When ESPN announced three new 30 for 30 documentaries dropping in the aftermath of The Last Dance, the network probably assumed it would be saving its biggest hit for last. Well, the ratings are in for Long Gone Summer, and that is most certainly not the case.
The documentary about the 1998 home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa was met with middling reviews. Whether or not that played a role is unknown, but audiences were not enthusiastic to tune in on Sunday night. Long Gone Summer debuted to an audience of less than 800,000.
Austin Karp of Sports Business Journal pointed out that kind of debut puts Long Gone Summer in the same category as 2010’s Unmatched and 2013’s Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau.
Long Gone Summer fell short of the other two 30 for 30 films to debut in recent weeks. The debut of Lance drew an audience of 857,000. Be Water, the documentary about Bruce Lee was the surprising winner in the group, debuting with an audience of nearly 1.2 million. That is the biggest audience for a 30 for 30 premier since 2018.
Deion Sanders Thanks Skip Bayless For Giving Black Talent TV Opportunities
“You have given us, you all know darn well what I’m talking about, so many opportunities, man.”
Fans have their opinions of Skip Bayless. The FS1 host its polarizing, no doubt, but plenty of people currently or formerly in the broadcast industry will speak up when others criticize Bayless.
Add Deion Sanders to that list.
Undisputed originated from Boulder, Colorado on Friday. The Buffaloes’ head football coach stopped by to visit with Bayless, Keyshawn Johnson and Michael Irvin. Before he left and the show went off the air, Sanders wanted to make his feelings about Bayless clear.
“Thank you, because you get heat oftentimes, but you’ve given a lot of us opportunities that people look past and they don’t understand, they don’t recognize,” Coach Prime said to Bayless.
Bayless has been accused of many things. Few in the industry question his ability to recognize talent and give it a platform.
“None of us are perfect, but you have given us, you all know darn well what I’m talking about, so many opportunities, man,” Sanders said to the largely white crowd that had gathered behind the desk to watch the show. “I appreciate you for that.”
Sanders’s sentiments are similar to one expressed by Bayless’s former First Take partner Stephen A. Smith earlier this year. Smith pointed out that there are plenty of Black journalists and former players that owe Bayless a debt of gratitude for helping start or elevate their TV careers.
Bayless told Sanders he loved him and the two embraced as the show went off the air.
College Football Playoff ‘Not Averse’ to Streaming Exclusives in Next TV Deal
“I wouldn’t expect us to stream all of them, but right now nothing’s off the table.”
Football innovation on the field tends to trickle up. What works at lower levels eventually finds its way into the NFL. When it comes to the business side of the game though, things usually go the other way. That could play out in the next television contract for the College Football Playoff.
The consensus is that conferences want multiple television partners involved with the postseason tournament. CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock says he has already received multiple proposals.
Taking a page from the NFL, who announced earlier this year that one of its 2024 playoff games will be exclusive to Peacock, Hancock says that the CFP is open to putting some games behind a paywall on a streaming service.
“Streaming adds another element,” he told ESPN’s Heather Dinich. “We are not averse to streaming some of the games. I wouldn’t expect us to stream all of them, but right now nothing’s off the table.”
Right now, stakeholders have pressed pause on finding a new TV deal. With one of the five power conferences being down to just two teams, the belief is that everyone would be in a better position by waiting to see what becomes of the Pac-12.
Hancock says there is already plenty of interest though. He told Dinich “that five television sent executives to make presentations”. Others have expressed interest, but are yet to make a formal proposal.
This is the final season of the College Football Playoff’s original four-team format. Beginning next season, the field expands to twelve teams. The current TV deal, which makes the CFP an ESPN exclusive, expires after the 2025 season.
Ryan Leaf: ESPN Could Have Celebrated 2 Teams in Adversity But ‘Chose to Make it a Joke’
“They chose to make it a joke because Washington State and Oregon State unfortunately don’t have a conference.”
A joke about last week’s Pac-12 matchup between Oregon State and Washington State on ESPN’s College GameDay didn’t sit well with former Cougars quarterback Ryan Leaf.
In the final moments of Saturday’s show live from Notre Dame, the desk was making picks for that day’s games when the Cougars/Beavers matchup came up. Desmond Howard, Pat McAfee and guest picker Vince Vaughn all picked the Cougars. It was when it was Lee Corso’s turn to pick that the joke at issue with Leaf came up.
“In the ‘Nobody Wants Us Bowl,'” Corso said alluding to the fact that Oregon State and Washington State are the only two schools in the Pac-12 that have not been invited to join another conference. “Nobody wants them. Poor guys.”
Thursday on Good Morning Football on NFL Network, Leaf followed the lead of Cougars head coach Jake Dickert, who after the game took issue with the joke. Leaf used some time to call out GameDay further for not using the moment about the game to speak positively about the direction both programs were going at this point in the season.
“They’ve always been a show that celebrates college football,” Leaf said. “Instead they chose to make it a joke because Washington State and Oregon State unfortunately don’t have a conference. And it is the ‘No One Wants Us Bowl.'”
Leaf said his love for GameDay and the guys that work on the show hasn’t changed, but he just couldn’t ignore the fact that the show squandered a chance to elevate that matchup on a national stage.
This isn’t the first time Ryan Leaf has spoken out on the College GameDay crew’s coverage of the game. He and Kirk Herbstreit exchanged barbs on X (formerly Twitter) over the segment on Sunday.
Washington State and Oregon State have banded together as the rest of the conference eroded over the summer. Both university presidents have expressed a commitment to making sure a premiere west coast conference rises from the ashes of the Pac-12.
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He’s a multimedia journalist and communicator who works at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Jordan also contributes occasional coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WRIC-TV 8News and Audacy Richmond. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.