ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy previews the 2018 NBA Playoffs

Former NBA head coach and current NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy joins The Weekly Brew to preview the 2018 NBA Playoffs. 

Van Gundy opens the interview (2:08) by giving Austin and Hunter his pick for the NBA MVP, then reacts to the Rockets 65-win campaign (2:39). As Houston opens their playoff run on Sunday night, JVG breaks down whether or not the Wolves are equipped to push the Rockets during their first round series (3:52), and then forecasts a potential western conference finals showdown between the Warriors and Rockets (5:45).

Looking more broadly at the postseason (8:59), JVG analyzes the most compelling storylines of the playoffs, whether LeBron can will the Cavs to the Finals, and if Philly fans can #TrustTheProcess.

Van Gundy closes the interview (13:14) discussing his passion project, The Pro-Vision Academy.

ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian joins to discuss the World Series

Tim Kurkjian is a Major League Baseball analyst on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight and SportsCenter, and joins Hunter Atkins and Austin Staton to discuss the epic World Series between the Astros and Dodgers.

Kurkjian breaks down the series to date and what fans can expect in game five and beyond. Also, Kurkjian offers his thoughts on bat flips in the postseason, the heroic efforts of Cody Bellinger and George Springer, Ken Giles’ struggles and more.

Astros streaking past the AL West; NBA Finals; Top 100 Athletes; London Attacks

The guys welcome back Kevin after a brief stint in the hospital and discuss the Astros historic pace to the 2017 season.

The crew then breaks down the NBA Finals, what the Rockets can do to compete in 2017-18, and whether the playoffs have been entertaining.

Then, the guys discuss ESPN’s list of the most famous athletes on the planet before focusing on the latest terror attacks in the U.K.

NBA Finals Preview with Jeff Van Gundy

Austin and Hunter are joined by former NBA head coach Jeff Van Gundy as they preview the highly-anticipated NBA Finals showdown between the Cavs and Warriors. Van Gundy explains why difficult defensive matchups for the Cavs will force Kevin Love off the floor, how injured Warriors coach Steve Kerr can coach well without being on the floor and that the Cavs can win only if something “unexpected” happens: “When you have LeBron James, you always have a chance.”

Also, be sure to check out Hunter’s feature as Van Gundy discussed Houston education and his work with Pro-Vision, a charter school in one of the city’s worst neighborhoods.

New Era of Sports Media

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New Era of Sports Media
by Kevin Cook

The Ringer’s Bryan Curtis joined Bill Simmons and the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay to discuss the changing face of sports media in the ‘new era,’ but before he broke it down on The Bill Simmons Podcast, he broke it down on The Weekly Brew.

A lot of Curtis’ points are covered in the piece he wrote for The Ringer’s website, The Familiar Lousiness of the ESPN Layoffs.

Episode 210 of The Bill Simmons Podcast, “The New Era of Sports Media” is available on iTunes and can also be found at SoundCloud and YouTube.

Some thoughts:

  • Dick Schaap: In discussing The Sports Reporters, Curtis talks about Schaap being on television for a long time, having ‘legitimate literary bona fides’ and calls him a literary godfather before pondering who that is now. ‘They were all kind of working for him in a way.’ I think no one in the room (Gay is technically on the phone) can or will say it, but the first name that comes to mind for me is… Bill Simmons. Simmons kickstarted 30 for 30, some of the best content ESPN has ever consistently produced, was the founder and driving force behind Grantland, which targeted some of the most talented writers – inside and outside of the ‘sports media’ world – and provided them a platform to produce thoughtful, longform journalism and think pieces. Look at guys like Zach Lowe, Jalen Rose, and I would argue guys like Jonah Keri and Rembert Browne… the list goes on. I would argue there is an entire generation of sportswriters/reporters/broadcasters/thinkers that owes either its start or its national profile to Bill Simmons’ largesse. Reasonable minds may differ, but – to me – Bill Simmons is the modern-era Dick Schaap.
  • Gay says: “What I find a little tough to swallow is people wrapping it up into some self-serving agenda or cultural statement about where ESPN is or isn’t heading.” Curtis got into the discussion about whether or not ESPN is a ‘liberal organization,’ on The Weekly Brew. His thesis was essentially that, if you’re asking the question whether ESPN is or isn’t left-leaning, then the answer is probably yes… but does that matter? I brought up Colin Kaepernick and his National Anthem protest, which was widely reviled (not by me – I consider it the absolute highest form of patriotism, on par with Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics), but didn’t impact viewership. Conservative morons were happy to tweet about how much they hated Kaepernick and his stance, but they didn’t quit watching the NFL. I think what Curtis was saying on the Brew, and I think this is accurate, is that ESPN’s stance on things like gay rights, trans rights, promoting women’s voices certainly rubbed a lot of the idiots in flyover country the wrong way, but they were angrily tweeting at their televisions, not turning them off or to another channel. If you’re one of those dolts tweeting about how ESPN is ‘failing’ or had to make these cuts as a concession to conservative values in order to win back viewers, check yourself. Much smarter people than you disagree with that analysis.
  • Is ESPN failing? That’s another common theme of uninformed commentary online. ESPN isn’t failing, and likely isn’t going to fail. You can list off deals like the Longhorn Network (Curtis had a hysterical line on the Brew that he just threw away: “How about ESPN becoming essentially a branded content arm of the University of Texas?”), the $5.6 billion deal with MLB for Monday, Wednesday and exclusive “Sunday Night Baseball” games, and the list goes on, that probably hurt ESPN, overextended or weakened the Worldwide Leader’s position – making it necessary to trim fat – but make no mistake: this is a move designed to keep ESPN competitive and profitable. I made reference to ESPN’s “Content Evolution Strategy” (linked to from the John Skipper message to ESPN employees), which you can see here.
  • Simmons, Curtis and Gay go back and forth on what this must look like, and what it must mean, to a hypothetical 20-year old pursuing a career in sports media. Simmons: “Writing is always going to matter. Being a good writer is still an advantage, so read and write as much as you possibly can.” Curtis and Gay both allude to ‘range,’ the idea being that if your skill set is diversified (print, online, audio, video), you stand a better chance of standing out and getting looks. Evidently, the old advice was, ‘find a beat – something you know better than anyone,’ but that granular approach doesn’t necessarily lead to success in today’s sports media landscape. A better piece of advice is to do as many things (well) as you can, and demonstrate that you can do it any which way. That’s why I have a two podcasts and a full-time writing job and a place like this to write whatever occurs to me.
  • Final Thoughts: A lot of people responded to the ESPN Layoffs like they were unique or unusual. I work for a newspaper. Trust me, this is nothing new. If anything, it’s the reality of the media landscape catching up to what was once thought to be an invincible giant. When the company I worked for two years ago was bought by the larger conglomerate that runs it today (you can listen back to the tape – I’m not going to name names here), the larger company laid off about 30% of the editorial staff in absorbing the smaller company. There was a period of about a week where all of us at the smaller company went and interviewed at the big, downtown building and were told we’d know if we still had a job on Wednesday or Thursday. I heard back Friday (after two days of pretty panicked texts and phone calls) that I was being retained. Two of the guys I worked with most closely before the merger were let go (they’ve both landed elsewhere, which I’m glad for). This has been happening everywhere, and ESPN is not immune. That’s what we’ve learned. But, just as newspapers have found a way to survive by futzing with subscription models, cutting staff, etc. ESPN will ‘survive’ and continue to be a presence in sports media, though I’ll be interested to see how strong and omnipresent that presence is. 

Would love to hear the listeners’/readers’ thoughts (unless you have an “ESPN is liberal, and that’s why it’s failing” take – in that case, don’t bother) on Facebook.

Most importantly, let’s remember that these are real people, flesh and blood human beings, most of whom do or did good work in the field. I’ve dodged buyouts and mass layoffs (I’m relatively young and very, very cheap, which is probably helpful), but there is no doubt in my mind that I’ll be one of these names at one of these organizations someday. Here is the current list of the real, human beings that ESPN parted ways with last week, courtesy of Deadspin.

Jeff Van Gundy talks NBA Playoffs, Rockets; SportsRadio 610’s Sean Pendergast in studio

Jeff Van Gundy, former Rockets head coach and current NBA analyst for ESPN, joins Austin and Kevin to break down the NBA Playoffs and whether or not anyone can beat the Warriors. JVG also weighs in on the MVP race between Harden and Westbrook, and offers his thoughts on the legacy of Yao Ming. Then, Sean Pendergast of SportsRadio 610 joins Austin, Hunter and Jeremy in studio to discuss the Texans, Rockets and Astros.

John McClain talks Texans; Jeremy Branham talks University of Houston Football & Basketball

Welcome to Episode 69! This week, Chron’s John McClain and Sports Radio 610’s Jeremy Branham join us to talk Houston sports on The Weekly Brew, the Voice of Houston.

John McClain is no stranger to The Weekly Brew, having joined us on no fewer than four other occasions. He calls in to talk a little Texans, a little Baylor, this and that. Listen, the guy is one of the most veteran, locked-in voices in Houston sports, and he can talk whatever he wants, even if he does throw cold water on the Chad Morris-to-Baylor storyline.

Jeremy Branham is also an old friend of the show. He is a sideline reporter for UH Football, and he shares some insights from the huge upset victory over Louisville Thursday, and delves into Tom Herman’s future with the team and the impact of yet another UH victory over a top-5 squad. Branham is also now the play-by-play voice of UH Cougar Basketball, and will be hosting coach’s shows with Kelvin Sampson every week, and he talks a little bit about what to expect from the team this season (hint: NCAA Tournament berth) and the long-term trajectory of the program under Coach Sampson (hint: future is bright).

As usual, terrific guests with terrific takes get into anything and everything Houston sports. That’s, after all, why we’re the Voice of Houston (according to us, and we would know: we are the Voice of Houston), and to the listeners, we say both thank you and you’re welcome.

But hark – there is one thing you can do for us, and in fact, should. In these uncertain times, people look to symbols of certainty and stability, and for a podcast, that equates to iTunes reviews. We need them. Go to iTunes and click Ratings and Reviews and leave a 5-star review with a little blurb (if you’re on a mobile device, use the magnifying glass in the podcast app to search for The Weekly Brew, and you can do it from there), and we will actually read it aloud to our thousands of listeners. And you’ll be our favorite listener of the week, like, UHCoog2010 is this week.

And remember guys, no matter who you are, where you go or what you do, always, ALWAYS brew responsibly.

ESPN’s Sam Khan Jr. on college football; Texans TV’s Drew Dougherty; Chron’s Hunter Atkins

Welcome to the 67th episode of The Weekly Brew podcast: the Voice of Houston. As you may have noticed, TWB-fever is sweeping the Greater Houston area. You don’t get to 1,200 Facebook Likes by accident. If you’re not already a fellow Facebook Like-r, it can be readily accomplished by clicking here.

This week is jam packed with more star power than any one podcast should have. Friend of the show Hunter Atkins brings along a stable of marquee sports figures (including Tim Kurkjian, Doc Rivers, Matthew McConaughey and Harry Caray) to weigh in on the biggest issues in sports.

Next, Drew Dougherty, the Houston Texans’ Integrated Media Manager and a constant presence on most team-related productions, joins us to remember Andre Johnson and Arian Foster, two all-time Texans greats who retired midseason within a week of one another. Dougherty does NOT take the bait when asked about Andre Johnson whooping the hell out of Cortland Finnegan (he’s a pro, and I’m sure Bob McNair will be thrilled he didn’t get into that), but does share some of his favorite Andre Johnson memories and discusses why the impact to the fan base is so different for the two players. Dougherty also digs into where, exactly, the Texans fit into the NFL postseason picture and assess the state of the union around the franchise at the bye week.

Finally, ESPN’s Sam Khan, Jr. is one of the country’s premier college football writers, and he joins us in an interestingly-timed interview that touches on the SEC as it pertains to Houston. Khan (like some kind of oracle) cautions against getting too high on the Aggies following the first round of College Football Playoff rankings and – lo and behold – the Aggies shit the bed no more than 48 hours after he spoke against the rampant optimism and sunshine pouring out of College Station. The guy really knows his stuff. He also spent time with defensive end Myles Garrett, a fascinating and multifaceted figure that we’re likely to see go early in the draft next season. Terrific stuff from Khan.

And that’s more or less it this week. Which, really, is enough, isn’t it? One final thing: LEAVE ITUNES REVIEWS. They’re very important. It’s also important that they’re five-star reviews with blurbs, and there’s the added bonus that we will read any five-star blurb verbatim on the show (bleeped, if necessary), just like Will Ferrell reading from the TelePrompTer in Anchorman.

And finally, as always guys, please remember: no matter who you are, where you go or what you do, always, ALWAYS, brew responsibly.

Astros broadcaster Bill Brown; Chip Rives, director of ESPN 30 for 30 Phi Slama Jama

Welcome to the 66th episode of The Weekly Brew podcast, the Voice of Houston! We’re getting deep into the Houston sports scene this week with two fantastic guests, Bill Brown and Chip Rives.

Brown spent 30 years as the primary television play-by-play voice of the Houston Astros, witnessing and calling things like no-hitters from Darryl Kile and Mike Fiers, the last regular-season game ever played in the Astrodome and Craig Biggio’s 3,000th hit. Brown was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and was, for many in the city of Houston, the voice of the Astros and the voice of baseball. He discusses some of his memories of 30 years of distinguished service, delves into why baseball is special to its fans and looks forward to the coming years for the Astros’ franchise.

Like Hansel, Chip Rives is so hot right now. The documentarian has won five Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award (recognizing journalistic excellence) for his work on films like ESPN’s Brian the Boz and the MLB Network doc The Eighth Wonder of the World, discussing the Astrodome. Rives’ latest effort, the 30 for 30 Phi Slama Jama, documents the wildly popular 1980’s University of Houston Basketball team under the guidance of head coach Guy V. Lewis, featuring Akeem Olajuwon (later Hakeem), Clyde Drexler, Reid Gettys, Benny Anders and many more, who dunked their way into America’s heart.

Rives discusses the legacy of Guy V. Lewis, one of the early integrators of athletics in the South, and the curious search for Benny Anders, “The Outlaw” who virtually disappeared after his time at UH.

And then Kevin begs for iTunes reviews. Guys, they’re REALLY IMPORTANT. And it’s been a while since we’ve gotten any. We’re pretty firmly committed to, like, not paying for them or cheating the system, but frankly, our morals only go so far. We’re bringing you some of the best interviews with Houston’s most fascinating sports figures, telling engaging, entertaining stories through the magic of podcasting. The LEAST you can do it pop over to iTunes and leave a nice 5-star review with a little blurb. We’ll even read it out loud at the end of next week’s episode. Do the right thing, guys.

And remember, no matter who you are, where you go or what you do this week, always, ALWAYS, brew responsibly.

Ep. 50: NBA Free Agency & O.J. Made in America with TSRN’s Adrian Holden

Welcome to this, the 50th episode of The Weekly Brew podcast. This week, Adrian Holden – of TSRN – joins us to take a long, hard look at the acclaimed ESPN 30 for 30 documentary O.J.: Made in America,

But first, NBA Free Agency has been absolutely bonkers. Mike Conley, a reliable two-way point guard who has never been considered one of the best three NBA players at his position, was given the largest contract in league history. Dwight Howard flees for Atlanta as Al Horford, flees to Boston, according to sources, at least in part out of a desire not to play with Howard. The Rockets sign Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon for a combined $133 million over four years, consummating a years long love affair between GM Daryl Morey and the three-point shooting former Pelican. We get into it all.

Then, Adrian sits in and shares his insight into his repeated (like, five or six) viewings of O.J.: Made in America. It is that good, and part of the reason is what the discussion of the decades-old case reveals about the state of America at the moment, and [spoiler alert] it’s not great news.

But there is some good news! Yes, there were iTunes reviews this week, from as far away as Bangkok, Thailand, and as nearby as our hometown of Houston. Keep those reviews coming! Not only do they make Kevin feel great, but they also improve our rankings in iTunes search results, and you know we want that. So go to our iTunes page, click Ratings and Reviews and just give us a little 5-star review and a short, sweet blurb telling us what you like about the show and things you’d like to hear. Also, our Facebook presence has EXPLODED this week (by our standards) and if you’re one of those hipster types that likes to say you discovered things early, your window is rapidly closing. So head over to our Facebook page and Like us and share the page with your friends.

Thanks, as always for listening, folks, and remember: no matter who you are, where you go or what you do this week, always ALWAYS brew responsibly.