In a time of media layoffs, here’s some love for the hiring of Scott Van Pelt

ESPN got it right when it made Van Pelt the face of its 11 p.m. show.

Sports broadcaster Scott Van Pelt watches a Maryland vs. Ohio State basketball game. Julio Cortez/AP Photo

Moving up and down the dial while realizing that Jack Edwards got more face time in “The Last Dance” than Bulls players Ron Harper, Jason Caffey, or Joe Kleine…

▪ The Athletic is the competition. It has poached some Globe sportswriters in the four years since its launch, and has tried to poach others. In 2017, co-founder Alex Mather told The New York Times, “We will wait every local paper out and let them continuously bleed until we are the last ones standing.”

That considered, one might think Friday’s news that The Athletic had laid off 46 employees, or 8 percent of its staff (with remaining staff taking pay cuts), would be greeted by at least a smidgen of schadenfreude by those it vowed to pillage. But that is not the case here. While there has always been skepticism about the viability of The Athletic’s subscription-based, ad-free model in the long run, the company provided hundreds of well-paying and satisfying jobs to sports journalists at a time when those opportunities are harder and harder to come by. Yes, it may be the competition, but friends and former colleagues work there, people with whom we’ve shared many late nights in the press box. Great journalists and writers who lost gigs elsewhere, such as Jayson Stark, have found ideal fits there.


And given the state of this business — even before COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the economy — there is a sense that we are all in this together, even if our paychecks come from different places. Those who run The Athletic may have been graceless in the candor about their intentions. But no sports journalist wants to see it falter, let alone fail.

▪ Last week, I wrote in this corner about how live sports broadcasts might look once games return. It was clear that most, if not all games, would be called remotely. Thursday, we started to get further confirmation of that when Major League Baseball acknowledged that at least a team’s road games would have to be called from a studio monitor. Of course, it seems like a bold assumption that there will be any games at all with the way MLB and the players’ association are handling negotiations on the details of a potential season. What a mess.

▪ ESPN took a lot of heat in 2015 when it revamped its “SportsCenter” franchise to build each edition around specific personalities. But the network got it right when it made Scott Van Pelt the face of its 11 p.m. show. That has never been more evident than during the chaos of the last couple of months. Van Pelt is deft at handling breaking news — his best show might have come March 13, when the Rudy Gobert positive test for COVID-19 led to the NBA shutting down — but he’s even better in emotional circumstances, such as discussing athletes’ response to the death of George Floyd and the culture of racial discrimination. Van Pelt, like Ernie Johnson on TNT, displays natural courtesy and common sense, and he doesn’t just let guests talk, he listens. That’s rare on sports television, and it’s welcome at times like these.

▪ NESN is producing two new original Bruins and Red Sox All-Time Fantasy Draft shows that will debut on successive Sundays (June 14 and 21) at 7 p.m. Adam Pellerin will host both shows, while six members of the respective NESN broadcast teams draft their all-time fantasy teams of former and current players in an S-Curve format. Gotta go Bobby Orr and Ted Williams with the first picks, right? Though Pedro Martinez is tempting.

▪ NBC Sports Boston took a week hiatus from airing old Celtics games, but it will be back with a new batch starting with a Monday night showing of a Lakers-Celtics regular-season game from January 1986. In fact, five games from the spectacular ’86 season are on the docket this coming week. Semi-facetiously, I’ve always thought a channel that just replayed the entire 1985-86 Celtics season from beginning to end would do well around here.

▪ If the NBA and its broadcast partners decide to mike up players or find other ways to mine for audio gold with no fans in the stands, they’d better put the broadcasts on at least a 10-second delay. If it’s live and you can hear everything being said on the court, your kids will learn composites of swear words that you don’t even know.

▪ ESPN has been pushing out “30 for 30” docs to try to sustain momentum after the success of “The Last Dance.” One I’m looking forward to seeing: “Long Gone Summer,’’ on the fun and ultimately fraudulent 1998 home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. McGwire and Sosa are interviewed at length for the doc, which debuts June 14 at 9 p.m. Don’t know about you, but I still remember that baseball summer well, as inauthentic as so much of it was.

▪ The “30 for 30” films are almost uniformly excellent. My one consistent gripe about them is that often they shoehorn in ESPN personalities that have little to do with the narrative. I still have no idea why Mike Greenberg and then-ESPN personality Marcellus Wiley were part of the otherwise superb Bo Jackson doc a few years ago.

▪ The game I’ve probably rewatched the most lately is Super Bowl XXXVI between the Patriots and Rams. I know there’s a fraction of Patriots fans that think Pat Summerall underplayed his call on the winning drive, but I love it, especially with John Madden alongside gradually realizing his declaration that the Patriots should play for overtime was going to look foolish. There’s something to be said for letting the moment breathe, and no one did that better than Summerall. The best call from one of the 12 championship moments this century in Boston sports remains Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti’s call of Adam Vinatieri’s winning 48-yard field goal. Gil’s play-by-play — “And . . . it . . .is . . .good! It’s good! It’s good!” backed up by Gino’s giddy “Heyyyyy!” — perfectly captured the joy and surprise of the moment. But I’ll tell you, Dave Goucher’s “Get the duck boats ready!” when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 is pretty darn close.

▪ And over here in the category of Old Games You Never Want To See Twice, NBC is replaying Super Bowl XX between the Bears and Patriots on Sunday at 3 p.m. Tony Franklin gives the Patriots a 3-0 lead with a 36-yard field goal 1 minute 19 seconds into the first quarter. You’re on your own after that.

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