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TV watchers are moving not-so-gently down the stream

Now that the NBA season has completed, and ESPN has once again proven its allegiance to the league by valuing drama over information during the draft, we head into something of a sports wasteland for the next five or six weeks. Actually, the entire television landscape is rather barren, what with summer replacement series trying to convince us that they are more interesting than barbecuing and time at the beach, and a slew of events involving non-major sports filling the athletic schedule.

Sure, there is Shark Week, and AMC will show “The Godfather” trilogy 10-15 times throughout July. (That isn’t a bad thing.) That isn’t enough to keep people tuned in, or at least attract the kind of robust numbers needed to make executives swoon.

Since this has been going on for decades, people in the TV world shouldn’t be too upset. What doesn’t have that kind of history is the recent phenomenon of Americans’ turning away from the tube all together. A recent article on the website Awful Announcing discussed the results of a study by DigitalSmiths, which revealed that 8.2 percent of those surveyed cut satellite or television service last year. That’s up 1.3 percent from 2013. A whopping 45.2 percent of those still connected plan on reducing the number of channels they purchase, in order to save money, take advantage of the growing number of streaming opportunities and to tailor their channel lineups to their – rather than providers’ – preferences.

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Bob Ryan receives Red Smith Award

Bob Ryan receives Red Smith Award

Retired Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan received the Red Smith Award Friday from the Associated Press Sports Editors. The Boston Globe described the presentation at the organization’s annual conference.

Ryan covered a number of major sporting events for the Globe, including 21 NBA Finals, 29 Final Fours, 11 Olympics, 11 World Series and 11 Super Bowls. He was the only reporter to cover the 1992 men’s Olympic basketball team in its entirety, beginning with practices in La Jolla, California, and culminating with the medal ceremony in Barcelona.

“Everything, and everybody, has a story. True greatness comes from those who can tell the story, and that is Bob Ryan,” said Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton, who introduced Ryan as he received the award Friday at the Associated Press Sports Editors conference.

 

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Increased NFL-Twitter relationship not great news for fans, media

For the next six weeks, NFL coaches and executives will try to relax with their families and recharge before the start of training camp and the demands of yet another season. While doing that, they will worry about which – if any – players will be getting into the kind of trouble that arises when they are away from day-to-day contact with their teams. In other words, some of those in charge wouldn’t mind if training camp started tomorrow.

While the brass frets, the business of the league rolls on, despite a six-week break in the action. The Tom Brady appeal will be heard. Contract drama will play out. (Hello, Russell Wilson.) And the NFL will benefit from its strong partnerships with media outlets happy to promote the league during the pre-camp lull.

Count ESPN among the most committed NFL pals. It will provide consistent programming throughout the rest of June and July, revving up fans for the season to come – just as it has been doing since the Super Bowl ended. NFL Network is excited, too, and count on NBC, CBS and Fox to use their sportsnets to keep their biggest corporate friend happy. Since this is 2015, the media world extends beyond the TV networks and their affiliated platforms. You can bet Yahoo will be crowing about its upcoming exclusive live streaming of the Bills-Jaguars game, even if that contest isn’t exactly the prize of the 2015 regular season schedule.

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Fox suffers through shaky debut in U.S. Open

I covered 12 U.S. Opens for the Chicago Tribune, and I came away with a headache from each one.

The cranky level always is at the highest levels. The five-hour-plus rounds leave everyone drained. The players are perpetually ticked off with the United States Golf Association’s wacky set-up. It wasn’t just last week at Chambers Bay. Check out the complaints from the first U.S. Open at Bethpage in 2002 and when the USGA lost the greens at Shinnecock in 2004.

As for the press, the logistics usually are challenging, and we live in constant fear of having to cover a Monday playoff. I imagine the press room delivered the biggest cheer at Chambers Bay when Dustin Johnson missed that putt at 18 Sunday.

It isn’t just the players and media. The U.S. Open also has viewers reaching for Tylenol. It’s just that kind of tournament.

From that perspective, Fox Sports really had no chance in airing its first U.S. Open. No matter what the network did, the transition from 20 years of the NBC’s coverage wasn’t going to be met fondly.

The reaction was the equivalent of Joe Buck and Greg Norman standing in the middle of the driving range with no protection. Prior to the tournament, I told Fox Sports officials to stay away from social media. I hope they heeded my advice, because it wasn’t pretty.

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ESPN’s Cari Champion moving to SportsCenter

The Wrap has reported that Cari Champion will leave her spot as the co-host of ESPN2’s “First Take” to serve as anchor on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”

Champion co-hosted “First Take” for two and a half years, alongside Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith, but Friday will be her last day. Champion is expected to join “SportsCenter’s” morning segments in mid-July.

“On the handful of previous occasions that Cari joined ‘SportsCenter’ shows, her wit and enthusiasm lit up the set,” Rob King, senior vice president of “SportsCenter” and news, told The Wrap. “Having her presence on a regular basis is a win not only for audiences watching ‘SportsCenter,’ but also for all of us who work on the show.”

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Golden State Warriors celebrate first title in 40 years

Sports Illustrated

The Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday to claim their first NBA Championship since 1975. 

The Warriors closed out the series with a 105-97 win in game six in Cleveland, and Warriors forward Andre Iguodala was named the 2015 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. Following the victory, Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated documented the Warriors’ celebration. 

The season of splash ended Wednesday at 2:18 a.m., on the loading dock at Quicken Loans Arena, 20 feet from the Warriors bus. Steph Curry raised both arms, let out a triumphant roar, and in a fit of euphoria lost control of the Heineken in his right hand. He tried to catch the bottle, but it splattered against the cement, leaving a puddle of green shards and Dutch hops. A few of Curry’s teammates, waiting for him outside the bus, saw the final splash. They erupted in applause.                            

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You can’t pin James’ injury on the media

Back when the whole world was in black and white, and I was in high school, one of the easy ways to refer to our basketball team in newspaper headlines was by calling its members “cagers.” Not everybody knew what that meant, but since the term had been around for a long while, it was an accepted – and overused – term.

“Cagers clinch title with 78-71 victory.”

The name refers to the fact that during basketball’s earliest incarnations, courts were often laid down in ballrooms, theaters and other areas not necessarily zoned for athletic use. To protect the spectators from errant passes and charging players, organizers would surround the hardwood with chicken wire, creating a “cage” of sorts around the action. This carried on for about three decades, even in arenas and gyms far more suitable for roundball play.

That practice disappeared in 1933, as did the cuts, scrapes and infections players sustained from colliding with the rusting wires. By the time the NBA began in 1946, there was no barrier between the players and fans. As time passed, and opportunities to maximize profits grew, teams moved their paying customers ever closer to the action, selling opportunities that didn’t exist in any other sport. Yes, hockey fans can sit along the boards, but they have glass between them and the players. (Thank goodness.)

Last Thursday, during Game Four of the NBA Finals, Cleveland’s LeBron James caromed out of bounds after being fouled along the baseline by Golden State center Andrew Bogut. Unable to regain his balance, James careened into the morass of photographers squeezed into a small area under the basket and cut his head on a camera.

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