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A-Rod Provides World Series Broadcast Surprise

Jason Barrett

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Alex Rodriguez, the Fox pregame-show version of himself, was sitting on a black couch in a trailer outside Citi Field on Friday night talking about the World Series. This is a new role for Rodriguez, an unexpected diversion in a journey of athletic greatness tainted by performance-enhancing drugs, and one he is excelling at. So he looked happy to be talking about baseball as he peered into his interviewer’s eyes, answered some questions, avoided some others and posed a few of his own. He discussed his love of preparation, his note-taking, his working with Pete Rose (“When it comes to baseball, he has an Ivy League mind”) and his admiration of Keith Hernandez.

Rodriguez previewed what he would later say on the air about the physical strength of Mets starter Noah Syndergaard and the possibility that the Mets could beat the Kansas City Royals, who were up by 2-0. If the Yankees could sweep the Royals in the Bronx earlier this season after dropping two of three, he said, the Mets could win.

This has been a rather remarkable evolution: Rodriguez, a noted baseball transgressor, working for one of baseball’s network partners, talking to a national audience in the lingua franca of baseball before and after each postseason game. He’s probably been more observational than analytic — describing, with bat in hand, how the Mets’ hitting coach, Kevin Long, has rebuilt Daniel Murphy’s power stroke (before his home run skein ended); how making contact with Matt Harvey’s fastball “feels like a bowling ball”; and how Syndergaard’s bench-pressing power has helped him add torque to his slider.

Mike Weisman, a former top baseball producer at NBC and Fox, said that Rodriguez had been very effective in the “protected” studio setting, where comments can be rehearsed and there are “all sorts of expertise around him.”

Rodriguez was, after all, suspended for the 2014 season after an investigation by Major League Baseball of the Biogenesis scandal concluded that he had used performance-enhancing drugs. He denied those accusations. He fulminated. He sued. Then he backed down, ended the spectacle and returned to the Yankees. He made a sort-of admission of his sins and played at an unexpectedly high level (33 home runs, 86 runs batted in), given his time off and his age.

And over the last two weeks, he has performed so well for Fox that it is reasonable to assume that his TV work is an exercise in image rehabilitation.

Here, then, was someone who instinctively understood how to act in a studio; how to easily engage the people he worked with; and how to analyze baseball succinctly.

“At heart,” he said, “I’m a teacher.”

But this is, after all, A-Rod, who has a way of evoking suspicion about his actions. You want him to spill the strategy behind gauging Fox’s interest in him and his assessment that if he excelled at talking knowingly about pitching and hitting, he would be able to extend the era of good feelings he generated by having a surprisingly strong season, performing unusually well and saying nothing that could provoke or upset anyone. That won back some fans and a bit of the heart of Yankee management and, perhaps, offered hope that he might be a productive hitter in the final two years of his contract.

If that was the plan — if there was any television plan at all — he was not saying.

“I’m the wrong guy to talk about image,” he said. He willingly brought up the terrible image choice he made in 2009, when he was asked the other day by Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” what the 40-year-old A-Rod would say to his younger self.

“If you ever do a photo shoot, don’t kiss any mirrors,” he said, referring to the one he did for Details magazine that portrayed him as a narcissist.

Working for Fox was not Rodriguez’s idea. Fox approached him. It was willing to accept his past and move on — a decision like the one the network made when it hired the (still) permanently exiled, bow-tied, white-booted Pete Rose to the show. Rose arrived during the season and has played the cranky coot to A-Rod’s smooth straight man. Fox clearly saw the benefits in hiring stars who were making news this season: Rose’s reinstatement is being considered by Commissioner Rob Manfred, and Rodriguez had a very good season.

“We certainly considered the pros and cons of what Alex has gone through, but at the end of the day it really wasn’t going to be a part of the decision to make him part of the broadcast,” said John Entz, president for production for Fox Sports. “Whatever he did and went through is in the past. We feel we’re trying to make a show that’s informational and entertaining, and we feel that we’ve done that and Alex is a huge part of it.”

To read the rest of the article visit the NY Times where it was originally published

Sports TV News

Fox Officially Unveils NFL Broadcast Teams

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In what has been considered a formality for some time, Fox today officially unveiled Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen, Erin Andrews, and Tom Rinaldi as their number one NFL broadcast team Monday. Burkhardt and Olsen were elevated to Fox’s top booth after the departure of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to ESPN’s Monday Night Football earlier this year.

There were some reports that Drew Brees could have been a possibility to join the network, but those discussions fell apart.

The network’s other teams include several familiar faces to football fans:

#2 team: Joe Davis, Daryl “Moose” Johnston, Pam Oliver
#3 team: Adam Amin, Mark Schlereth, Kristina Pink
#4 team: Kenny Albert, Jonathan Vilma, Shannon Spake
#5 team: Kevin Kugler, Mark Sanchez, Laura Okmin
#6 team: Chris Myers, Robert Smith, Jen Hale

Olsen’s jump to the number one team with Burkhardt is a formality until the retirement of Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady. The seven-time Super Bowl winner will ascend to Fox’s number one booth upon his retirement, whenever that may be.

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Ryan Clark, Mad Dog Get Into Heated Argument on ‘First Take’

“Mad Dog, stop screaming at me now, bro. For the last time, you’re gonna stop screaming at me,” Clark interrupted.

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Former Pittsburgh Steeler, and current ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark and recent Radio Hall of Fame inductee Chris “Mad Dog” Russo squared off on Monday’s edition of First Take, with a heated exchange taking place between the two.

After a discussion about Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas meandered into a discussion about whether Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp would be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame if he never played another game, Clark said about Hall of Fame voters “they must be voting like you (Russo) vote for the Heisman, where you just vote on whoever the hell you want based off the fact that they play quarterback”.

Russo quickly took exception to the perceived slight.

“Ryan, hold on now,” Russo said, in a louder manner than normal. “You said something, now I’m going to comment. I’ve been voting for the Heisman since before you were born.”

“Mad Dog, stop screaming at me now, bro. For the last time, you’re gonna stop screaming at me,” Clark interrupted.

“You said something that wasn’t right,” Russo said.

“Lower your voice,” the former Steeler interrupted again.

“I’ve been voting for the Heisman since before you were born,” Mad Dog reiterated, with a lower volume. “30 years.”

“I don’t care about that,” Clark rebutted.

“You’re saying I’m voting for the Heisman and saying I don’t deserve a vote. I’ve been voting for 30 years!”, Russo began to raise his voice again.

“I never said you don’t deserve a vote,” Clark replied before clarifying he disagrees with Russo’s sentiment about the college football award being only awarded to quarterbacks.

It’s not the first time Russo has clashed with First Take contributors. A discussion with J.J. Reddick went viral earlier this year after Reddick told Russo previous NBA players played with “plumbers and firefighters”.

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Sports TV News

Todd Frazier Joining ESPN Little League World Series Booth

It will be a memorable summer for Fraizer at the LLWS because he will be inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence. 

Ricky Keeler

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When people talk about 11-year MLB veteran Todd Frazier, some of the things that are usually mentioned on broadcasts usually is that he is from Toms River, New Jersey and that he played in the Little League World Series in 1998 (won the championship). Now, Frazier will have a bigger connection to the annual event in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

As first reported by Bobby Nightengale of The Cincinnati EnquirerFrazier will be in the TV booth (remotely) for ESPN for this year’s Little League World Series. He made his broadcast debut on Monday morning during one of the New England region semifinals between Maine and Massachusetts. 

Frazier told Nightengale that he wants to use this event to begin his second career in the broadcasting industry.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, especially for the Little League World Series since I’ve been a part of it. I know it and understand it really well. Kind of kickstart my second career here.” 

It will be a memorable summer for Fraizer at the LLWS because he will be inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence. 

The Little League World Series begins on Wednesday, August 17 and ends on Sunday, August 28. It will be broadcasted on ESPN and ABC.  

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