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Champion: First Take Must Evolve

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“First Take” is one of ESPN’s most successful — and controversial — studio shows, thanks to the often provocative takes of Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith. But for the third person in the ring, the format eventually grew too limiting.

So host Cari Champion left the show last month. At 11 a.m. Thursday, she will debut in her new gig as a “SportsCenter” anchor alongside fellow former “First Take” host Jay Crawford.

“Let me tell you, the transition was tough because I really enjoyed the show in terms of what we were able to build over the past two-and-a-half, three years,” she said Wednesday between hosting panel discussions at Beyond Sport United, an event at the Prudential Center to promote and discuss social consciousness in sports.

“But I’m very aware of the position. It was the middle seat, the moderator to get the questions laid out. It’s a great platform. It was a wonderfully watched show, but the ceiling was really low. I had the skill set to do more.

“I’m a local journalist. I was an anchor. I’ve worked in this business for a very long time and so I wanted to do more. The end game wasn’t always just ‘SportsCenter,’ but you know how that place works in terms of if you want to do something else, you have to be seen on ‘SportsCenter.’ It’s the show that’s regarded, it’s the show that you cut your teeth on and can show the rest of the world what you can do. So for me it was the only thing that made sense.

“It was really strategic. It was very much a decision that I had to make when you remove the emotion from it. I didn’t want to leave Skip and Stephen A. and I didn’t want to leave what we had already built. But at the same time, I knew that it was their show, and no matter how much I was a part of it and no matter how much fun I had, it was limiting, and not in a bad way, because if there was no ‘First Take,’ there would be no ‘SportsCenter’ opportunity and there wouldn’t be these opportunities [at Beyond Sport]. I’m excited about it.”

Champion will host 9 and 11 a.m. shows for now, but in February she will be one of the hosts of a new 7 a.m. “SportsCenter.”

“I had been at ‘First Take’ for about a year and I went and knocked on some doors; you somewhat campaign for yourself,” she said of the transition. “There’s a lot of politics there and you want to make sure everyone is OK with it . . . They loved ‘First Take’ and loved me on it. It gets a lot of attention. But what else could I have done? I honestly believe that’s what that moderator role is: two years max and you move on.

“The position could evolve. I hope whoever is the next host gets an opportunity to do more than just what I was able to do because I feel the show needs to evolve. Eventually you have to have somebody in the middle who can participate and can go back and forth, if need be. That’s a role. That’s a real position. You need someone to move the conversation along.”

Credit to Newsday who originally published this article

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Lauren Shehadi: Ernie Johnson Is The Model For Studio Hosts

“To me, he’s the greatest in-studio host. What he does best is facilitate greatness.”

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In addition to her job at MLB Network being a host on MLB Central, Lauren Shehadi is hosting TBS’s Tuesday night baseball coverage each week with Jimmy Rollins, Curtis Granderson, and Pedro Martinez. The Tuesday night games are new for Turner Sports this year after doing only Sunday games during the regular season in addition to the network’s postseason coverage. 

Shehadi was a guest on The Kyle Koster Show this week and she was asked what the goal was for her with the MLB on TBS Tuesday broadcasts. She takes a lot of inspiration from what she sees on Inside The NBA on TNT.

“I always think about Ernie Johnson in the same building. To me, he’s the greatest in-studio host. What he does best is facilitate greatness. He gets the most out of Shaq and Kenny [Smith] and Charles [Barkley]. If there’s no ego involved, it’s all about how the show can be so great.

“You look at him and you think how can I be like that? You want to be authentic and be yourself, but in the sense of getting the best out of your guys and girls that you talk to every day. That was my goal going in, Be authentic.”

Shehadi said she gets to spend a lot of time with Johnson and the rest of the Turner Sports crew. Tuesday nights tend to be something of a corporate family reunion. 

“On Tuesday nights, we all sit in a room and we all watch NBA, MLB, and NHL when it’s on. We get Shaq’s reaction to Sandy Alcantara’s slider in real-time. What we see from Inside The NBA is when they do demos. When they get up and walk and they are casual and they do little bits, that’s what we try to take to our show, but we want it to feel authentic.” 

When Shehadi isn’t hosting Turner Sports’ baseball coverage, she is a part of MLB Central every weekday on MLB Network with Robert Flores and Mark DeRosa. On that show, the goal for her is how to make baseball relatable to everyone: 

“That’s the sweet spot of MLB Central. No question is silly. Nobody is smarter than the other. We laugh at ourselves. We laugh at each other. It is just a fun 4 hours, grab your coffee, let’s talk the game, let’s laugh because life is short and baseball is fun.” 

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AT&T Sportsnet’s Kelsey Wingert Shows Off Stitches After Being Drilled Line Drive

“The veteran reporter is expected to get married in June. Doctors are “hoping” the scar doesn’t effect her big day.”

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Baseball reporters at the regional level have some of the toughest jobs in all of sports. Not only do they cover each for all 162 games, but there’s always the potential for getting drilled by a foul ball.

While all MLB ball clubs have expanded their netting this season to protect fans sitting close to the field, Rockies sideline reporter Kelsey Wingert suffered a nasty injury via a foul ball earlier this week.

A scary incident took place on Monday’s outing against the Rockies and San Francisco Giants at Coors Field in Denver. In the ninth inning, Giants outfielder Austin Slater hit a foul ball off Daniel Bard, with the ball heading straight to the dugout, right where Wingert was standing while reporting for AT&T Sportsnet.

After getting attended to by the Rockies medical staff and walking it off, giving fans a “thumbs up,” Wingert ended up having to go to the hospital where she received multiple stitches to her forehead.

The 29-year-old reporter took to Twitter on Wednesday to express her gratitude towards the Rockies organization and AT&T Sportsnet general manager David Woodman, who along with his wife Paula, stayed by her side at the hospital.

“I had a CT scan to make sure there was no internal bleeding or fractures and all came back clear. Thank God,” Wingert said on Twitter Wednesday. “The stitches will have to come out in a week. I’m very lucky it wasn’t worse. It was just really scary and bummed me out given the circumstances.”

You would think this was the first time Wingert got hit by a ball but back in 2018 while working for Fox Sports and the Atlanta Braves she was struck by a foul ball while standing near a camera past the Braves dugout, resulting in a fractured eye socket. 

Wingert retweeted a photo taken of her black eye after returning home where she made light of what could’ve been an awful occurrence.

While recovering from her wound, Wingert will be taking a few games off. The veteran reporter is expected to get married in June. Doctors are “hoping” the scar doesn’t effect her big day.

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Greg Olsen To Partner With Kevin Burkhardt For Super Bowl LVII

“Last season was the first Burkhardt and Olsen worked together. They largely won rave reviews.”

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The deal isn’t done yet, but Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reports that Greg Olsen is on his way to joining Kevin Burkhardt in the top NFL booth at FOX. Although Tom Brady will take over that role after he retires and leaves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Olsen will spend at least this season on FOX’s A-Team.

Last season was the first Burkhardt and Olsen worked together. They largely won rave reviews.

Earlier this year, the former Panther told The Mac Attack on WFNZ in Charlotte that he was disappointed he didn’t get to call a postseason game. He will more than make up for that in 2023. As Burkhardt’s partner, Olsen is in line to be the analyst for Super Bowl LVII.

Marchand writes that we could get a taste of what is to come in February. He speculates that if the Buccaneers are not in the Super Bowl, it is possible Tom Brady could make his FOX debut, either in the booth alongside Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen or as part of the network’s studio show.

Now, FOX has to make a decision about it’s number 2 NFL booth. According to Marchand, Drew Brees is a candidate to be the analyst. Adam Amin and Joe Davis have emerged as candidates for the play-by-play role.

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