King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Tiresome sports-entertainment synergy: Bad news and good at ESPN. Plus: NBA player goes into stands.


Salon Staff
January 19, 2006 10:00PM (UTC)

And they say there's never any good news. Well, here's some, courtesy of a press release:

"'ESPN Hollywood' to Cease Production January 26."

I hate to see anyone lose his or her job, especially if that anyone is me. But any time something devoted to the endlessly tiresome "crossover between sports and entertainment" flops, it's a good thing for people who like sports. Or entertainment. Or both.

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The crossover between sports and entertainment is to sports and entertainment what the crossover between the military and music is to the military and music.

"We were pleased with 'ESPN Hollywood's' ability to capture the cross currents of sports and entertainment," said ESPN vice president John Skipper in the press release, "but our research and the ratings clearly suggest that a daily show may have been too much."

It's so rare when I agree with a vice president about anything. "Too much" is right.

ESPN says the show's half-hour time slot at 6 p.m. on ESPN2 will be replaced on Jan. 30 by a 30-minute "Best of Mike and Mike" show. So, that'd be a rerun -- an abridged rerun -- of the TV version of a talk-radio show. That's what's replacing "ESPN Hollywood."

Yeah, the ratings must have been killer diller, but they just couldn't fill that half-hour. Sure.

Not to worry, the network says, resources from "ESPN Hollywood" will be shifted so that the "Hey, look, there's Jay-Z in the front row at the Knicks game again" beat will be covered on "SportsCenter" and "Cold Pizza." That crossover, the holy grail of the 21st century sports media, will continue to be pursued doggedly.

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ESPN has also redesigned its Web site, and early indications are that "The New ESPN.com" isn't so much about "streamlining our navigation to better organize the most comprehensive sports content on the Web," as the announcement of the new look says, as about juicing up coverage of the "Ooh, look at LeBron's watch!" beat.

In other words, less news, scores and analysis, more ESPN the Magazine fluff. Coming soon: What's on Alexander Ovechkin's iPod? See inside for playoff coverage.

I'm jumping to conclusions, but that's what it looks like based on Day 1. The lead story on ESPN.com Thursday morning: "'Melo Drama." Carmelo Anthony poses in front of a wall wearing a sleeveless white undershirt, jeans, a belt with a giant buckle and a black baseball cap.

"Carmelo Anthony is taking his street image straight to Madison Ave.," the caption says, and the teaser for the story adds, "Mass appeal while keeping it real: Carmelo Anthony walks a fine line. But he'll cross it to keep his street cred, writes Tom Farrey."

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Well, isn't that fascinating. There are also five sidebars teased. Oh, and a teaser that reads, "LeBron clanks," which points to -- you're not going to believe this, it's so silly -- a story about an actual basketball game, one in which Carmelo Anthony's Denver Nuggets beat LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers when James missed a game-tying free throw with 0.6 seconds left.

That game to the wire between two playoff-bound teams with high-profile stars was joined in not being ESPN's lead story by Antonio Davis of the New York Knicks going into the crowd in Chicago, resulting in his ejection; Duke matching the best start in school history, 17-0, by winning a tough game against a very good North Carolina State team that played well; and LLeyton Hewitt and Mary Pierce both getting upset at the Australian Open.

One of the stories rotating through a secondary spot below the main story was about the Australian Open, though. "Have you heard the hot rumor Down Under?" the caption under a photo of Maria Sharapova blowing a kiss asked. "If it's true, let's just say Maria Sharapova wasn't the one to kiss and tell."

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With Andy Roddick, that is. Have you heard that about half of the teams in the NFL have new coaches?

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Player goes into the stands [PERMALINK]

New York Knicks forward Antonio Davis sparked memories of the November 2004 brawl at Auburn Hills when he hopped over the scorer's table at the United Center in Chicago Wednesday night and went about 10 rows into the crowd.

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As in that infamous Indiana Pacers-Detroit Pistons game last season, there had been an on-court scuffle in Wednesday's contest, but that's about where the similarities ended. The shoving match, between Chris Duhon of the Bulls and Maurice Taylor of the Knicks, followed a hard pick on Duhon by Taylor, which Duhon took exception to.

Davis didn't charge into the crowd. He jogged calmly up the steps like a man going over to see what the problem was, which is what he said he was doing. The Knicks released a statement in which Davis says he thought he saw his wife being bothered by an inebriated spectator.

No punches were thrown, no teammates followed Davis into the stands, and security defused the situation quickly, leading Davis calmly back to the court. He was ejected by rule -- players can't go into the stands, and since November 2004 they really can't go into the stands.

Davis said there wasn't time to call security. If that's true, then the NBA should have a security person next to each bench, so that "calling security" means turning to that person and saying, "Hey, would you go see if my wife's OK?"

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But beyond that, this ought to be one of those things that blow over. Commissioner David Stern has said in no uncertain terms that players absolutely must not go into the stands under any circumstances, and Davis did that, so Stern will have to suspend him for at least a game or two to send the message that any circumstances means any circumstances.

Anything more than that would be an overreaction. Stern was criticized in some quarters for overreacting to the 2004 brawl by dropping long suspensions on Ron Artest, Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson of the Pacers.

I didn't think he overreacted then, and since I'm not sensing a lot of media outrage over the well-respected Davis' foray among the customers, he shouldn't be feeling much pressure to overreact this time either. Let's hope not.

Davis made a mistake. It's unlikely that his wife was in terrible danger in front of 20,000 witnesses, and likely that he could have frozen his wife's alleged harasser and alerted security by simply yelling into the crowd.

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But it was a minor mistake, understandable and forgivable. A two-game suspension would be plenty.

Previous column: The NFL selection committee?

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