As part of his ongoing worldwide promotional tour for the highly-anticipated upcoming release of Anchorman 2, Will Ferrell – as his alter-ego and super-anchor Ron Burgundy (along with David Koechner as Champ Kind) – will be hosting a special edition of SportsCenter on ESPN this Thursday at 6pm ET.
In advance of this momentous event, ESPN has released this teaser video of Burgundy interviewing Broncos QB Peyton Manning, in which he discusses mustache’s, horses, and audibles … much to the delight of Manning, and fans of Anchorman everywhere:
Perhaps the most important piece of investigative journalism about the NFL in recent history – Frontline’s 2-hour documentary, “League of Denial” - will premiere tonight on your local PBS station.
Based on the book of the same name by ESPN reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, the piece takes an in-depth look at the impact of head trauma on the NFL and it’s players. Along the way, it shows how the league – in an effort to protect its multi-billion dollar business - has publicly pretended to care about the link between football and subsequent cumulative brain injury, but in reality has tried to play down the issue, and even gone so far as to cover it up.
The documentary has already proved controversial enough that ESPN removed their own credit from the documentary, most likely in fear of retribution from the league. It’s definitely must-DVR material, and worth watching, especially if you have (or plan to have) kids who may play football some day.
Ultimately, this program – and the revelations made within – could change the very foundation of our nation’s favorite sport, and how it’s played.
MORE VIDEO AFTER THE JUMP
On Thursday, CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist Pete Prisco crapped out a column in which he proposed that NFL players don’t deserve the $765 million concussion settlement they recently received from the league.
The piece truly sets a new low for sports “journalism”, starting with Prisco’s suggestion that he’s planning to sue his high school and Pop Warner league for concussions he suffered during his playing day, and ending with the notion that any debilitating injuries suffered while playing the game are for the greater good, since without the NFL, he wouldn’t have a job.
Last night, on his new ESPN program, Keith Olbermann decided to tear Prisco a new one, going through his article piece by piece and providing counterpoints in the form of former NFL athletes who had lost their most basic mental capacities as a result of injuries sustained while playing the game. Clocking in at just under 8 minutes, it’s a fairly swift and brutal takedown by Olbermann (who is often smug and condescending in his own right), but one that’s definitely worth watching:
JaMarcus Russell is widely considered the biggest draft bust in NFL history.
His precipitous fall from #1 overall draft pick out of LSU in 2007 to an overweight, codine-abusing washout after just three seasons is well-documented (including by us, multiple times), but the one thing that’s missing from most stories about Russell is the human element. What, exactly, caused someone with the world in the palm of his hands to throw it all way for some fast food and sizzurp? And how could it have all fallen apart so quickly?
This ESPN special, entitled “Jamarcus Russell, Waking Up” provides the most insight yet into the mind of Russell, from his high school days to LSU and through his darkest days in Oakland. It tells about how Russell lost one of his closest uncles – and then another uncle – in the same year (2009), which helped to derail him mentally before his final season with the Raiders. And it shows you a man today who, after three years away from the game, is facing his failures head on and gearing up for a comeback.
Along the way, the feature transforms Russell from a punchline into a sympathetic figure, and one you want to root for. Whether or not Russell will make it back to the NFL remains to be seen (we wouldn’t exactly bet on it), but it’s a reminder that at the end of the day, these gladiators we root for on Sundays are real people too, facing real human struggles. And sometimes we all fall short of the glory, and deserve at least a chance at redemption.
VIDEO AFTER THE JUMP
The folks over at ESPN’s always-awesome 30 for 30 documentary series have delivered yet again, this time with their newest short, “The Irrelevant Giant”, documenting the short but memorable career of Giants Fullback/Special Teams maven John Tuggle.
As the final pick of the 1983 draft out of California, Tuggle was dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant”, and naturally wasn’t expected to make much of an impact in the NFL. But rookie head coach Bill Parcells saw something special in Tuggle, who not only earned a spot on the team, but was names Special Teams player of the year for the Giants in his first year.
“For all the players that I’ve ever coached in my lifetime, there have been a few – John being among them – that had some attributes that you couldn’t see,” recalled Parcells in the documentary. “You had to gain an understanding of this guy’s determination, his will, those kinds of things. Just walking around you don’t gain an appreciation for anything like that. It has to be gained under duress, during times of pain, during times where we all have to go to those dark places and respond.”
Sadly, Tuggle was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 1984, ultimately leading to his death in 1986. But even though his time was cut short, the impact Tuggle had on his teammates, fans – and particularly on hall-of-famer Parcells – can still be felt today.
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You had to see this coming.
On Thursday, Seahawks “All-Pro Stanford Graduate” cornerback Richard Sherman went on an epic takedown mission of ESPN’s First Take’s resident loudmouth, Skip Bayless. And it was as glorious as it was awkward to watch.
For years, Bayless has been goading players from the comfort of his First Take pulpit, and with the program becoming more and more about drawing guest athletes into name-calling contests for the sake of ratings, it was only a matter of time before a player decided he had heard enough. And Sherman, known for his on-the-field trash talk, appeared up for the challenge.
After Steven A. Smith opened the interview by asking Sherman how good he really thinks he is, Sherman seemed laser-focused on taking down Bayless, coming at him with a barrage of prepared remarks including “you’ve never accomplished anything”, and culminating with this rant:
“I’m the top of my field. I’m All-Pro. I’m one of the best 22 players in the NFL. You’re going to brush it off, but I don’t think you’re the best 22 anything. In sports. In media. In anything. I think you think more of yourself than you actually can prove. I’ll put it like this. In my 24 years of life, I’m better at life than you.”
Bayless initially attempted to take the criticism in stride and deflect the comparison to Darrelle Revis, but Sherman clearly wasn’t finished with Bayless yet, going on to call him an “ignorant, pompous, egotistical, cretin”, and saying “I’m going to crush you on here in front of everybody because I’m tired of hearing about it.”
It really is worth watching the full exchange below.
VIDEO AFTER THE JUMP
Panthers WR Steve Smith has a reputation for having a bit of a temper.
His fierce competitive nature has made him one of the best receivers in the NFL, but it’s also led to a history of fights — including several with his own teammates, with Smith sending members of his own team to the hospital on three separate occasions.
So ESPN’s E:60 decided to do a profile on Smith’s upbringing, in an attempt to figure out where that seething rage comes from. And when reporter Chris Connelly brought up Smith’s most infamous incident – his 2008 fight with Ken Lucas – he was pretty much putting himself in harm’s way. When Connelly dares to push Smith to talk about Lucas, you can actually see the rage flip get switched inside Smith’s head.
For an interminable 9 seconds, it looks like Smith might just rip Connolly’s head off, playing the scenario through in his head before ultimately deciding better of it.
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This is hilarious.
Last week, the NFL Network aired the latest in their ongoing series “A Football Life“, entitled “Cleveland ’95“, which looked back at that fateful final season before Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore. It also examines the first head coaching tenure of a young Bill Belicheck, whose effort toward re-building the franchise went for naught, as the very team was yanked out from under them before they really had a chance. It was a rough time for all Browns fans … one that many have yet to fully recover from, and certainly not something they were particularly eager to re-live.
Well our old friend Mike Polk (of “Factory of Sadness” fame) is here to put things into perspective for us, with this brilliant teaser for the sports broadcasting world’s next plan to kick Cleveland fans while they’re down — simply called, “F%&* Cleveland Night”. With “the sole purpose of depressing the s#!t out of America’s longest-suffering sports fans”, this joint-venture of the NFL Network and ESPN promises to bring back all of the worst nightmares from Cleveland sports history … all in glorious HD, and right into your living room.
That’s right. Among other punches to the gut, Browns fans will get “the Decision”, “the Drive”, “the Shot”, and “the Fumble”. All. Night. Long. Oh, and just to ratchet up the sadness factor, the lowlights will be set to the music of Adele.
VIDEO AFTER THE JUMP
Brett Favre won his first game as offensive coordinator for Oak Grove High School of Hattiesburg, Mississippi last night, unleashing his troops for a 64-6 stomping of Sumrall, their unsuspecting opponents.
As you can tell from the photo above, Favre seems to be settling into his role as a coach quite nicely, tearing into an official after a blown call like he’s been doing it for years. And based on the lopsided score, it seems that the 3-time NFL MVP’s offensive game plan for the Warriors did the trick too. With the win, Favre continued his personal streak of debut victories, having won his first starts with the Packers, Jets and Vikings as a player.
ESPN’s Ed Werder visited with Favre and spoke with the ole’ gunslinger about the challenges of his new position. To his credit, Favre genuinely seems to not want to be a distraction to his players, and is trying to be “just one of the guys”. And of course, Favre is bringing his trademark child-like enthusiasm for the game, which must be a blast for these high school kids to be around.
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As we resume with day three of the 2012 NFL Draft, it’s worth looking back on the humble beginnings of the event, to get some perspective on just how far things have come.
This awesome video of ESPN’s 1981 draft coverage does just that, showing us a loosely organized get together inside a hotel ballroom, struggling with technical difficulties … as opposed to the multi-million dollar Radio City Music Hall spectacle it is today.
Watch as Pete Rozelle kicks things off with the selection of George Rogers and Lawrence Taylor, while a young Dr. Z (SI’s Paul Zimmerman) provides the pre-Kiper-era draft analysis:
Watch Part 2 after the jump: