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Chris Fowler Explains Bizarre US Open Ending

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Richard Deitsch is a very well connected sports media reporter. When it’s appropriate, he will devote part of his weekly “Media Circus” column at The Athletic to a broadcaster to allow him/her to explain in their own words how they experienced a major moment in sports. This week, that spotlight falls on Chris Fowler of ESPN.

Fowler led the network’s play-by-play coverage of the US Open and was on the call of the absolutely crazy women’s final between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka. Chair umpire Carlos Ramos handed out three conduct violations to Serena, which cost the greatest tennis player of all time a full game. It wasn’t the sole reason she lost the match to Osaka, but it did play a role in the outcome.

Fowler wrote that he has a lot of respect for Ramos and fans of the game know that he is a stickler for the rules, especially when it comes to coaching, which is the violation he cited Serena and her coach for. Fowler thought the game penalty went too far though.

I felt that Ramos had gone too far in his penalties. I qualified it that “given the gravity, many would say restraint is called for.” I’d stand by that. Umpiring is not only about the letter of law, but wisdom and judgment. They should do their best to not play a principal role in the outcome.

As for how the strange series of events was handled on the broadcast, Fowler says that his colleagues made the difference. First, he noted the advantage of having a color commentator like Chrissie Evret, who is one of the few people in the world that has truly been in Serena Williams’s shoes.

We showed the signal and Chrissie (Evert) was clear in her opinion: It WAS coaching. She said that Serena saw it and was taking Patrick’s advice by coming forward. I thought she was very strong on that. Chrissie is a fellow great who is close to Serena, but that didn’t influence her take. I thought Chrissie was strong and balanced throughout with her opinions.

Fowler also gave credit to Mary Jo Fernandez for her sideline reporting. He noted that Fernandez’s relationship with Serena made her analysis of the situation stand out as part of the on-court coverage, which was a pivotal part of telling the story of the match.

I was pleased our courtside mics caught most of the exchanges. It is very loud in Ashe Stadium with the roof shut. Difficult acoustics for all. As long as the mics are up, the most important thing is to stay out of the way and let viewers hear as much as possible, stepping in only when you think background noise got in the way or something needed clarifying, which I did. Mary Jo Fernandez added a lot from courtside. She was picking up on all of Serena’s emotions and knows her very well. Her descriptions were concise and on point.  

Fowler said he is proud of how he and his colleagues handled the broadcast. The full essay is well worth your time, so if you have a subscription to The Athletic, click here and give Deitsch’s “Media Circus” column a read.

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NBC Sports Announces Matthew Berry Hire, Will Debut Tonight on Football Night in America

This is truly a full circle moment for me,” said Berry, who served as a fantasy football expert at NBC Sports’ Rotoworld from 1999-2004.

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Matthew Berry

NBC Sports has announced the official hiring of fantasy specialist Matthew Berry. He has agreed to a multi-year deal and will be featured on Peacock, NBC and NBC Sports digital platforms.

The network also announced that Berry will join Football Night in America each week during the NFL season on NBC and Peacock including with his debut tonight leading into the 2022 Hall of Fame Game.

Berry will host a weekly game-day fantasy football and sports betting show on Sundays from 11a-1p ET on Peacock and NBC Sports digital platforms. He will also create a one-hour daily podcast for Peacock, live-listening on NBC Sports Audio and SiriusXM and be available as a downloadable podcast.

We welcome Matthew to the team and are excited to incorporate into our coverage the compelling and industry-shaping commentary that has made him the face of fantasy football for millions of fans,” said Sam Flood, NBC Sports Production Executive Producer & President.

“This is truly a full circle moment for me,” said Berry, who served as a fantasy football expert at NBC Sports’ Rotoworld from 1999-2004. “I started my career at Rotoworld, spent many years there, and not many people are lucky enough to get the chance to come home. I’ve spent my entire life talking fantasy football to anyone that would listen. So when I was offered the chance to join the highest-rated studio show in all of sports, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.”

Berry also added, “Please remind me of this quote the next time I realize millions of people just saw me get a prediction wrong. In the meantime, know that I am incredibly honored and humbled by the opportunity not just to join the FNIA family but also to help build something special on Peacock.”

Berry will provide analysis and content around major NBC Sports events outside of football, including the Kentucky Derby, Indy 500, and more.

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Omaha Productions Building College Football Simulcast Around Pat McAfee

“Manning joked that the network doesn’t want McAfee. It wants Omaha Productions and Omaha wants McAfee.”

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ESPN is bringing its alternate broadcast strategy to college football. Peyton Manning appeared on The Pat McAfee Show Thursday to announce that McAfee and his crew would anchor six alternate broadcasts of major games for Omaha Productions on Saturday nights this season.

“We have officially agreed, alongside Omaha Productions, to simulcast six big-ass college football games this season,” McAfee said. “We will be on ESPN2. The main cast will be on ESPN. Omaha is obviously helping us along the way and we will be running it.”

McAfee said that when he was first approached by Manning he expressed shock that ESPN wanted him on the air. Manning joked that the network doesn’t want McAfee. It wants Omaha Productions and Omaha wants McAfee.

The shows have not yet been scheduled. Most games in college football’s power 5 conferences are not scheduled until the prior week. With the AP Top 25 and CFP Top 25 both changing regularly, they too will play a role in determining what goes into the primetime slot.

Pat McAfee and his crew will be live in their Indianapolis studio. The former punter at the West Virginia University said that the majority of people appearing on the alternate broadcast each week would be in studio, but there would be occasional guests.

“There’s gonna be give aways. There’s gonna be a lot of action I think during this,” he added.

Omaha Productions adds college football to the NFL and the US Open on its roster of alternate broadcasts. The company is also working on a future MMA alternate broadcast.

“I’m honored to be your teammate again, if you will,” Peyton Manning said in response to McAfee thanking him for the platform and opportunity. “You will kill this. You know this. Everybody is fired up to watch. I guarantee it!”

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ESPN Announces Bill Walton ’30 for 30′ Documentary

The Basketball Hall of Famer is viewed as one of the more eccentric figures in sports history.

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ESPN Films announced Thursday that production has begun on a new 30 for 30 documentary focused on Bill Walton.

The Basketball Hall of Famer is viewed as one of the more eccentric figures in sports history. Combined with his basketball prowess in both college and the NBA, and his love of The Grateful Dead, politics and activism, Walton is often a divisive figure in the sports broadcast world.

ESPN says Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Artis Gilmore, World B. Free,  Robert Parish, Jim Gray, Luke Walton, Jamal Wilkes, Brent Musberger, and Bob Ryan have all been interview subjects for the story.

The documentary will be directed by Steve James, who also directed Hoop Dreams, as well as Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.

No release date was revealed by ESPN. Walton has worked as a college basketball color commentator for the network since 2012. He had previously worked on ESPN’s NBA coverage from 2002-2009.

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