Last week Ryen Russillo confirmed on his Twitter feed that he had re-signed with ESPN, a welcome move in these parts. I’ve written often how much respect I had for the show he and Scott Van Pelt did for ESPN Radio—not only were they authentic, they didn’t toke the easy drug of lowest common denominator sports talk. Russillo also fronted college football and NBA shows on ESPN and ESPN Radio and even if you disagreed with his analysis, you come away respecting that he does the preparation. Over the weekend, I emailed him some questions, and below is our conversation verbatim:
SI.com: Why did you decide to re-sign with ESPN?
Russillo: The obvious answer is that it’s ESPN. I’ve been here almost 10 years. I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt more appreciated than now. I wanted to live in L.A. and do something different. I wanted to challenge myself and get away from the east coast after a difficult two years for my family. One of my parents got sick, then they got divorced and I was dumped 30 minutes before my show, twice. These last two years have sucked and I wanted to go swimming. I’m not bull——– you. And I miss [Fox Sports host and good friend] Charissa [Thompson]. During my time here it’s been weird. I had one manager tell me to not talk on the air during the baseball show I hosted. My favorite quote was “we need Scott to talk more but don’t feel like you need to talk less.” So I was ready for something different. But these guys have been incredible. They made me feel like they really wanted me.
SI.com: What was the deciding factor in the reason you are remaining at ESPN?
Russillo: I like it here. I honestly love coming to work each day.
Also, more television exposure, which has been an issue in the past. I love talking NBA and wanted a chance to do that more. I was the first person at ESPN to say that LeBron was going back to Cleveland that week. That was sourced information. I said all season Kevin Love was re-signing with Cleveland. I sit on all this info because it doesn’t always work well for a radio segment. TV will help with this.
SI.com: What has management told you about your role on ESPN Radio heading forward?
Russillo: They haven’t said anything except to keep doing what I’m doing. I know the numbers for Scott and I were really good the last few years. Maybe that continues, maybe it doesn’t. But I feel really lucky to be trusted to keep this going.
SI.com: Is it your preference to work solo at ESPN Radio, or to work with a partner?
Russillo: A partner. Solo radio is the hardest thing to do in this business. It’s harder than anchoring, play by play, writing for a deadline. It’s not even close. I’ve done all of these things. There are times I’d rather an interview be solo or a time I have something to say where I don’t want anyone else getting in. But for the most part I’m better listening to someone I respect and making it a conversation. [Colin] Cowherd doesn’t get enough credit for this. We don’t take calls because calls are terrible. Three hours solo is tough to pull off. In the past I think I was good solo for 1/3 shows and I wasn’t doing it regularly so that made it worse. The scariest feeling ever is being on the air and realize you are boring as “F” and you wish you could change the channel on yourself. When I get older I just want to take calls for five hours and tell people how tough my job is. Calls are a crutch.
SI.com: How much television will you do as part of this new deal?
Russillo: A lot. It took a long time. [Executive vice president] John Wildhack really changed things for me here. He pushed to get me on TV two years ago and I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that. I did TV for the Celtics for six years. I was doing post-game for the NBA Finals in 2008 sitting next to Tommy Heinsohn. [Comcast SportsNet New England news director] Kevin Miller in Boston took a chance on me and I’ll always be grateful for that. People were like “who is this guy?” But it worked, so I always wanted that to be part of my future.
Credit to Sports Illustrated who originally published this article
Dave Rothenberg Can’t Stand Hearing Kenny Albert Mispronounce ‘Raleigh’
“I would think a true professional, like somebody that cares about their craft, would get that kind of feedback and welcome it.”
Dave Rothenberg has a tiny bone to pick with Kenny Albert, and it’s over the way Kenny pronounces the Carolina Hurricanes’ home city.
Talking on his show on ESPN New York on Tuesday, Rothenberg, who spent three years working in Raleigh on 99.9 The Fan, said he wished someone would get in Albert’s ear and correct the way he’s been saying it adding that it has made him wish one of the top play-by-play voices in hockey wouldn’t be on the call for the playoff series between the Canes and New York Rangers.
“I would think a true professional, like somebody that cares about their craft, would get that kind of feedback and welcome it,” Rothenberg said.
Albert has been pronouncing the city’s name as “RAW-lee”. It is properly pronounced “RAH-lee”.
Co-host Rick DiPietro and the rest of the show crew thought Albert would take offense to the correction, especially since it’s such a minor thing, but Rothenberg thought that was ridiculous.
“See, no one can deal with tough love anymore,” Rothenberg said.
The New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes series shifts back to Raleigh on Thursday for Game 5. The series is tied 2-2.
NBC Sports Names Al Michaels To Emeritus Role
The partnership will keep Michaels on for the Olympics and NBC’s NFL playoff coverage.
NBC Sports, which had been the home of Al Michaels since 2006, will still feature the veteran broadcaster despite Michaels’ moving to Amazon for Thursday Night Football.
The network announced that Michaels will still be a part of NBC Sports’ high-profile broadcasting properties including the Olympics and NFL Playoffs. Michaels’ last broadcast with the network had been Super Bowl LVI in February, his eleventh Super Bowl.
NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua said in a statement, “Revered by viewers and colleagues, Al has been the soundtrack for many of the greatest moments in sports television history. We are thrilled that he’s staying in the family and raising the stature of our events for years to come.”
“I’m looking forward to continuing my longtime NBC relationship while also launching the Thursday Night Football package on Amazon this fall. A special thanks to NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua and the folks at NBCUniversal for their help in making this happen,” Michaels said.
Michaels moved to Amazon Prime Video this season for their Thursday Night Football package. He will be paired with ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit. This season will mark his 37th NFL play-by-play campaign in primetime.
Following another historic broadcasting moment in which Michaels deftly demonstrated his expertise and versatility, he became just the second sportscaster in history to receive a News Emmy nomination for his coverage of the San Francisco earthquake during the 1989 World Series.
In addition to the 11 Super Bowls, Michaels has worked nine Olympics and called eight World Series.
In December 2020, Michaels was honored with the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Michaels is one of only five distinguished broadcasters to be recognized with the baseball honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Award (Dick Enberg, Lindsey Nelson, Jack Buck, and Curt Gowdy).
One of television’s most respected journalists, Michaels has covered more major sports events than any sportscaster, including 20 years as the play-by-play voice of Monday Night Football. He is the only commentator to call the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals and host the Stanley Cup Final for network television. In addition, Michaels called the classic 1985 championship boxing match between Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns and “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler.
Among his many accolades, Michaels has captured eight Emmy Awards – seven for Outstanding Sports Personality – Play-by-Play and one in 2011 for the Lifetime Achievement Award, and has three times (1980, 1983 and 1986) received the NSSA Award from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association; he was inducted into the NSSA Hall of Fame in 1998. Michaels was named Sportscaster of the Year in 1996 by the American Sportscasters Association, and, in 1991, he was named Sportscaster of the Year by the Washington Journalism Review.
Thom Brennaman Continues to Search for a Second Chance
Brennaman has been searching for a broadcasting gig since he spoke a homophobic slur in August 2020 on a Cincinnati Reds broadcast.
The last time Thom Brennaman sported the microphone for a major broadcast was August 19, 2020. It was game that featured a doubleheader between the Cincinnati Reds and the Kanasas City Royals and in between the two, Brennaman blurted a homophobic slur that has thus far kept him off radio and television.
Brennaman has struggled to find his footing since that error. Recently, Brennaman recorded an episode of Tell Me A Story I Don’t Know, a podcast hosted George Ofman. That episode was available Tuesday and in it, Ofman asks where Brennaman thinks he’ll be in six months.
Brennaman said, “I have no idea. I really don’t. There were a couple of times I thought that maybe somebody out there was going to give me a chance to broadcast again and then this same thing comes up again.”
Brennaman sounded baffled that he’s still searching for work, citing other influential local leaders and what they opined in the days after the incident. “You know what you find out George, the guy who’s considered to be the leading voice of the LGBT community here in Cincinnati, he’s a big executive with Johnson and Johnson, a guy named Ryan Messer. He had written, and I had never met Ryan Messer at this point in time, like two days after what I said, he wrote a letter to the editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, local paper, that Thom Brennaman should not be fired. There is room for growth here in so many areas and a great opportunity for him, for the gay community, for the Reds, for our society.”
Brennaman added that the two met as well as did Brennaman with other leaders in the LGBT community at the time. “I reached out to the guy and made contact with him and he’s the guy who’s house we went to that I made reference to earlier in listening to a bunch of the stories with some gay leaders. But anyway, I said ‘if you have people there – and I know you do – that are gay that work there, I would put up the amount of hours that I have spent in the gay community in some form or fashion over the last year against anybody you have that works in that office that’s gay’.”
Despite his efforts, the broadcasting veteran is dismayed that it’s failed to sway opinion, “it’s almost like in some cases it just falls on deaf ears.”
Regardless of where he is at now, he’s confident that eventually he’ll be afforded another opportunity. “But I ‘d like to think there’s somebody out there – and there will be and all it takes is one – is just to say ‘you know what, this was a mistake. Here’s the documentation of what the guy’s tried to do since then. We’re going to take a chance – answer some tough questions – and take a chance and get him back in the booth.”
And if another opportunity doesn’t present itself? “If it doesn’t happen, it’s not going to be the end of my life.”