armchairquarterblog

Posts Tagged ‘Nick Charles’

MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on July 20, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Channel 4 said a heartfelt goodbye to sportscaster Lindsay Czarniak last week, with a 4-minute tribute that ended with long-time anchor Jim Vance telling her that she’d become a star at the station in the six years since she arrived and will be a star sooner than later when she moves to ESPN.

Czarniak’s move to the so-called “Worldwide Leader” raised some eyebrows around town, if only because she seems to be going from a being a great big beautiful fish in a big-time pond to being something of a minnow in a humongous great lake at ESPN, where countless anchors abound on a wide variety of channels morning, noon and night.

At least in Washington, Czarniak had carved out a significant identity, sharing anchoring duties with Dan Hellie at a station that always has made more room for sports at 5, 6 and 11 than any of its local competitors, even after the late, great George Michael left the station three years ago.

Michael once described Czarniak as the best hire he ever made and it would be difficult to argue that premise. Not only was she perfectly telegenic, she worked heavy-duty hours off camera and developed many important relationships with key figures on all of Washington’s college and pro sports operations.

Truth be told, I was never a huge fan of “Lunch With Lindsay,” her signature feature on the station when she interviewed a wide variety of sports people while also breaking bread with them on camera. I thought it was a tad contrived and a little too sappy for my taste, but at least she had tried something a little different, and it definitely had some appeal to many casual sports fans who tuned in.

Why did she leave? Only Lindsay knows for sure, but I suspect the merger of Comcast Sports and NBC Sports had something to do with it. One of her biggest boosters was Dick Ebersol, the long time major domo of all things NBC Sports. When he left in what was described as a contractual dispute a few months ago, one of Czarniak’s biggest fans at the network level was not around to offer her more and more plum assignments—more Olympics, more NASCAR–that she clearly craved.

The chance to do SportsCenter for a national audience, as well as the promise of covering some big-time events, including more NASCAR, surely had to be appealing. Here’s hoping that a promising young talent, the hardest-working woman in local sports television, can find her niche in Bristol, CT, and fulfill Jim Vance’s prediction of future stardom on a larger stage.

Sad News: It’s been a tragic month in Washington sports broadcasting what with the death of Nick Charles and Nat “The Cat” Albright.

Charles spent four good years working at Channel 4 before being enticed away by a fledgling news operation based in Atlanta known as CNN at the dawn of the cable age. He would go on to anchor a highly popular and entertaining national sportscast on the network with Fred Hickman, giving the ESPN boys a run for their money and their audience for many years. Charles then became the long-time voice of Showtime Boxing, covering a sport that always was his true passion.

Albright, who died last week, was a long-time radio personality in the Washington market working at several stations. He also was well known in the early days of sports radio for doing “recreations” of major league baseball games, including the Brooklyn Dodgers and old Washington Senators.

Back in the day, Albright and others around the country would sit in a studio at the station (not the ball park) and recreate the games from a pitch-by-pitch, play-by-play wire that came across the teletype machine from every press box in the country. They used sound effects to simulate fan reaction or the crack of the bat. The very best re-creators made you believe they were actually in the ball park.

In his later years, Albright also made himself available – for a small fee of course – to do a game-like, personalized voice-over on a client’s telephone answering machine or voice-mail message. Nat “The Cat” was quite the character and will be missed.

MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on March 28, 2011 at 9:19 pm

It’s going to be a miserable Monday in Madison, Wisconsin, where I’ve been traveling since January to teach a sports journalism class at my alma mater. Never mind the sub-freezing temperatures in the forecast early in the week. I’m talking about a far bigger chill—the Wisconsin basketball team’s one-for-17 second half shooting stretch Thursday night–that ended the Badgers’ hopes of advancing to the Final Four.

When you lose a rooting interest in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it becomes March Melancholy on campus for a few depressing days, especially when it comes at the hands of an underdog mid-major like Butler, even if it did advance to the national title game a year ago.

And so, if I seem a little crabby about some of the television coverage in this space, maybe you’ll understand why. But first the good news.

How awesome has it been to have every single game in the first two rounds of the tournament available at the click of a remote, at least if you’ve paid your cable bill on time. The NCAA’s new $11 billion television contract with CBS that added TNT, TBS and TrueTV to the mix has been a hoop junkie’s godsend, though I must admit watching promos for the TrueTV series “Extreme Pawn Stars” was a tad jarring.

Instead of relying on graphic updates for whatever game you happened to be watching (by the way, virtually unreadable for those of us without a mega-screen and HDTV), you’ve got your basketball destiny literally in your own hand. Commercial break in the Wisconsin-Butler game on TBS? No problem. Click over to Duke-Arizona for a quick fix, then back to the Badgers, painful as it might have been.

Here’s more good news. No Dick Vitale on any of those four networks.

And now the bad. Let’s start with Charles Barkley, definitely a whale out of water doing college hoops. I usually love Sir Charles in the NBA studio, but I often had the sense over the last two weeks that he was simply not quite as prepared for this assignment as he should have been. Because he’s on the NBA beat week in and week out, he knows the league and its players as well as anyone in the business. But dropping him into the college game, he more than occasionally sounded like a freshman trying to get through a doctorate oral.

Still, he did have his moments. In the opening round, he ripped into the Tennessee athletic director for not supporting embattled Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl. And his teasing of guest studio host Rick Pitino about the Big East losing nine of its 11 tournament teams before the Sweet Sixteen was vintage stuff. Trouble is, there just wasn’t enough of it.

As usual, on all the networks, there were way too many commercial breaks. I know someone has to pay for that $11 billion rights fee, but do we have to leave the arena for every stoppage of play, especially in the final minutes of very tight games? I suppose so, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it, unless one of the ads is the two John Thompsons talking about being comfortable in their own Dove-slathered skins.

And let me count the clichés from every broadcaster with a microphone. Please Tom Izzo, the Michigan State coach and a guest studio host on TBS, don’t tell me that Butler vs. Wisconsin “is going to be a war,” especially when the real thing is being waged in Afghanistan and Libya.

Does anyone on the planet actually talk like Bill Raftery, whose kiss-off-the-glass comments are often incomprehensible. And when did “knock down” become mandatory on virtually every shot. Can’t they mix it up a bit with “make a shot,” “hit a shot,” “connect on a shot?” Knock it off, along with swagger. Are you kidding me — the rock (ball), Florida by a penny (point) and scholar-athlete, of which there aren’t many judging by the pathetic graduation rates of more than a few of these teams.

And Reggie Miller, did you really use the word “verticality?” Thursday night to describe a player’s jumping ability? Can’t seem to locate that one in the dictionary, either. March Madness, indeed.

New Hire: ESPN just announced that Bill Parcells has been signed up to host a pre-NFL draft special, surely a prelude to him rejoining the Worldwide Leader if they play football in the fall (and they will, trust me).

What a revolting development that is, if only because Parcells has spent most of the last few years ducking the media in his role as team president of the Miami Dolphins. You could count on one hand the number of interviews Parcells granted to South Florida reporters, print and broadcast, not to mention ESPN itself, despite the fact that he was running the franchise. His surly demeanor toward many of the people who covered him at other NFL stops along the way also should not be forgotten.

So here’s another career anti-media guy being fed by the hand he used to bite, joining a long list of broadcasters with the same DNA. Bill Walton, Sterling Sharpe, Bob Knight also went on to lucrative broadcasting careers, even after they either ran away from or insulted many of the same people they now call “colleagues.” Shame on ESPN, which has demonstrated far too often that it has none.

Nice Touch: HBO has asked Nick Charles to call the opening fight in its Boxing After Dark series on Saturday (9:45 pm), a lovely gesture for a man who has been battling a virulent form of bladder cancer the last few years.

Charles, a sports anchor at Channel 4 in Washington before George Michael arrived on the scene, was the long-time voice of boxing at Showtime as well as one of the original sports anchors for the then fledgling CNN. He recently was the subject of a moving column by Sports Illustrated writer Joe Posnaski, a must read. Rick Bernstein, HBO’s executive producer for boxing, read the piece on a train ride to New York. He then decided to offer Charles, who once handled boxing on HBO pay-per-view events, the opportunity to call what likely will be his final fight.

We’re excited to be in a position to afford Nick this opportunity,” Bernstein told Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports this week. “This is a guy we’ve had a long relationship with and, obviously, it means a lot to Nick. It was a no-brainer, honestly.”

Charles also was quoted in Iole’s story.

First of all, I want to do justice to HBO and do a great broadcast because HBO has set such a high standard and people who tune in expect nothing less,” he said. “But I also want people to know that just because you may get cancer, it doesn’t mean you stop fighting or stop living. I am a fighter and I’m going to keep fighting until I can’t fight anymore. That’s just the way that I am.”