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michael sam sacks johnny manziel

The idea for a sports/media/gambling column was hatched this summer and look for it every Wednesday. If you want to yell at me about something that appeared here – because let’s face it, on the internet, it’s outrage or nothing: Jmcintyre at thebiglead dot com.

It was as cringe-worthy a moment of sports television you’ll see this year, one of those, wait, what? Rewind that quotes that you have to hear a 2nd or 3rd time to fully grasp: ” … he seems to think that Michael Sam is waiting to kind of take a shower, so as not to make his teammates feel uncomfortable.”

Say what?

Chris Long, a defensive end on the Rams, neatly summed up the bafflement in one tweet:

ESPN (and the internet) have been besotted with Michael Sam since he came out as gay in February. Immediately, he tumbled down draft boards and was deemed overrated – despite winning co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors – and then had an unimpressive combine and plummeted all the way to the 7th round of the draft in May. Sam, who has been very quiet throughout this entire process, giving very few big interviews, only made one mistake – he committed to a documentary with Oprah Winfrey’s network, which would have chronicled his days trying to make the NFL. When the news emerged, Sam was ripped for not focusing on football; he canceled the show days later.

After shelving the idea, sports fans have heard very little from Michael Sam. Maybe he was … trying to make a football team? Sam has turned in a solid preseason so far, and his 2-sack effort against the Browns last week took him off the roster “bubble” heading into the final round of cuts.

Which leads us to the “shower” comment. ESPN, knowing that the Rams had to make roster cuts Tuesday, needed a Sam “hit” in the middle of an otherwise slow day. Instead of rehashing warmed-over Rams news from the weekend – Bradford’s injury, Sam’s sacks – it felt as if reporter Josina Anderson called an audible and went with whatever she had drummed up in talking to players since Saturday night. An unstoppable torrent of words spilled out of her during the live shot and ESPN executives surely buried their face in their hands.

This morning, ESPN released a pithy statement on the fiasco: “ESPN regrets the manner in which we presented our report. Clearly yesterday we collectively failed to meet the standards we have set in reporting on LGBT-related topics in sports.”

After listening to the video multiple times, it’ll hit you: Anderson really did ask multiple Rams players if they were showering with Michael Sam. This couldn’t have happened in the locker room after a game, right? Surely other reporters would have heard the bizarre line of questioning and it would have trickled out.

It’s slightly odd that she didn’t ask Rams players about Sam’s perceived weaknesses – power, speed, size – but rather his shower habits around the rest of the team.

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Underdog to Howl Saturday

I’m probably in the minority here, but Navy’s triple option, flex-wishbone, run-it-down-your-throat offense has the potential to really frustrate Ohio State this weekend in Baltimore. The Vegas line went down from 17 to 14 after Braxton Miller’s injury; also, perhaps, because Navy returns its entire offensive line, QB, and leading two rushers. Ohio State’s team strength with Miller gone is the defense – though they did lost two players to the 1st round of the NFL draft – but it’s going to be severely tested Saturday.

Remember 2009? A lot has changed since then – especially for Ohio State, who didn’t have Urban Meyer as coach – but the Buckeyes were ranked 6th in the nation in their season opener and barely held off the Midshipmen, 31-27. Navy was coming off an 8-5 season and the 2009 Midshipmen won 10 games, including a stomping of Missouri in the Texas bowl. This year’s Navy team is better.

I expect Lee Corso to use his phrase “closer than the experts think” Saturday morning and then OSU will win, 27-23.

The overall Saturday slate is rather dull – Clemson/Georgia last year would have been fantastic, Florida State will dismember Oklahoma State – but at least Wisconsin/LSU will close the evening, and it is football, after all.

Best college football “tip” I heard in Vegas last weekend: Keep an eye on Bowling Green as a live dog this season. The Falcons are actually a 7.5 point road favorite in week one at Western Kentucky. Bowling Green has six players on Phil Steele’s All-Mac 1st team, more than any other team in the conference. I know you’re waiting for always-inaccurate College Football Playoff picks, and they’re coming Thursday. A tease: There’s great value in Myles Jack to win the Heisman (45:1); Michigan State should be in the playoff (30:1 to win the title) and so should the Baylor/Oklahoma winner (I like the Bears, who are 36:1 to win the title, to beat Big Game Bob Stoops on the road on November 8th, otherwise known as the 2nd best college football weekend of the season).

Bob Stoops is sad during Baylor game

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Media Scuttlebutt …

The word on the street is that Rich Eisen’s new DirecTV radio/show will likely be picked up by Fox Sports Radio, and supposedly the time slot that he’s going to be placed in is currently occupied by Jay Mohr … ESPN will soon announce that Sportscenter host Lindsay Czarniak has signed a new contract, one that will have her also appearing on Good Morning America. Since Josh Elliott left ESPN for GMA a few years ago, many who work at Bristol are trying to get crossover work at Disney-owned networks like GMA (Tony Reali) and Nightline (Darren Rovell). Also, Czarniak’s husband, Craig Melvin, is in morning television on the Today Show … The Hollywood Reporter broke some news earlier this week that Turner would be cutting 600 jobs. Not yet reported: The cuts in Turner Sports could be as high as 20%. David Levy was named President of Turner last year, had 12 months to observe things, and now there are a lot of nervous folks at Turner Sports … Given the leaks of the last two years regarding NBA Countdown, ESPN is trying to keep a lid on the replacement for Bill Simmons. This much we know – Jalen Rose most likely will do both shows, not have to decide one or the other …

Lindsay Czarniak ESPN

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College Basketball

Want to know how bullish the NBA draft prospects are for Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky? After averaging just 4.2 ppg as a sophomore, Kaminsky blew up as a junior, leading the Badgers to the Final Four. His NBA stock soared after he scored 19 against Oregon, 19 more against Baylor and then torched defensively-sound Arizona for 28 in the Elite 8. Kaminsky, I’m hearing, has already narrowed his agent decision down to three of the biggest names in the industry. I currently have Kaminsky outside of the 2015 draft lottery, but that could certainly change if some of the hyped freshman flop, and Kaminsky continues to look like a poor man’s Dirk Nowitzki. I’ve got Kaminsky as the 6th best player in college basketball heading into the 2014-2015 season.

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Francesa vs. Fox Sports 1

Just how pissed is Mike Francesa at Fox Sports 1? He’s taken numerous shots at the network since joining earlier this year (and they’ve returned fire), and the chatter is that Francesa’s so bitter about his simulcast getting moved around/bumped in the last six months that he’s beginning to put the wheels in motion to potentially get out of the deal.

As usual, Francesa has taken most of his vacation during the summer, but a radio insider tells me that MSG and Francesa have been talking for weeks and the industry is buzzing about a possible Francesa/James Dolan union. MSG was the rumored landing spot for Francesa when his YES deal expired, before FS1 swooped in.

Francesa has been complaining about Fox on air for a few months now, and you have to wonder if FS1 isn’t thrilled with some of his stunts – like taking shots at Fox college football announcer Joel Klatt right before having him on air. He isn’t delivering ratings, either. With European soccer starting back up, will FS1 let Francesa walk if that’s what he desires? Or is this MSG dalliance just that, more talk?

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Music Note

I enjoy Taylor Swift’s music. And found this hypnotic:

Just had to get it off my chest. I had a dream a few months back that she bought my neighbor’s house, and sang at my daughter’s upcoming birthday party.

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Utterly Unverifiable Blind item:

Which prominent sports reporter allegedly hired an outside firm to make his twitter feed less robotic?

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Francesa video via Bob’s Blitz. Taylor Swift GIFs via Michael Shamburger & MTV.

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