As you get ready to enjoy gorging yourselves on food and then passing out on the couch while watching football, here’s your Thanksgiving Day appetizer – our contractually obligated list of what we’re thankful for this year in sports media. And if this snark-free feel-good stuff isn’t quite your thing, you can flip over to our list of the Turduckens of the Year from yesterday.
I’m thankful that Vin Scully continues his marvelous career. He still has his fastball and makes listening to Dodgers games so enjoyable. Vin weaves tales in and out of the action so easily and it makes for a great listen. While many fans in Los Angeles can’t see the games through SportsNet LA, those across the country who have either MLB Extra Innings or MLB.TV can watch him call all 9 innings of all home games and selected road games. Vin can read the phone book and make it sound wonderful. We’re blessed to still have him around for 2015 and here’s hoping he gets to call at least one more World Series before he decides to unplug his headset for good.
– Ken Fang, @fangsbites
I’m thankful that I finally got into soccer this year, and open my life to the beauty of soccer’s great voices — Martin Tyler, Jon Champion, Arlo White — and the crazy, weird narratives the sport brings. NBC, Fox (despite their flaws) and ESPN have brought the sport to the forefront of our business, and covering both the games and the networks that televise them have been fun experiences.
– Steve Lepore, @stevelepore
The 2014 tennis season officially ended on Sunday with the conclusion of the Davis Cup. The arrival of tennis’s offseason marks a perfect time to express gratitude for the work being done by Darren Cahill at ESPN. In 2014, Cahill became — for tennis fans — something more than the best X-and-O analyst in the sport. His interactions with fans on social media aren’t just intelligent and cordial. During the U.S. Open, it was Cahill who — more than other ESPN personalities — provided important, clarifying information about air times for bonus coverage and why delays occurred in coverage after taking a handoff from CBS. Cahill could do just about anything in tennis broadcasting at this point in his career: play-by-play is something he could grow into, not just color commentary. He is the tennis broadcasting superstar many people *think* John McEnroe is and has been.
– Matt Zemek, @SectionMZ
I’m thankful for the proliferation of great sportswriting, and particularly great longform, across the internet. Not everything long is great, of course, and there are still some challenges finding the business models needed to make it work, but we’re living in an era where there are tons of outlets producing terrific, in-depth stuff worthy of the open-ended length and the multimedia integration that’s possible on the internet. Moreover, the Twitter era also helps great pieces on unconventional subjects get the attention they deserve. Whether it’s the story of a crack baby raised by gay adoptive parents who became an Army basketball captain, an in-depth history of the only American team ever to win the Grey Cup, a detailed piece on the 129-year-old “Black Hills Brawl,” a deep look at a 1979 too many men penalty, a tale of love and loss of the Hartford Whalers, or a night watching quadruple-A baseball in Camden, NJ, there’s incredible writing out there on an unbelievable array of topics, and great sportswriting is alive and well. The big challenge now is finding the time to read all the amazing work that’s out there.
– Andrew Bucholtz, @andrewbucholtz
I’m thankful for the 30 for 30 series that ESPN has put together. While ESPN gets a ton of well-deserved criticism, it is only fair to point out the greatness of 30 for 30. This year, the brand has churned out another classic in When The Garden Was Eden. It is one of the few sports shows that really strikes at the essence of sports, and not just he final score with a highlight reel included. It digs deep into the souls of those involved and tells a story that was either forgotten or never brought to light. It’s nice to know that in this era of need-to-know-now, there are still stories that can be told in a manner which captivate you for hours.
– Matt Verderame, @mattverderame
I’m thankful mostly for access. Thanks to the digital space, I’ve been able to discover writers I wouldn’t otherwise, blogs I wouldn’t otherwise and content I wouldn’t otherwise. And the access also pertains to engaging with the writers themselves whether it is via Twitter, email, etc. This may not be specific to 2014, but I feel like this year more than ever I have taken advantage of that access. I’m thankful for all the access to blogs, articles, videos and interviews. I think publishers putting up pay walls (ahem… CHICAGO TRIBUNE) don’t have the right idea in 2014.
– Reva Friedel, @revafriedel
To piggy back a bit on Reva’s comments, I’m thankful that major sports leagues are starting to “get it” in terms of the digital age. It’s becoming easier and easier to watch games without paying extra, share highlights without jumping through hoops, and consume more content than you could ever imagine without feeling like you’re getting the most vanilla viewpoint imaginable. And all that does it lead us to discovering some amazing players that might have slipped though the cracks just a few years ago.
– Joe Lucia, @Joe_TOC
I’m thankful for how the world of social media has transformed the sports and news landscape. The days of waiting for information are over. As soon as something happens, it goes viral. We’re now regularly treated to unique perspectives, videos and angles all thanks to the world being connected through Twitter, Facebook and a ton of others. Remember when rumors were created when a sports star was seen at the airport in a given city? Those rumors still exist, but now they’re accompanied by pictures, video and probably a ton of selfies. We live in an incredible world where every piece of sports information is instantly available the moment it happens.
– David Rogers, @frozennotes
I’m thankful for today’s accessibility of sports today. If I had grown up in the dark ages of the 1970s or ’80s, I might have seen the NBA on tape delay, or not seen 95 percent of non-Notre Dame college football games. Now I can watch L.A. Kings games in Alabama, curling from Sochi, Russia at 5 a.m., Australian Rules Football and much, much more on a daily basis. So, sometimes it’s a minute or two behind but that’s more of my slow Internet’s problem. Basically every game is watchable somewhere and with more networks and more broadcast and broadband rights up for sale, it’s never been a better time to care about sports.
– Jonathan Biles, @jonathan_biles
I’m going to cheat (because I can) and name two things I’m most thankful for. First, the increased interest in the sports media beat. Without it, we wouldn’t be here. And I can never remember a year that had so much action – whether it be all the ESPN suspensions, the first year of Fox Sports 1, the new wave of rights deals, or all the goofy stuff like this that we write about on a daily basis.
As far as specifics in this space, I’m thankful for the increased technology in video streaming that makes being a sports fan better than ever before. From WatchESPN to the NBC Sports Live Extra to March Madness On Demand to my international streaming packages for darts and Australian Rules Football, we have more live sports at our fingertips than ever before. This year I was watching 3 curling matches at one time in the wee hours of the morning during the Winter Olympics in Sochi. What could be better than that?
– Matt Yoder, @myoder84