Costas, Barkley, NBC, ESPN and the Real Winners & Losers of the Sports Emmys
The 34th Annual Sports Emmy Awards were held on Tuesday night in New York City, honoring the best and brightest in sports for a year that ended more than five months ago.
Yes, the nature of grandiose awards shows makes it difficult to remember the reasons why someone won an award in May, 2013, for an event that was held in January, 2012, but darn it if there is a trophy to be given out for something, who cares how long it takes between the event and the plaudit.
As long ago as 2012 seems in the sports world, it should come as little surprise that 23 of the 51 awards were given to NBC Sports, with 10 going specifically to NBC.
2012 was, after all, an Olympic year.
Yes, the network that was universally maligned for choosing to hold live sports hostage in an effort to package the biggest and most notable events for a prime-time audience was rewarded with 23 sports Emmys across all platforms, including the award for—you're going to love this—Outstanding Live Event Turnaround for the Games of the XXX Olympiad.
You cannot make this stuff up.
Admittedly, there were hours and hours of live Olympic coverage, most of which were wonderfully produced by NBC, but the Emmy voters—full disclosure: I am not one, but would respect the honor of being one—had a responsibility to stand against NBC's archaic model of tape delaying the best events to cut and package into a made-for-television production.
Instead, NBC got a trophy for it.
Before we look at some of the other notable winners and losers from the network standpoint, it's fun to see who won the big individual awards at the event. In other words, did Bob Costas win again?
Outstanding studio host
Yes. Bob Costas won again.
Costas took home the Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality-Studio Host for, by my count, the 15th time since 1993. He beat out James Brown of CBS/Showtime, Rich Eisen of NFL Network, Ernie Johnson of TNT/NBA TV and Dan Patrick of NBC/NBCSN. How Bob Ley was not nominated for his work on Outside the Lines and his soccer coverage in 2012 is, frankly, ridiculous.
Back to Costas for a moment. I wish I could poll every Emmy voter to get a sense of the motivation to select him every year. It's not that Costas isn't a fantastic studio host—he has proven over an illustrious career that he is—it's more that in his current role on television, he is hardly a traditional studio host.
A studio host is charged with directing traffic of a live television event, balancing the egos and personalities of the studio analysts and conducting interviews with athletes and special guests both in studio and via satellite who, let's face it, aren't always the most seasoned television people.
During the Olympics, Costas had to do some of that, but he had the ability to direct traffic on a show where most of the television gridlock was on tape.
Costas' work on NBC Sunday Night Football is more of an analyst than a host—Costas is most remembered in 2012 for his moralizing of gun control after the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide in December—and his work, while excellent for the most part, is hardly the same job the others in his category have to handle.
Who should have won the Emmy for best studio host?
Maybe the voters are afraid of Costas? Maybe they are so used to him winning that they check his name and move on without properly considering the work of the other candidates?
Maybe people still think he's the best?
I'd give my vote to Ernie Johnson, and not because we work for the same company now. Johnson, simply put, is the best studio host in sports, for his work hosting college and professional basketball and Major League Baseball.
I suggest this every year, but why not just name the award after Costas at this point so they can give it to someone else? I doubt he would have a problem with that.
It's hard to argue with the Emmy voters on the two analyst awards, giving the in-game analyst award to Cris Collinsworth and studio analyst to Charles Barkley.
What was more incredible to see was who Barkley and Collinsworth were up against.
Barkley was in his category with Tony Dungy, Boomer Esiason, Harold Reynolds, Bill Ripken and Kurt Warner. Now, I've tried over the years to curtail my studio show viewing because most of it has devolved into mindless drivel and comedy bits by schlocky impersonators. Having said that, I am shocked that no studio analyst from Fox or ESPN was even nominated for this award. Shocked.
It's almost more surprising to see who Collinsworth was in his category against, a list that included Ato Boldon for his work during the track and field events at the Olympics, Jon Gruden for Monday Night Football, Jim Kaat for his work on MLB Network and Mike Mayock for his time split between NFL Network and NBC.
Certainly that list has some worthy candidates, but it's frankly ridiculous that none of the nominees work college football or basketball events and none of them work any basketball at all. Who did Jeff Van Gundy tick off last year? Who did Bill Raftery or Jay Bilas anger?
No women? No golf? For sideline reporter?
The Emmy for Outstanding Sports Reporter was a tie…between Pierre McGuire of NBC and Tom Verducci of MLB Network/TBS. Now, they don't call the award best "sideline" reporter, but that's ostensibly what it is. There's no way the Emmys should have an award called best reporter and not include actual reporters who report non in-game news like Ken Rosenthal, Adam Schefter and the like.
This, however it's named, is a sideline reporter award, and there were three women nominated in the category and the trophy went to…both of the men?
I don't want to get all conspiratorial here, but the fact that both these men were even nominated says more about the award than the two of them winning it together.
How in the world this award does not go to a golf reporter every single year is a mystery.
Strap a satellite pack to your back for six or seven hours and walk around Augusta National or stand in the wind at St. Andrews on a blustery day and then try to tell me a guy who sits between the boards in a hockey game and listens in to all the bench chatter is the best sports reporter on TV.
Little respect for ESPN
The complete and utter lack of respect by the Emmy voters for EPSN is palpable, and hilarious, given the Worldwide Leader in Sports has at least five 24-hour networks under its vast umbrella.
Of the 51 awards given out, ESPN won just five, shut out in every major category and not even nominated for some of the biggest awards.
Two of ESPN's five awards came for journalism, with E:60 and Outside the Lines winning trophies, the second of which was for camera work. Sports Science won the award for New Approaches in Sports Programming for short format and ESPN3D—ostensibly abandoned this year after the 3D craze failed to catch on in America—won for Outstanding Technical Team Remote for the Winter X Games 2012.
The final ESPN trophy came for its "It's Not Crazy, It's Sports" ad campaign, meaning that trophy will be in the offices of Wieden+Kennedy, not the big office in Bristol.
Five trophies. One for journalism. Three for technical merit. One for advertising.
What's more amazing is that ESPN covers more actual live sports than all the other networks combined and they were shut out on all the major awards this year.
ESPN was nominated for Outstanding Live Sports Series for Monday Night Football, but it lost to Sunday Night Football. ESPN's 30 for 30 series lost out to Real Sports for Outstanding Edited Series, and two of its documentaries lost to HBO's Namath in that category.
ESPN's College Gameday was nominated for best Weekly Studio Show but lost to Inside the NFL on Showtime. NFL Live and PTI were nominated for best Daily Studio Show but both lost to MLB Tonight on MLB Network.
While Mike Breen was nominated for outstanding play-by-play announcer, no specific ESPN talent made the list (Breen was listed as ABC for his NBA basketball coverage). Al Michaels took home that trophy for the fifth time in his career. The other nominees in that category were Mike Emrick of NBC and Jim Nantz of CBS. What more could Mike Tirico or Dan Shulman possibly do to get considered, let alone win? The fact that Ian Darke wasn't nominated after his work in 2012 is an absolute embarrassment for the Emmy voters.
As stated above, Gruden was the only in-game analyst nominated for ESPN in any sport, and despite employing more in-studio analysts than every other network combined, not one was nominated for that Emmy this year.
A message sent
Clearly the Emmy panel members feel that quantity does not equal quality. Or they just love swimming and gymnastics on tape delay and don't care about college sports and soccer.
I suppose which way you see that depends on which network you work for today.
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