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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