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James Blake Joins ESPN

“Blake played tennis professionally from 1999-2013, ranking as high as No. 4 in the world, while winning 10 titles during his career.”

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As the first Grand Slam tournament of the 2020 tennis season begins with the Australian Open, ESPN announced they’ve signed eight longtime analysts to new deals, also adding James Blake to their coverage.

Pam Shriver who joined the network in 1990, Patrick McEnroe (1995), Chris McKendry (1996), Joe Fernandez (2000), Brad Gilbert (2004), Darren Cahill (2007), John McEnroe (2009) and Chrissie Evert (2011), will all continue their tenures covering tennis for ESPN after signing new contracts.   

In addition to their returning commentators, ESPN announced retired American tennis player James Blake will join the network for Wimbledon and the US Open later this year. 

“ESPN is proud of the chemistry, experience and broad perspective, both generationally and historically, our roster represents, and we are thrilled the unmatched team will continue intact to provide the best in analysis, insights, opinions and storytelling,” said Jamie Reynolds, ESPN vice president, production.  “When we add someone of the caliber of James Blake, a recognized voice in the sport, to the mix, we’ll be all the stronger, with his intelligence, close ties to the sport and fresh perspective.  He will join us for Wimbledon and the US Open, reflecting the number of hours and volume of content ESPN commits to those events.”

Blake played tennis professionally from 1999-2013, ranking as high as No. 4 in the world, while winning 10 titles during his career. Since retiring, Blake founded the Thomas Blake Sr. Memorial Cancer Research Fund at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in memory of his father. Blake has also contributed to the Tennis Channel, NBC and CNN as an analyst for the sport.

Six weeks before his father died in 2004, Blake slipped on a clay tennis court and collided with the net post, fracturing his neck. Battling back from the injury, he returned to play nearly a decade professionally. Blake’s 2007 autobiography, Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life, detailing his difficult comeback was a New York Times Best Seller.

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

Sports TV News

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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Sports TV News

Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX

“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”

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FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.

A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.

The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.

Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.

That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.

Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.

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