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Alexi Lalas: Chad Johnson Has ‘Immersed Himself’ In Preparation For FOX Role at World Cup

“When he was talking to us about the opportunity that he was getting to go to the World Cup, it was as if he had won the Super Bowl.”

Ricky Keeler

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The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar begins Sunday morning on FS1 and FOX. Both will have full coverage of the event from the opening kickoff until the final on December 18. The lead play-by-play announcer John Strong and studio analyst/former USA Men’s National player Alexi Lalas have been doing a lot of prep leading up to the event, but as Strong told Jason Wormser on The Wormcast: How Sports Media Happens podcast last week, not all of the prep might get used as the tournament goes on such as the following anecdote.

“Wonderful anecdote about Australia. One of their long-time center backs dropped from the team knowing he was going to be a backup in favor of some younger players. One of the things that makes that extra-surprising is the fact that he is the son-in-law of the head coach. The odds that that anecdote makes air is very, very slim.

“I have Australia-France. The odds that we are talking much in-depth about Australia’s defensive depth chart is probably slim, but you have it there just in case. As the tournament goes on, that type of prep that you have done becomes even less relevant because it is not about big-picture storytelling anymore as much as just what’s happened in the tournament so far.”

It will be a busy event for Strong and color commentator/former US Men’s National Team player Stu Holden because of how many games there are each day in the group stage, so Strong has had to prepare for a lot of teams

“Of those first 17 days of the tournament, our expectation (Stu Holden and I) is we will be calling games on 15 of those days….I’m preparing for 18 different teams that I will be calling in the group stage.”

While FOX and FS1 will have plenty of coverage of Team USA, Lalas said that there is a responsibility to talk about the other countries in the event as well.

“This is as big as it gets and this is international and we want to do it justice. Obviously, we have the US Men’s National Team back. That makes a huge difference. We will focus on that as we should, but we also have a responsibility to everybody and making sure that people come into that tent, even if it’s their first time or if they are coming in from other teams that we give them the steady diet. It’s day in and day out and we are just churning it out in the best possible way.”

Joining the World Cup crew for FOX this year as a studio analyst is former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson — formerly known as Chad Ochocinco — and Lalas said that Johnson had an extreme level of excitement when talking about being part of the coverage.

“Someone like Chad Ochocinco who is coming to join us too. When he was talking to us about the opportunity that he was getting to go to the World Cup, it was as if he had won the Super Bowl. This guy loves the game and he has immersed himself in the game.”

With the uniqueness of this World Cup, Lalas said that just as there is a good chance a star could emerge on-the-field during the World Cup, it can happen to a media personality off-the-field as well.

“I think you will see some really interesting personalities that maybe you have seen before, but see them maybe in a different light working for FOX in the way that we do things and you will see some new faces and new voices that will be introduced to you that inevitably stars are created in the World Cup on the field and stars are created in the World Cup off the field.” 

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Jason Whitlock: Ryan Clark Wanted More Than Mina Kimes

“The whole thing was about getting more than Mina Kimes. I wish he had the heart to just say that rather all the other performative stuff.”

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Jason Whitlock

One former ESPNer is alleging one of its talents wanted to make sure his new deal paid him more than a colleague. According to Jason Whitlock on X, Ryan Clark’s recent social media activity was all about securing a contract that was worth more than NFL analyst Mina Kimes’ deal:

For the uninitiated, Ryan Clark posted a lengthy video to his social media pages discussing the uncertainty of his future with ESPN, saying that his last deal with ESPN “wasn’t what he wanted” and that he “felt played.” This time around, he vowed things would be different, saying that he would, “leave no doubt that there was nobody in the world that was like [Clark].” That manifested in a new deal with ESPN, totaling over $2 million per year according to Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports, making him one of the highest-paid analysts at ESPN.

For what it’s worth, Kimes signed a deal in Sept. that pays her $1.7 million annually, meaning that Clark did wind up getting more than Kimes. However, it’s unknown if Kimes’ contract specifically was a sticking point for Clark or if he just simply wanted to be a top-X paid analyst within the company.

Outside of contributing to ESPN’s football coverage on NFL Live, he makes appearances on ESPN’s other shows, like First Take, Get Up, SportsCenter, and more. He is also the host of The CW’s Inside the NFL, a role that Clark admitted was something different. He also previously hosted an MMA show alongside former UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier before it was revealed that “DC” would now host a new show alongside fellow UFC alum Chael Sonnen.

As part of Clark’s video, he mentioned his energy being finite, which may have led to his MMA show and other responsibilities going by the wayside as part of this new deal, but there has been no official word as to whether that’s the case or not.

“What I realized is, you only got so much to give, and all you can give is all the energy that God gives you,” Clark said. “And I did that, but I also learned that you run out. And at some point, you don’t have nothing left. I’d do whatever it took to get what I want, and that I’d work harder and longer now to work less and make more then. And I felt like I put myself in that spot.”

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Ryan Clark Reportedly Returning to ESPN

This past season, Clark appeared on a variety of programming centered around the National Football League, including NFL Live and Monday Night Countdown.

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Ryan Clark
Courtesy: Allen Kee, ESPN Images

ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark has reached a verbal agreement to remain at ESPN, extending his time at the network. This past season, Clark appeared on a variety of programming centered around the National Football League, including NFL Live and Monday Night Countdown. News of Clark deciding to remain at ESPN was first reported by Andrew Marchand of The Athletic. Additionally, Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports has reported that the deal will pay him over $2 million per year. ESPN confirmed the news on Monday afternoon, stating that he would continue his role across network programming.

Just days after the Super Bowl, Clark outlined how he wanted to prove his worth and leave no doubt the last time he signed an extension with ESPN three years ago. At the time, he felt he was worth more than what he received and set out to end the conversations about who he was in the sports media business. Although Clark’s contract expired before Super Bowl LVIII, he and the network agreed to extend it through the conclusion of the championship matchup.

During the NFL postseason, ESPN studio programming garnered multi-year peaks in viewership. Editions of NFL Live averaged 486,000 viewers over 14 programs between Jan. 9 and Jan. 26, rendering it the most-watched playoff run of the program in nine seasons. The Postseason NFL Countdown show featuring the Monday Night Countdown cast averaged 4.7 million viewers on ESPN and ABC ahead of the network’s broadcast of the divisional round matchup between the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, Jan. 20.

Outside of his role at ESPN, Clark recently completed his first year hosting Inside the NFL on The CW. The Emmy award-winning weekly series moved to the network after it was dropped by Paramount+ last April and featured a new cast starring Jay Cutler, Chad Johnson, Chris Long and Channing Crowder. He and Crowder work alongside Fred Taylor on The Pivot podcast, an independent venture outside of ESPN. Clark balanced these roles with his ESPN obligations, which has also included appearances on programming such as Get Up, First Take and SportsCenter.

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ESPN Hires Jorge Castillo to Cover Yankees & Mets

“As someone who grew up consuming everything ESPN, this opportunity is truly a dream come true for me. I’m honored to join such a great baseball crew…”

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Jorge Ramos ESPN Beat Writer

Longtime Los Angeles Times writer Jorge Castillo will switch coasts and cover the New York Mets and Yankees for ESPN. The company announced the news earlier today, sharing that Castillo’s assignments will begin on ESPN.com today.

“As someone who grew up consuming everything ESPN, this opportunity is truly a dream come true for me,” Castillo said. “I’m honored to join such a great baseball crew and excited to work with so many talented people.”

According to ESPN, Castillo will, “contribute news, analysis, storytelling, and live event coverage on the Yankees and Mets, with additional national MLB coverage throughout the season and postseason. He will also contribute on TV and radio.”

Castillo is no stranger to the area, though — he previously covered baseball for the New York Times and the Star-Ledger in New Jersey. Now, he returns to cover the local clubs for the Worldwide Leader.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Jorge to ESPN’s baseball team. He’s covered some of baseball’s biggest franchises in some of its toughest markets, and we expect nothing less from him in New York,” said Rachel Ullrich, ESPN Deputy Editor for ESPN.com. “We can’t wait to add his incredible reporting, thoughtful analysis, and creative storytelling to our talented team.”

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