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ESPN Begins 40th Anniversary Celebration Next Week

“The fanfare will begin Friday September 6 at 7 pm ET with SportsCenter Special: ESPN’s 40 – a one hour show comprised of 40 interviews of current and former ESPN personalities.”

Jack Ferris

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ESPN made its cable debut on September 7, 1979.  Four decades later, 4 linear networks of the Disney-owned, undisputed sports television leader will celebrate the milestone all weekend long.

The fanfare will begin Friday September 6 at 7 pm ET with SportsCenter Special: ESPN’s 40 – a one hour show comprised of 40 interviews of current and former ESPN personalities.  For 40 hours straight starting from 8 am ET that Friday, the iconic bottom line on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, and ESPNU will come complete with a ESPN40 bug.  

Chris Berman, as you might expect, is going to be a cornerstone of the celebration.  Starting on the Tuesday August 3 7 am SportsCenter, Boomer will unveil 10 of the top 40 sports moments since ESPN burst onto the scene, culminating in a final countdown Friday morning.

Snoop Dogg and Queen Latifah will also be involved – remixing the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” which debuted one week after ESPN in September of 1979.  The remix is expected to be littered with ESPN cameos throughout.

Finally, the true blue ESPN fans should be interested in E:60 Game 1, a special edition of the investigative journalism program that will take a look at the network’s first live event production.  That event, oh by the way, was an epic slow pitch softball game between the Kentucky Bourbons and the Milwaukee Schlitzes.  The nostalgic glance back at the historic matchup will air September 10 at 7 pm ET on ESPN.

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NHL Analyst Tony Granato Takes Leave to Begin Cancer Treatment

“My family, faith, and friends will be my strength to help me through my treatments. I appreciate all the love and support I have received already.”

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Tony Granato as Wisconsin men's hockey coach
Courtesy: University of Wisconsin Athletics

Tony Granato of NHL Network and NBC Sports Chicago was recently diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and will take a leave of absence to begin treatment. The host announced his intentions this past Sunday via his Twitter account.

“I debated how to share this news but I will be taking a temporary leave of absence from NBC Sports Chicago and the Blackhawks broadcasts, as well as NHL Network,” Granato wrote in a post to X. “I was recently diagnosed with a form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and will begin treatment this week…My family, faith, and friends will be my strength to help me through my treatments. I appreciate all the love and support I have received already.”

The 59-year-old Granato recently served as an analyst for NBC Sports Chicago, covering the Blackhawks, and as a national correspondent on NHL Network. He previously coached the Wisconsin men’s hockey team for seven seasons, as well as two stints as the Colorado Avalanche’s head coach.

Granato played thirteen seasons for the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks as a player. He made the All-Rookie team during the 1988-89 season and received the Bill Masterton Trophy for sportsmanship and perseverance following the 1996-97 season after he returned from a serious head injury. His brother Don currently serves as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres.

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Pat McAfee Pledges to Return to College GameDay in 2024

“I don’t love that my life is just going to continue to have people telling me to run into oncoming traffic, swallow a barrel.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Pat McAfee
(Photo: ESPN Images)

It’s no secret how a select group of college football fans feel about Pat McAfee being a featured analyst on College GameDay the last two seasons. But despite the constant negativity thrown his way, McAfee believes he will be back on GameDay in 2024.

Pat McAfee was joined by Kirk Herbstreit on the GameDay set in Foxborough on Friday, and while McAfee was talking to Herbstreit about the blowback he received after Florida State didn’t make the College Football Playoff semifinals, eventually his future on GameDay came up.

McAfee first said college fans are not afraid to tear right into him in a very visceral way.

“For me sports are fun. I grew up in an NFL town, and it’s like, ‘Hey we talk shit,'” he said. “That is competition. And college football – I don’t want to say it’s the softest group of fans – but it is a fan base that gets very offended and gets very mean. They get very mean. Like they feel as if I’ve walked into their living rooms and smacked them right in the mouth. And it’s like, ‘Yo I’m just talking – we’re just talking sports here.'”

The negative feedback from fans has certainly weighed on McAfee throughout the season. He said even though it’s clear his presence on the show hasn’t hindered ratings success, the threats and criticism don’t make it worth losing half his weekend.

“I don’t want the negativity in my life. I don’t want the death threats every week,” McAfee said.

Herbstreit kept trying to get McAfee to focus on the positive side of things, calling the very vocal naysayers a “lunatic fringe” of college football fans. But Kirk also praised McAfee for being a fresh voice and presence that’s taken College GameDay to a new level.

“I’m not kissing your ass. I’m just telling you this, and I’ve told you this a lot, that you changed my experience,” Herbstreit said. “I work really hard with these three projects (College GameDay, Thursday Night Football on Amazon, and the weekly primetime college game on ESPN) and you’ve really changed the approach, the energy not just on the set but the week. I’m having a blast.”

Kirk shocked everyone on the show going as far as to say that if Pat even considered leaving College GameDay, he would follow suit.

Pat McAfee said he’s always come into it with a team-first mindset and a desire to have fun. He just kind of figured the negativity would’ve been dialed back by now.

“I pride myself on being a good locker room guy, good vibes guy, good energy guy, which is why it is becoming something where it’s like, every single Saturday, do I want to read — because I’m on the internet a lot. We’re an internet show. So I’m like on there,” McAfee said. “People are like, ‘Don’t read your mentions.’ It’s like, ‘I have to.’ It’s part of our job. Like it’s part of my job to read the internet.

“It’s like, these college fans are awesome, they’re phenomenal, they’re incredibly passionate,” he added. “But man, that negativity — normally when I get dropped into a new show like the WWE, that negativity is like three months. They hate my life, they hate my — they hate everything about me. And then they’re like, ‘You know what? This guy, not that bad.’”

Herbstreit continued to reiterate that the loud voices are a true minority in the grander space of college football fandom, and he illustrated his point by noting that Pat has always received very warm welcome by the fans in attendance at the show.

Pat McAfee admitted he’s fallen in love with the atmosphere the fans provide, eventually saying he’s going to be back on set next year.

“How about this? I’m back. I’ll come back. Let’s do it,” he said. “I don’t love it. I don’t love that my life is just going to continue to have people telling me to run into oncoming traffic, swallow a barrel.”

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John Skipper ‘Expects’ NBA To Have More Than 2 Partners in New TV Deal

“They’re gonna end up with more partners than they have now…with somewhere between two or three times the money they have now.”

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Former ESPN President and current Meadowlark Media CEO John Skipper thinks the NBA will go the NFL route and have more than two broadcast partners for their upcoming media rights deal.

During an episode of the Sporting Class podcast, John Skipper and cohorts David Samson and Pablo Torre discussed the upcoming NBA media rights deal, under the guise of Dallas Mavericks governor Mark Cuban selling the team, and how it could play out for teams moving forward. When it came to the total valuation of the NBA’s upcoming rights deal, Skipper was bullish on the NBA’s future.

“They’re gonna end up with more partners than they have now,” Skipper said, “they’re gonna end up with, in my opinion, with somewhere between two or three times the money they have now,” before host Pablo Torre added some additional color, stating “Because of broadcast partners in television and also the tech companies.”

The NBA has famously featured one or two broadcast partners for most of its lifespan. CBS held NBA broadcasting rights from the mid-70s until the 1989-90 season, then lost the rights to NBC from 1990 until 2002, with interspersing of cable broadcast holders like USA Network, ESPN, and Turner between there.

In 2002, the NBA shifted to a more rigid version of its two-partner system, where ABC and ESPN would split games with Turner Broadcasting. The league extended its agreement with both networks multiple times, which will finally come to a head in 2024.

For the first time, the NBA could look to expand across multiple channels, similar to how the NFL handles business, where multiple broadcast partners will air games on either certain days of the week or certain holidays. While Turner could be planning for life without the NBA, both Amazon and NBC are planning an aggressive pursuit of NBA rights during the next media rights negotiation.

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