ESPN Releases Preliminary Big Ten Football Schedule For SNF Broadcasts

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN has released the current 2014 Big Ten Football schedule for its weekly Saturday Night Football schedule.

This season’s Big Ten Saturday Night Football schedule opens with a matchup between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Virginia Tech Hokies on Saturday, September 6th. The game is scheduled for an 8pm ET start time. The Buckeyes were ranked number seven overall in an ESPN pre-season poll. The current schedule has one of the biggest matches in college football on Saturday, November 8th with Ohio State facing off against The Michigan State Spartans. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes last year 34-24 in the Big Ten Championship. That game is schedule for an 8pm ET start time.

Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will have the call for the matchup between the Hokies and Buckeyes on September 6th. The current schedule of games includes coverage across the ESPN family of networks each week. It is listed below.

2014 Big Ten Schedule on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 (as of July 10)

Date Time (ET) Game Network
Sat, Sep 6 8 p.m. Virginia Tech at No. 7 Ohio State ESPN
Sat, Sep 20 8 p.m. Miami (Fla.) at Nebraska ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
Sat, Oct 4 8 p.m. Nebraska at No. 4 Michigan State ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
Sat, Oct 11 7 p.m. Penn State at No. 21 Michigan ESPN or ESPN2
Sat, Oct 25 8 p.m. No. 7 Ohio State at Penn State ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
Sat, Nov 1 8 p.m. Illinois at No. 7 Ohio State ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
Sat, Nov 8 8 p.m. No. 7 Ohio State at No. 4 Michigan State ABC

More additions to this schedule are expected. Fans can keep up with the latest updates on ESPN’s Big Ten Football coverage schedule online at http://www.facebook.com/CFBonESPN, http://twitter.com/espncfb, and http://espn.go.com/ncf/index. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Lionsgate’s “Wings” Sequel Holds Its Own Against Disney’s “Planes” Sequel

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Lionsgate will release the latest installment in its family friendly Wings franchise next Tuesday, July 8thWings: Sky Force Heroes is the follow-up to Lionsgate’s 2012 CG-film Wings.  Ace and Colonel are both back in this latest installment.  But unlike the franchise’s first flick, neither is a fighter jet.  Colonel (voiced once again by Tom Skerritt) is a high performance biplane while Ace (voiced again by Josh Duhamel) is just as high tech as a double prop plane this time out.  The return of the entire voice cast from the first film in the series is only one of the positives to this high flying, family friendly flick.  Anyone that is familiar with Disney’s Planes franchise will appreciate that as with the previous Wings this latest installment bears its own story despite its close similarities to Disney’s franchise.  That is the primary plus to this story.  And last worth noting in this movie is its CG-based “animation” style.  While the story is similar to that of Disney’s new Planes sequel, its look is more closely akin to Fox Searchlight’s 2005 movie Robots than any more recent CG-based movies.  This includes Disney’s properties.  All three of these factors together make Wings: Sky Force Heroes a good family friendly flick that’s worth at least one watch.

There’s no denying that Wings: Sky Force Heroes bears a distinct similarity in its script to that of Disney’s recently premiered Planes sequel Planes: Fire & Rescue.  Despite the similarity in question, Wings: Sky Force Heroes does manage to establish its own identity separate from that of the previously noted movie.  Rather than trying to make this movie into a sequel, the movie’s writing team—Harry Glennon, Mychal Simka, and Jordan Winsen—made it its own movie, complete with its own world.  It just so happens that in this story’s case the two leads go by the same name as the leads in the first of the Wings franchise.  Accepting that, it makes suspension of disbelief much easier in a case such as this.  The ability of viewers to suspend their disbelief makes taking in the story much easier and more enjoyable.

The ability of the writers behind Wings: Sky Force Heroes to craft a story similar to yet dissimilar to Disney’s Planes: Fire & Rescue is central to the overall enjoyment of the story.  Just as worth noting in the presentation’s success is the return of the entire lead voice cast from the original installment in the Wings franchise.  This is one area in which Lionsgate has truly scored.  Lionsgate has scored in this aspect in that Disney’s animated sequels (and sequels in general) rarely re-unite the cast from their predecessors.  This means potentially entirely new casts must get to know one another.  And that can hinder said sequels greatly.   The chemistry developed between Duhamel (Transformers 1 3), Skerritt (Alien, Ted, Top Gun) and the rest of the Wings cast obviously carried over into this latest high-flying family friendly flick from Lionsgate. And because it did, the cast had no trouble interpreting the story’s script and working together.  The end result was a movie loaded with plenty of family friendly content worth at least one watch.

The return of the complete voice cast from Wings and the ability of the writers behind Wings: Sky Force Heroes to craft a story that established the movie’s own identity both play integral parts in the success of this latest movie from Lionsgate’s Wings franchise. Last but not least of all worth noting about this direct-to-DVD feature is its animation. The movie’s animation sets it apart from anything that Disney, 20th Century Fox, and any other studio has churned out in recent years. It’s tough to tell one studio from another nowadays because it is all so cookie cutter. The closest comparison that can be noted with Wings: Sky Force Heroes is perhaps to Fox Searchlight’s Robots. As forgettable as Robots proved to be, few other studios if any have attempted a movie with a similar look since then. That serves to make the look of this piece stand out even more. That mostly original look to the movie combined with its cast and script come together to make Wings: Sky Force Heroes a truly fun, high-flying, family friendly film worth at least one watch. One thing is for sure, one watch will have spirits soaring just as high as the planes in the movie, given that chance.

Wings: Sky Force Heroes will be available exclusively in Wal-Mart stores and online on DVD/VUDU combo pack next Tuesday, July 8th. More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online at http://www.facebook.com/lionsgate, http://www.lionsgate.com, and http://twitter.com/lionsgatemovies. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Andy Grammer Performs New Single On ABC’s GMA

Courtesy:  S-Curve Records/MSO PR

Courtesy: S-Curve Records/MSO PR

Andy Pop star Andy Grammer performed his new single ‘Back Home’ live yesterday on ABC’s Good Morning America. The song is the lead single from Grammer’s upcoming sophomore album Magazines or Novels. Those that missed Grammer’s performance can check it out online now thanks to ABC, Yahoo and Good Morning America. Grammer’s performance can be viewed online at https://gma.yahoo.com/video/andy-grammer-performs-back-home-134332533.html?vp=1.

Grammer was joined by his band mates and even a full drumline for an energetic performance of the song. Magazines or Novels is currently scheduled to be released Tuesday, August 5th via S-Curve Records. Grammer is currently touring in support of his upcoming album. He is scheduled to perfrom today at the House of Blues in Chicago, IL. He has a handful of Midwest dates scheduled for the first half of July before making a westward swing beginning July 11th in Denver, Colorado. From there, he will head to Utah before making his way to the Pacific Northwest and down through California before making his way back to the east coast by way of Overland Park, Kansas on July 24th. Grammer’s current tour schedule is available online now along with all of the latest news from the man himself at http://www.facebook.com/andygrammer, http://www.andygrammer.com, and http://twitter.com/andygrammer.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Andy Grammer To Perform On GMA This Morning

Courtesy:  S-Curve Records/MSO PR

Courtesy: S-Curve Records/MSO PR

Andy Grammer will be on ABC’s Good Morning America, this morning.

Grammer and his band mates will perform during the 8:30am half hour of the show’s broadcast. They will perform Grammer’s new single ‘Back Home.’ The song is the lead single from Grammer’s upcoming sophomore album Magazines or Novels. The album is due out Tuesday, August 5th on S-Curve Records. It is the follow-up to Grammer’s 2011 self-titled debut. That record spawned the hits ‘Keep Your Head Up,’ ‘Fine By Me,’ and ‘Miss Me.’

Audiences can check out the music video for ‘Back Home’ online now via YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REHfRCYvie8&feature=youtu.be.

Andy Grammer is currently touring in support of his upcoming album. He is scheduled to perform today in Millvale, PA and Chicago, IL tomorrow. The most current list of Grammer’s tour dates is available online along with all of the latest news from Andy Grammer at http://www.facebook.com/andygrammer, http://www.andygrammer.com, and http://twitter.com/andygrammer. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

NYPD Blue’s Sixth Season One Of The Series’ Best

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory released the sixth season of ABC’s crime drama NYPD Blue today.  NYPD Blue was one of the most polarizing series on television over the course of its run on ABC from beginning to end.  The series’ sixth season is no less powerful than the seasons that had come before.  That’s not only because of the drama surrounding the cases in each episode, either.  The writing has shown a different side of the characters this season, especially in one particular story arc.  And that growth in the series’ writing is just part of what makes Season Six enjoyable for the show’s fans. The acting on the part of the series’ cast ties directly in to the writing. The cast expertly interprets the scripts for each episode, adding even more depth to the series this time out. The acting and writing that bring Season Six together are of equal importance to its success. On another level, the show’s overall production values—its gritty look, its cinematography, and music—round out the whole package, making NYPD Blue: Season Six another win for fans of this landmark series and for Shout! Factory.

One of the major reasons that NYPD Blue managed to remain on the air for so long was its writing staff. While Dick Wolf’s Law & Order franchises relied largely on the headlines for storylines, the storylines that ran through NYPD Blue were far more hard hitting. They showed that it was possible to craft a solid story without just re-enacting the weekly news headlines. And that expert writing continued well into this season. The season-opening story arc is proof positive of this. Season Six opens with Simone (Jimmy Smitts) ending up in the hospital due to a heart problem. It is that heart problem that eventually leads to a very difficult decision for his wife and to a very deep reaction from Sipowicz along the way. It’s definitely one of the series’ most moving and powerful story arcs as it shows that Sipowicz is human after all. Add in the discussion on the right-to-life and audiences get what is simply put a very powerful story arc; one of the best that the series had seen to date. This is just one example of the talents of the series’ writers this season. There are equally deep stories included in this season such as racism within the police force, and even the announcement of a new life coming into the world among much more. Audiences, again, will find out all of this for themselves when they purchase Season Six. Every story written for Season Six is proof of why this series was able to continue as a fan favorite for six more seasons after this one.

The writing that went into making NYPD Blue: Season Six was some of the best for any drama on television at its time. Just as key to this season’s success was the acting on the part of the cast. Dennis Franz’s acting in the season-opening story ac is some of the most powerful that any of the cast members had presented to that point. Franz presented a far more vulnerable and human side to Sipowicz as Sipwicz tried to maintain his hard-nosed façade, albeit unsuccessfully. It was, in an odd way, heart wrenching to see Sipowicz break down. Yet it was moving to see that he had that side. It makes him an even deeper character. The reaction of all of Bobby’s fellow officers was just as moving. It showed that for everything that they had to deal with, even the strongest people have to mourn. Anyone left dry-eyed after seeing this simply isn’t human. Of course, there were also the reactions in the much happier announcement in the season of a new life coming into the world late in this season. After everything that the force had dealt with since the season’s opener, the acting here proved to be just as powerful and moving. Those moments all together made Season Six all the more worth watching by any of the series’ original fans.

The writing and acting that went into bringing NYPD Blue: Season Six to life exhibited exactly why the series was still so successful this far into its run. One would be remiss to ignore one more factor that made Season Six a success. That final factor would be the show’s production values. The collective production values—its cinematography, music, and its overall gritty look—set the series apart from Dick Wolf’s Law & Order franchises from early on. The rapid fire camera work, the original music and gritty look were the antithesis of Wolf’s series. Those series always had more of a spit-shined look. Their music and the use of cameras gave those series too perfect of a look. By comparison, the collective production values used even in the sixth season of NYPD Blue made watching the series like seeing the late Robert B. Parker’s novels on television, just without Jessie Stone as the lead. That is truly something special. It really feels like a hard-boiled detective novel put to the small screen. And together with the writing and acting, it makes NYPD Blue: Season Six a completely welcome addition to the library of any fan of this series.

NYPD Blue: Season Six is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online now direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/nypd-blue-season-six. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online now at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Broadchurch Outshines Almost All Other Crime Dramas In Its First Season

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Crime dramas are all the rage on American television. Each one of the “Big 4” has more than its fair share of gritty crime dramas. Even the cable networks are becoming overloaded with their own crime dramas. Even PBS has its own crime drama series in the forms of Endeavour and the newly resurrected series Inspector Lewis. Considering all of this, it goes without saying that fans of the crime drama genre have more than their share of shows from which to choose. The problem is that save for perhaps PBS’ Inspector Lewis and Endeavour, the majority of the crime dramas that fill the broadcast spectrum today are relatively formulaic. Now thankfully, eOne has offered American audiences a series unlike any other crime drama out there today, including those on PBS. And that is saying something. The series in question is Broadchurch. The series’ first season is available now on DVD. And this debut season of the British import is nothing short of spectacular. Yes, it is a serial. But the show’s writing more than makes up for that. That’s just the beginning of what makes this first season a hit. The use of original music at the right moments will keep viewers’ just as much on the edge of their seats from episode to episode. The same can be said of the acting on the part of the cast. This includes not just lead actors David Tennant (Dr. Who) and Olivia Colman (The Iron Lady, Hot Fuzz, Locke), but to the cast in whole. Their acting, along with the wisely used music and even smarter writing together make Broadchurch: The Complete First Season a truly surprising first impression from this British import. And it gives quite a bit of hope for the series in its second season. Audiences that give this season a chance will largely agree with that sentiment when they purchase or order the box set for themselves.

Broadchurch is not the first imported drama or even crime drama to make its way to America’s shores. The series, as a matter of fact, has been adapted for broadcast on the Fox network this fall. Before audiences even begin to watch that Americanized ripoff, they would do well to check out Season One of Broadchurch if only for the show’s writing. That is the most important factor to the success of this season. Any viewer that is the parent of a small child will agree that this season’s story hits hard because of its reality. It’s a sad reality that children die in this country (and other nations) every single day at the hands of rather sick individuals. That reality gives so much depth and believability to this season’s story. Fair warning, it’s difficult to watch and will make any parent want to hold their child even closer by the season’s final minutes. Even more so, any viewer that is left dry-eyed after watching this season’s story simply isn’t human. Even this critic will admit to tearing up quite a bit by that time.

The emotional depth and believability of the writing is just the starting point of what makes the first season of Broadchurch such a surprise of a series. Audiences will appreciate just as much the twists and turns that are included over the course of this season. They are just enough that they will keep viewers watching on the proverbial edge of their seats right to the season’s end. The twists don’t just include the characters, either. There are minute details on which the camera focuses at random points that keep viewers thrown off the track right up to the shocking season finale. The finale won’t be given away for the sake of those that have yet to see Season One. But it is most definitely unexpected, though sadly very much a reflection of life. To that extent, it makes this season’s story all the more gripping and worth the watch.

On an even deeper level, the writers responsible for bringing Broadchurch to life are to be applauded for the manner in which the series’ first season was constructed. Rather than have eight separate episodes, the writers used the model from Fox’s 24 in establishing each episode. Whereas each episode of 24 is one hour, each episode of Broadchurch’s first season is a continuation of the previous episode. So, all eight episodes of this season comprise just one storyline. And each episode has been written so well (unlike 24), that audiences won’t be left feeling like they need a program to figure out what’s going on. It’s the final touch to the series’ writing that makes the writing the cornerstone of this first season.

The writers behind Broadchurch are to be highly commended for the painstaking efforts put into making this series’ first season the gripping first impression that it proves to be in the end. Just as worthy of applause in Season One are those responsible for the show’s music. Yes, the music in this series plays just as important a role in its success as the writing. This is hardly common in most American television series. Audiences will note in the series’ first season that unlike so many other shows out there, it doesn’t rely on popular songs or music put in just to be there. The music incorporated in Broadchurch: Season One plays directly in to the series’ writing. The smart use of dynamics and overall placement from scene to scene within each episode heightens each episode’s emotional depth. Whether it be the season’s more pained moments as when Danny’s mother saw him lying dead on the beach, or even the more tense moments of the search for the killer, those charged with music placement went above and beyond the call of duty. It’s one more factor that makes the debut season of this gripping British crime drama worlds better than its countless American counterparts.

The music and the writing behind the first season of Broadchurch are by themselves integral parts of the season’s overall success. Together they make Broadchurch a fully gripping and engrossing series in only its first season. There is still one more aspect of this first season that proves Broadchurch to be the standard by which so many other dramas should model themselves. That final factor is the acting on the part of the cast. That applies not just to lead actors David Tennant and Olivia Colman but to the entire cast. Each member of the show’s cast expertly interprets the show’s script, making it even more difficult to figure out who is the killer until said person is revealed in the season finale. On the other hand that expert acting also pulls in viewers on a deeply emotional level, too. That expert acting on both sides of the coin adds one more level of depth, thus making this season of Broadchurch even more gripping. That final factor, set alongside the season’s writing and music, makes the presentation whole and wholly of the best first impressions from any new series in recent history. It makes the first season of Broadchurch one that any fan of dramas must see at least once this year.

Broadchurch: The Complete First Season is available now on DVD in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Broadchurch-Season-1-David-Tennant/dp/B00HGE90Z4/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1403311459&sr=1-1&keywords=broadchurch+the+complete+first+season. More information on this and other releases from Entertainment One is available online at entertainmentone.com/home. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Anchor Bay’s Born To Race Franchise Revs Up Again This Summer

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Born To Race: Fast Track, the latest movie in Anchor Bay Entertainment’s Born To Race franchise, will be released this summer. The movie stars Brett Davern and Beau Mirchoff, both of MTV’s Awkward. The pair star as small-town racing rivals Danny and Jake. The pair ends up being partnered together after summer scholarship to a top tier racing school. Danny also finds himself in a relationship with love interest played by Tiffany DuPont (Greek). Veteran actor Corben Bernsen (Psych, L.A. Law, Major League) co-stars along with Diogo Morgado (The Messenger, The Bible, Son of God), Grant Show (Devious Maids, Melrose Place, Private Practice, Big Love), and Sharon Lawrence (Rizzoli & Isles).

Director Alex Ranarivelo returns to helm this latest installment of the Born To Race franchise. He also directed the franchise’s previous film. He is joined by screenwriter Steve Sarno, who also crafted the script for the franchise’s previous film, and producer Ali Afshar. Afshar also produced the previous Born to Race film. He is also a professional race car driver.

Born To Race: Fast Track will be available for digital download via iTunes August 29th. It will be available on DVD, Blu-ray and OnDemand Tuesday, September 9th. The DVD will retail for SRP of $22.98 while the Blu-ray will retail for SRP of $26.99. More information on Born to Race: Fast Track is available online via Facebook and Twitter at http://www.facebook.com/BornToRaceMovie and http://twitter.com/borntoracemovie. More information on this and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay, http://www.anchorbayent.com and http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

NBA Finals Game Three Tips Off AT 9pm Tonight On ABC

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

The 2014 NBA Finals are “heating up” after Miami evened its series against the San Antonio Spurs Sunday. The Heat defeated the Spurs Sunday 98-96, tying the series at one game each. Game three will be broadcast exclusively on ABC tonight at 9pm ET. Mike Breen will have the call for tonight’s game. He will be joined by analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. Reporter Doris Burke and officiating analyst Steve Javie will also be on hand for commentary.

Broadcast of tonight’s Game Three will be preceded by NBA Countdown live from the American Airlines Arena in Miami at 8:30pm ET. Sage Steel will anchor the broadcast and will be joined by analysts Bill Simmons, Jalen Rose, and Doug Collins.

Along with its broadcast on ABC, tonight’s broadcast of Game Three will be simulcast on ESPN Radio affiliates nationwide. Kevin Calabro will have the call. He will be joined by analyst Hubie Brown and reporter Marc Stein for additional insight throughout the game. ESPN Radio’s pre-game coverage begins at 8pm ET. Marc Kestecher and analyst Jon Barry will contribute to that broadcast. ESPN Deportes will carry tonight’s broadcast of Game Three as well. Alvaro Martin and Carlos Morales will have commentary for ESPN Deportes. .

Game Four of the 2014 NBA finals will be simulcast on ABC, ESPN Radio and ESPN Deportes Thursday, June 12th at 9pm ET. Game Five is scheduled for Sunday, June 15th at 8pm ET. Both games will be preceded by NBA Countdown half an hour before tipoff.

All games of the NBA Finals broadcast on ABC are also available online through most internet and mobile internet platforms including: Xbox, Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV via WatchESPN. There are also special simulcasts on ESPN3.

More information on coverage of the 2014 NBA Finals is available online at http://www.facebook.com/NBAonESPN and http://espn.go.com/nba. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson Talk NBA Finals & More

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson talked to the media yesterday about today’s start of the NBA Finals. The duo discussed not only this year’s finals matchup between the Spurs and Heat, but also the impact of another championship on either team and the role of the Eastern Conference on the Heat’s place in the NBA Finals this year among much more. The following is the complete transcript from the conversation that the pair had with members of the media in anticipation of tonight’s opening game of the 2014 NBA Finals.  Game one tips off tonight at 9pm ET on ABC.  The game will be preceded by NBA Countdown at 8:30pm ET.

Q. Could you have thought that the Heat could have gotten back here without contributions from their two new guys Michael Beasley and Greg Oden? As you know they’ve gotten very little from either during this run. 

 

JACKSON:  I would say to that answer, yes, they certainly anticipated both of those guys playing some sort of role.  But at the end of the day, they brought back the nucleus, and when you bring back the big three in James and Wade and Bosh, and you bring back the same mentality, and obviously some of the guys off the bench that have proven, that are champions.  Erik Spoelstra has done an outstanding job.  I would say, yes, because at the end of the day they’re built defensively, and they’re built with some special talent that puts them in position to, in spite of who they rotate as far as role players, be in the mix year in and year out.

 

VAN GUNDY:  I concur with Mark.  I think there are a couple factors.  I think we have to change the big three moniker to the big four because I think Spoelstra definitely belongs in there.  They have four guys who could be going to the Hall of Fame as players, Ray Allen and Bosh and Wade and James.  But Spoelstra is absolutely vital and instrumental to their success and he’s going to be there as well.  You add to that the weakened state of the Eastern Conference. They really weren’t tested.  Throw out the playoffs and so they’re here once again.

 

You know, Beasley in particular I thought might find his way onto the court, but Rashard Lewis has given good minutes.  At times Battier has given them good minutes, but he hasn’t been able to find his way consistently on the floor.

 

Q. I was wondering if either of you have any interest in the Lakers head coaching position, and if they’ve reached out to you about it? 

 

VAN GUNDY:  I found that it’s in everybody’s best interest never to comment on jobs.  I don’t think it does the team any good or the individual coach.  If teams ever want to state what their plans are before they’ve named a coach, that’s up to them, but I think it’s best that I don’t get involved with that.

 

JACKSON:  I totally agree.  Obviously, it’s an incredible job, and I’m sure they’ll pick an outstanding coach to lead them forward.

 

Q. Could you look into your crystal balls and speculate on what might happen if the Spurs either win or don’t win this or the same question with the Heat.  How does the outcome impact how these things might be made up next year? 

 

JACKSON:  I’m tired of looking in the crystal ball when it comes to the Spurs.  Not just me, but we’ve all been wrong for quite a while now.  We had them dead a couple years ago.  We had them dead after The Finals last year.  Truth be told, they’re going to be relevant and be around for the foreseeable future because they’re playing the right way, led by an incredible coach, an all-time great coach – not just in basketball but in sports in general – a bunch of Hall of Famers, and they just find ways to win ballgames.  So they’ll be around.

 

I think when you talk about the Heat, I think it depends on those guys and the decision they’re going to make after the season.  When you talk about Pat Riley and that organization, when you talk about Erik Spoelstra, I’m sure they’re going to, whatever the decisions are by the players, find a way to regroup, come back, and be just as strong, if not stronger.

 

VAN GUNDY:  Yeah, I can’t envision going to four straight Finals and any of the better three players deciding that they’re better served someplace else.  The Eastern Conference is definitely the place to be right now if you’re a great player because the road is just a lot easier to navigate.  So I can’t see them willingly changing their path.  And San Antonio, I think the Kawhi Leonard-George Hill trade got them back to where they are now.  They’re a little small at that position.  Now not only did they have the courage to make that trade, then they picked the right guy, and he has performed fantastically over his short career, and along with the depth they’ve added, and the great, great coaching, they’ve been able to surround their three best players with terrific players, and it’s going to be fun to watch.

 

Q. I know the word legacy gets thrown around a lot.  But how do you view a third championship for LeBron James on an historical plane if the Heat end up winning the series?

 

VAN GUNDY:  I think it would be a terrific accomplishment.  Winning a championship is hard, being in The Finals is hard, but a lot about how much you win is who you play with and who you play against at any particular time in your career.  So I don’t look at his career in Miami as being any more successful than his time in Cleveland.  He’s just surrounded with better players, weaker conference.  I think this guy is an all-time great.  I think one of his greatest accomplishments is taking a very average to below-average Cleveland Cavaliers team to The Finals, I think, it was in 2007.  I think he won 66 games with a starting lineup in Cleveland that I’m not sure would have won 36 games without him.

 

So to me, both places have been ultra-successful. I don’t think a guy’s greatness is directly tied to his number of championships won because a lot of it comes down to circumstance.

 

JACKSON:  I totally agree.  I look at LeBron James, and he’s an all-time great basketball player.  I said it, and it’s documented that my opinion is he’s one of the best forwards that ever played the game.  I really am not a guy to look and see championships to find your greatness.  Because I, like Jeff, agree the fact is who you play with and who you play against. At the end of the day, the guy has played at an incredible level for a long time, and it does not seem the end is near anytime soon.

 

Q. Mark, can you comprehend what Jason Kidd and maybe Derek Fisher is pondering going straight from a playing career to a coach?  Would you have been able to do that a few years ago after you retired?  And are you sure – are you convinced you want to coach again, or are you good where you’re at?  What is your state right now, now that you’ve signed with ESPN? 

 

JACKSON:  Well, I do look forward to coaching one day if it presents itself again.  Right now I’m having a blast being back with my crew.  I’m fortunate and thrilled to death to be back.  If the opportunity presents itself, I look forward to coaching again.  If I end my career the way it ended and I continue to call games, I’m fine with that, just to clear that up also.  I’m having the time of my life calling these games and being back with this incredible group.

 

To answer the first part of the question, I believe I would have been able to do it. Unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity.  But as far as players today, obviously Jason Kidd had success and continued to get better.  I think his future is extremely bright.  So I believe that the point is picking the right person. So I believe you can do it and you can be successful.  It’s important to make sure that you pick the right person.  I don’t think just anybody can do it, but the right person can be successful.

 

Q. Jeff, you’ve alluded to the weakened state of the Eastern Conference a couple times now.  I’m curious if either of you think that might affect the Heat’s standing when you look at that team and what they’ve accomplished among some of the all-time greats?  You know the Bulls dynasty very well.  Where does the Heat as a team and what they’ve accomplished kind of rank with some of the all-time great teams? 

 

VAN GUNDY:  I hate to compare because ultimately people will read into it that you’re diminishing one at the expense of the other.  I would just say the Bulls teams back in their heyday had to go through some monster teams to win it all, some really incredible teams.  I think it’s hard to compare teams from different eras.  But to me, Jordan’s Bulls could compete against any of the great teams that were ever put up.  I think they were that good, and they had to go through some great other teams to win those championships.

 

JACKSON:  For me watching Jordan’s Bulls, and obviously the Celtics with Bird and McHale and Parish, and those guys, D.J., watching Ainge and the great Showtime Lakers, those were incredible teams.  I look at this Heat team, and I, like Jeff, don’t diminish what they’ve been able to do.  Obviously, the competition is not the same as far as the teams that they’ve faced but you go through who you have to go through.  They’ve done it; they’ve done it with class, and at an incredible level, so I don’t think it diminishes their accomplishments at all.

 

Q. I saw a story on the website that refers to the 1994 NBA Finals 20 years ago as being sort of a forgotten Finals.  I presume part of that is because of the O.J. Chase, and part of it may be because of other factors.  Do you agree with that thinking that the Rockets Knicks series has been lost to history for circumstances that have nothing to do with basketball? 

 

VAN GUNDY:  Well, for me, it’s not lost on me.  I think about that, maybe not every day, but most days.  I’ve talked about this to Mark a lot because, to me, you’ll never convince me that those Knicks teams from when Pat Riley came to when he left to go to Miami – even though they didn’t accomplish winning a championship – that the players there weren’t champions, because they gave championship energy and effort and enthusiasm every day.  Unfortunately, they came up a few plays short.

 

But when you’re talking about Olajuwon in his prime, he’s as great to me as anybody that’s ever played.  Ewing didn’t match up a lot with Olajuwon in that series because we played him single coverage, and they doubled Ewing on every catch.  But it was still having two great, great competitors, players, humble people going at each other in that series.

 

I don’t remember anybody talking about O.J. in our locker room and those circumstances.  I think the nation was captivated by that.  I think the teams were locked in very much to that series.  It was hard fought.  Houston got home court.  They beat us both times in the regular season, and that gave them the advantage to have home court, and they made a couple more plays than we did, and I’m not bitter.

 

Q. Do you have any regrets about your stint with the Warriors?  Jeff, how does it feel having Mark back in the booth with you guys?  Obviously, it cuts into your time.

 

JACKSON:  Well, listen, there are no regrets.  I think about the three years there.  I think about the opportunity that was presented to me by the ownership, by management.  I think about the relationship with incredible players and what they were able to accomplish in three years and where that organization was and where it is today – you got a lot to be proud of.  Ownership, management, players, fans – it’s in a great place.  There are absolutely no regrets.

 

VAN GUNDY:  Before I get to what you were asking me, I would say the unfortunate thing when change comes about whether it’s players or coaches in the NBA, is more focus is given to how things ended than what was accomplished during their time together.  I think it speaks volumes that everybody wants to talk about how it ended between Mark and Golden State instead of taking a look at and examining Mark’s impact there in that he came into a team that, minus minor blips of success had been historically bad for two decades.  And he came in there and remade them.  Who would have thought Golden State would become an elite defensive team?

 

Defense in this league is about coaching and the ability to protect the basket, and I was utterly amazed how quickly Mark transformed them from a porous defense into an elite defense, and taking them to 47, 51 wins.  They hadn’t won 45-plus games in back-to-back years in forever.

 

So my focus when I look at that is what was accomplished versus how it ended.  Now, to get to your question about less air time, basketball fans in America are applauding the three-man booth so they don’t have to listen to my inane rants.  And believe me, no one is upset, myself included, that I do less talking.

 

Q. I know both of you have said that you don’t want to discuss any team’s interest in you or your interest in any job openings, and I definitely respect that.  But I did want to ask you, there’s been a groundswell from a vocal segment of Knicks fans that Phil Jackson reach out to you guys for the Knicks coaching vacancy, I just wanted to know if you had gotten wind of that at all, and how you react to that?

 

VAN GUNDY:  When you spend 13 years with an organization like I did, which gave you your first chance of being in the NBA, your first chance of being with a championship-caliber team, and your first chance to be a head coach, you’ll always be a Knick.

 

So there are a few box scores I check every morning right when I get up.  It’s obviously wherever my brother is coaching, Chicago, Charlotte, Golden State, the Rockets and the Knicks.  Those are my guys and those are my teams.  I’m always going to have great, great feelings for the Knicks, hoping that they have great success and really appreciate whenever I am back in New York, how positive the fans were to me when I was just getting started.  So I’ll always be so appreciative of how they treated me.

 

JACKSON:  Obviously, you hear the talk, even if it’s the New York Post reporting my inner circle made a statement, and I have no clue because my wife and kids have not spoken to the Post, so just to counter that.  It’s an incredible job.  It’s an incredible opportunity.  And I’m sure that Phil Jackson will do an outstanding job of finding the right coach to get that organization and that team headed back in the right situation.

 

Q. You guys mentioned some of those old Bulls teams.  It’s been 30 years since that ’84 draft that Michael Jordan came in.  Just wanted your thoughts and memories on facing him, and particularly at this time of year how good he could be.

 

JACKSON:  He’s the best I’ve ever faced, and he’s the best I’ve ever seen.  Flat out, there were times when Jeff can recall he single handedly beat us with the Knicks when other guys were not ready at that particular time.  He propelled them to be great and propelled them to championship level.  Absolutely incredible, fierce competitor.  Invited a winning spirit, and did everything on the floor to attempt to tear the heart out and put daggers into his opposition, and you can see the impact that he’s had not just in that time, but even in watching players after him, how they attempted to duplicate or put some of the things in their game that he had mastered.  But those were great Bulls teams.  Like I said, there are times when he single handedly put them in position to win it all.

 

VAN GUNDY:  Yeah, we used to kiddingly refer to as the triangle with the 23 in the triangle because that’s what made it run.  I just went back and looked at his numbers.  I think sometimes with great players you forget the longer they’re out how great they were.  I mean, this guy played huge minutes with the Washington Wizards when he was 39, and averaged over 20 points a game.  Played all 82 games, I think, when he was 38, averaged 22.6.  Then the run he had with the Bulls, I mean, this is legendary stuff.

 

But if you don’t take a peak back every once in a while, you can start to forget just how great he was.  To me, his post-up game and the triangle, how he got into the post, out of the triangle, to me was the hardest part to guard.  We didn’t have big two guards at that time in New York, but we did have big point guards.  We had Mark, we had Doc Rivers, and we had Derek Harper.  Starts with a great competitor, add the two, but we had no answer for him in the post.  Defensively it wasn’t an every play mentality, but he had the ability, along with Pippen and Grant and Rodman to turn it up such that it was    they could make it very difficult for you to find good shots.

 

So Jordan to me, it’s like Mark said, I don’t like to compare eras because I didn’t see some of the guys play live.  But with my own two eyes I loved going into Chicago Stadium, the old Chicago Stadium, because you came out of that tunnel three and a half or whatever it was, and you knew it was on.  In a great atmosphere against the greatest to ever play during my time in the NBA.  You know, it was an honor to be on the same floor.

 

Q. It’s been mentioned the East is much weaker than the West this year.  Do you think either team has an advantage?  The Heat have had a fairly easy pass through the playoffs so far versus the Spurs who have been much more tested in the regular season and the playoffs.  Do you think it gives either team an advantage?

 

JACKSON:  I think that’s a great question.  I think the Spurs being battle tested this year certainly puts them in position.  But I don’t look at it as just this year.  I think both teams are prepared for this moment because of their history, not just the history of 82 games and a playoff round, but the history – playoffs, battle-tested, championship.  So I don’t think it plays a role in who gets the advantage.  Both teams are prepared, both teams are ready, both teams are extremely well coached, and I think it sets up for an outstanding NBA Finals.

 

VAN GUNDY:  I would agree.  I think so much of it depends on Parker’s health.  If he’s healthy, obviously, the Spurs have a great opportunity.  If he’s hobbled, I think Miami has a better opportunity.  I think both teams are missing some people who had a major impact on last year’s series.  Gary Neal had some great moments for San Antonio.  Mike Miller, obviously, had some great moments, had a great run for Miami.

 

I think both teams are ready, like Mark said.  I don’t think either team has an advantage in that way.  I just think it’s going to be close, hard-fought, a tip of the ball here, a missed free throw there or an injury that crops up or doesn’t heal right could be the difference in who wins it.

 

Q. Do you think the Heat will have a problem with the Spurs bench with the way Diaw and Ginobili have been playing in the playoffs this year? 

 

JACKSON:  I believe that the Spurs bench creates match-up problems every single night the way that they’ve played all season long, the way that you cannot identify one guy that comes in and impacts a basketball game.  They do a great job of understanding their roles, being prepared and playing within a system.  I think the difference this year is Ginobili’s fresh body, the way he’s playing.  Diaw is certainly playing at a high level.  I think Patty Mills gives them a guy that can continue to play pick and roll off the bench, Belinelli’s ability to shoot the basketball.

 

But I think the Heat also have guys that are playing at a high level coming in off the bench.  It was amazing to watch Ray Allen this late in his career still playing with fresh, young legs and a live body.  So I think it’s going to be a chess match as far as both benches in the level that they play.  They very well could, when you talk about the benches, decide who wins this series.

 

VAN GUNDY:  I love how both teams are constructed.  They surround their best players with shooting and passing so that their best players have enough room to operate.  You look at San Antonio, the floor is spread and they may have weaknesses in some areas, but their guys can shoot and pass.  Same with Miami coming off the bench.  I love Norris Cole, his competitive streak.  I love how Battier comes off and can hit timely threes.  Ray Allen, Mark spoke about, one of the great shooters that’s ever played.

 

You need to have a team that fits together well, and both teams played beautiful offense because they have Hall of Fame, first-option players surrounded by skilled, smart shooting at the other positions.  I think that’s why this Finals is going to be absolutely beautiful basketball viewing for the fans.

 

Q. I wondered if you guys thought LeBron James was a better player this season than he was last season? 

 

VAN GUNDY:  I think you would actually have to coach him and watch every possession to really know that.  I think he’s been great from probably his second year on in this league, and he’s had incremental, steady improvement.  But at this date, I think it would be miniscule improvements and Erik Spoelstra would have to be the one to decide if he’s taken a dip in certain areas or he’s upgraded other areas.  That would be hard for me to be perceptive enough to see.

 

JACKSON:  I totally agree with Jeff.  He’s in rare air, and if you look at how great he’s been throughout the course of his career, to me it’s tough to say if he’s better this year than last year.  I just know he’s still great and he’s still playing at a level that we’ve only seen a couple of people play at in the history of this game.

 

Q. People always make a big deal with the idea of coaching in New York, and it takes a certain type of guy.  You guys worked at other places too.  And Steve Kerr came close to getting the job, a guy that got close to getting the job, a guy with no connection to New York other than Phil Jackson, and same thing with Derek Fisher.  Do we make too much of it?  Is it a little different in New York with all the demands, whether it’s from within the organization, with the media? 

 

VAN GUNDY:  I don’t know if too much is made about it, but I do believe that New York, their fan base, the media coverage helps a coach coach his team well.  I think there is a misnomer that New York demands someone famous.  I mean, I just don’t believe that.  I think they embrace – New York embraces, to me, everybody that works hard, competes, shows confidence in what they do and fights for their team, whether it’s player, coach, management person, owner, whatever it is.

 

So I think this idea to be a star before you come in there to either play or coach is wrong.  I think New York fans have a patience to allow someone to develop and get better.  I’ve always thought that the thinking of them having to win right away, and they wouldn’t undertake a rebuilding plan, New York fans – I’ve always disagreed with that as well.  I think they’re bright and they understand where a team is at at any particular time.  But they do want to see progress, and they want to see effort, and they want to see a combative spirit on the floor.  If you do that, I think you’ll be appreciated.

 

JACKSON:  Obviously, Jeff can answer the question better from a head coaching aspect in New York City, but as a kid that grew up in New York City and with the Knicks, everybody’s not made for New York City, whether you’re in management, whether you’re playing, whether you’re coaching.  I can remember as a kid watching very good to great players play other places, be traded to the Knicks and not be the same player, whereas some propelled when they got the opportunity to put on a Knicks uniform.  It’s something about the fans.  It’s something about the pressure.  It’s something about the media.

 

So to be quite honest, everybody is not built for it.  It’s a different animal.  It’s a different monster.  It takes special personality and a person understanding the things that come into play to a tee.  I thought, obviously I’m biased, but I thought Jeff did an incredible job juggling all of them during his time as head coach of the Knicks, but everybody’s not capable or qualified to do just that.

 

Q. You had a nice debate going about the Greg Oden, Kevin Durant draft class, do you think we’ll see more of that during The Finals?  And do you think you’ll fill in for Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless on First Take

 

VAN GUNDY:  I can say that they broke the mold with those two guys, so there is no replacing those two.  But I would say this.  Mark and I agree on everything, basically, except what we don’t agree with which is about everything too.  I think we even agreed on that, but got bogged down in semantics.  I just, the idea that because everybody would have taken Oden first wouldn’t have made it the right selection.

 

Durant from his physical, to his great career, hey, you make mistakes in the Draft, and Oklahoma City was the beneficiary of a mistake by Portland.  You know, he’s proven out to be – I think he’s going to be one of the all-time, all-time greats.  I’m not sure what we were arguing about, but I remember Mark was wrong.

 

JACKSON:  Well, I will say that Stephen A. and Skip do an outstanding job, and they’re enjoyable to watch, but they do have substitutes so I think it would be a great opportunity.

 

What you see with Jeff and I, the thing I love about it is we don’t create the moment.  Sitting there talking with a mic, you get the same thing if you sat with us at a restaurant.  We’re going to grab different topics, we’re going to have different opinions, we’re going to honestly and respectfully agree or disagree, and it’s going to be entertaining.

 

So the thing I love about it is I was raised in a household that way, and Jeff is like family to me, so it’s something I truly enjoy doing.  I’m sure you’ll see – who knows what the topic will be, but you’ll certainly see plenty of that starting Game One.

 

Q. How useful a motivation is it to the Spurs to look back 12 months ago to what happened in The Finals?  As a coach, how would you channel that correctly to benefit the team? 

 

VAN GUNDY:  I think too much is made about last year and the motivation it provides for this year.  You don’t get to this point if you need some outside force to motivate you.  I also think Duncan’s quote about they’re going to,  I forget the exact words, but they’re going to do better and win this year, like that’s going to motivate LeBron James and Dwyane Wade like they were sitting there in the need of some motivation from the outside, external motivation.  I don’t think you need to channel anything.  I think both teams are ready.  Both teams are great, great teams.  I think the games and the script has yet to be written, but I think it’s going to be an interesting one.

 

JACKSON:  I believe your question was geared towards the Spurs, so that’s the way I’ll answer it.  But I believe that you don’t get caught up in what happened yesterday, meaning last year in The Finals, if you’re the Spurs.  They’ve already put together an incredible season post last year’s Finals experience.  So, my mindset would be don’t get caught up in yesterday and lose sight of the now.

 

The bottom line is they have an opportunity, and they are back in position to win a championship.  That’s old news and let’s move forward.  They’ve done an incredible job, and I think that’s been their mindset the entire season, and that’s why they’re in this position again.

 

Q. What do you both feel are the main differences between last year’s Heat and Spurs teams and this year’s and what do you think will be different in the series? 

 

VAN GUNDY:  I think Ginobili and Wade’s health are better, Parker’s health is not as good.  Both are missing shooting that had an impact on the series.  Neal for San Antonio, Miller for the Heat.  And I think to me the Kawhi Leonard-LeBron James match-up becomes even more fascinating the second time around because we know where James is at.  We don’t know where Leonard is going to reach.  But when you look at his demeanor, his improving skillset, this guy has a chance to be very, very, very good.  I love watching him compete against James.  So that’s still to me the best part of this series.

 

JACKSON:  I agree with Jeff.  I think the health of Wade and Ginobili will play a huge factor.  They’re at a different place right now.  I think the difference is the role players of San Antonio.  They’ve enhanced, like I said earlier, difference is having a guy like Patty Mills who really was a third point guard last year, played a huge part and had a great year for them in his ability to play out of pick and rolls.  Going and getting Belinelli, another guy that can stretch the floor and play out the pick and roll.  Last year pretty much Ginobili was the impact player off the bench creating offense.  This year it’s other guys, and they’ve got live weapons all around the floor.

 

With the Heat, it’s just Wade is playing at a high-level right now, and it takes the pressure off of LeBron to pretty much carry them.  I think that’s a huge difference.

Audiences that might not be able to catch tonight’s game on ABC aren’t out of luck.  The game will also be available on ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3 and WatchESPN.

 

More information on the ESPN family of networks’ coverage of the 2014 NBA Finals is available online at http://www.facebook.com/NBAonESPN and http://espn.com/nba. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Indy 500 Broadcast Crew Discusses Sunday’s Race

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

This Sunday, ABC will mark a big anniversary. The network will broadcast the famed Indy 500 for the 50th consecutive year. In anticipation of the upcoming anniversary, Rich Feinberg–ESPN VP of Motorsports and Production–held a conference call with members of the media to discuss the race, its history on ABC, and much more. Feinberg was joined on the call by Allen Bestwick, who will call the race for the very first time in his career, and by Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever. All three men will be in the booth for Sunday’s race. The following is the transcript of yesterday’s discussion with members of the media. From the history of the race’s broadcast to the introduction of new drivers and re-introduction of others and more, the men discuss a number of topics. That’s all here. Sunday’s broadcast of the Indy 500 begins with pre-race coverage at 11am ET. The green flag is expected to fly at 12:12pm ET. Enjoy!

RICH FEINBERG: 50 years on ABC.  For me, that starts with a ‘Wow.’  What a run.  My personal memories of the Indy 500 and ABC’s coverage of it date back to when I was a kid.  Memorial Day weekends with my family, appointment viewing.  Those days it was on a tape delay at night.  To see it come around now to the 50-year anniversary is just amazing.

Our team looks at it like it’s a privilege to produce the Indy 500.  It always has been.  It always will be.  It’s a cherished assignment that everybody embraces.  Our goal is quite simple, and that’s to uphold the tradition of excellence in coverage that’s been established by our ABC colleagues over the past 49 years.

That may sound a bit cliché, but it’s a fact.  We do that by focusing our coverage on the drivers and their stories, their team’s race strategy.  Perhaps the most intriguing thing for the casual fan, that’s the speed.  When you’re talking about cars doing over 230 miles an hour, that’s an off-the-charts number.

Through our coverage, we want to make sure our viewers feel like they’re not only enjoying the race but thirsting to be there.  I look forward to being a part of it as I do every year.

 

ALLEN BESTWICK:  The history for me, when I was a young kid, my dad had racecars at a racetrack in Seekonk, Massachusetts.  Didn’t get much racing on television then, except for the Indianapolis 500.  That was appointment television for us.  As a young boy, watching this race every year sparked my fascination with the broadcasting business, in particular as I continued to follow, watching Jim McKay, the role he played, the variety of sports he did, the excellence with which he did them, and how much you felt like even though you never met him, he was a friend through the television.

So for me all these years later to get a chance to sit in that seat on this occasion, it’s not just bucket list, it’s beyond bucket list.  It’s a little overwhelming to think about how fortunate I am and how honored I am to be part of this.

I can’t wait for Sunday.  It’s been a wonderful month so far and I really look forward to a great race.

 

SCOTT GOODYEAR:  I can certainly remember the very first time I went to Indianapolis in 1973 with my father.  It was a bit of a surprise visit because I was racing a go-kart and he surprised me on the Saturday night and said, We’re not racing tomorrow, we’re going to drive all night and go to the Indianapolis 500.  It has been a part of my life for a long time.

Then having a chance to go there as a rookie in 1990 as a driver was pretty cool.  Having some reasonable success there, and now having an opportunity as I have done for many years to be in the booth with ABC is truly a privilege.  When we get together for meetings, there’s a lot of passion and pride to being involved in this race.

For me, I view this race now from the television booth almost like a driver.  There are the super teams that you anticipate will do well, there are teams in the middle of the road that have a good shot at it, then there are teams there participating, if they’re in the top 10 at the end of the day they feel pretty lucky.

The split between group one and group two seems like it’s been shrinking for the past couple years.  This year, smaller teams winning some events, Long Beach and the Indy GP, that might be true this weekend.

Ed Carpenter, surprising everybody.  Neat to do qualifying, see the frustration on the big teams’ faces because they are missing some answers.

Indianapolis is all about the weather literally, the sense of what it can do to your racecar; emotions, what it can do to you as a driver.  That’s just qualifying.  The race is no different.

What I watched in practice yesterday from the group racing, last year practice shows it’s going to have the same thing for this coming Indy 500.  Excited about it.

Somebody asked me the other day, Pick a winner.  I don’t think I can.  I think there’s an honest 10, 12 people that can win this event.  Eddie and I were talking about it.  If you were betting in Vegas, it would be hard to put your money on somebody.  Looking forward to it.

 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  I dreamed about it as a child when I was living in Italy, I heard it on the radio.  I kept racing.  I was lucky to come here and race.  I was lucky enough to win it.  Now I’m going to be sitting in the booth with two friends calling the 50th anniversary of ABC calling the Indy 500.  I don’t know how it could be any better than that.

It’s going to be a very exciting race.  There’s too many stories to sit down and go through them one by one, so many different possibilities, that I really think it’s going to go down as one of the most exciting races we’ve ever had at Indy.  And when you consider how we ended last lap, the result would have probably changed if the race would have gone another 400 yards, and I expect we’ll see the same thing on Sunday.

 

Q.         Eddie and Scott, there’s two names that have returned this year that link back to some important moments in IndyCar recent history, with Villeneuve coming back, and Montoya being back.  What do you think about having both of those names back in the field?  Have you heard from fans?  Do you feel there’s a different vibe having them back? 

 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  They’re two totally different types of drivers.  They have been extremely successful in Formula One.  Villeneuve is a Formula One world champion, which in my books is as high as it gets in open-wheel racing.

I knew Villeneuve’s father very well when we were racing together in Formula One.  I remember driving back around in a car where I was doing the steering and — he was doing the steering and I was doing the throttle.  I was never pushing on the throttle strong enough.

I have a great interest in seeing him do very well.  I think he’ll approach the race differently.  He’s with a smaller team.  He already looks like he’s starting to think about how he will prepare himself for those last laps.

A lot of people have gravitated to him during the race.  As the race goes on, people will remember the great win he had not too long ago.

Montoya is racing for Penske.  He’s committed to the series for the whole season, whereas Villeneuve is committed for one race for the moment.

He’s had an exciting beginning, but not quite up to pace where everybody expected him to do well.  He all of a sudden laid down a very good lap on the day of qualifying.

I think you’ll really see a lot of aggressive moves from Montoya early on.  He’s going for a perfect record, having competed only twice.  I really think he has a good chance of winning.

There’s a lot of excitement whenever you mention the word ‘Montoya’ in the pits, even amongst the drivers.  Whereas Villeneuve, he’s going to have to build that back up, but there’s a lot of respect for what he has done.

 

SCOTT GOODYEAR:  I think everything Eddie said is spot on.  The interesting thing for me is I had an opportunity to spend half an hour with Jacques in the garage area a week ago.  Through all the questions I was asking him, catching up with him, I asked him, Why come back to something that you’ve won, have great memories with?  Why come back after a 19-year absence?

He said, Racing is my oxygen.  I need to race something.  I loved it.  It didn’t really interest me for quite a few years.  But I’ve been watching it for the last year, year and a half, and he said it’s something he would like to go back to.

He said he would like to come back to the series next year and run full-time, if it’s possible.  If this is an audition to get his feet wet and make sure that he can go out and let people know his interest, it may be.  I’m not sure that if everybody is running strong at the end of the day that he has enough experience in these new cars, which he says are different to drive, to be a contender.  I think finishing in the top 10 would be a success for him and the team.

With Montoya, I’ll add to what Eddie said, every driver you speak to in the paddock says that when he has enough time underneath his belt in these cars, from being in the tin tops for the last little while, they’re going to worry that he’s going to be dominating like he was before, from the factor that he’ll be one of those guys you’ll be battling with in the top 3-5.  As.

The drivers say, they have enough drivers they have to contend with.  A lot of respect for Montoya in the garage area.

 

Q.         Is it good generally for the series to have both of those drivers back? 

 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  I think it’s phenomenal, exceptional.  Montoya brings a lot of Formula One sense.  Montoya brings a lot of people back to watching open-wheel racing.

Villeneuve, I can’t repeat it enough, was a Formula One champion.  His father was, I would say, one of the top three drivers that ever drove for Ferrari.  The history, the whole amount of energy they bring is tremendous to anything they participate in.

 

Q.         This is the first time we have a youngster from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, not named Andretti.  I wanted Scott and Eddie’s take on the young Sage Karam, in high school still.  Your thoughts of his challenges, how he might add to the storyline on Sunday. 

 

SCOTT GOODYEAR:  When I met him earlier this month and spent some time with him, speaking with him in the garage, nice young man.  At 19 years of age, times have changed, because at 19, I was just finishing karting and about ready to take my first day of Formula Ford school.

We were talking about this on our conference call this morning.  They almost have harnessed him back a little bit because the team says he is very eager to get going and is trying to get so much accomplished in a short amount of time.

As a rookie here, you can be very fast.  But 500 miles is such a long, long time on the racetrack.  I always broke it up into five 100-mile races.  You have to get yourself through it and not rush.

This will be interesting for Villeneuve and Montoya.  It’s been a while since they’ve come here and run this race.  Everybody is anxious.  Seems like it happens between 250 and 300 miles.  Everybody seems like they want to get going.  I always did.

For him as a rookie, he’s going to have to be throttled back, have somebody good with him on the radio talking to him, his spotter is going to have to do well.  He has enthusiasm, good looks, an American, so he has a bright future ahead of him.

 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  Just to add to what Scott said, talent and youth and energy are wonderful things to have.  Don’t really fit in that well in how you approach the Indy 500.  Here you have to have an enormous amount of patience.  You have to be willing to listen to the pits.  You have to be able to pick yourself up from a bad stint with the tires not working or you have some sort of problem.

It will be a great testament to his ability if he can finish the 500.

We saw another youngster last year from Colombia called Munoz, Scott and I were betting which lap he was going to crash because he was almost in the grass, but he made it.

Those things that carry you forward in open-wheel racing on a street course don’t really come much into play around the Speedway.

 

Q.         Marco Andretti, your take on Marco?  Seems like he can’t get over the hump.  Very close, very much in contention for a good portion of the race last year.  It just didn’t happen for him.  Same thing happened a couple weeks later at Pocono where he had the dominant car all weekend.  Seems like he’s there every week. 

 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  He is always a threat to win.  It’s his family’s team.  He has been very quick.  His rookie year at Indy was unbelievable.  He lost by the smallest of margins.  He is unfortunate in that he has some incredibly talented teammates.

He’s really going to be judged not so much by the fact that he wins or doesn’t win, but how he compares with his teammates.  That’s a tall order.

 

SCOTT GOODYEAR:  I would be delighted to see Marco win from the standpoint that I understand what it’s like to come to win this event, but not, obviously in ’92 and ’97 being second, obviously ’95 across the line first and being disqualified.

Regardless, it’s a scenario that weighs on you every racetrack you go to.  It weighs on you when you come back here to the Indianapolis 500.  For him, I’m sure he thinks about it.  I talked to him about it.  He said, No, it’s behind me, I don’t think about it too much.

But you do.  I always looked at it like you’ll get another chance.  I’m sure he feels the same way.

When you get close to the end of your career, then when you retire, and you haven’t accomplished that goal, which is the reason your living, breathing and racing, and your last name is Andretti, and the pressure that’s on a third-generation driver, I would love to see him win.  It would be great for him, his family, and our sport to have Andretti win again.

 

Q.         Allen, from everything I understand, Kurt Busch is resonating well with the fans and other drivers at Indy.  Have you noticed anything different in his demeanor or mannerisms or attitude when he’s out there in an IndyCar than you’ve noticed when he’s maybe in the NASCAR garage. 

 

ALLEN BESTWICK:  I think anytime you go someplace and try something new and different for the first time, have a little bit of success at it, you’re going to have a little pep in your step.

Think about how much Kurt has hung himself out there by doing this.  I’ll borrow Eddie’s thought about this.  Here is a guy who is a NASCAR champion.  All the race wins he’s accumulated.  He was willing to put that reputation out there on the line for the world to step out and try and drive a type of racecar he’d never driven before.

I’ve seen nothing but good things from Kurt.  I see a guy who is determined to master it, has fit in very well with his teammates, has dug into the engineering, the aerodynamics, driving techniques, soaked it up like a sponge, acquitted himself very, very well in an IndyCar.  I’m not surprised by that.  We know Kurt is a heck of a racecar driver.

I’m not surprised he’s acquitted himself well.  He’s having fun.  He understands the challenge ahead of him.  He got a taste of the difficulty of that challenge yesterday.  You can say he’s gotten the full Indy experience now.

But I’ve seen nothing but smiles from Kurt.  Why not, right?  He had the guts to put himself out there and try this.  He’s doing well.  He has the opportunity to have a good, solid race experience on Sunday and do something he probably never thought he’d get the chance to do in his life.  I can relate to that.  It makes you smile.

 

Q.         Eddie, I’ve seen some of your comments in recent weeks.  What are your impressions of Kurt in an IndyCar? 

 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  I am totally impressed by everything he has done in the car.  Going out and turning into turn one when you’re up at speed, and engineers have told you, Don’t take your foot off the throttle, you’re talking to yourself telling yourself it’s going to be okay.  That’s a difficult moment even in a racecar driver that’s done it his whole life, to be committed to doing that.

He’s been incredibly fast.  Every hurdle he got to, other than yesterday, when he got very lucky and hit the wall at the right angle.  Other than that, I am just impressed.  When he had to go out and do his qualifying run, that’s 230, that is really moving the mail.  That’s fast.  Turning into turn one at 236 miles an hour, and everybody said that the cars were sliding at the end of their run because they were so much on the limit trying to trim them out.  He went and did it as if he’s been doing it his whole life.

He is talented and incredibly brave.  If he digests this last hit he had, it took me a long time to digest, if he can go through that, he’s in that leading group at the end of the race, I would consider him a possible top-three finisher, if he gets through all the problems during the race.  But he’s been incredible.  I’m very impressed.

 

Q.         Rich, 92 cameras planned.  Why the increase this year?  Are any of those specialty cameras? 

 

RICH FEINBERG:  The 92 is actually in concert pretty close to what we did last year.  36 of those cameras are on racecars.  We will have this year a complement of 12 different teams, including Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ed Carpenter, all carrying on-camera systems.  All 36 are on track, if you would.

The remaining cameras include some specialty things.  We will have a helicopter cam for the entire race.  We have several ultraslow motion cameras that we have strategically placed around the track.  We have wall cams.  We have grass cams.  We have hand-held cams.  We have robotic cams.  I think we got the place pretty well wired up.

The unique thing about this race, racing in general, is the size of the playing field is gigantic, so it takes more.  We’re always watching multiple things.  A lot of our camera systems allow us to focus on multiple battles on the track to make sure we can document as much of the action as we can for the fans.

It is a very large production, one of the largest that we do every year.  Tremendous credit to our technical and engineering staff to put together this system and ultimately I think our fans are the benefactors of it.

 

Q.         Are there any other production enhancements planned? 

 

RICH FEINBERG:  Well, we’ve made some changes since we were at the track last.  I’d start with probably the most noticeable one for our fans will be welcoming Allen Bestwick to the family.  Allen and I have worked together for many, many years.  I know not only he’s excited about doing the project, but I’m just as excited to have him along.  He’s one of the best in the business, and I think our fans will really enjoy his call.

We have some new graphic elements we’re using.  We have some good feature stories we’ll tell before we get going with the race.  As I said earlier, our ultimate job is to tell the stories of the drivers, and to the best of our ability, through the pictures and through the sounds, create that thirst for our viewers to want to be there and enjoy this very special sporting event.

 

Q.         Allen, you’ve had a very long career in calling NASCAR races.  How does it feel to be in the open-wheel world now? 

 

ALLEN BESTWICK:  It feels pretty good.  It’s been a great experience so far.  It’s funny because for as long as I’ve been around racing, I’ve spent my whole career in the month of May in Charlotte basically and watched the 500 from afar.

I’ve been at the Speedway, around the NASCAR race there since 1994, so when I walked in the gate this month, it wasn’t a new experience for me to be at the Speedway.  I knew where the gate was to get in and I knew where the TV compound was, where the booth was.  I knew where to find things.  It’s not a completely new experience at the Speedway.

Then I’ve had great support from Rich and my bosses to do the research that I needed to do.  I spent time in Indianapolis in February just after the Daytona 500.  Some of the race teams were more than gracious in welcoming me in.  I went through IndyCars from top to bottom at team shops.  Had dinners and lunches with drivers and team managers.  I’ve had plenty of time to acclimate myself – short way to say it – the same thing done differently.

It’s still an auto race.  The object is still to get the distance covered from start to finish in the least amount of time possible.  Terminology, styles, strategies are a little different.

I look forward to the race.  Obviously it’s the premiere auto race in the United States, maybe the world, every year.  To have the opportunity to call it is a fascinating thing.  I’m more excited than anything because it’s been a great experience so far.  I can’t wait to see what race day is like in person.

 

Q.         For Scott and Eddie, obviously you have a lot of experience on both sides.  There’s so many changes in TV in 50 years.  Probably what hasn’t changed much is the raw talent that open-wheel drivers share.  What special traits do you think open-wheel drivers have to be able to perform so well in what is basically a road rocket before enormous crowds on prime ABC TV? 

 

SCOTT GOODYEAR:  I think for me, now that I’ve stepped away from it, I honestly believe that you can be trained to be a very good, proficient driver that can compete at IndyCar level.  But I think the ones that are winning and are just a little bit faster have something different.  I think it might be something that you’re just born with.

There’s been that question for years and years, especially when we talk about different generations of drivers.  When you stand at a road course, you watch a guy like Will Power drive around, even his fellow competitors say that they expect him to be on pole everywhere they go to on a road course.

You go to ovals and see the smoothness of guys like Scott Dixon, and honestly a very impressive Ed Carpenter.  Ed obviously trained hard, not through the road courses, because he’s not that great on a road course, but he spent so many years doing the midgets and the dirt cars.

I think it’s training and then I think you have to have a little bit of a gift.

With that I think I am more impressed now than I was when I was doing it.  When you’re doing it, you eat, breathe and sleep it.  You expect to be good.  You expect to be competitive.  You don’t feel that you’re doing anything different than anybody else ’cause you’re getting up, going and doing your job every day.

It’s only when you step away from it like I have, and maybe Eddie feels this way, you truly understand how different your occupation was when you’re sitting in a racecar.

Our racecar happened to weigh 1500 pounds and have in our day 900 horsepower, now they’re about 725.  And, oh, yeah, as Eddie mentioned earlier, we go into turn one at 230, 240 miles an hour and don’t take our foot off the gas.

The last comment I’ll make on all that is when you’re doing it back then, it seems like it’s in slow motion.  It seems like the straightaways are long, and I guess that’s what I guess they call being in the zone in other sports.

When you’re getting ready to retire, you notice that life is going by a little quicker in the racecar than it did before.  That’s probably the first indication it’s time to go find something else to do.

I know how difficult it is, I know how brave you are when you’re doing it.  That’s the neat thing I think when I watch the cars go around today.

 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  Having raced for a decade in Formula One, Monaco, Spa, everywhere else, then coming to Indy, I don’t say this trying to make a joke of it, I think you have to be a little bit crazy when you’re racing on the limit at the Indianapolis 500.

It is, I would say by far and away, the most dangerous and most intoxicating race that I have ever been a part of.  When you have to throw a car into a corner at 235 miles an hour, two feet behind a car that’s doing the same speed, another car that’s trying to pass you, do all this and stay away from that horribly hard wall, you have to be a little bit different.

The more time I had spent with A.J. Foyt, Unser, Andretti, there’s a common thread:  they’re all capable of dealing with the danger very well and yet perform at such a high level.

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