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ESPN Brass Divided Over Keeping ARod For Sunday Night Baseball

“I think it might be trending towards Rodriguez not coming back.”

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Last month Matt Vasgersian exited Sunday Night Baseball to focus on his roles with the MLB Network and the Los Angeles Angels. It is now rumored that Alex Rodriguez could also potentially be on the way out of the booth for ESPN’s signature MLB broadcast.

The topic was discussed yesterday on the Marchand and Ourand podcast. Andrew Marchand said that it was about a “50/50” chance that Rodriguez will be coming back.

It was previously reported that ESPN likely wants Rodriguez back next season, but it now seems that two camps have formed at ESPN.

“There is a divide, some people want him back who are very important and some people aren’t as keen on A-Rod” said Marchand.

Marchand added that there are a number of obstacles in the way for Rodriguez to come back to Sunday Night Baseball. Rodriguez would need to want to work with Karl Ravech, who seems like the next play-by-play guy in line following Vasgersian’s exit. Marchand added that the money on the table for another deal for Rodriguez could also be another issue.

“I think it might be trending towards Rodriguez not coming back.” said Marchand although he added that is certainly not a final decision. He added that Magic Johnson was not expected to return to ESPN and he did, so certainly anything can happen.

“Jimmy Pitaro, the Chairman of ESPN is a huge Yankees fan and likes Rodriguez” added Marchand.

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Skip Bayless Was All-Caps Mad After Buccaneers’ Playoff Loss To Rams

To be fair, Bayless has a good point about the Buccaneers needing to defend Cooper Kupp better.

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FS1

Dallas Cowboys fan Skip Bayless presumably got all of the outrage and agony out of his system last week after the Dallas Cowboys’ bumbling last-second Wild Card playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

But no, Bayless had new indignation and furious anger following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers losing their divisional playoff game to the Los Angeles Rams with a long pass from Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp and a game-ending field goal by Matt Gay.

As highlighted by The Big Lead, Skip was mad. And he used his Caps Lock key to show it.

To be fair, Bayless has a good point about the Buccaneers needing to defend Cooper Kupp better. The receiver had an astounding season with 145 catches, 1,947 yards, and 16 touchdowns, each of which led the NFL in those respective categories. Should Tampa Bay have put two defenders on Kupp during that drive?

You’ve surely seen the catches to which Bayless is referring. But just in case you haven’t, and knowing that it could upset Skip all over again, here are the plays from the Rams’ game-winning drive. First, a 20-yard reception, then the 44-yard dagger that effectively ended the Buccaneers’ chance of defending their Super Bowl title.

Oh, Skip wasn’t finished either. Nope, he had a few more all-caps tweets to go.

Just when it appeared that Bayless’s keyboard (or phone) was malfunctioning and his Caps Lock key was permanently pressed down, he posted a tweet that went back to lower-case letters about halfway through.

FS1 is surely hoping that Bayless saves some of his fury for Monday morning’s Skip and Shannon: Undisputed. Maybe more Angry Skip will result in some memorable video clips. Outrage is undoubtedly his brand and when he zeroes in on a target like the Tampa Bay defense, Skip is at his best. (Or worst, depending on how view his schtick.)

On the bright side, all of social media was spared a sequel to this tweet Sunday night:

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Bob Costas Doesn’t Think NBC Will Discuss Realities Of China

“The IOC deserves all the disdain and disgust that comes their way for going back to China yet again.”

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Last week, NBC stated that it would give “geopolitical context” to stories in China during the Winter Olympics. What that means exactly remains to be seen.

The network has a lot invested in the games and is expecting a huge payout. It will already deal with the logistical challenges that come with not having any live bodies on site. How much time would the network be willing to devote to telling stories that may encourage viewers to tune out and not support any coverage of the Beijing Games?

Bob Costas was a guest on CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday morning. Host Brian Stelter asked what he expected “giving geopolitical context” would mean exactly on the NBC broadcast.

“What I would anticipate is the very thing that you’ve suggested,” Costas answered when Stelter asked if NBC may simply acknowledge that China has been accused of severe human rights violations at the beginning of the two week event. “They will acknowledge the issues at the beginning and not say anything after that unless it something happens that simply cannot be ignored.”

Costas, who hosted NBC’s coverage of the Olympics 12 times between 1988 and 2016, said that he had the utmost respect for his former network and the colleagues that will be covering the event. He notes that there are limitations placed on every broadcaster in a situation like this.

That begins with the fact that doing business with the International Olympic Committee isn’t always easy.

“The IOC deserves all the disdain and disgust that comes their way for going back to China yet again,” he said, pointing out that not only were the Summer Games in Beijing in 2008, but that the 2014 Winter Games were in Sochi, Russia, another country with a history of human rights violations. “They are shameless about this stuff!”

Another issue Bob Costas sees is the investment NBC has made in the Olympics and the way the Games have become a programming event for the network every other year.

“Any network that broadcasts big sports events is simultaneously in a position, it’s quasi-journalistic at best. You’re reporting a news event and what surrounds it. But you’re also promoting the event.”

NBC usually broadcasts NBC Nightly News and The Today Show from the site of the Olympic Games. That will not be the case in 2022. The rise of Covid-19’s omicron variant is the ultimate reason why, but Costas points out that China is an uncomfortable environment for foreign journalists.

Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that foreign journalists and athletes were being encouraged to use burner cell phones and laptops while they are in China. Many have expressed fear for their privacy and safety after security experts warned of major red flags surrounding Beijing’s official Olympics app meant to help those attending the game navigate the city.

That paranoia, Costas says, is familiar to NBC’s broadcast teams.

“We had that feeling in 2008 in Beijing. I think it has been revved up since then.”

NBC has the US television rights to all Olympic games until 2023. That contract with the IOC was signed in 2014 and cost the network $7.75 billion. That kind of investment will certainly make it hard for the network to want to give viewers a reason to tune out.

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Sports TV News

Meadowlark Media Partnering With Skydance Sports On Documentaries

Up first will be a documentary series titled Good Neighbors, which chronicles the soccer rivalry between the United States and Mexican men’s national teams.

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Since launching Meadowlark Media with Dan Le Batard, former ESPN president John Skipper has said that he wants the start-up sports media company to make a big push with video content, citing an opportunity in the sports documentary space.

On Thursday, Meadowlark announced a new partnership with Skydance Sports, a division of Skydance Media, to produce unscripted sports content. The production companies will collaborate on two upcoming projects.

Up first will be a documentary series titled Good Neighbors, which chronicles the soccer rivalry between the United States and Mexican men’s national teams. The series is currently in production and plans to debut before the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The second project from Meadowlark and Skydance will be a documentary on women’s basketball star Diana Taurisi, billed as “the definitive and authorized chronicle of [her] remarkable life and career.”

Last November, Meadowlark hired Deirdre Fenton as the company’s executive director of unscripted content. Fenton previously produced documentaries at ESPN and DAZN, with O.J.: Made in America and The Last Dance among her credits.

Skipper and Fenton will work alongside Skydance Sports executives Jon Weinbach and Jesse Sisgold in producing the upcoming documentary projects.

“Deirdre and I are excited for the tremendous opportunity to work with Jesse and Jon, who share our vision of using sports storytelling to explore and explicate larger cultural and societal issues,” Skipper said in the official announcement. “Our two first documentaries are a wonderful way to launch this partnership.”

It isn’t yet known with which streaming outlets or networks these projects will land. Meadowlark has a first-look deal with Apple TV+, but that is likely an exclusive agreement unrelated to the new partnership with Skydance Sports.

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