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Alex Rodriguez: ‘I Don’t Blame Michael Kay For Criticizing Me In The Past’

“I was the jackass who got in trouble. Michael was doing his job, and that’s why he’s good at his job.”

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With the success of the ManningCast on ESPN during the 2021 NFL season, the network is introducing a new, special viewing presentation called Kay-Rod Cast featuring New York Yankees’ play-by-play announcer Michael Kay and three-time league MVP Álex Rodríguez. The duo will call eight games together, initially from ESPN’s Seaport District Studios in New York, NY during the 2022 regular season, starting with the Yankees’ matchup against the Boston Red Sox this Sunday, April 10 at 7 p.m. EST.

With the new style of broadcast, which they both describe as a “party on ESPN2,” ratings are not so much the focus. Instead, it will be about generating content and genuinely establishing a feel as if they are, according to Kay, “in the stands talking about the game with some friends who sat down next to us.”

“I think ratings – and ESPN is not going to want to hear this – they are overrated,” said Rodríguez. “I think this cast is really set for great content and really to entertain… and [to] show off my experience and my knowledge; my highs and lows, and what I’ve learned over my career.”

Even if the trend of secondary broadcasts and alternate-viewing presentations being subservient in the ratings to the traditional style of broadcast holds true, Kay reiterated a point of saliency that some may choose to overlook.

“The numbers will be where they are, but all the numbers are for ESPN,” said Kay. “We’re not going to look at it and be upset if the main broadcast has more viewership than we have.”

Rodríguez is excited to get the opportunity to work with his longtime friend Michael Kay, who covered him with both the YES Network and 98.7 ESPN New York throughout his 13 seasons with the Yankees. While Rodríguez received criticism from Kay after he was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and subsequently suspended for the remaining portion of the 2013 season and entirety of the 2014 season, he knows that relationships are not always linear, and he values Kay’s friendship.

“Michael and I have been great friends for over two-and-a-half decades, but I don’t blame Michael [for being critical] – I blame me,” said Rodríguez. “I was the jackass who got in trouble. Michael was doing his job, and that’s why he’s good at his job. That’s what I think will make this show really good because you’ll get forthrightness from him and I.”

A central goal of the Kay-Rod Cast will be remaining focused and topical pertaining to the game on the field. Kay, as he recently discussed with Barrett Sports Media, will be trying to fuse his role as a play-by-play announcer and radio host, while Rodríguez will seek to manifest part of his knowledge and personality never seen before.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who knows more baseball than Álex,” Kay said Wednesday. “To give people the opportunity to peel back the layers – this format gives us the perfect opportunity to do that. I think people are going to be shocked at the things they hear from him because he knows the game so well, and this is the perfect venue for it.”

The key to bringing this idea to reality was not only listening to Rodríguez’s prior appearance joining Michael Kay in the YES Network booth where they spoke about why he was hit by so many pitches, but also his outside sports and business commitments, including as a part-owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Rodríguez wanted to ensure that he would be able to bring his best in the booth before signing a multi-year contract extension with ESPN, but knew he would have to balance it with his busy schedule.

“I told Jimmy Pitaro [that] I don’t think I have the bandwidth to do another thirty games,” said Rodríguez, “and the opportunity to work with Michael was one I couldn’t pass down and I think we’ll have a lot of fun.”

The inaugural Kay-Rod Cast begins this Sunday night as the New York Yankees face the Boston Red Sox from Yankee Stadium at 7 p.m. EST in The Bronx, N.Y. The duo will call seven additional games on ESPN2 throughout the 2022 season, which will be available to stream on the ESPN App, while the new Sunday Night Baseball booth of Karl Ravech, Eduardo Perez and David Cone continue the traditional broadcast on ESPN. Additionally, Kay and Rodríguez will be the primary broadcast team for the first game of the second half of the 2022 regular season between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, along with an additional game that remains to be determined.

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Joe Buck, Troy Aikman Visit Bristol For First Time Since Signing With ESPN

“My anticipation for the start of this season is literally off the charts; I’ve never been this excited.”

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Monday Night Football on ESPN is going to have a new sound this year with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the broadcast booth. The deal is reportedly worth a combined $165 million, and will officially begin on September 12 when the Denver Broncos visit the Seattle Seahawks at 8:15 p.m. EST on ESPN.

“I’m thrilled to officially welcome Joe and Troy to ESPN and Monday Night Football,” said ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “They are elite broadcasters who have been at the forefront of our industry for more than two decades [and] are universally respected, and fans truly appreciate their candor and expertise.”

Buck and Aikman visited ESPN headquarters in Bristol for the first time today. The broadcast duo, now entering their 21st season in the booth together, are switching networks for the first time, a move that was initiated because of Aikman’s expiring contract. Throughout the season, Aikman had an inclination that it would be his last at Fox; however, he would have stayed at the network. The original thought, according to Aikman, was that he would call Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime while continuing his role in doubleheader games with Fox – but it was quickly realized that it would not be feasible.

“ESPN began conversations with me, and it was an opportunity that was just the best fit for me,” said Aikman. “I didn’t think that was going to happen until a little bit after the Super Bowl.”

Buck’s contract was not set to expire until the end of this season, but after watching his veteran partner change networks, the possibility existed that he too would depart.

“When I knew Troy was gone, I think there was a little bit more intensity in my talks with Fox about ‘Was I going to stay there?,’ or ‘Was I going to try to continue my relationship on-air with Troy?’,” Buck reflected.

After approximately a month of negotiations between Buck and Fox, the broadcaster was off to ESPN. While the negotiations moved quickly, Buck never felt like he was taken for granted by Fox after working there for 28 years.

“They tell you how much you’re worth to them every time a check arrives,” said Buck. “They prove all that stuff by letting you continue to do it, and the relationships that we had. It was very collegial and very friendship-driven, much more so than employer-employee at Fox, and I expect the same will continue here at ESPN.”

Much of the media landscape across the National Football League has been significantly altered going into next season. Whether it is Buck and Aikman going from Fox to ESPN; the new Fox booth of Kevin Burkhardt and, upon his retirement, Tom Brady; the addition of Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime with Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit; and Mike Tirico being moved into the lead Sunday Night Football role with Cris Collinsworth, the game will adopt a new sound upon the season’s opening kickoff.

ESPN Head of Event and Studio Production Stephanie Druley commented that amid the new broadcast landscape, the network believes it now has the number one football broadcast booth in the country. Additionally, she revealed the addition of a second Monday Night Football booth to be announced in the coming weeks as part of the network’s new broadcast rights deal with the NFL. The secondary booth will be calling three games this year and five games next year, and an announcement with more details is forthcoming.

For Buck, being welcomed to ESPN was representative of a full-circle moment, as his father Jack called Monday Night Football on the CBS Radio Network with Hank Stram. While Buck idolized his father and strived to one day be like him, he was always attentive as to what was going on in one of the other booths in the stadium.

“I knew as a little kid something special was going on two doors down, and that was when Howard Cosell was there; Don Meredith was there; Frank Gifford was there – and it was, ‘Man, that is the peak of sports and media,’” said Buck. “My anticipation for the start of this season is literally off the charts; I’ve never been this excited.”

“This is an opportunity with ESPN that I’m really excited about,” added Aikman. “We’ve been doing it so long in one way [and] it feels like it’s 2001 again…. I have nothing but respect for the people I worked [for] at Fox, and appreciate the way I was treated for the 21 years I was there, but am excited for the next chapter.”

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NFL Explains How World Cup Effected 2022 Schedule

“We didn’t strategically deploy any of our games to either go really strong or go a little less strong, because we knew there was going to be soccer that day.”

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This will be the first year that the World Cup will be contested during the NFL season. It isn’t a challenge professional football is used to in America. That is why Mike North, the NFL’s vice president of broadcast scheduling, told Richard Deitsch that it was important to do some homework.

“Very early in the process we got with our broadcast partner at Fox and we knew that there weren’t going to be any windows where Fox was not going to be able to broadcast an NFL game,” he said.

The real effect had to do with the NFL’s international schedule. Five games will be played outside of the United States borders this season. North said he wanted to understand the potential schedule for the World Cup so he could create the best atmosphere for the international contests.

“I’m not sure we’re doing the right thing for the fan in Germany if we’re playing in Bayern Munich’s stadium while the German national team is playing a World Cup game; I’m not sure we are doing the right thing for our fans in Mexico if we were playing a game in Mexico on a day when the Mexican national team was playing. So we were certainly aware of the World Cup schedule and worked very closely with our friends at Fox to make sure we were aligned on how we were going to approach it.”

North said that he wasn’t worried about football beating fútbol. He just wanted to understand what he was putting his teams up against.

“We didn’t back out of any of our windows. We didn’t strategically deploy any of our games to either go really strong or go a little less strong, because we knew there was going to be soccer that day.”

FIFA moved the World Cup to the final two months of the year in 2022. To play the games any earlier would have meant players would have been dealing with extreme heat in Qatar.

The first match will be played on November 21. The final is scheduled for December 18. That overlaps with weeks 11 through 16 of the NFL season.

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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.”

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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.”

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