Jessica Mendoza is one of the best hitters of the 21st century, but as she sat in the TV booth at Dodger Stadium Aug. 30 for a “Sunday Night Baseball” game between the Cubs and Dodgers, she assumed the worst.
She knew full well the social media fate that usually befalls an unfamiliar female voice on any sports-related program, let alone one as visible as ESPN’s exclusive national showcase.
“I was just ready, going in with my battle armor,” she said.
That proved unnecessary.
Mendoza’s Sunday night debut — the second game of her life as an analyst at a Major League Baseball game — was an immediate, almost universal hit among fans and professional critics alike.
“It did make me feel good that [the reaction] wasn’t as bad as I thought,” she said.
Within days what was supposed to be a one-game fill-in for Curt Schilling turned into a rest-of-the-season assignment. She since has done two more Sunday games and this weekend will be at Citi Field when the Mets host the Yankees in the Subway Series finale.
Mendoza was not surprised she could do the job, but the speed with which all this has unfolded has come as a bit of a shock.
“I feel like there’s been so much support of it, which also helped give me more confidence as well,” she said. “I don’t know if ‘surprised’ is the right word, but it definitely has been not as expected how this entire thing has come about.”
Mendoza, 34, has proved to be a natural communicator, but another key to acceptance is her athletic credentials. She was a softball star at Stanford, won an Olympic gold medal in 2004 and a silver in 2008 and also played professionally before retiring early last year.
She said her ESPN partner, John Kruk, got a text during that Aug. 30 game from recently inducted Hall of Famer John Smoltz asking him who the female voice belonged to.
“He was like, ‘Google her,’ ” Mendoza said. “Five minutes later he got back to him and said like, ‘Wow, OK.’ ”
Hitting softballs and baseballs is not exactly the same thing, of course, but Mendoza said it is less different than one might expect. Her ability to talk baseball was further enhanced by her days playing baseball as a youngster and taking batting practice with the baseball players her father, Gil, coached at a community college near their Southern California home.
“I never changed my swing, so nothing was ever different,” she said. “There are definitely differences with the two games, but the hitting aspect, it really doesn’t change . . . I would see pitches more up in the zone than a baseball hitter would, kind of like I look up versus down, but swing-wise they’re identical.”
Mendoza said she still would be playing and preparing for Rio in 2016 had the IOC not booted softball (and baseball) out of the Olympic Games effective in 2012.
“As much as the worst thing that ever happened was those sports being eliminated from the Olympics, it was a blessing in disguise for me in the sense that I don’t think these [TV] opportunities would have happened later, after my career post-Olympics,” she said.
“As soon as I retired I needed something that was really going to challenge me and I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. It was going to take a lot of work to fill that void I’ve been doing for 25 years on the field.”
So far, so good.
To read the rest of the article visit Newsday where it was originally published
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Nick Kahn: Vince McMahon Played WWE Hiatus Smart
“Sometimes I think it’s just a three mile radius of LA thing. The ‘Hey, step down and you have to be punished for it’.”
Nick Kahn is now the sole CEO of the WWE after Stephanie McMahon announced her exit from the company, which came in the wake of news that Vince McMahon would return to oversee the exploration of either a sale or merger. On the latest episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, Kahn said that even while McMahon was away from the company, he never considered himself the boss.
“My thought has always been there’s only one boss at WWE and it ain’t me,” he told Simmons. “Vince is the creator and founder of the company. He’s also the controlling shareholder, which as you know, that’s not a work term. That’s a legal term of art. So I think it was always my point of view or Stephanie’s point of view that at some point he would come back. I think the way that he played it was smart, Bill, in that he went away for five or six months — which the audience seems to like that — and then he came back and took control back of his company.”
Vince McMahon exited the WWE power structure five months ago amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and the revelation that he used company money to cover up those allegations.
When asked if he is worried that McMahon’s return could turn off business partners or fans, Kahn pointed out that so far, that hasn’t happened. He wonders if there is really a strong feeling amongst the public about McMahon being back involved with the company at all.
“Sometimes I think it’s just a three mile radius of LA thing. The ‘Hey, step down and you have to be punished for it’.”
Nick Kahn says he made it a point to visit Vince monthly during his hiatus. Those were not business visits. He said that he, Stephanie McMahon, and Triple H had total control during that time.
Bill Simmons pressed Kahn, wondering if it bothered McMahon that wrestling fans seemed very happy with the WWE product without his involvement. Simmons reasoned that when anyone builds a creative product for as long as Vince McMahon built the WWE, there is a part of that person that wants to know the product cannot survive without him.
“To me, I never got a sense from him of any sort of bitterness or anything like that,” Kahn said. “He seemed, through the first month of his hiatus, thrilled.”
Since Vince McMahon’s return, Nick Kahn says he has not expressed any concerns about decisions made in his absence and he has largely still been hands off with the creative side of the business. His sole focus is finding the right business relationship to secure WWE’s future. He added that it is not a responsibility that McMahon is taking on alone.
“I’m involved in it. Triple H is involved in it. The board is obviously involved in it, Triple H being on the board, as I have the good fortune of being as well. We’ll see how it plays out. It should not be a lengthy process.”
Kahn did address two rumors floating around Vince McMahon’s return and the power structure of WWE. He said that any rumor that a deal had been done with Saudi Arabia to sell the company was “100 percent fake. 100 percent made up.”
Simmons also asked him about the relationship between Vince and his daughter Stephanie McMahon after she announced her resignation as co-CEO. Kahn said that both he and Stephanie always assumed it was likely Vince would return to lead the company. Anything beyond that, he isn’t interested in commenting on.
“It’s important to anyone listening to this, if you’re going to join a family business and you’re not part of the family, stay out of the family business part. That’s rule number one.”
Stephen A. Smith Details How Kobe Bryant Handled Criticism
“Kobe was a savant. You did not know more basketball than Kobe Bryant.”
We are approaching the three-year anniversary of the untimely and tragic death of former NBA legend Kobe Bryant, and ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reminisced about the former Laker during an appearance on The Howard Stern Show Wednesday.
While promoting his book, Straight Shooter, Smith shined a light on his relationship with the five-time champion, saying he knew if he received a phone call from Bryant, the resulting conversation was likely to be contentious.
“Kobe scared the living shit out of me,” Smith said. “Kobe was a savant. You did not know more basketball than Kobe Bryant. So when Kobe called you — I can quote him for you right now. Voicemail: ‘You know who this is, motherf—er. Get your ass up, pick up the f—ing phone and call me back. That bullshit you just said. And don’t keep me waiting for so long, either. Your ass better not go on the air and say some more shit before you talk to me.’ That was Kobe. I would say something along the lines of ‘I don’t like the way he’s playing. It’s selfish basketball…I don’t like this decision.'”
Smith continued by commenting on Bryant rebutting that he would only play “selfish basketball” when the players around him weren’t playing up to their potential, before then saying Bryant was open to criticizing coaches if Smith was critical of the 18-time All-Star.
“‘He don’t know what the f— he’s doing, Steve. He don’t know what the f— he’s doing, so you don’t know what the f— you’re talking about, Stephen A. So you’re gonna bring up all that shit you’re talking about me, but you didn’t bring up that.'”
Smith then concluded by saying Bryant would tell him “I don’t know why I love your ass. I really, really, don’t. But I love you.”
Super Wild Card Weekend Ratings Down Slightly From Last Year
Last year, the six games averaged 30.5 million viewers over linear television and streaming platforms.
Ratings for nearly every Super Wild Card game of the NFL Playoffs opening weekend have been released, and while the numbers are encouraging on a per-game basis, overall, they show a slight dip from last season.
ESPN was first to unveil their ratings, showing Monday’s contest between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers — which aired on both ESPN and ABC — was watched by an average of 30.6 million viewers. That number is the largest NFL audience from the Disney-owned channels since Super Bowl XL in February of 2006. The 30.6 million viewers number is a 32% increase from last season’s game that saw the Los Angeles Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals.
“This exceptional number proves once again that live sports are unequaled in amassing large audiences,” said ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “The success is also a clear reflection of how ESPN, working alongside the NFL and our colleagues at Disney, can help attract fans, build anticipation, and expand our reach. Even without a dramatic ending, it was an extraordinarily memorable evening.”
When final viewership totals were announced Wednesday evening, the company confirmed that the game was the most-watched NFL Playoff broadcast in the history of The Walt Disney Company’s ownership of ABC/ESPN, which began in 1996.
FOX Sports touted the highest viewership total of the weekend, with 33.2 million viewers watching the New York Giants defeat the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. The broadcast peaked at over 40 million viewers in the final minutes of the game.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s San Francisco 49ers win over the Seattle Seahawks saw an average audience of 27.4 million.
An average of 28.6 million watched the Cincinnati Bengals thrilling triumph over the Baltimore Ravens on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. According to the network, the broadcast was the most-watched Sunday primetime program since Super Bowl LVI in February of 2022. Ratings for the Jaguars and Chargers broadcast on Saturday were not made available, but NBC Sports did claim that for the first time since 2021 both of its broadcasts eclipsed an average of 20 million viewers.
Finally, CBS Sports scored it’s most-watched Sunday AFC Wild Card game in nearly a decade as 30.8 million watched the Buffalo Bills defeat the Miami Dolphins. Similar to other broadcasts, the game peaked with nearly 40 million viewers. Coincidentally, the game was the most-streamed Wild Card game in the history of the network’s streaming platform, Paramount+.
Even with several networks experiencing noticeable highs, the numbers are a slight decrease from 2022. Last year, the six games averaged 30.5 million viewers on linear television and streaming platforms.