Starting Wednesday, Feb. 16, there should be plenty of eventful debates on First Take when Chris “Mad Dog” Russo joins Stephen A. Smith during the show each Wednesday.
On Friday’s edition of The Michael Kay Show, Russo joined Kay, Don LaGreca, and Peter Rosenberg on the program and Kay asked him about the process of agreeing to do some appearances on First Take after he was a guest on ESPN last month.
“I went down to do the Bonds and Clemens and the Hall of Fame stuff. He [Stephen A.] texted me a day or so prior asking if I wanted to come in,” Russo explained. “I came in two Wednesdays ago. I did the two segments. I think we did one on Rodgers and Brady and the Hall of Fame prior. I ran to do the High Heat… went home to do radio. The next day, Stephen A. called me and said are you interested? I said, you want to put something together, I’m all for it.
“ESPN gave me a deal to do these Wednesday shows. Steve picked the day. I will do 40 for the year. Got to be excited by that. Stephen A. is a great guy and he knows how to get his points across. I’ll see if I can hang in with him.”
La Greca asked Russo what he thinks makes a good debater, to which he brought up three characteristics. But besides being a good debater, Russo said he has to be cognizant of the fact that First Take is Smith’s show and not to take away the focus from there.
“You got to be a good salesman. You’ve got to be able to sell your point even if it’s out there in left field, you still got to be able to sell it,” said Russo.
“If you can sell your point with confidence and with some personality, that goes a long way. The second thing is you have to be loud… I learned this because at times I was too noisy and too much of a bully. I think to be fair about it, you have to give the other guy a chance to talk. I have to keep that in mind when I do this. It’s his show. Stephen’s show and he invited me on. I may not come out guns a-blazin’ right away, I have to get my feet wet, but I will get into it as I go along.”
As Russo prepares to debate Smith on a weekly basis, he told Rosenberg that the NBA and a big boxing match are two sports that he will have to dive into a little bit more to put up a good debate:
“NBA regular season. I follow the NBA regular season and I know what’s going on… I have a good feel of it, but I’m not sitting there watching necessarily in January and February non-stop NBA regular season games,” Russo said.
“I think that’s one thing I’m going to have to be a little more adept at. I think the second thing probably is when we get a big boxing event, I’m going to have to be into that because I know Stephen A. loves boxing. Those two would be the things I will have to be on top of.”
These debates between Russo and Smith should be must-see TV on a weekly basis and provide a lot of noise, energy, and information to the debate desk.
Peter King: ‘Tom Brady Needs To Study Cris Collinsworth’
“He’ll know that to be good, he has to get out of his comfort zone of all niceties and tell it like it is.”
Peter King dedicated a not-insignificant portion of his “Football Morning in America” column this week to advice for Tom Brady. FOX announced last week that the Buccaneers’ quarterback will become the network’s lead NFL analyst upon his retirement.
Brady’s decision and his reported salary have been the source of much speculation and prediction amongst his soon-to-be colleagues.
King is optimistic that Tom Brady will be entertaining and informative when he makes his FOX debut. He did offer the GOAT a little bit of advice about what he should be doing in the months leading up to calling it quits on his playing days and starting his new career.
“I think what I’d do if I were Brady is study Cris Collinsworth—and honest to goodness, I don’t say that because I work for NBC,” he wrote. “I say it because Collinsworth knows how to talk X’s-and-O’s conversationally, he’s an easy listen, and he can criticize when the time comes.”
Interestingly, last week, Collinsworth says he hears from most former players that are getting ready to make the jump to broadcasting. He was surprised he never heard from Tom Brady before FOX announced their deal.
King had two other suggestions. The first was that Brady watch multiple games from start to finish so that he can hear what the give-and-take between a broadcaster and analyst sounds like. The other is that he has to commit to being interesting and not censoring himself. King has faith that Brady will be able to do that.
“He’ll know that to be good, he has to get out of his comfort zone of all niceties and tell it like it is. On that LeBron James show last year, Brady said, ‘Ninety percent of what I say is not what I’m thinking. There’s a part of me that doesn’t like conflict, so in the end I always just try to play it super-flat.’ That has to end once he’s on TV if he wants to be any good.”
Nick Wright Critical Of ABC Crew As Giannis Antetokounmpo Struggles In Game 7
“He reminded his followers on Twitter that the two-time MVP has put together some amazing performances in this series.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo started hot in Game 7 on Sunday. By the time the game ended though, the Boston Celtics were on their way to Miami for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals and the defending champions were headed back to Milwaukee.
The Celtics’ defense gave the Milwaukee Bucks fits in the second half. The ABC broadcast put a special spotlight on Antetokounmpo, who got multiple drives to the basket that he could not finish.
“The best has got to show up when the best is needed, and Giannis has been disappointing,” said Mark Jackson over a package of highlights of Giannis missing shots. “As great of a player as he is, given credit to the Celtics’ defense, but he has struggled offensively time and time again.”
Nick Wright of FS1 noticed and he didn’t appreciate it. He reminded his followers on Twitter that the two-time MVP has put together some amazing performances in this series.
Mike Been, Mark Jackson, and Jeff Van Gundy were not particularly hard on Giannis. The trio made the typical comments we hear when things aren’t going a great player’s way.
Wright did not harp on the issue beyond the single tweet. The outcome was not in doubt as the clock winded down. He gave credit to the Celtics rather than tweet about the Bucks or Giannis.
Stephanie McMahon: WWE Is A Better Advertising Investment Than Sports
“We can script the buzzer-beater moments, we can script the Hail Marys.”
Everyone knows that professional wrestling is scripted. The storylines, the outcomes of matches, all of it is predetermined. But in the eyes of WWE, that’s what makes their product so different, and better than traditional sports.
WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon told Deadline that when it comes to pitching advertisers, sports entertainment allows room for a range of different approaches to make something work.
“We can script the buzzer-beater moments, we can script the Hail Marys,” she said. “We have a leg up on sports. … You may object to what we do, but you’re never going to be bored.”
McMahon added that WWE has a much easier process in dealing with sponsors. Everything is handled in-house.
“We own all of the IP,” she said. “When brands deal with us, they just deal with us. We create something together.”
WWE is coming off a positive Q1 earnings report, which had the company up 27% in total revenue. Its two weekly primetime shows, Monday Night RAW and Friday Night SmackDown, continue to do well in ratings, and all special and pay-per-view events, in addition to its streaming platform WWE Network, are all housed on Peacock.