ESPN Might Restore Faith On "Monday Night Football" (Hill, That Is)







Fear not, football fans: Faith Hill, legs and all, may once again be gracing TV screens before football games - perhaps on ESPN, which revolutionized the form with Hank Williams, Jr. on "Monday Night Football."

Fear not, football fans: Faith Hill, legs and all, may once again be gracing TV screens before football games – perhaps on ESPN, which revolutionized the form with Hank Williams, Jr. on “Monday Night Football.”

Last month, Faith Hill announced a “difficult decision” to depart as the artist performing prior to “Sunday Night Football” on NBC for six seasons.

On Tuesday, NBC announced that another country recording artist, Carrie Underwood, would replace Hill on the broadcasts starting with the season kickoff game on September 5.

I would not be surprised if this news did not sit well with Faith Hill. This video from a country music award show tells you all you need to know:

Anyway, I have a gut feeling that Faith will eventually be back in the game before long.

Because there are two other nationally televised weekly football broadcasts that could definitely use her services as an upgrade.

And who are ESPN and NFL Network to say no to the woman who belted out a loose version of a Joan Jett song customized for the opponents of that night’s game on the top-rated show in primetime?

Last year, in conjunction with “Thursday Night Football” expanding from eight games per season to thirteen, NFLN brought in Cee Lo Green to perform a theme song to the beat of The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.” As far as we know, the deal is for at least one season.

But with Faith Hill being a free agent, NFLN could very well tell Cee Lo, “forget you” – or something similar, anyway.

Then, there’s ESPN, whose “Monday Night Football” was for years the model for this device, with Hank Williams, Jr. being known for asking that burning question to viewers, “Are you ready for some football?” The song had been performed before “MNF” starting in 1989 on its original network, ABC, carrying over to ESPN in 2006, until he decided to compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler on the morning of October 3, 2011 – which happened to be a Monday; his intro was yanked from that night’s Buccaneers/Colts game. ESPN would later drop the singer from their “MNF” broadcasts altogether. Since then, they’ve been leaning on production pieces (similar to the “Journey” series on Fox’s NFL pregame show) and comedy bits airing before the game.

It’s clear that they can’t go this route forever; the current period of pregame pieces should act as a buffer between Hank Jr.’s tenure on “MNF” and his eventual replacement; further, there would be less backlash to let time subside before deciding on a new “MNF” artist, as opposed to just dragging a singer off the street to replace Hank Jr. on the October 10, 2011 broadcast. Certainly, Hank Jr., with his updated version of “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” being crooned into living rooms and bars for over two decades, has etched himself into football lore, and ESPN respects that.

And now that Bocephus is pretty much out of the football picture (his recent doubling down on Obama will all but cement that), it’s easier for ESPN to move on to a new artist for the “Monday Night Football” intro.

Could you imagine the innovator of the primetime football game open standing pat with generic intros, while the weekly primetime NFL broadcasts on NBC and NFL Network have artists belting one out?

I say, ESPN shouldn’t stand for being upstaged by the likes of Cee Lo Green. And by hiring Faith Hill to continue her career as an NFL kickoff singer, that would mean NFL Network will have to stand for, well, Cee Lo Green.

Of course, this is all contingent on whether or not Faith Hill’s schedule can accommodate getting back into the grind of recording a song for several weeks. She’d likely need to learn a new one, no doubt. She could also decide to take a year or two off from the NFL.

But something tells me the selection of Carrie Underwood to replace her on NBC is going to speed up this process rather quickly.

Are you ready for some… catfight?

A Ringing Endorsement For Warren Sapp







NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp will be inducted into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ring of Honor on Monday, November 11. Sapp played defenstive tackle for the Bucs for nine seasons.

NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp will be inducted into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor on Monday, November 11. Sapp played defensive tackle for the Bucs for nine seasons.

2013 is turning out to be a banner year for Warren Sapp.

And a welcome one, considering the hellish 2012 he’s endured.

Just three months after he was voted into this year’s class of Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees, the team that made his NFL career possible, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who drafted him 12th overall in 1995, is inducting him into their Ring of Honor – a ring whose occupants will actually double, with the late Lee Roy Selmon being its lone inductee (2009).

Sapp will have his number 99 retired during the Buccaneers’ first Monday night game since the post-Hank Williams, Jr. era abruptly began. The ceremony will take place at halftime of the Bucs’ matchup with the Miami Dolphins on November 11. Everything about this is symbolic, not only because Sapp’s alma mater was the University of Miami, but Sapp is also known to tweet “11:11 Yes Zirr” at 11:11 local time on any given day.

“Full circle for me,” Sapp, currently an NFL Network analyst, opined on “NFL Total Access” last week. “11/11, 99 in the rafters… hanging over the stadium… what can be better than that?”

One thing that doesn’t top it is the New York Jets’ current quarterback situation. During Sapp’s appearance on “Total Access” on the day of the Ring of Honor announcement, host Andrew Siciliano threw some red meat at him in the form of the circus that is Gang Green.

“I tell all my Jet fans, relax: you have a Florida boy at the helm,” Sapp said of recently drafted quarterback Geno Smith. “Don’t worry, Geno got you covered. You’re in good hands, Rich,” he added, tweaking colleague Rich Eisen.

One thing that would make this year a true blessing for Sapp is if the network extended his contract long term. You may recall around this time last year that NFLN was reportedly dropping him from their squad; obviously, that never materialized. I would think this is the perfect time for NFLN and Sapp to agree to a new deal that would give him financial security for the foreseeable future, now that his bankruptcy case is behind him. I think he’s learned his lesson for calling players “snitches” on their air.

But you know what the best thing about being inducted into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor is?

Unlike the Super Bowl and national championship rings he won with the Bucs and the Miami Hurricanes, respectively, Warren Sapp can’t lose this one.

2013 NFL Schedule: The Primetime Games: Broncos, Falcons, 49ers, Giants, Patriots, Redskins Have Five Games Each







Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins will play five games in primetime this season, starting with the 2013 opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on September 9 on ESPN.

Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins will play five games in primetime this season, starting with the 2013 opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on September 9 on ESPN.

Here is the list of all the primetime games scheduled for the 2013 NFL season.

Commentary to follow… Actually, I’ll get the back-patting out of the way early: I called the Ravens/Broncos opener on September 5, and I called the Washington Redskins getting five primetime games this season, up from just one last year.

And here are the games:

Thursday, September 5 – Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

Sunday, September 8 – New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

Monday, September 9 – Philadelphia Eagles @ Washington Redskins – 7:10 PM ET – ESPN

Monday, September 9 –  Houston Texans @ San Diego Chargers – 10:20 PM ET – ESPN

Thursday, September 12 – New York Jets @ New England Patriots – 8:25 PM ET – NFL Network

Sunday, September 15 – San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

Monday, September 16 – Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals – 8:40 PM ET – ESPN

Thursday, September 19 – Kansas City Chiefs @ Philadelphia Eagles – 8:25 PM ET – NFL Network

Sunday, September 22 – Chicago Bears @ Pittsburgh Steelers – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

Monday, September 23 – Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos – 8:40 PM ET – ESPN

Thursday, September 26 – San Francisco 49ers @ St. Louis Rams – 8:25 PM ET – NFL Network

Sunday, September 29 – New England Patriots @ Atlanta Falcoms – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

Monday, September 30 – Miami Dolphins @ New Orleans Saints – 8:40 PM ET – ESPN

Thursday, October 3 – Buffalo Bills @ Cleveland Browns – 8:25 PM ET – NFL Network

Sunday, October 6 – Houston Texans @ San Francisco 49ers – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

Monday, October 7 – New York Jets @ Atlanta Falcons – 8:40 PM ET – ESPN

Thursday, October 10 – New York Giants @ Chicago Bears – 8:25 PM ET – NFL Network

Sunday, October 13 – Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

Monday, October 14 – Indianapolis Colts @ San Diego Chargers – 8:40 PM ET – ESPN

Thursday, October 17 – Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals – 8:25 PM ET – NFL Network

Sunday, October 20 – Denver Broncos @ Indianapolis Colts – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

Monday, October 21 – Minnesota Vikings @ New York Giants – 8:40 PM ET – ESPN

Thursday, October 24 – Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 8:25 PM ET – NFL Network

Sunday, October 27 – Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

Monday, October 28 – Seattle Seahawks @ St. Louis Rams – 8:40 PM ET – ESPN

Thursday, October 31 – Cincinnati Bengals @ Miami Dolphins – 8:25 PM ET – NFL Network

Sunday, November 3 – Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

Monday, November 4 – Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers – 8:40 PM ET – ESPN

Thursday, November 7 – Washington Redskins @ Minnesota Vikings – 8:25 PM ET – NFL Network

Sunday, November 10 – Dallas Cowboys @ New Orleans Saints – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

Monday, November 11 – Miami Dolphins @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 8:40 PM ET – ESPN

Thursday, November 14 –Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans – 8:25 PM ET – NFL Network

Sunday, November 17 – Green Bay Packers @ New York Giants – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

Monday, November 18 – New England Patriots @ Carolina Panthers – 8:40 PM ET – ESPN

Thursday, November 21 – New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons – 8:25 PM ET – NFL Network

Sunday, November 24 – Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

Monday, November 25 – San Francisco 49ers @ Washington Redskins – 8:40 PM ET – ESPN

Thursday, November 28 (Thanksgiving) – Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens – 8:20 PM ET – NBC

Sunday, December 1 – New York Giants @ Washington Redskins – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

Monday, December 2 – New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks – 8:40 PM ET – ESPN

Thursday, December 5 – Houston Texans @ Jacksonville Jaguars – 8:25 PM ET – NFL Network

Sunday, December 8 – Atlanta Falcons @ Green Bay Packers – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

Monday, December 9 – Dallas Cowboys @ Chicago Bears – 8:40 PM ET – ESPN

Thursday, December 12 – San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos – 8:25 PM ET – NFL Network

Sunday, December 15 – Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

Monday, December 16 – Baltimore Ravens @ Detroit Lions – 8:40 PM ET – ESPN

Sunday, December 22 – New England Patriots @ Baltimore Ravens – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

Monday, December 23 – Atlanta Falcons @ San Francisco 49ers – 8:40 PM ET – ESPN

Sunday, December 29 – [Teams to be determined following Week 16] – 8:30 PM ET – NBC

TEAMS WITH FIVE PRIMETIME GAMES: Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins.

TEAMS WITH FOUR PRIMETIME GAMES: Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks.

TEAMS WITH THREE PRIMETIME GAMES: Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers.

TEAMS WITH TWO PRIMETIME GAMES: Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

TEAMS WITH ONE PRIMETIME GAME: Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans.


OBSERVATIONS: So, let me get this straight: The Baltimore Ravens win the Super Bowl, yet the runner-up gets one more primetime game in the ensuing season than the World Champions? Explain that to me.

Also, explain to me how the NFL didn’t greenlight the Denver Broncos going to Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. This was a given when the AFC opponents for the Cowboys were released at the top of the year. Or so I thought. Now, it’s going to be a chance to pass out with tryptophan in between another Packers/Lions matinee and the Ravens hosting another Thanksgiving night game, this time against the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

I wonder if Peyton Manning not getting a Thanksgiving date with Tony Romo was a byproduct of the Broncos actually hosting the NFL kickoff game.

Predictably, the Eagles/Chiefs game with Andy Reid bringing a new squad into Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia is an NFL Network Thursday night affair.

Predictably, that’s the Chiefs’ lone primetime game. The Jaguars’ sole primetime tilt in 2013 is also on NFLN, as was the case last year. Ditto for the Browns and the Bills, who actually play each other on an NFLN game; the Bills and the Dolphins killed two birds with one Thursday night primetime stone last season.

Thr Dolphins improve from one primetime game last year to three this year. Same with the Vikings. The Colts go from one primetime game last season to four this season. And I’ve already told you about the Redskins’ maxing out at five games, up from one last year.

Further proof NBC loves the NFC East: The Cowboys and Giants open the “Sunday Night Football” 2013 campaign. The Cowboys will appear on “SNF” three times this year, as will the Giants. Two of the Redskins’ five night contests are on NBC; two of them will air on ESPN. Eagles? Nowhere to be found on NBC’s initial schedule. Of course, the latter half of the season allows flex scheduling, so if the Eagles are actually a good team, they’ll likely see more than just the two games (down from five last year() they’ve been scheduled this year. In other words: the Cowboys/Eagles game that was not flexed out late last season might be the last time in awhile you’ll hear Al Michaels working an Eagles game.

And for the first time in recent memory, there are no Saturday games scheduled. The Bay City Rollers will now have to find alternate ways to be preoccupied this year.

A Canonical List Of Everything ESPN Has Ever Apologized For







Are you ready for some apologies from ESPN? Included in our list is Hank Williams Jr., best known for performing the theme song on “Monday Night Football,” singing a different tune on Fox News Channel hours before an “MNF” game.

The Alabama Crimson Tide won the 2013 BCS National Championship Game on Monday night.

But it was the beau of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron that stole the show – and with that, Brent Musburger’s heart.

And for this, ESPN saw fit to issue an apology for their lead college football announcer’s singing the praises not only of McCarron’s girlfriend, Katherine Webb, but his mother, Dee Dee Bonner.

Many are saying it’s uncalled for – the apology, that is.

Whether or not it’s warranted, it’s the latest in a very long string of “sorry’s” at the Worldwide Leader. So with that, I present a rolling list of apologies issued by either ESPN or ESPN employees, going back as far as the Internet can go. (I’m sure I missed a few, so if I omitted any, post a comment below and I’ll add it on.)

We’ll start off with an on-air comment that happened almost eight years ago – something that was the pure antithesis of Brent Musburger sweating Katherine Webb during the national championship game – involving Rick Majerus, who passed away just last month.

January 25, 2005: At one point during a college basketball broadcast, in which Kentucky routed Tennessee, color analyst Majerus said that he requested the presence of Kentucky alumnus (and possible Senator of Kentucky) Ashley Judd at the game. Why? “So I won’t have to watch adult videos back at the hotel.” The network apologized for the comment a few days later.

November 14, 2005: ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd is incensed at how much press the death of wrestler Eddie Guerrero got. “Who cares that he died? It’s not newsworthy.” (Guerrero was found dead in a hotel room prior to a match; he was 38 years old.)

April 13, 2007: Cowherd urging listeners to basically pull a denial of service attack on Jason McIntyre’s The Big Lead website.

December 11, 2007: Using what they called “very poor judgment” in constructing a poll asking website visitors which of three possibilities they would rather see in sports in the upcoming weekend – with one of the options being, “Kevin Garnett blow out his knee.”

January 11, 2008: Dana Jacobson’s drunken rant at a roast for Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic; she apologized on the air following her suspension.

March 9, 2008: Dan Shulman (pre-“Sunday Night Baseball”) issuing a mea culpa for cutting to “Speedo Guy” during a Duke/North Carolina game.

June 17, 2008: Jemele Hill penned a column in which she likened rooting for the Boston Celtics, who beat the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 that year in the NBA Finals, to “saying Hitler was a victim.”

September 15, 2008: In one of his three seasons in the booth for “Monday Night Football” – which moved to ESPN from ABC in 2006 – Tony Kornheiser’s recalling of high school Spanish was very fuzzy as, upon hearing Spanish-language audio of a Cowboys touchdown, he interpreted that as “either ‘nobody is going to touch him’, or ‘could you pick up my dry cleaning in the morning?’ (Is it a mere coincidence that this would be his final season in the “MNF” booth?) The next day, he apologized, admitting that while it was “not my first mistake,” it “undoubtedly won’t be my last.”

October 18, 2008: Apparently, Lou Holtz was a big fan of Jemele Hill’s works.

February 2, 2009: A promo featuring NBA play-by-player Mike Breen and Shaquille O’Neal (who joined TNT in 2011), in which Shaq disparaged “fist kissing” to the point that gay groups took offense to it; the promo was later dropped.

August 20, 2009: We say hello to Ms. Hill once again. This time, the offensive thing wasn’t written; it was said on “First Take”: she wanted Green Bay Packers fans to give Brett Favre, by this time donning the uniform of the division rival Minnesota Vikings, “the Duracell treatment when he comes to Lambeau Field.”

February 19, 2010: Kornheiser (way to keep a promise on screwing up again, Mr. Tony) had made up with Hannah Storm for choice words about her attire, comments for which he was suspended – comments he made on his radio show on the Washington, D.C. ESPN radio affiliate.

January 4, 2011: The aforementioned Storm and NFL insider Adam Schefter high-fiving and laughing while reporting on “Black Monday” that the Cleveland Browns have fired head coach Eric Mangini.

That same day, the network cut loose radio play-by-play announcer Ron Franklin, who had previously apologized to reporter Jeannine Edwards for referring to her as “sweet baby” during a staff meeting.

April 20, 2011: Former college basketball coach and current ESPN college basketball analyst Bob Knight singled out Kentucky’s program while making an argument that players that declare eligibility for the NBA draft after only a freshman season is “not healthy for college basketball.”

September 13, 2011: Ron Jaworski dropping an “S-bomb” while breaking down a play on “Monday Night Football.” (We don’t know if it’s a factor, but that was Jaws’ last season in the “MNF” booth.)

October 4, 2011: Hank Williams Jr. picking a Monday morning to compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler. After over twenty years of opening a reworked version of “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” for “Monday Night Football” on ESPN (and ABC before it), Hank Jr. would croon his tune no more.

November 19, 2011: On “College GameDay,” Lee Corso… ah, fuck it.

December 6, 2011: Trying to pull a fast one on Jaguars fans during a “Monday Night Football” broadcast, displaying outdated footage of the city of Jacksonville, and even Charlotte (note: the Panthers did not even play on “MNF” in 2011).

February 18, 2012: The inadvertent use of the idiom “Chink In The Armor” as a headline to a story about then-Knick Jeremy Lin, losing his first game as a starter for New York. (The person responsible for use of the term, Anthony Federico, was later fired.)

May 25, 2012: Ranking Philadelphia 76ers forward/center Lavoy Allen number 500 in a list of the best players in the NBA – no, it’s true. (And is it really something to apologize for if Allen is taking the ball and running with it? Check out his Twitter handle.)

May 30, 2012: Perhaps one that ranks right up there with the Musburger/Webb kerfuffel (or the Lavoy Allen thing above): “During its SportsCenter broadcast… Stan Verrett, apologized on behalf of his peers in the national media for failing to recognize until recently just how good the Spurs are and how special their 20-game winning streak is.”

July 25, 2012: Reporting a story involving then-Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard on “SportsCenter” – one that was lifted from another website and read virtually verbatim.

November 12, 2012: A chyron on the rundown bar of “Monday Night Countdown” teasing a segment revolving around Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, “Dink And Dunk,” had actually read “Drink And Drunk.” (Big Ben has been known for exploits at bars; he had also flirted with legal trouble, but has never been arrested.)

November 24, 2012: Perhaps just as trivial as the Musburger/Webb thing, depending on what part of the country you’re from or in: Canadian-born Jesse Palmer making the “hook ’em horns” hand signal – with the horns pointed downward.

December 19, 2012: Nearly a week after he wondered on “First Take” if Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was “a cornball brother,” Rob Parker issued an apology. (In case you missed it, the network is not renewing his contract.)

Just this Monday, hours before Musburger’s Webb gem: A soccer analyst depicting a player who worked his hand into a scoring drive as “a cheat.”

Honorable mention: We go all the way back to April 8, 1994, when the network apologized for then-ESPN2 host Jim Rome taunting then-New Orleans Saints quarterback Jim Everett to the point that Everett knocked Rome to the floor.

As for Everett? “I don’t regret what I did.”

And for all those who wish to relive that magic moment, here’s what Chris, er, Jim Everett did to Jim Rome, again.

(Even the people in the control room were taunting Everett through chyrons!)

From Baltimore To Bristol: Ray Lewis Joining ESPN







Former NFL defensive end and current ESPN NFL analyst Damien Woody talks about the imminent retirement of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis on Wednesday. Little does Woody know, Lewis is going to be his colleague very soon.

After missing half of the regular season due to injury and with a playoff game on the horizon this weekend, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis decided to announce his retirement from the NFL after a remarkable seventeen-year career, in which he was voted to the Pro Bowl a dozen times.

And while Sunday’s game, in which the Ravens host the Indianapolis Colts, might be the last one Lewis plays on the field, he’ll be joining a new team soon enough.

The linebacker has agreed in principle to sign a multi-year contract with ESPN. While no official announcement will be made by the network until after the Ravens are eliminated from the playoffs, or Super Bowl XLVII, whichever comes first, he could be working for the Worldwide Leader as early as this year’s NFL Draft.

Ace sports media reporter Richard Deitsch, who first broke the story today, reported that Lewis, accompanied by representatives from a talent agency, had held meetings with networks that hold NFL broadcasting rights during the regular season that just ended last week.

This likely lends creedence to Lewis’ seemingly abrupt decision to call it quits in the NFL this week.

What led Lewis to choose ESPN over the other networks is their willingness to allow a work schedule that would be flexible so that he can watch his son, Ray III, play football for the University of Miami, which the elder Lewis attended for three seasons before foregoing the final year to be drafted in the first round (26th overall) of the 1996 NFL Draft by the Ravens.

CBS and Fox, which air weekly NFL pregame shows on Sundays, may have required Lewis to attend meetings on Saturday afternoons while most Hurricane football games are being played, as Deitsch points out.

But Lewis’ landing at ESPN was a foregone conclusion, and here’s why: in addition to the above, ESPN would have dug deeper into their war chest for such a vibrant personality, one that Deitsch says was highly coveted on all five networks’ radars. They could easily outbid NBC and CBS, who could use Lewis in certain aspects for their upstart cable and sports radio networks.

Then there’s the NFL Network. While Lewis would no doubt fit right in with the crew in Culver City, there’s reason to believe that, as long as Roger Goodell is commissioner of the league, which operates the network, Lewis would never be hired at NFLN, due to his involvement in that post-Super Bowl stabbing in 2000. True, he was never proven guilty, but given Goodell’s gung-ho nature on violence, inside the NFL and out, he likely would never agree to oversee a deal to bring Lewis to NFLN’s airwaves.

And so, rather than be reunited with Brian Billick, a Fox NFL analyst who is a regulsr contributor to NFL Network, he will instead team up once again with Trent Dilfer, the quarterback of the Super Bowl XXXV-winning Ravens team.

By the way, Disney selected Dilfer, and not Lewis, to utter their iconic “I’m going to Disney World” phrase in their annual Super Bowl ad.

And Disney currently owns ESPN, just as they did back in 2001.

I suppose Dilfer won’t be taking any words out of Lewis’ mouth this time around.

So with ESPN bringing Lewis on board, possibly for their “Monday Night Countdown” program, the question is, which of the ensemble cast of ten will be affected, if at all? In addition to ESPN talent Chris Berman and Stuart Scott, you have a six-pack of former NFL figures (Dilfer, Tom Jackson, Steve Young, Mike Ditka, Keyshawn Johnson, Cris Carter) plus league insiders Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen. And that’s not counting the “Monday Night Football” boothmates of Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden (if he decides not to resume his coaching career).

We’d have to think that, of the aforementioned ex-NFL athletes and coaches, Carter and Johnson are the most vulnerable, and Carter just recently re-upped with the Worldwide Leader.

Johnson? The last thing he made news for was for starting his new wine label.


Source: ESPN Will Air One Wild Card Playoff Game Per Year Starting In 2014

ESPN will likely begin airing a first-round “wild card” playoff game starting in 2014, which will likely be worked by their “Monday Night Football” booth, which currently consists of Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden.

As ESPN aired the 2012 season finale of “Monday Night Football” on Saturday night – which many claim is due to the fact that Christmas Eve falls on a Monday this year; yet, this did not stop the NFL from scheduling all but one game on Christmas Eve last year – there was talk that this would not be the last time ESPN would air an NFL game on a Saturday.

And it’s not because the NFL might schedule a Saturday night game again next year – people were already looking ahead to 2014.

At around this time last year, the NFL agreed to a new nine-year deal with its broadcast partners, effective 2014. A few months earlier, ESPN extended its own partnership with the NFL. At the time of the deal, a network spokesperson said the league may exercise “the option to air a postseason wild-card playoff game on ESPN” and that “no decision has been made.”

And that is still the case, but there’s word from somebody very close to ESPN that, starting in the 2014-15 season, one of the “Wild Card Weekend” games that have been airing on Saturdays on NBC will be broadcast on ESPN.

ESPN historian James Andrew Miller calculates that, on top of the $15.2 billion that the Worldwide Leader would be shelling out to the league for its nine-year deal, an estimated $100 million would be invested in wild card round playoff games, making ESPN’s annual payment to the NFL “a cool $2 billion per year.”

In addition to ESPN gaining an NFL playoff game in the wild card round, there’s speculation that NBC could gain as many as two playoff games in the divisional round. The second round format would have NBC either airing two games on Saturday, or just one, with CBS and Fox alternating the second divisional round playoff game on Saturday; CBS and Fox would still air one game apiece that Sunday, as has been the case during all three rounds leading up to the Super Bowl, and is expected to remain so as we enter the Soaring Twenties.

But the main point that should be taken away from this post is that it’s all but a done deal (and once again, nothing is official at this time) that ESPN will get into the playoff picture, as far as NFL broadcasts are concerned.

The big question is, once this new playoff broadcasting format is in place, will the playoff games being broadcast on ESPN be available exclusively on ESPN, and not simulcast on broadcast channels in markets of the teams involved in the games, as has been the case during regular season matchups over the last quarter century? Since this practice can only maximize ratings, there’s no reason to think it would be discontinued for the wild card games.

Then again, ESPN has become the exclusive broadcasting home of bowl games that once graced analog television screens every New Year’s Day.

If this can happen on the college ranks, there’s no reason it can be ruled out on the professional level.

It should be a given that the current “Monday Night Football” booth of Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden (assuming he’s still there) will work ESPN’s new wild card game.

But consider Chris Berman, who recently signed a “multiyear deal” with ESPN, expected to expire in 2018. Also consider that, right around that time, he (and Trent Dilfer) were assigned to work the second game of the opening-week “Monday Night Football” doubleheader this year. It would be a blessing in disguise that NFL playoff games called by Chris Berman are restricted to cable television in the first place, but I think if ESPN gets only one NFL playoff game, it’ll likely be worked by the “MNF” announcing crew.

It would be reasonable for NFL to go public with ESPN’s “playoff berth” at the conclusion of the current NFL broadcasting deal, but I would expect the NFL to make an official announcement on the playoff broadcasting realignment sometime in 2013, perhaps as early as the annual NFL Spring Meeting, or as late as Christmas.

Oh, Reilly? Rick Begs Credit For Big Ben Injury Scoop

ESPN’s Rick Reilly was caught on camera during the “Monday Night Football” postgame show, appealing to Stuart Scott that he give credit to Reilly for being “first on Twitter” with developing news on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder injury during the game.

As nearly 13 million viewers witnessed what turned out to be a surprisingly competitive matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Pittsburgh Steelers – the Chiefs had led during regulation for the first time all season, but, alas, lost in overtime – they also saw star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger go down with a right shoulder injury in the third quarter.

As the remainder of the game played out, ESPN’s resident reporter/columnist/Norm MacDonald punching bag Rick Reilly was sending his hundreds of followers on Twitter updates on Big Ben’s injury, including one where he shared that he was “just guessing Roethlisberger was leaving to get an MRI.” Just to confirm, he reached out to a team spokesman who denied he was getting medical attention, then moments later did confirm via Big Ben’s agent that he was going to get his shoulder looked at.

To many journalists, such events aren’t a big deal. NFL players get hurt all the time. We assume they’re going to get treatment for their injuries.

But that wasn’t enough for Reilly. He thought the fact that he kept his Twitter followers updated on Roethlisberger’s status, he should be the Chris Broussard of this story.

And whoever was left of the 13 million “Monday Night Football” viewers got to see it for themselves.

On ESPN’s “MNF” postgame show, the host threw it back to Pittsburgh, where Reilly had joined Stuart Scott, Trent Dilfer and Steve Young to discuss Roethlisberger’s shoulder injury.

But, thanks to a premature cutaway, not before we see Reilly make this demand to Scott: “Will you say that I had this first on Twitter?”

At that moment: silence, microphone feedback, and a very pissed Young giving Reilly a “WTF” look.

Sure enough, Scott undeservedly told viewers, as he brought Reilly into the discussion: “You had it first on Twitter.”

Reilly obviously didn’t think the crew was back on the air yet – otherwise he probably wouldn’t have outed himself to millions of viewers.

If he really had pride in his reporting, Reilly wouldn’t need to beg for credit for the story as it was developing. Perhaps he would have started his on-air soliliquy with, “Yes, and as I first reported on Twitter, Ben Roethlisberger has been taken to a hospital…”

Pretty pathetic, if you ask me. This is bizarro plagiarism.

How bad is this? Mike Francesa, who thinks Twitter is so evil that famous people who use it should be put in jail, even thought Reilly went off the deep end Monday night.

Now that is pretty bad.

No mea culpa from a possibly terrified-inside Reilly on his coveted Twitter account on Tuesday. Just a tweet informing followers that the “Steelers are going to have to adjust to [backup quarterback Byron] Leftwich’s huge arm.”

That same day, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin officially ruled Roethlisberger as “questionable” for the team’s next game at Heinz Field against the division rival Baltimore Ravens, who currently lead the NFC North.

Fear not. The ESPN Minister Of Steelers Information has already ruled Big Ben out.