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Darren Smith: Chris Russo Gives ‘First Take’ An Equal to Stephen A. Smith

“I think they’ve actually found somebody with the ability to engage brain to vocal cords almost every bit as well as Stephen A.”

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Since Chris Russo began appearing on ESPN’s First Take to yell back at Stephen A. Smith in late January, the reaction among fans and sports media observers on social media has been extremely positive.

People enjoyed Russo debating Stephen A. so much that ESPN listened to the people and added “Mad Dog” as a regular guest co-host every Wednesday. Those appearances have become must-see sports TV. This week’s may have been the best yet, with the two arguing over the MLB lockout and Steph Curry being an all-time top 10 NBA player.

Later in the day, XTRA’s The Darren Smith Show marveled at how good First Take is when Russo takes on Stephen A. As Darren Smith said, the show has finally found a worthy opponent, a match for First Take’s star personality.

“I think they’ve actually found an equal to Stephen A. Smith in terms of volume, in terms of cadence,” Smith said. “I think they’ve actually found somebody with the ability to engage brain to vocal cords almost every bit as well as Stephen A.”

Marty Caswell agreed, saying the argument about Steph Curry was “phenomenal.”

For those who may have missed it, here’s a clip of the MLB lockout discussion in which Russo blamed the players union for the labor dispute, while Stephen A. argued that the owners have never negotiated in good faith.

But as Caswell pointed out, the true highlight was when Russo went crazy over Stephen A. saying Steph Curry was a top 10 player in NBA history. And if there was any doubt as to whether or not Russo was a match for Stephen A., they were shattered by Russo shouting “I’ll do the asking!” in leading the discussion.

The even better Russo outburst may have been when Smith didn’t reply to the question of Curry or Larry Bird being a better player. Russo yelling “Don’t even go there!” at the possibility that Curry might be the answer sent Stephen A. into giggles (and Molly Qerim laughing with him).

When Stephen A. tried to counter that Curry was the greatest shooter in NBA history, Russo nearly jumped through the camera. “We’re not talking about shooting!” he screamed while clapping his hands furiously, then making a frenzied shooting motion.

Russo may have shouted his earpiece into malfunction when Stephen A. tried to argue for Curry over Bill Russell. Altogether, it was an electric three minutes of television, an exchange in which Smith actually backed down in the face of Russo’s fury.

Would that ever have happened against Max Kellerman? Would social media and sports media have been so riveted? We all know the answer.

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Rob Dibble, 97.9 ESPN Help Collect Nearly 5,000 Turkeys

“This year, the support from listeners, sponsors, partners and volunteers helped make a remarkable state-wide impact.”

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97.9 ESPN Hartford host Rob Dibble helped collect more than 5,000 frozen turkeys and over 8m000 pounds of non-perishable foood items last week.

The station, along with other iHeart Connecticut stations, also raised more than $189,000 during the 23rd annual Turkey Tuesday at Connecticut Foodshare’s headquarters.

“We are continually grateful of the outpouring of donations from our listeners and Connecticut community on our annual events to ensure a Thanksgiving for all,” said iHeartMedia Hartford and New Haven Vice President of Marketing Vanessa Wojtusiak. “This year, the support from listeners, sponsors, partners and volunteers helped make a remarkable state-wide impact.”

Dibble has been a longtime support of Connecticut Foodshare, hosting its director Al Marino on his show several times throughout the year to ensure families in Connecticut have access to the food bank.

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Ray Didinger Subject of NFL Films Feature, Tells Angelo Cataldi He’s Stayed Busy in Retirement

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Former 94WIP host and Philadelphia Daily News and NBC Sports Philadelphia writer Ray Didinger retired earlier this year, but he told Angelo Cataldi he’s remained busy even though he stepped away from his media career.

“It’s been busier than I thought,” Didinger said. “Just because of the way things have gone in the city. The Phillies going to the World Series, the Eagles are 10-1, I don’t think any of us thought it was going to be this kind of run. Consequently, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing. I had no idea everyone in the world has a podcast so I’ve been getting all those calls. My name and my phone number are on way too many rolodexes all around the country. When somebody says ‘Hey, let’s do a piece about Philly’, my phone rings. It’s been busy but it’s been good. It’s been great to see what this has meant to the city.”

Didinger hosted shows from 10:00 AM-1:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays for 94WIP. In total, he spent more than 50 years covering the NFL before retiring in May.

After Cataldi asked for Didinger’s opinion on the 2022 Eagles, he asked the now-retired reporter if he was still using his yellow notepad. Didinger admitted he does still use the notepad, and Cataldi chastised his former colleague after he said he would retire the notepad. Cataldi joked when he retires after the Eagles season concludes, he hopes to lose co-hosts Al Morganti and Rhea Hughes’ phone numbers.

Didinger will be the subject of an NFL Films feature about his longtime career covering the league. The program will air on FS1 on Friday at 12:30 AM.

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Colin Dunlap: ‘Insane’ What Tom Rinaldi Has Done During Last Week

“He’s going from Doha to Dallas and Kansas City to Doha and Columbus to Doha. Something’s up! There’s two Tom Rinaldi’s.”

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Tom Rinaldi

It was a banner week for FOX Sports during the Thanksgiving holiday, and no one got more work than the network’s Tom Rinaldi. 93.7 The Fan morning show host Colin Dunlap believes Rinaldi deserves props for his schedule.

“It’s insane what he’s done,” Dunlap said. “I wrote it down and I saw somebody tweet it. Listen to this schedule — and I don’t even know if it’s worth it — but listen to what Tom Rinaldi has done: Wednesday? Qatar. Thursday? Dallas for the Cowboys game. Friday? Back to the US-England match in Qatar. Saturday? In Columbus, Ohio for Michigan/Ohio State. Sunday? Kansas City for the NFL game.

“And then if you’ve gotta guess, he’s gonna be at the American game tomorrow so he’s travelling back to Qatar today. I don’t even travel back and forth to Baltimore like that. He’s going from Doha to Dallas and Kansas City to Doha and Columbus to Doha. Something’s up! There’s two Tom Rinaldi’s.”

Dunlap, co-host Chris Mack, and producer Adam Crowley then discussed whether FOX Sports was using Rinaldi enough. While noting that he’s travelling to all these locations, they believe he isn’t being utilized enough for the bigger stories he’s been known for.

They also joked about whether Rinaldi was flying back and forth on Rupert Murdoch’s private jet and whether or not that would make life easier.

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