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Year in sports media: TMZ cracks biggest stories, Simmons crashes, NBA cashes in

When I first launched Sherman Report in April, 2012, I initially was concerned that there wouldn’t be enough material on sports media to support a regular blog. I soon discovered just the opposite was the case.

There was so much news and content occurring, I had to make an executive decision. I couldn’t be The New York Times and run “all the news that’s fit to print” on sports media. I had to make choices about what I post, and that still covers considerable territory.

One thing is for sure: the world of sports media never is dull. It was another eventful year in 2014.

Here’s what stood out:

TMZ, not ESPN: The two biggest stories in sports in 2014 were broken by TMZ, an outlet dedicated to trashy gossip about celebrities. Yet it was their video and audio tapes that exploded the lives of Ray Rice and Donald Sterling and subsequently dominated the national conversation.

TMZ was lauded for the scoops, although paying for stories hardly qualifies as journalism. But does it matter in the new media landscape? People just want information, and TMZ delivered.

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NFL, promotional partners mourn Manziel debut

There is still a chance that Johnny Manziel will become a valuable contributor to the Cleveland Browns, and that years from now writers and broadcasters and social media types will reminisce wistfully about his horrific first start. Judging by his poor play in a 30-0 home loss to Cincinnati, that chance isn’t too big, but nothing is impossible. In fact, the Cubs might actually win a World Series again.

The real losers in the Manziel debacle were not the Browns, although their playoff hopes are dashed – again. Nope, the biggest defeat in the mess was absorbed by the NFL and its media partners, who have been craving some Johnny Football excitement since the former Texas A&M standout preened for the cameras on Draft Night last May.

It’s important to realize that while the NFL thrives on the competition between its 32 teams and the chase for the Super Bowl, it needs stars.

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Steinberg: Cowherd coming around on John Wall


Since John Wall’s very first home game in the NBA, a game where he introduced himself to the home crowd with his own rendition of the “Dougie,” ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd has chided him as “not a sharp guy,” a poor leader and a point guard who will never win an NBA title.

It appears that, in recent weeks, Cowherd has begun to come around ever so slightly on his original statements, according to Washington Post columnist Dan Steinberg.

Now, any of us who publicly express opinions on sports matters will be wrong. Often spectacularly so. I think the best thing you can do when that happens is just admit it, apologize when necessary, and move on. Cowherd finally issued something of a reconsideration of his Wall opinion on Tuesday, after Wall attracted an avalanche of national praise for his relationship with a little girl who died of cancer.

Cowherd stated he believes that Wall has grown up and matured in to a person with “real character.”

Though Cowherd’s stance on Wall as a player and a leader has changed, the outspoken radio host still stopped short of offering what amounts to a full apology, telling his listeners, “if you’re looking for apologies, you’re fishing off the wrong pier.”

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Obama appears again on ‘The Herd’

Dec. 12, President Barack Obama appeared — for the second time in nine months — on ESPN Radio’s “The Herd with Colin Cowherd.” Lining up the President of the United States for an interview takes months of planning, a task which fell to ESPN radio talent producer Josh Drew, who explained the process in a piece by ESPN Front Row‘s Tara Chozet.

My original White House contact left in June, and I never heard from him again, so I had to start from the ground up to find a new contact. After a few weeks, I was able to find someone, and I checked in with her every couple of weeks starting in September. Sometimes it was just an email to say hello. This is very much like a sales job, touching base with clients and making sure you are top of mind when they have something to promote.

Booking the president is never something that can be locked in weeks in advance. Usually, they call you, and you say yes, no matter the timing or the day.

While on “The Herd,” Obama and Cowherd discussed the NFL’s conduct policy, NBA players donning “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts, the current state of the Chicago Bulls and White Sox, and the upcoming healthcare signup deadline.

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Dietsch guesses where Bill Simmons may land

In his weekly media column, Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch weighs the potential landing spots for polarizing Grantland editor-in-chief and ESPN bad boy Bill Simmons, whose contract expires next summer.

First on the list is ESPN, Simmons’ current employer, which Deitsch gives 2-1 odds for landing Simmons.

No other entity affords him more resources and distribution for the content he enjoys … The network also holds a long-term rights deal with his beloved NBA through the 2024-25 season. Simmons is a loyalist and will no doubt weigh what his departure would mean to the young Grantland staffers he hired. But there is this: He’d love to see what he can do outside of ESPN management’s arm.”

Deitsch also lists Bleacher Report, Vox Media and Yahoo Sports, saying “Pairing Simmons and Adrian Wojnarowski (Yahoo’s NBA insider) would be a powerful NBA duo.”

He also says Simmons could go the Glenn Beck route and create his own media network.

“If Simmons followed suit, a host of Grantland staffers would almost certainly join him,” Deitsch writes.

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CBS marks highest rated college football package

CBS Sports’ national broadcast of the SEC enjoyed its sixth season as the highest-rated regular-season college football package of all the major networks, according to a press release by CBS Sports.

SEC on CBS averaged nine million viewers this season and a 4.o television rating. The network’s coverage was also highlighted by five of the top 10 most-watched college football telecasts of the 2014 regular season, including Alabama beating Missouri in the SEC Championship game, which had 12.8 million viewers; Alabama beating Mississippi State, which had 10.3 million viewers; and Alabama beating LSU, which had 9.2 million viewers.

In comparison, ESPN and ABC, which launched the SEC Network this season, averaged a 3.2 television rating. ESPN’s coverage of the Iron Bowl, however, drew 13.5 million and a 7.4 television rating, according to Sports Media Watch.

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Yoder: Van Natta, NFL battle a matter of trust

According to Awful Announcing’s Matt Yoder, ESPN’s Outside the Lines investigation of the National Football League’s handling of the Ray Rice scandal is one of the most important aspects of their journalistic integrity, holding its most powerful business partner in check. Yoder says OTL’s Don Van Natta is leading the charge against the NFL, and digging through the NFL’s PR machine is a matter of who to trust.

Van Natta reported on Dec. 10 that the NFL had requested the Ray Rice elevator tape, contradicting Roger Goodell’s public statements that the league had never requested the tape. After another damning report by Van Natta, the NFL went on the offensive, saying the report “distorts the testimony and evidence in the Rice matter.”

Yoder says that major takeaway from the public battle between Van Natta and the NFL is the “importance of trust.”

Right now, Van Natta and Outside the Lines have more public confidence in their work than the NFL. That’s even considering the fact that the massive OTL report on the Rice matter had a couple of factual discrepancies and edits after the fact. If you lose trust in your integrity and honesty, it’s incredibly difficult to get it back. Roger Goodell will be fighting an uphill battle for however many years he keeps his job as NFL commissioner.

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