King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Tuesday Morning Quarterback bolts NFL.com, returns to ESPN. Plus: Technical difficulties are good for hockey. And: Stop Kobe Bryant.


Salon Staff
April 24, 2006 8:00PM (UTC)

Gregg Easterbrook's popular Tuesday Morning Quarterback column is on the move again, returning to ESPN.com after two seasons on NFL.com, Easterbrook announced in an e-mail to the media Monday.

"They approached me," Easterbrook said by phone Monday of ESPN, which fired him in 2003 after comments he made in his blog at the New Republic Web site about Jewish movie studio executives were taken to be anti-Semitic. Easterbrook, saying he hadn't meant to be offensive in his unedited blog but admitting he had been, apologized.

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"I've had good relations with [ESPN] behind the scenes all through this mess that happened three years ago," he said.

Easterbrook had to tone down his sarcastic treatment of certain NFL owners -- Washington owner Dan Snyder, for example, had been nicknamed Lord Voldemort, after the "Harry Potter" villain -- but said he otherwise had no problems writing for the house organ these last two years.

"It actually was OK writing for NFL," he said. "I thought they were pretty generous the way they treated the column and let me say almost anything I wanted. It was less edgy than it was when it was at ESPN. It'll probably be a little more edgy now, but it wasn't substantively different."

Tuesday Morning Quarterback, an opus of a thing, 6,000 words worth of football analysis, jokes, science-fiction criticism, cheerleader pictures, obscure-college scoreboard updates and haiku, lands back at ESPN Tuesday with its annual mocking of NFL mock drafts.

TMQ began at Slate in 2000 and found a temporary home at Football Outsiders after ESPN dropped it in 2003. It is believed to be the only NFL column ever written by a Brookings scholar.

Easterbrook is also a contributing editor of the Atlantic Monthly and a senior editor of the New Republic. His blog entry at the New Republic criticized director Quentin Tarantino's movie "Kill Bill" for its ultraviolence and took Jewish studio executives Harvey Weinstein and Michael Eisner to task. In doing so, Easterbrook invoked some Jewish stereotypes.

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ESPN, which had just been hammered for reacting slowly to Rush Limbaugh's comments about Donovan McNabb, wasted no time in firing Easterbrook and scrubbing TMQ from its archives.

"I continue to say now what I said then" about ESPN's reaction, said Easterbrook, a Christian who worships in a joint Christian-Jewish congregation. "I don't think they should have fired me. But I still like the people at ESPN." Easterbrook says ESPN plans to restore his column archive.

He agreed to return because ESPN offered him a killer benefit: Tickets so he can take his sons, 16 and 11, and his daughter, 15, to major sporting events such as the Super Bowl and the Final Four.

"How could you turn that down?" Easterbrook said.

Easterbrook said he doesn't plan to use the move as a chance to update or revise the column. He said if he thinks of some improvement he'll do it, but that every year he asks himself if he's running out of things to say -- "That doesn't seem to be a problem, does it?" -- and if the column has become formulaic.

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"There is a formulaic aspect to it," he said. "But the formula seems to be pretty popular. Basically, 99 percent of the newspaper columnists who write in the world are using a formula and repeating the same basic eight to 10 underlying thoughts. I've probably got eight to 10 underlying thoughts about football that I repeat in various forms. But, you know, if you look at the games, the games are hauntingly similar to each other."

There's a plan for Easterbrook to make some appearances on TV, with more to come if it goes well. Easterbrook said he made about 20 appearances on the NFL Network, and the NFL Network people said he was terrible, but ESPN looked at the same segments and liked them.

"If anything happens on TV, that's just a nice bonus," he said. "I'm fundamentally a writer and never claimed to be a performer."

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A TV network forced to do it right [PERMALINK]

OLN was having problems during its broadcast of Game 2 of the Ottawa Senators-Tampa Bay Lightning series in Ottawa Sunday night.

"We apologize," said announcer Dave Strader, "we are having some technical difficulties here at Scotiabanc Place. This camera you are seeing is the only one that we can show you at the time being."

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It was the center-ice camera. Yo, Dave: No need to apologize! Whatever the technical difficulties were, let's have more of them.

No overhead ceiling cam, no way up in the cheap seats cam, no switching to a closeup of the puck handler during a breakaway, letting us audience members see his face so we can identify with him and empathize with his plight or whatever, while also losing any sense of how the play is developing?

Yes, please.

Strader's apology was like a pilot coming on the intercom during a flight and saying, "We apologize, we are having some technical difficulties and we're only able to fly right-side-up at the time being."

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Suns to Kobe: Get your friends [PERMALINK]

I didn't see any of the four regular-season games between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers this year, but from what I've read and heard the Suns' strategy has been to let Kobe Bryant get his points and try to stop everyone else.

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The strategy has worked, in the sense that the Suns won the first three games between the teams, losing only in the season's final week while resting the starters.

But I think it's a dangerous strategy, especially at playoff time, when everyone is playing every game at full speed. It seems backward to me. I think you try to stop Kobe and let everyone else go off. Luke Walton going off is not a thing to be feared. Kwame Brown will not be hanging an 81 on anybody.

Kobe Bryant can single-handedly beat the Phoenix Suns if he's really got it going and the Suns are having an off night. His teammates, Lamar Odom, Smush Parker, Devean George, etc., cannot.

Evidently, Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni agrees, because in Game 1 Sunday, the strategy seemed to be "Stop Kobe and let's see if those other guys can beat us."

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The answer: Not -- chuckle -- so far. Bryant scored 22, while Odom had 21, Walton 19, Parker 15 and Brown 14, as the Suns beat the Lakers 107-102.

The Suns' scoring was similarly balanced -- Tim Thomas 22, Steve Nash 20, Shawn Marion 19, Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa 15 -- but that's how it's supposed to be for them.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson will make an adjustment or two, Bryant will have his nights when there's just no stopping him and the Lakers will steal a couple of games in this series. At best. But that's it.

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