Speed Read: Newspaper Carnage Only Beginning

The meltdown of the American newspaper industry is in full effect. The past six weeks have seen the closures of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Rocky Mountain News, marking two of the largest newspaper closures in recent memory. And yesterday came news that might be a sign of disaster for one of the nation’s leading newspapers: the SAN FRANCISCO BUSINESS TIMES reports that roughly 120 employees of the San Francisco Chronicle have accepted voluntary buyouts as the paper struggles to avoid sale or shutdown.

San Francisco Chronicle

According to a list from the SAN FRANCISCO PENINSULA PRESS CLUB, those leaving the paper include NFL writer Nancy Gay, college sports writer Jake Curtis, deputy sports editor Larry Yant and a host of other writers, editors and photographers. This should be taken as a giant red flag if these people are getting out now, especially someone as respected as Gay; trust me, people just don’t leave NFL reporting positions at major newspapers unless something is going terribly, horribly wrong.

Leaving the Chronicle

But even the voluntary exits might not be enough - parent company Hearst Corporation (which also owns the now-online only Post-Intelligencer) has said that it needed to cut “at least” 150 jobs to avoid a shutdown or sale, with the paper currently bleeding money at a rate of $1 million a week. And with the chances of a corporation wanting to buy a failing newspaper next to zero in this climate, it seems as though the only two options are to slash the staff to ribbons or close shop.

As bad as the first option sounds, the alternative is even more daunting. Especially when you consider that the San Jose Mercury News recently announced that it was essentially abandoning the San Francisco market by stopping all weekday deliveries to the city.  Which leaves a very real possibility that the nation’s 12th-largest metropolitan area could be without a major daily newspaper (the San Francisco Examiner, currently having been reduced to a free handout resembling The Pennysaver, doesn’t count).

It seems like Mark Cuban might be prescient when he blogged about the slow death of the newspaper sports section; let’s hope that his idea of teams and leagues banding together to provide beat reporters to cover the same teams and leagues doesn’t pan out, but if the San Francisco Chronicle can fold, is any idea that outlandish?

And don’t think that it will just stop with the Chronicle: the paper was only sixth in TIME’s recent list of “The 10 Most Endangered Newspapers in America”. Ahead of it on the list are papers such as the Boston Globe, Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Miami Herald. That’s a lot of major sports teams that are suddenly going to be underserviced by local media, if at all.

Tim Floyd

Also possibly endangered: the continued success of the USC men’s basketball program. After making the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season for the first time in school history, the Trojans might be going back to square one as ESPN has word that an Arizona radio station is reporting that Tim Floyd has agreed to become the Arizona Wildcats’ new head coach, with an announcement as early as today.

This is all speculation, and as the LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS notes, this radio station has recently also had Rick Pitino and Jeff Capel as taking over at Arizona, so take everything with a grain of salt. But the LOS ANGELES TIMES reports that there may be smoke to this fire: Floyd apparently flew out yesterday to Tucson and was given 24 hours to decide on accepting the position by Arizona AD Jim Livengood.

Which is all very interesting, since Floyd rejected an overture by LSU last year, saying that USC was “his last job.” Then there’s the matter of the “impassioned speech” he gave at the team banquet Wednesday night, imploring players such as Taj Gibson and DeMar DeRozan to not jump to the NBA and come back next season to help the Trojans make a run at a national title. And then he got on a plane the next morning to interview for the Arizona job. That’s venturing into Bobby Petrino level of sleaziness.

Diego Maradona

Finally, a busy night of World Cup soccer qualifying has also brought us two people to add to the endangered list. The first is Argentine legend Diego Maradona, whose own near-death experiences with drugs and weight made him frequently endangered in the past. But this time, it’s not his life that’s in danger but his managing career, after his Argentina squad was demolished 6-1 by lowly Bolivia.

How embarrassing is this? It’s the first time they’ve given up six goals in a game since the World Cup…in 1958. Bolivia is 50 places behind Argentina in the FIFA world rankings, and their hat trick hero was Joaquin Botero, who plays for a second-division team in Mexico. This is Chaminade beating Virginia type stuff, where you glance at the box score over and over to make sure you didn’t read it wrong, before convincing yourself it’s just a typo.

And speaking of Mexico…if I were embattled manager Sven-Goren Eriksson, I wouldn’t even bother making the team flight back from Honduras, where his team suffered a humiliating 3-1 defeat, unless he wants his severed head to be placed on a pike outside of Atzeca Stadium as a warning to future managers.

The win allowed Honduras to leapfrog Mexico into the third and final guaranteed CONCACAF berth in the 2010 World Cup. Although there’s a lot of games left in both North & Central American and South American qualifying, there’s a chance that Argentina and Mexico could wind up facing each other in a two-game playoff, with the winner getting a World Cup spot and the loser staying home.

Other sports stories you might have missed last night as you were going to the hospital ER in Texas again…and again…and again

  • This is not going to help Wisconsin out in recruiting at all: the DAILY CARDINAL reports that the Badgers have banned ESPN’s Erin Andrews from working as a sideline reporter during games in Madison because she’s too much of a “distraction.” Unless this is a particularly clever April Fool’s joke…which it is.
  • Erin Andrews

  • Remember when Pete Carroll acted petulant at Mark Sanchez’s press conference announcing he was turning pro? Scouts at USC’s Pro Day tell the LOS ANGELES TIMES that Carroll is now claiming he acted that way to “test” Sanchez’s resolve to turn pro. Because acting like a spoiled child is going to convince him to come back.
  • It’s not just American athletes who get into trouble at strip bars late at night: THE MIRROR has word that Sunderland and French international striker Djibril Cissé has been arrested after allegedly grabbing a woman by the throat at a late-night strip club. You might remember him for having the distinction of suffering horrific, Theisman-like leg breaks not once but twice in his career, which you can watch here and here. (Warning: not for the faint of heart.)
  • Give Sen. John McCain credit for doing something right: the DALLAS MORNING-NEWS says that the former Presidential candidate is lobbying for a posthumous pardon of old-timey boxing champ Jack Johnson for trumped up, racially-biased charges. It still won’t make me forget that McCain voted against Martin Luther King Day, but it’s a start.
  • A word of warning: don’t take a quick paycheck to record canned introductions to videos for a company you know nothing about. Greg Gumbel failed to heed this advice, and he wound up as the spokesperson for a time-share, which ONLINE SPORTS GUYS says has lead to a lawsuit. Here’s one video in question:

  • SI.COM says that the Hockey Hall of Fame has changed its rules, opening the door for the first female player to be voted in. Someone in Canada, Don Cherry is burning his plaid Depends adult diapers in protest.
  • Hey look, another lacrosse team has been forced to suspend their season because of alleged misconduct. But the story of the Curry College team is far different than Duke, according to the BOSTON HERALD. Team members allegedly hazed new players at a party, although even the freshmen “victims” seem to think it was no big deal. Remind me to bring a lawyer if I ever go to a college lacrosse party.
  • WSLS-TV says that Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer prepared for the upcoming season by doing some NASCAR racing. He didn’t do so hot, but his goiter was signed to a developmental deal with Joe Gibbs Racing.
  • Somehow former Cleveland Browns QB Bernie Kosar is being dragged into the Rod Blagojevich mess. RUMORS AND RANTS reports that Kosar was on some sort of fundraising “hit list” put together by the then-Illinois Governor with the Steve Garvey haircut just before he was arrested.
  • The Boston Celtics barely avoided another humiliating defeat to the Charlotte Bobcats, as the BOSTON GLOBE reports that Ray Allen’s three-pointer at the end of OT gave them a 114-106 victory.

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Speed Read: Teammates Make Great Interviewers

NBC’s Football Night In America sure knows how to bring the hard interviews to Joe Fantasygm’s television. Former Giants running back Tiki Barber sat down with current Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, and little-known Detroit native Jerome Bettis was at the Steelers-Titans game and somehow scored an on-field interview with his former quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.

Bettis Roethlisberger Tiki Barker interviews

Honestly, all sports interviews should be conducted by former teammates-turned-journalists. It makes them so much more fun, and they can talk about the good old days when there were two or three years in their careers that intertwined. Keyshawn Johnson can talk to Terrell Owens while sharing a king sized bed, braiding each other’s hair and ask each other, “Seriously, isn’t it better to be like us than it is to be a fan of the game?” “Yeah, screw the fans!” [high five]

Overtime games - New Orleans Bown and Panthers-Giants

Barber was nowhere to be seen (rats!) as the Giants nuzzled up to home field advantage with a 34-28 overtime win over the surprising Panthers. Derrick Ward rumbled for 215 yards on merely 15 carries. A visibly crushed DeAngelo Williams was not consoled by Tim Biakabutuka.

Elsewhere in overtime news, the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl went to an extra frame with Southern Miss winning 30-27 over Troy, with USM’s Britt Barefoot doinking a field goal off the inside of the goalposts for the game-winning three points. Not only is Barefoot an amazing name for a kicker, as is his coach’s, Larry Fedora. Anyone whose surname is also a hat immediately wins trust in my book.

Boston Celtics win 18 straight

Four teams not named the Boston Celtics have 18 wins or more this season. One team actually named the Celtics has 18 wins or more in a current streak of basketball games. A 124-105 dismantling of the New York Knicks on Sunday evening kept the streak alive. This ties a franchise record, and it’s only the longest win streak since … earlier this year, when the idiosyncratic Houston Rockets won 22 before losing to … Boston. If The C’s can make it 26 in a row, the Rockets will get a chance to return the favor on January 7. The NBA: where looking extremely far down the road happens.

SbB: Where ten other stories I didn’t have much else to say about happens.

  • NESW SPORTS finds an oblique mention of Ahmad Rashad making a jump shot for the Philadelphia 76ers, but no mention of it anywhere else on the Internet. Much like the fossils in the ground, God probably put this video on the tubes to test our faith.
  • One more thing about that Celtics game. The BOSTON HERALD reports that Glen Davis missed the game after getting in a car crash on his way to the game, and his head broke the windshield. The accident was classified by the Celtics as “minor,” probably because their spokespeople are manly men who jog home from vasectomies.
  • Now that the Lions are 0-15, we can now call Bizarro Mercury Morris because they are on his block. The DETROIT NEWS is asking Lions fans — the ones that haven’t strangled themselves yet — put out an online survey asking what emotion best describes the reaction to this season. The results so far?

    Lions poll

    Put that on a t-shirt. “The Detroit Lions: The Otherest Team In History.”

  • We almost went a whole day without any Mark Teixeira rumors. Sheesh! Well, the Angels are pulling away their 8-year, $54 gazillion offer, leaving Tex with the Yankees, Red Sox, Nationals or Orioles as potential new homes. Two of these is not like the others. The MERCURY NEWS is rather sick of this bidding war, concluding he will sign “maybe with Baltimore or Washington, whereupon he will say the perennial loser that lands him was attractive because it offers the best chance to win.”
  • The Phoenix Suns need a new point guard and are having open tryouts for the position. As noted by BRIGHT SIDE OF THE SUN, ““The six guys that will be here Monday are a mix of vets and youngsters ranging from the 26 year old Walker Russell to the 83 year old Darrell Armstrong.
  • THE HARDBALL TIMES reminds Cubs fans that, no matter how bad it gets for the team, its fans can always fall back on their pure hatred of Steve Garvey.
  • THE 700 LEVEL has video of the Eagles-Redskins final play, perhaps the most climactic finish of the day in the NFL, where Reggie Brown gets stopped cold at the goalline, denying Philly the game-tying touchdown on the final play.
  • Oh, Mike Singletary, never change. After the 49ers escaped out of St. Louis with a 17-16 win (after being down 16-3 in the fourth), the interim coach said of his quarterback Shaun Hill after throwing his third interception: “I was going to choke him.” Good lord. If Singletary doesn’t get hired back next year, he’s a shoe-in to become a New York Mets consultant.
  • Now for a critical NHL All-Star voting update. Sidney Crosby rallied from 120,000 fake Canadiens votes behind to shatter the all-time NHL votes record and leads Alexei Kovalev by 280,000 votes. Three other Canadiens are still in the lead, but not by much. The anticipation is palpable! I can hardly zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…
  • The Cowboys might have ate it hard in their home finale but Jerry Jones seems content in keeping Wade Phillips around for another year, despite the game being a seemingly passing of the torch to Jason Garrett. The STAR TELEGRAM does not seem pleased with this. “Talk about your buzz kills. Not only did Coach Wade help ruin a huge party for fans and legends assembled to bid farewell to Texas Stadium on Saturday, he now apparently has another 16 games to bring his special brand of “ish” football to JerryWorld.”

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