Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The NFL is back from nowhere

Hey, did you hear, the NFL lockout is over. Hallelujah, football is back! Now, instead of meaningless updates every 10 minutes on the lockout we can get almost as many meaningless updates on player signings. Someone at ESPN must be en route to Brett Favre’s farm as we speak.

My question is this: Where has it been? Were any games missed? Did anyone lose any money—or, in fact did the teams save money by not holding those fabulous OTA’s we’ve all come to know and love?

Here’s the real question: Did any of you out there REALLY think a deal wouldn’t get done before people starting to actually lose money?

Of course not. The NFL isn’t like The National Hockey League where losing an entire season probably saved the owners money or even like the basketball where losing half-a-season would be, at worst, a break-even proposition for many NBA owners. The NFL is unique in American sports because EVERYONE is getting rich.

Understand this: The lockout occurred not because the owners were losing money or even because they weren’t making money. It occurred because they decided they weren’t making ENOUGH money. They wanted to make MORE money. So, they opted out of their contract and, as soon as The Super Bowl was over and all the checks for last season from the TV networks had cleared, they locked the players out.

There is a tendency when these so-called ‘work-stoppages,’—or in this case a non-work-stoppage—occur for a lot of fans to moan about greedy, millionaire players. For some reason, at least in the past, no one every blames the greedy, billionaire owners. Many people don’t even understand the difference between a lockout and a strike.

Some of the time the blame should be split 50-50. Other times it might be 75-25. In the case of this lockout it was 100-0, the owners having the 100. The good news is, for perhaps the first time in history, a lot of people understood that was the case. Here’s the simplest way to explain this lockout: If the owners had walked into a meeting room at any point and said, ‘look, we’ll just keep the financial terms that were in the last deal in place,’ there never would have been a problem. The players would have said, ‘done,’ and then they would have figured out all the details. It might have taken a little while to work out the rookie salary cap and things like paying retired players and drug-testing rules and new guidelines on practice time and time in pads—but that’s all stuff that you just go into a room and hammer out.

The holdup issue—as it always is—was the money. The owners wanted more and they wanted to give the players less. In a major upset, the players weren’t thrilled with that idea.

Here’s another thing you should understand: If Judge David Doty hadn’t ruled early on that the owners could NOT collect their TV money (through insurance) if there was no season, this might have dragged on for a lot longer. Only when it occurred to the owners that they were going to start losing real money did a deal get done—just in time to open training camps and play those god-awful exhibition games.

The players wanted a deal too. In fact, you can make the case that they NEEDED a deal more than the owners. More athletes than you can imagine live from check-to-check and there is only a small window during which football players can make big money. Like the owners though, they make their money during the season—not during the offseason. Missing a bunch of OTA’s was hardly a big deal.

Which is why it was entirely predictable from day one of this whole thing that it was going to end the way it did and, more important, end WHEN it did.

What’s funny now is to hear all the speculation about how the missed offseason will affect the season. The so-called experts on TV and sportstalk radio are going on about how teams with new coaches have no chance this season because they couldn’t put in their offensive and defensive schemes and because of the loss of ‘reps.’

Oh please. Do you know why the teams with new coaches will be bad this season? Because they were bad last season. That’s why they have new coaches. Bill Belichick had all the offseason OTA’s you could possibly want prior to his first season in New England. The Patriots went 5-11. Then, after two drafts, after finding Tom Brady in the sixth round, after making a few smart free agent signings, the Patriots became world-beaters. Trust me it wasn’t the OTA’s that made the difference.

You know how long it takes for players to learn schemes? (Another of my favorite football terms). About two days. Why do you think rookies who hold out show up in camp on Wednesday and play that weekend? Reps? Sure, they help but what helps more is, you know, talent. I heard one guy going on about how the Carolina Panthers were now going to have to play Jimmy Clausen at quarterback all season because Cam Newton didn’t have a chance to learn the offense during the lockout. Write this down: Unless Clausen has improved about 1,000 percent since last season Newton will start as soon as game three, no later than game five.

And if the Panthers go 1-15 so what? Peyton Manning and Troy Aikman were1-15 as rookie starters (with OTA’s or, as they were called back then, ‘mini-camps,’) and their careers turned out okay. Kyle Boller was 5-4 as a rookie starter when he got hurt in 2003. He was 9-7 a year later. Last I looked he isn’t going to the Hall of Fame anytime soon.

The point is this: Football coaches—and everyone else around them—really want you to believe this is rocket science. Do you know why OTA’s exist? For the reps? No. They exist to market teams during the offseason. “Hey, we were awful last season but you should see how we’re looking in OTA’s! Our quarterback is really establishing a rapport with his receivers! Renew your season tickets RIGHT NOW!”

The media falls for this the same way almost everyone fell for Tiger Woods, wife, kids and a dog act for years (there’s a nice Tiger shot for you Tiger lovers out there). I remember when Joe Gibbs came back to the Redskins in 2004 and one local columnist on the first day of mini-camp wrote about the fact that the first PLAY in mini-camp scrimmage was absolute proof of why Gibbs would take the Redskins back to the Super Bowl.


You know who got hurt by the lack of an off-season? The undrafted free agents who didn’t get a chance to show teams they could play in OTA’s or rookie mini-camps. Now they’ll only have a few days in training camp to make an impression.

The fans didn’t get hurt because they didn’t miss anything that mattered. In fact, they would have been better off if this had gone on another couple weeks so that season ticket holders wouldn’t have been forced to pay extra for exhibition football.

Now that training camps are opening and free agents are being signed there will be complete football-mania again. I just heard a local radio announcer here breathlessly report that the Redskins have signed the immortal Kellen Clemens.

Spare me. I’m going to watch baseball tonight. I’ll check back in on September 8th.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tiger Woods and the leveraging of ‘access’; Blog comment helps change upcoming book title

It was 42 years ago today that man landed on the moon. I am—for both better and worse—old enough to remember the day vividly. I remember Walter Cronkite wiping his brow and saying, ‘man on the moon,’ in disbelief and I remember my father saying we would tell our children and grandchildren about this someday. I’ve told my kids about it on a number of occasions. They look at me and say something like, ‘okay fine, can you leave us alone now so we can go back online.’

C’est la vie.

Of course three months after Neill Armstrong took those historic first steps, the Mets won the World Series. Now THAT was impressive. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Tom Seaver, Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee—they are all historic figures to me.

Where have you gone Rod Gasper, I turn my lonely eyes to you.

Okay, so that was a bunch of meaningless drivel to start the day but the moon landing and the Mets first World Series title (of two as all Mets fans know) remain seminal events in my life.

So was covering my first British Open—which was at Royal St. George’s in 1985. Look, no one is ever going to mistake the place for St. Andrews or Muirfield but if you didn’t enjoy Darren Clarke’s victory on Sunday then you probably shouldn’t be wasting your time watching golf.

If you’re reading this you no doubt know Clarke’s backstory and the genuine tragedy he’s dealt with. Plus, he’s just a decent guy, someone who is about as close to normal as the multi-millionaires who play the game at its highest levels can be. I know all the Tiger lovers don’t want to hear this but I think golf is heading into an era that will truly be fun.

You can love Tiger Woods as much as you want or you can be like me and not like him but recognize his brilliance. Either way, it is impossible to attach the word fun to his 15 years of dominance. Yes, you can say it was FUN to watch him pull off impossible shots but there certainly wasn’t any fun in the man. He loved to win, he loved to make money but the only thing that was fun to him was winning trophies and cashing checks. It was part of his greatness.

The newer stars aren’t going to be as good as Woods was at his best. Not even close. There’s only one player in history who belongs in the same sentence with Woods and that’s Jack Nicklaus.

That said, Woods held his sport hostage—and to some degree still does—for 15 years. It wasn’t that he won so much it was that everything had to be HIS way. Remember those bogus night matches he played in as part of his Disney contract a few years ago? Technically, those events were run by The PGA Tour. When Steve Williams showed up wearing shorts one year—this was before caddies were allowed to wear shorts on tour—a tour official told Woods that Williams had to put on long pants.

Woods told him in no uncertain terms that not only would Williams wear shorts but if Tim Finchem didn’t like it he might just go play in Europe the following year.

Forget the fact that the Tour should have allowed caddies to wear shorts years ago—heck, they should let players wear shorts if they want to—or that Woods was right to stand up for his caddie in that situation. The point is this: The instant Woods threatened to go to Europe, even in a brief moment of anger, the Tour backed down faster than I can eat an order of McDonald’s french fries.

Woods bullied the media constantly. Some TV announcers were allowed to interview him, others were not. At different times he boycotted Peter Kostis and Jimmy Roberts. Their networks dutifully sent someone else to talk to Woods. People were constantly telling me that they let Woods dictate terms of interviews or backed off when his people got angry about something because, ‘we don’t want to lose our access to him.’

WHAT ACCESS? To get him to stop long enough to say nothing? Seriously, think about this for a second: When was the last time Tiger Woods said something that was really interesting. I’m not talking about announcing he’s playing or not playing a tournament or admitting he cheated on his wife—which everyone knew by the time he talked about it anyway. I’m talking about saying something that gave you some insight into him, into his game, into his view of the world.

Never happened. Not because he wasn’t capable, he’s more than capable but because Tiger Woods never gives away anything. That’s the way his father taught him and he learned his lessons well.

Anyway, this isn’t meant to be another anti-Tiger diatribe. I’m really criticizing all the people who simply took it from him—including Finchem—all those years. That said, in a sense they had no choice. He was that good and that powerful.

And, for the record, for those of you who think I criticize Woods because he wouldn’t talk to me for a book or one-on-one at some point, I swear to God that has nothing to do with it. I just don’t like the way he treats people. And, for the record, the ONE time I asked him to sit down and talk one-on-one he said yes. If you want details, well, read my next book. (Hey, I feel like an ESPN guy now: “After the break, we’ll tell you the real reason Tiger Woods and John Feinstein don’t get along.” Only problem is there is no real reason but the story about the one-on-one is kind of interesting).

A few other notes today on random topics. First—foremost—THANK YOU to the poster who sarcastically pointed out that the title of my new book was the same as titles used in the past by (among others) Spike Lee and Christine Brennan. Bad title searching on my part because I never knew. I could live with sharing a title with Spike Lee. At least he’s brilliant. Christine Brennan, not so much. So, since there was still time to change the title, it’s been changed. The new title is: “One on One: Behind The Scenes With The Greats of The Game.” There are also a number of non-greats in the book but what the heck. So, thanks for the tip. I was clueless.

To the Golf Channel poster who responded to my tongue-in-cheek column saying that the key to Tiger’s comeback would be hiring Chubby Chandler (some apparently missed the humor) by pointing out that I’m not exactly thin: Ya think? Thanks for pointing it out. As if I don’t look in the mirror every morning and moan out loud. But I HAVE lost six pounds this summer. Only about 25 more to go. Finally swimming regularly again. Not fast, but regularly.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Washington Post Column: Darren Clarke, Japan women illustrate sports’ redemptive powers

Here is my latest for The Washington Post ------------

At a time when just about every sports event is inflated into the single most important event of our time, the rare moments that truly do matter can easily slip past us.

Sunday was one of those days. Two remarkable events took place within hours of one another, the kind that remind us there is more to sports than selling ad space on caps and shirts and scoreboards.
Darren Clarke is a man who has endured genuine personal tragedy. Japan is a country that has been through one horror after another in recent months and is still reeling from the natural disasters that have rocked it to the core.

There is nothing that can happen to bring back Clarke’s wife Heather, who died from breast cancer five years ago, leaving him to raise their two sons who were seven and five at the time. There is certainly nothing that can wipe away the death and the suffering caused in Japan by the earthquake and the tsunami that ripped through the country earlier this year.

But Sunday gave those touched by those tragedies a moment to smile and to believe that life can be redemptive.

Clarke’s victory in British Open, 10 years after he last seriously contended in a major championship, was uplifting not only to him and his family and Northern Ireland, but to everyone in the game of golf.
Few players in golf are better-liked than Clarke. He has always been outgoing and funny and self-deprecating. He was always considered a major talent. He led the British Open for three rounds in 1997, and three years later, he easily beat Tiger Woods in the World Match Play final. While he won often around the world, he could never quite get to the finish line in a major.

He was, however, a Ryder Cup stalwart for Europe. Six weeks after Heather’s death in 2006, encouraged by friends and family to play, he won all three matches he played for Ian Woosnam’s team. The memory of the entire European team crowding around Clarke while he wept on Woosnam’s shoulder after his singles victory still lingers.

Click here for the rest of the column: Darren Clarke, Japan women illustrate sports’ redemptive powers

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hitting a lot of topics: Jeter, Clarification for the Socceristas, My upcoming book ‘Best Seat in the House’, Navy and other radio changes

There are a number of topics to cover today so, as my good friends in television would say, let’s get right to it.

Derek Jeter I: Of course he should have gone to the All-Star game. Look, it isn’t worth killing him for making a mistake in judgment. On the other hand, it isn’t worth Commissioner Bud Selig falling on his sword for him either saying, “I would have done the exact same thing.” (If that’s true Commish aren’t you admitting this is just an exhibition game, not a game worthy of deciding World Series home field?)

To review: Jeter gets his 3,000th hit on Saturday in Yankee Stadium in remarkable fashion, going five-for-five in the game and hitting a home run for No. 3,000. Throw in the fact that he also got the game-winning hit and The Legend of Derek became even bigger than it had been in the past. All of a sudden, the .260 batting average seemed not to matter.

On Sunday he announces he isn’t making the trip to Phoenix because he’s emotionally and physically exhausted.

Look, no one doubts the last month hasn’t been difficult. The strain of his struggles at the plate; the injury that delayed getting to 3,000; the pressure of knowing he needed to get it last weekend or he would almost certainly get the magic hit on the road—everyone gets that.

But it would not have been THAT exhausting to get on a private jet on Tuesday morning, take a bow in Phoenix and perhaps play long enough to get one at-bat. Since the game started at 5:30 local time, he could have flown home that night and probably been in bed by 2 a.m. which isn’t a lot later than he probably goes to bed after a night game. Or, he could have flown Wednesday morning and had plenty of rest before the Yankees resume play Thursday.

Again, this is not that big a deal. Jeter hasn’t committed a crime against humanity. But he should have gone. He was voted in by the fans even though, based strictly on this season, he didn’t deserve to start the game. Take a deep breath and make the effort so the fans can cheer you and you can, in affect, say thank-you.

Jeter doesn’t make a lot of PR mistakes but when he does it is usually around The All-Star break. Missing Bob Shepherd’s funeral two years ago was also a mistake. That said, if that’s the worst we can say about him after 15 years in the searing New York spotlight, the guy has done pretty well.

Jeter II: The home run ball. There is no way I’m going to criticize Christian Lopez, the young man who caught the ball Jeter hit into the leftfield stands for hit No. 3,000 for wanting to ‘do the right thing,’ and hand the ball over to Jeter. If he’s a Yankee fan it is a way of saying thank-you to Jeter for all the pleasure he’s given him through the years. Heck, if he’s a baseball fan, same thing applies.

That said, I understand the people who are saying he should have been given 48 hours to decide what to ask for rather than being whisked into Yankee-land where just being in a normally restricted area AND getting to meet Jeter probably overwhelmed him. He may look back sometime next season when he’s no longer sitting in that luxury box and say, ‘what the hell was I thinking?’ My guess is he won’t be hanging with Derek at that point either.

So, what’s the best solution? Easy. Jeter should say, ‘listen Christian I REALLY appreciate the gesture. You are a mensch. (I’ll teach him the meaning of the word). But I want to do something for you and your family so I’m going to take $100,000 of the $17 million I’m being paid this year and establish a college fund for your future kids. If you have no kids, convert it to a retirement fund when the time comes. (That 100K should be worth a lot more in 20 years. At least we hope it will). This way everyone has done the right thing: Jeter’s got the ball, Lopez walks away knowing he did the right thing and so does Jeter. Maybe the Yankees can match Jeter’s 100K and start the fund at 200K.

Make sense?

Onto other things:

Socceristas: I know some of you are upset because I said on Washington Post Live on Monday that I have trouble taking a sport seriously when it decides a championship on penalty kicks.

Sorry, that’s the way I feel.

For the record though let me clear one thing up since my friend Mike Wise in his never-ending quest to create ‘good television,’ (people shouting) kept insisting I was being sexist since the question came up after the U.S. beat Brazil on penalty kicks in the women’s World Cup.

This has nothing to do with whether men or women are playing. I feel the same way, regardless.

You don’t decide Stanley Cup hockey games in shootouts. Regular season, fine, but when the championship is at stake you keep PLAYING HOCKEY. You don’t stop a postseason baseball game—or any baseball game for that matter—after 12 innings and have a Home Run Derby. You don’t have a free throw shooting contest at the end of the second overtime in a basketball game.

The only sport that changes the rules at all is college football when it places the ball on the 25-yard line to begin overtime. I’m not crazy about that either but at least they’re still playing football.

Anyone who has read this blog at all knows I LIKE soccer. I loved my time covering the Diplomats in the old North American Soccer League but I still support Johan Cruyff’s approach to hokey non-soccer endings. When the Diplomats opening game in 1980 ended in a 2-2 draw with The Tampa Bay Rowdies, Cruyff was asked by Diplomats Coach Gordon Bradley to take one of the ‘shootout,’ kicks—the shootout was the NASL’s version of penalty kicks.

“I don’t do shootouts,” Cruyff said walking away.

I’m no Johan Cruyff but I don’t do world championships that can be decided by penalty kicks. I didn’t like it as far back as The World Cup final in Pasadena in 1994 or in the women’s World Cup in 1999—still one of the most bogus endings ever to a major sports even. For Sports Illustrated to name that team the ‘sportswomen of the year,’ when they won the championship game without scoring a GOAL was a joke—and I don’t like it now.

Socceristas like my friend Steve Goff insist this is the only way to do it. Bologne—or some word like it. You do what they do in hockey: You play sudden death overtime after 90 minutes. More often than not someone will score within the 30 minutes allotted for extra time now. If not, play on. If it takes 100 more minutes for someone to score—fine, that’s the nature of the sport. Please don’t tell me it is unfair because the winning team will be tired for the next game. In knockout rounds in a world championship you always have at least two days off and if you can’t recover, well tough, win sooner the next time. That’s part of competition. You can’t on the one hand tell me soccer players are the best-conditioned players on the planet and then on the other say overtime has to be limited lest they get tired. Use your bench. Allow more subbing in overtime. But play SOCCER.

Briefly on the Navy radio flap: I was amazed at all the various emotions my decision seemed to stir up both in posts and e-mails and in long-time friends contacting me. To those who understand why this would bother me so much, thank-you. To the ex-Army and Navy players who are friends from ‘A Civil War,’ I can’t tell you how much your rallying around me right now means to me. To those who say they understand why I’d be upset but I should suck it up and go do the games I think you’re missing a point: I’ve done the games for years because I ENJOY doing them. I haven’t done them because Navy needs me—it certainly doesn’t—or because I owe Navy anything. If I’m going to dread going to the games—whether you think I should dread it or not—I shouldn’t be going. For those who think I’m setting a bad example for the kids at Army and Navy by walking away because of some adversity, perhaps that’s true. To quote Charles Barkley: I’m not a role model—particularly for those young men. And to the one guy who posted that he is glad to be rid of me: good for you. Enjoy the broadcasts. Why you wasted your time reading the blog or posting any thoughts at all is a mystery to me.

Finally some news on a couple of fronts: Several people have asked about my new book. It will be out around Thanksgiving and the title is ‘Best Seat in The House.’ It begins the night I asked Bob Knight about doing what became, ‘A Season on the Brink,’ and proceeds through my experiences in dealing with a lot of the people I’ve worked with since that first book 25 years ago. There is a lot on Knight. I had forgotten until I checked old notes and tapes how many stories about my experiences with him have gone untold. I don’t think he’s going to like this book either. (On another front: Simon and Schuster is bringing out a 25th anniversary edition of ‘Season on the Brink,’ at about the same time.)

Another radio note: As of next week I’m no longer doing my weekly appearances on WTEM—Sportstalk 980 in Washington. The other sports station—or should I say the newer one—106.7 The Fan made me the proverbial offer I couldn’t refuse to move over there. I’ll be on once a week with Mike Wise---looks like Wednesdays at 11:05--and once a week with The Sports Junkies—time and day TBA. I’ll miss Andy and yes, even Steve, but since the new gig may also include doing some hosting down the road, I couldn’t say no. And, after what happened with Tony Kornheiser’s show, it wasn’t that tough a decision.

And finally: My wife and son finally couldn’t take it anymore and they set up a Facebook page for me. We should have a link to it on the blog shortly. Please ‘like,’ me. I think right now I have about 14 ‘likes,’ and my wife says Mike Lupica has something like 12,000. I’d be more embarrassed if I actually knew what a ‘like,’ was.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

This week's radio segments (The Sports Reporters, The Gas Man)

Wednesday I joined The Sports Reporters in the normal 5:30 ET time slot. Click the permalink, then the link below, to listen to the segment from this week. This week virtually the entire time was spent on a back and forth discussing Tiger Woods, including his injury status and thoughts on his future.

Click here to listen to the segment (due to a technical glitch, you need to scroll down until July 6, John Feinstein): The Sports Reporters


I also joined The Gas Man, out of Seattle, for my weekly spot at 5:35 PT. Click below for the audio of this week's segment.

Click here to listen to the segment: The Gas Man

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Resigning after 14 years on The Navy radio network

This is a sad day for me. Yesterday, I resigned after 14 years as color commentator on The Navy radio network. I did it with a lot of regret and with no malice towards anyone at Navy. The people I have worked with there have been terrific to me from the first game I worked until the last.

But I felt I had no choice.

For years now—at least 10, maybe more—I have wanted to do a documentary on the Army-Navy game. Of all the non-fiction books I have written I always believed that two would make great theatrical movies: “A Civil War,” and “Caddy For Life.”

“Caddy,” came very close. It was optioned by Matt Damon’s production company; a very good screenwriter named David Himmelstein was hired and he wrote a terrific script which ABC Entertainment was ready to buy and put into production. Then, in one of the all-time ironic twists, ABC backed out at the last second because it had been counting on getting some funding from ESPN Original Entertainment—since the movie would have been re-aired about 1,000 times on ESPN after debuting on ABC—but ESPN’s movie budget was slashed that year by Disney.

Why? Because the movies they’d been making were so awful. The first movie they made? You got it, ‘A Season on the Brink,’ which may still be listed in Guinness under ‘worst movies ever made.’

‘Caddy For Life,’ did become a documentary, a very good one I think, that aired on Golf Channel last year. I still believe it would make a great theatrical movie—Rob Lowe as Bruce; Gary Sinise as Watson—but chances are it won’t happen.

‘Civil War,’ was a different deal. From the beginning, smart people told me the logistics and the cost would make it very difficult to get done. I was baffled. If people bought into ‘Rudy,’—which was far more fiction than fact—why wouldn’t they buy into a story like this one about real football players who went on, in many cases, to fight in real wars.

“To get it sold to Hollywood, you need a real star,” Ron Shelton told me years ago. “If Leonardo DiCaprio can pull off playing a football player, you’ve got a shot. Otherwise, it isn’t going to get bought by any studio.”

I’d gotten to know Shelton when he was on the golf tour doing research for ‘Tin Cup.’ I respect his work greatly and his knowledge of Hollywood equally. Bill Goldman—who wrote, among other things, ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,’; ‘All The President’s Men,’; and ‘The Princess Bride,’;--said essentially the same thing to me. “Hell, get DiCaprio to play the water boy and they’ll make the movie,” he said. “But this would be an ensemble cast and you’d need a lot of unknown young actors. That’s a problem.”

Okay, if Ron Shelton and Bill Goldman tell me something is a no-go then the chances are it’s a no-go. To quote Lefty Driesell, I may be dumb but I ain’t stupid.

So, I turned my thoughts to doing a documentary. On this I got a lot more encouragement. I was told again and again that the idea of using my relationships with the two schools to get the kind of access I had while doing, ‘A Civil War,’ would make a terrific documentary. I agreed. It doesn’t matter what year you are talking about—1995 or 2011—there are always great stories among the mids and the cadets. Plus, they are the kind of kids who can tell those stories on and off-camera in rich detail. That was why ‘A Civil War,’ worked as well as it did.

The problem, of course, was finding someone who would put up the money to do it. I had more meetings with more different people and producers than I can begin to count. I thought I was close enough a couple of years ago that I had meetings with both coaches to ensure that I would get the access I was promising people I could get. Both said the same thing: come on ahead.

At one point I sent an e-mail to Sean McManus, the president of CBS Sports, someone I’ve known since college. I worked for Sean and CBS for a couple of years doing essays on three topics: college basketball, golf and Army-Navy. The best ones, without doubt, were the ones I did on Army-Navy. I really enjoyed doing those essays and they were well-received. Then Sean hired a new executive producer and he sent an edict to me through the guy who had been producing my pieces: no more essays: we only want regular features.

That was the end for me with CBS. As I said to Sean, they had plenty of people who could do regular features. The point of hiring me—or so I’d thought—was that I brought something unique to the table. Sean agreed. But he wasn’t going to tell a brand new important hire what to do and not do with someone who wasn’t even on staff. We parted amicably.

Which is why I wrote to him with my idea about Army-Navy. My thought was simple: Since CBS televised the game, the documentary could promote the game and/or vice-versa. I suggested the documentary could run on Showtime, which was always looking for original programming. Sean wrote back a very nice note saying it sounded like a good idea but that Showtime really didn’t do sports—except for some boxing.

I kept looking. I tried HBO—thinking it would be a great 24/7. They liked the idea too but didn’t have money in the budget for 2011 to take on another big project. Maybe next year they said.

Well, it won’t be next year.

Last week I learned that CBS is going to produce a two-hour documentary on the Army-Navy game that will air on Showtime soon after this year’s game is played. They will air a 30-minute special a week before the game on CBS. Gee, that’s a great idea isn’t it? Use the documentary to promote the game and the game to promote the documentary.

There’s no sense going into any more detail but a guy at CBS named Pete Radovich apparently pitched the idea to McManus who gave him the green light. Then he went to Army and Navy (CBS College televises all their home games in addition to Army-Navy on the network, so CBS is important to both schools) and pitched it. My name did apparently come up once as in, “you know John has been trying to do this for years,” and Radovich (surprise) pretty much ignored it.

I have no doubt CBS will do just fine with this. They’ll have the access and they’ll spend the money. They won’t have my anecdotal memory or know some of the stories about past players that I know and I’m SURE they won’t try to claim any of the stories I’ve written or told in the past as their own.

I’m not angry with the people at Army or Navy. This was a business decision. Could they have pushed CBS a little harder to involve me, pointing out that it would benefit the project? Yes. Would that have done any good? I doubt it.

The reason I’m stepping down then isn’t because I’m throwing a hissy fit at being left out. But, as I said in my note to the Navy people, Army-Navy and doing Navy football has never been a job to me, it has been a passion. Doing this documentary would have been a labor of both love and passion and, yes, I believe I would have done it better than anyone else.

So, to be at the games this fall and see CBS there with their cameras following players around; knowing they’re in the locker room with their cameras; encountering people from CBS all the time, is something I simply can’t face. It’s a little bit like dating a girl for 10 years, getting dumped and then being invited to her wedding. I just don’t want to watch it.

I know I’ll miss doing the games a lot. I know my partners Bob Socci and Omar Nelson will do just fine without me and I’ll miss the broadcasts more than the broadcasts will miss me. The carnival moves on—I get that. But I also know myself well enough to know out-of-sight, out-of-mind will be better for me than in-sight and in-mind. The only consolation for me is that I don’t have to go an Army-Navy game in that god-awful stadium owned by that god-awful NFL owner.

Chet Gladchuk, the Navy athletic director and Eric Ruden, who runs the radio network, have been both gracious and understanding and have left the door open should I feel differently at some point.

I don’t think I will. But I’m grateful to them for saying that and for the last 14 years. I truly did love being a very small part of a place I respect so much.