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New Sunday Night Baseball Booth Focused On Modern Game

“You’re going to see us genuinely get excited about today’s game at a time when that’s really needed on a national broadcast.”

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Amid a period of skepticism and uncertainty across Major League Baseball, ESPN continues to look forward to the conclusion of the lockout, which it hopes leads to the start of the 2022 MLB regular season. The network recently announced a new Sunday Night Baseball booth with play-by-play announcer Karl Ravech and analysts David Cone and Eduardo Pérez, a trio it believes will fit the current landscape of baseball in the digital age.

“I think that the beauty of this team, in short, is [to be] able to embrace the traditional aspects of Major League Baseball and mix in the more modern aspects, whether that be analytics or something else,” said ESPN Senior Vice President of Production and Remote Operations Mark Gross.

Balancing traditional and modern aspects of the game is critical for Cone, who still intends to broadcast 50 games this season as a part of New York Yankees baseball on the YES Network. The importance of emphasizing and embracing the game today, rather than solely reflecting on what the game was like when he and Pérez played, is something he believes will enhance the broadcast for its viewing audience.

“In a lot of the baseball broadcasts around the country, you hear a lot of: ‘Yeah, the game was better back when I played.’ That’s not the case here,” Cone explained. “You’re going to see us genuinely get excited about today’s game at a time when that’s really needed on a national broadcast.”

Despite criticism regarding the previous Sunday Night Baseball booth not talking about the game enough, Ravech believes there is a place for the conversational nature of broadcasting in the evolving digital age. Talking about subjects not related to baseball, though, is something dictated by the action on the field and the rapport of the booth.

“I tend to be real dependent and reliant on my analysts,” said Ravech, who has been with ESPN since 1993. “I’m not an ‘I’ or ‘me’ guy – I’m a ‘we’ guy – and this group of three is what [will make] this succeed… The chemistry aspect of [the booth] is the last part of my concern. This will be a group that gets along really well, and [I hope] it will show.”

Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN will return for the 2022 regular season and telecast 25 games, along with other exclusive games throughout the season, including MLB Opening Night. Additionally, ESPN will also debut a new alternate presentation titled Kay-Rod, which will discuss the game each week, along with special guest appearances and on-air integrations of analytics and fantasy baseball.

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NBC 2022 Winter Olympics Broadcast Teams Will Not Go To Beijing

NBC’s Olympic broadcasters will work remotely from the network’s Stamford, Connecticut facility.

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On Wednesday, NBC announced that Olympic gold medalist and Alpine skiing legend Lindsey Vonn is joining the network’s coverage for the Beijing Winter Games. Unfortunately, any excitement over an Olympic star getting into broadcasting and providing analysis was soon undercut by a reminder that the world is still dealing with a global pandemic that is preventing life from returning to normal.

As reported by USA Today‘s Christine Brennan, NBC has decided not to send any of its Olympic broadcast teams to China and the announcers will cover their respective events remotely due to COVID-19 concerns.

Most of NBC’s Olympic announcing teams were already going to broadcast remotely from the network’s Stamford, Connecticut facility. But the original plans were for broadcasters to be on-site for figure skating, Alpine skiing, and snowboarding. That has obviously changed with the Omicron variant causing breakouts throughout the world.

Host Mike Tirico will still travel to Beijing for the opening ceremony on Feb. 4 and the initial few days of the Winter Olympics. But he’ll return to the U.S. to host NBC’s Super Bowl coverage on Feb. 13.

“We’ll still have a large presence on the ground in Beijing and our coverage of everything will be first rate as usual,” NBC Sports senior VP of communications Greg Hughes told Brennan. “But our plans are evolving by the day as they are for most media companies covering the Olympics.”

Viewers who have watched any sporting event with broadcasters working remotely have noticed the difference in how the action is called. Announcers can’t get a feel for how the reaction of the crowd influences the event. And in some cases, watching from a monitor rather than the usual on-site broadcast position can inhibit proper view of a play.

So NBC’s Olympics coverage will certainly suffer from broadcasters not being on-site, especially for the events mentioned above in which spectators can be a factor. That could make some showcase moments feel less compelling at times. But the excitement of an Olympics and standout athletic achievements should still be enjoyable to watch, regardless of where the announcers are situated.

The Beijing Winter Olympics begin Feb. 3 with broadcast coverage on NBC, USA Network, and CNBC, and streaming on Peacock, NBCOlympics.com, and the NBC Sports app.

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‘The Tuck Rule,’ ESPN’s Latest 30 for 30 Documentary, Debuts Feb. 6

The film chronicles the infamous play from the 2001 NFL playoff game between the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots.

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Will we get more 30 for 30 documentaries from ESPN this year? In 2021, the network broadcast three new films in the series: Al Davis vs. the NFL, Breakaway, and Once Upon a Time in Queens.

Though to be fair, Once Upon a Time in Queens was a four-part documentary, providing the longer-form film that ESPN seems to prefer at least once a year since O.J.: Made in America and The Last Dance.

Just as Al Davis vs. the NFL debuted last February, the next 30 for 30 will be a NFL-related film that premieres during the off-week between the conference championship games and Super Bowl. The Tuck Rule debuts Feb. 6 at 8:30 p.m. ET and will be available to stream on ESPN+ after its TV airing.

As the title indicates, the film chronicles the infamous play from the 2001 NFL playoff game between the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots. Late in the game, Oakland’s Charles Woodson appeared to have forced a fumble by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. But since Brady’s arm was moving forward and he was apparently attempting to tuck the ball into his body, the referees called the play an incomplete pass.

Check out the trailer for The Tuck Rule:

The “tuck rule” play was one of the most controversial in NFL playoff history. Rather than the Raiders forcing a turnover and protecting a three-point lead, the Patriots maintained possession and continued a drive that eventually led to a game-tying field goal by Adam Vinatieri. New England won the game in overtime, 16-13, the first step in a playoff run that ended with a Super Bowl championship, the first of six during the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era.

Directed by Ken Rodgers (The Two Bills, Al Davis vs. the NFL), The Tuck Rule gets Woodson and Brady together to watch the play and recount their memories of that moment. What appeared to be a fumble to nearly everyone involved in the game was negated by an obscure rule of which only the officials seemed to be aware.

Perhaps the most important figure interviewed for the documentary is referee Walt Coleman, who made the rule. Belichick, team owner Robert Kraft, and players Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown, and Willie McGinest give the Patriots side. Current Raiders owner Mark Davis, Tim Brown, Eric Allen, and Lincoln Kennedy provide the Oakland perspective.

The Tuck Rule debuts Sunday, Feb. 6 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. The documentary will be available on ESPN+ following the television premiere.

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Jim Nantz Will Call PGA Event From Site Of AFC Championship Game

“Nantz will anchor PGA Tour coverage from wherever the NFL game will be on Friday and Saturday, either Nashville, Kansas City or Buffalo, in a production truck under the stadium.”

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We reported last week about the hectic schedule NBC is planning to have Mike Tirico on between the start of the upcoming Winter Olympics in China and the Super Bowl, but now we’re learning starting next week CBS Sports legend Jim Nantz will be on an equally-hectic schedule.

With the NFL schedule extending by a few weeks given the extra regular season game and expanded playoffs, next weekend’s AFC championship game has cut into the start of the CBS PGA Tour broadcast season.

But the network has devised a plan for Nantz to still be a part of the golf broadcast team and call the AFC title game on Sunday. CBS and the PGA Tour will hold its Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego starting Wednesday and ending Saturday, instead of the traditional Thursday to Sunday schedule.

This is an acknowledgement of how big a ratings draw the AFC championship will be for CBS. So Nantz will anchor PGA Tour coverage from wherever the NFL game will be on Friday and Saturday, either Nashville, Kansas City or Buffalo, in a production truck under the stadium.

“I can say this: I didn’t want to miss it,” Nantz was reported by USA Today as saying in a conference call on Wednesday. “It definitely will not compromise anything that I’m doing on the football side.”

Nantz reportedly has a home in Nashville where he spends a portion of his down time. In a perfect world, the Tennessee Titans beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round this weekend and host next week’s conference championship game. That would allow Nantz to at least sleep in his own bed all week.

He told reporters after he and Tony Romo call the other divisional game on Sunday night in Kansas City, he’ll be in Los Angeles on Monday shooting a March Madness commercial. He plans to go home to Nashville on Tuesday, but he wants to follow all of the action of the golf tournament starting Wednesday.

“I’m going to be in place on Wednesday, wherever the AFC Championship game is, because the tournament is going to start that day,” he said. “So I want to watch the coverage, every minute of it, on Wednesday and Thursday.”

Still not as crazy as Tirico having to fly thousands of miles from Beijing to LA and do Olympic primetime and Super Bowl coverage on no rest, but Nantz will certainly be busy all next week.

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