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.
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.
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.
Two transplanted Easterners — a New Jersey journalist with a crackling, grating voice and a temperamental ex-jock from Maryland — have formed the state’s most entertaining sports talk tandem.
Al Eschbach, 65, and Jim Traber, 49, appear as the “Dominant Duo” from 4 to 6 p.m. on the Sports Animal radio network.
“We’re like the ‘Odd Couple’,” said Eschbach, who this month celebrated his 35th anniversary as a sports talk host. “He’s Felix. I’m Oscar. We’re so different. But it has been a lot of fun.”
The pair are a ratings powerhouse for the men’s 25 to 54 age demographic. They ranked second in the demographic from 2 to 8 p.m. for the spring ratings book, trailing only rock station KATT-FM 100.5.
A Columbia, Md., high school star, Traber was recruited to play quarterback at Oklahoma State by head coach Jimmy Johnson and assistant coach Dave Wannsted. He also played baseball for the Cowboys, leading to a major league career and pro stints in Japan and Mexico.
Eschbach, who attended an all-boys Catholic high school, moved to Oklahoma in search of excitement. “OU was ranked as one of the top 10 party schools by Playboy Magazine,” he said. “It was cheap and it was easy to get in.” He now teaches sports broadcasting at the university.
Eschbach has never lost his high-strung New Jersey accent, which is his trademark along with his “See ya” farewell to callers. He relishes talking about his exotic vacations, including a recent three-week trip to Thailand.
“The last thing I would ever have expected was for me to do talk radio here with my accent,” Eschbach said. “Are you kidding me? When I started, people would go like ‘Damn Yankee.’ Was the Civil War still going on?”
Traber said. “I’m one of the only people who I think understands everything that comes out of Al’s mouth. It’s kind of hard at times.”
When the two were first paired in 1998, Traber said some listeners assumed it would become a battle of OSU vs. OU, but he said he never had no intention of becoming a “homer” for his alma mater.
“I think you lose credibility,” said Traber, who is known for lashing into callers with extended tirades. “There are OU fans who think I am an OSU homer and there are OSU fans who think I’m an OU homer. I feel if both sides don’t like me, I’m doing it the right way.”
Both enjoy serving their large throng of sports listeners. They are joined in “The Total Dominance Hour” by Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel and KWTV-9 sports director Dean Blevins.
“I can tell you that this is the most passionate place there is to do sports talk radio,” Traber said.
ESPN NFL analyst Jon Gruden hosts another one of his excellent quarterback camp specials at 6 p.m. Thursday on ESPN. Gruden had film and workout sessions with five top quarterbacks — Andy Dalton (TCU), Blaine Gabbert (Missouri), Jake Locker (Washington), Ryan Mallett (Arkansas) and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton (Auburn).
Gruden answered questions from the media in a conference call this week:
Q: Was there one guy you sat down going into the QB camp that you came away really impressed by or you may not have thought as much of until you sat down with him and broke down the film with him?
A: Cam Newton with 14 career starts, the thing that impressed me, not only his physical attributes and his size, but his charisma. I think his eagerness to learn and prove that he can adapt to a pro style on offense. He showed very good retention to me in the meetings and the material that we covered.
I just like the look in his eyes, the eagerness and feeling that he has a lot to prove to everybody including himself. I think Newton impressed me the most in that regard.
Q. What were your impressions of Mallett? Do you think he gets it in terms of what’s going to be required of him in the NFL?
A: I think he does get it. He comes from a unique background. His mom and dad were teachers and coaches. Football is very important to him. The thing I really liked about Ryan Mallett was his background playing under Bobby Petrino at Arkansas. And I know Coach Petrino well enough to know that he coaches quarterbacks hard, very demanding. If you watch Mallett play, he’s in a lot of pro style situations, underneath the center, in the shotgun, audibling, check‑with‑me’s. They do a lot of good things on offense at Arkansas. Ryan Mallett can draw protections, blocking schemes, and he does have a beautiful throwing motion that I know a lot of guys in the league are excited about. He can really hum it.
Q. Can I get your take on Jake Locker? You seem to have a pretty good connection with him during that QB Camp episode. Wanted your take on how close do you think he is to the NFL level, and the accuracy concerns and other concerns you think he still needs to work on?
A: This is one tough guy. I mean, Jake Locker has played for two head coaches. He had to endure an 0‑12 season. This guy took a lot of punishment. The whole offense was built around No. 10. From a running standpoint, from a passing standpoint, this guy was involved significantly on every snap for the Huskies. He does have to improve his accuracy. But I think when you’re hit a lot and asked to do as much as Locker’s been asked to do, sometimes your fundamentals wane a little bit. They disappear in key situations. He does have a good, strong arm. He’s an outstanding athlete. He’s got very good elusiveness and straight line speed with some power, and I think he loves football. I think there is a real passionate fire inside this guy that somebody’s going to capture. He would be a fun guy to coach.
Q: Based on your work with Newton and your observation of all these players you’ve talked about at other positions and your knowledge of the Panthers from coaching against them, with the first pick of the draft, who do you see?
A: I think they’re going to take Cam Newton out of Auburn. In this NFC South, I believe you have Josh Freeman, you have Matt Ryan, you have Drew Brees. They have a young guy there now in Jimmy Clausen. But I think with DeAngelo Williams, assuming he’s re‑signed, Jonathan Stewart, Jordan Gross at left tackle, assuming Otah comes back at right tackle, you’re going to have the ability to put together a striking running game with Cam Newton being a part of that. Your good friend Steve Smith out there can still hurt people and off the play action pass and things of that nature while Cam develops. I think there are things this guy can do.
I wish I had more tape on Cam Newton. I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight. But this is the kind of guy you’re looking for. He’s almost 6-6, 255 pounds. And everybody says yes, he sees the best conference in college football, and he really did a great job in that conference this year. I think he combined for 51 touchdowns.
Q: The consensus has been that Newton and Gabbert are a cut above the other quarterbacks in the draft. You’ve talked a lot about Newton, and I think his skills are obvious. But do you believe that Gabbert is a cut above the other quarterbacks in this draft? If so, why? And if you could give speculation on where you think he might go, and the farthest he might drop down in the draft?
A: I do think Blaine Gabbert is a Top 10 pick. All you have to do is see the ball come out of his hand. He’s got a very quick, strong arm, prototype size. He’s over 6-4, 235 pounds, a finance major, so you know he has intelligence. He has speed. I mean, Gabbert ran very well at the combine. He’s elusive back there. His scrambling and playmaking ability I think will be very enticing. Once again, here’s a junior quarterback that comes from a very unique, different style of spread offense at Missouri where he’s been in the no‑back set, and the shotgun predominantly. But I think his physical talents are very noticeable to everybody.
Just like athletes, cheerleaders are getting starter at a younger age these days. A segment of the next edition “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” which debuts at 9 p.m. Tuesday, explores the world of mini-cheerleading.
Here’s the synopsis as supplied by HBO:
Mini-Cheerleaders. Competitive cheerleading is a grueling physical sport, testing the limits of even the most dedicated athletes. So imagine pre-pubescent girls, ages 5 to 8, tumbling, dancing, stunting and flying through the air on the national stage in true competitive fashion. Just like the big girls, they don lipstick, glitter and miniskirts, too. Leading up to the United States finals, Real Sports correspondent Andrea Kremer explores the lesser-known world of mini-cheerleading.
Other stories include profiles of Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and two-time Paralympic track champ Marlon Shirley, and a look at the New Jersey-based health organization P.A.S.T. (Pain Alternatives, Solutions & Treatments) that provides pro-bono treatment to former athletes.
I haven’t been big on video games — at least in the past 10-12 years or so. (I was unbeatable on NHL95 on Sega Genesis).
But our family recently stepped into the 21st century of video gaming and got an XBOX360. We got it for the Kinect, because we thought our 4-year old would have fun playing some of the games, which he has.But now — probably much to the disliking of my wife — comes this: “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters“.
They’ve added Augusta National to the list of courses on the wildly successful Tiger Woods video game franchise. The game will feature the voices of David Feherty and Jim Nantz. You’ll be able to choose from more than 20 pro golfers and play 16 courses (Augusta, Royal Melbourne, St. Andrews, Pebble Beach, etc.).
It comes out March 29, 2011. I may put the controller down sometime on MAY 29.
– Assistant Sports Editor Ryan Sharp (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The NFC is especially rich this season for local NFL viewers with the longtime fan favorite Dallas Cowboys being challenged by the Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams for attention on the tube.
The Vikings feature former OU running back Adrian Peterson and veteran quarterback Brett Favre, who returns for his 20th season in the NFL.
Former OU star quarterback Sam Bradford is the key ingredient to the Rams’ rebuilding efforts.
If you had a chance to program local Fox affiliate KOKH-25, which has the rights to the NFC, which of the three teams would you give top priority? Who are you tired of seeing?
How about the AFC? Which team should KWTV-9, which has AFC rights, give the most attention? The Kansas City Chiefs? Houston Texans? Or another team?
I welcome your thoughts as I prepare a story on the NFL TV schedule.
The college football season is not too far off. Fox Sports Oklahoma will help to prime your football appetite with a replay of the 2007 OU-Missouri game in Norman from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday. The No. 6 Sooners prevailed 41-31 over the No. 11 Tigerss as Chris Brown ran for three second-half touchdowns and Curtis Lofton returned a fumble for a score.
— TBS has a match-up of All-Star pitchers at noon Saturday as the Yankees’ Andy Pettitte is scheduled to face Rays’ David Price in the game at Yankee Stadium. Dick Stockton and Ron Darling will call the action.
— KOKH-25 will carry the Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals game at 3 p.m. Saturday. Joe Buck and Eric Karros will call the game, which will go to 27 percent of the nation.
— ESPN’s prime-time newsmagazine E:60 returns at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The program includes a feature on running back Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans, a profile of 13-year-old pitching sensation Chelsea Baker and a re-air of E:60’s investigation into the corrective rape issue in South Africa.
— EA’s new NCAA Football 11 includes an all-new ESPN broadcast package integration. From kickoff to the final play, players will now be able to experience the game as part of ESPN’s Game of the Week. The full broadcast integration includes actual graphics, intros and music as well as an all new replay system showing the best plays and highlights. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit and Brad Nessler offer commentary and reporter Erin Andrews provides injury reports and sideline updates.
Finally with the death of George Steinbrenner, it’s a good time to look back at how “Seinfeld” worked the Yankees owner into the hit show. New York Times columnist looks back in a column titled “Sultan of Swagger.” Here is a link: