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Ryen Russillo: Sports Is In A Stage of “Unprecedented” Change

“I think we can at times become married to these outdated things that makes us think that we are actually operating things the right way”.

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Any part of a person’s life that takes an unexpected twist or change can be tough for them to get used to. In this new day and age in sports and sports media, things can change in a second as rival leagues form in certain sports such as LIV Golf challenging the PGA Tour or the craziness that has become college football realignment.

On the latest episode of The Ryen Russillo Podcast, Russillo began the show with a monologue that said fans should expect changes in sports like we never seen before and that the business models of these leagues are going to be tested:

“I think we are at the beginning stages of unprecedented change in sports. All the things that we care about, pro sports leagues, players, all this stuff. I don’t know what’s going to change, but it’s going to be challenged in ways we’ve never seen before,” said Russillo.

Russillo makes the argument that fans can become used to the old way of leagues doing it such as the example he gives with the NFL having a salary cap and non-guaranteed contracts:

“I’m not saying this will happen, but I think we can at times become married to these outdated things that makes us think that we are actually operating things the right way…The NFL has a ton of mechanisms that are probably all wrong, but we actually probably liked it.”

With all that being said, even as changes get made to certain sports, Russillo thinks fans need to just accept that changes are going to happen and things eventually are not going to be way they used to be:

“The point I’m trying to make here is we are now at the beginning of sports being challenged in an unprecedented way. We’ve already seen it with college sports…I don’t know if the NBA, NFL, or MLB are ever going to be challenged the way the PGA Tour has been, but with media rights deals being the way they are and thinking about the way we have been accustomed to accepting so many things that are probably fundamentally wrong with just being employed in one of these leagues, a lot of us are probably going to have to come to grips with things that we don’t like that are actually probably right.” 

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Tom Brady: ‘I’m Trying to Make Sure I Have the Right Tone’ as a Broadcaster

“Sometimes I get a little too serious because I see myself as ‘quarterback Tom Brady’ as opposed to ‘Let’s enjoy a great game of football Tom Brady.'”

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Tom Brady
Courtesy: Cliff Watts, Variety

On Wednesday night, seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady was honored by the New England Patriots with an induction ceremony at Gillette Stadium to celebrate being nominated into the team’s Hall of Fame. Patriots owner Robert Kraft surprised Brady by revealing that the team had also retired his No. 12 and thanked him for his contributions to the organizations over his 20 seasons with the organization. Brady will be joining the lead commentary booth for the NFL on FOX next season, commencing his work as an analyst alongside play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt and reporters Erin Andrews and Tom Rinaldi.

Brady recently joined the SI Media with Jimmy Traina podcast and discussed his approach to joining the FOX Sports broadcasting team this fall for NFL games. Before he retired from the NFL, Brady signed what was reported to be a 10-year, $375 million deal to call NFL games in the network’s lead broadcasting booth. FOX Sports is entering the second year of its new 11-year media rights agreement with the NFL, which will culminate in Super Bowl LIX on FOX from the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, La.

“I love having a microphone that’s going to reach 30 million people on Sundays a week, [and] I love being a part of the best broadcast in sports,” Brady said, “so I think for me it was a no-brainer, and if you want to have an impact on people and you want to [have] impact on a sport you love, then you’ve got to work toward that.”

Although Brady retired from the NFL after the 2022 season, he did not immediately join the lead broadcast team on FOX Sports. Instead, he decided to wait a year before beginning his role, a decision that allowed him more time to prepare and become familiar with the broadcasting craft.

“For me, it was the only way to do it,” Brady explained. “I realized that to come off a playing season and then to jump right into that, it’s a whole [other] discipline to learn, and I really wanted to take some time to watch, listen, learn, talk to people – people who I really see as the greatest at what they’ve done – and everyone really opened their arms to embrace me and phone calls, and there’s still more I’m going to make before the start of the season, and I’m just very grateful for all the people that kind of shared a lot of incredible nuggets [and] ways to succeed that I’ll be able to involve myself in as I go forward.”

Brady believes that deciphering the game within his analysis will be a straightforward process since it is similar to what he did as a quarterback on a daily basis. Additionally, he anticipates enjoying the preparation and learning more about the teams ahead of the broadcast. A part of his approach he foresees being important, however, is in continuing to make the game fun for consumers so they can enjoy the viewing experience as a whole.

“Sometimes I get a little too serious because I see myself as ‘quarterback Tom Brady’ as opposed to ‘Let’s enjoy a great game of football Tom Brady,’” Brady articulated. “Sometimes I become a little too critical, so I’m trying to make sure I have the right tone.”

Traina found Brady’s answer about being too critical at times and having a specific way in which he believes the game to be played as rather interesting. One of the common critiques Traina has towards broadcast analysts with the exception of Troy Aikman on ESPN is that they are sometimes afraid to criticize players and referees. Although announcers do not need to call a decision dumb, there are moments he has perceived things to be glossed over. Brady wants to impart his wisdom throughout the broadcast with his many years playing in the NFL and help other people achieve their goals.

“I think there’s a high expectation of how I expect the game to be played because I was there and I saw Coach Belichick and I saw Hall of Famers and I played with them and played against them and I played in big games, and there’s just a certain expectation that I see for really great performers, and I want to see these guys perform really well,” Brady said. “But part of the contribution to make is, ‘How do I help other people be successful as well?’”

Brady understands that there will be opinions about his broadcasting abilities from the consumption audience from the moment he starts on the air. Yet over his 28 years playing college and professional sports, he has developed a thick skin and has heard plenty of plaudits and disapproval towards other broadcast analysts. Brady is ultimately going to focus on evaluating his effort, preparation, intention and if he gave his best to his colleagues at FOX Sports and the audience.

“You may not like it – I understand, it’s okay – but I’m just giving you my commentating, my analysis, so it’s really, in the end, kind of like I played quarterback was about satisfying me,” Brady said. “I could have had a bad outcome, but if I thought the process was good, ‘Alright, let me just work on the process to get the outcome I want.’ If the outcome was great, it was, ‘What did I do right that enabled me to be prepared and be successful in the moment?’”

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Dan Le Batard: Shams Charania Appearing on ‘The Pat McAfee Show’ is a Middle Finger to Adrian Wojnarowski

“No one is allowed on ESPN basketball stuff until Shams on McAfee that Woj isn’t good with.”

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Shams Charania
Courtesy: The Rally on X

Earlier in the week, there was considerable speculation surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers pursuit of UConn Huskies men’s basketball head coach Dan Hurley to fill the team’s head coaching vacancy. Hurley ultimately chose to stay at the University of Connecticut, a decision that elicited both surprise and relief in the basketball world, but his candidacy was relatively unknown before a report from ESPN senior basketball insider Adrian Wojnarowski. The report of Hurley being the frontrunner for the job came after Shams Charania, senior NBA insider at The Athletic, reported that NBA on ESPN analyst JJ Redick was the frontrunner instead.

Charania, who also works for Stadium and FanDuel TV outside of his reporting at The Athletic, appeared on ESPN Wednesday afternoon within The Pat McAfee Show where he outlined the Lakers coaching search and Hurley’s decision. Dan Le Batard, hosting an abridged version of The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz due to severe weather in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, spoke about how he recently read a Substack by Ethan Strauss that mentioned the rivalry between Wojnarowski and Charania.

“It’s King Kong and Godzilla of the information business, and Shams learned it from his mentor [Wojnarowski], who is the most competitive person I’ve ever met in sports media, who has relationships with the executives, with the old guard in basketball – the people who have controlled all of the power in basketball,” Le Batard said. “And his protégé, who is 30 years old and much different than him, traffics in the information from labor, from the players, and so there has been a fight at the top of the food chain.”

Le Batard, who used to host on radio and television for ESPN, explained to co-host Jon “Stugotz” Weiner that Wojnarowski is one of the best sportswriters he had ever seen. As the world of disseminating information has changed though, Le Batard stated that Wojnarowski does not write in that manner anymore and is instead divulging “cubes of information” as fast as he can because of money, power and interest in the craft. Although Charania has been a guest on The Pat McAfee Show before since it began broadcasting the first two hours of the program on ESPN last year, Le Batard felt that this particular appearance carried extra merit.

“To see Shams on McAfee is such a ‘F**k you’ from McAfee to Woj and the established infrastructure,” Le Batard said. “No one is allowed on ESPN basketball stuff until Shams on McAfee that Woj isn’t good with. To see his enemy in the middle of the workday on McAfee is hugely interesting to me, and then to see them this far apart on what the Lakers were doing and fighting at the top of the information food chain to produce a story around Hurley that I don’t think any of us but Woj saw coming – like that was not something that people were talking about before Woj reported it after Shams had reported JJ Redick is the frontrunner.”

“I’m with you,” Weiner concurred. “No one saw this coming; the Laker job coming. It is interesting with McAfee because he is doing that just to piss of Woj, and believe me, it pisses of Woj.”

Wojnarowski and Charania previously worked together at Yahoo Sports on “The Vertical” where they broke news of several transactions within the NBA over the years. While Charania was in his junior year of college, Wojnarowski had called him “the best young basketball reporter on the planet.” A rivalry between the two reporters began to develop through the years and became noticeable to fans when Wojnarowski joined ESPN in 2017 and Charania moved to The Athletic and Stadium in the next year.

The aforementioned Strauss detailed the relationship between Wojnarowski and Charania in a Substack article in October 2021, in which he states that they are “highly motivated to beat one another in a battle for speed, conducted over Twitter, a medium built for it.” After Hurley rejected the Lakers’ reported offer, Charania stated on FanDuel TV that Hurley was not the No. 1 candidate for the job from the start, which was viewed by some people as a disputation of Wojnarowski’s report.

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Stephen A. Smith: ‘Shannon Sharpe is on Another Level’ on ESPN ‘First Take’

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Shannon Sharpe
Courtesy: Elizabeth Weinberg, GQ

Earlier in the week, ESPN announced that it signed Shannon Sharpe to a multiyear contract extension in which he will continue his appearances on First Take and also contribute to other ESPN programming. The announcement was made on Tuesday’s edition of First Take, during which Sharpe expressed his gratitude for his colleagues at ESPN and Stephen A. Smith for believing in him after his exit from Undisputed on FS1. Smith and First Take host Molly Qerim conveyed their appreciation for Sharpe on the air and congratulated him on the new contract before beginning the first debate of the program.

On the latest edition of his independent podcast, The Stephen A. Smith Show, Smith took time to recognize Sharpe and exhibit plaudits for his contribution to First Take. Since the departure of co-host Max Kellerman from the morning television show in September 2021, the program has utilized a rotation of panelists that debate Smith on a variety of topics throughout the show. The program recently attained its 22nd consecutive month of year-over-year growth and garnered record-setting viewership in the month of May.

“You know, none of us win alone. We win together,” Smith said. “I don’t give a damn who you see in front of the camera or who you see in front of the microphone. There’s producers and writers and everybody else in-between behind the scenes that make things happen for me that I always owe a debt of gratitude towards as well, and the same is applicable to [Shannon Sharpe]. But clearly with me being the face of First Take and what have you, I’m never shy about spreading the wealth and sharing it because it’s well deserved.”

Smith mentioned several of the commentators who appear across episodes of First Take, including Ryan Clark, Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, Mina Kimes, Jay Williams and Andraya Carter, along with show host Molly Qerim. Throughout the year, the program features additional members of ESPN as well to provide their insights and expertise pertaining to a variety of different topics within the world of sports.

“…[T]here’s so many people that do such great work for the show, but Shannon Sharpe is on another level,” Smith explained. “What he’s done for the show, what he’s done for me, I can’t say enough about.”

Sharpe began appearing on ESPN’s First Take last August while also signing a partnership with The Volume to bring his podcast, Club Shay Shay, to the digital media outlet. During his time with ESPN and First Take, he has frequently appeared on Monday and Tuesday editions of the show, along with several special on-site broadcasts. Within the deal with The Volume, the company implemented Sharpe’s media venture, Shay Shay Media in content and formulating new programming, such as the Nightcap podcast featuring Sharpe and co-hosts Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson and Gilbert Arenas.

“I don’t deserve a whole bunch of props for bringing Shannon Sharpe on board,” Smith said. “Shannon Sharpe came on board because Shannon Sharpe was an asset that I knew would work tremendously well for First Take. His gifts, his skillset, his hard work, his dedication and all of the stuff that came with it is what earned that opportunity.”

Smith articulated that Sharpe has never appeared on the program with any shortage of energy, passion, knowledge or commitment. Earlier in the segment, he addressed people who questioned why Smith mentioned that Sharpe was pushed out of FS1, replying by asking if it had occurred to them that he wanted him to discuss the topic. Sharpe worked with Skip Bayless from the start of Undisputed in 2016 until his departure last June, and the program has since relaunched featuring a rotation of commentators including Keyshawn Johnson, Michael Irvin and Richard Sherman.

Smith delineated that Sharpe has been an exemplary colleague throughout his time on First Take and has had to overcome several obstacles to reach this point, some of which include a speech impediment, being a Black man and having issues with public speaking. A recent profile of Sharpe by The Hollywood Reporter mentioned difficulties that Sharpe has had to combat throughout his life and how he has found ways to thrive in sports media following a successful professional football career. Smith read the article and asked the audience to think about what he had to go through before divulging what it is that Sharpe wants to receive from those in the business.

“I’ve told everybody that has asked me about my relationship with Shannon Sharpe, ‘Respect the man,’” Smith said. “All he cares about is that you respect him. Don’t disrespect him. Respect him for what he does. That’s it.”

Smith said that Sharpe knows he has respect for him, attributing it to part of the reason why their friendship has grown. Additionally, he communicated that Sharpe has never bothered anyone and is not asking people for friendship or to be a family member, but rather to simply demonstrate respect towards him. The segment then concluded with Smith offering his congratulations for Sharpe receiving the contract extension and continuing to work with him on the show.

“He deserves every penny and every nugget of investment that ESPN has agreed to place in him, so I just wanted to say that and I’m just happy for him and happy he’s going to be a part of the team for years to come,” Smith said. “He deserves it – he really, really does. My man, Club Shay Shay in the house. Congrats big boy, well deserved.”

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