Prepare For An Onslaught Of Gab…

College football teams and their fans can look at their schedules and know for sure that they will have a big rivalry game down the road on a specific date. They can let the emotion build for months; the preparation for those games is always intense and thorough. At the moment, we have an analogous situation building in one segment of the TV talk-show industry. In the last week or so, we learned that Michael Vick will stand trial on 2 April 2008 on state charges relating to the dogfighting incidents. Yesterday, OJ Simpson and co-defendants entered pleas of “not guilty” to charges stemming from the Las Vegas hotel/memorabilia incident about 3 months ago and that trial is set for 7 April 2008.

Can you imagine the anticipation and the preparation amongst the folks that produce the daily Nancy Grace and Greta Van Susteren shout fests? You have to know that Larry King’s people are scouring the Internet looking for obscure people who have written lengthy – if not necessarily informative – pieces on this “memorabilia” incident and/or OJ Simpson and/or sports memorabilia and/or dogfighting and/or whatever to be on the program and to answer questions while Larry King stares at them feigning interest in their answers. Next April will give those folks a bumper crop of “stuff” for their programs; you can hear them licking their chops already – and quietly praying that no one cops a plea in the interim.

When I heard the news about OJ’s plea and the upcoming trial, two thoughts crossed my mind:

      1. Will the “memorabilia angle” give Pete Rose a couple of paydays as a commentator on one of these meaningless talk programs?

      2. Do you know anyone who would want to buy any OJ Simpson memorabilia? I don’t. So, why is it valuable?

Yesterday I posed a dilemma facing the 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs and whom they might root for if this year’s Dolphins threatened to go 0-16 for the season. Today, let me pose a different hypothetical situation.

      Assume this year’s Pats lose a game and the 1972 Dolphins record remains on the books and they get to drink their champagne. Now fast forward a couple of years and imagine that the 2010 Miami Dolphins are 15-0 and playing their last game. Do the ’72 Dolphins root for or against the latter-day Dolphins? [My guess is “for them” publicly and “against them” privately.]

Yesterday, Jeff Gordon posed a rhetorical question in his blog on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website. He asked, “Who in their right mind would ever kick the ball to Devin Hester?” Well, I am fairly confident that Mike Shanahan and Todd Sauerbrun have learned their lesson; I would bet money that they will not be kicking to Hester again this weekend. Of course, the Broncos are playing the Raiders this weekend so that would be a most difficult thing for them to do even if they wanted to…

Every once in a while, it’s useful to go back and look at a previous event that generated a lot of hooting and hollering when it happened and see if it was worth all of that. Turn the clock back to August of this year when the Eagles released Jeremiah Trotter before the final cut to set their roster. There was a lot of rhetorical gassing about that decision and time given to the fact that perhaps Trotter had not been told why he was being cut and so forth. So, what’s the rest of the story?

Jeremiah Trotter signed with the Tampa Bay Bucs and is on their roster. He has been active – that means he put on his uniform – for one game this year. There is no indication that he made it to the field in that game because he recorded no stats for that day. So perhaps, the reason the Eagles cut him is that he is no longer close to the Pro-Bowl caliber linebacker he used to be; and perhaps, the reason they never explained why he was cut is that they did not want to demean him by explaining that.

In NFL action this week, the Dallas/Green Bay game is clearly the best one on the docket and the Jets/Miami game is clearly the worst. Nevertheless, there are three other games that ought to catch your attention:

    Jax/Indy is a game of importance because an Indy win will virtually guarantee them the AFC South title while a Jax win will give the teams an equal record with four games to play. The Colts won handily in the first meeting of these teams back in September so there is an “intra-divisional revenge” angle here. Keep an eye on this one.

    Atlanta/St. Louis is a game of no importance except in the jockeying for position to get a high draft pick next April. These are two bad teams; probably the one that makes the last mistake will lose the game. There might be some humor value here.

    SF/Carolina should be about as compelling as a lecture on the culinary traditions of the Visigoths. Avert your eyes…

When the Pats were installed as 22-point favorites last week against the Eagles and then the line climbed to 24 points, people talked about how that was a historically high number. This week the Pats are a mere 21-point favorite over the Ravens. However, the Pats are on the road this week. A friend of mine will always bet the home team if it gets a touchdown or more in the spread; he must be salivating over this game…

There has been a whole heap of discussion this week about NFL scheduling and telecasts centered around the NFL Network doing the Dallas/Green Bay game and around the possibilities of moving the Redskins’ next two games around in the aftermath of Sean Taylor’s killing. [That is not going to happen.] Thinking about scheduling reminded me of what a hugely bad deal ESPN negotiated for itself in the last round of auctioning for the MNF rights. Let me summarize:

      ESPN pays the NFL $1.1B for 17 regular season MNF games. [Maybe with that opening week doubleheader on MNF it comes to 18 games?]

      Therefore, it costs ESPN $58.8M per game for the television rights to the game. That number does not include a dime of the costs they incur to produce the game or move their stuff and their people around the country to put it on the air.

      Even if they could sell 100 ads for the game, it would take a cost of $580K per ad to break even on the rights’ fee alone. I don’t think they get 100 add slots and there’s no way they would command $580K per slot given the ratings the programs draw. “Break-even” is not happening…

Then you add to the nonsensical economics of the deal that ESPN is not in the “network rotation” to get the Super Bowl every once in a while nor does it get the “flex scheduling” privilege that NBC gets for the Sunday Night Football package. NBC gets both of those benefits and pays only $600M per year for the same number of games. Wouldn’t you love to play high stakes poker with the guys who negotiated that ESPN deal?

Finally, here is a comment from syndicated columnist Norman Chad regarding ESPN color analyst, Ron Jaworski:

“Jaws breaks down film so well, if we showed him Army surveillance video from Afghanistan, you’ve got to figure he’d be able to track down bin Laden.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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