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Fred Gaudelli: John Madden Still Guides NBC Broadcasts

“Madden seemed to have the perfect personality for the job.  He had a fantastic work ethic matched with an encouraging spirit that Gaudelli greatly appreciated.”

Will Dundon

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The recent death of John Madden impacted many in the sports industry.  Madden, who passed away last Tuesday, was a beloved coach and commentator that influenced multiple generations of players, fans, and people in general.

Fred Gaudelli, Executive Producer of NBC’s Sunday Night Football, grew close to John over the years and shared some of his memories of him with Richard Deitsch of The Athletic.

“John understood how television worked, why it worked, why it didn’t work, and when it didn’t work,” Gaudelli said. “He got TV on a level like a Dick Ebersol level. Al (Michaels) has the same quality. They just know what the audience needs and they know when they need it. Not that they’re perfect. I mean, no one’s perfect. But in those big moments, they’re not somewhere else when there’s something in front of the audience. If I made a decision differently in the game that took us away from something, which invariably I did, he would hit that talk-back button and say, ‘Hey, can we get back to the game?’ I mean, even to this day, if I feel like I’ve been on a topic too long that’s away from the game, I feel his voice coming through that talk-back.”

As Gaudelli explains, Madden seemed to always know what the audience needed.  Not only did he know how to give the audience a great product, but he also knew how to relate to them.  This probably had a great deal to do with his love for people and good conversation.

“If you wanted to have a conversation with him and he had the time, he would have the conversation,” Gaudelli continued. “He traveled through the 48 continental states of America, and he didn’t drive through them. He stopped. He chatted people up. I remember one time we were driving from Houston to Canton. I don’t remember if we were driving through Alabama or Georgia, but somebody was selling boiled peanuts on the side of the road. We stopped the bus. We got off. I’d never had boiled peanuts before, and they were awesome. But he’s chatting the guy up about being a peanut farmer, the whole nine yards. He just had that kind of curiosity. I think that’s what made the bus a great vehicle for him, literally and figuratively, because he got to experience people.”

Madden seemed to have the perfect personality for the job.  He had a fantastic work ethic matched with an encouraging spirit that Gaudelli greatly appreciated.

“Blessed is a word that comes to mind because John opened my eyes to a lot of things that they may not have been open to from a television standpoint as well as a life standpoint if we had not worked together,” Gaudelli said. “I just felt inspired by his preparation and that he was expecting me to be better than I thought I might be. That’s the professional end. On the personal end of it, it’s hard to have a better friend than John Madden. He was always there for you — always had great advice, didn’t push it on you unless you were asking. He was also one the most fun guys you could ever hang out with. My career and life are multiple times better for having him in my life, and I’m really going to miss him.”

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ESPN Sees Larger Than Average Audience For Big City Greens Classic

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ESPN aired Tuesday night’s New York Rangers and Washington Capitals game. DisneyXD and Disney Channel aired an alternate broadcast that included players being 3D animated to resemble the cast of Disney Channel’s popular cartoon Big City Greens. It turned into a ratings win for the networks.

The alternate broadcast featured players animated in real time to mimic what was happening on the Madison Square Garden ice. Players were equipped with special chips in the padding to aid the animation, and special pucks were used to ensure a smooth transition from video to computer-animated graphics.

An average of 589,000 viewers tuned into the game on ESPN. Meanwhile, nearly 175,000 watched the broadcast between Disney Channel and DisneyXD.

The figure for ESPN represents its largest NHL broadcast since a November 1st broadcast featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins.

The combined total for the broadcast — 765,000 — outdrew the World Baseball Classic broadcasts but did not top the NCAA Tournament’s First Four round that was broadcast on truTV.

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Sports TV News

Greg Gumbel: I’m Lucky That I’ve Never Been Fired

“I worked for some people who didn’t like me, I’ve worked for some people I didn’t like. It’s a strange business, there’s no doubt.”

Ricky Keeler

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Greg Gumbel

This week, it was announced that Greg Gumbel will no longer be a play-by-play announcer for the NFL on CBS after working on CBS’s NFL coverage every year since 1998. Gumbel has had an illustrious career and he takes pride in the fact that one thing has never happened to him.

Gumbel was a guest on the Tell Me A Story I Don’t Know podcast with George Ofman (Part 2 from an interview back in September) and he told Ofman that while he has never been fired before, but he doesn’t think broadcasters should be embarrassed when they get fired because of what the business is.

“It’s the nature of the business. I honestly think I’ve been extremely fortunate in that I’ve never been fired in a business that is known for firings. Being fired in this business is no shame, no embarrassment because it’s a subjective business. Because this guy at this network likes my work, it doesn’t mean that this guy at that network does. It’s extremely subjective and if you can buy that and understand it the way it is, then it shouldn’t bother you at all.

“It’s never happened to me. If it had, it would not have surprised me. I worked for some people who didn’t like me, I’ve worked for some people I didn’t like. It’s a strange business, there’s no doubt.”

Gumbel has been the host of CBS’s NCAA Tournament coverage for the last 25 years and he knows it’s a job that he is very grateful to have.

“I know there are people who would give their right arm to be sitting there next to Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis on Selection Sunday or sitting next to Kellogg, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley when the tournament begins to talk about what we’ve just seen or what we are going to see. I am never, ever going to take for granted the fact that I have been very fortunate to be able to do that.”

One thing Gumbel tries to avoid whenever he is on air is the mispronunciation of someone’s name because he knows how it feels to have his name distorted accidentally by some people.

“Pronunciations are important to me. There’s been a lifetime of people who may not completely mispronounce my name, but distorting it a little bit from time to time. I never want to do that to an athlete. If I ever mispronounce an athlete’s name, I hear it from his family, I hear it from the school or the team and I apologize for it as soon as I can. I don’t think that is something light or should be taken for granted.”

Toward the end of the interview, Gumbel was asked by Ofman when he will know it will be time to end his career.

“Other people have given it more thought than I have. I think when that time comes around, it will hit me over the head more than I will think about it. There are people who ask me why I still do what I do. The very bottom line is I love it, I enjoy it.”

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Sports TV News

Diamond Sports Group Misses Arizona Diamondbacks Rights Payment

It is believed that the missed rights payment by Bally Sports Arizona triggers a clause in the contract that reverts the television rights back to the Diamondbacks and Major League Baseball.

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Last week, Diamond Sports Group — operator of the Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks — claimed it had paid every rights fee it was contractually obligated, except for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

At the time, the company said it had a grace period until it needed to make a payment. That payment was due by Thursday, March 16th at 11:59 PM. That time has come and gone, and the company failed to deliver its fee.

It is believed that the missed rights payment by Bally Sports Arizona triggers a clause in the contract that reverts the television rights back to the Diamondbacks and Major League Baseball.

The Diamondbacks are not the only team affected by the situation. Bally Sports — which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this week — has also reportedly entered a grace period with the San Diego Padres. According to a report from Sports Business Journal, that grace period ends on March 30th, baseball’s Opening Day.

Previous reporting claims that contract is one the network hopes to get out from under. The company loses a reported $20 million per season on its television deal with the Padres. The Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Guardians are the other two baseball franchises the network holds the rights to that it hopes to terminate deals for.

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