Oklahoma native Carrie Underwood is excited to be selected to sing the opening theme for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” as the replacement for Faith Hill. In a conference call Tuesday afternoon, telecast producer Fred Gaudelli and Underwood discussed her new role:
Producer Fred Gaudelli Opening Remarks: As I’m sure you know, since the inception of Sunday Night Football on NBC, “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night” has opened every Sunday Night telecast. Pink performed it the first season in 2006 and Faith Hill has performed it every season since then. And now I am beyond thrilled to welcome the latest superstar to “Sunday Night Football.” She’s had 17 singles go to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, a six-time Grammy award winner, who’s sold over 15 million albums, and she’s done it in only eight short years. She’s the only woman to win the Academy of Country Music’s entertainer of the year award twice. Carrie Underwood will now open television’s highest rated show with a brand new version of “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night.” Carrie, welcome to Sunday Night Football.
Carrie Underwood Opening Remarks: Thank you. I’m very excited. I think it’s a perfect fit and I am such a sports fan and football fan, and we love Sunday nights around my household, so for me to be a part of it is something really special.
Gaudelli on the decision to make the change: Faith called me in February and told me she thought it was time for her to, as she put it, “pass the torch” and let someone else “rock the open.” So at that point I really only had one person in my sight and that was Carrie. Interestingly back in 2006 when we got the package, Carrie was in my sights back then too and the stars didn’t align that time. But fortunately, this time they did. She’s the only person I spoke to about this.
Underwood on how long it took to say “yes”: Not long. Like (Fred) said, way back when, we kind of had them on the radar for Sunday Night Football, so I guess I had a long time to watch Faith be so amazing at it and bring such an energy to the event every Sunday night. So for me, to have that opportunity to follow in her footsteps and do something really cool like that, it sounded like fun. And like I said, this is something that’s been a part of our household for a while now and to be a part of that is exciting. I can’t wait.
Gaudelli on the evolution of “Waiting All Day on Sunday Night”: Just the evolution, I think, there really are two major components: I think obviously having the right song, a really good song that connects with people and kind of sticks in your head, and then a great performer. Pink kicked it off and Faith did it wonderfully for six years, and I think Carrie is going to bring a new dimension to it — something that is going to be singular to her, and it’s just a fun way to kick off a game. On Sunday night, we think of it as more than a game, it’s primetime. There is an entertainment component to what we do and this is a significant part of that component. It’s a mixture of that. An iconic opening.
Gaudelli on players being in the Open: We really like to showcase the players in this, and we’ve tried to do that (through the years). This year should be no different. We’ll be inviting them – I wanted to make the announcement before we started contacting players to come out and shoot but you don’t really ever get a “no.” They all want to be a part of this. We’ll be having players this year.
Underwood on how she will adapt “Waiting All Day on Sunday Night”: Musically, it’s our first step. We definitely wanted to make it sound different and sound like me. Faith put her stamp on it for a long time and did such a wonderful job and it was totally Faith, she owned it. We wanted to be mindful of that and go in and change things up a little bit. So they’re actually going to be recording that here pretty soon, and then I’ll be able to go in to the studio and do what I do. And then everything after that visually, we’ll lock in. We have to get the song first. It’s the same song, same lyrics, but it’s going to be with my flair.
Gaudelli: Carrie’s right about the visuals. We have some ideas right now. Obviously it’s Carrie, it’s players, it’ll probably include some live audience component, and it’ll be a lot of visual effects and hopefully a rocking number to kick off the game.
Underwood on husband and NHL player Mike Fisher’s reactions: He’s excited. He’s a sports dude. Yes, he plays hockey but he definitely loves football, as do I. He’s really excited. He’s got a lot of friends that play for different teams and I think me being a part of that with them and with a sport that he loves, I think it’ll just make it all the more better for him.
Underwood on her relationship with NBC: We obviously met with lots of people in NBC about the “Sound of Music” and everybody within that family is so wonderful to be around and so wonderful to work with. I don’t think one had to do with the other, but it just made it, working together again, all that much better because we already knew a few people at the network so it makes me even more part of the family.
In honor of the first coaching matchup of brothers in a Super Bowl, “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” plans to reair a July 2011 feature on the Harbaughs in its premiere at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Here is a description of the segement:
All in the Family. Manning. Griffey. Ripken. These are some of the multi-generational families in sports that are household names. But a new family is making history, not as players, but in coaching. The Harbaugh boys, John and Jim, have followed in their father’s footsteps and are the first brother act to serve simultaneously as head coaches in the NFL. Jack Harbaugh coached college football for 45 years and taught his only sons the ins-and-outs of the game from an early age. His eldest son, John, is the Baltimore Ravens’ head coach and has led the team to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons at the helm. Jim, after a successful NFL career as a quarterback, reenergized the StanfordUniversity football program and was hired in January 2011 to take over the underachieving San Francisco 49ers. Correspondent Andrea Kremer joined the family on vacation in the summer of 2011 to find out what makes them tick and why they have so much to be thankful for.
The Harbaugh brothers will meet in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 when the Ravens and 49’ers take the field at the Superdome in New Orleans.
I chatted Thursday with ESPN sportscaster Mike Golic for a “Collected Wisdom” profile of him I am writing for The Oklahoman on Sunday. Golic is a former Notre Dame defensive lineman, who has two sons on this year’s team: Mike Jr., a fifth-year senior offensive guard, and Jake, a senior tight end. I also asked for his thoughts about the OU-Notre Dame game Saturday night on ABC.
“Well listen, Notre Dame’s defense has been playing as good as any defense in the country. So whenever you have that, you’re going to be in every game. Oklahoma is the normal team that is always in the thick of it, strong on offense, strong on defense. Notre Dame has a young quarterback that they are still working through and they have Tommy Rees, the veteran, if they want to go to the bullpen. Notre Dame is going to have to get a running game going, that’s going to have to help and maybe get a few big plays here or there. But I think it will be a good, close game. A lot of that is because of the defense, and
the offense is starting to get their running game going. Hopefully, they can control the ball some.”
I had a chance to question new ESPN “NBA Countdown” analysts Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose about the Oklahoma City Thunder’s prospects during a conference call Thursday. Here’s a transcript of my questions:
Q. I wanted to get Bill and Jalen’s take on the Thunder’s chances of getting back to the NBA Finals this season.
SIMMONS: I’ll go first. I actually think people are sleeping on them a little bit. They came very close in the first four games. Probably decided on a total of six plays. They got their feet wet. Everybody’s attention is on the Lakers, and rightly so.
I don’t know, I think those guys are going to be motivated. The one thing I have is with James Harden, the contract thing, whether that ends up submarining them if that’s not settled. I don’t think it will, but I’m also not a hundred percent it’s going to be the Good Ship Lollypop.
ROSE: I’m not a huge fan of predictions, but if I had to make one, the toughest one so far is who is going to win the West. If I had to give an edge to a team, everyone was playing healthy at a high level, right now the reason I would probably give the Lakers the advantage, they not only have two all-star bigs in Gasol and Dwight Howard, they also are threats on the offensive end that consistently gets you 15 to 20 points on a nightly basis where you can’t double-team off them.
Obviously we know Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook — on the perimeter with James Harden — and with the contract provisions that Bill just talked about, are going to have an exciting season.
The key is going to be home-court advantage. If Dwight is not going to be able to go early in Game 7 inOklahoma City, we know the numbers dictate the team that hosts Game 7 normally wins. So that’s the caveat I’m trying to hang out and see how long Dwight Howard is going to be out recovering from his back injury.
Q. Speaking of Harden, if you had to choose between keeping Harden or Serge Ibaka, who would you pick?
ROSE: Kerry Hilson. Over a few people’s head. That’s who Ibaka is dating right now (laughter).
SIMMONS: I just wrote about this whole situation. I think it’s a little disingenuous on Oklahoma City’s part to pretend they can’t afford everybody. The bottom line is, yeah, eventually they’re going to have to take a luxury tax and face a situation where they’re not going to turn a profit, or so they say. They just spent the last five years raking in profits.
Sports is a business. At some point you have to realize, yeah, we’re going to have ebbs and flows. Over a five-year stretch, we might make $75 million, over the next three we might lose $20 million. You can’t let that affect your chances to win a championship.
I looked this up. No team has ever made the decision to choose the financial bottom line over the championships by trading as big of a guy as Harden. I guess the closest was Phoenixwith Joe Johnson in 2005, he left. Part of the reason he left was they didn’t take care of him with an extension in time. The bottom line is they were still ready to pay him. He got fed up and left. You look at the ramifications that had on the Suns games, how close they came in ’06, ’07, even ’08, toe to toe with the Spurs, that was a catastrophic turn of events for them.
You can’t tell me Oklahoma City is going to have a better chance to win the title over the next five years if they lose one of their best three guys. In my opinion, Ibaka would be more expendable, but I would not get rid of the other three.
ROSE: My answer to that question is 30 teams, 15 roster spots, 450 jobs, there’s always going to be a competitive space, and you have to follow the tea leaves. Who did OKC draft? Perry Jones III. If he can play, be a sixth man on a rookie contract but play at a high level, that gives them leverage to moves James Harden.
That’s what they’re going to be looking to try to do if he’s playing at a high level and not necessarily give James Harden $10 million, $15 million a year, but try to trade him while his value is high.
Like the whiny San Antonio Spurs fan that he is, ESPN commentator Skip Bayless blamed the referees for taking away any chance the Spurs had of winning Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. He pointed to two fourth-quarter calls — Kevin Durant taking a charge on Manu Ginobili’s lay-in and Ginobili being called for a blocking foul on Kawhi Leonard’s three-pointer — as costing the Spurs six points.
“These two egregious calls, these unconscionable calls, these asinine calls, cost my Spurs six crucial points,” Bayless said Thursday morning on “First Take,” which is airing on ESPNEWS while ESPN2 airs French Open coverage.
Bayless, an Oklahoma City native, gave only minimal credit to the Thunder. “Congratulations to my hometown team the Oklahoma City Thunder, who for four straight games made every big jump shot they had to make. Congratulations.”
After the blocking call, Bayless said he tweeted and received nine times his normal response in return.
“I tweeted the referees just ensured that the Thunder are going to the NBA Finals. God bless.”
His sidekick, Stephen A. Smith, said he tweeted him back. “Oh stop it. Oh stop your whining.”
“The national nightmare is over,” Bayless said. “NBA fans outside of San Antonio longer have to worry about the boring, old Spurs ruining the NBA finals. I was wrong. But I don’t know anybody who picked the Spurs to get that far in the preseason.”
Fortunately for Thunder fans, Smith was on hand to give credit to the Thunder for rallying from an 18-point deficit.
“They (the Spurs) blinked and it’s gone,” Smith said of their big lead. “The grand order of things you can point to a couple of bad plays, it happens in every game. What I’m pointing to is the big picture and what we saw: It doesn’t matter the San Antonio Spurs did last night. Oklahoma was going to find a way. It appears to be their time.”
Bayless did credit the Thunder for its tenacious defense in the second half.
“All those thoroughbreds do one thing really well, they play good defense. I was surprised when they turned it up in the third quarter, they turned San Antonio hesitant again when they are flinching (with their shots).
“But all of the sins — all the weaknesses get nitpicked again — get washed away by making those jump shots.”
As for the tired refrain that the Thunder is just a jump-shooting team, Smith noted their offensive balance and versatility in picking them to win the NBA championship.
“They are frenetic. They come at you from all different directions. You don’t know where you’re going to get hit from next. It’s almost as if they’re out there playing horse.”
“I tell you right now. Forget the jump shooting, it’s their ability as basketball players. Their intellect. Their defensive tenacity. And their youth — 23, 22 years old. My God, I haven’t seen anything like it. I thought if you don’t have a post position, you’re not quite there. You’re about a year away. They are a year ahead of schedule.”
Expect Bayless to jump on the Thunder bandwagon for the NBA Finals. Some Thunder fans probably would prefer that he stay off.
ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith jumped on fellow analyst Skip Bayless’ ridiculous argument that Thunder guard James Harden was partially to blame for Metta World Peace’s elbow to his head during the game Sunday, calling it “asinine.”
Arguing with Bayless Wednesday morning on ESPN2’s “First Take,” Smith called it “asinine, asi-ten, asi-twelve.”
“Let’s not look at the victim and try to villanize him in anyway,” Smith said. “James Harden did nothing to provoke this.”
Interrupted Bayless, “Yes, he did! Oh, come on!”
Smith: “There is nothing you can do to justify you cold-cocking him with an elbow. … I had an ignorant caller (to his radio show) last night who actually called up to my show and said James Harden should have been suspended. That’s ignorance personified.”
Bayless said the seven-game suspension to Ron Artest (he has quit calling him Peace) was a “touch much” but applauded them for not “giving into the public outcry to severely punish Ron Artest.” He again noted that Harden was partially to blame for getting into Artest’s way and attempting to interrupt his celebration after a dunk in the first half.
ESPN2 commentator Skip Bayless says Oklahoma City Thunder star James Harden is partially to blame for Los Angeles Lakers’ forward Metta World Peace’s hard elbow that left Harden with a concussion during the Thunder-Lakers game Sunday afternoon.
Speaking Monday morning on ESPN2’s “First Take,” Bayless, an Oklahoma City native, said Harden moved into Peace’s path to disrupt his celebration after his dunk in the first half.
Because of the incident, Bayless said he no longer would refer to him as Metta World Peace, but as Ron Artest, his previous name.
“I’m going to give Harden a little bit of the blame here,” Bayless said. “James Harden is known to be a shrewd operator in the NBA already at a young age. He likes to get under the opponent’s skin. He likes to get in Kobe’s face. They got into it in Oklahoma City before the All-Star Game.”
Another “First Take” commentator Wale, a rapper, interrupted, “That’s basketball. That’s competition.”
Bayless: “Clearly James Harden was attempting to disrupt Artest’s chest-pounding celebration at his place, at Staples Center. He just wanted to cut it a little short by getting in front of Artest, just saying stop it. I also think he’s such a shrewd operator that he was hoping that the runaway train that was Artest at that point just might get called for an offensive foul, running over him without looking at him.”
Wale: “You just don’t put yourself in front of Ron Artest and roll the dice.”
Bayless: “Well, he rolled it, baby. Does it justify Artest throwing an elbow? Absolutely not. … But if James Harden had gotten out of the way for one more second and let Artest go by him, we’re not having this conversation.”
Analyst Rob Parker disagreed with Bayless. “It wasn’t contact in a malicious way,” Parker said of Harden. “He didn’t look straight at him or lower his shoulder.”
Melee disputed Bayless’ claim that Harden had a reputation for riling up opponents, calling him a “quiet guy.”
Bayless: “He’s an L.A. guy. He’s from Artesia (High School). He knows how to play the game.”
Bayless said he thought the NBA should suspend Artest for five games, including four playoff games. Parker and Melee said he should be suspended for the entire first round of the playoffs.
“That elbow can not be tolerated,” Parker said. “It is a black eye on the game.”
Bayless recently was criticized on “First Take” by fellow commentator Jalen Rose for overstating his basketball achievement at Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City. In a tweet, Bayless said he started on a team that lost in the state finals. According to team statistics, Bayless averaged only 1.4 points a game for the 1970 team and did not score in the 47-42 state championship loss to Norman.
ESPN2 commentator Skip Bayless was quick to cite the Thunder’s 92-77 loss Monday night at the Staples Center as an example as why he thinks the Thunder won’t win the NBA championship this season.
Asked if the loss was a big deal or not on ESPN2’s “First Take” Tuesday morning, Bayless said it was a big deal.
“I don’t even care if it was the Clippers who recently beat the Thunder at Oklahoma City. This is what I don’t like about the Thunder team. What you saw last night is why the Thunder will lose a playoff series. This will happen in a Game 6 or a Game 7. They live and die by the jump shot, too often 3-point jump shots.
“Last night (Kevin) Durant, my favorite player, and (Russell) Westbrook, my least favorite player, combined to go 1 for 12 from 3 — 1 for 12 from 3, you’re probably going to lose.
“After leading at halftime, those two players — they’re supremely talented players, I love Westbrook’s explosiveness — combined to score zero points in the third quarter. What do you think is going to happen then? The home team’s going to pull away in that game.
“In this instance, we have Durant taking a few more shots but it was because Westbrook was so cold, 4 out of 16 from the field. It will happen. He will have one of those nights when he just can’t throw it in the ocean.
“Oklahoma City lost the second half of the game 49-25. They totaled 12 assist. This is my issue with the Thunder. Your point guard Westbrook totaled 3 assists. They relied on playing one-on-one and jump shooting. If your shots don’t fall, you’re in trouble.”
“First Take” analyst Rob Parker didn’t think the loss was a big deal, calling it just one of those games. “You’re going to have those kind of nights. I’m not that concerned,” he said. “The
Clippers are coming on. They got the Thunder on a bad night.”
Despite the Oklahoma City Thunder’s NBA-best 12-2 record, the Thunder didn’t receive much praise from TNT’s studio crew during the Thunder-Celtics broadcast Monday night.
Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith all said they thought the Los Angeles Lakers would defeat the Thunder in a playoff series, and Barkley thought the Lakers would win it in five games.
Barkley on the best teams in the Western Conference: “The Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets are the two best teams I have seen in the West.”
O’Neal on the Thunder being 12-2: “They’ve had an easy schedule.”
Game analyst Chris Webber on how Thunder sixth man James Harden has embraced his role with the team: “The best teams that I played against had role players that were superstars. They took their role seriously and they knew the importance of their role to the team. (Harden) has embraced his role (as sixth man) and has made sure that the bench is better for that.”
Game analysis Mike Fratello on Thunder head coach Scott Brooks: “He really knows his players and he knows which guys to let grow and develop and which ones he can get on a little bit harder. He wants players to grow and experience this learning process and by the way, they’re winning a lot of games in this process.”
Fratello on the unselfishness of Thunder forward Kevin Durant: “He is a very unselfish player. He has the God-given ability to score the basketball whenever he wants to; he understands the team aspect of the game and is a willing passer.”
ESPN’s “College GameDay” features a report on late OU linebacker Austin Box and how his death affected his family and the team. Box, 22, died in May from a lethal mix of prescription pain killers. Reporter Tom Rinaldi talked with Box’s family. The report will air about 10:10 a.m. Saturday.
From the time he was in seventh grade, Austin’s father, Craig, wrote his son a letter before every game he played — from middle school through the last game he played — the Fiesta Bowl win over Connecticut just in January. This season, Craig has been reading those letters again as Austin’s memory carries on, by his team and his family.
Quotes from the “College GameDay” segment:
Craig Box on the letters: “I wanted him to have something. To let him know his daddy was watching him; his daddy cared about him; his daddy loved him; that he was special; that he was gonna be special.”
Mother Gail Box: “He dealt with his back and the pain in his arm. But Austin never complained. He felt like he had been given so many gifts, that to complain would just be unheard of.”
Sister Whitney Box on a different OU defensive player wearing No. 12 in each game: “I can watch the No. 12, and root for whoever’s wearing it, and really want that player to maybe do better than all the other defensive players. But just really honor Austin in whatever they do. And they all have, each one of them. Whenever they’ve worn that jersey, they’ve honored Austin.”