Debbie Emery sat down with ESPN’s Bob Ley to talk about the upcoming World Cup in Brazil:

Emery: With only an hour’s time difference between Rio and New York, and four hours to Los Angeles, do you anticipate that will help with ratings?

Ley: The timing is heaven — the first match is noon EST and the last at 6 p.m. EST. It is going to be an incredible advantage for us. I don’t deal in numbers — I am going to let the corner office deal with the ratings — but I predict that the economy of the U.S. is going to take a six-week hit! Productivity is going to plummet.

This seems like it’s going to be a massive, massive World Cup, maybe for the first time in the U.S. — even if the U.S. doesn’t fare all that well in their “group of death”.

Ben Thompson:

Nate Silver’s manifesto for his new site is 3500 words long, meaning it would take the average adult just under 12 minutes to read. That 12 minutes is then gone forever, a bit of attention taken from whatever other activity said reader would have otherwise consumed, and instead gave to Nate Silver. That is why Nate Silver is so valuable.

The implication of my news consumption being dominated by the tall skinny part of the power curve is that those who can regularly appear there – the best of the best – are going to win the zero sum game for my attention. And, for that, they will be justly rewarded.

What then, though, of the tens of thousands of journalists who formerly filled the middle of the bell curve? More broadly – and this is the central challenge to society presented by the Internet – what then of the millions of others who are perfectly average and thus, in an age where the best is only a click away, are simply not needed?

It’s a great point and question. The internet has made the “best” more accessible, so why would anyone settle for anything less?

Derek Thompson:

One of the loudest criticisms of ESPN is that its aggressively mainstream approach creates a sycophantic celebrity culture built around the biggest stars and juiciest plots, from the agonies of the L.A. Lakers, to the scandals of Tiger Woods, to the postmodern dramedy of Tim Tebow. But according to Elberse, the company’s superstar culture is the best strategy for a fat-headed world.

“It’s not different from People realizing that there are only five celebrities who really sell [magazines], so why put anyone else on the cover?” she said. “It’s Hollywood making more movies with Marvel characters. It reduced the risk, and it works.” The company’s core strengths stem from a superstar-first approach to sports news. Essentially, ESPN is in the business of building athletes into superheroes, because, like Walt Disney Pictures, it is in the business of building blockbusters.

It’s easy to forget that ESPN started to dwindle a bit in the late 1990s/early 2000s when they started to delve more heavily into niche sports and “sports”. Their audience, as it turns out, didn’t want the long-tail, they wanted the “fat-head”. The focus on that has made ESPN the seemingly unstoppable powerhouse it is today.

James Andrew Miller, Steve Eder, and Richard Sandomir:

Underscoring ESPN’s special relationship with college football is the fact that it created and owns the software used for scheduling games. The online portal, known as the Pigskin Access Scheduling System, or PASS, is now used by virtually all conferences and colleges, as well as competing networks. Generally, the colleges work together to set up nonconference matchups, but sometimes they reach out to ESPN for a suggestion, or even to play matchmaker.

In January, Bob Arkeilpane, the deputy athletic director at Cincinnati, sent an e-mail to an ESPN executive, Dave Brown. Mr. Arkeilpane explained in the message, which was obtained by The Times, that Cincinnati would be opening a new premium seating area and press box in 2015 and needed a top-tier opponent.

Mr. Brown, who is well known for his thick Rolodex, wrote back that morning, “Will do — let me look and see what’s out there for ’15.”

Smart on the part of ESPN, but sad on the part of these universities. Though hardly shocking.

Christopher Palmeri & Andy Fixmer:

An Internet TV provider would have to pay as much or more than cable and satellite services, President John Skipper said today at ESPN’s campus in Bristol, Connecticut. He declined to specify the companies ESPN has spoken with.

A Web-based service would have to buy “the whole suite of products,” Skipper said. “We’re not going to offer one-offs.” The network includes the flagship channel, plus others such as ESPN2, ESPN News and mobile applications offered to existing pay-TV subscribers.

"You hear that Mr. Anderson?… That is the sound of inevitability…"

Laura Hazard Owen:

Silver said that the main model for the new FiveThirtyEight will be Grantland.com, the ESPN-owned sports and pop culture site founded by sports columnist Bill Simmons. “Grantland was as close to anything in the media right now” as what he wants to do at ESPN, Silver said. When considering offers — and there were “a lot of them” — Silver said he looked at “who can actually put this vision into practice…I have a lot of confidence that [ESPN] is going to do this the right way.” Another model for the new site was Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog, which is owned by the Washington Post.

While I wondered why Silver simply wouldn’t start his own site, it makes sense to follow the Grantland model with all of ESPN’s resources behind him. And I suspect we’re going to start seeing a lot more of this. Less about the publication, more about the writer. Which I welcome.

James Andrew Miller:

ESPN is expected to announce on Wednesday that the former network mainstay Keith Olbermann, who contentiously departed in 1997, will return to host a one-hour, nightly show for ESPN2 later this year, according to three executives with knowledge of the deal but not authorized to speak about it publicly.

He’s baaack. But:

On his new show, Olbermann will be free to discuss matters other than sports, including pop culture and current events, but not politics, the two-year pact specifies.

Still, this proves once again that you can go home again.

Eric Raskin dives deep into the 2003 World Series of Poker, and in particular, the shocking winner with the best name ever: Chris Moneymaker:

Moneymaker: A lot of people came up to me the next few years and said, “You’re responsible for this.” Or, “Thanks a lot, I can’t get on a table now.” I obviously had an idea that I was a big catalyst for everything, but can I really say I caused this? I don’t think in those terms. I never thought in those terms. I’m just a guy who got a little lucky and played really good poker for one week. And I picked the best week in history to do that.

He turned at $39 buy-in at an online poker match into a $2.5 million win in Las Vegas that set ESPN on fire.

melfi asked:

On his 2/5 B.S. Report podcast, ESPN/Grantland's Bill Simmons discussed pulling a prank on Dick Costello during the Super Bowl. The two were in box together at the game when Simmons pulled out his phone, turned to Costello, and said, "Oh, so Twitter's down?" He said Costello freaked out and almost had a heart attack. Then got really upset when he found out it was a joke. The story starts at the 37:30 mark of the podcast. Tried to add a link, but it won't let me. Thought you'd enjoy listening.

Awesome. Love the BS Report almost as much as I love Twitter (and pranks on Dick Costolo). Will have to listen. As will anyone reading this :)