Friday, January 29, 2010

You Will Survive

Last week, I told you about the upcoming breast cancer fund raising event that was going to surrounded the Penn State women's basketball game last Sunday, a game won by Penn State over Illinois, by a score of 70-66.

I had a chance to attend this game, and it was a privilege to do so. The crowd was decidedly younger women, with many high school girls teams apparently in attendance. There were free pink water bottles, free pink pom poms, a silent auction of sports items (I picked up a nifty collection of Penn State football booster buttons), and lots of pink t-shirts. A portion of each ticket was donated to breast cancer causes.

The highlight of the day had to be the halftime program, where women, wearing pink "Survivor" t-shirts, were invited to walk out onto the court. Hundreds of them streamed out from all corners of the arena, until the court was ringed with women who had beaten cancer.

The school then played Gloria Gaynor's disco classic, "I will Survive".

It was difficult not to shed a tear at this event. Seeing all these women, including a family friend, walk onto that court, made you realize that all that money is doing good work. Whether you give through Susan G. Komen, or The Three Day Walk, or Penn State's Pink Zone, the results were right in front of you. Those women are alive because of their own courage, as well as the who people cared enough to give time and money to help them survive.

- 30 -

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I HAD A DREAM... and it was to host The Tonight Show

The mess with NBC has turned into a real loser for the network, viewers, affiliates, but most of all, Conan O'Brien, who did the least to hurt himself, but is the one being hurt the most -- with apologies to all of his staffers who followed him to California, and may now be out of a job.

Then again, maybe it is Conan who is hurting Conan.

With all of the finger pointing going on -- in case you haven't noticed -- the one bit of blame that has not been placed is Conan's decision to abandon the Tonight Show.

Abandon? That's not too strong of a word, isn't it?

It is O'Brien's choice to leave the show that he took over 7 months ago. Conan and his writers and drummer and quirky trombone player could all just keep on doing exactly the same thing they have been doing, and doing it at the same time every night. The only difference would be the time that the show is aired to the nation, a whopping 30 minutes after the current time.

But this argument ignores the fact of what the Tonight Show really is, and we think we need a sports analogy to make sense of it.

Football fans might remember that once upon a time, there was an NFL game that was played and broadcast on Sunday nights, and one on Monday nights. That's right. This, in contrast to the more recent events which have the NFL playing and broadcasting a game on Sunday nights, and one on Monday nights.

So what's the difference?

If you are very old, say, 12 years older or more, you probably can remember when ABC's Monday Night Football (using capital letters, mind you) was THE game of the week. It got the best time slot, it got network broadcasting, it got the choice of the best games, it got the most hype, it got it's own pre-game show (oft times on ESPN), and it got the best announcers.

It was a brand.

It was an event.

It was the game on which all players wanted to appear, and all young sports announcers wanted to announce.

It was basically The Tonight Show of football.

Suddenly, though, this all changed 4 seasons ago. The Game of The Week was now that Sunday Night Game. Starting in 2006, the Sunday night game was on network television (moved to NBC from ESPN). The Sunday night game had the flex scheduling for the best matchups. The Sunday night game got the dedicated pre-game show, got the most
eyeballs, and oh yeah, it got...

....the best announcers.

First, it was John Madden who jumped ship, agreeing to move from the ABC Monday night broadcast, as it was preparing to move from ABC network to ESPN on cable, to the new NBC-aired Sunday night game, just as the Sunday game was being shifted from ESPN cable to NBC network.

Madden was the latter-day Conan, moving from a spot on the secondary game (ESPN's Monday Night Football) to the top game of the week (NBC's Sunday Night Football). This may contrast O'Brien's earlier move, which was from the minor league "Late Night" show to the top billing at the 11:35pm slot. Madden wanted to stay with the
signature football game of the week, and that game was now broadcast somewhere else.

Al Michaels, apparently feeling left behind to do his games on (yuck!) cable, managed to get out of his contract with ABC/ESPN. Michaels underscored Madden's decision by getting traded to NBC in exchange for a cartoon character, just so he could be on the flagship NFL broadcast.

SIDEBAR: The deal for Al Michaels included NBC granting ABC/Disney the rights to some Ryder Cup broadcasts, additional Olympic footage for ESPN, and the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a character created by Walt Disney, the rights to which were owned by NBC's parent company.

And then there is Conan, who probably has not gotten the blame he deserved for not agreeing to just keep doing The Tonight Show, whether it was broadcast at 11:35pm or 12:05am, or 4:00am in the morning.

But Conan seems to be looking past the words on the banner at the top of the show. Yes, "The Tonight Show" would still exist in name, much like Monday Night Football still exists on many televisions (except those that can't get cable, which is much of the point here).

Conan seems to recognize that a television talk/entertainment show which follows another talk/entertainment program is not THE TONIGHT SHOW, but rather, a talk/entertainment show which airs after the most important late night time slot. Think about the place held by the Late Night show, which has been hosted by Dave Letterman, O'Brien, and Jimmy Fallon. No matter how good a show this was (and Conan's version was clearly better than Jay's Tonight Show for much of their comparable run), the Late Night program simply would never, could never, be the flagship program that was represented by the 11:35pm time slot. Late Night was minor league; The Tonight Show was the majors.

Let's extend the football analogy a little further. Imagine 5 years ago, if the ABC Monday Night Football game were moved to 12:05am to follow another football game on ABC or another network, at 9:00pm. The 9:00pm game would be called "The Early Evening Football Game." The Early Game got the best matchups and the most viewers. That would leave Monday Night Football as a game, but not THE game. Wouldn't the announcers want to leave MNF to move to The Early Game?

It isn't the name Monday Night Football that has the glitter, but rather, the time slot and the other elements that make it the game of the week.

As for Conan, it is a little hard to grasp what is going on, and what he is thinking, without using the football analogy. Conan has said that moving The Tonight Show to a later time (which we interpret as meaning "after another show has already preceded us") would destroy the franchise, and he did not want to be a part of that. Using our football example, we would have to ask, is Monday Night Football really Monday Night Football anymore? After all, there was a Sunday night game before the 2006 switch to NBC. There was a Monday Night game before the Monday night switch to ESPN. And there is still a Sunday and Monday night game.

So with Sunday and Monday games still on the television, is the really a difference between the broadcasts? Well, according to pretty much everyone that counts, and by that, we mean the NFL, the answer is yes. The NFL managed to completely change the minds of everyone who doesn't count, and by that, we mean the fans. They changed our minds that Football Night In America was now on Sundays.

The shame in all of this is that NBC made a mistake, Leno failed, but Conan is the one getting screwed. In a way, Leno is being rewarded for failing. He gets to go back to the game of the week. And this after probably doing part of the damage to Conan. I can't help but think that part of the reason The Tonight Show's ratings are down since O'Brien took over is because Leno could not deliver the audience to carry over to the late local news, and thus failed to carry the residual audience to 11:35pm.

There is no sports analogy for that.

Then again, may Leno knew what he was doing. Maybe he tanked his 10:00pm show, knowing he would get to slide back into 11:35pm. Maybe Leno's lawyers already had a deal in place to move Jay back to 11:35pm if his show bombed.

Whatever happened, Conan fell on the sword, so The Tonight Show could be saved as the historic franchise that it is. I'm not certain many sports broadcasters would do the same.

- 30 -

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Penn State Women's Basketball Fighting Cancer

Penn State women's basketball is making a full-court effort to raise funds and awareness through The Pink Zone, Penn State's program for fighting breast cancer.

Pink Zone activities include fundraising, an online auction, and The Pink Zone game at Penn State on Sunday, January 24th at 1:00pm. That's when the Penn State Lady Lions host Illinois in a Big Ten matchup at the Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State's campus.

The first 200 fans attending the game will receive a pink Lady Lion water bottle, a silent auction will be held for Penn State and professional sports memorabilia, and the Lady Lions pink uniforms will be auctioned off after the game. $2.00 from each ticket sold will be donated to the fundraising program.

I can't think of another school that uses pink in their school colors, which makes the uniforms unique. Go here for a look at one from last year's Pink Zone game:

If you want to see these uniforms in action, visit to see the game broadcast online on Sunday, or the re-airing on The Big Ten Network on Monday, January 25th at 9:00am.

Ticket can be ordered through the Penn State ticket office at 814-865-5555. Penn State students can receive a buy-one, get-one ticket with ID.

For more information, and to find out how you can donate:

- 30 -

Friday, January 15, 2010

So NOW is the time thought it would be instructive to analyze Mark McGwire's
coming-of-age statement that said, to the shock of a nation, he in
fact used steroids throughout significant parts of his baseball
career. Let's look at portions of the statement McGwire released on
January 11th, which can be found at:;_ylt=ApgdzfwgubUXtvCGSqhH74I5nYcB?slug=ys-mcgwirestatement011110&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

Here is the first gem from Big Mac:

>>>> Now that I have become the hitting coach for the St. Louis
Cardinals, I have the chance to do something that I wish I was able
to do five years ago.

Yeah, this sure isn't something you could have done in front of
Congress in 2005. Or when responding to Jose Canseco's book. Or any
of the other 1,761 days since your congressional testimony where you
didn't want to talk about the past.

That is how McGwire began his statement. I'm not kidding. As if
January 11th, 2009, was finally the day -- the only day -- that
McGwire could manage to summon the truth.

>>> I wish I had never touched steroids

Funny thing, but so do we.

>>> Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era.

Interesting. I always thought that McGwire had MADE IT the steroid
era. We should probably stop reading McGwire's statement now,
because it can't get any more ludicrous. McGwire actually wants us
to believe that he was somehow a VICTIM of an "era," rather than
being responsible for it.

He was the one who made it the steroid era. But why take blame, when
you can sound like the victim? Kind of like Jay Leno.

>>> During the mid-'90s, I went on the DL seven times and missed
228 games over five years.

Wake me when he gets to the part that has to do with cheating the fans.

>>> I had good years when I took steroids and I had bad years
when I took steroids

Hold on while I stop laughing.

Okay. I'm done. What McGwire is saying is that he
probably did not benefit
from the steroids. Which just further shows that McGwire doesn't get
it. He's kind of like the card counter who says "Sometimes I lost
money counting cards, sometimes I won," as if he never really gained
an advantage by cheating.

>>> The commissioner and the players' association implemented
testing and they cracked down

Yeah, and they would have done so years earlier, if you'd owned up to
what you had done.

>>> After all this time, I want to come clean. I was not in a
position to do that five years ago in my congressional testimony,

Yes? And....? Please, go on. There is something missing from this
little gem which your lawyers laid out for you. Like finding out
just WHY you couldn't do this 5 years ago. Oh, right, right,
right... you told Bob Costas that your lawyers made you do it. That
your lawyers convinced you not to talk about the past. That your
lawyers were the meanies that dragged this out for 5 years. That
your lawyers kept you from being straight with everyone. So you must
have really been hurting all these years, just wanting to bust out
with the truth, but all the time, held back by those draconian old lawyers.

Again, McGwire refuses to take responsibility. But he probably did
not write any of this statement, so he can blame the lawyers for that, too.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has just one, and only one, option
now. He should suspend McGwire right now, ban him from baseball
indefinitely, and try to figure out what to do later. No other
punishment can possibly be warranted. To not suspend him would be to
condone the use of steroids, but worse, condone his failure to tell
the truth to congress, the game of baseball, its players, his
manager, and oh yeah, the Commissioner.

- 30 -