Posts Tagged ‘ESPN’

Remembering John Ward: Ten years since “Give Him Six!”

Tennessee Football Regardless of how things turn out for the Tennessee Volunteers this fall, the 2009 season represents so very many milestones—it really isn’t even worth the trouble to try and count them all.  There has been so much change lately and so very many new looks and faces that everything seems as if it is in flux.  Some feel this near c-change is long overdue, others decry it as a loss of tradition, others still reserve judgments and simply point to the inevitable movement of the hands of time.  Still, no matter how great the changes may be, the echoes of years gone by still ring in the air around Neyland Stadium.  Thankfully, this will never change.

Vol Network In addition to all of the “obvious” landmark events that have or will occur as part of the 2009 football season, there is one more that may go unnoticed by many.  Though it hardly seems possible, the 2009 season marks Bob Kesling’s tenth year as the “Voice of the Vols.” Since the kickoff of the 1999 football opener against the Wyoming Cowboys, Kesling along with color-commentator Tim Priest, and sideline reporter Mike Stowell (who succeeded Jeff Francis in 2007), have brought the sounds of Big Orange football into our homes via the “Statewide Stadium” that is the Vol Network.

As have I pointed out in previous posts, since I was a child, I have always been a dedicated fan of live sports radio broadcasts.  I learned at an early age that television broadcasters, no matter how good they may be, simply cannot match the style, flair, color, or excitement that a gifted radio sportscaster can bring to a game.  There are few on television that come close—Ron Franklin and Mike Gottfried being pretty much the best—but even they cannot quite stay in step with the great radio broadcasters of the game.  Of course, for every Franklin and Gottfried, there are a bevy of lackluster talking suits which do little more than get in the way of the game rather than actually improving your understanding of what is taking place.

Thus is the curse of television…

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Alabama gets caught cheating, Kiffin plays with chalk

No Pass Out Checks | Gate21

Somewhere, in front of a chalkboard—his hands coated with chalk dust—Lane Kiffin is smiling…

For the past several months Tennessee fans and the general sports-watching public have heard a near endless discussion about the various secondary infractions which have occurred since Lane Kiffin (a/k/a “the Blackjack General”) took the reins as the head football coach for the Tennessee Volunteers.  Needless to say, some have taken every available opportunity to criticize the University of Tennessee, The UT Athletic Department, Smiling Mike Hamilton, and the Blackjack General himself.  Some of it has amounted to little more than sniping and smack-talk, while others have been decidedly more direct.

Rightly or wrongly, Tennessee has self-reported (or is in the process of investigating with with an eye toward reporting) six secondary violations of NCAA Rules, the most recent coming—as HSH reported just the other day—as a result of the Blackjack General’s recent appearance on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” where he discussed, imagine that, secondary infractions with ESPN’s Bob Ley.

A “secondary violation” is defined in the NCAA Manual as follows:

A secondary violation is a violation that is isolated or inadvertent in nature, provides or is intended to provide only a minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage and does not include any significant recruiting inducement or extra benefit.  Multiple secondary violations by a member institution may collectively be considered as a major violation.

•  2008-09 NCAA Division 1 ManualPDF Document § (emphasis added)

To put this in layman’s terms, secondary violations are the functional equivalent of talking in the NCAA’s rather large and particularly boring class.  Or, perhaps, in Lane Kiffin’s case, they amount to showing-off for all the girls (or in this case, recruits) in the back of class to impress them and passing notes reading:

I like you.  A Lot.

Do you like me?

Check One:  ___Yes  ___No  ___Maybe

— Lane

While this sort of thing—in both Mrs. Elliott’s 6th Period English Class and in the world of NCAA compliance—are annoying, they are largely harmless.  While it is true (again, with both Mrs. Elliott and the NCAA) that enough of these sorts of minor errors along the way can land you in the proverbial Principal’s office, as long as you say you are sorry after each instance (and UT has self-reported all such violations) and space the occurrences out by a day or two, usually there is little punishment to be meted out, aside from being made a spectacle in front of your peers…

… or by having to stay after class and write on the blackboard.


Kiffin at the Chalkboard

Hence, while Lane Kiffin and the UT Athletic Department are probably getting a little tired of having to deal with the issue of secondary violations, they have been merely a bump in the road thus far.

The Alabama Crimson Tide, on the other hand, is now facing a decidedly more serious situation…

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ESPN and Poor Journalism

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

For those that might have missed it, ESPN’s Outside the Lines ran a feature story on Lane Kiffin this morning. In case you did miss it, take a moment and watch it.

Now, I think most of us can agree on the quality of that report in terms of a positive portrayal of Tennessee’s football coach and the confidence (outsiders will say arrogance, of course) he has in his plan. What he says about rivals’ fans and coaches at the very end might be my favorite part of the story – other than the parts with the lovely Layla.

In case you were not aware, am I currently a student at UT, entering my senior year. I am majoring in journalism/electronic media here in Knoxville, and as I get closer to having to go out and start working, I find myself watching all kinds of TV – the local news, SportsCenter, highlight shows, the Tonight Shows with Conan/Letterman – and noticing different specific journalistic and production aspects that most of you probably don’t, simply because I have a better understanding of it (I am studying and doing some of this stuff, after all).

Put another way, what lawvol is to law, I am to journalism – except much less of an expert, obviously.

Anyways, this is a really good piece from a journalistic point of view, and credit Wendi Nix for doing a good job. It covers the recent stories surrounding Coach Kiffin and the program very well, and gets added input from other sources – the Raiders, Ed Orgeron, Mike Hamilton, Layla, and USC head coach Pete Carroll. The piece is very visual, with clips from Kiffin’s various public appearances to shots at the spring game and spending time with his daughters at World’s Fair Park in downtown Knoxville.

However, the part in question (and where I find issue with ESPN) comes with just under two minutes left in the story. In Coach Kiffin’s office, you see him and assistant coach Eddie Gran speaking with a couple of recruits. It isn’t in the video linked above, but after the completion of the feature, Bob Ley, the host of the show and longtime ESPN personality, says that the clip is actually a secondary violation. Media members cannot witness the contact between a coach and a recruit.

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What the Puck?! Carolina beats the Bruins!

After last night, I’m just glad that the Canes are still alive…

My, oh my!  The Carolina Hurricanes are going to the NHL Eastern Conference Finals!  Led by the RBC Center’s master of the scoreboard ceremonies —the Nature Boy, Ric Flair—everyone is “WOOO-ing” in my hometown, the City of Oaks.

Video: Carolina Hurricanes Goal! WOOOOO!

The Hurricanes scoreboard celebration after scoring a goal

Once again, the Carolina Hurricanes pulled off the amazing, besting the Boston Bruins 3-2 last night in Game 7 of the NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals.  Once again, the decisive game of the series came down to the wire, with Carolina securing the victory off of a Scott Walker chip-shot goal with only 1:14 left in sudden death overtime.  The goal scored at 18:46 on the clock in overtime by Walker (who used to play for the Bruins), sealed the game, advanced the Cardiac Canes to the NHL Eastern Conference Finals, and gave the Bruins a chance to get start on all those “honey-do” lists around the house.  For some real insights on the game, check out Canes Country (which is written by people who actually understand hockey).

Up next, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Once again, I find myself loving this “hockey thing” and having something to cheer about in the off-season as I prepare for the Tennessee Volunteers’ upcoming football season.  Of course, as I mentioned a few weeks ago when the Canes beat the New Jersey Devils, hockey can be a hard sell in the South, where few people ever played the game.  Still, it seems to me that hockey is a natural fit in the South due to all of the things it has to offer.  In reply to my last hockey post, I posted a few comments on the issue:

I think the primary reason that so few Southerners really “get” hockey is due to the fact they had no exposure to playing it. I played (at some level) all of the major sports, except hockey growing up. The first time I went to a hockey game I was a little sketchy on the rules and really wasn’t completely sure what was going on except for trying to get the puck in the goal.

The penalties left me a bit perplexed too. I remember thinking “A penalty of ‘icing’ — what the hell is that about? The playing surface — in case you hadn’t noticed Mr. Referee—is a big freakin’ sheet of ICE! They’re all knocking big chunks of the frozen stuff all over the place, why do you have to pick on that guy?

Over time, however, I have picked up on most of the rules and so forth, but the other thing I realized the night I first went to watch a hockey game was that I didn’t need to understand the rules. In some ways, hockey is a synthesis of all the great games: the team model of basketball; a flow like soccer; the speed of … well … racing; the use of sticks to hit things like baseball (okay that one is a bit of a stretch); and the strategy and bone-crushing physicality of football. Oh, yeah, and there is the whole fistfight thing from boxing.  The thing that makes it so exciting is the speed and the anticipation of the goal.

Most of all, it is just a hell of a lot of fun to watch. I really wish more Southerners would give it a look, it is a blast to watch in person.

So, all of you, go out and watch a hockey game next time you get the chance, whether it be the Hurricanes, the Predators, the Knoxville Ice Bears or whatever team is in your area. It’s a good time.

Just remember to bring a sweater…

via: Comments on “Speaking of Hockey…” | Gate 21

Seriously, hockey is a pretty darn cool game.  On top of that, most of the teams in the South know that they are a new thing to a lot of folks, and as a result have done everything they can to reach out to the community and show them what a great game hockey is.  Here’s Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos explaining—GEICO style—what the Hurricanes did to get the community involved (well, sort of):

Video: Carolina Hurricanes: Real Hockey

I love the outtakes reel at the end of that one

The game is just exciting, and I for one agree with what Mike Greenberg said on today’s edition of ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning this morning: while I may be a much bigger fan of other sports, the NHL playoffs are some of the most exciting sporting events you will ever see.

Yes, just like before, I do realize that all this hockey talk is a bit off-topic for a site focusing on the Vols and the SEC.  Still, I figure there’s a little wiggle room in that whole “Life, the Universe…” part of the Gate’s byline (that’s those words at the top of the page, if you were wondering).

Besides, what else is there to write about at present…

– So it goes Email lawvol No McAlisters

Videos(s) Courtesy of:   Raleigh News & Observer •  N& ||  Statement on Fair Use

Tonight on ESPN’s “PTI”: Lane Kiffin to Weigh in on South Carolina and Gas Distribution Methods…

Headlines, Links & Lies | Gate 21

In light of all the controversy surrounding whether Lane Kiffin told Alshon Jeffrey that he would “end up pumping gas for the rest of his life” if he chose to play for the South Carolina Gamecocks—which Kiffin adamantly denied in a follow-up interview with ESPN’s Chris Low—Coach Kiffin will appear on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption tonight (13 March 2009) at 5:30.  I am sure that Kiffin will have … interesting … comments to share with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon.

I am sure that the Public Relations department at Tennessee is already hard at work on this one…

• HT to: Basilio

Washing” Tennessee’s Relationship with ESPN

My, how things have changed…

If you’ve been keeping up with the happenings around Big Orange Country, you may be aware that Coach Fulmer spent some of his time post-SEC Media Days this week visiting the ESPN broadcast facilities in Bristol, Connecticut.  Not to be one who dwells overly in the past, I found this to be somewhat ironic considering past dealings between ESPN and the University of Tennessee.

I still remember, the battle of wills which played out between Tennessee and ESPN beginning the week before the Vols’ 1999 game against Memphis.  The Vols were the reigning national champions, and were riding that wave for all that it was worth, until a guy named Tom Farrey posted the first of a seemingly endless series of articles on alleging academic improprieties in the Tennessee football program.

This long-running storyline led to an near war between the program and ESPN, which ended up including an inquiry by the NCAA and more hand-wringing by Vol fans than they probably care to recount.  During the process, then head of composition for the English Department, Linda Bensel-Meyers, and then head of academic services for the athletic department, Carmen Tegano, would come under intense scrutiny by the public, the media, and the university.  Bensel-Meyers said Vol footballers were cheating, Tegano denied the claims.  ESPN did everything it could to keep the pot bubbling.

During that time period, ESPN was perhaps the single most-hated organization in the hearts of the orange-clad faithful.  There were numerous instances of Vol fans blasting ESPN for it’s tactics, booing ESPN personalities, and more than a few “choice” signs displayed at various encounters with ESPN’s College Game Day.

Needless to say, most Tennessee fans loathed ESPN at the time…

Of course, it didn’t help that Game Day’s Chris Fowler had referred to many Tennessee fans as trailer park trash in the wake of Peyton Manning not receiving the Heisman Trophy in 1997.  So souring the relationship between the school and the media giant was not really all that difficult.

Even after all of the controversy surrounding academic violations had quieted, Farrey again barbed Tennessee in 2004 with revelations that the Great Punkin was the “Deepthroat” of the NCAA’s investigation into recruiting violations which resulted in substantial penalties against the Alabama Crimson Tide — setting off a backlash by the Tide faithful against Fulmer.

The funny thing is that the disclosure of Fulmer as the “confidential informant” for the NCAA is — for all practical purposes — what led to him getting served a subpoena at Media Days only days before he landed in Connecticut to see the home of the self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader in Sports.”

While at ESPN, Fulmer made multiple live appearances on both television and radio, recorded several segments for the upcoming season, and met with a bevy of personalities.

[HT to Tennessee FanDome]

By all reports, Fulmer sincerely appreciated the opportunity and enjoyed his time at the ESPN nerve-center.  Commenting on the visit, Fulmer stated, “I’m thrilled to be going through what they call the ‘car wash’ here today.“  What a difference a few years makes.

Considering that over the last decade ESPN and the Tennessee Volunteers have traded allegations of “whitewash,” “hogwash,” and “washed-up,” I suppose a “car wash,” is a step-up…

– Go Figure …Email lawvol

Image Courtesy of: ESPNVideo Courtesy of: Tennessee FanDome & ESPN

Chris Lofton: The Soul of a Legend

After his performance on the court over the past 4 years, I hardly needed anything to make me consider Chris Lofton to be one of the great players to wear the orange and white. The revelations of last week regarding Lofton’s off-the-court struggles, however, only serve to further cement Lofton’s place in Tennessee Volunteers history, and have elevated him to the status of legend.

As you may well know, last week ESPN’s Chris Low reported on Chris Lofton’s battle with his greatest adversary, and all that came along with it. This adversary is not a team, a player, or a coach — it is not the usual opponent for a college basketball player, and in fact has absolutely nothing to do with basketball whatsoever.

The opponent is cancer, and I’m pleased to say that Lofton is undefeated.

It absolutely amazes me that Chris Lofton has spent a year of his life battling cancer and, at the same time, took the court for the BasketVols every night as its most visible leader. While he was wowing Orange Nation with his shooting ability, coolness under fire, and tenacity — away from the court he was dealing with the most intense duel of his life: the fight for his life.

And none of us ever knew anything about it…

I cannot imagine what it must have been like to have the weight of cancer treatment bearing down on you, as you try to go out and play your best at a game which, when compared to a life-or-death struggle, seems so very unimportant. The adversity would have made most people crumble. Had I been in his shoes, I cannot say that I would not have opted to simply “sit this one out” and just try to get by. Lofton, however, didn’t just “get by” during this period, he succeeded, he conquered, he overcame — both on the basketball floor and in his fight against cancer.

I am not going to try and tell the whole story of what Lofton went through, Chris Low does a beautiful job, and I strongly encourage anyone who has not read Low’s story to do so. What I will say is an even more heartfelt thank you than I said to Lofton as he played his last game as a Tennessee Volunteer. The unselfishness he showed this season was always apparent in the way he played the game, but now we all know just how unselfish he truly was. I cannot personally think of a greater sacrifice or more unselfish act by a player at Tennessee. Now, more than ever, I am stuck by the maturity, poise, and integrity that Chris Lofton demonstrates both on the floor and off. I am so very proud that I can say Chris Lofton played for Tennessee.

I also want to give credit to the other members of the basketball squad and the coaching staff for respecting Lofton’s wish that his condition not be publicly released until he was ready to discuss it. In this age of constant media attention — sometimes to a ridiculous degree — it is hard to believe that this story was not plastered all over the internet or elsewhere long before Lofton sat down with Low to tell his story. That is exemplary of the kind of trust usually reserved for family members. That speaks volumes about the character of the leadership within the basketball program.

Furthermore, as Chris Low said while talking to Basilio last week, he learned of Lofton’s condition months before he reported on it last week. I applaud Low for approaching Lofton, asking him about it, and honoring Lofton’s wishes that Low not report the story, unless and until Lofton was ready. That is the mark of a good journalist.

I sincerely hope that Chris Lofton’s bout with cancer is over once and for all. I wish him nothing but the best, and I hope that he gets the chance to excel at the next level — whether that be in the NBA, in business, or in life. Given the kind of person Chris Lofton has shown himself to be, I have a feeling that — no matter what path he follows — he will find success though hard work, integrity and determination.

Bearing all of that in mind, I want to publicly encourage the University of Tennessee to give a little something back to Chris Lofton. In my opinon, it is time for number 5 to go into the rafters, and be retired — for excellence as a basketball player, as a student-athlete, and as a person. I think Chris Lofton has more than earned it.

Thank you, Chris Lofton, for all that you have given to the University of Tennessee, for your example as a rolemodel, and for having the soul of a legend.

You’ve not only thrilled us in basketball, you’ve inspired us as human beings. For that, I am grateful.

– Go Figure …

Image Courtesy of: AP /
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