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Molly Qerim Welcomes Celebrities, Stephen A. Smith’s Sister to Roast First Pitch Attempt

“Hey Carmen, aren’t you happy you didn’t go now because that would have been embarrassing?”

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Molly Qerim; Stephen A. Smith First Pitch New York Yankees
Molly Qerim - Courtesy: Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images | Stephen A. Smith - Courtesy: Jason Szenes, New York Post

When video circulated of Stephen A. Smith’s ceremonial first pitch prior to the New York Yankees’ matchup against the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night, he was promptly chided and excoriated for bouncing it to home plate. Many celebrities inside and outside the sports media world chimed in on the situation, and First Take fans left comments in eager anticipation for the episode the next morning. The interest was heightened when show host Molly Qerim posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that she would be taking live callers to “discuss that atrocity on the mound” by Smith.

Qerim helped orchestrate what she called a “telethon” and ensured Smith heard from a variety of people associated with the show about the delivery. First Take contributors Shannon Sharpe, Dan Orlovsky and Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo submitted video messages that played live over the air throughout the episode – much of which was focused on the moment. Smith even practiced throwing a baseball in the studio during Thursday’s edition of the program and spoke about how he would wind up from the mound rather than the cut of the grass in front of it.

“Stephen A., I know you’re the executive producer, but today I am,” Qerim said. “I’d like the sound from last night of Stephen A. in the [YES Network] booth; could we get that please?”

At Qerim’s request, First Take shared what Smith said with Michael Kay in the television broadcast booth last night. During his appearance, he discussed how he felt when he took the field and recognized the magnitude of the situation.

“I was warming up down there – I was throwing strikes from 60 feet away – and I got on that mound and it looked like it was a mile away,” Smith said. “I said, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’…. There’s no excuse; there’s no excuse. It was a choke job.”

Throughout the episode leading into the weekend, messages from celebrities including Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg were displayed on the air, along with a live call from television host and producer Steve Harvey. Qerim, however, was saving a moment that would rattle Smith towards the end of the show when she revealed that Smith’s beloved sister, Carmen, was on the line.

“Steve, I taught you better than that,” Carmen said. “I had to look at it over again and say, ‘Did he just do that?’ And then hearing that you had a hot dog when I sent you food; you had a hot dog. I think that throw – you had to pass gas or something.”

Carmen explained that when Smith lifted his leg up in his attempt to fire a strike, he likely emitted flatulence because of the hot dog he ate at Yankee Stadium. Qerim and analyst Ryan Smith were consumed by laughter before they collected themselves and presented Carmen with an additional query.

“Hey Carmen, aren’t you happy you didn’t go now because that would have been embarrassing?,” Qerim asked. “You’d have to claim him after that.”

“I would’ve left him right there,” Carmen replied. “I would’ve disappeared [and] I would’ve went home. He wouldn’t even got back to wherever he was eating a hot dog.”

Smith was aghast to see what Qerim and the rest of the show’s production staff had pulled off in getting his sister to come live on the air. As a result, he vowed vengeance for the program that they had successfully executed. Nonetheless, Carmen reflected on what had happened and what she would have done had she known Smith would bounce the pitch in front of the crowd.

“Steve, the day before you were here, I would’ve had the headlights on the car,” Carmen explained. “We would’ve been throwing in the street at nighttime if I knew you were going to throw like that. Come on; you’re better than that.”

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Rob Manfred: Diamond Sports Group Has ‘No Plan at This Point’

“They don’t have a deal with the NBA, they don’t have a deal with the NHL, and they don’t have a deal with us.”

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Rob Manfred
Courtesy: Jonathan Dyer, USA TODAY Sports

Diamond Sports Group recently reached a deal for carriage renewal with FuboTV, securing distribution of the Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks through the platform. In recent months, Diamond Sports Group has completed carriage renewals with Charter, Cox and DirecTV, but it has still been unable to reach an agreement with Comcast, which is said to provide 80% of the company’s revenue. As Diamond Sports Group seeks to enter Ch. 11 bankruptcy, there has been concern addressed by Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League pertaining to the viability of the company.

The Sinclair subsidiary was approved for $450 million in debtor-in-possession finance as it seeks to actualize a proposed restructuring. The allocation of such remuneration will be $350 million to pay its first-lien debt holders. Additional funds therein will be transferred the remainder to the company balance sheet. Under the terms of the proposed restructuring agreement, Diamond would continue to broadcast regional games while also accepting investment from Amazon, which agreed to pay $115 million in convertible notes upon the conclusion of the bankruptcy. Junior creditors would then assume operations of the subsidiary.

On Thursday, Diamond Sports Group filed a motion with the Houston bankruptcy court overseeing the case to propose a 41-day extension for the confirmation hearing. Although it was not listed in the document, granting such modifications would presumably allow more time for Diamond and Comcast to try and reach terms on an agreement. If the alteration is granted, Diamond’s confirmation hearing would take place on Monday, July 29. The company is also in the process of trying to negotiate deals with the NBA and NHL.

Following the conclusion of an MLB owners’ meeting in New York, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the ambiguity surrounding the future of Diamond Sports Group. Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks have not been broadcast by Comcast since the end of April, something MLB counsel James Bromley called “devastating” with several teams “facing substantial problems” as a result.

Manfred is not yet sure about the league’s support pertaining to Diamond Sports Group’s reorganization plan, but he still expects the company to carry regional games for the 12 MLB teams for which it has rights through the conclusion of the 2024 season. Major League Baseball continues to produce and disseminate games for the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks as it did last summer, along with the Colorado Rockies after AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain ceased operations at the end of last year.

“It’s hard to comment on whether we’re going to object or not because there is no plan at this point,” Manfred said. “Their whole plan is, you know, ‘We’re going to get deals with distributors…. We’re going to continue with the other leagues.’ They don’t have a deal with the NBA, they don’t have a deal with the NHL, and they don’t have a deal with us.”

MLB looks to develop its own streaming platform and has reportedly had discussions about nationalizing television rights for games. In testimony last year, Manfred recalled a meeting between him and Sinclair Broadcast Group executive chairman David Smith. Smith asked Manfred to grant the company direct-to-consumer broadcast rights to bolster its Bally Sports Plus app, to which Manfred replied that it would not happen, and that people cannot always get what they want. In response, Smith said that he would squeeze clubs to diminish rights fees to make sure he stayed profitable in the RSN business. If they did not agree to that, he explained that he would put Diamond Sports Group into bankruptcy and then selectively reject contracts.

“Right now we’re really focused on the strategic part,” Manfred said. “How is it that we respond to the changes in the local media environment in a way that increases our reach and fan access to our games? We’d like to get into a model where whether you’re a dinosaur cable person like I am or a digital person, there is a frictionless opportunity to watch the game that you want to watch.”

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Erin Andrews: Tom Brady Will Be ‘Amazing’ as ‘NFL on FOX’ Broadcaster

“Everybody’s worried about the commentating. I’m just like, ‘The guy’s skin. I have to deal with this, him being on my crew.’”

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Tom Brady
Courtesy: Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Although the start of the National Football League regular season schedule of games is still several months away, there is palpable anticipation and excitement towards the proceedings. The lead broadcast crew for the NFL on FOX broadcast will include seven-time Super Bowl champion and former NFL quarterback Tom Brady as the color commentator alongside play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt and reporters Erin Andrews and Tom Rinaldi. At the same time, Andrews is continuing her podcast, Calm Down with Erin and Charissa, with co-host and FOX Sports colleague Charissa Thompson on the iHeart Podcast Network. Both Andrews and Thompson appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on NBC Thursday night to discuss the podcast and how the idea came about.

Thompson explained that she remembers being nervous working on her first day as a member of the FOX Sports team. As she was walking through the door on campus, she remembers Andrews running out to give her a hug and inform her that she would be there for her for anything she needed. When the pandemic hit, Andrews remembered thinking that everyone had a podcast and that they should try to do it. Since launching the show, it has rapidly grown with candid conversation, celebrity interviews and live events.

“You’re crushing it,” Fallon said. “It’s so great; it’s so fun to listen to you guys. I’ve heard you with, I think Derek Jeter was one of those [guests].”

Fallon wanted to know what Andrews and Thompson thought about having Brady join the FOX Sports broadcast team for the upcoming NFL season, which will culminate with Super Bowl LIX from Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, La. Andrews replied by stating that they have spoken to him in person and then asked Fallon if he had ever been around him, to which he replied that he had. Fallon articulated that Brady is good at everything, bringing up being good looking and his skill in golf as two examples, something that he finds annoying.

“And that’s the biggest thing,” Andrews said. “Everybody’s worried about the commentating. I’m just like, ‘The guy’s skin. I have to deal with this, him being on my crew.’ I know because we talk about it a lot on our podcast.”

Andrews later shared that she believes Brady will be amazing in the broadcast booth for his inaugural season, beginning with his debut on Sunday, Sept. 8 when the Dallas Cowboys face the Cleveland Browns at 4:25 p.m. EST. The schedule for games televised by FOX Sports includes several marquee NFC teams throughout the year, along with a rivalry game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers in late December.

“His résumé supports that he’s great at everything he does,” Thompson said, “so why would this be any different?”

Fallon reminisced on attending a basketball game with Brady in the past, recollecting that Brady knew the game was over despite there being time left. It turned out that Brady was correct, being able to decipher the score and probability that the opponent would come back from the deficit. Brady’s adept sports knowledge and ability to discuss the nuances of the game is a sentiment understood and concurred by Andrews and Thompson.

“I’ve sat with him [at] lunch before and he’s been telling stories about his career, and it’s like stuff we just die for,” Andrews said. “Love the inside information, right, and you’re hearing all the stuff you just always wanted to know, and my knee was just bouncing and bouncing and bouncing.”

“And then you get Julian Edelman, who’s on the show I host with him, and Rob Gronkowski,” Thompson added. “You get those three together – the three amigos – hilarity ensues.”

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Jim Ross Hospitalized, Will Miss AEW Double or Nothing

He has been dealing with the flu, raised heart enzymes and trouble breathing.

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Photo of AEW announcer Jim Ross
Courtesy: All Elite Wrestling

Legendary wrestling announcer Jim Ross will miss this weekend’s AEW pay-per-view event, Double or Nothing in Las Vegas as he was hospitalized on Thursday with shortness of breath. Ross said on his X account that he had to make an unexpected visit to the ER. He told Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer he has been dealing with the flu, raised heart enzymes and trouble breathing. Meltzer said Ross expects to be fine within a few days.

Ross, 72, has been making limited appearances for AEW of late and recently has only been appearing on pay-per-views. He recently signed a one-year contract to remain with AEW.

Ross has had a few medical issues over the last few years which have forced him to miss time. In 2021 he was treated for skin cancer and about a year ago a fall led to him stepping away for a bit.

Ross recently had a new book published, Business Is About to Pick Up! which chronicles 50 of his best calls from his 5-decade career in the wrestling business. Ross also hosts a weekly podcast, Grilling JR.

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