Blogs > The Back Page

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

Sunday, August 28, 2011

New ESPN app for XBox Live looks great, lacks content

It's not the preferred way to watch ESPN, yet, but the redesigned ESPN Xbox Live application got a facelift recently. Powered by the content of ESPN3 and delivered by select Internet service providers (AT&T, Comcast included), the program now appears more like the traditional ESPN with the addition of a real-time score and schedule ticker.
Just in time for college football season, the four-letter network added a specific college football scoreboard. But the most significant addition has been the ability to watch picture-in-picture games. That's also where the rub comes in. It's not clear whether ESPN is going to put ALL the games it covers on Xbox Live and which ones they will re-air through the service.
Having recently become a cable cord-cutter, I've been relying on ESPN for Xbox Live to get my fill of game and program highlights with the occasional live action. Most of the live content comes from fringe sports such as Aussie Rules Football and the Canadian Football League, but ESPN does provide coverage of its own events i.e. golf and tennis majors, Little League World Series and MLB coverage to name a few.
The previous version of the software (I'm not sure exactly when it was upgraded, but within the past two weeks for certain) used to have excerpts from various ESPN programming within its library. "E60" and "Outside the Lines" are two of my favorites, but it's not clear if that content will be available as it was previously. The highlight feed regularly includes clips from "Mike and Mike in the Morning," "SportsNation" and "1st and 10," but not of its more highly regarded news programs.
ESPN for Xbox Live is available to users with a gold membership to Xbox Live at a cost of $42 per year. That cost is barely a fraction of what you're paying for cable, so it's worth a try if you're want on-demand highlights and the live user experience it can offer.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Finally dumping your AM simulcast, that's The Ticket!

For the past four years, if you ventured to AM dial, you could find the simulcast of 97.1 FM, better known as The Ticket and home to popular afternoon show "Valenti and Foster." CBS Radio, the stations' owner, has decided to end the AM facsimile after four years in favor of conservative talk radio.
WXYT-AM (1270) will feature the likes of Glenn Beck and Laura Ingraham, as well as local personality Charlie Langton (of Fox 2), who will begin the day from 6-9 a.m. beginning Sept. 12.

The Ticket's website has already been updated with 1270's new logo and states:
"Home to lively conversation and debate, the talk station will focus on the issues affecting Americans with an edge that doesn’t exist in Detroit Talk Radio today."
That's all fine, but I have to ask — why wasn't this move made four years ago when the station moved to FM or shortly thereafter when the move was deemed a success? I can't, for the life of me, think of the benefit to carrying the same programming found on FM only with a shakier reception. (If you know the reasoning behind the delayed format change, please share).
CBS Radio, which also has WWJ-AM (950) in its stable, has the ability to air multiple games in a single night. The Free Press notes 1270 AM will still carry "overflow" games, as it's been used in recent overlapping seasons. Typically, the Lions supersede the Tigers for FM carriage and in the winter, Red Wings and Pistons coverage varies.
It will be fun to see which team gets FM honors if the Tigers are in the playoffs on a Sunday this fall. Other than that, the only question in this move is why did it take so long?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Preseason football churns up startlingly positive TV ratings

The Lions typically play the same preseason opponents year in, year out. Buffalo. Cincinnati. Cleveland. There it is. The battle for the barge trophy (assuming it's meant to imply garbage), took place Friday in the home of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile, in Detroit, the Tigers got the first win of a three-game sweep hosting the Indians at Comerica Park.
In a head-to-head battle, the Tigers had a slight ratings edge, but overall, the Lions game got more attention from fans. It makes sense the Tigers, embarking in a pennant race against their nearest division contender, would win the head-to-head battle. But the Tigers had the edge by just 1/10 of a percent (although I'm sure that means much more to advertisers than it does to me)! The Lions were playing their second preseason game, in which starters get a little more action than the first, but not as much as the third or fourth. And it was against the Browns, a franchise that, in its new life, has been as futile as the Lions.
The Tigers held just a 1 1/2 game AL Central lead entering Friday. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the sixth. The Lions have played the Browns in the preseason each of the past nine seasons. The Lions trailed 28-13 early in the second half, when starters have long been removed.
The Tigers' ratings peaked from 9:30-9:45 p.m., when the game was heating up. Again, the Lions' peak rating an hour later was higher than its baseball brethren.
The AL Central showdown should have been a clear-cut winner in the ratings battle. But it wasn't.
The only reason the Lions could have proven more watched may have been that the Tigers are broadcast on basic cable by Fox Sports Detroit, while the Lions were on WXYZ-7 locally. The thought being the 10 percent of Americans holding out on cable had access to to the Lions (and will continue to do so all season long).
If the locales were reversed, how would the ratings have shaken out? It was reported that more than 44,000 took in the game at the CoPa. A crowd of 56,000 was reported at Browns Stadium. Nearly 43,00 (the same night as a Kid Rock concert at Comerica Park) saw the Lions whip the Bengals in "Week 1" of the preseason and Saturday's kickoff with Tom Brady and the Patriots has been sold out and will be seen on national TV. The Tigers are at the Twins earlier in the evening, on regional TV. I don't think this week's ratings will be so close.

.... It should also be pointed out Lions receiver Nate Burleson had a salute Browns fans could identify with, slapping his hands together like LeBron James used to do before games in his time with the Cavaliers.

Videos to get you ready for college football

Muskegon-based alt-rock group Pop Evil is ready for Michigan to take the field under Brady Hoke. Just listen to their anthem:

If you really enjoy the track, ESPN's Page 2 blog says it will be available for download next week.

In another selection, a trailer has been made touting quarterback Denard Robinson's Heisman candidacy. I'm sure it will only get better as the season goes on.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Is a Dennis Rodman documentary in the works?

Dennis Rodman earned rave reviews for his cathartic induction speech Friday at the Basketball Hall of Fame. He spent much of his time apologizing to his family and reflecting on the other avenues his life could have traveled if not for the NBA. Sporting a customizing blazer similar to what he wore to his Pistons number retirement, Rodman acknowledged both the Pistons and the Bulls in his attire.
One of the more interesting tidbits came when Rodman turned to the crowd acknowledging director Penny Marshall (he reportedly paid $60,000 to fly Marhsall, Howard Stern and other friends to the ceremony), who Rodman said is working on a film about the hall's newest Bad Boy.

"She's doing my documentary," Rodman says near the 2:35 mark. "I hope to be living by then."
Searching the Internet turns up no mention of such a project, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. (There appears to be nothing even on Rodman's self-promotional website, either.)
Rodman has starred in films (terrible ones) and been the subject of documentaries and the 1998 small-screen adaptation of his biography "Bad as I Wanna Be."
Marshall, of "Laverne and Shirley" fame, produced and directed the 1992 women's baseball flick "A League of Their Own." She also produced 2005's "Cinderella Man," so it seems she's not shy about venturing into sports.
I'll pass along more info if and when it becomes available.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

#girlbehindtheplate more entertaining than 14-inning snoozer

The Tigers-Indians game Tuesday night wasn't much of a thriller, going into in the 14th inning tied 2-2 after a lengthy rain delay earlier in the night. Around the ninth inning, the most exciting event of the night occurred when a fan (not sure what else to call her) found prime real estate behind home plate. And thus the Twitter trend #girlbehindtheplate was born.

Viwers of the telecast were quite taken with her distraction and dismayed at her removal. No matter your take on this annoyance/distraction, the legend of #girlbehindtheplate grew the next morning.

The performance even sparked an idea for a rule book pertaining to fans in the background.
Chances are, #girlbehindtheplate will quickly fade from our collective memory, save for a T-shirt or random blogs, but she was just the distraction fans needed at the time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

With Bad Boy legacy, Rodman entering Hall as a Bull confusing

Even though former Bad Boy teammate Isiah Thomas swore Dennis Rodman would be going into the Hall of Fame as a Detroit Piston, it appears The Worm has elected to be predominantly featured as a Chicago Bull in his HoF exhibit.
Some would suggest Rodman was a bigger star with the Bulls. Others have hypothesized his best friends with the Pistons organization had passed away nearly within the same year, leaving Rodman without a present-day connection to the franchise that took a chance on him in the 1986 draft.
Rodman has tabbed former Bulls coach Phil Jackson to introduce him at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, although it's assumed Daly would have been speaking if history had unfolded differently. Rodman, who famously held his 50th birthday party in an NYC strip club, has reportedly promised to be on good behavior Friday.
(It's also worth noting numerous pieces of Rodman's clothing and possessions were up for auction Monday.)
Thomas also mentioned during Rodman's Pistons jersey (No. 10) retirement that Rodman chose to wear No. 91 with Chicago as a testament to Detroit's infamous walk-off during the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals. That event famously came against the hated Bulls.
Rodman, who played in Detroit for seven seasons, was traded to San Antonio in 1993-94 and left after the following season. He then played three (apparently more notable) seasons with Chicago, beginning in 1995-96.
The other two stars of those three-peat Bulls (Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen) of 1996-98, as well as their aforementioned coach, have had their numbers retired by the organization. Rodman, has yet to see his number raised to the roof. Perhaps it's because the Bulls haven't been as liberal as the Pistons in terms of laying numbers to rest, but if enshrinement in the Hall of Fame hasn't pushed them to do it, what will? And if the Bulls organization doesn't regard Rodman as highly as the Pistons clearly do, why then is Rodman forever to be remembered as a Bull?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

CoPa home to inspirationless trespassers

This might be exactly what stadium personnel would love to see if there has to be fans running on the field — a trespasser lacking motivation. One such turned up recently at a Tigers game, but it's unclear which game the fan made the leap to the playing field, except to say it's a day game.

After wandering aimlessly, the man appears to surrender by lying on his stomach in center field. It's almost as if he never expected to actually make it onto the field.

To his credit, it's also unclear through the video how long he had already been on the field.

One thing is certain. In the era of handheld cameras and smartphones, there's literally nothing that won't be captured on video.