Random thoughts and other interesting news as we roll into the second half of the year.
- It’s All-Star time again in baseball, and that means it’s another Home Run Derby on Monday night on ESPN and ESPN HD.
And that means another year of Chris Berman calling the derby. And you know what that means — more of his schtick. You know, the nicknames for the players and the “Back, back, back” calls on the home runs.
There was a time when Berman’s call and use of nicknames (for example, Bert “Be Home” Blyleven) was intriguing. It helped turn Berman, an original member of ESPN when it first started in 1979, into the face of the cable sports network.
But now, Berman’s act has grown stale, even annoying. There is very little originality to his calls.
A couple of weeks ago, ESPN announced that Berman was going to call the second half of its “Monday Night Football” double-header Sept. 10, when the San Diego Chargers face the Oakland Raiders. Judging by the number of tweets I read on Twitter, football fans aren’t happy with that. Many were concerned that Berman would not only overshadow his partner, analyst Trent Dilfer, but the game itself. And that’s not good.
The people who run ESPN should take a bold step and remove Berman from the Home Run Derby after this year’s edition. It’s time for a change. I recommend that ESPN “Sunday Night Baseball” play-by-play man Dan Shulman take over. He is an excellent announcer who doesn’t get in the way of the broadcast.
- Tuesday’s All-Star game from Kansas City, Mo., which will be televised on FOX23 (WXXA) and FOX23 HD, marks the 10th season of the game determining home-field advantage for the World Series. The concept came about after the 2002 game ended in a tie after 10 innings.
It has taken some time, but the format is catching on. And it is making the game more intriguing.
“The fact is that years ago, we ran into a period where there were a lot of players that tried to find excuses and didn’t want to play,” MLB commissioner Bud Selig said during FOX Sports’ conference call to preview the game. “We haven’t had any of that. There were some people who were critical of ‘this time, it counts.’ It’s worked well, and it worked well right from the beginning. You see players now that are happy to go. In fact, the only people unhappy now are some people who didn’t make it.”
Joe Buck, who will call the game, added: “It has had an impact on the way these guys manage games. They’re looking for specific matchups, as opposed to just trying to get everybody in the game. It’s brought a competitive fire back to this game that for a while was lacking. It’s been a great change for this game that is, by far, the best of all the all-star games of the four major sports.”
- ESPN Radio will have coverage of the Home Run Derby and All-Star game. It can be heard on WTMM-FM (104.5), WENT-AM (1340) and WENT-FM (105.1.).
- Speaking of the All-Star game, Erin Andrews will make her FOX Sports debut at the contest.
Andrews announced late last Friday that she was leaving ESPN. Two days later, she signed on with FOX Sports.
Andrews’ duties at FOX Sports include hosting its new prime-time college football pregame show, making contributions to the network’s NFL and MLB coverage, along with other marquee sports properties.
“Opportunities to add someone of Erin Andrews’ caliber don’t come along often, and we’re thrilled to welcome her back to the FOX Sports family,” Eric Shanks, executive producer, co-president and COO of FOX Sports Media Group, said in a statement. “Erin is one of the hardest-working, most-respected individuals in sports television, and we expect her to have an immediate impact. In addition to having her anchor our new college football show and studio coverage, we expect her to be a big contributor to our MLB and NFL coverage as well as other major events.”
FOX Sports’ new 30-minute college football pregame show will debut Sept. 1. It will lead into FOX Sports’ first-ever regular-season over-the-air college football package. The network’s coverage kicks-off on Saturday, Sept. 1, at 7:30 p.m., when as Hawaii visits Southern California.
“To have the chance to not only host the prime-time college football pregame show, but cover the NFL, MLB and various other incredible FOX Sports properties is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Andrews said. “I couldn’t be more excited to get to work.”
- MLB won’t be the only one having a home run derby Monday.
The Triple-A All-Star game home run derby will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Buffalo. Time Warner Cable Sports-3 and TWCS-3 HD will have coverage.
MLB Network and MLB HD will have the Triple-A All-Star contest at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
- The viewership for last Sunday’s Euro 2012 soccer final, in which Spain rolled to a 4-0 win over Italy, drew an audience of 4,068,000 on ESPN, up 8 percent over the 3,761,000 who watched Spain’s 1-0 victory against Germany in the 2008 final on ABC.
In addition, 563,000 watched the final on computers, smart phones, tablets and Xbox, with a minute average of 194,097.
ESPN said Tuesday the 31-game tournament averaged 1.3 million viewers, up 51 percent for the 859,000 average for 2008. Digital viewers averaged 289,000 per game, with an average minute audience of 96,102.
- Finally, congratulations to Owen Newkirk. The former play-by-play voice of the Albany River Rats and Adirondack Phantoms was named to the same position with the Texas Stars, the AHL team announced last Friday.
Newkirk, 31, was with the Rats from 2007-09. He moved on to the Phantoms for the 2009-10 season. Newkirk spent the last two seasons as the analyst for the Binghamton Senators.