On Thursday night ahead of the New York Yankees’ matchup against the Toronto Blue Jays, ESPN featured commentator Stephen A. Smith will be on hand at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y. to throw out a ceremonial first pitch. Smith, a fixture on ESPN programs First Take and NBA Countdown, along with hosting his own podcast, The Stephen A. Smith Show, grew up in the Hollis neighborhood of Queens, N.Y. and frequently watched Yankees games with his father. Despite living closer to Shea Stadium, he was not allowed to watch any New York Mets games until the age of 18, solidifying his love for the “Bronx Bombers.”
Throughout Thursday’s edition of First Take, Smith mentioned how excited he was for the moment and practiced throwing a baseball with ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky. One day earlier, however, he was criticized for a rare baseball take he made on the show pertaining to Los Angeles Angels superstar two-way player Shohei Ohtani.
Smith articulated that Ohtani is not worth $500 million because of the empty seats he frequently sees when the Angels take the field. After a promising first half, the Halos have struggled mightily down the stretch run and currently sport a 69-83 record, good for fourth place in the American League West division.
Within his podcast, he received a call from Preston Miklich who operates a YouTube channel focused on baseball called “Fuzzy.” The outlet has 469,000 subscribers and is a popular spot for baseball fans to catch up on news and rumors while also hearing informed opinions about the game.
During his conversation with Smith, Milkich took the time to inform him that the Angels are fourth in road attendance in the 2023 Major League Baseball regular season. In his response, the host appreciated being informed of the statistic and divulged that while it is an adequate figure compared to the competition, it may be comparatively underwhelming because of the diminished popularity of the game in recent years.
Attendance for Major League Baseball games has been on the rise throughout the 2023 season, with the league reporting a 9% increase year-over-year (YoY). Smith previously made insensitive comments about the Japanese superstar, saying that it was bad that one of the game’s preeminent superstars could not speak English, and apologized after an onslaught of criticism.
“We’re just wondering when it comes to your takes with baseball – we want you to talk baseball; we want ESPN to bring Baseball Tonight back, we miss it dearly,” Miklich explained, “but the baseball community almost thinks that you kind of peak on feelings and we think, ‘Okay, is baseball going to be done on ESPN?’”
The amount of baseball programming on the network has diminished in recent years compared to other properties, yet there is still an edition of Baseball Tonight that airs before the weekly broadcast of Sunday Night Baseball. In response to Miklich’s question, Smith bluntly expressed, “Tell the baseball community to shut the hell up.”
After pushback from Miklich, Smith chided him for interrupting his response and asked him to let him finish his statement. He then divulged that he does not have much time to watch baseball because of the responsibilities he has in other sports, revealing that he only watches New York Yankees games. Smith defended his position because of the fact that First Take rarely discusses baseball and, when it does, often has experts on the panel, such as Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo.
The Walt Disney Company pays a reported $550 million annually for MLB rights, which includes Sunday Night Baseball, the MLB Little League Classic, Home Run Derby and Wild Card series.
“I’m not on High Heat on the MLB Network trying to talk about baseball as if I’m watching every game and I’m an aficionado,” Smith said. “I don’t get to do that.”
Smith reminded Miklich that Russo, who hosts his own show on MLB Network, agreed with him that Ohtani is not worth $500 million. Moreover, he acknowledged that the morning debate program does not address many baseball topics because of the landscape of sports media consumers engaging with the content.
“People don’t care ratings-wise when we’re watching baseball,” Smith said. “We’re trying to change that.”
The CW to Air 2023 Barstool Arizona Bowl
After going streaming-only last year, the 2023 Barstool Arizona Bowl will also air on the CW.
The Barstool Arizona Bowl just secured an additional broadcast home — The CW.
The news broke earlier today on Twitter from the official Barstool Arizona Bowl account. The 2023 Barstool Arizona Bowl will stream once more on Barstool.TV but can also be found on your local CW affiliate.
Fear not, Stoolies — your favorite Barstool personalities won’t be replaced by The CW’s broadcast teams. Pardon My Take’s Jake Marsh confirmed that he will once again assume play-by-play duties, while his bosses Dan “Big Cat” Katz and Dave Portnoy will join him as color commentators. Caleb Pressley and Adam “Rone” Ferrone will act as sideline reporters.
Last year, Barstool ditched a traditional media platform to air their bowl game after reports surfaced that CBS wouldn’t work with Barstool to broadcast the game. Instead, the company streamed the game direct-to-consumer on Barstool.TV, the company’s streaming platform. Ratings were about on par with a streaming-only event, with 1 million total viewers, 500,000 unique viewers, and a high of 130,000 concurrent viewers according to Front Office Sports.
Last year, Ohio defeated Wyoming 30-27. We’ll find out which two teams will play in this year’s Barstool Arizona Bowl following this weekend’s college football slate.
Jeff Kotuby is a nationally-published journalist with bylines on many popular broadcasting and pop culture sites, including The Streamable, eBaum’s World, Twin Galaxies, and more. Jeff grew up in the shadows of New York City and cultivated his love for sports media with the classic broadcasting voices of the area, like Mike & The Mad Dog, Mike “Doc” Emerick, and Michael Kay. You can reach Jeff on Twitter @JeffKotu3y.
CFP National Championship Game Could Rotate Between Partners in New TV Deal
According to Front Office Sports, ESPN and FOX have already made presentations to the CFP.
Ahead of the College Football Playoff (CFP) expansion to 12 teams in the 2024 season, the playoff could look to have the National Championship Game rotate among its media partners every year.
The goal through the process would be to maximize the scope of the media rights fees and cross-promote the game once the existing 12-year, $5.64 billion rights deal with ESPN expires, sources have told Front Office Sports.
Various media outlets have reportedly expressed interest in acquiring rights to the CFP, including ESPN, FOX Sports, NBC Sports, and Warner Bros. Discovery, along with streaming providers Amazon Prime Video and Apple. Michael McCarthy and Amanda Christovich of Front Office Sports reported the news of the prospective structure, along with several media companies that could be involved in the bidding.
Within the report, it is stated that no structure of a deal has been agreed upon at the moment. Last year’s contest between Georgia and TCU averaged 17.2 million viewers on ABC, which made the contest the least-watched National Championship Game since the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) came into existence in 1999. According to Front Office Sports, ESPN and FOX have already made presentations to the CFP, and ESPN could be reportedly willing to forgo part of the CFP to pay for other rights, such as the National Basketball Association.
The discussion surrounding the CFP comes at a time when NASCAR recently announced seven-year media rights deals with CBS, NBC, Warner Bros. Discovery, and Amazon Prime Video worth a combined $7.7 billion. Moreover, the Big Ten inked a seven-year, $8 billion deal with CBS, NBC, and FOX that began this season and is slated to run through 2029.
ESPN will broadcast the National Championship Game on Jan. 8, 2024 at 7:30 PM ET.
Last year, the network presented an alternate broadcast featuring Pat McAfee and members of his program, The Pat McAfee Show, broadcast on ESPN2 while Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Holly Rowe, and Molly McGrath were on the traditional presentation on ESPN.
Andrew Whitworth: Being on Amazon Prime Video Keeps Me Connected to Football
“I just finished this incredibly long football career, but I feel like I’m 18 years old and I just got a fake ID and I can go to a club.”
After 16 seasons in the NFL, Andrew Whitworth is officially retired from playing the game, but he is still very much around the gridiron as a member of Amazon Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football studio broadcast team.
Whitworth is on-site at the games every week behind the desk as an analyst on TNF Tonight where he provides his insight and expertise regarding the action on the field. The four-time Pro Bowler is situated alongside Tony Gonzalez, Richard Sherman, and Ryan Fitzpatrick, along with host Charissa Thompson.
In a recent interview with Yahoo Sports, Whitworth described how he is looking at the game of football in a different light now that he is retired. Within his remarks, he conveyed that he is not sure if he was necessarily a fan of the sport when he was playing, something he acknowledges is ludicrous to state but a legitimate question he has. Rather than viewing the game as a whole, he was more focused on his role as an offensive tackle and being able to effectuate scoring drives by stopping defenses.
“I just finished this incredibly long football career, but I feel like I’m 18 years old and I just got a fake ID and I can go to a club,” Whitworth said. “That’s how I feel watching football now – I just want to consume everything I can.”
Immediately after the final season of his career – which ended with a Super Bowl championship as a member of the Los Angeles Rams – Andrew Whitworth wanted to discover a way to remain involved in the sport. There were options, he shared, to stay within the Rams organization, along with opportunities to work with other teams. His mindset was focused on the art of storytelling though and how to promulgate and discuss a sport that granted him a successful career.
“Being in these stadiums, it keeps you so connected,” Whitworth said. “And every week it seems, I’ve got players asking me, ‘Hey man, you got any thoughts on my game? Things you could help me with?’ For my last five or six years in the NFL, I was kind of a coach-player, mentoring guys. Now, I’m getting to do that a little bit while also covering the games, which has been great.”
Andrew Whitworth outlined a typical week as a member of the Amazon Prime Video Thursday Night Football broadcast, which begins with a production meeting on Monday mornings and subsequent research and film study. In the afternoon he coaches a junior high basketball team for his son and then proceeds to coach his other son’s football team. The film study continues on Tuesday before traveling to the city where the game is taking place that night.
“As soon as I get to that city, I start putting together a tape to talk about and show the producers,” Whitworth said of his Wednesday routine. “We all get together, usually at the hotel, and spend [four to five] hours having dinner and talking about the game.”
Another production meeting takes place on Thursday morning before touring the city and finding enjoyable things to do throughout the day. The crew then arrives to the stadium to do the broadcast that night – in this case, a matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks, which begins with TNF Tonight at 7 PM ET.