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Troy Aikman Reportedly Close to Joining ESPN, ‘Monday Night Football’

Will ESPN get Al Michaels to join Aikman in a revamped MNF booth?

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Troy Aikman’s spinning wheel of offseason fortune will reportedly stop with a new home for the broadcaster, but not the one most sports media observers have expected.

According to the New York Post‘s Andrew Marchand, Aikman is close to signing a deal with ESPN to be the top analyst for Monday Night Football. Marchand describes the two sides as “deep in negotiations” to the point where a deal is expected to be completed.

The exact terms of Aikman’s deal with ESPN haven’t yet been revealed, but Marchand said on Twitter that it would be a five-year agreement. The average annual salary is expected to rival the $18 million per year that Tony Romo earns in the 10-year, $180 million contract he signed with CBS two years ago.

Aikman reportedly earned $8 million this past season with Fox. (Marchand reports that he would earn $13.5 million annually over the next four years if he stayed with Fox, but could opt out if he received a higher offer.)

Aikman reportedly on the verge of joining ESPN means that the network is blowing up the three-man booth of Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick that’s called Monday Night Football for the past two seasons. Griese’s contract is up with ESPN and it’s doubtful that Riddick would be on the crew with Aikman. And Levy could be the play-by-play announcer, but wouldn’t the network want to pair a star analyst with an equally marquee partner?

Will ESPN get Al Michaels to join Aikman in a revamped MNF booth? The two were expected to be Amazon’s top choices for its upcoming exclusive Thursday Night Football package. But ESPN has reportedly showed interest in hiring Michaels with his NBC contract expiring after Super Bowl LVI, and the network is facing a possible overhaul of its NFL studio coverage as well.

Putting the potential money aside, Michaels may not find Amazon as appealing if he’s not partnered with Aikman. Would Kurt Warner be someone that could fill that role?

The belief is that he would prefer not to work with a first-time analyst like Sean Payton. Perhaps Michaels would put that aside if Amazon hired Sean McVay, but he’s expected to remain as coach of the Los Angeles Rams. Besides, ESPN appeared to be the network showing the most interest in McVay. Would Tom Brady also be an appealing option?

Aikman leaving Fox knocks down another set of dominoes as well. Who replaces him on Fox’s No. 1 NFL broadcast team with Joe Buck? The network will broadcast two of the next three Super Bowls. The expectation is that rising star Greg Olsen will be bumped up to the top crew. But Fox may also want to make a splashy move with a big name like Payton. (McVay or Brady probably have to be considered in the mix as well.)

Marchand also raised one other moonshot-type move in his report: ESPN could make a run at Joe Buck, whose contract expires next year. Yet Buck also calls MLB broadcasts for the network, including the World Series and All-Star Game. Fox would presumably want to keep him and Buck doesn’t have the same kind of opt-out in his deal.

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Rob Manfred: Diamond Sports Group Has ‘No Plan at This Point’

“They don’t have a deal with the NBA, they don’t have a deal with the NHL, and they don’t have a deal with us.”

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Rob Manfred
Courtesy: Jonathan Dyer, USA TODAY Sports

Diamond Sports Group recently reached a deal for carriage renewal with FuboTV, securing distribution of the Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks through the platform. In recent months, Diamond Sports Group has completed carriage renewals with Charter, Cox and DirecTV, but it has still been unable to reach an agreement with Comcast, which is said to provide 80% of the company’s revenue. As Diamond Sports Group seeks to enter Ch. 11 bankruptcy, there has been concern addressed by Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League pertaining to the viability of the company.

The Sinclair subsidiary was approved for $450 million in debtor-in-possession finance as it seeks to actualize a proposed restructuring. The allocation of such remuneration will be $350 million to pay its first-lien debt holders. Additional funds therein will be transferred the remainder to the company balance sheet. Under the terms of the proposed restructuring agreement, Diamond would continue to broadcast regional games while also accepting investment from Amazon, which agreed to pay $115 million in convertible notes upon the conclusion of the bankruptcy. Junior creditors would then assume operations of the subsidiary.

On Thursday, Diamond Sports Group filed a motion with the Houston bankruptcy court overseeing the case to propose a 41-day extension for the confirmation hearing. Although it was not listed in the document, granting such modifications would presumably allow more time for Diamond and Comcast to try and reach terms on an agreement. If the alteration is granted, Diamond’s confirmation hearing would take place on Monday, July 29. The company is also in the process of trying to negotiate deals with the NBA and NHL.

Following the conclusion of an MLB owners’ meeting in New York, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the ambiguity surrounding the future of Diamond Sports Group. Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks have not been broadcast by Comcast since the end of April, something MLB counsel James Bromley called “devastating” with several teams “facing substantial problems” as a result.

Manfred is not yet sure about the league’s support pertaining to Diamond Sports Group’s reorganization plan, but he still expects the company to carry regional games for the 12 MLB teams for which it has rights through the conclusion of the 2024 season. Major League Baseball continues to produce and disseminate games for the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks as it did last summer, along with the Colorado Rockies after AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain ceased operations at the end of last year.

“It’s hard to comment on whether we’re going to object or not because there is no plan at this point,” Manfred said. “Their whole plan is, you know, ‘We’re going to get deals with distributors…. We’re going to continue with the other leagues.’ They don’t have a deal with the NBA, they don’t have a deal with the NHL, and they don’t have a deal with us.”

MLB looks to develop its own streaming platform and has reportedly had discussions about nationalizing television rights for games. In testimony last year, Manfred recalled a meeting between him and Sinclair Broadcast Group executive chairman David Smith. Smith asked Manfred to grant the company direct-to-consumer broadcast rights to bolster its Bally Sports Plus app, to which Manfred replied that it would not happen, and that people cannot always get what they want. In response, Smith said that he would squeeze clubs to diminish rights fees to make sure he stayed profitable in the RSN business. If they did not agree to that, he explained that he would put Diamond Sports Group into bankruptcy and then selectively reject contracts.

“Right now we’re really focused on the strategic part,” Manfred said. “How is it that we respond to the changes in the local media environment in a way that increases our reach and fan access to our games? We’d like to get into a model where whether you’re a dinosaur cable person like I am or a digital person, there is a frictionless opportunity to watch the game that you want to watch.”

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Erin Andrews: Tom Brady Will Be ‘Amazing’ as ‘NFL on FOX’ Broadcaster

“Everybody’s worried about the commentating. I’m just like, ‘The guy’s skin. I have to deal with this, him being on my crew.’”

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Tom Brady
Courtesy: Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Although the start of the National Football League regular season schedule of games is still several months away, there is palpable anticipation and excitement towards the proceedings. The lead broadcast crew for the NFL on FOX broadcast will include seven-time Super Bowl champion and former NFL quarterback Tom Brady as the color commentator alongside play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt and reporters Erin Andrews and Tom Rinaldi. At the same time, Andrews is continuing her podcast, Calm Down with Erin and Charissa, with co-host and FOX Sports colleague Charissa Thompson on the iHeart Podcast Network. Both Andrews and Thompson appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on NBC Thursday night to discuss the podcast and how the idea came about.

Thompson explained that she remembers being nervous working on her first day as a member of the FOX Sports team. As she was walking through the door on campus, she remembers Andrews running out to give her a hug and inform her that she would be there for her for anything she needed. When the pandemic hit, Andrews remembered thinking that everyone had a podcast and that they should try to do it. Since launching the show, it has rapidly grown with candid conversation, celebrity interviews and live events.

“You’re crushing it,” Fallon said. “It’s so great; it’s so fun to listen to you guys. I’ve heard you with, I think Derek Jeter was one of those [guests].”

Fallon wanted to know what Andrews and Thompson thought about having Brady join the FOX Sports broadcast team for the upcoming NFL season, which will culminate with Super Bowl LIX from Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, La. Andrews replied by stating that they have spoken to him in person and then asked Fallon if he had ever been around him, to which he replied that he had. Fallon articulated that Brady is good at everything, bringing up being good looking and his skill in golf as two examples, something that he finds annoying.

“And that’s the biggest thing,” Andrews said. “Everybody’s worried about the commentating. I’m just like, ‘The guy’s skin. I have to deal with this, him being on my crew.’ I know because we talk about it a lot on our podcast.”

Andrews later shared that she believes Brady will be amazing in the broadcast booth for his inaugural season, beginning with his debut on Sunday, Sept. 8 when the Dallas Cowboys face the Cleveland Browns at 4:25 p.m. EST. The schedule for games televised by FOX Sports includes several marquee NFC teams throughout the year, along with a rivalry game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers in late December.

“His résumé supports that he’s great at everything he does,” Thompson said, “so why would this be any different?”

Fallon reminisced on attending a basketball game with Brady in the past, recollecting that Brady knew the game was over despite there being time left. It turned out that Brady was correct, being able to decipher the score and probability that the opponent would come back from the deficit. Brady’s adept sports knowledge and ability to discuss the nuances of the game is a sentiment understood and concurred by Andrews and Thompson.

“I’ve sat with him [at] lunch before and he’s been telling stories about his career, and it’s like stuff we just die for,” Andrews said. “Love the inside information, right, and you’re hearing all the stuff you just always wanted to know, and my knee was just bouncing and bouncing and bouncing.”

“And then you get Julian Edelman, who’s on the show I host with him, and Rob Gronkowski,” Thompson added. “You get those three together – the three amigos – hilarity ensues.”

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Jim Ross Hospitalized, Will Miss AEW Double or Nothing

He has been dealing with the flu, raised heart enzymes and trouble breathing.

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Photo of AEW announcer Jim Ross
Courtesy: All Elite Wrestling

Legendary wrestling announcer Jim Ross will miss this weekend’s AEW pay-per-view event, Double or Nothing in Las Vegas as he was hospitalized on Thursday with shortness of breath. Ross said on his X account that he had to make an unexpected visit to the ER. He told Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer he has been dealing with the flu, raised heart enzymes and trouble breathing. Meltzer said Ross expects to be fine within a few days.

Ross, 72, has been making limited appearances for AEW of late and recently has only been appearing on pay-per-views. He recently signed a one-year contract to remain with AEW.

Ross has had a few medical issues over the last few years which have forced him to miss time. In 2021 he was treated for skin cancer and about a year ago a fall led to him stepping away for a bit.

Ross recently had a new book published, Business Is About to Pick Up! which chronicles 50 of his best calls from his 5-decade career in the wrestling business. Ross also hosts a weekly podcast, Grilling JR.

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