a mile to your vehicles, and have to deal with traffic jams through the city to get to the major freeways. ... If it's not broke, don't fix it.
  • Christopher Wicks: "The Palace parking lot sucks and so does the surrounding area. ... Move downtown, at least we can have a nice meal and easy egress after the game."
  • MobiusStrip_1: "Since Gore owns the Pistons and the Palace, he can use the Palace at no additional cost. It would cost him (and very likely, taxpayers) a lot of money to build an arena in Detroit just to say that the Pistons are in Detroit. Why not share an arena with the Red Wings?"
  • Melissa D: "Well, they are the DETROIT Pistons."
  • Daniel Marchione: "Yes it may be suburban, yes it may also be located next to a dump, but the Palace has found its niche in everything it offers, It books top entertainers for its venues and it provides convenience right off the freeway. ... Palace Sports and Entertainment is hugely profitable and the people booking events have continued to sell out."
  • Melvin Marshmallow: "If Dan Gilbert wants to lend Tom Gores the money to build a stadium in Detroit, fine by me. But I don't think one red penny of our tax dollars should go towards building another sports stadium in a city that is allready congesteted with sports stadiums funded by tax payers."
  • Al Waters: "Gores just bought the team, bought the arena and other assets. The still state of the art arena has been renovated. Why would he want to move his team to Detroit, where he would have to pay to play in new arena?"
  • Sunshine: "As good as an idea as it is, I'm pretty sure Dan Gilbert just wants to have them go to Detroit so he could buy their stadium."

Sunday, April 28, 2013

CBC's Don Cherry makes 'outdated' comment about female reporters

Times have changed, but not for CBC analyst Don Cherry
Known primarily for his hockey acumen and outlandish wardrobe, CBC "Hockey Night In Canada" analyst Don Cherry angered some Saturday night when he went on a tangent saying female reporters should not be allowed in men's locker rooms.
Cherry was defending Chicago's Duncan Keith, who reportedly insulted a female reporter.
"I don't believe a female should be a in a male dressing room," Cherry said, recalling the first time he remembered being approached by a female in the locker room. "Guys are walking around naked and I hear this woman asking me about a power play."
"I don't feel women are equal. I feel they're above us. They're on a pedestal and they should not be walking in when naked guys are walking around. Some guys take advantage of that."

If by "take advantage," it's possible Cherry feels he's defending female reporters, but in doing so implies that women can't hold their own when talking to male athletes.
Co-host Ron MacLean plays "Good Cop" throughout, while bringing common sense to the discussion. It's almost like a segment on ESPN's "First Take," except Cherry has long been known to carry beliefs that many would consider old-fashioned.
Cherry has been known to make his opinions public, leveraging his soapbox in the past.
In his rant, Cherry grasped for traction asking if MacLean would want men in women's locker rooms, to which Dave Hogg, who has covered the WNBA for various media, tweeted this is already commonplace. 

Predictably, the Association for Women in Sports Media called Cherry's comment "as sexist as it is outdated." 
The group praised MacLean for his poise and noted CBC in its response to the group added the disclaimer that Cherry's opinions are not those of the network. 
“As you know, Don Cherry has many opinions on a wide range of subjects and isn't shy about expressing them ... last night being no exception," CBC head of media relations Chuck Thompson said. "That said, in as much as he's hired to give hockey related opinions on 'Coach's Corner,' he speaks for himself and not the CBC. I should also point out, and something you likely heard when watching last night, Ron MacLean took the opposing view and countered Don's perspective, which provided some balance to the discussion."
Fellow CBC sports personnel were quick to disassociate with Cherry. The Calgary Herald noted Vancouver-based CBC sports reporter Karin Larsen tweeted the following: 
"I'm embarrassed by and for Don Cherry and for CBC. Sorry." 
The timing of this "discussion" is peculiar, given that women were granted locker room access decades ago. Did Cherry go overboard in defending his friend or were HNIC producers taking a page out of the "Book of (Skip) Bayless?" Keith reportedly had the good sense (or publicist) to apologize for his remarks, will Cherry?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Pistons' Andre Drummond shows appreciation to fans with full-page ad

On the same day area Pistons beat writers were posting their grades for the team's abysmal season, rookie sensation Andre Drummond was thanking fans for their loyalty. Drummond was often a point of praise for the Pistons, who were recently ranked in the top half of the NBA in fan loyalty despite dwindling attendance.
After Drummond slipped to the Pistons in last season's draft, they've patiently brought him along. His athleticism did not go unnoticed. Neither has Drummond's social media outreach to fans. For the non-Twitter crowd (newspaper readers), Drummond spread goodwill in the form of a full-page ad in the Detroit Free Press.
It remains unclear if the ad was paid for Drummond himself or by the Pistons or Palace Sports and Entertainment, but the thank you note drew wide praise.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

'Mr. Hockey' reaches another Hallmark

c/o CBC
Gordie Howe had a long and illustrious career, one befitting the nickname "Mr. Hockey." In the tradition of ESPN's famed "30 for 30" documentaries, the upcoming made-for-TV movie "Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story" focuses on the 1973 season when Howe came out of retirement to play with his sons Mark and Marty Howe.

Actor Michael Shanks, who portrays Howe, accurately calls the film "a slice of his life" in a "making of" trailer.
The film first premieres at 8 p.m. April 28 on CBC — as hockey fans would want it. The production makes its American debut the following week, May 4 at 9 p.m., on the Hallmark Channel.
In case you were wondering, the film did not take advantage of Michigan's film incentives. It was shot in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, according to Internet Movie Database.
Watch the trailer for "Mr. Hockey" here

Big Papi's patriotic explicative better than typical sports trash talk

In an emotional speech, Boston's David Ortiz thanks law enforcement and legislators for their efforts in the Boston Marathon bombing aftermath. He ended by riling the crowd by saying "This is our (bleeping) city." (link NSFW)
The Federal Communication Commission, which reportedly has no jurisdiction over the regional cable network NESN (and other cable networks), which carried the speech, applauded Papi's sentiment. ESPN and others censored the explicative on subsequent replays.
Surely there are few who would object to Ortiz's exclamation, but the question remains: How much swearing are sports viewers exposed to on a regular basis? There are literally microphones everywhere and there's only so much a seven-second delay can catch — which are typically utilized only for large national broadcasts.
It seems like basketball games in particular are a hotbed for salty language, because of the players' proximity to a live microphone. Add to that the less-than-stellar crowds at The Palace and you've got yourself explicit language over the airwaves.
I'm not condemning bad language in sports broadcasts, but haven't we heard much worse than the message from Big Papi?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

ESPN attempts to appease media critics with new sourcing policy

Sources: ESPN gained a conscience about ethics
Many casual viewers may not know or even care that ESPN has been accused of plagiarizing on numerous occasions. In an even more fast-paced sports news cycle than the one it helped create, the four-letter network is trying to massage its image with a new sourcing policy. 
You may have noticed in the "Bottom Line" screen crawl the vague "media reports" or the equally elusive "source." The system is getting a bit more precise. 
The guidelines seem like common sense — don't take credit for something you didn't do — but beg the question: What took so long? This is the same thing mainstream media has been doing for several years.
"In the current environment of blogs and Twitter, it is often difficult to know definitively who was first to report a story, but it is still important to acknowledge how we initially became aware of that news. So, with a few exceptions, scripts and BottomLine entries will state the news was 'earlier reported by' or 'previously reported by,' rather than 'first reported by,' that ESPN reporter or outside entity. It will be at the discretion of the news desk to determine when and for how long a story warrants this treatment on television."
ESPN was first to report Lawrence Frank's firing Thursday afternoon. The Oakland Press and other media outlets credited them as such whether through re-tweets or written accreditation.
It's not difficult to give credit to other news orgs, whether it be through re-tweeting, "hat tips" (h/t) or "courtesy of" (c/o), or even using "via." A good policy is mentioning the actual source, whether it's a competitor or not, and a good, old-fashioned hyperlink.
That wasn't so hard, so what took "The Worldwide Leader" so long to get on board with journalism ethics? Might it have something to do with the fact their network's acronym puts the word "entertainment" before "sports?"

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Former Michigan RB Vincent Smith selling off shares of Jadeveon Clowney hit

Months before Brandon Knight was getting posterized and unfairly criticized, it was Michigan running back Vincent Smith who made headlines simply for being on the wrong end of a spectacular play.
Smith infamously had his helmet popped off when he was hit by the unblocked freight train manned by South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney. Like Knight's forgettable moment, and pretty much every outstanding play these days, the Clowney hit quickly made the social media rounds.
Nearly three months later, the Clowney hit recently became a 38-time "Best of the Best" champion on ESPN. The clip has another three million views on ESPN's YouTube channel. And recently, it was learned the still image of the hit will grace the cover of SC's spring football media guide (above). 
At least Smith has a sense of humor about it, similar to the route chosen by Knight — Smith reportedly signed copies of the photo at a recent autograph session — for a reported $60! If that isn't owning up to a situation ...
As quickly as Internet memes and heavily-circulated GIF images and videos took off, so to it seems has the ability for redemption if handled properly.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Pistons' Brandon Knight now famous for the wrong reasons

The notoriety that comes with being "posterized" on the wrong end of a vicious dunk now extends well into the social media realm. Not only did the Pistons' Brandon Knight get mentioned almost as much as his aggressor DeAndre Jordan Sunday night, his name spawned the #RIPBrandonKnight hashtag, which quickly became a trending topic.

One cunning web user leaped to update Knight's Wikipedia page to say Knight had been killed by Jordan's dunk, according to Awful Announcing.
It was all good for a laugh in the Sunday night sports wrapup shows, also. Monday, Knight had some fun with it, too:

As expected, Knight didn't use the tag agreed upon by the web community at large, but it was good to see him have some fun at his own expense.

UPDATE: Those VIP seats created at NBA arenas at the teams' broadcasters' expense I mentioned a couple weeks ago are worth a cool million for the Wizards this season, recent reports revealed.
Long-time Pistons play-by-play voice and class act George Blaha, apparently suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, said of his poor sight lines at the Verizon Center:
“Washington had great seats,” Blaha told The Washington Post. “It was one of the best places to call a game. And if you were down on the court and you missed that (Ariza) call, shame on you. But hey, I thought it was in, too. It’s our job to get it right no matter where we sit.”
Blaha also praised Washington's media relations Wizards:
"If you didn’t have the best statisticians in the league and a great media relations group, it would be extremely difficult. They make it as easy as possible. But you really have a problem with depth perception there.”
The WaPo entry suggests the premium seating isn't going anywhere, but I still feel if a broadcaster is paying for the rights to carry a team's games, they should be picking their seats, but that's just me. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Both teams' announcers blow call at end of Pistons-Wizards game

The fine folks at Awful Announcing, who, if you're interested in this post then I would recommend you follow them, have pointed out that the home and visiting broadcasts BOTH incorrectly called a last-second 3-point attempt as the game-winner for the Wizards Wednesday night.
The Wizards' broadcast team appears to be the loser, shouting "Dagger!" after the ball grazed the net. (Watching at the gym without sound, I also thought the shot was good.)

Meanwhile, on the Pistons' broadcast, George Blaha said the shot was no good, but reasoned that it had been released after the buzzer. After replays disproved his assertion, Blaha points out the broadcast "booth" is actually in the rafters of the arena.
Awful announcing substantiates Blaha's excuse, reporting Washington's Verizon Center is one of just two NBA arena's which relegate TV broadcasters to the upper bowl of the stadium.