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Bill Simmons Hints at Future Partnership with ESPN

Brandon Contes

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Some ESPN personalities venture away from the network and find expanded success, others make their way back to The Worldwide Leader after concluding there might not be a better opportunity available to them. ESPN has never been afraid to welcome back past employees, just look toward Keith Olbermann, Rachel Nichols and Stephen A. Smith for examples. Could Bill Simmons be next?

Simmons had an ugly divorce from ESPN in 2015, one that probably would have had him shocked if he was told he’d be pondering the idea of collaborating with the network three years later. While Simmons’ website and podcast network, The Ringer, is reportedly profitable, his partnership with HBO has been very disappointing.

Simmons welcomed former ESPN NBA Countdown co-host Jalen Rose to the latest Bill Simmons Podcast. At the end of the podcast, Simmons hinted at working with Rose again in the near future.

“I would say…I’m going to put the odds at maybe 4 to 1 that you and I are doing the Bill and Jalen NBA preview in October. I think I’m going to make it work,” Simmons told Rose.

It sounded as if Bill was en route to saying he thinks enough time has passed since he left ESPN, but Jalen jumped in before Simmons finished the statement. Rose was very surprised by Simmons’ prediction and asked if he was about to break news.

“You’re coming back home?” said Rose.

“No, I’m not coming home, but I think I can collaborate on certain projects down the road,” Simmons answered.  “Number one on the list is could we collaborate on a Ringer, ESPN, Bill and Jalen NBA preview that we put either on YouTube or the OTT app?”

It certainly wasn’t definitive, but the fact that Simmons floated the idea of launching an ESPN partnership within the next few month indicates the relationship must have improved since he departed in 2015. If elite ESPN personalities can return to the network, why not add Simmons to that group?

His show, Any Given Wednesday was canceled by HBO after just five months. HBO remains an investor in The Ringer and reportedly carries first pass rights on all of the website’s projects. Still, HBO can’t be satisfied with the return they’ve received on the reported $7-9 million per year paid to Simmons. Bill also can’t feel as if his departure from ESPN has been vindicated, but after three years, it sounds like a return to the network may not be far off.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

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ESPN 97.5 in Houston Announces New Lineup

“The station had to make some very tough & unfortunate economic decisions last week.”

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ESPN Houston

ESPN 97.5 in Houston announced they will have a new lineup starting Monday Feb. 26. The drive time slots will continue to feature John Granato and Lance Zierlein in mornings and The Killer B’s, Jeremy Branham and Joel Blank, in the afternoon.

In between the two shows will now have The Del Olaleye Show airing from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. followed by Gallant and George with Paul Gallant, who had been hosting the early midday slot previously and Joe George, the station’s Assistant Program Director.

Earlier this week, Josh Beard and Michael Connor confirmed they had been let go from the station after being in the midday slot for just six months. George posted on X at the time, “So here’s the deal. The station had to make some very tough & unfortunate economic decisions last week. It has nothing to do with the quality of their show and work they did. Programming on the station will be weird this week, then back to fully local from 7 am – 6 pm on 2/26.”

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Former Toronto Blue Jays Announcer Ben Wagner Named to Baltimore Orioles Broadcast Team

A release from the Blue Jays says Wagner will appear on radio and select television broadcasts throughout the year.

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Ben Wagner
Courtesy: Ben Wagner on Instagram

The Baltimore Orioles announced the club’s broadcast talent lineup for the 2024 season, which includes former Toronto Blue Jays announcer Ben Wagner. Wagner had served as the radio voice of the Blue Jays for the last six seasons before Sportsnet announced it decided not to renew his contract. Prior to joining the Blue Jays broadcast team, Wagner spent 11 seasons with Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons. A release from the Orioles says Wagner will appear on radio and select television broadcasts throughout the year.

The Orioles will continue to use guest analysts throughout the season, including Orioles Hall of Famers Mike Devereaux and Brian Roberts, as well as former Orioles Brad Brach and Dave Johnson.

Geoff Arnold will return for his fifth season with the Orioles broadcast team and will be the primary play-by-play announcer. Kevin Brown will be in his third season as the primary television play-by-play announcer for MASN.

Other team members for the 2024 season include Scott Garceau, Brett Hollander, Rob Long, Ben McDonald, Melanie Newman and Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, who will be in his 32nd season as an analyst and 61st year as a member of the Orioles organization.

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Fred Toucher: ‘I Would Feel Weird’ if Rich Shertenlieb Reached Out to Me

“Even if it was nice, I wouldn’t like it, so if he’s listening, don’t reach out to me.”

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Fred Toucher
Courtesy: Beasley Media Group

Fred Toucher is in the midst of co-hosting a new morning program on 98.5 The Sports Hub with Rob “Hardy” Poole. The Toucher & Hardy show made its premiere in January following the end of a 17-year run in which he worked alongside Rich Shertenlieb. Last November, Shertenlieb parted ways with the outlet that elicited questions and nostalgia from listeners, some of which continue to persist on the new program.

On Friday’s edition of the program, a caller asked Toucher about the last time he spoke to Shertenlieb and if there was still communication between them. The duo started hosting their radio program together at rock radio station WBCN-FM before making the move to the sports talk format with 98.5 The Sports Hub (WBZ-FM) for its launch in the summer of 2009. The caller wanted to specifically hear a “juicy story” and apologized if his broaching the topic was “a forbidden path.”

“I have not talked to Rich,” Toucher said. “I told you I got the text message the Saturday after they didn’t put him on the air anymore, and I haven’t talked to him.”

Toucher wondered who among former members of the Toucher & Rich program had heard from Shertenlieb, leading him to go around the studio and ask. Update anchor Jon Wallach revealed that Shertenlieb texted him on Thanksgiving Day to discuss how the music group Bell Biv DeVoe was performing, but he has not heard from him since. None of the others in the studio had heard from Shertenlieb in a considerable amount of time either.

“None of us were really friends with him so I don’t know what to tell you,” Toucher replied to the caller. “I wasn’t friends with him; I didn’t talk to him, so it’s not odd that I don’t talk to him.”

Toucher then began to hypothesize what would happen if Shertenlieb were to reach out to him. As he thought over such a potential occurrence, he realized that he would have a feeling in his stomach and get anxiety. He did concede, however, that if someone paid him a large sum of money to appear somewhere with Shertenlieb, he would do the 10 seconds.

“I would feel weird; I wouldn’t enjoy the process,” Toucher said. “Even if it was nice, I wouldn’t like it, so if he’s listening, don’t reach out to me. You’d make me incredibly uncomfortable. Just don’t do it.”

In thinking about the potential nostalgia from Toucher & Rich, the program briefly mentioned Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo and his relationship with former co-host Mike Francesa. Toucher believes that Russo is doing fine without Francesa, a sentiment Wallach concurred. Wallach also shared that he feels Russo is doing better after Mike and the Mad Dog than Francesa.

Russo hosts a SiriusXM program on the Mad Dog Sports Radio channel named after him, in addition to High Heat on MLB Network and a weekly appearance on ESPN’s First Take. The split between both shows elicited interest from the listening public, something Toucher completely understands because of the unique facets of radio.

“People consume you 20 hours a week or they conceivably could, so when there’s any change, your immediate reaction to it, even though it hasn’t been bad, a lot of people if you listen to an old thing all the time it’s going to be strange to you, a new thing, or when a component of it is missing,” Toucher explained, “even if it’s better than it was, which I contend Toucher & Hardy over the last three weeks is better than Toucher & Rich was in 2023 and 2022 certainly.”

The segment concluded with Toucher proclaiming that he had answered the question and now will not have to entertain it again. “I have no idea what he’s doing and no one I know does, and no one I know has seen him,” Toucher said. “I haven’t even had a listener email me and go, ‘I saw him.’”

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