Reining in the media

The Bulls since MJ left town:

12 years...  5 head coaches...  14 top-sixteen draft picks... 338-554 W-L record.
#1 in the NBA four of the last six years in Operating Income.
0 luxury tax dollars paid.

If this happened with any other team (besides maybe the Cubs, more on that later), the media would tear management apart.  Owners like Al Davis and Donald Sterling have been mocked continuously.  The Bears have three bad seasons and fans call for everyone's head.

But the Bulls, 12 years into one of the worst extended runs in professional sports, continue gliding by with little criticism.  Despite all of Jerry's cheapness, I've seen just two reporters call him out on it.  One works for, the other for ChicagoNow.  Despite all of Vinny's awful coaching decisions, I've seen just one reporter ask him about his job security, and he works for The Score.

Where is the Tribune?  The Sun-Times?  ESPN1000?  Comcast?  Chicago has plenty of media outlets that have no problem railing on the Bears, but stay quiet when the Bulls screw up worse, and for a longer period of time.

I did a little digging, and found Jerry plays a role in all of this.  Some of this might be already known, but I had no idea until recently:

1) The reason Reinsdorf originally bought the Bulls.  From an SI article in 1997:

"I felt owning the Bulls would help with the White Sox, since it would give me more leverage when dealing with sponsors."

More leverage, hmm.  Let's see how he's played his cards...

2) Reinsdorf and WMVP (ESPN1000)

In 2004, when Jay Mariotti was working for the Sun-Times, he was highly critical of Reinsdorf's management of the White Sox.  Reinsdorf was pissed about it, but as long as Mariotti was working for the Sun-Times, he was powerless to stop it.

But that February, WMVP (the station that aired Bulls games, now known as ESPN1000) gave Mariotti his own morning show.  Reinsdorf wasn't happy, with these quotes from the Tribune:

The chairman of the Sox and Bulls ... thought he had a voice in what airs on WMVP.

Reinsdorf expressed his views through his public relations director, Scott Reifert:

"The thing we question is that they have invested millions of dollars in promoting these teams," Reifert said. "Now they are bringing in somebody who has made it his business to devalue those investments. It doesn't make sense from a business perspective."

One other tiff occurred when Marc SIlverman and Carmen DeFalco interviewed Reinsdorf in April.  Evidently, Jerry expected an interview about Opening Day baseball while the hosts asked about other topics.  Jerry responded with:

''I hope you enjoyed [the interview] because I won't be on with you guys again. You conducted this interview under false pretenses, and you won't get another bite at the apple.''

The merit of the questions aside, the timing of this event and Mariotti's hiring was not great for WMVP, as noted in this Sun-Times article the next day:

"The station is negotiating a new contract with Reinsdorf to retain the broadcast rights for both teams, and the interview won't help"

You know what happened next.  Mariotti was fired in December, prompting this report from the Tribune:

Jay Mariotti is off Chicago’s airwaves, and he says his departure from ESPN Radio’s WMVP-AM 1000 is the result of the station’s desire to curry favor with the White Sox and Bulls.

Mariotti said the station asked him to tone down his criticism of the Bulls and White Sox, whose games are broadcast on WMVP and whose contracts are close to expiring.

In a big fuck you to WMVP, Reinsdorf instead signed a 4-year deal to broadcast games on WCKG, with this lovely quote included:

In conjunction with the move, the Bulls also announced they will be bringing all radio production and sales efforts "in-house." All aspects relating to the production of game broadcasts and the sale of advertising inventory for those broadcasts will be controlled by the team.

The next year, WCKG changed formats, and WMVP brought the Bulls back a year later and continue broadcasting the games today.  They still allow the Bulls to use their own radio team, and (in my opinion as a listener) have dramatically softened their criticism of the team.  Lesson learned.

3) Reinsdorf and Comcast SportsNet

Do you know who owns Comcast SportsNet?  Reinsdorf!

Maybe I'm just naive, but I had no idea.  He owns a 40% stake, with Rocky Wirtz owning 20%, Tom Ricketts owning 20%, and Comcast owning the remaining 20%.  Comcast SportsNet's wikipedia entry mentions that:

Comcast SportsNet Chicago was created so the teams mentioned could have editorial control over their broadcasts, unlike the past 'produced by' arrangements with the now-defunct FSN Chicago.

Weird.  So the entire broadcast (with halftime and postgame analysis) is produced by the Bulls.  And the entire radio broadcast is produced by the Bulls.  When Jason Goff wondered why his VDN job security question was "deemed inappropriate by Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill" it's because Schanowki and Gill work for Reinsdorf.

Speaking of Comcast...

4) Reinsdorf and the Tribune

We know KC Johnson is often featured on Comcast's pregame broadcasts.  But he's also often featured on another Comcast show: Chicago Tribune Live.  The city's biggest newspaper has a show on Reinsdorf's channel.  Add to it that the Tribune company was also a part owner in Comcast with Reinsdorf for years, and that Sam Zell (the Tribune's previous owner) was a part owner of the White Sox prior to his Cubs purchase, and there's reasons galore for a pro-Bulls bias.

Who knows what happens now that the Tribune sold its Comcast share to Ricketts.  There's still plenty of JerryMoney floating in to keep them on their best behavior, but maybe (hopefully) this will signal a slight diversion.


I couldn't find anything directly connecting Reinsdorf and the Sun-Times or Daily Herald or The Score, which could partially explain the support for McGraw and Goff in these parts.


This post along with Mind of Dorf isn't so much to argue that Reinsdorf is the reason for the Bulls failures (Pax and Skiles and VDN all deserve blame), but Reinsdorf is the reason why things have been so slow to turn around.  

When you fail to pay the luxury tax, fail to bring in a proven coach, fail to extend your players, and play the media so that 1) your production team covers all local TV and radio broadcasts, 2) you own the biggest stake in your city's local sports channel, and 3) you have in's with the city's biggest sports radio station and 4) newspaper... there's very little incentive to get your shit in gear, especially as the money continues to pour in.

In the meantime, send Jason Goff some praise.  It's pathetic that only one reporter is willing to ask tough questions, but I want him to know he's got support among the fans.  Hopefully Thonus continues to be critical of the organization as well.

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