Beyond the daily coverage of sports media and all its foibles, there are a couple of regular features Awful Announcing produces that we’d like to call your attention to.  The AA Podcast is a regular feature of this site, where we speak with some of the biggest names in the industry, occasionally mixing in journalists, insiders and fellow AA staffers. We also publish a bi-weekly newsletter, which highlights some of the best in sports media each week. Here’s a sampling of the best of each this month. You can subscribe to the podcast to hear all of this on iTunes, and subscribe to the newsletter here

1. Author/Writer James Andrew Miller on Bill Simmons’ suspension

Our Matt Yoder spoke to Miller coming off the release of his updated version of Live From New York, the incredible, comprehensive oral history of Saturday Night Live. There were far more pressing reasons, however, for the chat with Jim. Namely, Bill Simmons’ then-recent suspension from ESPN.

The discussion began with Miller surmising the reasoning for Simmons’ suspension, which he revealed was two weeks unpaid, one week paid starting at about 1:30 of the show:

It’s somewhat reflective of what goes on at the NFL. You get these suspensions for two weeks, three weeks, whatever… you wonder, why is it that length? It’s a very hard thing to talk about in terms of ESPN history because obviously you saw what happened with Stephen A. Smith… Tony Kornheiser…

The first reaction to Bill Simmons’ suspension was that it’s incredibly long. It is a long suspension. Three weeks is a pretty big matzah ball, and I think Bristol wanted to send a signal that this was not just your normal type of suspension. For context, remember Tony Kornheiser got three weeks for his comments on Hannah Storm’s wardrobe. This was quite serious.

Miller goes on to describe the divide at ESPN between the pro- and anti-Simmons camps since the “Sports Guy” began Grantland and started developing more and more power at the network a few years ago, eventually ending up at NBA Countdown. “The power base in Bristol take their authority and their job seriously, they don’t like people who think they’re bigger than the four letters.”

We then asked Miller what he felt was the most egregious offense Simmons had made in his offending podcast, and Miller felt that Simmons’ daring ESPN to get angry at him earned him “an extra two weeks.”

Miller does think the future will be fine for Simmons at ESPN. He feels that he and ESPN chief John Skipper will mend their relationship, and that while Simmons could create “his own ecosystem,” and Grantland would still exist at ESPN if he did leave (though most of the staff would leave with him), that ESPN will have both Skipper and Simmons re-signing next year with Disney CEO Bob Iger sticking around.

2. Miller on the progress of Fox Sports 1

Miller said that he believes Skipper doesn’t even think about it, and “little of what happens in Burbank and Bristol… has anything to do with Fox.” While perhaps ESPN has overpaid because of them, they still don’t seemingly worry much about them, for good reason starting at 24:05.

“I really believe John Skipper is in no way worried about Fox, on any level… I just don’t think he thinks of it like that… The reason I found the Fox threat a little dubious was… where’s the inventory? They’re never gonna do it with original programming. You might have a show or two, but that’s never gonna get you to $10 billion a year in revenue.

It becomes infinitely harder for there to be a serious threat to ESPN’s supremacy because there’s just less inventory available.

I think somebody needs to ask the question: why do you need to go toe-to-toe with ESPN to be successful? I find the whole premise of that completely flawed. I mean, this is a company that is worth more than the NFL, NBA, MLB and the NHL put together. They have a huge valuation, a huge head start, they have revenue stream alone constructed in the early 80s. They’ve had two revenue streams driving this for a long time, so why does anyone feel the need to take them on like that?

I think history shows when you have a huge behemoth like that zigging, you zag. I think that’s probably the smarter move and what probably needs to happen in the next few years in terms of Fox’s thinking.

3. Miller on Keith Olbermann’s return to ESPN

On Keith Olbermann’s return to ESPN, Miller offered a pretty solid, logical defense of Keith’s first year back at 16:10:

Beating up on Keith is a favorite indoor sport of many. But if you beat up on him you’ve also got to give him credit. Here’s the thing: not only has Keith been a practicing adult, but he behaved in the face of a lotta crap. I mean, that show when he was on at night was hardly appointment viewing, in a sense that you could never figure out when it was gonna go on. There were a lot of times when he got bumped and bumped and bumped and he kept quiet. The guy who was in charge of the show, Jamie Horowitz, went through a difficult transition at ESPN when he wanted to move to NBC.

The old Keith, I think, would’ve said ‘cut it out, this is about me.’ Keith Olbermann was just a great team player. There was some stuff going on with Horowitz where he didn’t talk publicly about it, he didn’t complain about it, he just figured it’ll sort itself out when it does. I have to say, I sometimes think Keith doesn’t get enough credit when he’s behaving as he does blame when he’s not behaving. I think his return to ESPN has been really interesting to watch because you can’t accuse him of any of the things he’s been accused of in the past.

4. The 100th episode intro of the AA Podcast with Jim Nantz of CBS 

In what I believe is the longest episode ever of our podcast (at an hour and 22 minutes!), Jim Nantz speaks to Awful Announcing for just the third time in our site’s history, and the first time on our podcast. When you count our story about CBS’ Thanksgiving NFL coverage and Ken’s interview with him a little while back, Nantz has become our version of Bob Hope on the old Johnny Carson show.

Nantz even started the show with a Masters-style intro for the AA Podcast that you’ve got to hear to believe. From having spoken to Nantz and listened to this interview, you’d be surprised how game he is. We’ll just say that it’s an intro… unlike… any other.

5. Nantz on his schedule with Thursday Night Football’s debut

We kicked off discussion with the talking point of Thursday Night Football having been full of stinkers to start the season. Nantz’s explanation on how he sticks with blowouts is interesting at 5:55 of the show:

I’m on the air as much, if not more, than anyone in the industry, so you’re going to get some that are nail-biters, or you get runaway performances. Just take the 15 golf tournaments we do in a year, and those are long shows, and sometimes those are rain shows where we’re filling four hours of programming without a single golf shot. People never ask me, “How hard is that to do?” Well that is really hard to do!

I’ve done it countless times in my career where I’ve sat in a rain studio, and talked about the weather… and you’re talking, at times, to yourself for four hours. So when you have a football game that’s one-sided, it’s a golden opportunity to take all the preparation and work you’ve done for that broadcast and find a home for it. It’s an opportunity to dispense with all of the information that you’ve been training and preparing to present all week if the occasion is just right.

I’ve found some of the most rewarding broadcasts of my career have been the ones where we’ve been challenged the most.

Nantz then delves into his increased schedule, and thinks that it’s even understated how much they’ve been working. “It’s a lot of tonnage, it’s a lot of preparation… but I am loving it, I am so into this right now,” he says. “It’s just being able to condense what you spent a week on and condensing it into three days.”

6. Nantz on Tiger Woods

Nantz is certainly most synonymous with golf, and we delved deep into the state of the game during the show. There was a huge chunk of this podcast devoted to the PGA, but most importantly is its still biggest name: Tiger Woods. We asked Nantz if the torch had officially been passed to Rory McIlroy and others, starting at 19:10:

There’s a lot of ways to approach that. Rory’s now won four majors in the last three years. Tiger hasn’t won a major in six years. I’m not sure if at the PGA Championship there was a torch being passed, but Rory was coming off of two straight wins against the world’s best and had three in three years and Tiger hadn’t won since 2008. I don’t know if anyone was saying, “Well, Tiger’s still got the torch!”

In terms of what the perception is as far as who is the centerpiece of the sport, that’s a bit tricky. Anytime Tiger does anything, I think people are gonna be interested. In 2015, if he gets healthy — which I think is a good thing and the right thing for him to do — he might come out and win two or three tournaments going into Augusta next year, and he’s still going to be the most-talked about story going into that Masters Tournament.

But in terms of, just based on results, I think Rory’s got the torch a while now.

7. Bleacher Report Crawls toward respectability 

In the Newsletter, we highlighted a USA Today story that talks about the formerly much-maligned Bleacher Report. After years of being hammered by other media, the now-Turner owned company is trying to become a respected outlet.

8. ESPN’s “anti-Kobe” narrative

Tom Hoffarth of the LA Daily News is arguing that ESPN is beating home a narrative that Kobe Bryant just doesn’t have what it takes to be a superstar in the NBA anymore, that it’s just sort of a scripted, ESPN-created phenomenon.

9. Bud Selig’s exit interview

The now-former commissioner of Major League Baseball looked on the bright side in a retrospective interview with the New York Times. Woe to your “baseball is dying” narrative!

10. The NBA’s season is can’t miss

Neil Best of Newsday spoke with many national NBA analysts, all of whom claimed this season would be “can’t miss”. Hard to argue with all the drama and narrative, but are they blowing smoke? 

You can subscribe to the AA Podcast here on iTunes, and subscribe to the AA Newsletter here

About Steve Lepore

Steve Lepore is a writer for Bloguin and a correspondent for SiriusXM NHL Network Radio.