Bullpen carts could provide a trip back through time

I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about baseball from the 1960s through the 1980s. A lot of this is because of my new Twitter page, Vintage Scoreboards (shameless plug). I’ve remembered that there was a lot of kitsch in the stadiums back then. After all, as Ken Burns told us, baseball has always been a reflection of American life.

The scoreboard at Municipal Stadium promotes a softball game between Playboy bunnies and radio disc jockeys, sponsored by the Kansas City Athletics.
In Oakland, the A’s sponsored Hotpants Day.

Tackiness abounded as teams did everything they could to draw people into the stands. Former Athletics owner Charlie Finley, when the team was still in Kansas City, held a pregame softball contest between local disc jockeys and Playboy bunnies. When the team moved to Oakland, he held Hotpants Day, with all women dressed in the short shorts admitted free. Apparently, the idea was that men would pay to gawk at the ladies — and maybe the baseball, too.

Long hair, mullets, afros and mustaches were popular among players, who, off the field, enjoyed wearing bell bottoms, big collars and wide neckties.

One element that just about every ballpark had in the ’70s was a bullpen cart, essentially a golf cart outfitted with an oversized baseball cap as the roof that would bring relief pitchers in from the bullpen.

It was a gimmick, something for fans to enjoy and maybe laugh at. Advertising soon followed, of course, with teams like the Yankees and Dodgers using Datsuns (it’s what we used to call Nissans; look it up) or Toyotas to bring their pitchers in instead of golf carts.

Team owners like Finley or Bill Veeck were showmen and loved the idea. No one is exactly sure when or why the carts died out. The Dodgers still have their old cart on display on the Club level. It may just have been that relief pitchers, especially those who might pitch to just one or two batters, wanted to show people they could actually run from the bullpen to the mound.

But now, it sounds like bullpen carts are coming back. The Arizona Diamondbacks are blazing old ground with their announcement that they will use bullpen carts this season. Soon after that, the Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres said they would study the idea, although perhaps not for this upcoming season. The Tampa Bay Rays say they won’t, mostly because of space limitations at Tropicana Field.

The Diamondbacks said the last team to motor their pitchers in from the bullpen were the Milwaukee Brewers in 1995, who used a motorcycle with a sidecar at County Stadium. That was three years before the Diamondbacks even came into existence.

What will the reaction be of the relievers to this rather outrageous throwback idea? Will they love it? Hate it? Use it? Abuse it? Some of each, I’m sure, but I’m betting many will like it a lot. There are some who use their walk or run from the pen to psych themselves up; some have even made it into a trademark, much like hitters and walk-up music.

The Dodgers’ old bullpen cart is now on display near the suites on the Club level.

Some pitchers may also see using the bullpen cart as a show of weakness, something that might be best avoided in a ninth-inning, base-loaded save situation. But some may come to see it as a good-luck charm if using the cart turns out well for them.

Neither the D-Backs nor anyone else are forcing pitchers to use the carts; if they choose not to be chauffeured in, the cart will still appear to deliver the pitcher’s jacket to the dugout — and also to display the advertiser’s logo, of course.

Some are even suggesting bullpen carts could speed up the pace of play. But by what? A few seconds? Don’t count on that making much of a dent in game time. The cart must be offered to both teams and does not give a pitcher any extra warmup time.

But nostalgia has always been big in baseball and could use more of it, not less. Nearly anything that dampens things like analytics, high-priced tickets and higher-priced free agents and enhances the family ballpark experience is a good thing.


Monday Night Football is getting a complete overhaul in the ESPN broadcast booth. Not only is Jon Gruden leaving as analyst to become coach of the Oakland Raiders, Sean McDonough is being reassigned, moving back to college football play-by-play.

“Sources” are saying Joe Tessitore will be tabbed to do MNF play-by-play, but that ESPN has not yet made an announcement about either that or about an analyst.

MNF is not the franchise it used to be and hasn’t been since ABC deemed to let it slip to cable TV.

Meanwhile, there are rumors about Peyton Manning’s interest in broadcasting. The New York Post reported Manning has passed on Monday Night Football, but the NFL says it would love to have Mike Tirico and Manning on its new Thursday night package. The only problem with that is that Tirico is under contract to NBC and Manning isn’t under contract to anybody.

Tirico used to be ESPN’s MNF voice, but Al Michaels is NBC’s No. 1 (and usually only) NFL voice. Tirico has been involved on Sunday Night Football pregame and halftime coverage and was sensational as prime-time host for the recent Winter Olympics. It would be rather ludicrous for NBC to allow Fox to use him for the NFL. It makes very little sense.

Of course, things that make little sense happen with eyebrow-raising regularity in both network TV and in the NFL, so stay tuned.


Oscars have a taste of sports, and vice versa

A year ago, I wrote a sports column about the Oscars. Yeah, I know. I used to do weird stuff like that. It was all about the fiasco last year when La La Land was announced as the Best Picture of the year instead of Moonlight.

“It appears,” I wrote, “that while La La Land won the popular vote, Moonlight won the Electoral College.”

Academy_Award_trophyI also mentioned how the previous Super Bowl, the World Series and the NBA Finals — where the Atlanta Falcons, the Cleveland Indians and the Golden State Warriors were all leading until they were respectively overtaken at the end by the New England Patriots, the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Cavaliers — could’ve also been the victims of accounting errors.

We talk a lot about how real life is a lot like sports. But sometimes sports are a lot like real life.

People get all excited after the Super Bowl about what the TV rating was. They want to know where it ranks among the most watched television shows of all time, and these days, the top 10 TV shows of all time are all Super Bowls.

But the Oscars are a lot like sports, too. After Sunday night’s Oscars show (the 2018 version in which no one messed up anything, other than making the thing more than 3 hours and 45 minutes long), everyone was waiting to see how the rating numbers would turn out.

Not super, it would seem.

ABC’s telecast earned an 18.9 big-market overnight rating and a 32% share of the audience, according to Nielsen. The overnight rating covers about 70% of U.S. TV households and measures what percent of total televisions were tuned to the program; the share measures the percent of TVs in use. The show was seen by 26.5 million viewers. The only TV shows likely to be seen by more people this year will be sporting events.

The Oscar rating is 16% lower than last year’s 22.5/37 mark and the viewership is 19% less.

Well, that’s not overly surprising, is it? First of all, everything went smoothly this year. Obviously, the Motion Picture Academy didn’t learn its lesson from last year: If you want to pull in the viewers, you’ve got to mess something up! That little business with PricewaterhouseCoopers in ’17? Brilliant! It was the best thing since Jennifer Lawrence tripped going up the steps to claim her Oscar in 2013.

Going by the script doesn’t work anymore — except, you know, in the movies. On TV, it’s strictly unscripted. You need something Survivorish, American Idolish, Big Brotherish and, best yet, Bachelorish to grab the big ratings on TV these days.

The Oscars this year might have been fairly predictable this year anyway. With so many other award shows taking place, and with so many of the same winners coming in for the same awards in each of them, the feeling was more one of déjà vu rather than of surprise.

On top of all that, in this year of the #metoo movement pointing out sexual harassment allegations in Hollywood, half the audience (the male half) may have felt a little too sheepish and guilty to tune in.

Male red-carpet interviewers were not only afraid to ask actresses who they were wearing, they were afraid to even look at what they were wearing.


There were true sports connections at the Oscars on Sunday night.

The first was when Kobe Bryant, the former Laker, won the award for animated short, with artist Glen Keane, for Dear Basketball, the letter that Bryant used to announce his retirement on The Players’ Tribune website.

More than one account noted the irony, however, in celebrating Bryant’s achievement in this particular year when, in 2003, he was accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee in Colorado. Bryant admitted to a sexual encounter with the woman, but denied the assault allegation. The criminal case was dropped after Bryant’s accuser refused to testify. She later filed a civil suit against him, which was settled out of court and included Bryant’s public apology to her, although he admitted no guilt.

The second Oscar sports connection was by Icarus, the Netflix film that won for best documentary feature, detailing Russia’s state-sanctioned Olympic sports doping program. Director Brian Fogel told Entertainment Weekly the International Olympic Committee’s decision to allow Russian athletes to compete in the Winter Games under a neutral flag as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” was “a slap in the face to every clean athlete in the world.” The IOC has since lifted the ban on Russia.

Fogel said Russian whistleblower Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov “now lives in great danger,” and that IOC president Thomas Bach should resign.

“He is a crook,” Fogel said. “… If you can corroborate and prove and substantiate a fraud of this caliber on this level that spans for decades and then essentially give that country that committed that fraud a slap on the wrist, allow 160 athletes to compete in those games … and then … lift the ban on that country? What a fraud. What a corrupt organization, and that man should be embarrassed and ashamed of himself. He needs to resign.”

Sometimes sports aren’t all fun and games. Neither are the Oscars.

Falling hard — again — for the Olympics

I’m supposed to be this hardened, cynical reporter-type guy, you know? When I cover sports, I’m supposed to be objective, unemotional, unsmiling, uncaring. And I am.

Gold_medal_of_the_2018_Winter_Olympics_in_in_PyeongchangBut when the Olympics, especially the Winter Olympics, come around, I’m an old softie. I listen to all the stories about how many sacrifices the athletes and their loved ones have made, and then I see how happy they are when they’ve won (or sad when they haven’t), and I just start blubbering.

Figure skating! I watched figure skating! And curling! I watched so much curling, I almost understand how the game is played!

Good grief, I cheered for cross-country skiing! Cross-country skiing, where they ski on flat ground, and even uphill! Who skis uphill, for crying out loud?

Biathlon. Why am I fascinated by biathlon? Because you ski for a while and then you shoot things, that’s why! I mean, that’s a real-life version of a video game right there. And have you ever tried cross-country skiing and then hitting a target about the size of a silver dollar? Do you even know how big a silver dollar is? Come back to me when you know how big a silver dollar is. Then we’ll talk.

The Olympics are an amazing thing. Winter or Summer, they never cease to enthrall me. And I’m not very enthrallable. I’m a pessimist. I expect the worst. I almost root for it.

But when the Olympics come around, my faith in human nature is restored. I remember what sport is all about. I remember what peace among nations is like.

Sure, there are a lot of people who downplay the importance and significance of the Olympics. Russia gets banned from the Winter Games, then gets quasi-reinstated under some kind of strange moniker like Olympic Athletes From Russia With Love. North Korea sends a delegation to Pyeongchang and the U.S. delegation ignores it. At the end of the Games, North Korea says it is open to talks with the U.S., but does anyone really expect much to come from it? Maybe not, but would it even exist without the Olympics?


The United States won 23 medals at the Winter Olympics, nine of which were gold, and this was seen as extremely subpar and far below expectations.

Granted, this was the lowest figure for the U.S. in 20 years, but the reaction to it was pretty subpar, too.

The U.S. Olympic Committee had estimated Americans would win 37 medals at Pyeongchang — 25 at the least, according to an internal chart obtained by The Associated Press.

“We’re going to take a hard look at what occurred here,” USOC sport performance chief Alan Ashley said. “Everything we’re responsible for and everything that is basically under my responsibility is focused on how to help our top athletes achieve success,” he said. “I’m accountable for that, and I’m not going to shy away from that.”

Fortunately (at least fortunately as far as my point of view is concerned), Ashley had been contradicted earlier by the most famous current name among U.S. Winter Olympians: Lindsey Vonn.

“To quantify it in how many medals you have is not appropriate and doesn’t respect the athletes and what they’ve put in to be in these games,” she said.

Sure, all athletes and all nations are in it to win it, but there were some fantastic performances by U.S. athletes at these Games and there were fantastic performances by athletes from nations that prevented the U.S. from getting medals.

Lighten up. Those things happen. At least the Olympics don’t have an Electoral College.


During the Olympics, I even become a fan of NBC. While others may always find something to criticize about the Peacock Network’s coverage, I think it does a great job every time.

nbc-olympic-rings11In fact, the Pyeongchang Games may be among NBC’s best ever. As the rights holder for the United States, NBC carries a lot of clout when it comes to things like the schedule of events during the Olympics. Therefore, many of the biggest events took place during the day in South Korea so they could be shown live on the East Coast during prime time.

NBC’s best move, however, was to also show those events live on the West Coast, both on NBC and on NBCSN. Live is always better, no matter what your time zone is, especially in this age of live streaming. NBC was great at that, too, making even the opening and closing ceremonies (which were shown tape-delayed on broadcast TV) available live online during U.S. overnight hours.

Mike Tirico was stellar in his first appearance as prime-time host for NBC, replacing Bob Costas. Not to take anything away from Costas, who has also been stellar in all his hosting duties, but Tirico was enthusiastic and knowledgeable about every aspect of the Games and it showed.

The prime-time stars of every Winter Olympics, however, are the figure skating commentators and NBC did well there, too, with Terry Gannon on play-by-play and Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir as analysts. All were quite solid. NBC definitely sees Lipinski and Weir as a team, but while it’s evident that Lipinski could survive without Weir, Weir could not survive without Lipinski. The three were chosen mid-Games to host the closing ceremonies and they did well at that also.


But it’s time now to get back to cynicism — back to baseball’s labor issues, football’s PR problems, basketball’s tanking claims and college sports’ ethics worries. It’s time to get back to national and international politics. But for a couple of weeks in Korea, the world was able to concentrate on pure sport and the benefits it brings.


My Olympic motto: Faster, Higher, Sillier

PyeongChang 2018 emblemWe really need the Winter Olympics right now. Actually, it seems like we need the Olympics every time they come around. The world is like that more and more. We need some peace, and every two years the Games — Winter or Summer — come along to give it to us.

And the great thing about the Winter Olympics in particular is just how much silliness there is to them. There are just so many winter sports where the casual observer is left to wonder, “Who was the person who decided this would be a good idea?”

Bobsled was a crazy enough notion back in the 1920s and ’30s, let alone the 85 mph speeds there have been at Pyeongchang this week. But as we’ve gone along, we’ve gotten even crazier.

People started luging. They became lugers. No matter how you write things about what people do with the luge, it makes them look like deviants: “We caught these people luging, your honor.” “Bailiff, lock them up immediately.”

Somehow, someone first decided it would be a great idea to take a tiny little sled, lie down on it and go down a curvy piece of ice feet first. Frankly, it appears the strongest muscle on these athletes is the neck muscle that they use to prop their head up to see where in the world they’re going. Or to see that path of white light right before they enter the Great Hereafter.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, they decided to go down an even smaller sled even faster. And oh, yeah, headfirst. It’s called skeleton because that’s all that’s left of you when you finish.

Snowboarders have become a big part of the Winter Olympics. Everything they do puts them just an inch away from breaking their neck. The halfpipe is extraordinary to watch, but it’s also incredibly scary. Still, I suppose it could be worse. It could be the fullpipe.

Remember when ski jumping seemed like the very craziest thing you could so on skis? Well, right on the heels of snowboarding is freestyle skiing. Essentially it takes all the thrills and chills (literally; it’s really chilly out there) of snowboarding and makes it even more insane. Seriously, whoever thought skiing sideways down the handrail of a staircase should be made to ride nothing but elevators for the rest of his life.

All this makes ice hockey seem like ballet.

Figure skating, speaking of ballet, looks so graceful, but it’s also dangerous. It’s all fun and games until a flying sequin puts somebody’s eye out. Figure skating is very deceptive. It’s so elegant, but also has a move known as the death spiral.

Don’t be misled. These spinning skaters could throw up at any time.

Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu won the men’s singles figure skating competition and each time he skated, hundreds of Winnie the Pooh dolls were thrown on the ice afterward. Fortunately, there were no Pooh Bear concussion catastrophes and, as you can see here, Hanyu handles the gifts very well.

Speedskating is an exciting sport, especially when you get a bunch of guys on the short track for the 1,500 meters. It’s kind of like dirt-track auto racing, except there are a lot more crashes. In fact, a lot of people watch speedskating just to see them crash.

I want to be clear. There are more sedate sports at the Winter Games, such as curling.

At first you may think this involves cosmetology, but put your curling irons away. At the Olympics, curling involves stones, houses, skips, brooms and hacks. The skip sends the stone down the ice and then the sweepers use their brooms to guide it. There’s a lot of yelling by the skip to keep the sweepers — and the spectators — from falling asleep.

This sport isn’t called Chess on Ice for nothing.

It’s actually a lot more like shuffleboard on ice — similar to what they were playing on the Titanic after it hit the iceberg.

Cross-country skiing would generally not appear to be very exciting either. It’s like regular skiing, just without the hill. Well, to be honest, there are hills; it’s just that some of them go up.

Cross-country skiing has been used as transportation as far back as the 13th century. As a sport, think of cross-country skiing as Nordic rush hour.

Now for those of you who can’t view the Olympics as a success unless the United States is wiping out all other nations and leads the medal count, these Games may not be for you. Through Sunday, the U.S. was tied for sixth in the medals race with 10: five gold, three silver and two bronze. There were also a couple of gold-wrapped chocolate medals found in someone’s backpack. Norway leads with 28 medals overall, followed by Germany with 20, Canada with 17 and the Netherlands with 13.

That’s the way it should be. Those guys have a lot more ice than we do anyway. And besides, if you’re all wrapped up in who’s winning medals, you really aren’t watching the Olympics the right way.

Embrace the silliness.


NBC’s Winter Olympics will be largely live to all time zones

If you’re watching the Winter Olympics from your sofa here in sunny Southern California, here are two things to remember: First, it may be warm here, but it’s cold there. It won’t be above freezing for the first week in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Second, nearly all of the prime-time events you’ll see on TV here will be live. And even if it isn’t, you still could watch it live online.

Winter OlympicsThere is a 17-hour time difference between South Korea and the U.S. West Coast, so when a daytime event is going on there, say at 1 p.m. their time, it would be 6 p.m. in Los Angeles. NBC plans to run its prime-time show live in all time zones — 8 p.m. in the East and 5 p.m. in the West — so, when you get home from work, the Olympics will be waiting for you, live.

And even if you can’t get to it live, it’ll be replayed at a more traditional West Coast prime-time hour at 8, and even then there will be live updates. These figure to be the most West Coast-friendly Olympics from another continent ever shown on TV.

For the first time, NBC will stream the Opening Ceremonies live in the overnight hours of Thursday/Friday before showing them Friday night in prime time. Mike Tirico, who replaces Bob Costas as prime-time host, will be joined by Katie Couric for the ceremonies.

There will be many veterans among NBC’s commentators, such as Mary Carillo and Jimmy Roberts. But along with Tirico, there will be some newcomers, too. On figure skating, Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, who have captured a following at recent Games, will take over as top analysts, replacing Scott Hamilton and Sandra Bezic. Terry Gannon returns on play-by-play.

Weir said this week he and Lipinski won’t be afraid to criticize skaters — or judges.

“The great thing there is that the American audience has Tara and I to call the judges out if it’s the wrong call,” he said.

Former Olympic skier Bode Miller will be an analyst, as will speedskater Joey Cheek.

NBC also has some fairly off-the-wall talent to give the audience their view of the Games, such as Leslie Jones of Saturday Night Live, NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and restaurateur David Chang.

However, popular NBC hockey announcer Mike Emrick, with the NHL not participating, will not make the trip.

NBC isn’t expecting as many viewers as the Olympics have been known to draw in the past; there are just too many other TV offerings available. At the same time, other networks aren’t exactly surrendering unconditionally.

While many weekly TV programs will put reruns up against the Winter Games, there are ways to present alternatives. CBS will premiere Big Brother: Celebrity Edition (although the word “Celebrity” is dubious) and ABC will have The Bachelor Winter Games, which features winter sports-themed contests between members of the Bachelor franchise.

“At a certain point, everyone gets a little bit of Olympics fatigue, so this is a nice alternative to that,” ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey told Adweek.


NBC earned a 47.4 big-market overnight rating and a 70% share of the audience for Super Bowl LII. That figure was 3% lower than last season, but still the lowest for the event since 2010. The game was No. 9 all-time among Super Bowls, according to the network.

SB52_Primary_RGBThe game peaked at 52.2/74 during the fourth quarter (7-7:15 p.m. PST). The halftime performance by Justin Timberlake (5:15-5:30 p.m.) had a 48.1/70 overnight rating.

The game averaged 103.4 million viewers, marking the 10th best audience for any program in TV history. The 41-33 victory by the Philadelphia Eagles over the New England Patriots ranks behind the 1983 M*A*S*H series finale among all U.S. shows.

This will be the first time a TV network has broadcast both the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics in the same year since CBS in 1992.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, 27 million viewers saw the This is Us episode that followed the game, the highest number for an NBC scripted show in 27 years. The Super Bowl edition of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon was seen by 8.4 million, for Fallon’s fourth most-watched Tonight Show.


The NCAA Selection Show will move from CBS to TBS on March 11, the networks announced. Their contract states that whichever network carries the national semifinals and final can also show the Selection Show. TBS did not exercise that right two years ago, but will this year. The semifinals and final return to CBS in 2019. … Former Yankees manager Joe Girardi has joined MLB Network as a studio commentator. It’s not his first time as an analyst. Following his career as a player, Girardi was part of ESPN Radio’s coverage of the 2003 National League Division Series and later worked for the YES Network in 2004 and 2007 as well as with Fox Sports in 2007.

At 4 p.m. Thursday (an hour before NBC’s first night of Winter Olympics coverage), NBCSN will show Calgary ’88, a documentary on the figure skating competition from that year. Rob Lowe narrates the film, featuring Brian Boitano of the U.S. and Brian Orser of Canada for the men, and Katarina Witt of East Germany and Debi Thomas of the U.S. for the women. … Atlanta Rules: The Story of the ’90s Braves, another documentary, will be on MLB Network at 6 p.m. Tuesday. …

Another Winter Olympics alternative this weekend is the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at 1-4 p.m. Saturday and noon-3:30 p.m. Sunday on CBS. Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO Robert Iger told CNBC the forthcoming ESPN+ streaming service will cost $4.99 a month.


Dungy: Eagles in fine hands with Nick Foles

Dan Patrick, Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison (left to right) will be the primary faces seen on the Super Bowl LII pregame show Sunday on NBC. (Jeffrey Beall photo)

There may have been some people worried when stellar Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was lost for the season with an injury and had to be replaced by Nick Foles, but Tony Dungy was not among them.

Dungy, the former NFL coach and NBC analyst, will be on the network’s Super Bowl pregame show starting at 9 a.m. PST Sunday. The Eagles will play the New England Patriots at Minneapolis. Game time is at 3:30 p.m.

When Wentz tore knee ligaments in a game against the Rams in Los Angeles, Dungy quickly said on the air that Eagles fans shouldn’t give up hope.

“There were two things for me,” Dungy said this week in a call with reporters. “No. 1, the Eagles have a very good football team and everyone was focused in on Carson Wentz because he was having a great year, but they had defensive stats that were at the top of the league. They had four running backs that could go in there and do different things. They had three tight ends that were making plays for them. They had wide receivers that were making plays. It was a talented team.

“And then I look at Nick Foles. I had the chance, my son played at Oregon, so I saw him play in the Pac-12 [for Arizona]. I saw him play under Chip Kelly because I’m good friends with Chip and I watched him, and I know Nick Foles’ character. He was not a rookie that was going to be afraid. He’s a strong Christian young man who had plenty of belief that he was there for the right reasons and I just thought he would play well. I thought with their team, they would do well and I’m not surprised they’re here.”

Foles has shined in the playoffs, completing 49 of 63 passes (78%) for three touchdowns with no interceptions. Still, the quarterback has little postseason experience.

SB52_Primary_RGB“That will be the key and I think that’s what everyone wants to watch,” Dungy said. “Is this going to be the Nick Foles that we saw in a couple of end-of-the-regular-season games or the Nick Foles that we saw in the two playoff games? I think he has a lot of confidence. I think the fact that he has played some now and has a rhythm with his receivers is going to help, and I think he’s going to play very, very well.”

Dungy’s pregame partner, Rodney Harrison, played 15 years in the NFL, six with the Patriots. He says he’s impressed — and surprised — by the way New England coach Bill Belichick has managed to adapt to younger players.

“I think the thing that gets me excited,” Harrison said, “is I didn’t think that coach Belichick could change his personality to be able to adapt to this kind of new kind of generation of kids, and he’s done that.

“You see him, he’s a lot happier and he smiles a lot more. Maybe you don’t see it, but when I see him, he smiles a lot more and he knows how to relate to the players. I thought he would have a difficult time relating to the players because they’re so different. And when I say different, maybe I mean they’re not as tough as the old-school guys. But just the personalities and with the technology and everything, I thought Belichick has done a wonderful job of adapting to all the new players and their personalities.”

One pregame feature worth watching will be host Dan Patrick’s interview with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, expected to air in the final 40 minutes of the show.

“I sat down with Tom Brady on Monday,” Patrick said. “Got a chance to spend 30 minutes with him talking about a variety of things, from his summers spent here in Minnesota, to his mother’s health, to his legacy, to his relationship with Belichick, a variety of things that came out that I was proud of what we were able to do, and his willingness to open up.”


Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh will be part of NBC’s pregame, halftime and postgame Super Bowl coverage. It’s the second time the network has utilized Harbaugh; he worked Super Bowl XLIX when the Patriots defeated Seattle.

“John was a natural on our Super Bowl coverage three years ago in Arizona,” executive producer Sam Flood said. “We are excited to have him back to provide viewers with his insight and analysis as a Super Bowl-winning coach.”

NBC’s coverage will also have a strong NASCAR influence. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (who will join the network’s NASCAR coverage next season), Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney will be involved in features, along with U.S. Olympic skier Bode Miller, Telemundo soccer announcer Andres Cantor and The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore.

All synergy, all the time.

SiriusXM Radio will once again offer a plethora of Super Bowl broadcasts. In addition to the Westwood One national feed, the Patriots broadcast and the Eagles broadcast, there will be feeds in Spanish, Chinese, German, French, Japanese and Hungarian.


Fox captured the rights to Thursday Night Football in a five-year deal beginning next season. The deal is worth a reported $550 million annually. Instead of two networks (previously CBS and NBC) splitting the schedule, Fox will be the only broadcast network, along with NFL Network simulcasts. According to The Hollywood Reporter, CBS and NBC paid $45 million per game for a deal valued at a combined $450 million annually for 10 games also simulcast on NFL Network. … Variety reports YouTube TV has a deal for exclusive rights to Los Angeles Football Club MLS games. It’s the first time a streaming service of any kind has made such a deal with a U.S. pro sports team. The deal is for approximately 18 LAFC games. The rest will be nationally televised on ESPN or Fox Sports 1.

A great alternative to Super Bowl pregame coverage is the Phoenix Open on CBS (noon-3 p.m. Sunday). It’s the rowdiest crowd in golf. … With Tiger Woods’ return, the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines earned a 2.6 rating and 4.1 million viewers on CBS, according to Sports Media Watch. The numbers were up 30% and 32% respectively over last year and were the highest since 2013. … The NFL Pro Bowl took a 5.3 rating on ABC and ESPN on Sunday, up 25% from the 4.2 when the game was only on ESPN. … Meanwhile, the NHL All-Star Game had a 1.2 rating on NBC, according to SMW, down 8% from last year’s 1.3, despite go head to head against the Pro Bowl. … Saturday night’s Celtics-Warriors NBA game on ABC was seen by 4.7 million viewers, up 44% from the comparable Warriors-Clippers game last year. …

Saturday Night Live’s Leslie Jones will be part of NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage, much as she was for the Rio Summer Games in 2016.


NBC would enjoy another close Super Bowl, please

NBC would absolutely love it if Super Bowl LII turned out as well as the last three it has televised.

nbcsports11In Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, Pittsburgh defeated Arizona 27-23. In Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, the New York Giants beat New England 21-17. In Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, New England topped Seattle 28-24.

Three games, each decided by four points.

For those of us who remember the Super Bowls of the 1970s and ’80s, when nearly every game was decided by a blowout, this has been a welcome trend. And the ultimate was achieved in last year’s game, where the New England defeated Atlanta 34-28 in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.

With the Patriots once again playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis against the Philadelphia Eagles (and favored by 4½ points), NBC would be ecstatic if something similar happened this time around.

Al Michaels will be calling his 10th Super Bowl. (NBC photo)

Play-by-play man Al Michaels, who will call his 10th Super Bowl, understands he has been blessed by his recent assignments.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” he said Tuesday in a call with reporters. “We had Arizona-Pittsburgh, which featured two of the most iconic plays in the history of the Super Bowl: James Harrison’s 100-yard interception return — and ironically, he will be in the game on Sunday — and Santonio Holmes’ catch in the end zone to win it. And then we did the Giants against the Patriots three years later and that game ended with [Tom] Brady launching one to the end zone for [Rob] Gronkowski that fell incomplete as the Giants beat them for the second time in four years. And the last time out we had the Seattle-New England game three years ago and that featured the Malcolm Butler interception at the end of that game to seal it, and he’s in the game [Sunday]. So we have Harrison and we have Butler, probably the two most iconic defensive plays in the history of the Super Bowl.”

Michaels had one of his bucket-list items taken away last year, so he’s replaced it with another.

“We always had hoped to do the first overtime Super Bowl, but the Patriots took care of that last year [with a 34-28 win over Atlanta], so the only thing I’m rooting for this year is triple overtime and the longest game in the history of football.”


Speaking of rooting, network announcers never root for anything other than a good game and big ratings. No matter what you may think, they are not pulling for one team over another. It just doesn’t happen. No way, no how.

Objectivity in his analysis has led many viewers to think that Cris Collinsworth hates their team. (NBC photo)

But some people just don’t believe that. Eagles fans on Sunday completely expect NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth to not only be pulling for the Patriots, but to be hating the Eagles.

“It’s probably the most asked question I get in every city,” Collinsworth said. “I know the Eagles fans think they’re unique by asking that question. I think the Patriots fans think they’re unique, the Cowboys fans think they’re unique. Even the Bengals fans think they’re unique [Collinsworth played eight years for Cincinnati] by asking me that question. I have probably heard that question, I’m going to guess, in my lifetime, about 1,500 times.

“Usually, I just give a traditional answer, you know: ‘It’s my job to critique the players and I really don’t hate these guys, blah, blah, blah,’ just go down the list. And then sometimes, if a guy is particularly obnoxious, I’ll just turn to him and go, ‘I don’t know. I just hate ’em.’ It’s a bizarre world. I think I spend 98% of my time saying glowing, nice things about people in a broadcast and yet I know there’s another 2% [where I say] ‘They stink.’

“I’ve had my son play college football. I’ve heard him be critiqued on the air and it’s no fun. And obviously with these two [Super Bowl] teams, they’re so good and they’ve come so far, they become a bit of the family for the neighborhood of the local team, but I really, honestly expect my next question to be why do I hate the Patriots so much?”


For NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya, Super Bowl LII is a home game; she lives in Minneapolis (where the high for Sunday is expected to be 11 degrees and the low to be zero). Tafoya says that even though the hometown Vikings just missed playing, Minnesota is still ready to be a gracious host.

Michele Tafoya is enjoying having the Super Bowl in her hometown of Minneapolis. (NBC photo)

“It’s neat having the Super Bowl in your hometown,” said Tafoya, who grew up in California and has lived in Minnesota since 1994. “… I can tell you that the state and the cities have been preparing for it since they’ve known it was going to be here. There was all kinds of Minnesota nice and Minnesota excitement. They love the winter here in Minnesota. They embrace everything about it and so there’s a lot of fun going on around town. Even though the Vikings came really close and it’s been a major disappointment, I think still the fans here are ready to embrace the game as it stands.”

There are critics who think sideline reporters are a waste of time, that nothing good ever comes from them. But Tafoya may well be the absolute best of all.

“There’s nobody better than Michele,” Michaels said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with her in basketball as well with the NBA [on ABC] about 14 years ago. You can always count on her and sometimes she’s in a very difficult spot. I know we were doing a game in Houston about four years ago. Gary Kubiak was the [Texans] coach and he suffered what appeared to be a heart attack and collapsed on the sideline. And there was Michele right there. I mean, that’s as tough as it gets, to get the information in the craziness going on all around you.

“… I’ve also watched her in a situation where a player’s brother had died earlier that day in a motorcycle accident and able to do it both journalistically and with a great deal of compassion. No matter what the situation is, she is up to it. She has never missed a beat.”

Tafoya and her husband Mark Vandersall have two children and she says she is pulling double duty this week as reporter and as mom.

“It kind of cuts both ways,” she said. “It’s a luxury in that I get to spend extra time at home and that is a premium to all of us who are on the road all season long. We miss a lot of stuff. … I have a hired assistant. His name is Mark Vandersall; I married him about 17 years ago. He has always held down the fort when I have to go to work. This week is no different in that regard, but we are going to try to enjoy it, too.”