Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Cynopsis: Sports

Good morning. It’s Friday, December 2, 2011, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

It’s crunch time in the NBA. With a shortened season on hand, clubs, league executives and networks alike are scrambling for opening tipoff on Christmas Day with five games reportedly on deck to be aired on ABC, ESPN and TNT. Owners opened the doors of their facilities on Thursday for the first time since locking out players on July 1. Last night, the league was slated to finally begin reincorporating player data, including names, faces, stats and video, to league and team websites. NBA TV also began its transition, reairing one-hour versions of this year’s NBA Finals throughout the day.

Meanwhile, the players union announced yesterday that the association has officially reformed after dissolving in mid-November and will now prepare to vote on the CBA deal.

On the Air

ESPN wraps up the regular season of college football on Sunday night with the Allstate BCS Selection Show at 8:15p with final BCS standings and which teams will go to each of the five BCS games. Right after, fans will learn the final selections for the remaining 35 post-season bowl games on College Football Bowl Selection Special presented by Chevrolet. Rece Davis hosts along with analysts Brad Edwards, Kirk Herbstreit, Craig James, Mark May and Robert Smith. Capital One Bowl Week on ESPN networks kicks off Saturday, Dec. 17, with a tripleheader of post-season bowl-dom: Gildan New Mexico Bowl at 2p, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at 5:30p and the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl at 9p.

Meanwhile, BTN will offer its own take on the bowl selections, with the ‘Big Ten Bowl Selection Special’ on Sunday Night at 8p. Dave Revsine will host the show alongside Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith as they preview each Big Ten bowl matchup and look at key post-season factors.

November was one for the books for Golf Channel with the network scoring the most-watched November in the network’s near 17-year history. The ratings growth was highlighted by record-breaking viewership for programming that included coverage of the Emirates Australian Open and The Presidents Cup, where Golf Channel reached 13.8 million unique viewers and averaged 124,000 viewers per day, according to Nielsen. November also marked the channel’s most-watched month of 2011 and second-most-watched month in the history of Golf Channel. Online, also saw gains, with page views in November the highest for the month in four years and marking a 71% increase over November 2010. This week, Tiger Woods hosts a field of 18 players for the Chevron World Challenge, Dec. 1-4; and 2011 U.S. Open Champion Rory McIlroy headlines at the UBS Hong Kong Open.

Blackout warning: The Buffalo Bills, now with a losing record, announced that Sunday’s game against the Titans will be blacked out in local channels due to not selling out that stadium. Two other teams squeaked by, however, with the Dolphins announcing the local CBS affiliate purchased the remaining tickets in order to ensure the game could be carried. Meanwhile, the Vikings had a similar fate with team executives announcing that all tickets had been bought just before the deadline. The Vikings have gone 142 straight home games without a blackout.

It appears that ESPN and the Boston Red Sox may soon be completing a trade. After the franchise hired away ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine as the new manager of the club, ESPN is reportedly chasing former manager Terry Francona to step up to the plate and don the microphone for MLB broadcasts. Francona, of course, filled in for Tim McCarver on FOX for two games during the playoffs.

Universal Sports Network has announced that the channel will debut a new original series titled “Against the Tide,” showcasing the comeback effort of Olympic medalist Ed Moses as he attempts to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The series will premiere on Wednesday, Dec. 14, with the half hour episodes running on five consecutive nights at 9p.

CBS Sports’ tips off its 31st consecutive season of college basketball on Saturday at noon with a battle of contenders in a Kentucky/UNC matchup. CBS Sports’ lead broadcast team of Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg call the action live from Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY.This season CBS Sports will broadcast 42 men’s contests, two women’s games and five conference championships (as well as the Big Ten semi-finals), featuring teams from top conferences including the Big Ten, Big East, Atlantic Coast, SEC, Pac-12, Big 12 and Atlantic 10.

Tennis Channel will be enjoying the beauty of Seville, Spain over the weekend, with exclusive coverage of Spain and Argentina’s Davis Cup championship competition with live and same-day “Instant Encore” replays Friday through Sunday. Rafael Nadal will lead his nation as it plays for its fifth title overall and first crown since 2009.

Golf Channel announced that the network’s upcoming instruction specials, called 7 Nights at the Academy, will air from Dec. 12-18 with hall-of-Famers Johnny Miller, Nick Faldo and Raymond Floyd all on deck to host their own half-hour instruction shows.

MSG Networks will be honoring former New Jersey Devils star defenseman Scott Niedermayer starting Monday at 8p with telecasts of five of his greatest games and leading up the retirement of his No. 27 jersey by the Devils on “Scott Niedermayer Night” on Friday, December 16. The five games will be hosted by MSG Plus and Devils play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi and former Devils star and MSG Networks analyst Ken Daneyko.

WWE, USA Network and NBC are set to pay tribute to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces with WWE’s ninth annual holiday special, “WWE Tribute to the Troops” The program will air as a two-hour special on USA Network on Tuesday, Dec. 13 starting at 9p as well as a one-hour special on NBC on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 9p. The special will feature performances by Mary J. Blige, Nickelback, George Wallace, as well as WWE Superstars and Divas at Fort Bragg. Extra’s Maria Menounos will step into the ring for a special Diva’s match as part of the celebration.

Sponsorship & Promotion

Toyota was honored with the 2011 NASCAR Marketing Achievement Award at the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards in Las Vegas given to industry partner who has exemplified the spirit of NASCAR through integrated marketing campaigns. Previous winners of the NASCAR Marketing Achievement Award include: Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, ESPN, FOX/TNT/NBC, Gillette, K-mart, Office Depot, Sprint, Nationwide Insurance and The Home Depot.

ESPN found its winner of the official Winter X Games contest “Test Your Medal”, declaring that the design for the Winter X Games Aspen 2012 medals was created by New Yorker Joe Hodnicki. The design will be made into the 16th Winter X Games medal and will be the first medal to represent all of the sports featured at Winter X Games.

The American Hockey League announced today that reGen recovery beverage will continue to serve as the “Official Recovery Beverage of the AHL” for the rest of the 2011-12 season. Through the partnership, the AHL will also maintain its player-based recognition program  the “reGen™ AHL Performance of the Month” award that honors an AHL player for an outstanding on-ice achievement.

EA Sports is going to let fans decide who will grace the first-ever digital cover for video game NFL Blitz. Pro Bowlers Roddy White, Ray Rice and Patrick Willis will all vie for the cover with fans casting their ballot at beginning at 8p on Saturday, Dec. 10 during the 2011 Spike “Video Game Awards.” Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Jerry Rice will be on hand to announce the winner at the end of the ceremonies.

Digital Fields

Turner Sports and the NCAA have announced the launch of NCAA Sports, a new iPhone app that offers regular season coverage of college football and basketball, as well as NCAA championship coverage of all NCAA sports. In addition, NCAA Sports offers fans live video streaming of more than 60 NCAA championship events including Division II football, Divisions II and III wrestling, Divisions I, II and III field hockey, Divisions II and III men’s and women’s soccer, and Divisions II and III women’s volleyball. Turner-hosted is also unveiling a new mobile website for touchscreen phones that will allow fans to get live scores, schedules, news, rankings and video recaps suitable for the mobile screen.

Although the UFC app for Xbox 360 was slated to come out yesterday, officials have now pushed back the launch until Dec. 20. Named UFC on Xbox Live, the app will offer access to video-on-demand, order PPVs and an interactive fight card where fans can predict the outcome of bouts as well as compete with friends.

Yahoo announced in its Year in Review data the most searched teams from 2011. In order, the top ranked teams included the Yankees, Steelers, Red Sox, Packers, the Texas Rangers, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Detroit Tigers, the Bears, Manchester United and the Lakers. The top three athletes in search results were Danica Patrick, Tiger Woods and Manny Pacquiao.

The Main Event

Lots of conference championships in line. Highlights include the first ever Pac-12 Championship on Friday pitting behemoth Oregon against the struggling UCLA team. Kickoff is at 8p on FOX. FOX also features the first Big Ten Championship game at 8p featuring Wisconsin/Michigan St. CBS counters with top-ranked LSU playing Georgia for the SEC Championship at 4p.

Sunday finds some apparent NFL mismatches but Packers/Giants at 4:15 on FOX could answer some questions.


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ON THIS DAY in 1981: The Dodgers’ Fernando Valenzuela wins NL Rookie of the Year.

Answer to Yesterday’s Sports Trivia Question: What city was the original home of the Houston Rockets? Answer: San Diego. Kudos: Juan Delgado – Telemundo/Miami; Rick Rosenfelt – New York Jets/Florham Park; George Finkel – MegaSports Productions/North Myrtle Beach; Michael Schwartz – DKC Public Relations, Marketing & Government Affairs/NY; Val Tucker – Valjtuc Management/Garden Grove; Eric Bates – Tennis Channel/Culver City.

In The Know: Who is the all-time receiving leader for the Green Bay Packers? (Email with your answer and be sure to include your name, company, city and time zone. Unofficial rules: Only the second four correct answers from each time zone will be mentioned; and once you’ve been mentioned in any of the Cynopsis editions, you can’t be mentioned again that calendar week.)

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | Sports

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