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The Memphis Grizzlies’ televised pregame show will have a new face and a familiar voice when the regular season tips off Nov. 1.

Local sports talk show host Chris Vernon will join the television broadcast team of Pete Pranica and Sean Tuohy for the pregame show, which is broadcast on Fox SportsSouth. Vernon will be on the show for every home game during the season, starting with the Nov. 1 home opener against the Detroit Pistons.

Vernon, who hosts “The Chris Vernon Show” weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 92.9 ESPN Radio, tweeted the news earlier today, followed by another one about the show’s dress code.

“I gotta buy some suits … you better watch,” Vernon tweeted.

Dan Barron, vice president and market manager for Entercom, which owns 92.9, said Vernon will be a strong fit to the pregame team.

“Just as (the Grizzlies) recognize great talent on the basketball court, they have an ear for great talent in broadcasting,” Barron said. “Chris has a loyal, passionate following on 92.9 that I’m sure will translate well onto the TV broadcast.”

Read more at the Memphis Business Journal where this story was originally published.

michiganFormer University of Michigan men’s basketball All-American Terry Mills (1988-90) will join the Michigan IMG Radio Network’s crew as the analyst for the upcoming 2013-14 season. Mills joins lead play-by-play announcer Matt Shepard. In addition to all U-M’s game broadcasts, Mills is scheduled to assist with the Inside Michigan Basketball Radio Show.

“I have always wanted to come back and help out in some capacity,” said Mills. “The opportunity came up, and I jumped at it. I am more than excited. I am kind of like a kid in a candy store right now. I follow the program and watch every basketball game from afar. I am very excited to do that.”

“We are thrilled to bring in someone with an extensive basketball knowledge like Terry has,” said U-M head coach John Beilein. “This is such a unique opportunity, and it allows us the chance to reconnect with another basketball alum, especially someone who had a great deal of success here at Michigan. I am confident he will do a great job.”
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TafoyaOne of the elements NBC-TV’s “Sunday Night Football” embraces is the utility and value of the sideline reporter, an aspect of its presentation that differs from CBS-TV, where sideline reporters are not used in the regular season.

“Sunday Night Football” producer Fred Gaudelli is convinced National Football League game broadcasts are strengthened and enhanced by sideline reports and anyone who has watched those telecasts knows there is an effort to make Michele Tafoya’s storytelling from the field an organic part of the show.

Viewers will see that in practice Sunday night with the Packers play the host Minnesota Vikings, the first of three games Green Bay will play on NBC.

Tafoya (left) has worked NFL telecasts as a game reporter for CBS, for ABC and ESPN. Near the beginning of her career she worked as a game reporter for Vikings radio broadcasts on KFAN-AM in Minneapolis from 1994-’98.

“I can tell you that (Gaudelli) makes the most of the role,” Tafoya said during a telephone interview. “He sees the big picture. He never tries to jam something in that isn’t important. He doesn’t feel beholden to me. He and I work very hard together during the week. He and I have a conference call in the middle of the week. We have our own separate meeting alone, away from the crew, on the weekend heading into the game. It’s a completely different experience than I have had at any other place.”

Tafoya said she is more certain of what Gaudelli wants from her reporting than what some viewers may want.

“I think if I paid attention to Twitter and what viewers’ feedback is, I would probably be running around in circles trying to figure out what they want,” Tafoya said. “I think they want information that matters in the game, whether the story-lines coming in, certainly injury updates – and they want those as quickly as possible. They want any good inside access they can get. That’s what our goal is. That’s what I pay attention to the most. Our goal is to give as much relevant, pertinent information as we can, along with some good stories we think have not been told yet.”

Tafoya tweets during game broadcasts and provides some video bits. But twitter land can be a jungle, no place for the thin-skinned.

“Cris Collinsworth and I debate as to whether or not whether we should even look at our Twitter feeds after a game,” Tafoya said. “So much of it you don’t want to see. People are criticizing his tie or my earrings. It’s just – are you kidding me? That’s the stuff that can get a bit distracting. Or people who think they know so much more than we do. So it seems those are the people who are lying in wait ready to pounce on whatever mistakes we might make. . . . Some people are really cool and we interact with them. But others are just really mean, really snarky, and that’s the stuff we use for self-entertainment.”

Tafoya considers Twitter “an important platform” that has changed the way fans watch live sports events.

“It really hit home for me was in the women’s World Cup soccer, I want to say 2011, when Team USA ended up losing to Japan. That game, which went into a shootout, I remember seeing everyone from Katie Couric to Tom Hanks to everyone tweeting about how nervous they were. It was this wild experience of watching something live and finding out what people from all walks of life were thinking and doing during this game.”

Providing injury reports and updates may be the most important aspect of a sideline reporter’s task. But according to Tafoya, every NFL team is different in terms of supplying accurate information in a timely fashion.

“We usually don’t like to put out an injury report until we have something official from the club,” Tafoya said. “What that means is there is a pr person representing the team on the sideline, and when they are ready they give us the guy’s status. Is he probable, is he questionable, is he out and why? Many clubs will just say, ‘It’s a leg and he’s questionable.’ Well I’m looking and I’m seeing it’s the lower part of the leg or that the doctors have been paying all the attention to the knee. I can then say it’s been my observation that they are looking at the knee. Or in one case, it was a toe. They told us foot injury, but it was very clear it was the big toe. . . . . If we feel confident in our observations, we just have to use that caveat, ‘It’s my observation that.’ If I have any second thoughts, I won’t give my opinion. But if I feel pretty confident in what I am seeing, I will report it.”

Tafoya declined to name specific teams, but said some more than others are with accurate descriptions of injuries.

“In some cases you really get a very quick reaction, like he’s done for the night because he has a concussion. Boom, we get it on the air. It’s done. Other times, you’re waiting as they go through layers of people. The owner wants to be involved in how it’s spun. All of those things. So you are waiting and waiting. Or maybe their training staff moves at a different pace. There are a lot of variables.

“There have been times and teams when they say it’s a leg injury and he’s questionable, then meanwhile the guy comes out of the locker room in street clothes with a huge icepack on his foot,” Tafoya said. “It’s clear he’s not coming back. They (team spokesmen) end up kind of looking kind of foolish because they are committed to this leg injury, questionable. But it’s clear the guy’s not coming back.”

Tafoya admits she is biased about the issue of what an in-game reporter can provide a football telecast.

“I remember a CBS game when they first made that decision to go without reporters,” Tafoya said. “And I believe they were in San Diego and both Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson got injured in the same game. And there was this gaping absence of information. Not just the official report, but what are those guys doing down there, who is attending to them, what’s the feeling like down there. Everyone has their own philosophy.

“I feel so fortunate,” Tafoya said. “Because some people think, well you’re just relegated to the sideline. But I feel valued there. They trust me. We work very, very hard at making it worthwhile. We are not going to just be down there spewing a bunch of blah. With our halftime talking to the coaches we are really trying to get something meaningful there and something that helps spin the game forward.”

Read more at Milwaukee Journal Sentinel where this story was originally published.

csn-houstonWith just a week to go until a bankruptcy court hearing, the Houston Rockets finally weighed in on the future of CSN Houston, filing a motion that concurs with four Comcast affiliates to push the RSN partnership under chapter 11 protection.

However, the NBA franchise, which owns 32% of the RSN, which is also controlled by MLB’s Houston Astros (46%) and Comcast/NBCUniversal (22%), added a more moderate voice to the legal proceedings. The Rockets called for a period of negotiations for the parties, as opposed to Comcast’s push for an interim trustee to guide the RSN and the Astros’ motion to dismiss the case.

The Rockets filed an 18-page document on Oct. 21 with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Marvin Isgur, who will preside over a hearing on Oct. 28. Four Comcast subsidiaries — National Digital Television Center, CSN California, Comcast Sports Management Services and Houston SportsNet Finance – petitioned for involuntary Chapter 11 protection on Sept. 27 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of Texas.
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buffalo bisonsThe Buffalo Bisons are pleased to announce a three-year extension with Entercom Broadcasting of Buffalo to air all Bisons home and road games live on ESPN Buffalo, 1520 AM. The agreement will run through the completion of the Herd’s 2016 season.

Bisons games have aired on 1520 AM’s strong 50,000-watt signal since the 2008 season. In September, the station became ESPN Buffalo, 1520 AM to offer sports fans in Western New York the very best in national sports talk and access to expanded national and local play-by-play sports action.

“We are very pleased to renew this great partnership with Entercom Broadcasting,” said Mike Buczkowski, Vice President/General Manager of the Bisons. “Entercom is a leader in providing sports entertainment to fans throughout Western New York and Southern Ontario and we’re very excited to be a part of the newly-formed ESPN Buffalo 1520 AM format.”

“Bison Baseball is the cornerstone of our commitment on the new ESPN 1520 AM to provide more local play by play and the very best in sports entertainment for the Western New York listener,” said Greg Ried, Vice President/General Manager of Entercom Buffalo LLC.

The partnership will include all 144 regular season Bisons’ games, the broadcast of the annual Triple-A All Star Game (this year’s game is on July 16 in Durham, NC), all Bisons’ post season games and the Triple-A National Baseball Championship Game on Tuesday, September 16.

The Bisons open the 2014 season on Thursday, April 3 against the Rochester Red Wings at Coca-Cola Field (2:05 p.m.).

Read more at the Buffalo Bisons where this story was originally published.

nfl_red_zoneIt’s late in the fourth quarter and Andrew Siciliano is calling out audibles.

“One and four!” he yells, gesticulating and pointing like Peyton Manning on 3rd and long. “Let’s go to six!”

Unlike the Denver Broncos quarterback, the host of DIRECTV’s Red Zone Channel is studying eight defenses at once, particularly the three whose opponents have the ball within 20 yards of the end zone near the end of Week 7’s slate of early NFL games.
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Tafoya-Michele Michele Tafoya has been looking forward to this week since the start of the NFL season. Rarely does the NBC Sunday Night Football sideline reporter get to spend seven consecutive days at home with her two young children, but next Sunday’s Packers-Vikings game affords her the opportunity to spend the week at her home in Minneapolis. “I’m not a fan of any team, but this is like working a home game — the only one I get,” said Tafoya, who worked two decades ago for Minneapolis-based KFAN-AM as a sideline reporter on Vikings games. “Usually I’m on the road three or four days a week, and to have those days this week with my kids, who are seven and four years old is really significant. It is hard to be away from them every week.”

This is Tafoya’s third season on Sunday Night Football after 11 years at ESPN. Most would consider her at the top of her profession, a reporter who takes the verb “reporting” seriously and demonstrates weekly how a sideline reporter with news instincts can aid a football broadcast. She was sensational during the Ravens-Broncos weather delay on Sept. 5, providing viewers with timely updates as well as a strong post-game interview with Peyton Manning. She has been helped by the fact Sunday Night Football producer (and Deadspin.com favorite) Fred Gaudelli treats the position with gravitas as opposed to a fluffy appendage. (Former SNF sideline reporter Andrea Kremer recently offered thoughts on that topic to SI.com.)
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Portland TImbersWake up.

Print out the teams’ rosters.

Look up scores and re-caps from their last three games.

Review every preview story, then every game day stories.

Research players’ histories. Scores and stats. Line-ups and subs.

Find out anything and everything that a TV viewer might want to know about the upcoming game. Then condense it into something understandable in 10 seconds or fewer.
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Geronimo returns to D.C. radio

October 23, 2013
Courtesy of DCRTV

Geronimo-DonLongtime DC radio veteran Don Geronimo is returning to CBS sports talker WJFK’s lineup with a new show starting Thursday, October 24.

When not pre-empted by Wizards or Capitals games, “The Don Geronimo Show” will air weekday evenings from 7 to 10, Saturday mornings from 9 to noon, and Geronimo will contribute to the station’s Sunday football programming, “Washington Gameday Uncensored.”

Says Geronimo, “I am thrilled to continue my relationship with CBS Radio and return to my roots at 106.7 The Fan. It’s good to be back, it’s good to be home and I can’t wait to be a part of 106.7 The Fan. Radio is my life and I’m elated the next chapter will continue on WJFK in DC.”

Geronimo was half of the top-rated “Don And Mike Show” on WAVA from 1985 to 1991 and WJFK, back when it sported a “guy talk” format, from 1991 to 2008. He hosted a sports talk show at CBS sports talker KHTK in Sacramento from June 2010 to October 2013. Geronimo grew up in Rockville and worked at the old contemporary hit WPGC in the 1980s.

“Don built an incredible following over two decades in Washington, and I’m excited to bring him back home to WJFK,” says 106.7 The Fan Program Director Chris Kinard. “Don is a passionate DC sports fan and will bring a unique perspective and approach to his new show”

Read more at DCRTV where this story was originally published.

Bill Mazer, who was a voice and face of sports coverage in New York for decades, pioneering sports-talk radio and becoming a television fixture while earning the nickname the Amazin’ for his encyclopedic recall of sports facts and figures, died on Wednesday in Danbury, Conn. He was 92.

His son, the actor Arnie Mazer, confirmed the death, at Danbury Hospital. The elder Mr. Mazer had lived in Scarsdale, N.Y., until moving to an assisted-living facility in Danbury two years ago.

When Mr. Mazer retired in 2009, he had spent more than 60 years in broadcasting — 20 of them as a nightly sports anchor and the host of the weekend roundup “Sports Extra” on WNEW-TV, Channel 5. Before then he had been a host of sports-talk radio when the very idea of the format was new.

He ranged beyond sports occasionally in radio interview programs with figures from all walks of life, but sports was his passion and had been since he was growing up in Brooklyn. For a time, while attending a yeshiva, he envisioned becoming a rabbi.

But he also played punchball and made Ebbets Field his second home. Sports won out. As he put it long afterward, unearthing the memory of a Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher of the 1930s with a terrific fastball and a musical name: “I was paying more attention to Van Lingle Mungo than I was to Moses.”

Mr. Mazer had been covering sports at radio and TV stations in Buffalo for 16 years when he was hired by WNBC-AM in March 1964. It was unveiling an innovative talk format.

“Here, Go Nag WNBC!” the station said in a March 1964 advertisement. “Listen to the Newest Sound in New York — your own voice and your neighbor’s — on WNBC Radio, 660 on the dial.”

The station invited listeners to pick up their phones and “talk sports with Bill Mazer from 4:30-6 p.m.”

Mr. Mazer held down the sports call-in spot while others, including Brad Crandall, Long John Nebel and Big Wilson, fielded calls on just about anything else.

After several years at WNBC, Mr. Mazer had a general interview program on WOR-AM and provided color commentary for the CBS television network’s hockey game of the week. He also did commentary for the Knicks, the Nets, the Rangers and the Islanders before moving to WNEW-TV in 1971 and anchoring its nightly sports coverage.

It was the news anchor, John Roland, who proclaimed Mr. Mazer the Amazin’ after Mr. Roland started tossing him arcane sports questions during the broadcasts, the answers to which he almost invariably knew.

Mr. Mazer was also the host of lunchtime interview programs from Mickey Mantle’s restaurant on Central Park South for WFAN for several years after it made its debut as an all-sports station in 1987.

“I never think of it as an interview,” he told Newsday in 1988. “I think of it as a conversation. I expose a part of myself, and I think that helps a guest open up.”

He was born Morris Mazer on Nov. 2, 1920, in what is now Izyaslav, Ukraine, and moved with his family to Brooklyn when he was an infant. His father worked in a kosher poultry market. His mother took the boy and his friends to Ebbets Field to see the Dodgers and occasionally to the Polo Grounds to see the Giants. But his father, like many new immigrants, regarded sports as a time-wasting frivolity.

As Mr. Mazer related it in “Bill Mazer’s Amazin’ Baseball Book” (1990), written with Stan and Shirley Fischler: “When I brought my baseball talk back home, my father invariably reacted as if I were discussing the manufacture of plutonium.”

After attending Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Manhattan, Mr. Mazer graduated from the University of Michigan, where he played freshman basketball and wrote about sports for the student newspaper.

He worked briefly as a staff announcer at a radio station in Grand Rapids, Mich., before becoming an officer in the Army Air Forces transport command in World War II.

The sportscaster Marty Glickman, whom Mr. Mazer met while in military service, recommended him for his first major sports slot, at a Buffalo radio station in 1948.

Mr. Mazer often teamed with John Dockery, the former Jets football player, on WNEW’s “Sports Extra.” As co-hosts, they reviewed sports highlights but also got into debates, in which Mr. Mazer supplied much of the passion.

“He gesticulates, he frowns, he tilts his head, he throws his hands up,” Gerald Eskenazi wrote in the TV Sports column in The New York Times in 1985. “Dockery, on the other hand, is the restrained, respectful pupil, often allowing an incredulous grin to cross his face when Mazer has gone too far.”

Mr. Mazer later had a morning radio show on WEVD for about 10 years, interviewing anyone who fascinated him. His first guest was New York’s governor, Mario M. Cuomo. After WEVD became an ESPN station, he moved on to WVOX Radio in New Rochelle, N.Y., and remained with it until his retirement.

Besides his son, Mr. Mazer is also survived by his daughters Francine Siegel and Beverly Mazer; a sister, Frances Zussman; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His wife, Dora, known as Dutch, died in 1996.

Mr. Mazer’s boyhood idol, Van Lingle Mungo, became the title of a song by the singer, pianist and songwriter Dave Frishberg, consisting entirely of old-time ballplayers’ names. Mungo, who died in 1985, won 120 games and lost 115 with the Dodgers and the Giants, and he led the National League in strikeouts with 238 in 1936. It’s a fair guess that the Amazin’ would have known those statistics without having to look them up.

Read more at New York Times where this story was originally published.

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