It's been quite the ride this year in covering the media side of sports. We've seen the launch of a new 24/7 cable sports network in Fox Sports 1, hell froze over as Keith Olbermann returned to ESPN, and it wasn't SI, or the New York Times that broke arguably the biggest story of the year, but Deadspin. 2013 brought us many moments worth pointing to as the pinnacle of the industry… and many moments that we'd love to forget.
As 2013 comes to a conclusion, here's our staff picks for the Best & Worst Sports Media Moments of 2013…
Best: NBC and ESPN continue to take great leaps for soccer in America
Look, the fact is that — whether certain sects of the population want to admit it or not — soccer has arrived on American television. Big audiences for the USMNT's solid broadcasts of CONCACAF qualifiers, to record ratings from NBC's impressive, all-encompassing coverage of the Premier League, to Fox using FS1 to provide greater coverage of the UEFA Champions League. It made for a banner year for the world's game in America, and adding in the fact that is was mostly marvelously covered without talking down to us Yanks made it all the better.
Worst: ESPN fires Howie Schwab
ESPN opens a new building next year, and is launching a new network, and they can't afford to keep a long tenured, invaluable employee with cache and name recognition with sports fans like The Schwab? Unbelievable.
– Steve Lepore, @stevelepore
Best: NBC Sports Network
I lovingly call it "The Obscure Sports Network." Ok, NHL and Premier League fans, I know your sport isn't necessarily obscure but compared to the rights for the NFL, College Football, MLB and NBA like ESPN has, they are. While NBCSN hasn't figured out how to produce any original content that will out-rate shows about elephant hunting, their coverage of these smaller sports has been exemplary. Maintaining the live rights to NHL, Premier League, F1 takes care. The willingness to tune into the latter two at all hours of the morning and night is only possessed by a dedicated few, and these few know their sport. They like to be treated like adults.
Rebecca Lowe and Liam McHugh are finds and can command respect, most of their analysts speak in a less-than-shouting tone, and NBCSN airs a simulcast of the Dan Patrick Show, which is better than another four hours of SportsCenter. The sporting arm of the Peacock has yet to figure out a feasible highlight show, but their overall coverage have set them apart for me this year. And their 2014 will be a chance for further growth, as NBCSN will be another outlet for NBC's massive coverage of the Winter Olympics in February.
Worst: The manufacturing of a story by ESPN.
My vote for worst media moment goes to the construction of a complete non-story from ESPN. While the Worldwide Leader does a lot of good and has many reputable reporters, the increasing criticism towards their brand is the willingness to create news instead of reporting it. Ron Jaworski says Colin Kaepernick "could be one of the greatest ever" and ESPN can use it for days and fill time with more useless bloviating and hot air blowing. Deadspin's exiting media writer John Koblin broke it down perfectly, step-by-step.
– Jonathan Biles, @jonathan_biles
Best: Frontline's League of Denial Documentary
This PBS documentary lived up to hype and then some. There were several telling moments including an interview with the late Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster that showed the damage of CTE and the effects of concussions on the brain. In addition, the NFL came off like Big Tobacco in trying to squash outside research and its own documentation on the matter while playing the denial card. We've barely scratched the surface on this subject and the book on which the documentary is based has been optioned to become a movie so we haven't heard the last of this.
Worst: ESPN's decision to withdraw from League of Denial
For a year, we had heard that ESPN was cooperating with PBS on League of Denial. The network had been promoting its collaboration when a month before it was to air, it decided to pull any association with the documentary. Soon afterwards, we learned that the NFL expressed its dissatisfaction to ESPN about the documentary. While both sides denied that the league put pressure on the network to withdraw, the implication still smacks of impropriety. ESPN should be credited for continuing to report on CTE and concussions plus airing clips of League of Denial, but the scars from the withdrawal are still fresh.
– Ken Fang, @fangsbites
Best: Deadspin breaks one of the stories of the year
My best would definitely have to be Deadspin breaking the Te'o story and ESPN actually acknowledging that it lost out to a blog that's been a thorn in its side for years.
Worst: Dan Sileo
Every single thing Dan Sileo tweeted could be nominated for this category. Who else could combine offensive misogyny with the spelling and grammar of a pre-schooler? How many times has he been fired this year alone?
@ErinAndrews no…ur right Erin…does of really matter were u work..pepe hole best thing for ur career
— Dan Sileo (@DanSileoShow) January 17, 2013
– Reva Friedel, @revafriedel
Best: Deadspin buying a Hall of Fame vote
When I first heard about this, I smiled and snickered. Then I saw the reaction of BBWAA members, which bordered on insanity – and I simply lost it. This was the perfect way to troll the BBWAA and perhaps influence some change, and Deadspin couldn’t have done it any better.
Worst: The numerous incidents of casual misogyny in sports
Damon Bruce was the prime offender here, and it’s a damn shame that heading into the year 2014, a person’s gender is such a huge deal in relation to covering sports.
– Joe Lucia, @joe_toc
Best: Soccer on TV
Siding with Steve on this one. Soccer has never had a larger presence on television. USA, Champions League, Premier League and La Liga have all found homes in America. The sport is growing in the United States and the best is yet to come.
Worst: NHL Network
I honestly believed that we'd see positive changes on the network following the lockout. Instead, it's more of the same as the league fails to recognize a glorious opportunity.
– David Rogers, @frozennotes
Best: Bob Ley & Jeremy Schaap
On the day of the Boston Marathon bombing ESPN moved Ley and Schapp, two of their most respected journalists, into the anchor chairs on SportsCenter. The result gave ESPN live coverage of the horrific tragedy that was at or above the level of any news network. That day the network showed an uncanny ability to adapt to a major breaking news story and offer a meaningful newscast and putting its best face forward. It was an excellent decision that showed ESPN at its very best.
Worst: Atlanta sports talk radio hosts mock Steve Gleason
It was a terrible year for sports talk radio from the antics of Dan Sileo to Damon Bruce and a list of one mind-numbing brain fart after another. None was worse though than three Atlanta radio hosts who mocked former Saints player Steve Gleason with a bit that included the words "smother me." Gleason continues to be an inspiration to all with his courageous fight against ALS and to take such an inhumane shot in the name of "humor" was the most disgraceful thing in sports media this year.
What were your Best & Worst moments? Leave your choices in the comments below.