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NBC Puts Spotlight On Mental Health Of Olympians

The most decorated Olympian in history has been open about his mental health struggles.

Russ Heltman

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Courtesy: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Simone Biles and mental health have been dominating the headlines at the Tokyo Olympics over the past week. NBC hasn’t ignored these issues despite Biles’s withdrawals impacting their viewership.

Mike Tirico sat down with former USA swimmer Michael Phelps in an exclusive NBC Olympics interview to dive deeper into these issues from an athlete who can relate to Biles. Many consider her the greatest gymnast of all time, but she has struggled with a case of the “twisties” at the Tokyo Olympics.  

The term refers to a miscommunication between a gymnast’s brain and her body that makes them unable to perform tricks they can normally do in their sleep. Performing while dealing with these mental blocks can be very dangerous in a sport that requires hyper-focus and athleticism.

“Maybe we’ll see change,” Phelps said in the exclusive NBC Olympics interview on Peacock. “Maybe we’ll actually be able to help athletes. One of the things I’ve been frustrated about is the lack of change and lack of support we have for mental health both during competition and post-competition.”

Phelps has been open and forthcoming about his mental health battles. Showing that even the most decorated Olympic athlete ever hits roadblocks sometimes, especially in a lonely environment like this year’s event.

“Dark. Scary,” Phelps said about being alone in Tokyo. “I had one kind of moment here where I just spun a little bit. For me, it can happen whenever it wants. I can wake up one day and feel like a million bucks, and the next day I can wake up and feel like all I want to do is curl up into a ball and go into a black hole. That’s my life. I’m a human being. I experience emotions just like everyone else does.”

Props to NBC for shining a brighter light on these issues. They allowed Phelps and Tirico an open space for discussion that can help fans and people worldwide understand these pressures a little bit better. 

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

Jordan Bondurant

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YES Network

The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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