It’s no wonder our reboot idea has made it to the next level. Just as it’s kinda wonderful that this reboot of “The Wonder Years” really does mean it was never destined to be a one-hit wonder.
Rinse and repeat — and please vax up, mask up and power wash — as the latest edition of the Sports Media Misery Index follows the format we revived in September.
Let’s Oktoberfest the pumpkin spice out of this thing together as we discuss what’s really a mess, what we might be able to somewhat tolerate, and what we are welcoming:
A NOT-SO-LOW THRESHOLD
Jamie Foxx looks to be damn near unchained.
In a money-green suit, slamming footballs on an unsuspecting gridiron amidst flamboyant pyrotechnics, this Oscar-winning, Grammy-winning, Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice-nominated, NAACP Image Award-winning actor who last June had a show on Netflix called “Dad Stop Embarrassing Me!” actually canceled after one season (!) is trying to apparently get someone fired up about the MGM Sports app.
On any given Sunday, this bizzarro version of Steamin’ Willie Beaman comes off either as ultra angry or over anxious. Perhaps he made a large wager on the Miami Sharks to triumph, and it didn’t happen (it’s cool if you bet on your own team to win, ya know), but there was a comp hotel suite and a free fish sandwich coupon at the next Las Vegas Raiders’ home game to make up for it.
Over there, J.B. Smoove is a modern-day Caesar, leading a parking lot rave attended by Patton Oswald, who proudly calls himself Carl from Waukegan. Can’t fool us. All hail Leon Black and Remy the Rat.
Both scream back and fourth about the value of Caesar’s Sports Book as the official sports betting partner of the NFL. And this isn’t just a one-off spot, but an ongoing series that may already be plotting a course as the next promo-turned-Ted Lasso series, worthy of Emmy recognition and fame.
And while Martin Lawrence might have become a new voice in DraftKings ads, the same betting company has faith that 117th leading scorer in NFL history, Martin “Automatica’ Gramatica, can try to kickstart his own educational video series by explaining how to put down a $1 bet and right away be handed $200 in free-play dough, just for allowing yourself to partnerup with the official sports betting partner of the NFL.
What a kick in the groin to us all.
The NFL’s “new play,” as we were warned at the start of September through a New York Times headline, is about how the league is “embracing betting ads and watching the money pour in.” Where fantasy football jibber jabber may have initially been the soft body blows to in this audience in this normalizing conditioning process, the latest paid spots tied to official NFL gambling partners with elevated juice feels more like a round-house wallet punch.
Based on our consumption of the first few weeks in the league’s 102nd season, which seems to be drawing ratings up nine percent over last year and up four percent over the last “normal” schedule in 2019 (as per the Sports Business Journal), this new game plan that promotes the subtraction of your not-so-disposable income through the addition of celebrity-driven gambling endorsements is somehow going to equal a win-win proposition.
Depending, of course, on how you spell “Wynn.”
While these new TV spots might constitute less than 10 percent of total sales pitches we witness in a typical broadcast, we finally started to realize how obscenely assaulting it hits our senses and sensibilities, based on what we’ve experienced in the past.
The NYT story clearly points out the hypocrisy of how this professional sports organization was once clearly on the record against any gambling pretense. It was presented as not just unlawful but unmoral, threatening the integrity of anyone who was involved. But this over-the-top pivot toward previously unshared financial windfall seems to be dependent on unsuspecting participants asked to carry endless supplies of try tinder to this firestorm.
Somehow, the Art of the Deal and the collateral damage tale of Art Schlichter have overlapped in the Venn Diagram of profiteering. Principles gave way to a group of businessman’s financial prerogative.
The Shield insists you can shield yourselves from any guilt or shame, investing not just your time and enjoyment but now all that valuable knowledge you’ve accumulated to claim a stake in the outcome of an over/under, parlay or the accumulation of some player’s statistical performance. The message is you’ve apparently have nothing to gain by passively lounging around on a Sunday afternoon it your can’t-give-it-away-on-eBay Rams’ Jared Goff jersey and begging your schizophrenic puggle tragically named Spuds McKenzie to alert someone that you’re ready for your third mojito before the two-minute halftime warning.
Our front-row seat to witness the league’s latest tone deaf approach toward its own de-evolution already features enough celebrity endorsers like Man Bun Aaron Rodgers going grunge rock on Jake from State Farm, Snoop Dogg trying to be nice by handing out Coronas on the beach that have a great chance of being recycled as beer-less glass bongs, and Liev Schreiber’s bizarre hard sell for a new soft new mattress, when everyone knows it just takes a handful of Melatonin if we’re truly concerned about our circadian rhythms.
Where is the Helpful Honda Person to perform a trademarked “random act of helpfulness” by snatching a not-so-smart phone out of your hands and tossing it off a pedestrian bridge before the any impulsive, self-inflicted stupidity can occur?
For everyone’s benefit, the very least someone in standards and practices could do it insist in enlarging the typeface of the endless paragraph in the bottom half of the TV screen at the close of the Caesars’ ad. That toxic pile of legalese supposedly absolves them taking responsibility, meant to be checked off like the terms of a new software upload.
Please hit pause, and read it. Note how many references there are to a confidential crisis counselors’ 800-number.
NBC, CBS, ABC/ESPN, Fox and even the league’s own NFL Network are confidently complicit in all this ad revenue generated from these deals. Sportico reports the NFL’s sportsbook partners have spent $50.7 million on in-game advertising since the the season started Sept. 9.
Now it’s your job to filter out the flimsy folly. It isn’t that easy with more and more media platforms launching themselves into this problematic income stream.
As Disney-led ESPN hints of wanting more a cut of this business, you might be confused seeing recent ESPN discards like Trey Wingo and Kenny Mayne revive their NILs careers as Caesars’ “ambassadors” in the gambling world by providing their personalized content. They don’t work for the four-letter company any more, but it doesn’t look like a clean break.
Mike Greenberg isn’t shy about supporting the official draft fantasy league of the NFL (that would be DraftKings) on his daily ESPN radio show because “it’s safe, it’s secure and it’s reliable,” so use my name as the promo code. CBS’ Phil Simms and Boomer Esiasion are equally all-in by promoting their picks as part of a FanDuel promo during NFL broadcasts on their network that goes back to a Super Bowl ad they did together last season. The Associated Press also notes in stories that FanDuel is its official odds supplier.
When it comes to reporting on the ins and outs of this betting biz, few do it better these days than the Sports Business Journal’s Bill King.
His recent interview with NBC Sunday Night Football studio analyst Tony Dungy allowed the Pro Football Hall of Fame coach to admit that this whole gambling element is “going to be the one thing that drives me out of this” media role.
We are getting so much pressure — and we’ve got to do these things for sponsors, No. 1 But now we’ve got to do two or three segments about fantasy football and gambling. I want to talk about the game, and I don’t want to talk about how many yards Nick Chubb is going to have tonight. That might be part of the story, and [NBC Sports executive producer] Sam [Flood] is always saying, ‘Weave that in.’ I’d like to just tell that story, rather than say ‘I think Nick Chubb is going to get 75 yards, so make sure you click there and dial that up so you can make a million dollars.’ I’m very frustrated by that. I think it’s going to nose its way into our business, and I don’t think it’s good.”
King also talked to Craig Carlson, the WFAN sports talk host who famously upended his career due to a gambling addiction and now is trying to help others with a podcast called “Hello, My Name is Craig.” Is it hypocritical he’s now taken a job with FanDuel? Or showing some responsibility on the company’s part to present all sides of what they’re trying to sell?
About all these ads floating around, Carlton told King:
“We can stop glamorizing gambling. Stop making it seem like it’s the cool, hip thing to do. There are marketing messages out there that are not on board with gambling responsibly. I think both the leagues and operators can do a far better job in those two areas. You’re making it seem glamorous because it’s not. And changing some of the marketing plays to get people to come gamble for the first time. I think we can do better in both those areas.”
NBC’s Al Michaels said before the season that “we’re in a brave new world of sorts” on going from passive gambling references “in the side door” to where now “I guess they’re allowing me to come in the front door, which is not as much fun as doing it subtly.”
The funny thing is, if this is part of our brave new world of consuming NFL games on TV, we’ve become more reticent, irresolute and unsettled on this side of the betting line.
If we were the betting type, we’d wager that someday, HBO merges “Real Sports” with “Hard Knocks” to craft one of those cautionary tale series, about a series of unsuspecting NFL fans who drank the free Gatorade and still can’t buy how they squandered their income, family, respectability — go ahead and pick one — with no idea about what to do next.
Bryant Gumbel will ask the question: When do you think this started?
We have an idea about where to find the answer: Sometime in September, 2021. Because I was led to believe it might be a fun idea.
As a reputable institute guided by decades of knowledgeable folk in the business world, USC must have weighed all its due diligence when it decided in May of 2019 to break away from its previous radio home at ESPN’s all-sports 710-AM and rush over to sign a five-year deal with talk radio KABC-AM (790) to carry its football and basketball broadcasts.
It must have known this wasn’t the KABC that once had its games in the 1970s, as well as the Dodgers, Lakers, Kings and Galaxy, as well as an exceptional sports-talk show hosted by Steve Edwards.
Those talking the talk weekdays on KABC are a slew of conservative-based pablum, opinionated puffery that gives way to those advancing conspiracy theories, re-framing accurate information and won’t stop believing there’s a return to greatness.
Kinda like the USC football team’s program.
If only because of the Trojan Sports Network, we’ve kept KABC on our pre-set touch screen. Not any more.
When we last punched up the station, USC had that Saturday afternoon contest at Washington State, middle of September, following the Clay Helton firing. When we arrived home somewhere in the third quarter, we parked the jalopy in the driveway and finished watching on the big screen.
Fast foward to Monday afternoon, jumping back into the car to run some errands. KABC was left on. But as much as we’d like to hear all sides of a discussion, this disgusting ssault on reality was like nothing we could have anticipated.
Back when USC’s decision makers (led by once Pennsylvania GOP governor candidate and athletic director Lynn Swann) decided to go in this direction, it must not only have known the station’s bent and financial demographics of its listeners, but believed they aligned with its own value system. It seemed somewhat deviant to leave an all-sports station home base that provided daily discussion about the teams on all its programming. But it does make sense now.
We’ve deleted 790 from our pre-set, having found on our Sirius XM menu there’s more than often an ESPN Radio national broadcast of USC travails. The residual effect of getting a more concise down-the-middle account of what’s happening is also beneficial — Jorge Sedano and Tom Ramsey filled that role wonderfully on that particular afternoon as we went back and fourth from satellite to pedestrian feeds.
USC’s alignment with Today’s KABC may be exactly what it desires. But we’ve found it to be a huge disconnect.
Three episodes in, and already the Peyton and Eli Manning version of “The Man Show” meets the “Coaches’ Room” from the College Football Playoff championship game MegaCast have incited reaction and review that could prove to be premature jubilation.
It probably won’t, so for some, it’s good to get ahead of this and lead the charge by breaking it down and connecting the dots.
We get it. “Monday Night Football” is a much easier watch now that we don’t have to watch “MNF” on the regular ESPN feed. We appreciate having “O Manning Brothers: Where Art Thou?” in this parallel universe of ESPN2.
But changing television? It’s not like Norman Lear is producing this. They’ve really only made an iconic sports series that ESPN has darn-near drowned come back to life a bit through Week 3, when we’re all just trying to get our bearing again.
From the first “ManningCast” (Sept. 13: Baltimore-Las Vegas) drawing about 800,000 viewers, it has more than doubled for Weeks 2 and 3 (Sept. 20: Green Bay-Detroit’ Sept. 27: Philadelphia at Dallas) with 1.86 million and 1.89 million respectively. That shouldn’t measure its new success, considering there’s about 13 million each week who’ve stuck with the main ESPN feed, perhaps fearing they’ll get a pair of “We’re No. 1” fingers pointed at them.
Progress is evident with each new week as it finds its rhythm, its purpose and its value. They figure out when and where to engage in the action versus the plausibility to allow guests to come in and not just sidetrack things but get involved in the conversation of play guessing. Last Monday’s insertion of LeBron James not only gave him the opportunity to talk about his own football career and being once coaxed to try out for the Cowboys and Seahawks, but Peyton and LeBron could relate to how difficult it us to play against a zone defense in the NFL vs. the NBA, and LeBron had the chance to predict a Dallas rushing touchdown based on how he saw the game progressing to that point.
There’s no downside for ESPN to offering this alternate free “MNF” feed. Frankly, it’s almost two years too late, considering what viewers had to once endure with the Holey Moley of Joe Tessatore, Booger McFarland and that other NFL player who was so out of sync he decided it was easier to go back and play. The current “MNF” team better suited for a Saturday afternoon SEC broadcast — Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick — have nothing to sweat (for now) as ratings bear out more will see them than the Manning Family Values feed.
But if you’ve got nothing invested in either the teams or players, this is a place to watch and learn, and then ESPN can also promote the educational aspects of this on its website with stories about “what we learned” from the lecture hall.
As many in the media world already are forecasting, this will also be a training ground for either/or Peyton and Eli to take their talents to a traditional broadcast booth for a major network — especially with ESPN/ABC in line for a 2026 and 2030 Super Bowl.
Keep experimenting. OK, we’ll allow that the Brofest is bro-rific to this point. And, yes, it’s a crummy time to hit pause as this Monday’s Raiders-Chargers game from SoFi Stadium is coming up. So we’ll take a break, see you back in Week 7, and see if you’ve come up with fresh ways to execute the right amount of socially distant atomic wedgies and crying to dad for a bigger allowance before we exalt any of this to higher levels.
Listen up: At the end of one-hour doc that ESPN pulled together this week to recognize the 20th anniversary of Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon’s run on “Pardon The Interruption” — even though Oct. 22, 2001 is the official launch, but why let that trip things up? — Kornheiser quips: “The magic of the show is 11 words: ‘Black guy, white guy, yell at each other, love each other.'” It always was, and always has been, and any network that has tried to replicate it (including ESPN) must figure that out the hard way.
It is the relationship we all yearn for, if sports has to be the platform to do it, that Kornheiser and Wilbon have made look too easy going back to their days in The Washington Post newsroom — something modern newsrooms don’t even realize they’re missing.
Chemistry can’t be fabricated. Maybe that was even obvious when CBS tried to create a sit-com called “Listen Up!” based on Kornheiser in 2005 with Jason Alexander in the miscast lead role (as he was also excutive producer, with Malcolm Jamaal-Warner as Wilbon). It lasted one season and 22 episodes. Maybe someday Paramount+ will give us a chance to binge watch it and reassess its value.
If you’re a daily sports news junkie and need some context for argument’s sake, this remains a valuable barometer and should have on its resume more than just three Emmys for Daily Outstanding Studio Show (2009, ’16 and ’19). It’s a little disjointed since Kornheiser has been sequestered at home during COVID, and too often guest co-hosts jump in and reveal they are OK to lip through a topic but really don’t have the foundation the show is based on to make it more than a poor substitute.
As a show, it has set a new standard with the graphic menu of topics and segment titles that gave structure to what could otherwise be something the could easily slide off the rails. Their pledge “to do better next time” is also reassuring they don’t believe themselves to be perfect. But they’re as close to perfection as they can get.
Also check out the four-episode podcast hosted by Pablo Torre launching Saturday.
A better-late-than-Neverett book report in 2020 words or less:
If not for Orel Hershiser’s forward or all the shots provided by team photographer Jon Soohoo, we’re not sure what else could be labeled as compelling about “COVID Curveball: An Inside View of the 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers World Championship Season” scratched out by Tim Neverett, the outstandingly average fill-in TV and radio play-by-play placeholder who loves to show off his World Series ring.
A “riveting inside account” is relative to how much you believe you’re getting from someone far more on the fringes trying to look in and piecing things together.
Evident by basically introducing himself to readers in the introduction and going down his resume, any long-term connection to Dodgers’ followers is basically missing from this equation. In the intro, he also admits he kept his “daily chronicles a secret from the Dodgers and everyone else I worked with through the entire season so that no one would offer or withhold information, and people could operate around me without having to think that I was writing a book. I didn’t want anyone to act or do anything differently than they normally would.”
In another interview, he adds: “I didn’t try to take anybody inside the clubhouse because I didn’t get there myself.”
All of that can be an issue, for all involved.
In an interview with the Pandemic Baseball Book Club, Neverett admits the content could have been far more tedious because “I was basically writing a journal, I had stories about everyday goings on around L.A. as well as a number of negative things happening in the building where I lived. My editor told me that I should focus on baseball, and I eventually agreed. He was right, I think—there’s really not a good spot for a lot of that stuff in this book. Ultimately we cut about 100 pages.”
A 4,000-word essay for DodgerDigest.com might have been better digested.
Using a publisher that doesn’t seem to be have a track record with such sporty things, and with an unreasonable delay in getting it out to the public until late August, it seemed like a missed opportunity to at least have it all done before the 2021 season began, or else it was ancient history to some.
By the way, Neverett has never seemed to be anything but a nice, affable fellow, according to those who work with him. He has showed his serviceable worth at the end of September — always be available — when Dodgers’ top-notch play-by-play man Joe Davis had a positive COVID test and had to sideline himself for a time (he tells us he hopes to be back for the final two home Dodger games this weekend, with Orel Hershiser off until the appearances in the studio for the playoffs).
In this wordsmith business, Neverett has never moved the needle past pedestrian, somewhat cliché and often lacking much in depth. It comes across in the book as well.
Take it for what it’s worth — except the $28 ask might be more satisfying on a Dodger Postmates meat-less order of “Vegan Loaded Nachos” ($13.95) along with “Championship Rings” (that’s $5.95 onion rings) jammed inside a somewhat porous plastic helmet.
More on how the meritocracy of mediocrity manifests itself in the Southern California professional baseball broadcasting world:
True enough, Terry Smith is finishing his 20th season on Angels’ radio (and rare fill-in TV) play by play. That’s longer than anyone has done it in the team’s 60-year history, as pointed out in a newsletter blast by media connoisseur David J. Halberstam for his Sports Broadcast Journal website.
Smith, after almost the same decades-long period more suitable with the Yankees’ Triple-A organization, somehow got this gig to share the radio booth with the late Rory Markas, also hired in 2002.
Markas was the primary voice, with Smith as a second fiddler, until Markas’ passing in 2010 at age 54.
More notably, a third voice was added that season: Jose Mota, starting on the Spanish-language side. His versatility doing of play-by-play, analyst, sideline reporter and pre- and post-game host in both English and Spanish has been worthy of Baseball Hall of Fame recognition, with an expansion of that role this season.
Mota’s 20 seasons (see his 10 paragraph bio on the team site) contains far more historical impact than that of the remarkably bland four-graphs-and-out allotted to Smith.
Also note that current Angels’ TV analyst Mark Gubicza also has 20 years with the team — the first five as a studio voice, the last 15 as one of the best in the business blending well with a variety of play-by-play partners (including three new this season). At some point, a night-after-night Mota-Gubicza team on TV would make the most sense.
As for Smith’s tenure, it can only be explained by the assumption he comes as inexpensively as one wants to fork out. A team well off enough to control its own radio station doesn’t seem to ever want to invest anything more to improve that area of its business.
The sameness of Smith, who we’ve referrred to as the “Smithers” of sports broadcasting, will remain as captivating and riveting as his name implies. Another season of the Angels’ failing to reach the playoffs must support the team’s longterm plan of selling themselves short on the radio.
A HIGHER TOLERANCE
A warm embrace to Jaime Jarrin, who has announced it’s time to end his “vacation” and step back from his Dodgers’ Spanish-language broadcasting perch after the 2022 season.
As much the same way as Vin Scully showed how to step aside with class and dignity, and following the exits of L.A.’s elite team broadcasters like Chick Hearn, Bob Miller and Ralph Lawler, Jarrin has always brought that sense of connection and community for those who’ve listened to his descriptions over the decades.
One of them, maybe not surprisingly, is ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza, who on Tuesday’s network telecast of the Dodgers-Padres game talked about how he was “a voice I grew up listening to … in my Spanish-speaking household, my father from Mexico listened to Jaime … one of the sweetest human beings you’ll ever meet.”
His Ford Frick Award/Baseball Hall of Fame credentials may not be obvious to those in other parts of the country, but in L.A., his achievements are constantly on our radar.
We’ve known him for many years and appreciated his generosity. For those with a deeper connection, Jarrin has been called “the spiritual godfather of every Latino in media.”
Scully made it to 67 seasons; Jarrin will have 64 down after next year. What other team can claim two broadcasters with those two parallel runs and now the opportunity to step aside on their own terms?
From our growing list of subject matter we felt was someday deserving of a book — and one we’d hope to have time to write – the evolution of the NFL pregame show from Point A to modern times in the TV media business was high up there.
Monitoring the way CBS’ “NFL Today” launched as the first half-hour network “let’s get ’em ready” show in 1967 led to a 50th anniversary recognition in 2017, and gave us an opportunity of reliving some of that with former studio analyst Irv Cross, the ex-L.A. Rams defensive back who also just wrote his autobiography at the time. He died last February at age 81.
If anyone had the unimpeachable credentials of pulling this kind of oral history together of how CBS’ “The NFL Today” raised the bar for everyone’s attempt at doing it the way it is today, it would be Rich Podolsky, and he shows it so well with his new book: “You Are Looking Live! How The NFL Today Revolutionized Sports Broadcasting” (Globe Pequot / Lyons Press, 240 pages, $29.95, out Oct. 4).
The sportswriter became a writer for CBS Sports programming, including this show, for more than five years and called it “exhilarating. … a dream come true,” able to go out with the crew afterward to share in storytelling and drinks. And gain valuable insight now revealed.
For an excerpt, we yield to what the Sports Business Journal did recently in how anchorman Brent Musburger ended up as the one who made the call on who would replace Phyllis George.
George, hired in ’74, was the first female host on any major sports network show. After three seasons, her deal was up (although she came back from ’80-’84, then went to CBS News).
Eventual George replacement winner Jayne Kennedy explained:
“There were 16 of us [auditioning] and I was maybe number 14. So I did my thing with Brent on camera and the five-minute athlete interview, and after I was done Brent stood up and said, ‘That’s it. It’s either Jayne or nobody.’ He didn’t even stay to interview the other two girls. He just left the studio.”
Who were the other two, or the previous 13? We now need to know.
The story continues:
“Everyone — director Bob Fishman, (producer) Mike Pearl, (executive) Kevin O’Malley, and (networks sports president) Frank Smith, agreed that Jayne was their choice. ‘It was unanimous,’ said O’Malley, ‘and I remember Fishman saying, ‘You couldn’t make her look any less gorgeous if you tried.’”
She thought the job was hers. Then she was told she had to wait for one final approval.
” ‘They couldn’t hire me, for fear of the Southern affiliates walking. They sent my audition tape to the Southern affiliates and asked what they thought. CBS was afraid it would be a problem because now they would have two Blacks and one white on the set. That’s when they decided to put Jimmy The Greek on the set too. That way they had two Blacks and two whites [to satisfy the Southern affiliates].’ ”
Kennedy was only given a six-week contract. It was only expanded to the full year when she, through her contacts, was able to land an interview with Muhammad Ali prior to his Sept., 1978 fight with Leon Spinks.
Kennedy was eventually let go with more drama and … that was how the show kept rolling forward.
Podolsky has more to explain about the book when he appeared on the NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football.”
As for more on Ali …
The recently completed four-part PBS Ken Burns documentary didn’t really teach us anything news through the famed filmmakers’ filter, much like his piece on Jackie Robinson. But it’s worth having in the archives, available for streaming for those who still want to consume it versus seeing various based-on-a-true-story films or books done on Ali over the years.
If you’re into the search of other things that landed this past month but are worthy of having tucked away, there’s the HBO four-part series “Level Playing Field,” which launched in mid-September and has one more episode left, available on HBO Max, produced by Vox Media Studios.
HBO also gave us (and HBO Max continues to have access to) the six-episode docuseries “The 100 Foot Wave” with surfer Garrett McNamara that aired in August and has been renewed for a second season.
First things first: Yes, less could be made about this “first female narrative” that continues to come up with some twist of phrasing.
Hey, it’s 2021. We’re on board. Just do it.
ESPN’s remote pairing of Melanie Newman and Jessica Mendoza calling Wednesday’s phenomenal ending to the Dodgers-Padres telecast from Dodger Stadium (blacked out in the L.A. market) gave the network pause to proclaim it was creating the first “all woman broadcast team for a nationally televised MLB game” as well as “the first time ESPN has had an all-woman broadcast for a MLB, NBA or NFL game.”
Put it out there in a post-season matchup, and then we’re talkin’.
ESPN had already elevated Mendoza to an MLB “Sunday Night Baseball” broadcast position but then “reassigned her” (maybe it has something to do with her side job with the New York Mets?) in 2020. Last July, the MLB production of a Baltimore-Tampa Bay game exclusive for YouTube had an all-female broadcast team where Newman, who works for the Orioles, did the play-by-play. She’s also come on recently to do ESPN mid-week games.
For other “female firsts” this past month, we saw the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks hire 45-year-old Lisa Byington as their new full time TV play-by-play broadcaster (with Marques Johnson) upon the retirement after 35 years by Jim Paschke. Her hiring was called “the first full-time female TV play-by play announcer for a major US men’s pro team.” Said Byington: “I applaud the Bucks for taking the first steps toward making hires like this more of the norm in the NBA. Because it’s time.”
A couple weeks later came this:
Also in September, Jamie Little finished a season on Fox’s ARCA Series as the first female play-by-play broadcaster, elevated from her role as a NASCAR pit reporter.
Coming up this weekend, The Golf Channel/NBC Sports has an an all-women broadcast team to call the ShopRite LPGA Classic in New Jersey, framing it as the “first-ever all-women golf broadcast team in U.S. television history.”
Over the years, we have been on board writing about these “firsts” in gender experiences, some of which are just a one-off, a test-run, and for whatever reason don’t go far enough. Maybe they still need to be pointed out so we can get past this latest pendulum overswing of justice and try to accept it as far more normal than the media tends to trumpet it.
A few more specific links to stories and other assorted whatnot that brightened up our previous September: