Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Hare-y proposition!

There have been some wacky trades in the annals of sports history. Players have been swapped for equipment, managers and coaches have exchanged jobs - and, yeah, there have been occasions when the a guy has been traded for a "player to be named later," only for said unnamed player to end up being the same guy. (We won't even go into Lou Brock-for-Ernie Broglio, the very mention of which sends waves of nausea into any good Cub fan's stomach.) So what went down today between two sports networks wasn't that unusual. For NBC Sports and ABC/ESPN did some wheelin'-and-dealin' today.

NBC Sports got sportscaster Al Michaels to headline their upcoming Sunday Night Football NFL franchise alongside John Madden, with whom Michaels worked on ABC's "Monday Night Football," which is moving to ESPN after 35 years.

In exchange, ABC/ESPN got the rights to extended highlights from such NBC Sports properties as the Olympics, the Kentucky Derby and the Ryder Cup, the chance to promote ESPN's version of "MNF" on NBC's NFL broadcasts, and ...

... a rabbit.

But not just any rabbit - Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, best known as Walt Disney's precursor to Mickey Mouse. Disney had created the happy hare while he was with Universal back in the 1920s, but left the studio and the bunny behind over a contract dispute and went on to establish his own shingle and cast of animated characters. Nearly 80 years later, mergers had created the perfect scenario for Disney Studios, now the owner of ABC and ESPN, to regain ownership of a part of its founder's heritage from what is now known as NBC Universal.

A look at Oswald (he's the one on the right, by the way) reveals the natural "family" resemblance and makes it understandable while Disney would give up an actual living human being to get him back. But this isn't just a nostalgia-based transaction. 'Cause this is the 21st century, brother, where everyone and everything has to earn its keep. Turns out Oswald is being lined up for a three-episode gig on "Desperate Housewives" as Gabrielle's new boy toy. Can't wait for May sweeps!

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