A heck of a phone call for ESPN to miss

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 6, 2008 - 6:51 PM

Chris Mortensen was on the air when Packers quarterback Brett Favre called to provide reasons behind his decision to retire.

As ESPN replayed the message Brett Favre left for Chris Mortensen after news of the quarterback's retirement broke Tuesday morning, one thought came to mind.

How on earth did the ESPN reporter miss that call? These were the only public comments from the Packers' star Tuesday, and Mortensen had to get them off the voice mail on his cell phone.

Bill Hofheimer, a member of ESPN's communications department, explained that Mortensen was unable to answer because he was on ESPN's "First Take" discussing the Favre situation.

"Brett left him a three-minute voice mail," Hofheimer said. "He was clear that what he was saying could be used for attribution. Brett wanted to get it out there in terms of the reasons why he was retiring. People were talking about the implications of [the Packers not pursuing receiver Randy] Moss, and he wanted to be clear about why he was retiring."

Mortensen wasn't the only national reporter who missed Favre's call. Peter King of Sports Illustrated also found he had a voice mail from the future Hall of Fame quarterback. But King didn't fail to pick up because he was on television or radio ... he was in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on a seven-day USO trip with NFL players.

Don't bet on it

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he'd be "shocked" if Favre ended up in the television booth analyzing NFL games but added "he'd be great at it." It's not certain the latter part of McCarthy's statement would be true.

Just because an athlete is a good quote doesn't mean he will make a smooth transition into the media world. This has been proven time and time again. (On the flip side, former Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman was a boring quote in his playing days but is now a top-notch analyst.)

In Favre's case he often provided great quotes but had a tendency to ramble on and in doing so provided a great nugget or two. Analysts, at least good ones, are able to keep it succinct. It's highly doubtful Favre would be able to do so.

Political pressure

Comcast and the Big Ten Network continue to negotiate, but it's unclear if the sides are close to reaching a deal. Rep. Sheldon Johnson, DFL-St. Paul, recently introduced a bill that would lead to binding arbitration if Comcast and the BTN can't settle.

Comcast and BTN are not interested in seeing government get involved in what they consider a private business matter, but Johnson clearly wants results and said the bill could move forward next session if something doesn't get done.

"This was introduced by me as kind of a wake-up call to Comcast and the Big Ten that they need to get their act together and get this issue solved with respect to Gophers and Big Ten programming," Johnson said. "I don't see the bill necessarily passing this year, but we're going to hold it in committee as a way to send a signal that the expectation is that they are to go about their business and ensure citizens have an opportunity to watch our university teams."

With the Big Ten basketball season winding down -- the network will carry nine games from the women's conference tournament and three from the men's -- Comcast might not have much incentive to strike a deal until next football season.

Different approach

KFAN midday talkers Paul Allen and Jeff Dubay will take their act to the television airwaves Saturday.

FSN North is planning to use the pair to host its doubleheader coverage of the Gophers men's hockey game against Minnesota Duluth and the Timberwolves-Clippers matchup. Allen and Dubay will be on from Mariucci Arena at 6 p.m., an hour before the Gophers' faceoff, and eventually will end up back at the FSN studios for the remainder of the night.

Jeff Byle, executive producer at FSN North, promises this won't be a "typical pregame" and said Telly Hughes will be at the NBA City restaurant in Target Center throughout the evening to interact with patrons.

"What we're going to do is explore a little different way of presenting the evening than we have in the past," said Byle, adding there is "no commitment" to pair Allen and Dubay on FSN beyond Saturday.

Judd Zulgad • jzulgad@startribune.com

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    Thursday March 6, 2008

    A sampling of Minneapolis and St. Paul Nielsen ratings for March 1-2:

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New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Minnesota 94 FINAL
Philadelphia 103
Houston 93 FINAL
Boston 87
Portland 99 FINAL
Atlanta 105
Sacramento 90 FINAL
Cleveland 101
Toronto 127 FINAL
Brooklyn 122
Dallas 93 FINAL
Miami 72
LA Clippers 103 FINAL
New Orleans 108
Golden State 100 FINAL
Utah 110
Chicago 93 FINAL
Phoenix 99
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL(SO)
Carolina 2
Nashville 0 FINAL
Colorado 3
Buffalo 2 FINAL
Vancouver 5
Chicago 4 FINAL
Anaheim 1
Harvard 75 FINAL
Princeton 72
Quinnipiac 57 FINAL
Canisius 63
Brown 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Siena 79 FINAL
Manhattan 87
Marist 65 FINAL
Niagara 61
Dartmouth 51 FINAL
Penn 58
Oregon 68 FINAL
Arizona State 67
Yale 63 FINAL
Columbia 59
Monmouth 60 FINAL
Fairfield 59
IUPUI 59 FINAL
Western Ill 63
Oregon State 34 FINAL
Arizona 57
Kent State 55 FINAL
Buffalo 80
Canisius 75 FINAL
Monmouth 58
Butler 67 FINAL
Providence 59
Cornell 65 FINAL
Brown 52
Columbia 47 FINAL
Yale 55
Coll of Charleston 47 FINAL
Drexel 64
Penn 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 39
Elon 60 FINAL
James Madison 89
(19) Princeton 96 FINAL
Harvard 46
(9) Florida State 82 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Siena 62
Richmond 54 FINAL
Rhode Island 50
Loyola-Chicago 58 FINAL
Southern Ill 64
Georgetown 52 FINAL
DePaul 93
Villanova 75 FINAL
Marquette 59
Wichita State 70 FINAL
Northern Iowa 51
Xavier 65 FINAL
Creighton 74
Bradley 58 FINAL
Illinois State 55
Missouri State 89 FINAL
Drake 94
Arizona 48 FINAL
Utah 62
(11) Arizona State 68 FINAL
Colorado 60

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