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Sports

Sports Illustrated’s demise shows how it’s a mad world for iconic media companies

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald accepts the “Performer of the Year” award during the Sports Illustrated 2018 Sportsperson of the Year Awards Show on Dec. 11, 2018.
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald accepts the performer of the year award during the Sports Illustrated 2018 Sportsperson of the Year Awards Show on Dec. 11, 2018.
(Getty Images)

Our Sports Media Misery Index loves company as much as it loathes competitive balance:

Not-so-low threshold

-- MAD Magazine announced last summer it would stop publishing new content after 67 years. We almost went mad. But at the end of the day, what, us worry?

Worry more about the madness of recent layoffs and more tarnishing of the Sports Illustrated legacy, as its new ownership has rebranded it as “A Maven Channel” on the same SI.com that claims to be “the most trusted voice in sports.”

Quoth the Maven, SI will nevermore be the same. They’re giving their audience the business.

Iconic media companies struggle to stay relevant with new platforms of delivery. SI’s dragged out, systematic disintegration more often sends us drifting to the SI Vault (www.si.com/vault) for a reminder of what the word “classic” means.

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When former SI scribe Rick Reilly recently did an homage piece for Peter King’s “Football Morning in America” — King himself ended a 29-year run at the organization in 2018 for more security at NBC — it was tied together with an “adieu haiku” that went:

It’s the end of the
SI world as we know it,
and I don’t feel fine

-- Joe Buck may not publicly complain about it, but what does it show about Fox’s priorities when it gives an NFL regular-season Thursday night game preferential treatment over the MLB playoffs? Lead play-by-play man Buck will yield to Joe Davis for the American League Championship Series Game 5 in New York between Houston and the Yankees because he’s needed for a Week 7 Kansas City-Denver NFL game. The ALCS will be bumped from Fox’s national broadcast network to FS1 so the NFL game has a suitable home (while it’s simulcast on the NFL Network).

After that, during next week’s World Series, Buck’s day off between Games 2 and 3 includes an Oct. 24 side trip to Minnesota for the NFL’s Thursday night Week 8 telecast.

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If Dick Stockton is still employed, isn’t this an ideal time to send him to “Thursday Night Football” instead?

Medium well

* It finally dawned on us that, for as much Fox Sports continues producing the most entertaining current form of an NFL studio show from its L.A. studios, it has created Kathy Bates-on-James Caan cringe-worthy misery for viewers asked to figure out the network’s college football and MLB counterparts.

Note the ways ESPN’s crews on similar studio shows generate genuine camaraderie and a positive, likable energy. Fox’s reclamation projects of sports deviants — Urban Meyer, Reggie Bush, Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz (and before that, Pete Rose) — leans more toward a mashup of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” with “Despicable Me.”

Any of them could say something with a measure of compelling insight. But there’s this tinge of disingenuous intentions held together with nontransparent duct tape. It’s not impossible to root for their comeback attempt. It’s just made more difficult by the platform’s telegenic manipulative nature.

* Among the ways to mark the greatest self-centered moments in Staples Center’s 20 years of existence — its anniversary is this week — we muster up the maestro of misery, Larry David, and the 2001 Season 2, Episode 8 of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Sitting courtside at a Lakers game, David stretches his legs out. Then Shaquille O’Neal comes off the bench, heads to the scorer’s table, trips, falls and is hospitalized. As Goliath goes down, David is left as the scourge of L.A.

Now pair that with a life-kind-of-imitates-art moment during a 2017 Lakers-Clippers game. The Clippers’ Jamal Crawford hits a jumper over Brandon Ingram, turns to run down court near the Clippers bench and slams into the rear end of a fan who has his back turned looking for his seat.

You try to make that stuff up.

High tolerance

* Eddie Olczyk, NBC’s hybrid NHL and horse racing analyst, has seen enough misery, although his Stage 3 colon cancer appears to be beat. The onetime Kings star has a new goal: to let readers know about his journey in a new book “Beating The Odds In Hockey and In Life” (Triumph Books, 320 pages, $28). Included is a chapter: “Thank God I Got Sick,” which includes this: “During the entire time I was battling cancer, I never once asked, ‘Why me?’ If anything, I was happy it was me rather than any of the people I truly care about. I would not want anyone I know to go through this.”

* TBS’ push for Jeff “Frenchy” Francoeur as its hot new MLB postseason analyst has been sidetracked by promos for “The Misery Index” game show during the National League playoffs. Remember a few years ago when the same network relentlessly pushed a new Frank Caliendo show into audience defiance? All things considered, neither Francoeur nor “TMI” should be expected to last as long on the TBS airwaves as the recent Dodgers reality show.


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