ESPN erosion becoming apparent

As the 2015 football season unfolds, keep an eye on ESPN. As the 2015 football season unfolds, keep an eye on ESPN. Do you see more remote announcing crews from the Worldwide Leader—like Boise State saw once during a men’s basketball game at Taco Bell Arena last winter? Do you see a minimum of three-person booths? There’s a new reality hitting ESPN up ‘side the head, and we’re seeing signs of it now. Cord-cutting is taking its toll. People are increasingly getting their TV from Netflix, Amazon and Roku, etc. They’re not forced to subscribe to ESPN as part of a bundle. That reduces viewership, which reduces advertising rates, which seriously reduces revenue. If you’ve been waiting for the day when overpaid athletes are finally hit in the wallet, well, the day of reckoning may be coming sooner than we think. Supply and demand will yet rule.

ESPN has shelled out billions for broadcast rights—and millions for college football. That’s a relative term for Boise State, but the Broncos’ home games are still controlled by ESPN, so BSU would be affected, too. But let’s say that deal goes away in coming years. Boise State wouldn’t really be sacrificing that much money. It would be losing some exposure. Fans would get their lives back with earlier kickoff times, though. At any rate, something’s gotta give. There are reports saying ESPN must slash $400 million over the next two years after it lost seven million subscribers during the past four years.

Rookies have begun reporting to NFL training camps. Boise State has only two this year: running back Jay Ajayi, the fifth-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins, and undrafted Blake Renaud, the linebacker who’s not a linebacker anymore with the Minnesota Vikings. Renaud, who reports tomorrow, was signed as a fullback for the Vikings—if he’s fortunate, he’ll be able to go the same route Korey Hall did. After a decorated career as a linebacker, Hall was drafted out of Boise State in the sixth round in 2007, and the Green Bay Packers turned him into a fullback. Hall was productive in front of Brett Favre (and later Aaron Rodgers) and got a Super Bowl ring out of his six-year NFL career.

One of Renaud’s former linebacking colleagues at Boise State, Joe Martarano, plays baseball against the Boise Hawks in Eugene Sunday through Tuesday as a member of the Emeralds. If he gets into a game. The one-time Fruitland High multi-sport star is coming to the end of his Northwest League stint, as Bronco fall camp begins a week from Monday. Martarano has played in only four games for the Ems and is batting just .133. Both of his hits and his one RBI came in his Eugene debut on July 12.

The Hawks have a home series against Hillsboro before they venture into Eugene. The first of the three games was last night, and the Hops made quick work of the Hawks. It took only two hours and 10 minutes for Hillsboro pitchers Carlos Hernandez and Troy Marks to spin a three-hitter in a 4-1 victory at Memorial Stadium. The Hawks managed just one base hit—a fifth-inning single by Luis Castro—until cobbling together a couple hits and a run in the bottom of the ninth to avoid being shut out for the second time this season.

Lots of baseball stuff to touch on today. A third former Hawk has made the majors this season. Zack Godley got the start last night for the Arizona Diamondbacks against Milwaukee in Phoenix and was brilliant. Godley tossed six scoreless innings, allowing four hits and striking out seven to notch his first big league victory as the D-Backs topped the Brewers 8-3. The 25-year-old righthander was part of the trade that sent Miguel Montero to the Cubs last December. He went 2-0 with a 1.75 ERA for the Hawks in 2013 and got a save in the Northwest League Championship Series against Vancouver. The other two debuts this season came from Atlanta’s Andrew McKirahan and the Cubs’ Kris Bryant. And McKirahan was just activated this week after an 80-game major league suspension for a positive test on a banned substance.

Every start for ex-Hawk Jeff Samardzija right now is an audition of sorts, kind of like a year ago. At that time Samardzija was a Cub—and ended up being acquired by Oakland. Now he’s a member of the White Sox, and the Giants and Dodgers are rumored to be possible landing spots as the 2015 trade deadline approaches. Samardzija would be a good fit in the Bay Area, just as he was the second half of last season. In his latest start at Cleveland last night, the one-time Notre Dame wide receiver was impressive, going eight innings and allowing just one run on five hits in an 8-1 White Sox victory. Samardzija improved to 7-5.

John Lackey’s not going anywhere. Last year Lackey had his turn at a trade deadline move, going from Boston to St. Louis. The oldest former Hawk left in the majors is thriving for the Cardinals, the best team in baseball right now. Lackey pitched seven innings, yielding two runs on six hits as the Cards held off interleague rival Kansas City, 4-3. The 36-year-old righthander is now 9-5 with a 2.88 ERA.

Clarification: Josh Osich did allow the first three runs of his major league career Tuesday night, but none of them were earned. And they had nothing to do with the Bishop Kelly grad’s trip back to Triple-A Sacramento. San Francisco had to clear a roster spot for reliever Jeremy Affeldt, who was coming off the disabled list. Osich faced 30 batters in his 2½ weeks in the majors and allowed just four hits—and three of them didn’t happen until the Tuesday win at San Diego. And his ERA remains 0.00. “He’s played his way back into being a top prospect for us,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said in the San Francisco Chronicle. He’ll be baaaaaack.

Graham DeLaet was only the eighth-best Canadian yesterday at the RBC Canadian Open, and there was a reason. The former Boise State star injured his thumb during the first day of the tournament, but he finished the round and was hoping to continue today after trudging through with an even-par 72, in a tie for 85th. After the round, though, DeLaet said he wasn’t able to move his hand back on drives and felt pain when he released on shots, and he has been forced to withdraw. This is not what the Weyburn, Saskatchewan, native envisioned in his homecoming. Fellow former Bronco Troy Merritt also carded a 72 yesterday at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario.

The FC Nova Nationals finally scored for the first time yesterday at the U.S. U19 Girls Youth Soccer National Championships. They finally gave up their first goal, too. But the Nova Nationals tallied twice and Gretna Prima Green of Nebraska just once, and the Meridian-based merged squad is headed to tomorrow afternoon’s national title match in Tulsa, OK, the first Idaho team ever to reach a national final. Akina Fujimoto and Rikki Fix notched the goals for the Nova Nationals, who face Gretna Prima Green again for all the marbles.

This Day In Sports…July 24, 1978:

New York Yankees manager Billy Martin “resigns” a day after calling slugger Reggie Jackson a “born liar” and owner George Steinbrenner a “convicted felon.” For all practical purposes, of course, Martin was fired, the first of five times it happened under Steinbrenner’s watch. Shortly thereafter “The Boss” announced plans to bring back Martin in 1980, but he’d actually re-hire the fiery former second baseman early in the 1979 season, letting Bob Lemon go. Martin would manage the Yanks again in 1983, 1985 and 1988.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)