The outpouring of sympathy and stories continues for longtime NFL writer Don Banks, who passed away suddenly early Sunday morning in Canton, Ohio, while covering the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
The 57 year old Banks had recently been hired by the Las Vegas Review Journal newspaper to become their NFL writer / cover the Raiders, when they arrive to town in 2020. He was at the induction ceremony Saturday night, but was found non-responsive in his Canton hotel room, apparently dying in his sleep:
Don Banks, the veteran football writer who was recently hired by the Review-Journal to cover the NFL, died in his sleep early Sunday morning after attending Hall of Fame ceremonies in Canton, Ohiohttps://t.co/Mc1GLIr5L5
— Las Vegas RJ Sports (@RJ_Sports) August 4, 2019
However, that’s the end of his 25+ year NFL media career.
He actually began his long NFL writing career in Tampa Bay working for the then- St Petersburg Times, and covering the Buccaneers.
Banks worked for the Times on the Bucs beat in the 1990s in and around coaches Sam Wyche and Tony Dungy.
Several Tampa Bay media members and former co-workers expressed sympathy and remembrances after the news had broken Sunday, ESPN Bucs reporter Jenna Laine tweeted this:
Don Banks was not only one of the most talented, most respected NFL reporters, but also one of the most caring. He did everything he could to leave things in this profession better than he found them. We are all better because of Don.
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) August 4, 2019
Current Watch Stadium college football insider, Brett McMurphy, talked about Banks’ roots with him, as a high school sports reporter in Tampa Bay:
Such sad news. I had privilege of knowing Don for 30 years when we first started out as high school reporters w/Tampa Tribune & St. Pete Times. Such an incredible reporter & an even better person. Prayers to his family https://t.co/cTIVsaiDgp
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) August 5, 2019
Meanwhile, Banks’ former colleague at the Times and current Buccaneers beat writer, Rick Stroud talked at length with fond remembrances and stories on his podcast about Banks that was released Monday morning. Those stories dated back to Banks covering the orange “Bucco Bruce” Buccaneers three decades ago:
PODCAST: @NFLSTROUD remembers long-time friend and colleague @DonBanks, plus #Bucs QB Jameis Winston starting to shine in practice & #Rays are rolling with 6 wins in a row while scoring 6 runs or more in each.@TBTimes_Sportshttps://t.co/f3ZMlMfg7t
— Sports Day Tampa Bay (@SportsDayTB) August 5, 2019
Banks left Tampa and worked in Minnesota as a Vikings beat writer for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press and later jumped to Sports Illustrated, where he worked for nearly 20 years, including helping develop their extensive digital coverage of the NFL.
They remembered him fondly and sadly, as well:
— The MMQB (@theMMQB) August 5, 2019
Banks had been working for the past few years for The Athletic out of Boston, covering the Patriots and the National Football League before being hired earlier this summer in Las Vegas.
Ironically, Banks’ first work for the Vegas paper ran Sunday morning, on the day that he died. He wrote about the Cleveland Browns transitioning from having been covered extensively in training camp last year by HBO’s Hard Knocks to a new coaching staff, etc. for this year.
Banks is survived by his second wife and his adult children from a previous marriage. And, it’s obvious that he had tremendous impact, especially with a lot of young and up-and-coming reporters in the business.
Time for concern after XFL TV ratings declined again last week?
For the second consecutive week, the XFL televison ratings continued to slide in the wrong direction. And, the troubling part is that if the trend continues, the XFL will have no leverage for sponsors and revenue to keep it going long term.
First, here are the specifics on the bad viewership news: According to Showbuzzdaily.com all four XFL broadcasts last Saturday and Sunday afternoon had lower ratings in their slot than the previous week.
That includes the Tampa Bay Vipers home debut against Houston, which was the early game on ABC Saturday. And, while that window had 400,000 less viewers than week 2, the bigger concern is ABC has lost almost 40% of the audience from the 3.3 million average that watched their Week one debut game on Saturday afternoon.
The ratings downward trend is following the same pattern as last Spring’s Alliance of American Football, where the ratings dwindled to under a million fans for broadcasts by week five and eventually the league shut down after just eight weeks. This was in part because of concerns on how the AAF could make any revenue, through television in specific, if they had very little audience for the end of year one and to sell off of for year two.
Now, WWE owner Vince McMahon, who folded the XFL the first time in 2001 in large part because the television audience plummeted over the course of the first month or so of its existence and never recovered, has the same issue in 2020.
And, as we wrote previously, this audience decline while negative is far less McMahon’s original XFL and it’s first season of 2001. That’s when, it debuted on its first Saturday night on NBC with a massive 10.1 rating, which translated 18 years ago to more than 9.5 viewers on network TV. A Smashing success.
However, the XFL’s ratings plummeted starting the following week and had fewer than 25% of that opening night audience just a month later with the games still being shown on a Saturday night coveted slot on NBC. It doomed the league from a P.R. and sponsor standpoint and McMahon pulled the plug.
Now, in 2020, McMahon reportedly has money to burn and is apparently prepared to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in year one. So, even if the XFL TV ratings continue come down significantly, it will not spell the end of the XFL (like it did nearly 20 years ago) after just a single season.
At least, that’s what we think.
Vipers better but drop third straight game in home opener
Although their play was improved offensively, in the end it wasn’t enough for the Tampa Bay Vipers after they dropped their third straight XFL game to start the season 34 – 27 to Houston Saturday afternoon in Tampa.
Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, as Houston scored early in the fourth quarter to go up by seven and held off the Viper the rest of the way.
The Vipers offense came to life after they had failed to score in the offensive touchdown in either of their first two games. Both of which were losses on the road. Quarterback Taylor Cornelius, subbing for starter Aaron Murray who missed his second straight game with an injured foot, once again had modest numbers 16-31 for 193 yards 1 TD, 1 INT.
However, he did pull the game even at 18 – 18 at the half after scoring on a one yard QB sneak and Tampa Bay got the two-point conversion.
Still, the former Oklahoma State quarterbacks day was inconsistent and the home crowd at Raymond James Stadium began to chant the name “Flowers, Flowers” for former USF Star Quarterback Quinton Flowers, who played sparingly for the third straight game in a reserve role.
Flowers got Tampa Bay’s first offensive TD on the young season with a seven yard run in the first quarter, but only played QB sparingly in the game, again. He was just 4-6 for 57 yards passing with 29 yards on six attempts on the ground.
Meanwhile, the former Temple star Walker found receiver Cam Phillips for the third of their three touchdown hookups from 17 yards out to give Houston a 34 – 27 lead with just over 10 minutes to play. Phillips devastated Jerry Glanville’s Vipers defense for 194 yards receiving on eight catches with the three TDs.
The Vipers look like they were going to have a chance to re-tie the game when Cornelius (above) completed a pass to his top target on the day, Jaylen Tolliver, at the two-yard line. However just like a week ago in Seattle when a critical fourth quarter drive stalled and Tampa Bay came away with no points in a 17 – 9 lost the Dragons, the Vipers got no points after Cornelius threw incomplete on second, third and fourth downs.
Many in the crowd and observers in the media were curious, as to why coach Marc Trestman didn’t go to Flowers as the dual threat running QB to at least try something different on one of those plays? Flowers even questioned why he did not play more after the game to the media.
The Vipers got the ball one final time, but Cornelius was picked off near midfield with just over a minute left to seal the defeat.
The Vipers played the first spring professional football game in Tampa, since the closing of the USFL 1985 season. That’s when Steve Spurrier’s Tampa Bay Bandits were a popular item at Old Tampa Stadium. Saturday’s home opener drew and announced crowd of 18,117.
However it’s little consolation for former Bears and CFL coach Trestman and his team, as they remain winless on the season. The L.A. Wildcats playing Sunday are the other 0-2 team in the league, currently.
And, you have to wonder whether Trestman will be forced to go to Flowers for the start when they host the D.C. Defenders next week.