Steve Yanda of the WASHINGTON POST reports today that ESPN personality Scott Van Pelt, a Maryland alumnus, was cited as a “big factor” by former Maryland basketball player Jordan Williams in his decision to leave the school and enter the 2011 NBA draft.
“(Van Pelt) was a big factor in helping me make my decision (to go pro). Just giving me feedback, what he thought about it. Just trying to make me make the right decision. He did a great job, and I give him a lot of credit for going out of his way.
“He’s a really busy guy, so for him to go out of his way to do that is unbelievable.
“A great guy; a wonderful person. Always trying to reach his hand out and help, even when he doesn’t have to. He’s always using his knowledge and using who he knows to help me out.”
I reached out to Van Pelt today for comment, but have not heard back.
Tuesday a book about ESPN, called Those Guys Have All The Fun, was released to the public. Co-Author Jim Miller, who was granted access to ESPN’s Bristol headquarters to conduct interviews with company employees for the book, hit the promotional media trail the same day to encourage sales of his 763-page work.
Those Tuesday appearances included stops on the national ESPN radio shows Mike and Mike In The Morning, The Scott Van Pelt Show and The Doug Gottlieb Show.
Though the book includes a minumum of negative material involving anyone at ESPN not already known for notorious behavior, it may have come as a surprise to some that ESPN would promote even a quasi-controversial endeavor about the company to its national audience.
Though from what I was told this week about the circumstances of Miller’s radio appearances that day, ESPN management did everything in its power to control what was asked of the author by the hosts of the shows.
When Miller was booked on the shows two weeks ago, ESPN management took the highly unusual step of drawing up talking points, in the form of six questions, that it highly encouraged on-air hosts adhere to while interviewing Miller.
Along with those talking points, ESPN management asked some of those involved in each show to make sure the word “dominate” was not used while engaging Miller on the air.
Needless to say, some of those involved in each show weren’t exactly overjoyed at the idea. In the case of Van Pelt and Russillo, I was told they flatly refused to entertain ESPN management’s suggested questions.
Thursday I went back and listened to all three interviews, and what I heard did little to dispute the notion that ESPN management did in fact attempt to control what was asked of ESPN book author Miller.
The first question of each interview is particularly striking, considering it was the same query in all three cases.
To paraphrase, Miller was asked, “Why ESPN?”
From there, the interviews come off as - at best - perfunctory, with a noticeable lack of followup to Miller’s answers.
Miller was given a mere five minutes by Greenberg & Golic and Gottlieb while Miller’s audience with Van Pelt & Russillo lasted seven minutes.
None of that analysis is an indictment of any of those involved in the shows, on or off-air. If ESPN management saw fit to allow Miller to promote his book about ESPN over the company’s national radio airwaves, it had absolutely no business calling into question the professionalism of any of its on-air talent. (Which is what it did with the absurd talking points.)
If you ever wanted a material example of what monopoly wrought on an industry, the abject arrogance of ESPN executives in asserting editorial demands on its on-air talent is it.
UPDATE (4:42am PT): In lieu of the above revelation, a rather unfortunate quote from ESPN Network Senior VP/General Manager Mo Davenport from a post on radio-online.com this week touting the opening of the new ESPN radio studios on June 1:
On December 27 I first noted Auburn head football coach Gene Chizik’s refusal to confirm his entire roster of players as academically eligible for the BCS Championship Game against Oregon on Jan. 10 in Arizona.
(Nearly month after AU semester ended, Chizik confirmed all players eligible)
Monday, all Auburn players on the current roster traveled to Arizona to continue prepping for the big game. After the team arrived in Phoenix, Chizik refused to address a reporter’s question about possible academic eligibility issues facing the team.
Tuesday at a press conference Chizik again was mum when asked if he would not have his full complement of players due to academics.
Finally, two weeks after publicly broaching the possibility that Auburn could face academic casualties for the BCS Championship Game, Chizik broke his silence on the subject. Read more…
UPDATE (2:40p ET): ESPN VP of PR Josh Krulewitz in response to my report on ESPN Radio changes: “An announcement with details on future ESPN radio plans is upcoming.”
Los Angeles radio industry sources confirmed to me this week that the daily radio shows of ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt and Doug Gottlieb will soon be heard on the Angels-owned KLAA-AM (830am). KLAA, which was purchased by Arte Moreno to serve as the flagship radio outlet for the Angels, has a powerful daytime signal into Los Angeles.
As of now the changes, which have been in the works for months, are set to take effect in early April. The move also comes despite there already being an ESPN-owned station in the L.A. marketplace, KSPN-AM (710am).
As part of the change on the national ESPN radio front, Colin Cowherd’s morning show is being cut by one hour, from 7-10a PT. Van Pelt’s show is likely to increase to three hours, with it airing live in L.A. from 10a-1p PT and Gottlieb’s show remaining from 1p-4p PT.
From 1984 to 2007, he oversaw a trendsetting show that made liberal use of action highlights from games that was eventually called “The George Michael Sports Machine.” At its peak, the show was syndicated to more than 200 stations. The show was credited with inspiring ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
ESPN’s SportsCenter actually started in 1979, but I do think it’s reasonable to say that the production Michael put into the Sports Machine show, with the (now amusing) futuristic-looking set, did inspire SportsCenter’s advancement to better production value.
Other thing to remember about SportsCenter in the early days is that it had a very low profile nationally because cable was still in its relative infancy. Michael had considerably more weekly viewers with his network syndicated highlights show on Sunday nights, so for many people the concept of a national sports news show was first introduced to them by Michael. Hard to imagine a world without that now, eh?
Though a less-known connection to ESPN involving Michael probably had a much larger impact on the network we know today. 14 years ago it was Michael who first paired WASHINGTON POST sportswriters Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon together for a television show.
Kornheiser and Wilborn first appeared on Michael’s ‘Redskins Report’ every Sunday in D.C., then went on to co-host a show called ‘Full Court Press.’ That experience helped propel Kornheiser and Wilbon to ESPN’s ‘PTI’, where they currently host the most-watched daily show on the network.
Another Michael connection to ESPN is through SportsCenter’s highest-profile anchor Scott Van Pelt. Van Pelt grew up in D.C. watching Michael and talked to me today about the experience. Read more…
When Tiger Woods accepted Jimmy Fallon’sPR stunt challenge to take him on at the “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10″ video game for the Wii, you can imagine that Woods was hardly sweating bullets. After all, it’s his game. And while I know that doesn’t mean that John Madden would be good at video game football or that Bill Laimbeer would excel at “Combat Basketball,” I feel pretty confident in Tiger Woods’ ability to play a video golf game. (Although I wouldn’t want to take on “QB Eagles“ in Tecmo Super Bowl.)
But it turns out that Fallon has more talents than being the only person in America who laughs at Horatio Sanz: he’s also pretty decent at video games. So when the two played a match in Times Square yesterday over three holes at a virtual Bethpage Black course (with commentary by Scott Van Pelt and Kelly Tilghman, who avoided any impulse to offer to “lynch Tiger” on behalf of Fallon), Tiger was in for a surprise as he was summarily throttled by the “comedian“.
In the relatively short history of sports blogs, there have been several things that have served to greatly expand their visibility above and beyond the niche of the young, internet-savvy set. These things have often had one thing in common - ESPN. From Erin Andrews‘ sideline antics to Scott Van Pelt’s singles bar shenanigans to “You’re With Me, Leather,” sports blogs shone a much-needed, often hilarious spotlight on the actions and direction of the media behemoth and its employees.
Take, for example, the disparate treatment of ESPN mainstays Chris Berman and Scott Van Pelt. The sports blogosphere is as united in their distate for Berman’s tired schtick as they are united in their appreciation for Van Pelt’s self-deprecating everyman personality. These two extremes have never been more evident than they were in two separate stories today. Let’s discuss.
And it gets better. Anderson was also found with marijuana in his pocket, and the other man he was arrested with was underage. I think the Urban Dictionary is hard at work on a new definition for the Dirty Bird. Read more…