Jan. 4, 2011; New Orleans, LA, USA; ESPN logo prior to the 2011 Sugar Bowl between the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Louisiana Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
ESPN was viewed as the big winner among the TV networks when they landed the Dallas Cowboys-Tampa Bay Buccaneers playoff game for the Wild Card Round. The Cowboys are the most popular NFL team and frequently draw the greatest amount of viewers. Likewise, Bucs quarterback Tom Brady is the most famous NFL player, and he draws big TV audiences as well.
How did ESPN land the dream playoff game rather than FOX, NBC or CBS? Some thought it might have been related to ESPN having Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, who teamed to call many notable NFC playoff games over the last two decades, thanks in part to Aikman being a former Cowboys star quarterback. But that’s not the reason.
Sports media reporter Andrew Marchand wrote in his weekly newsletter that the reason ESPN got the game is largely rooted in logistics.
ESPN has the Monday night game, and the NFL will put a 4-5 game on Monday night so that all the matchups for the Divisional Round are set except for one team. The reason is the 2-7 and 3-6 games can affect matchups. But once those games are played, the 4-5 matchup cannot affect the matchups.
Last year, which was the first season of the expanded playoff field to seven teams per conference, ESPN had the 4-5 NFC matchup between the Rams and Cardinals on Monday night.
Maybe ESPN just got lucky this year that two of the biggest TV draws happened to be the 4-5 seeds in the NFC.
If you were watching the Saturday night Week 18 matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans, you might have been wondering what was going on with the microphones for the ESPN announcers and reporters.
The microphone flags that display a company logo were backwards whenever ESPN announcers appeared in front of the cameras. You can see with announcers Troy Aikman and Joe Buck, as well as reporters Lisa Salters and John Sutcliffe (who works for ESPN Deportes).
No, those weren’t examples of the broadcast team trying to protest or show disrespect to the network. Rather, that was done intentionally as a tribute to Damar Hamlin.
Hamlin’s jersey number is 3, so a backwards “E” for ESPN becomes a three.
Teams across the league had gestures of support for Hamlin planned for Week 18. ESPN joined in as well to show their support for the Buffalo Bills safety, who is recovering after going into cardiac arrest in Week 17 and has made great progress.
May 25, 2022; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) brings the ball up court during the fourth quarter of game five of the 2022 eastern conference finals against the Boston Celtics at FTX Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
Jimmy Butler looked just a little bit off during Friday night’s broadcast.
Butler and the Miami Heat faced off against the Phoenix Suns on Friday in a national TV contest that was aired on ESPN. At one point during the game, ESPN showed a graphic of the leading vote-getters thus far for the 2023 All-Star Game. Butler, who currently ranks fifth among Eastern Conference frontcourt players in All-Star votes, was part of the graphic. But unlike the other four players on there (all of whom were displayed with their usual 2022-23 season headshots), Butler’s image appeared to be from [checks notes] the “NBA 2K” video game.
Take a look at the hilarious graphic:
There is actually a very plausible explanation for that bizarre image. Butler, perhaps the NBA’s master troll, showed up to media day engagements prior to the season sporting some ridiculous dreadlocks, knowing full well that the silly pictures that ensued would be used for promotional purposes all year.
Though Butler no longer has that hairstyle, he did succeed in getting his ludicrous images to air on television (among other places) multiple times.
But in the Year of Our Lord 2023, ESPN appears to have said, “enough is enough.” Butler got the last laugh though, posting 20 points, five rebounds, and six assists in the game for a 104-96 win over the Suns. He still seems to have plenty of fans at the network as well.
Jan 14, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; FOX analyst Joe Buck before the NFC Divisional Playoff football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
The NFL disputed what announcer Joe Buck said on Monday night about plans to resume the Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game after Damar Hamlin collapsed, but ESPN is standing by the on-air report.
Fans and the media were highly critical of the NFL for not suspending the game until more than an hour after Hamlin’s life-threatening injury occurred. ESPN went to commercial numerous times after the medical emergency, but they also brought back the broadcast team and allowed Buck to provide updates. On three separate occasions, Buck mentioned that the NFL had given teams a five-minute warmup period, which was an indication that the plan was to resume the game.
Buck said he had gotten the word “from the league” and “from down on the field.”
NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent held a conference call with reporters after the game. He said there was never any directive from him or anyone else with the league to have players warm up in anticipation of resuming play. Vincent called the claim “ridiculous” and “insensitive.”
If what Vincent said was true, that would mean Buck and ESPN made a big error and/or misinterpreted the information they received from the NFL.
ESPN issued a statement on Tuesday reiterating that the information Buck relayed came from the network’s “constant communication” with the league.
“There was constant communication in real time between ESPN and league and game officials,” the statement said, via Jeff Howe of The Athletic. “As a result of that, we reported what we were told in the moment and immediately updated fans as new information was learned. This was an unprecedented, rapidly-evolving circumstance. All night long, we refrained from speculation.”
Many people were left with the impression that the NFL planned to resume play until Bengals coach Zac Taylor and Bills coach Sean McDermott stepped in. It is unclear if that is what actually happened.
The NFL was likely going through its usual protocol for a major injury until it became clear that what happened with Hamlin was, unfortunately, a very unique situation. Rather than implying Buck and ESPN got it wrong, the league would have been better off admitting that.
ESPN made a big blunder with a graphic about Peyton Manning on Friday night.
Manning was in attendance for the Orange Bowl Friday to watch his alma mater Tennessee take on Clemson. Late in the game, ESPN showed Manning in attendance at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
The chyron described Manning as a Tennessee quarterback from 1994-1997, which is accurate. Unfortunately, they also credited him as a 1998 national champion, which is inaccurate.
Manning never won a national championship in college. He went 8-4, 11-1, 10-2 and 11-2, losing to Florida all four years.
During his senior year, Manning’s Vols beat Auburn in the SEC Championship but lost to Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Nebraska and Michigan split the polls as the No. 1 teams. The 1-loss ’95 team beat Ohio State in the Citrus Bowl, but they were overshadowed by the Gators, whose only loss came to No. 1 Nebraska.
Tennessee’s national championship came the year after Manning graduated, with Tee Martin at quarterback. The team also had Peerless Price at receiver, future Pro Bowl running backs Travis Henry and Jamal Lewis, linebacker Al Wilson, and offensive lineman Chad Clifton.
Though Peyton was great at Tennessee, he never won the national championship or Heisman Trophy.
Dec 5, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts on the field prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers trailed the New Orleans Saints, 16-3, with just over 3:00 remaining on Monday night. That’s when Tom Brady, arguably the greatest of all-time, did his thing.
Brady connected with tight end Cade Otton to cap off a 10-play, 91-yard drive. The score brought the Bucs within 16-10 and a quick three-and-out put the ball back in Brady’s hands.
We’ve all seen this story before and it played out similarly.
The Bucs’ offense engineered an 11-play, 63-yard drive that concluded with a six-yard touchdown pass from Brady to running back Rachaad White.
The 17-16 victory improved Tampa Bay’s record to 6-6 and kept them very much alive in the NFC Playoff hunt. It also energized the always vocal Tom Brady, who just happened to pass the ESPN cameras on his way into the locker-room. And they once again caught Brady dropping F-bombs on live television.
Below video is not safe for work (NSFW).
F-bombs roll off Brady’s lips naturally. After all, that is his “go-to word.”
“I wish I did have a better mouth out there at times. But there’s nothing that quite expresses the way I feel like that word. It is [a great word], especially in the heat of the moment. No I don’t say it at home, of course not. It’s pretty well filtered at the house,” Brady told WEEI in 2014.
Brady has been caught dropping F-bombs countless times throughout his career. It’s come during post-game press conferences, on the sideline and even on the field during disagreements with officials. It genuinely is his go-to.
Feb 8, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon looks on during warm ups before a game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
2022 is turning out to be the year of Becky Hammon.
ESPN announced on Wednesday that the WNBA legend Hammon will be joining their network as an NBA studio analyst for the 2022-23 season. Hammon will be making her debut in December, ESPN added.
A six-time All-Star during her playing career in the WNBA, Hammon went on to become an assistant in the NBA for the San Antonio Spurs. She served on Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s staff for eight seasons from 2014 to 2022. Hammon then left to become the head coach of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, leading the Aces to the WNBA title in her very first season and being named 2022 WNBA Coach of the Year.
The new WNBA season will not start until May, leaving Hammon plenty of time to contribute to ESPN’s NBA coverage. She also becomes the latest big name that the network has added to their team of basketball analysts.
Dec 18, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith broadcasts before a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Anybody craving more of Stephen A. Smith is officially in luck.
The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson reports Thursday that Peyton Manning’s company will enlist the ESPN personality Smith (plus guests) to call a total of four NBA games this year on alternate telecasts that will air on ESPN2. Jackson notes that traditional telecasts of those four NBA games will still run on ESPN.
The idea is similar to the “ManningCast” show that Peyton has been doing with his brother Eli on ESPN2 for the last two NFL seasons. “ManningCast” airs live during “Monday Night Football” as an alternate to the main ESPN telecast. The Manning brothers provide the commentary, often with guests.
Of course, the primary value of “ManningCast” is that Peyton and Eli played and have an intricate knowledge of the game that they can relay to viewers. Smith obviously has personality, but he probably won’t add too much to an NBA game broadcast other than just being Stephen A. But at least Smith is sticking to his strength in basketball instead of continuing to try his hand at football (which he is obviously not very good at).
Apr 12, 2018; Los Angeles , CA, USA; Ice Cube reacts during the BIG3 League draft at at the Fox Sports Studio.. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Ice Cube is going after Adam Silver this time instead of Jerry Heller.
Retired former NBA swingman Stephen Jackson took to social media recently with a message of support for the rapper and businessman Ice Cube. Jackson, who is now a head coach in Ice Cube’s BIG3 basketball league, also called on fans to come and attend BIG3 games.
Ice Cube thanked Jackson for the message and also said that the NBA and ESPN were trying to destroy the BIG3.
“Appreciate you @DaTrillStak5,” tweeted the “Check Yo Self” rapper. “We definitely need everybody’s support. The @nba and @espn are doing everything in their powers to ignore or destroy @thebig3.”
Ice Cube later doubled down by tweeting a link to a YouTube video accusing the NBA and ESPN of “hating” on the BIG3.
While obviously on a much lower level, the BIG3 is technically a competitor to the NBA. Having launched in 2017, the three-on-three basketball league has successfully recruited several former NBA All-Stars like Joe Johnson, Allen Iverson, Rashard Lewis, and Amar’e Stoudemire. The BIG3’s games also air on CBS Sports after previously airing on FOX Sports 1. They do not air on ESPN, which is a broadcast partner of the NBA.
Ice Cube has done a pretty good job of building the BIG3 from the ground up and even managed to get one of his players back into the NBA. But he clearly believes there are greater forces praying for the BIG3’s downfall.
Jun 5, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) warms up before game two of the 2022 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Klay Thompson cannot stand one man and one man in particular.
ESPN aired an interview on Monday’s episode of “NBA Today” with Ronnie Singh (popularly known by his nickname, “Ronnie 2K”). Singh officially serves as the digital marketing director for the popular “NBA 2K” video game and has effectively become the face of the franchise.
The Golden State Warriors star Thompson was not at all pleased to see Singh receiving a platform on ESPN.
“Y’all really interviewed this clown?” Thompson wrote in an Instagram comment. “I thought NBA on ESPN meant coverage of some of the best athletes in the world. Not interviewing a promoter …. Do better ESPN.”
In fairness, Thompson has a personal axe to grind with Singh and the rest of the “NBA 2K” team. Earlier in the offseason, the four-time NBA champion put “NBA 2K” on blast for giving him a supposedly disrespectful rating.
Unless they are maxed out at 99 overall (which has only happened a handful of times in the game’s history), NBA players hardly ever agree with their 2K ratings. But as the brand’s best-known ambassador, Singh bears the brunt of the backlash for the ratings decisions. Around this time last year, the wife of one top NBA star also got into a heated beef with Singh over the game.