ESPN IS SHAKING THINGS UP

Media execs looking hard at former Texans QB to improve broadcast

Photo by Getty Images.

It's hardly shocking that ESPN finally lowered the boom on its Monday Night Football announcing tandem of play-by-play man Joe Tessitore and analyst Booger McFarland. The surprise is, why'd it take so long? Tessitore and McFarland were widely criticized by fans and TV-sports columnists their entire tenure on ESPN – both years. To be fair, they had help stinking up the booth their first year when Jason Witten was part of the team.

Here's what I don't get. It's clear that it was time (overtime) that ESPN fired, or to put it in coronavirus-era terms, laid off, Tessitore and McFarland. But also what needs to be done is boot the person, probably a whole executive floor of persons, who hired those two. Didn't they have Tessitore and McFarland announce rehearsal games at corporate headquarters? What did ESPN see in those two before they got on-air that they didn't deliver after they got on-air? Did Tessitore suddenly stop being interesting? Did McFarland suddenly start making dumb mistakes?

It's like that in local TV news. A station hires new anchors from out-of-town. They make a huge fuss over them, explain how the anchors love Texas, post photos of the anchors at home with their cute dogs, mention how the anchors are looking forward to all the great Houston restaurants they've heard about … and six months later, hoist anchors, you're out of here. Who's to blame here, the anchors who failed to catch on in Houston, or the station execs who hired the anchors?

Each year, awfulannouncing.com asks its readers to rank the NFL announcing duos, all 15 of them. Tessitore and McFarland finished dead last – solid F grades - both years they did Monday Night Football. The people, and now ESPN bosses, have spoken, Tessitore and McFarland are gone from Monday Night Football. They won't be gone from the network, however. Both will stay with ESPN in "high-profile roles." The spelling bee airs in April, right?

Now on to their replacements on Monday night. After failed runs at Al Michaels (NBC wouldn't let him go), Tony Romo (staying with CBS for crazy money), Peyton Manning (said no thank you) and Drew Brees (two-year contract to stick with the Saints), ESPN says it will hire the next Monday night tandem from in-house. Some of the clubhouse leaders appear to be longtime ESPN'er Steve Levy as play-by-play, and Louis Riddick, Brian Griese and former Texans quarterback Dan Orlovsky as color analyst.

Levy and Griese have teamed up before on college games and some NFL action. It's important that announcers' names rhyme.

Things are shaking the rest of the work week at ESPN, too. This week, ESPN rolled out its new, jam-packed daytime lineup that boasts more live broadcasts, but shortened versions of old, let's be kind and call them favorites. Here's the lineup:

7 a.m. – Get Up

9 a.m. – First Take

11 a.m. – SportsCenter

1 p.m. – NFL Live

2 p.m. – The Jump

2:30 a.m. – First Take Extra

3 p.m. – Jalen and Jacoby

3:20 p.m. – Highly Questionable

3:40 p.m. – Around the Horn

4 p.m. – SportsCenter

The 4 p.m. SportsCenter will include a segment of Pardon the Interruption. While the bottom line is more live programming, it's the rare case of subtraction by addition. Highly Questionable is my favorite of the daytime talkers. Dan Le Batard, Papi (miss him) and Mina Kimes are smart, funny and unpredictable. Jalen and Jaboby have grown on me, obviously they're buddies, which is not always the case on TV. Around the Horn is fine when Bill Plaschke's attendance is not required. He's just so full of it. Host Tony Reali and Woody Paige's blackboard are the best things about the "competitive banter" game show.

There's rattling on ESPN's radio side, too. Trey Wingo's contract is up this year and there's speculation that he wants off the Golic and Wingo show that airs 6-10 a.m. on the east coast. One clue is Wingo's bio on Twitter … "Not really a morning person." That's like the county coroner saying "I'm squeamish." Don't count on a reunion of Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg, though. Greeny may be adding a show on ESPN radio, where openings appear on the horizon.

Will Cain is rumored to be leaving ESPN any moment to sign a deal with Fox News. Cain, an outspoken conservative voice, has worked for Glenn Beck's "The Blaze" and once debated gun control with Whoopi Goldberg on The View. You don't have to guess which side Cain took. Cain, who graduated from UT Law School, is one of the ESPN hosts, you just get the idea that he doesn't know a whole lot about sports. He will be more comfortable, politically speaking, which is what he'll do, at Fox News.

Le Batard may be on his way out from ESPN, too. He's not exactly teacher's pet at ESPN, where the rule is Keep It Sports, Stupid. Le Batard, brilliantly clever and very loud, likes to stray off the straight and narrow sports lane too much for ESPN's taste. ESPN especially doesn't like when Le Batard dives into political commentary. That's a no-no at ESPN (see Jemele Hill, or more accurately, don't see Jemele Hill).

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Martin Truex Jr. won his 2nd race of the season last week. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

NASCAR returns to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway. This is the first of two races here at this track as they will race on Sunday afternoon. This will be different from the normal night race they usually have here as this will definitely affect the racing surface considering how much the sun could make the track slick. It should be a fun race come Sunday.

Last week, Martin Truex Jr. passed Denny Hamlin to capture his second win of the season after rain moved the race to Sunday. He became the first driver to win multiple races after a fierce battle with his teammate Denny Hamlin. The race was filled with tons of wrecks including a fifteen car pileup including Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. It was one of the better races of the season as there was lots of beating and banging.

The race was not without controversy but not the kind you would expect. Early in the race Rick Ware Racing teammates Cody Ware and James Davison were involved in an altercation. The two were battling towards the back of the pack when Ware decided to drive through his teammate in turn four. The race got much worse for Cody Ware as he was involved in three more cautions all throughout the race. Many people around the sport were quite perturbed by his antics including broadcaster Mike Joy as he was audibly annoyed after Ware spun out later in the race. Many have questioned if the fifth-year driver should even be in the car and overall I can understand why some of those people think that. In his five years of driving, he has finished on the lead lap one time. I hope that he is able to figure it out and find success in the future, but this was not a good look.

The slump continues for two-time champion Kyle Busch

Throughout the race, Busch was running okay for the most part but towards the closing laps of the race he and Chris Buescher got together triggering a fifteen car pileup. Despite all this, he was able to rebound to a respectable tenth place finish. This has been more than likely the toughest stretch of his career since his championship in 2019. Many would say that the omission of Practice and Qualifying has really affected his performance. Whatever the issue is, this team really needs to find some speed, or he could be in danger of missing the playoffs. I look for this team to bounce back considering how talented he is.

Prediction

The driver that I have winning this week is Kyle Larson. This has been an incredible rebound season for Larson as he currently sits fourth in points. He is also second in laps led only to Denny Hamlin. Richmond has been a great track for him as it fits his driving style perfectly as he can run the outside line and find grip where others can't. This track is also rather sentimental to him considering he won his first pole award here during his rookie season in 2014. While he may not have the results he would want he has always been extremely fast here and even won back in 2017. I look for him to capture his second victory of 2021 come Sunday.

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