The Friday media column is below. Scroll to the bottom for a Heat free agent note. We'll resume buzz columns this weekend, with Dolphins and Canes items.
Showtime promised to give viewers a “groundbreaking” docudrama on the Marlins, unlike any sports reality series we’ve witnessed. The irony is that in three episodes, HBO’s Hard Knocks delivered more absorbing television and enlightening behind-the-scenes access to the Dolphins than Showtime managed in eight episodes chronicling the Marlins.
This summer will probably be the only time in our lives when our NFL and Major League Baseball teams are the focus of simultaneous cable reality shows. So comparisons are natural. And Hard Knocks has been superior for several reasons:
### Hard Knocks, which has two episodes remaining (10 p.m. Tuesdays), has forged a better balance between on-field matters and human interest stories. Both programs have offered a glimpse into the personal lives of players. But Showtime aired too much of it, at the expense of more meaningful issues.
Was it necessary for “The Franchise” to spend several minutes documenting a softball game involving the Marlins’ and Tampa Bay Rays’ wives? Why was nearly 10 minutes devoted to the wives of Mike Dunn, Heath Bell, Donnie Murphy and Brett Hayes having dinner at a sushi restaurant on South Beach while watching the Marlins on TV?
Hard Knocks also has served up lighter fare: Rookie hazing antics, for instance, and the quarterbacks and Jake Long interacting with their wives. But those segments have been brisker and more entertaining than Showtime’s vignettes and haven’t been given priority over more substantive football matters.
### More insight into individual players. Hard Knocks viewers have been allowed to eavesdrop on coach’s scathing critiques of players: Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman telling Michael Egnew he was “terrible” and that he would cut Egnew “if I were general manager,” and that Charles Clay “better start picking his [expletive] up.”… Tight ends coach Dan Campbell calling Les Brown “a complete liability” as a blocker…. Coaches dubbing Roberto Wallace “ankle weights Wallace” for his difficulty separating from defensive backs. This week, we saw offensive line coach Jim Turner telling other coaches that John Jerry is “unreliable” and a “catastrophe on tape” during a recent practice.
Showtime offered none of this on The Franchise. General manager Michael Hill said the veterans have been “crapping all over themselves” but we never saw coaches or front office types candidly and privately assessing specific players. That’s the type of insight fans crave.
### More telling interaction between players. HBO has offered several revealing snippets, such as Vontae Davis telling Reshad Jones: “I’m taking acting classes to act like I’m not tired” and Jerry asking defensive lineman Chaz Alecxih to “chill for me” on a drill because “I’m tired.”
Showtime aired whimsical exchanges between players, but nothing engrossing. Hanley Ramirez was immensely unpopular in the clubhouse and several players were happy to see him traded, but Showtime never addressed that.
### More meaty exchanges between players and coaches. HBO has been fortunate here, because Chad Johnson’s release and his final meeting with Joe Philbin made for compelling television.
But there have been other memorable moments: Philbin asking Davis if he has his “bladder taken care of today” after Davis previously left practice to go to the bathroom… Defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo telling Davis his behavior “shows a lack of want. You’ve got to change your attitude, change your ways.”… Karlos Dansby, Reggie Bush and Long requesting a meeting with Philbin in the wake of Johnson’s release, and Bush asking Philbin: “If there’s a guy in trouble, can we help them in some way before you make a decision? We might have been able to save them.”
Showtime’s only memorable exchange between a player and manager Ozzie Guillen was Heath Bell telling Guillen he did not feel Guillen has his back, and Guillen strongly disputing that.
### Better in-game audio. During Hard Knocks’ highlights of the Dolphins-Carolina game, we witnessed – among other things - Turner asking nobody in particular “Am I on drugs?” after several breakdowns by his unit; receivers coach Ken O’Keefe cracking that Chris Hogan “is going to be like a cult hero”; and Philbin calmly asking Davis what happened – rather than scolding him – after a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Showtime offered nothing of the sort.
In fairness, the last-place Marlins provided few appealing storylines in the past couple of weeks. But overall, HBO not only offered better material than Showtime, but also made better production decisions.
For example: Showtime’s sleep-inducing final episode of The Franchise offered dull segments on Greg Dobbs and Steve Cishek but didn’t address any relevant issues on the team’s future. Such as: Will the Marlins spend much money in free agency? What’s the biggest offseason priority, etc.?
AROUND THE DIAL
As expected, 790 The Ticket named Marc Hochman and Jonathan Zaslow its morning hosts. Jon Weiner opted to continue working with Dan Le Batard on the afternoon-drive show… Jorge Sedano remains in negotiations to join WQAM-560 as a talk-show host (time slot undetermined) and program director… Former CNN and WSVN-7 anchor Rick Sanchez won’t return as FIU’s football radio analyst, the school confirmed… Sunday afternoon network NFL preseason telecasts are rare, but Fox gets 49ers-Broncos at 4 p.m. Sunday, with Terry Bradshaw joining Troy Aikman as co-analysts.
The Heat did not immediately offer former Knicks center Josh Harrellson a contract after his workout for Miami on Thursday, but indicated that he's one of a few centers they're considering. Pat Riley was out of town and not at the workout.
"Still looking for my opportunity somewhere," Harrellson tweeted Thursday evening.
Harrellson's agent, Merle Scott, said: "It was a good workout, interesting for both sides. They are going to evaluate other situations they have and Josh is going to do the same. We are scheduled to talk again next week."
The 6-10, 275-pound Harrellson, who tweeted earlier this week that he would be working out for the Heat, averaged 4.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 14.6 minutes in 37 games as a rookie for the Knicks last season, making 20 of 59 three-pointers. He was dealt in last month's Marcus Camby trade to Houston, which released him last week.
The Heat previously made an inquiry about former Nuggets center Chris Anderson - as it did in July with Darko Milicic - but as of Thursday evening, had not made an offer or booked a visit with Anderson, who's very interested in Miami.