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Tim Kukjian Laments Baseball’s Media Failings

“Kurkjian acknowledged that the NBA has surpassed baseball in terms of popularity.”

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ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian sat down with Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports to talk about the restart of the Major League Baseball season. He offered several opinions on the new season. He doesn’t like artificial crowd noise or fan cutouts, he will recognize whoever wins the World Series as a true World Series champion, and he thinks the Astros scandal is old news.

One of the most interesting parts of the interview though came when McCarthy asked about Major League Baseball’s place in the American sports hierarchy. The question was simple: Do you think MLB is still the number two league in America?

Kurkjian acknowledged that the NBA has surpassed baseball in terms of popularity. He says that fans feel a connection to the best players in basketball that may not be possible for baseball given the way the game is played.

“Let’s face it. A basketball player like LeBron James touches the ball on every possession,” he told McCarthy. “He’s the best player on the court – every time he plays. Whereas Mike Trout might get walked three times in the game and not even have a chance in centerfield. You leave thinking, ‘I just saw the best player I’ve ever seen and he didn’t do anything.’ Because the game wouldn’t allow him to.”

He acknowledged that that fact doesn’t have to be a negative if it were marketed correctly, but marketing has never been the league’s strong suit. When asked about the way baseball players are perceived, Kurkjian said that the league and the teams have a tendency to cause harm that the NBA and NFL don’t.

“They really value their players and they really prop them up and they make them into superstars on their own where baseball tends to knock their own guys down once in a while. Never quite understood that.”

One superstar that Kurkjian pointed to directly was Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge. He is marketable for reasons beyond just being the biggest star on one of the most famous teams in American sports. His talent and size grab the attention of even casual fans.

“He could have played basketball at a very high level. He could have played football. But he chose baseball and that’s a really good thing for baseball.”

Sports TV News

Peter King: Sean McVay Wants to be a Star, ‘Not Just Some Guy on TV’

“I do think he had some regret over not taking a two- or three-year hiatus last year and taking one of the big TV jobs. Amazon? Maybe FOX? But if he really wanted to jump after winning the Super Bowl, he would have.”

Jordan Bondurant

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L.A. Rams head coach Sean McVay will remain at his post for the 2023-24 season. The team tweeted that news Friday afternoon, seeming to, at least for now, put the rumors of McVay leaving coaching for a TV job to rest.

ProFootballTalk’s Peter King wrote in Football Morning in America on Monday that McVay understands the kind of position on television he’s looking for may not necessarily be there for him.

“I don’t think that was the only thing about TV that appealed to him, but I don’t think McVay was interested in being Just a Guy on TV,” King wrote. “I do think he had some regret over not taking a two- or three-year hiatus last year and taking one of the big TV jobs. Amazon? Maybe FOX? But if he really wanted to jump after winning the Super Bowl, he would have.”

King noted that McVay has been told to “Do what makes you happy” by folks with the Rams. He also said he believes coaching is what Makes McVay happy. Especially with a chance to shake up his coaching staff and being involved in trying to bring the team back from a 5-12 season in their follow-up campaign to winning the Super Bowl.

“He wants to be challenged, and this staff wasn’t doing it,” King said. “Offensive coordinator Liam Coen may not have been what McVay wanted in an OC—a coach who would challenge him and bring new ideas to him—and that could be why he’s going back to the University of Kentucky as a coordinator.”

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Sports TV News

Lisa Salters Makes Monday Night Football History Completing 11th Season on Sideline

“Salters has been with ESPN for almost 23 years. She started as a general assignment reporter before moving to sideline reporting in 2006.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Monday night’s Cowboys/Bucs wild card playoff game set a new milestone for ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters.

The network tweeted that Salters completed her 11th season in that role. That makes her the longest tenured reporter in Monday Night Football history.

Salters has been with ESPN for almost 23 years. She started as a general assignment reporter before moving to sideline reporting in 2006.

“When I first got the call to do Monday Night Football, I would have never thought that 10 years later I would still be doing it,” Salters said last year in a video reminiscing on ten years on Monday Night Football. “I was at home and I got a phone call from my boss Vince Doria and he said, ‘Hey, I was wondering if you would be interested in being a sideline reporter for Monday Night Football‘, and I couldn’t believe what he just asked me.”

Salters is also featured on network coverage of the NBA, something she’s been doing since 2005.

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Sports TV News

No Conspiracy Behind ESPN Monday Night Playoff Game Selection

“The decision to continue with 4/5 games in the Monday night window came down to convenience.”

Jordan Bondurant

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ESPN has only carried NFL playoff games on Monday night for two seasons but has been a part of wild card weekends dating back to the 2014-15 campaign.

With the exception of one season, a 4-seed versus 5-seed matchup has always been covered by the Monday Night Football broadcast team in that stretch of nine seasons. That continued with Cowboys/Bucs this year.

In 2021-22, with the NFL expanding the playoff field to seven teams, the first Monday night playoff game was played. The Rams cruised past the Cardinals 34-11.

Last week, the decision was the source of much speculation. TV executives shared a number of theories about why ESPN landed the game that had the most star power in the Super Wild Card round of the playoffs.

Andrew Marchand of the New York Post wrote that no speculation was necessary. The decision to continue with 4/5 games in the Monday night window came down to convenience. The new format, the games that have a likelihood of altering seeding for the divisional rounds have already been played.

The 4/5 games this weekend proved to be pretty entertaining. The Jaguars rallied from down 27 to beat the Chargers. Al Michaels and Tony Dungy were ripped on social media for how they called a particularly exhilarating game for NBC. So it turns out Joe Buck and Troy Aikman would’ve called either one of the weekend’s best games.

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