Today in sports: The New Orleans Saints are courting trouble again and the FBI is involved this time, how to fill 23 hours of NFL Draft coverage, and Bobby Valentine is only now geting around to denying rumors of an ugly clubhouse incident from March.
The New Orleans Saints are in trouble again, or at least uncomfortably close to a troublesome situation, this time involving rewired microphone in general manager Mickey Loomis' Superdome suite that allegedly let him listen in to the headset chatter of opposing coaching staffs from 2002 through 2004. If true, this could be a violation of state and federal wiretapping laws, so an FBI task force is working in tandem with the Louisiana state police to investigate the report. Loomis, for his part, said the allegations are "1000 percent false" and "1000 percent inaccurate" and that he's considering legal options after the story was first reported on ESPN's Outside the Lines last night. Loomis was suspended 8 games by the NFL last month for his role in the team's bounty pool. [ESPN]
The University of Arkansas has made the curious decision to name former Michigan State head football coach John L. Smith interim coach of the Razorbacks for the upcoming season. Arkansas needed somebody to lead the team following the lurid public implosion of Bobby Petrino earlier this month and Smith is a former member of the coaching staff (he left in December to become the head coach at Weber State, a school he departs without ever having coached in a game) but his Michigan State teams were prone to epic second half-implosions unmatched in this millenium. The school did make a point of announcing that Smith signed "a 10-month, $850,000 contract." [AP]
In 2009, Mark Bowden wrote a terrific article for The Atlantic where he went inside a windowless CBS production truck to observe how televised pro football sausage is made. It's a chaotic process, especially when a team is marching down the field in the final two minutes looking to steal a win, and about the only thing that keeps the action in perspective is the crew's meticulous preparation during the work week. For three and a half hours, the decisions never let up. Which is the exact opposite of what makes the NFL upcoming three-day draft so difficult to direct. There's dead air: lots of dead air. And save for a handful of familiar names and faces, you're introducing fans to strangers. Strangers who play offensive line. To counteract the "Who is this guy?" effect, both ESPN and NFL Network build their broadcasts around 45 second-ish highlight reels showing a prospect in action. Two ESPN production assistants have been at work since January assembling reels for 275 draftable prospects, while six NFL Network staffers have collected footage on nearly 500 players. This isn't hard to come by if a prospect played in the Big 10, but it gets dicey for players who went to, say, Slippery Rock, West Texas A&M, California University of Pennsylvania, or the University of Western Ontario. That's why both networks employ a full-time travelling scout solely to gather draft intel and compile "a comprehensive research binder for producers and on-air staffers on each potential draftee" full of scout speak, personal tidbits -- anything to make the 23-hour, 3-day draftapalooza sing. [SI.com]
To further enhance this year's draft drama, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has put ESPN and NFLN on notice that he doesn't want their anchors spoiling the pick moments before it is announced. The networks are briefed on the identity of the next pick about 90 seconds before it is announced so they can cue up their video packages, but some people -- namely, ESPN's Chris Berman -- have a habit of sneaking in startlingly accurate last second predictions about who the pick will just before the commissioner heads to the podium. You know, so he can say he called it. Both networks have also agreed not to cut away to shots of prospects in the Green Room smiling and talking to his new coach on the phone, even though it's tradition and very sweet, though not suspenseful. [NBC Sports]
A 2004 World Series ring belonging to Cleveland Indians pitcher Derek Lowe is missing and presumed stolen. The bauble, which Lowe won as a member of the Boston Red Sox, was apparently lifted from his Fort Myers house along with "a [gold] trophy, some necklaces, and women's shoes and purses." [Boston.com]
As if newbie Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine didn't have enough to worry about in the wake of a 4-11 start where nobody on the team seems to know or care what they're doing, he's now having to deny a New York Daily News report that there was a "near-player revolt" during the first week of Spring Training after Valentine got into a "very ugly incident" with utility infielder Mike Aviles during fielding drills. Aviles, according to the story, confronted his skipper "with outrage" and Valentine apologized. Neither man remembers the alleged incident, which probably happened, knowing the Red Sox these days. Aviles is said to be about the only player on the team Valentine actually likes, so if anything happened, it brought them closer together. [Boston Globe]