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National Sports Journalism Center

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Sports Media News

Yasiel Puig’s ‘Escape from Cuba’


No athlete has more mystery and intrigue surrounding him today than the L.A. Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig. The Cuban native took the baseball world by surprise in June of last season and it he hasn’t let go.

Part of the mystery around Puig is how the outfielder got from socialistic Cuba to being the saving grace of the Dodgers. It’s a mystery that Jesse Katz of Los Angeles Magazine sheds light on, revealing with help from lawsuit documents a tale full of kidnapping, threats and even murder . It took five attemptes before Puig reached American soil and Katz writes about how the fourth attempt ended on a U.S Coast Guard cutter with an autographed softball.

“Under the seemingly arbitrary U.S. policy on Cuban migrants—what is known as “wet foot, dry foot”—Puig would have been instantly welcomed if his boat had delivered him to American shores. Anyone escaping Castro’s island gets a free pass, as long as they evade detection. Caught at sea, they lose their chance. The crew of the Vigilant, the first Americans to get Yasiel Puig’s autograph, had to return him to the country he had just fled.”

The most dramatic part of the story is summed up in almost one sentence. To get to the U.S., Puig had to be removed from a seedy motel in Mexico with the alleged help of former sports agent Joe Kehoskie.

“With interest accruing and tempers rising, Pacheco at last took action. The lawsuit alleges that he, with the help of several other Miami financiers, hired a team of fixers to descend on Isla Mujeres. In a scene that could have been cribbed from a thousand screenplays, they stormed the motel and, according to court papers, “staged a kidnapping.” Within days Puig was auditioning in Mexico City.”


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ABC, ESPN announce six Big Ten football games for prime time


ESPN has announced six Big Ten Conference games it will air in prime time on its family of networks in the upcoming football season.

The team with the most face time will be Ohio State, which will be featured in games against Virginia Tech, Penn State and Illinois. The other games include Miami (Fla.) at Nebraska Sept. 20, Nebraska at Michigan State  Oct. 4 and Penn State at Michigan Oct. 11.

The game between Penn State and Michigan will be just the third night game at Michigan since 1927 and the first one against another Big Ten program.

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NASCAR on Fox ratings continue to slide


Even without the NBA playoffs to compete against for the first time in years, the ratings for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Saturday night hit a new low.

According to Jayski, the overnight rating for the Southern 500 was a 3.2, down 9 percent from last year’s race and the lowest overnight rating for a NASCAR on Fox since 2001. Through eight races this season, all broadcasts have rated lower than last year’s equivalent race, though the race at Texas last week was postponed to Monday due to rain.


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NFL later draft subjects fans to even more tedious run-up

Thanks to their ability to secure NFL cooperation, the folks who made the movie “Draft Day,” which debuted nationwide April 11, used real teams and their logos, and had access to authentic big-time football footage. The result is a product that doesn’t force viewers to watch a bunch of fictitious teams in uniforms so far beyond garish that golfer John Daly’s nightmare pants seem like charcoal gray country club issue by comparison. Oliver Stone’s “Any Given Sunday” was forced to do that, and the big losers weren’t the Miami Sharks but moviegoers, whose senses were assaulted by ridiculous football costumes.

The NFL’s imprimatur also ensures that the movie is practically a two-hour advertisement for the league and is another example of how it is unparalleled in conjuring marketing magic. Don’t believe me? Well, check out what New York Times reviewer A.O. Scott had to say:

“‘Draft Day,’ made with what appears to be the very enthusiastic — not to say domineering — cooperation of the N.F.L., is less a football movie than a promotional film.”

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Mondays with Murray: Revisiting novelty of sports on cable

ESPN2 In light of recent cable contracts in the sporting world approaching astronomical amounts of money (including a deal between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Time Warner that leaves out 70 percent of Los Angeles residents) the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation passed on a gem from the late, great columnist.

It was 1981 and simpler times. ESPN was more of an experiment than an enterprise. And Murray was fascinated by the notion of a 24-hour sports network so hungry for programming that they’d air the NFL Draft. Little did he know.

Enjoy: The Dawning of the Age of Cable TV, originally published June 4, 1981, Los Angeles Times.

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Globe wins Pulitzer for Boston Marathon bombing coverage


On the eve of first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, the paper at the forefront of the event’s aftermath was recognized for its coverage.

The Pulitzer Prizes, given out by Columbia University, awarded the breaking news award to the Boston Globe Monday afternoon, 24 hours before the anniversary of the dual blasts that rocked the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

It was the Globe’s first Pulitzer for breaking news, but its 23rd award overall and seventh in 12 years. Staff photographers John Tlumacki and David L. Ryan were finalists in the breaking news photography category for their work covering the bombings.

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ESPN to air Pat Tillman special on 10th anniversary of his death


April 22 will mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Pat Tillman, an NFL player turned Army Ranger who lost his life in Afghanistan. ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” helped uncover that tragedy, likely caused by friendly fire.

A decade later, OTL introduces another wrinkle into this harrowing tale, according to Richard Deitsch’s latest media column for Sports Illustrated.

From the column:

“Last November a serious effort was launched to locate and reach the shooters. Fish spoke with the four men believed to have fired on Tillman’s position, as well as the driver of their vehicle…

Finally, one agreed to talk.

Next week on ESPN, that man will speak on television for the first time about what happened that day.

As part of an “Outside the Lines” special, “Pat Tillman: 10 Years Later an Enduring Tragedy,” airing on ESPN on April 22 from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. ET, former U.S. Army Ranger Specialist Steven Elliott will discuss the events that led to Tillman’s death from his vantage point.”

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