LeBron James showed he had some dance moves at ESPN’s “ESPYS” awards show with his Bobby Brown skit. He’ll get another chance to ham it up when he hosts “Saturday Night Live” this Saturday (10:30 p.m., KFOR-4).
“I’m going to just wing it,” LeBron said during a conference call.
“SNL” producer Lorne Michaels thinks James will do well with the show, noting LeBron’s humorous Nike ads, in which he plays four versions of himself, and his “ESPY’s” role.
“You can tell when someone has a sense of humor or a least enough perspective on themselves to able to laugh at stuff,” Michaels said.
Other athletes who have hosted the show include LeBron’s boyhood idol, Michael Jordan, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning appeared on the show last season and other stars like Joe Montana and Wayne Gretzky.
Michaels said he believes athletes have been successful on the show because they’re fearless.
“They’re used to being in front of a large group of people and not knowing how it’s going to turn out,” Michaels said.
Pat Jones and Doug Gottlieb have strong ties with Oklahoma State University and both are media members. Jones, a former OSU football coach, works as a commentator for the Sports Animal radio network and Fox Sports Net Southwest. He recently released a book. “Tales from Oklahoma State Football.” Gottlieb, a former point guard at OSU, is a basketball analyst with ESPN and hosts his own show, “The Pulse with Doug Gottlieb,” 6 to 9 p.m. on ESPN Radio, which is carried on Jox 930. He also regularly returns to Stillwater to host a pregame show at Eskimo Joes for OSU home games (“Jox at Joes”). I talked with them Monday to get their thoughts on Mike Gundy’s tirade Saturday in response to Jenni Carlson’s column in The Oklahoman about OSU quarterback Bobby Reid.
Jones said he thought the matter should have been handled privately.
“I think he could have handled it differently. If he had a problem with a respective writer, he could have done his regular postgame stuff and then said, ‘Jenni, I’d like to see you over here,’ and then go in a back room and discuss it. If I have an issue with a media person, I try to take it up with them privately. I think I understand what he was trying to do in protecting his player.”
As far as questions with accuracy in the column, Jones said Gundy should be specific in what was inaccurate. “I think if you’re going to discuss the accuracy of the column, he or one of his assistants should go through and explain what it is they have an issue with.”
Jones said the column could have national ramifications, noting a couple of stories, including Dennis Dodds’ story on CBSSportsline.com that said Gundy should be reprimanded or suspended by the Big 12 or the university.
Gottlieb also said Gundy should explain what was inaccurate in Carlson’s column.
“The problem with it was the way Mike went after her. He has every right to protect his player. But even when pressed today about the 75 percent that was wrong in the column, what exactly what was wrong? If you have an issue with it, say here are my issues with it.”
“I do understand what he is saying is that we tear down kids who do the right thing, but we should be after kids who do the wrong thing. That said, unless he is clear and totally honest in what decisions he is making, it allows for speculation. That’s what her piece was kind of. If it’s a column based on her opinion, then that’s how it should be stated. It was kind of mixture of reporting, column, not really a feature. It was kind of a mixture piece. That’s where she got in a little bit of trouble. You need to be very careful, whether she meant it or not, in the chicken thing. I think you’re exceptionally sensitive when it’s a black athlete. I really do. She’s trying to draw an inference that he is a bit of a mamma’s boy. Here is a 21-year-old that needs to be coddled. I get that. This is something that she saw. I think you need to be very careful about it.
“Gundy, how do you not at least talk about the game? And people have done this to me before and say, I don’t read the paper, but this is brought to my attention and I think everybody should read it. Don’t give me you don’t read the paper. … Of course, you read the paper.”
Gottlieb took issue with Gundy’s comments about holding off on criticizing college athletes.
“Can you criticize a college athlete? If that’s the question, I say absolutely. He’s 21. He’s not Sam Bradford or some other freshman. Bobby Reid has been through it. Bobby Reid is a grown man. He’s an amateur athlete. Don’t tell me we’re not supposed to critique and criticize a kid when no one shies away from heaping praise on signing a kid because of how highly touted he is coming out of high school. To me, that’s having it both ways and that’s not fair to the media.
“I think it’s obvious that any voice of the fan, they’re going to support him.
“How does the local media handle Mike Gundy after this? Do they shy away from writing critical columns, for example, if the Cowboys lose their next two Big 12 games because they are worried about him going off on them? I do think that he made a lot of good points. I think he believed he was winning back his locker room. I was up in Stillwater throughout the weekend. There’s a lot of talk that there was a Bobby Reid contingent in that locker room and definitely in the parents’ section. I think he was trying to win them back and I think he probably succeeded. The only thing is he always has been well respected in Oklahoma and his family has been well respected. Will he be treated with kid gloves because of this? Will he be treated like anyone else because of this or will he be treated more harshly because of this. I think that’s the next part of the story?”
It’s a dream matchup for NBC involving two of the NFL’s most popular teams: Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears, 7:15 p.m. Sunday. To hype the game NBC held a conference call this week with analyst John Madden, play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and studio analyst Tiki Barber. Here are a few of the excerpts:
Madden on the Cowboys being America’s Team: “I would say ’Oh that’s just a bunch of baloney.’
America’s team. That’s just Tex Schram making that stuff up.” But it’s not; it’s one of those things that the Dallas Cowboys have more fans than any team in the country. When you go on the road and you go to the visiting team hotel, the Dallas Cowboys lead the league in hotel lobbies. You go to some teams and there’ll be like 10 people in the lobby. You go to the Dallas Cowboys and there will be like 1,000. It’s just that wherever the Cowboys go they are stars.”
Michaels on the popularity of the Cowboys and Bears: “The Cowboys probably engender more emotion than any other team in the National Football League, whether you love them or hate them, around the country people pay a lot of attention to the Dallas Cowboys. The Chicago Bears are one of the NFL’s original franchises, and a team that just has a tremendous following and backing.”
Madden on the popularity of the Bears: “I’m always excited and feel good about coming to Chicago. There’s something about the history and tradition of the Chicago Bears and you just think of George Halas and all those great Bear teams. I always go back to the most fun I’ve ever had in a football season,1985, and the Bears were truly that year, America’s team. Everyone jumped on that and it was not only true in Chicago, but all over the country. If you didn’t have a team, the Bears became your team.”
Michaels on what the game means to the Cowboys: “If Dallas wins this one, they’re 3-0 with two road wins, probably establishing themselves as the team to beat.”
Barber on the contrasting styles of the two teams: “What’s a particularly striking story for this weekend is the contrast that these two teams present. With Dallas, their defense plays so horribly in week one, compared to Chicago’s. Then you look at their offenses. With Dallas’ offense being a powerhouse, scoring 82 points in the first two weeks and Chicago not even scoring an offensive touchdown.”
Madden on Tony Romo: ”Romo, right now, is on top of the heap as a quarterback. I mean, he’s doing everything darn near perfectly, but when you play this Bears defense, believe me, this defense is for real and they don’t give you anything. I think this game is a measuring stick for Tony Romo.”
Keith Olbermann on being out last week’s show after having his appendix removed: “In place of my appendix I had them put in some extra spleen.”
The sarcastic Olbermann will return to the broadcast this Sunday.
ESPN Radio (locally on Jox 930) has filled Dan Patrick’s time slot with contrasting styles, the mild-mannered Mike Tirico from noon to 2 p.m. and the often-excitable Stephen A. Smith from 2 to 3 p.m. Tirico made his debut Thursday, and Smith will debut on Monday.
“SportsCenter” anchor Scott Van Pelt will join Tirico’s show on a regular basis and serve as substitute host while Kirk Herbstreit and Michele Tafoya will also be regular contributors.
Tirico, the voice of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” and one of the original hosts when ESPN Radio launched in 1992, is excited about his return to radio.
“I do participate in the sports conversation every day by covering the NFL and the NBA and all the college sports that I’ve covered and my years doing ‘SportsCenter’ and golf as well,” he said. “I really do have a broad experience and have met a lot of people.”
Tirico said Patrick set a high standard for the time slot.
“Dan has made the time slot a very good time slot and a very attractive time slot. Will the show be the same? I don’t think so. I think it will be a little different. We are different people. The time slot has seen the expectations raised by the quality of guests and the quality of people on and I hope we can take it forward from where Dan brought it.”
ESPN2 college football analyst Chris Spielman is getting indoctrinated to Oklahoma college football in a hurry. After broadcasting the Oklahoma State-Troy game last week for ESPN2, he will be analyst on the Oklahoma at Tulsa game at 7 p.m. Friday for the network. In a telephone interview, Spielman discussed Oklahoma State’s 41-23 loss to Troy and the OU-Tulsa game.
On Oklahoma State: They didn’t look interested. I know that wasn’t the case, but that’s how it seemed. They couldn’t respond to what Troy was doing and that’s frustrating. I knew they made a quarterback change. Obviously, I think they would have hoped for a better outcome. I assume people are saying, “Where’s Bobby Reid and is Zac Robinson still going to be the quarterback?” I don’t know what the talk is, but as a fan, I think I would be asking that question. I think Zac Robinson has the ability. If you’re going to make the commitment to him, you have to let him play, let him learn a little bit. I think as a wholeOklahoma State has the ability, but those are games that you have to get. Troy is a good opponent, don’t get me wrong. But if you want take the next step, which I believe they were talking about doing, then that’s a game you have to have or at least be in contention. Frankly, it didn’t seem to me that they were in that game at all.
On Oklahoma: Legitimately, it’s fair to say that they’re up in there in the top four. When you’re talking about athletes and beating people like they’re supposed to, it’s easy to see why a lot of people have them where they’re ranked. When you have the stable of running backs like they have and when you find a quarterback in Sam Bradford, and the defense with Reggie Smith — I think he’s the best corner in college football — plus a host of other athletes, they’re going to be pretty darned good and they’re winning games like they’re supposed to win them.
On Tulsa: On the other side, I watched Tulsa win their first game of the year (35-17 over Louisiana-Monroe). I know (new coach) Todd Graham will do a good job. He gets everybody excited. It’s an opportunity for them. I think that’s the thing about college football this year, I don’t know anything anymore. That’s why I love it, because I don’t know anything. Every time you think you got the answer, something different happens. I know Paul Smith is a good quarterback. I did the Conference USA championship game against Central Florida two years ago (TU won 44-27) and Todd was the defensive coordinator and coach Kragthorpe was the head coach, I knew that Paul Smith was a pretty darned good quarterback. It’s one of those games. On paper, Oklahoma is heavily favored. But like I said, in college football, I don’t know anything anymore. Notre Dame has zero touchdowns and negative yardage on the ground and Indiana-Illinois is the most intriguing matchup in the Big Ten this week. But that’s the beauty of college football and I know Tulsa will be ready to play. It’s the kids from Tulsa shot at the big guy. I’m hoping it will be a great game and I’m betting the atmosphere will be awesome.
Will it be a high-scoring game, like Tulsa’s 55-47 win over BYU last Saturday? I don’t expect it, but I know Tulsa can score points and their offense does create problems because of the different speeds that they run — the no-huddle — and when you have a veteran quarterback, if he makes good decisions, who knows? The whole key is how do you slow down Oklahoma. If can you slow them down, you have a chance. A lot of things will have to go their way. On turnovers, Oklahoma is going to have to hurt themselves a little bit. But I think Tulsa can move the ball and score on anybody.
Fox Sports’ “NFL Sunday” studio show Sunday morning examined the Patriots’ videotape scandal, including comments from Barry Switzer and Jimmy Johnson on their “Grumpy Old Coaches” segment. Switzer said OU used “overt operations” while he coached there, but wasn’t specific and mentioned both the offense and defense. Most likely, Switzer meant to say they used “covert,” or veiled, operations.” Overt means open to view.
Switzer: “A lot of the head coaches didn’t know, but we had some overt operations, maybe on the offense. It was on the defensive side of the ball, on Jimmy side’s of the ball. (Johnson was OU defensive line coach from 1970-72 when Switzer was a defensive assistant coach). It’s just part of the game. You don’t close your practice. A lot of coaches are paranoid and they do that. It’s happened before. It’s happen on the staffs I’ve been on, but when I went to Dallas and inherited your staff (Johnson’s staff), they promised me that you didn’t do it, so therefore I didn’t do it.”
Switzer said the strong punishment handed out by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would discourage coaches from cheating.
“There is a new sheriff in town. He’s set a hard line. They better be careful.”
Johnson said cheating is widespread in the NFL.
Johnson: “Bill Belichick was wrong because he videotaped signals after a memo was sent out to all of the teams saying not to do it. But what irritates me is hearing some reactions from players and coaches. These players don’t know what their coaches are doing. And some of the coaches have selective amnesia because I know for a fact there were various teams doing this. That’s why the memo was sent to everybody. That doesn’t make him (Belichick) right, but a lot of teams are doing this.”
Fox Sports NFL Insider Jay Glazer showed an exclusive copy of the tape that was confiscated during the Patriots-Jets game and sent to Goodell.
Glazer: “Everyone wants to know what evidence the NFL has in order to drop the hammer on the Patriots. We’ve got it for you. Check this out. (Tape runs) Video assistant Matt Estrella is clearly picking up the Jets’ defensive coaching signals, and then he pans up to the scoreboard for down and distance. This goes on throughout the entire tape. What they do is take this film and then afterwards, synch it up with the actual coach’s game tape. One of the coaches will then study the signals, and the next time they play the New York Jets and see those same hand signals, they can relay the blitz and coverage info down to the coaches on the sideline. Obviously this evidence proved to be damning enough for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.”
In the subsequent discussion, Johnson said he used to have an intern to go through the trash in the opposing team’s coach’s box after the game.
Johnson: “Because after the game, what do they do? They take their game plan and their scouting reports and throw them away. My intern would get all of that stuff and put it right in the file.”
For the second week in a row, CBS’ “NFL Today” beat Fox’s “NFL Sunday” in the ratings.
Although Gary Danielson is now in his second season of broadcasting SEC games for CBS Sports, he’s still keeping a close eye on the Big 12, which he covered for ABC for many years. Danielson said he believes No. 3 Oklahoma easily could be playing in the BCS championship game on Jan. 8 in the Louisiana Superdome.
“Well, I tell you right now it looks like a team that will be a very strong argument will be Oklahoma,” said in a conference call Wednesday. “That is as fine a young quarterback (Sam Bradford) as I’ve seen in a long time. And Bobby Stoops hasn’t forgotten how to coach. That’s the one nice thing about being in that conference. They know who the other guy is they have to beat. In the past, it’s almost exclusively been whoever wins that game goes. I think that’s one team, as Les Miles would say, has an easier way to get there.”
Danielson was referring to preseason comments Miles made to a pro-LSU gathering in New Orleans in which he belittled USC’s schedule. “I would like nothing better than to play USC for the (national) title,” Miles said. “I can tell you this, that they have a much easier road to travel. They’re going to play real knockdown drag-outs with UCLA and Washington, Cal-Berkeley, Stanford — some real juggernauts — and they’re going to end up, it would be my guess, in some position so if they win a game or two, that they’ll end up in the title (game). I would like that path for us. I think the SEC provides much stiffer competition.”
Danielson didn’t think Miles was out of line in making those comments.
“I don’t think Les wouldn’t have said that at a press conference. I think you’re with your own and you’re drumming up support with your own guys in your own rubber chicken circuit, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what he said. He didn’t mean any disrespect to the Pac 10. There are a lot of good teams in the Pac 10. I wouldn’t want to play Oregon right now, I could tell you that.”
Danielson said he rates the SEC as the No. 1 conference.
“These are only snapshots. Nobody gets this for the rest of their life. At this snapshot, clearly the SEC is the deepest conference. Of course, Texas and Oklahoma and usually Michigan and Ohio State, USC, name your teams around the country, yes, they can compete anywhere. What separates this conference is I can name seven schools in the conference who all believe they should win the conference championship every year and the intensity of their losses is just like it is at Oklahoma and Texas. Those (goals) aren’t probably realistic for all their coaches, but it’s just the way it is here. That’s why it’s tough to very go through this league week in and week out. You don’t roll your helmets on the football in this league and get any wins. Each one of them has to be earned.”
CBS opens its schedule at 2:30 p.m. Saturday with No. 22 Tennessee at No. 5 Florida. Verne Lundquist and Danielson will call the game.
Before the NFL season kicks off, the networks annually hold conference calls with the TV writers to hype their broadcasts teams. Fox’s version this week included former Dallas Cowboys coaches Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer, who will team up for a “Grumpy Old Coaches” segment on the pregame show, and former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, the network’s lead analyst. The three former Cowboys spoke highly of this year’s team under new coach Wade Phillips.
Aikman: I like this team a lot. With the changes within the (coaching) staff, I really had felt this transition may not be as smooth as a lot of people would like to believe. But having watched them in the preseason, I came away pretty impressed with how this team has played, defensively and the way Jason (Garrett, offensive coordinator) had done a few things calling plays offensively to where I have kind of changed my thoughts on this team. I actually think they are going to have a heck of a season. I think the early part of the year is extremely important for the team. It’s very critical for Tony Romo, for a guy who is without a long-term contract. The organization is waiting to see what he’s going to do. I think this team will have an excellent year, and in my opinion, go fairly deep into the playoffs.
Johnson: I agree. I think the Cowboys should have an outstanding year. They have as much depth as any team in that division. When you look at the division with (Donovan) McNabb coming back off injury with
Philadelphia, they should be the favorite in the division. But on the same token, he has struggled with injuries in past years. I see the Giants pulling back. I don’t think they will be as good as they have been, and they have struggled, especially at the end of the year. I don’t see the Redskins making a whole lot of improvements. The Cowboys should be able to get a lot more wins in their division. Bill Parcells felt very good with how he left the Cowboys and he left them with a lot of talent. They know how to work and it’s a talented football team. If their quarterback plays up to what he is a capable of playing, then I think they should have an outstanding year.
Switzer, who said he visited practice in San Antonio for the first time in 10 years: “I was impressed with the one thing that gives them the best chance is obviously is Romo. I watched him throw the ball in three practices, outside drill, and I said this guy is the best, in my opinion, since Troy Aikman played there. This guy does have an opportunity to make them so much better because that play at that position, as we all know, is so critical. This guy has the ability to make those types of play, throw the ball well enough. It just comes down to how smart this guy’s going to play that will determine their success this season. I think they will be pretty good on the other side of the football.”
Aikman’s conference favorites: “I like San Diego out of the AFC. I just think that that team is so talented in so many key areas. In the NFC, Philadelphia is hard to bet against. I think Dallas will be pretty good. Those teams will battle it out for the division. In the NFC overall, it’s pretty easy to go with Chicago. Looking at their division, I just feel that they are head and shoulders above the other teams.”
The NBC conference call included its top-notch broadcast team of John Madden and Al Michaels. After an off-season filled with negative headlines about the league, they said they were looking forward to calling some games.
Madden: “I think its time to not only celebrate the start of the opening of the season, but to celebrate, I hope, good news. This off-season has just been filled with crap. Everything has been negative and it’s time to for some positive stuff. Ninety-nine percent of what happens in the NFL is good, and then that one percent isn’t so good, but we hear more about that one percent than we do about the 99 percent. And now, I think the celebration is: we’re starting the 99 percent and hearing about that, and getting away from that other stuff. I’ll tell you, I’m excited as hell to get this thing started.”
Michaels on first two NBC games, New Orleans at Indianapolis on Thursday and the New York Giants at Dallas on Sunday: “When you look at the matchups that we got from the NFL it really can’t get much better than the way we start out, New Orleans at Indianapolis. This is the first time the Colts have opened at home in a number of years and, as the Super Bowl champions, against a team that was probably the best story in the league last year. The Giants are the team of mystery this year. Who knows what they will be? We’re going to see them right off the bat at Dallas. Just Giants-Dallas alone at any time is a great attraction.”