FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN
Asking and answering media queries from the couch:
### Why should we be angry with the people who run the College Football Playoff?
Because they’ve disrupted New Year’s Eve for millions who prefer to be at a restaurant or a party or on Lincoln Road or South Beach or Las Olas, or anywhere without TVs in close proximity.
And it’s not just sports fans affected; it also impacts those who love sports fans, those whose plans are foiled because their sports fan spouses/relatives/significant others/friends insist on watching two semifinal games instead of doing something more inclusive.
And all of this was avoidable.
Citing its tradition, the CFP rejected ESPN’s request to move the two semifinal games from New Year’s Eve to Saturday, Jan. 2, when there are no NFL games and nothing especially significant on the schedule.
Memo to the CFP: You have no tradition. You’re in your second season!
Under the plan originally devised, and the one the CFP refuses to change, the national semifinals will be on Dec. 31 when they’re played in the Orange and Cotton (as is the case this year) and in the Chick-Fil-A and the Fiesta (which will be the case next year).
The semifinals will be on Jan. 1 when they’re in the Rose and Sugar.
So that means college football fans will spend four of the next five New Year’s Eves watching semifinal games, held hostage by their televisions. For some, this will be a perfectly enjoyable way to spend the evening. But for millions, it’s less than ideal.
"The fact is that we have started a new tradition of back-to-back tripleheaders on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day," College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said. "We're not interested in changing for one year, then returning for the next 10."
The semifinal in the Orange Bowl (Clemson-Oklahoma) was given the 4 p.m. slot, because the Cotton matchup (Alabama-Michigan State) was deemed more appealing for prime time (8).
ESPN officials privately cannot understand the CFP’s lack of flexibility and common sense on the issue. But for a change, TV does not get its way, and that’s regrettable in this case.
### What’s going on with 790 The Ticket?
The station is trying to both finalize a deal with The Herald's Ethan J. Skolnick to co-host the 4 to 7 p.m. show and determine whether to use two people on the program or three people (Skolnick, a co-host and a rotating guest host).
With Israel Gutierrez leaving because he couldn’t come to terms on a contract, The Ticket this week used a combination of Chris Wittyngham, ESPN’s Mike Wallace and Fox’s Alex Marvez alongside Skolnick. The station also is looking at candidates outside the market.
### Who will replace Tommy Hutton as the Marlins’ TV analyst?
It’s too early to tell because a national search is in the very early stages. The Marlins likely will hire from outside the market; Jeff Conine isn't interested in the job.
### What’s the view on the Panthers' new radio voice?
Very favorable. Doug Plagens, who had been working American Hockey League and Arena League Football games in Ohio, is polished, sharp and diligent in his call.
Randy Moller worked to become a competent play-by-play man, but he’s better suited as a contributing analyst on TV, with Steve Goldstein and Denis Potvin. The Panthers now have their best TV/radio crews in a decade, since Jeff Rimer’s departure.
### How many viewers are the Dolphins losing with their decade-long malaise?
A lot. The Jets game two weeks ago produced a season-low 14.9 rating, equaling 14.9 percent of Dade/Broward TV households. Last Sunday’s Ravens game did even worse, a 14.4, which is pretty dismal for a home team’s NFL game.
That’s below last season’s 16.9 average Dolphins rating, which was worst among markets with one NFL team. One local ratings point equals 16,562 homes.
### Any more evidence of anti-UM bias at ESPN?
Found this interesting: As many of you know, five ESPN commentators (David Pollack, Scott Van Pelt, Robert Smith, Michael Wilbon and Mike Greenberg) said the ACC should declare Duke the winner in the Miami-Duke game. And so after the NFL recently said a key officiating error in the final second was directly responsible for Jacksonville’s win over Baltimore, I asked all five if they would publicly call for the Jaguars' win to be overturned.
Only Wilbon said he would: “Tony [Kornheiser] and I both said definitively that the NFL should declare the Ravens the winner and cited Miami vs. Duke in the argument," Wilbon texted. "I get why Miami folks don’t want to hear [people calling for the ACC to overturn the win], though I hardly give a [bleep]. LOL.”
Most of the others declined to comment.
### Is NBC’s Tony Dungy still advising Dolphins owner Stephen Ross?
“We have talked about who would be good people for his organization,” Dungy told me. “We talked when he was in the search for Joe Philbin, but I have not talked to him this season. Hopefully, he finds the right guy and develops that talent. I think they’re going to be OK.”
### Any more Sunday night NFL games being flexed?
At least one. The NFL this week said that Arizona-Philadelphia will replace San Francisco-Cincinnati as NBC's prime time game on Dec. 20. And the Dec. 27 Steelers-Ravens game is also in jeopardy.
### Who’s the latest person to leave ESPN and return?
Rachel Nichols, who departed in January 2013 to work for CNN and Turner Sports. But CNN canceled her talk show, and ESPN has re-hired her to anchor her own program and work as a reporter, beginning next year.
### How unhappy will the NFL be with the movie Concussion, which is set for release in theaters on Christmas?
They won’t be pleased. Listen to some critics who have reviewed the film:
The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Farber writes the NFL "can't be happy about a high-profile movie bringing the issues into the limelight…. [Although the film is] imperfect, it has unmistakable urgency.”
The Daily Beast’s Jen Yamato said actor Will Smith and producer Sony "came out hard against" the NFL, "painting a damning picture of a sport too big to admit it's been killing its own players."
Yamato wrote the film offers an "incriminating indictment of the NFL's failure to address an increasingly unavoidable spate of mental health issues among its players."
Variety’s Kristopher Tapley wrote the film "depicts not only [Dr. Bennet Omalu’s] attempts to hold the NFL's feet to the fire for turning a blind eye to the subject, but also shows the league's efforts to distort and discredit his findings."
### What’s the biggest threat to media breaking stories?
The players doing it themselves. Kobe Bryant, David Ortiz and Steve Nash have all announced their retirement on the web site The Players Tribune. Bryant’s recent announcement drew one million clicks in the first two hours, even with the site crashing.
Derek Jeter, the brainchild behind the web site, told The New York Times this week: "If anyone thinks that the relationship between athletes and media isn’t fractured a little bit, then I think they’re lying to you. I know, speaking with athletes, not only in baseball, but in other sports, a lot of the times they are -- I don’t want to say afraid -- but they’re a little hesitant to speak their minds and be open and honest, because they’re afraid of how things are going to be twisted.
"My idea was to give them a place and the tools to be able to speak and communicate exactly how they wanted to do it, to really initiate conversation. We’re not trying to eliminate the media, we’re just trying to complement the media."