Asked how long he wants to continue in sports broadcasting, Charles Barkley told SI.com something shocking: He's almost done.
"I love my job," Barkley said. "I love the people I work with. And I'm going to try to do things to keep me engaged. But I have four years left on my current deal and to be honest with you, it's going to be a struggle for me to make it for the whole four years. I really don't know how much longer I'm going to do this. I need something more, or something else to do to be honest with you."
In an extended interview with SI.com, Barkley was contemplative about his future as a broadcaster. The TNT NBA analyst has uttered similar things before -- including plenty of talk about an Alabama gubernatorial run -- but he offered extended remarks about needing a new challenge. "I only thought I would do this for three or four years but now I have been doing it for 13 years," Barkley said. "When I got to my fifth year of broadcasting I was like 'OK, I'll do this a couple of more years.' But now I'm like, 'Dude, you have been doing this for 13 years and if I make it to the end of the contract it will be 17 years.' Seventeen years is a long time. It's a lifetime in broadcasting. I personally have to figure out the next challenge for me."
Last year Barkley told his Turner bosses that he needed something to re-engage him. He asked to do more games onsite as an analyst and last January Turner assigned Barkley to the Heat-Hawks game in Atlanta with Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller. Barkley loved it. "When I did the game with Kevin and Reggie I had a blast," Barkley said. "And judging by the feedback we got, I think the fans liked it too. I am excited to do that this year."
Barkley is currently scheduled to call two games as a game analyst in the first half of the season. He'll be in Miami for the Spurs at Heat (Nov. 29, 8 p.m. ET) and New York for Lakers at Knicks (Dec. 13, 8 p.m. ET).
Asked for something in broadcasting he'd like to do before he moves on to another profession, Barkley said he wants to call a college basketball game with ESPN's Dick Vitale. He even went so far as to tell his bosses at Turner about his wish. What was their response? "They kind of just blew me off a little bit," Barkley said. "But I don't get my ego caught up with that. Dick does a great job with college basketball and we do a great job with the NBA. I just think it would be fun for Dick and I to do a game together."
For his part, ESPN's Vitale said he'd be up for it. "Let's get it done with Dan Shulman at the controls," Vitale said. "Love the Round Mound of Rebound."
The Noise Report
(SI.com examines some of the more notable sports media stories of the weekend)
1. Outside The Lines remains ESPN at its very best, and the program's investigation on a massive gambling operation targeting youth football games in South Florida is likely to win a public service journalism award. OTL first reported on the story in May 2011 and followed up this week after Broward (Fla.) Sheriff's deputies arrested nine youth football coaches and associates on felony bookmaking charges. The network's cameras were granted exclusive access for the arrests, producing compelling and important television.
"We had an opportunity to expose illegal activity going on around youth football, in plain view of children, and that could potentially be harmful to the development and future of these children," said producer Greg Amante, a member of ESPN's Enterprise Unit. "As we uncovered more and more information during our reporting, what was perhaps most disturbing was the actual paying of these kids to perform. We knew there was gambling going on -- we could often see it out in the open. But seeing it and documenting it on camera can be two different challenges. We had to position ourselves in the exact location where the betting was to take place, be there at just the right moment and make sure our hidden cameras were close enough and in the right position to document it."
Amante said the reporting fell under ESPN coordinating producer Dwayne Bray's investigative unit at ESPN. OTL investigative reporter Paula Lavigne, one of ESPN's best journalists, fronted the piece. She told SI.com that sourcing was a challenge. "People were afraid to talk out of fear of retailiation," Lavigne said. "We worked hard to find people, gain their trust and get information."
Full marks for all. Superb work.
2. The CBS broadcast of Alabama-LSU drew a 7.0 overnight household rating, the highest overnight rating for a college football game in 2012. (The previous high was a 5.9 for ABC's coverage of Notre Dame-Oklahoma on Oct. 27.) When the final numbers come out later this week, the viewership will be well over 10 million, but the game was significantly down from last year's Alabama-LSU meeting. That game drew an overnight rating of 11.9 and ultimately ranked as the most-watched regular-season college football game on CBS in 22 years.
a. ESPN owned the conversation around Alabama-LSU conversation thanks to its College GameDay crew broadcasting on Saturday from Baton Rouge, as well as a flotilla of ESPN writers and reporters tweeting from the scene all day. One wonders why CBS ceded this ground when they owned the broadcast rights to the game. The network had little social media presence around the game, and equally bad was CBS's college football pregame show, an invisible entity that offered a three minute lead-in before heading to game coverage. You can't be a studio player with zero presence and zero atmosphere. There's an easy solution: CBS should send its studio team (the regulars are Tim Brando, Spencer Tillman and Tony Barnhart) to the site of a mega regular-season game and use the CBS Sports Network to drum up chatter in the days and hours leading up to it.
b. What did CBS do well on Saturday night? It gave viewers great pictures on Alabama's final touchdown, starting with shots of Alabama sophomore defensive back Blake Sims and freshman Danny Woodson Jr. taunting the LSU crowd to LSU junior center Ben Domingue and senior defensive end Lavar Edwards and the crowd looking stunned. Best of all, CBS stayed with Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron during the postgame scene on the field, and got a money shot of the quarterback sprinting to the stands to hug family and friends. Even with an overly chatty Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson, it was terrific stuff.
c. Dan Hicks was sensational as a fill-in for Tom Hammond (he was at the Breeders Cup) on NBC's call of the Notre Dame-Pitt thriller. The game earned a 4.3 overnight rating, which was NBC's highest-rated Notre Dame game of the season and NBC's best overnight rating for an Irish game since Sept. 11, 2010 when Michigan beat Notre Dame 28-24 on Denard Robinson's fourth quarter two-yard run.
3. CBS Radio host Jim Rome has been in the horse racing game for a number of years -- his stable runs under the name Jungle Racing LLC -- but he never experienced a day like he had on Saturday. The four-year-old filly Mizdirection -- co-owned by Rome -- hit the wire first in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita Park. "It was spectacular and surreal," Rome told SI.com on Sunday. "It really was thrilling." Here's the radio host with his prized filly.
4. Knucklehead of the week: Bobby Hebert. The popular Louisiana sports-talk host, a genial guy, was kicked out of the LSU press box on Saturday night after repeatedly violating working press box decorum and cheering for the Tigers. Here's the story from Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde.
5. Stan Van Gundy was always good television as an NBA coach, which makes his jump into broadcasting worth watching. Last week, NBC Sports announced Van Gundy will make his broadcasting debut on Nov. 9 for NBC Sports Network's coverage of the Georgetown-Florida men's basketball game on the USS Battan, docked in Jacksonville. The former Magic coach will also be a regular contributor to NBC Sports Radio. He'll debut as a call-in guest, and beginning in 2013, Van Gundy will serve as a guest host every Friday for one of NBC Sports Radio's nationally-distributed shows.
The hire comes after Jeff Van Gundy told USA Today that Stan had a basic agreement to become an ESPN/ABC analyst before an entity from the outside (both Jeff and Stan intimated it was the NBA putting pressure on ESPN) put the kibosh on the deal. You can read about the drama here and here.
On Friday SI.com spoke with Van Gundy about his foray into broadcasting:
SI.com: How receptive would you be to coaching again this season?
Van Gundy: I am not going to be coaching this season even if something came up. It's not anything I would look at. I have a family situation -- I have a kid in college, high school and one in the eighth grade -- so I am not looking to pick up and move them. What I am looking to do is see if I can be good at this and someone wants me to continue to do this. If I like it, this is something hopefully I can do long term.
SI.com: Why did you want to get into broadcasting?
Van Gundy: I think I bring a different perspective. I've coached for 30 years at both the college and NBA levels and I enjoy when I listen to coaches in other sports whether its Jon Gruden or Terry Francona. I feel like I learn something from them and I think I can bring the same thing.
SI.com: A couple of weeks have passed since ESPN hired Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons for its pregame show, a show most believed you'd be working on. You were very vocal in your opinion about that situation. How do you feel ESPN behaved regarding its negotiations with you?
Van Gundy: Well, look, now the main thing I've done is put it behind me. I'm really excited about the venture with NBC. What happened at the time, people asked about the situation and I explained what happened. I don't have any lingering feelings. I'm excited with what we have in front of us with the NBC game. It will be the first time I have had a chance to broadcast a game and to be a small part of a game on an aircraft carrier with all the service personnel is really exciting. That's what I'm focused on. You do like you do in everything if you want to be successful: You move on.
SI.com: Do you think you could work for ESPN in the future if the opportunity presented itself?
Van Gundy: I'm focused on working for NBC right now and very thankful for the opportunity that they have given me. That's were my focus is.
SI.com: How familiar are you with the college game?
Van Gundy: Here's what I bring: I know the game of basketball from a coaching standpoint and an X's and O's standpoint. I can't talk about who the Top 100 recruits in the nation were last year. I'm not going to bring that. Regarding Florida I've spoken with Billy Donovan every year, and I'll watch them practice. And I followed Georgetown because Patrick Ewing was on my staff and he demanded it.
SI.com: You've said your relationship with Dwight Howard is good these days, correct?
Van Gundy: Yeah, it is. We've been in touch throughout the offseason and throughout his rehab. I've kept tabs on what has been going on with him. I've said from my standpoint that my thoughts of him are all good. I don't know how many games we won here in five years but it was a lot and he was a huge factor in that thing. He did a lot for me and he was an easy guy to coach, one of the smartest players I have ever coached. He was coachable and practiced every single day. We had our differences and they became public. Had we been left to handle them on our own, I think things would have been a lot of different.
SI.com: How will Dwight work out in Los Angeles and specifically, how will he get along with Lakers coach Mike Brown?
Van Gundy: I think he'll work out great. There is already a bit of panic out there, but he will work out great and I think the pieces fit well. Dwight is not a hard guy to coach. He's smart, he will execute whatever it is you want him to do. I don't see any problems with he and Mike at all.
SI.com: If you had to coach him again, there would be no issue?
Van Gundy: Not from my standpoint. Heck, if I were ever anywhere again and he were available, I'd be knocking down the door of my general manager to do anything to get him.
6. Newark Star-Ledger reporter Amy Ellis Nutt, a Pulitzer-Prize winner and former Sports Illustrated writer, wrote a harrowing account of how super-storm Sandy impacted the New Jersey towns of Seaside Heights and Cape May. It's narrative journalism at the highest level and worth your time. Also terrific is this piece from The Classical's David Roth, on the canceling of the New York City Marathon.
7. Nice job by CBS broadcaster Kevin Harlan with a quick apology to America after referee Tony Corrente dropped a "God Dammit" on viewers during the Colts-Dolphins game. "We'd like to apologize for that," Harlan said. "He didn't know his microphone was on." Also, props to Fox Sports rules analyst Mike Pereira for weighing in immediately on the potential fines for Corrente.
a. CBS's airing of the postgame speech from Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who is battling leukemia, was one of the weekend's best television moments.
b. Did Terry Bradshaw really say Reggie Bush was chasing "that bucket of chicken?" TMZ says it was an inside joke gone awry.
c. It's a total subjective call, of course, but on Sunday CBS NFL analyst Boomer Esiason called Peyton Manning the "smartest player that's ever stepped on the field."
d. Despite having to work with Sterling Sharpe, NFL Network's LaDainian Tomlinson continues to come on strong on the network's Sunday NFL AM show. Here's Tomlinson on the Chargers brain trust of head coach Norv Turner and general manager AJ Smith.
e. Looking for an outside-the-box awards pick: Fox's Howie Long chose Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington as his midseason NFL Defensive MVP.
f. The NFL Network's A Football Life series has produced excellent television. On Wednesday they'll examine Jimmy Johnson, the current Fox Sports NFL analyst and former Dallas Cowboys coach. The program airs at 8 p.m. ET
8. The Lakers are going to be a massive draw this season based on early ratings. NBA TV's telecast of the Lakers-Trail Blazers last Wednesday generated an average of 868,000 total viewers, the network's most-viewed telecast ever. The prior mark was the premiere of the Dream Team documentary (847,000 total viewers).
a. TNT's Shaquille O'Neal says the Thunder made a mistake by trading James Harden to the Rockets: "[The Thunder] all grew up together, they learned together and they played well together," said Shaq. "Even though James Harden didn't play well in the Finals, I think they made a mistake because he did a lot of the little things. He gets to the hole and he makes big shots ... I don't know if Kevin Martin has that ability."
b. ESPN continues to hire ex-coaches and players at an epic rate. Last week the network announced former coach Flip Saunders and longtime NBA player Antonio Davis had signed as NBA studio analysts. Both will appear on SportsCenter, NBA Coast to Coast and NBA Tonight throughout the season.
9. I often hear from television publicists when I offer less-than-sunshine-and-lollipop commentary about their on-air talent. On Sunday ESPN's Mike Lupica dropped the following in his column in the New York Daily News: "There is no more repellent character in Cable America than Michelle Malkin. Which in an Ann Coulter world, is saying a mouthful."
ESPN has long insisted that Lupica's political commentary for the Daily News is independent of Lupica's daily ESPN radio show and Sports Reporters appearances. I'd buy that if other ESPN-ers were allowed to offer political opinions in different forums. (And I support them doing so.) But this leads me to a more interesting political note.
Chris Berman is scheduled to conduct interviews on Monday night with President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney as part of ESPN's Monday Night Football. That's a poor choice in my opinion given the network has at least 100 staffers better suited for the role. Will Berman ask relevant questions? Of course he will. A posse of smart and journalistically sound people led by ESPN senior vice president and director of news Vince Doria will aid Berman with tangible queries. Has Berman done this before? He has, and so what. JaMarcus Russell has experience as an NFL quarterback but I wouldn't want him starting next week if I owned a team.
ESPN has plenty of people on staff -- Bob Ley, Jeremy Schaap, Kelly Naqi, T.J. Quinn, Pedro Gomez, Jeannine Edwards, Hannah Storm, Sal Paolantonio, Tom Rinaldi, Lisa Salters, Doris Burke, Rachel Nichols, Ed Werder, Adam Schefter, Trey Wingo, Don Van Natta, Holly Rowe, Michael Wilbon, Mark Fainaru-Wada, Paula Lavigne, Kevin Blackistone, Andy Katz, Steve Levy, Tim Kurkjian, Chris Mortensen, Chris McKendry, Buster Olney, Tony Kornheiser, Colleen Dominguez, Mike Greenberg, J.A. Adande, John Clayton, Len Elmore, Wright Thompson, and Rick Reilly, to name a few -- who have far more journalistic bona fides than Berman, still solid as a host on Sunday NFL Countdown but better suited at soft-balling Roger Goodell and NFL owners with ice cream sundaes when it comes to serious interviewing.
10. Fox's coverage of the Word Series drew a 7.6 household rating and 12.7 million viewers, the lowest-rated and viewed World Series on record. The Giants' four-game sweep was also a 23 percent drop in viewers (16.6 million) from last year's Cardinals-Rangers series, which went seven games. Naturally, Fox Sports executives tried to look at the bright side. "It's important for us to remain focused on the Series relative to today's competitive environment rather than bygone years," said Michael Mulvihill, senior vice president of programming and research for Fox Sports Media Group, in a statement. "The World Series remains a powerful force in prime time and we're fortunate to have the Fall Classic for at least nine more years to look forward to."
a. ESPN's College GameDay will originate from the flight deck of the USS San Diego next Saturday as part of a five-day initiative to honor veterans and troops.
b. In case you missed, here's the SI.com story on NBC gaining the rights to the EPL anda great piece from Philly.com's Jonathan Tannewald on NBC's soccer plans with the EPL.
c. The Dan Patrick Show (full disclosure: some members of the show work for Sports Illustrated, including the host and Andrew Perloff) has been acquired by the NBC Sports Network from DirectTV. The show will air daily at 9:00 a.m. ET. I've written this before but the show's producers and talent procurers (Seton O'Connor, Todd Fritz and Paul Pabst) are among the best in the business.
d. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was profiled by 60 Minutes. Whatever you do, don't tell Rogers he looks smaller in person.
e. ESPN Radio's Jim Durham was a classy play by play announcer alongside Dr. Jack Ramsay. Durham passed over the weekend at age 65. He'll be missed.