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NBC Doubles Down: Michele Tafoya Absences Are Not Punishment

“Any other speculation about her time off is blatantly false.”

Jordan Bondurant

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This is expected to be NFL sideline reporter Michele Tafoya’s final season in that role for Sunday Night Football games on NBC, but the network has not definitively said whether or not that was the case.

Tafoya has been absent from a few of the primetime telecasts recently. While some say she’s being punished for comments she made about former quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the Nov. 3 edition of ABC’s The View, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports an NBC spokesperson told them the absences were arranged before the season started.

“As we have done repeatedly, we’re again giving our announcers bye weeks in 2021, and we plan to do it well into the future,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying to the Inquirer. “Michele’s off weeks — which were determined prior to the season — were all in cold weather cities after Thanksgiving, and her final weekend off this season comes on Jan. 2 in Green Bay. Any other speculation about her time off is blatantly false.”

Tafoya made it clear in a discussion with the ABC talk show co-hosts that Kaepernick was no longer in the NFL because he no longer possessed the talent to be on a roster. She said Kaepernick has actually benefitted greatly since leaving the league, as evidenced by his Netflix series and Nike endorsement deal. She added that a planned open tryout in 2019 in front of NFL scouts ended up being moved by him and his entourage last-minute, and fewer scouts actually got to see the former San Francisco 49er work out. So that hindered his chances to get back to playing football also.

The counterpoint was made that Kaepernick was being made to sign an agreement he didn’t want to sign prior to the tryout, and that’s why it got moved. Tafoya then responded that ultimately the main reason he’s no longer being considered for quarterback jobs is not due to his stances on police, his kneeling protest during the National Anthem, or that the NFL as a whole is racist.

“I just want to give the benefit of the doubt to some people that there are two sides to this story,” she said. “I think all of us can agree that there is a lot to this story we still don’t know.”

That elicited groans from the live studio audience, to which Tafoya encouraged them to “Bring it on.”

Tafoya is not afraid to let her political views be known, and in the era of cancel culture, it makes sense that some would think that her thoughts, which many on one side of the political aisle would find controversial, being shared would result in some kind of reprimand by NBC in the form of missed time from game coverage.

Seems like Tafoya’s future at NBC will become official in due time. The network will have coverage of the Super Bowl this season, and Tafoya is expected to be a part of the broadcast team. According to Andrew Marchand, that will be the end of her time on NFL sidelines.

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Chris Fallica Leaving ESPN for FOX

Neither FOX or ESPN would comment on the situation, but in the Awful Announcing report it’s believed that there will be a send-off of some sort for Fallica on Saturday.

Jordan Bondurant

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A prominent sports betting voice featured on ESPN’s College GameDay will be heading to rival FOX and their Big Noon Kickoff show starting in 2023. According to Awful Announcing, Chris Fallica, affectionately known as “The Bear”, will make his last appearance on GameDay will be this weekend.

Fallica has been with ESPN since 1995. Since 2013, Fallica had been featured on GameDay making betting picks with his patented “Bear’s Board”.

Neither FOX or ESPN would comment on the situation, but in the Awful Announcing report it’s believed that there will be a send-off of some sort for Fallica on Saturday.

Fallica joins Tom Rinaldi as the second former GameDay voice to jump over to FOX and be featured on Big Noon Kickoff.

Both shows have experienced incredible viewership growth this season. For GameDay, there have been several weeks this season that have seen some of the largest audiences in the show’s history.

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Tim Brando Believes Executives Look For Familiarity, Not Great Voices For Announcers

“Executives are going more for people they think they audience knows from having been in the studio. As opposed to man that’s a great voice, that guy really gets it, and his judgement is fantastic.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Tim Brando has seen the broadcasting industry has evolved in a lot of ways through the years, but one thing that’s remained constant is how infrequently some of the announcing gigs with major networks open up to younger voices.

That’s mainly because you have veteran talent already occupying those positions with no plans for the immediate future to step aside.

On a recent edition of The Sports Talkers Podcast, FOX Sports broadcaster and host Tim Brando spoke to Stephen Strom about the reality that many broadcasters face.

“Yeah there are a lot more jobs, but there are fewer great jobs,” Brando said. “A lot of guys are getting jobs, but it’s like a dead end.”

But in terms of hiring younger talent for network jobs, he thinks it’s become more about adding faces to broadcast booths rather than voices.

“There’s a tendency I think now in our business to hire more visible and perhaps more popular talent because they’ve been in the studio,” he said. “But they’re not ready to be in the booth. Not everybody can do both well.”

Tim added that there’s a nuance to calling play-by-play versus working studio coverage. Brando said that perhaps it has a lot more to do with young broadcasters bypassing getting their start in radio and going right into TV.

“It seems to me that in some circles anyway in our business, executives are going more for people they think they audience knows from having been in the studio,” he said. “As opposed to man that’s a great voice, that guy really gets it, and his judgement is fantastic.”

Brando did mention some of the younger voices at FOX who have risen to the bigger opportunities in the booth, and how they ultimately worked their way up. He said he’s had the chance to offer advice to a few of them and act as a mentor in a way, because that’s how it was for him breaking into the industry.

“I believe in pouring into the young broadcasters out there, I really do,” he said. “Because Curt Gowdy poured into me. I think there’s a responsibility and a level of accountability for the generation before to help those that are coming up that you really respect.”

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MLB Network Airing 38 Hours of Winter Meetings Coverage

Coverage will begin on Sunday at 7 p.m. with MLB Tonight leading into the announcement of the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee’s election results for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jordan Bondurant

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The annual winter meetings for MLB are set to take place in-person for the first time since 2019 next week, and MLB Network is ready to bring viewers all the coverage possible from San Diego.

The network is devoting 38 hours of live programming on-site, with shows like MLB Tonight, Hot Stove, High Heat, MLB Now and Intentional Talk emanating from the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Coverage will begin on Sunday at 7 p.m. with MLB Tonight leading into the announcement of the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee’s election results for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Fans tuning in to MLB Network can expect to see Greg Amsinger, Fran Charles, Brian Kenny, Stephen Nelson, Alanna Rizzo, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Lauren Shehadi and Matt Vasgersian hosting their respective shows throughout the week. Sean Casey, Mark DeRosa, Al Leiter, Cameron Maybin, Kevin Millar, Dan O’Dowd, Steve Phillips and Harold Reynolds will contribute coverage as analysts.

MLB Network will also carry coverage of the inaugural draft lottery from the winter meetings on Tuesday, December 6 at 8:30 p.m.

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