Monday, October 22, 2012

Commitment to Late Night Latest Sports TV Move

Not so long ago, businesses actually shut down for the night.

Major retailers closed their doors at 9 p.m., many restaurants stopped serving about that time and radio and TV stations signed off at midnight or sometime in the early morning hours as well.

Round-the-clock service existed at some places, but it was rare. That was also true on radio and TV, where late-night hours were reserved for B movies, reruns and paid programming.

All-sports channels have changed that -- especially in recent years -- with events that start at all times of the day. In addition, ESPN's commitment in recent years to a presence in Los Angeles has allowed the production of live, original episodes of "SportsCenter" much later in the broadcast day.

Overall, as younger generations of viewers have continually extended the typical viewing day, TV programmers have noticed. It's not by accident that ESPNU added a late-night program ("UNite") earlier this year, and that CBS Sports Network does the same starting tonight with "Lead Off."

Of the two, "Lead Off" has the best chance to produce engaging and entertaining -- something worth staying up to watch -- because it has Doug Gottlieb as a co-host. He's clearly the best and most proven of any of the on-air talents involved with either of those two late-night shows.

A former college basketball player with on-air skills honed through assignments on ESPN and ESPN Radio, Gottlieb left the four-letter all-sports network to join CBS Sports Network on radio and TV. His national radio show begins Jan. 2, as launches its lineup of sports-talk radio. He'll also work college basketball games and, of course, "Lead Off."

Such lat-night shows will never draw the viewers and overall interest of their prime-timeor daytime counterparts, but it's good to see an attempt at quality, with a proven, talented host, as opposed to creating something just to fill time.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Even Out of Sight, Beano Cook Mattered on TV

College football fans rarely saw Beano Cook during the final years of his life. At most, he made a weekly appearance on ESPN Radio -- and even that had ended earlier this season as his health took a turn for the worst.

Still, Cook -- who died in his sleep Wednesday at the age of 81 -- was seemingly an ever-present force in the industry. He made an impact on the business and on the people who share college football with millions of fans each week on television.

He was honest, opinionated, irreverent and often impersonated. He was a character, an original, and he clearly cared about college football. His voice was distinctive and his passion was unquestioned.

A former sports information director at Pitt, Cook joined CBS Sports as a publicist and later made his on-air debut for ABC Sports in 1982. He moved to ESPN in 1985 and worked almost exclusively as a studio analyst, although he did do some games despite his aversion to travel.

No matter the network, though, and no matter if it was on TV in front of millions, in the press room at old Pitt Stadium or anyplace else he appeared, Cook was himself.

He was not an expert on Xs and Os, but he understood college football. He knew what it meant in various regions of the country, and he knew the politics involved in athletics and higher education. He was moreso a commentator on that culture -- and the related tug of war -- then he was regarding action on the field.

Cook evaluated and listened, but his best characteristic was that he was simply not afraid to tell you what he thought. Because of that, he made an impact. He was the Pope of College Football, an experienced voice that earned respect of others around him.

Sure, his anecdotes and stories repeated later in his career, and he was years removed from high-profile assignments on a regular basis, but everyone knew Beano Cook.  Coaches, colleagues and fans have shared memories in the days since his death, and all the accolades and respectful recollections have been deserved.

His death is a true loss for college football, because of his impact on the sport in general and on how the sport was presented TV after he helped elevate the role of of on-air analysts.