FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN
This was a year in South Florida sports media when NBC-6 inexplicably decided it was better off without arguably its most popular personality, a radio host was arrested for stealing from another station, and some Panthers games drew smaller audiences than Barbecue University, Mystery Diners and ice-crusher infomercials.
Recognizing the notable, regrettable and memorable from the local airwaves in 2014:
### Best personnel moves: 1) Fox and the Panthers hiring polished, respected Denis Potvin as TV analyst five years after dropping him. 2) 104.3 The Ticket pairing Josh Friedman and Chris Wittyngham on evening talk shows. They consistently mix smart, sensible commentary with quirky musings about day-to-day life. 3) WPLG-10 and NBC-6 hiring highly competent backup sportscasters Clay Ferraro and Stefano Fusaro.
4) WQAM-560 luring clever, engaging Marc Hochman from The Ticket for its afternoon drive-time slot. 5) The Dolphins and WINZ-940 snagging capable Greg Likens from WQAM when Jesse Agler left for the San Diego Padres.
6) WQAM promoting utilityman Curtis Stevenson to a prominent role on Joe Rose’s show. “Captain Curtis” deserved a regular gig and engages Rose in substantive conversation. 7) WINZ luring Andy Slater --- who works harder to break stories than most talk show hosts --- from WMEN-640, and WQAM upgrading by hiring Orlando Alzugaray, though he was much too critical of Ryan Tannehill this season. 8) Sun Sports hiring Ron Rothstein as a studio analyst on Heat games.
### Worst moves: 1) NBC 6 buying out Rose with a year left on his contract --- essentially paying him not to work. At least they have a very good replacement in Adam Kuperstein.
2) NBC 6 dropping its 6 p.m. sportscast and Sunday Sports Final (the final episode is Sunday). 3) FIU refusing to grant a credential to Miami Herald sports writer David J. Neal early in the season because of perceived negative coverage, before coming to its senses.
4) CBS-4 refusing to carry the network’s post-game NFL coverage, including the conclusion of other games, following Dolphins games. It’s understandable that WFOR switches to a local Dolphins postgame show, but the station should shift the remaining CBS NFL coverage to Channel 33. 5) Sun Sports hiring Carl Pavano for Marlins postgame shows without giving him proper coaching.
### Best programs: 1) Dan Le Batard on The Ticket and ESPN Radio. Yes, there’s sometimes too much needling of Jon Wiener, but it’s still the show most likely to make you laugh and make you think.
2) “Inside the Heat, Marlins and Panthers” specials on Sun Sports and FSN. Consistently well-produced.
3) WSVN-7’s Sports Xtra. The quintessential wise guy, Steve Shapiro keeps the show light, lively and well-paced. And Drew Rosenhaus delivers quality guests and news tips.
### Best weeknight sportscast: Shapiro on Channel 7, largely a function of the fact he has more air time than his competitors. But he makes the most of it.
### Best radiocast: UM football on WQAM. The Hurricanes are the only local team that we would encourage turning down the TV volume to hear the radio call.
Unlike anybody else in the market, Joe Zagacki accurately and consistently tells listeners specific play calls and strategic decisions before they unfold and quickly disseminates lineup changes and all the pertinent info. Don Bailey Jr. does something we wish more analysts would do --- identifying specific linemen or linebackers who are largely responsible for a play’s success or failure. And Josh Darrow's injury updates are always timely.
Honorable mention: Marlins radio (Dave Van Horne/Glenn Geffner). Highly professional broadcast.
### Best TV broadcast: Marlins on FSN. When he’s not unleashing one of his epic rants, Tommy Hutton offers cogent analysis and pointed criticism when appropriate. Rich Waltz and Hutton keep the dialogue interesting during lopsided games – one of the biggest compliments you can give an announcing team.
Honorable mention: Heat TV (Tony Fiorentino has been at his best when explaining strategy and nuances of the game, and Eric Reid never sugarcoats poor play) and Panthers TV (Steve Goldstein/Potvin do consistently good work).
### Best sidelines: 1) Sun Sports’ Jason Jackson (Heat). The style is obviously there, but so is the substance. 2) FSN’s Craig Minervini (Marlins). Underrated wit. 3) Frank Forte and Allison Williams (Marlins/FSN).
### Sportscaster arrest of the year: Less than two weeks after being hired as WMEN-640’s 3-7 p.m. host, Steve White was arrested and charged with three felonies: grand theft, theft of trade secrets and organized fraud. WQAM fired him as a sales rep in July for allegedly stealing more than $20,000 in ad revenue. WMEN says he’s off the air until the case is adjudicated.
### Most undiplomatic way of asking a question: At the news conference to announce Giancarlo Stanton’s record contract, WFOR-4’s Gary Nelson began by telling Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria: “You, quite frankly, are much despised among many in the community.” (What? Despised wasn’t enough to make his point without the “much”?) Loria looked like he would rather be having an intestine removed.
### Best skit: After Joe Philbin called a running play on a third and long late against Green Bay because he was feeling a “little queasy,” Kuperstein, Channing Crowder and the WQAM production staff created a rap video starring Philbin as “Lil’ Queezy.” Funny stuff.
### Most unusual question: Shapiro asking Stanton if he’s embarrassed to be making more per day ($69,000) than most U.S. workers earn in a year.
### Most off-the-wall idea: Le Batard’s show paying for a “You’re Welcome, LeBron” billboard in Akron. ESPN promptly suspended him for two days.
### Good sport award: To WFOR’s Jim Berry, WSVN’s Shapiro and WPLG’s Will Manso and Ferraro for taking time to contribute to an on-air tribute for Rose on his final NBC 6 appearance last Sunday.
### Poor sport award: To Gary Ferman, a former Herald reporter who now runs one of several subscription web sites catered for Hurricanes fans.
In a media column about coverage of Al Golden earlier this month, it was noted in this space that Ferman was among several reporters who said in January that Golden would become Penn State’s coach --- four years after Ferman also incorrectly reported Jon Gruden would become UM’s coach. (As everyone involved in the process will tell you, Gruden never was remotely close to becoming UM's coach.)
Ferman, who inexplicably insists to this day that both of those stories are accurate, first threatened to sue me, then threatened to destroy me (in his case, through lies and personal attacks). Not a good year for Ferman, who was beaten on many stories by the local newspapers, the Associated Press and competing UM fans sites.
### In memoriam: In April this year, cancer took 89-year-old Jack Ramsay, a Hall of Fame coach, former Heat TV analyst and a genuinely kind and decent man who set the standard for how people should comport themselves. He’s sorely missed.
Please check back next Friday for our national awards.