NEW YORK -- At the ESPN upfronts Tuesday morning it seemed like football is becoming almost as popular as football.
After a brief sales pep talk from an executive, the Disney-owned sports network opened at the Best Buy Theater by reminding media buyers about their "Monday Night Football" franchise. Then, they brought San Francicso 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick to the stage for a quick interview where it was learned he'll be posing -- from the looks of things -- at least topless in the upcoming "Body" issue of ESPN the Magazine.
Kaepernick, who took over the QB job midway last season from original starter Alex Smith, led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, where he fell short of leading his team to another Lombardi Trophy.
The thanks for his outstanding efforts? Polite applause from the hundreds of bleary-eyed media buyers who are deciding this week amid a wave of splashy network presentations where to plunk down their ad dollars for the coming year.
The NFL was immediately followed by football -- or what most Americans still know as soccer. Commentator Ian Darke and former player Alexi Lalas trotted out to remind the network's potential clients that they'll be bringing amped-up coverage of next summer's World Cup from Brazil. And, after a clip was shown of his last-minute, game-saving goal in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the Galaxy's Landon Donovan joined them on stage.
There was no applause meter handy, but I'd give a slight edge to Donovan, who was shown topless on screen -- but will not be in the "Body" issue, as far as the audience was told.
To be fair, applause for pretty much everything at the 24/7 sports network was fairly tepid all morning -- even for New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz, Florida's college basketball coach Billy Donovan and Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer. (No one was shown topless.)
But then, future Hall of Fame relief pitcher Mariano Rivera was brought in to "close" (get it, sports fans?) the rather sleepy 90-minute sales "pitch" (get it, sports fans?). The major leagues' all-time leader in saves easily drew the most applause of the day.
Then again, we're in New York -- and baseball is still supposed to be the national pastime.