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.”
Will Dundon is a sports media writer for BSM, and producer for ESPN’s 102.5 The Game in Nashville, TN. Additionally, he hosts the Paydirt Sports podcast. You can find him on Twitter @williedundon or reach him by email at [email protected].
PFT Commenter: Hearing Crowd Reaction to Nick Chubb Replay ‘Almost Worse’ Than Showing It
“The entire crowd in Pittsburgh is just like, ‘oh, dear God, what did I just see?’.”
Members of the sports media continue to question ABC’s decision not to show a replay of Nick Chubb’s injury during Monday night’s game between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.
“That’s insane,” he said. “They showed us Damar Hamlin dying on the field.”
PFT Commenter added that showing a replay may actually have been the smarter move.
“So when it happened, Joe Buck was like, ‘And I’m being told that we’re not going to show the replay it’s that bad.’ As Joe Buck saying that, you hear the crowd reaction in Pittsburgh to them seeing the replay live,” he said. “And to me, that was almost worse than watching the replay because you hear that, and it’s a bunch of Pittsburgh fans who want Nick Chubb out of the game. They don’t want him injured, but they obviously don’t want to see him scoring touchdowns against them. And the entire crowd in Pittsburgh is just like, ‘oh, dear God, what did I just see?’. So what would we have to do? We’re basically entrapped into going online and looking for the replay.”
Big Cat echoed Dan Patrick’s belief that the appropriate thing to do would have been to show one replay and make a disclaimer so that the audience is clear that what they are about to see is brutal. He said that not showing the replay probably sent a lot of people to social media and to YouTube looking for video of the play to make the call for themselves.
“When Joe Buck says it’s so bad, we’re not going to show it to you, that’s like your parents being like, ‘No, you’re not allowed to watch this movie. It’s got tits in it.’ And then I’m like, ‘Wow, Braveheart’s awesome!’”
TNT Signs Entire NHL Studio Crew to Contract Extensions
“Wayne Gretzky, Paul Bissonnette, Anson Carter and Henrik Lundqvist all have new deals.”
With a new season on the horizon, TNT is not taking any chances with its NHL coverage. The network has inked its entire team of studio analysts to multi-year contract extensions.
Wayne Gretzky, Paul Bissonnette, Anson Carter and Henrik Lundqvist all have new deals. They will once again join Liam McHugh on the NHL on TNT set.
Gretzky, Bissonnette and Carter have all been with TNT since the network took over part of the NHL’s television rights ahead of the 2021-22 season. Lundqvist joined the crew last year after retiring following 15 seasons with the New York Rangers.
TNT will carry 62 regular season NHL games this year. The first one will be the Chicago Blackhawks’ visit to Boston on October 11.
As previously announced, TNT’s NHL games will all be available on the new B/R Sports tier available as an add-on for Max subscribers.
Stephen A. Smith: ‘People Don’t Care’ About Baseball Talk
“Tell the baseball community to shut the hell up.”
On Thursday night ahead of the New York Yankees’ matchup against the Toronto Blue Jays, ESPN featured commentator Stephen A. Smith will be on hand at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y. to throw out a ceremonial first pitch. Smith, a fixture on ESPN programs First Take and NBA Countdown, along with hosting his own podcast, The Stephen A. Smith Show, grew up in the Hollis neighborhood of Queens, N.Y. and frequently watched Yankees games with his father. Despite living closer to Shea Stadium, he was not allowed to watch any New York Mets games until the age of 18, solidifying his love for the “Bronx Bombers.”
Throughout Thursday’s edition of First Take, Smith mentioned how excited he was for the moment and practiced throwing a baseball with ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky. One day earlier, however, he was criticized for a rare baseball take he made on the show pertaining to Los Angeles Angels superstar two-way player Shohei Ohtani.
Smith articulated that Ohtani is not worth $500 million because of the empty seats he frequently sees when the Angels take the field. After a promising first half, the Halos have struggled mightily down the stretch run and currently sport a 69-83 record, good for fourth place in the American League West division.
Within his podcast, he received a call from Preston Miklich who operates a YouTube channel focused on baseball called “Fuzzy.” The outlet has 469,000 subscribers and is a popular spot for baseball fans to catch up on news and rumors while also hearing informed opinions about the game.
During his conversation with Smith, Milkich took the time to inform him that the Angels are fourth in road attendance in the 2023 Major League Baseball regular season. In his response, the host appreciated being informed of the statistic and divulged that while it is an adequate figure compared to the competition, it may be comparatively underwhelming because of the diminished popularity of the game in recent years.
Attendance for Major League Baseball games has been on the rise throughout the 2023 season, with the league reporting a 9% increase year-over-year (YoY). Smith previously made insensitive comments about the Japanese superstar, saying that it was bad that one of the game’s preeminent superstars could not speak English, and apologized after an onslaught of criticism.
“We’re just wondering when it comes to your takes with baseball – we want you to talk baseball; we want ESPN to bring Baseball Tonight back, we miss it dearly,” Miklich explained, “but the baseball community almost thinks that you kind of peak on feelings and we think, ‘Okay, is baseball going to be done on ESPN?’”
The amount of baseball programming on the network has diminished in recent years compared to other properties, yet there is still an edition of Baseball Tonight that airs before the weekly broadcast of Sunday Night Baseball. In response to Miklich’s question, Smith bluntly expressed, “Tell the baseball community to shut the hell up.”
After pushback from Miklich, Smith chided him for interrupting his response and asked him to let him finish his statement. He then divulged that he does not have much time to watch baseball because of the responsibilities he has in other sports, revealing that he only watches New York Yankees games. Smith defended his position because of the fact that First Take rarely discusses baseball and, when it does, often has experts on the panel, such as Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo.
The Walt Disney Company pays a reported $550 million annually for MLB rights, which includes Sunday Night Baseball, the MLB Little League Classic, Home Run Derby and Wild Card series.
“I’m not on High Heat on the MLB Network trying to talk about baseball as if I’m watching every game and I’m an aficionado,” Smith said. “I don’t get to do that.”
Smith reminded Miklich that Russo, who hosts his own show on MLB Network, agreed with him that Ohtani is not worth $500 million. Moreover, he acknowledged that the morning debate program does not address many baseball topics because of the landscape of sports media consumers engaging with the content.
“People don’t care ratings-wise when we’re watching baseball,” Smith said. “We’re trying to change that.”