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Tom Phillips Builds WWE Broadcasting Career

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Millions of television viewers across the world see Tom Phillips at work each week.

He’s polished and prepared — a true professional. He’s seen on a variety of programs on WWE Network, including “WWE Main Event,” and previously served as the youngest announcer in “SmackDown!” history (at age 25, in August 2014).

In his roles, Phillips describes action on the shows and related storylines for viewers, whom he unfailingly refers to as members of the “WWE Universe.” Additionally, he makes a striking impression with dark, well-trimmed hair and designer suits.

Most impressive, while at work in front of thousands of fans in often-raucous arenas, with action playing out before him and behind-the-scenes producers providing direction and information through his earpiece, he nimbly balances all the distractions and keeps broadcasts on track.

In his role, Phillips travels about five days a week, all over the world with the multimillion-dollar WWE troupe. He provides content for a variety of WWE programing and special events, and previously served as on-air host for a successful weekly social media series. When he’s not in front of the camera or preparing for assignments, he’s still at work. True days off seem rare.

“It may sound cliché, but I watch the WWE Network constantly. It could be matches from 1991, 1970 or as recently as 2010. I just like to listen to the ways commentary has changed through the years,” he said. “On commentary, we try to really bring what’s happening to life. So you have to know the product, the superstars and history. It’s not always easy.

“At first it was like trying to learn Chinese and having no knowledge of how to speak Chinese. The difficult thing was finding my own voice, and it feels like I’m competing with myself every week to get better.”

In good company:

He’s figured that out pretty well, though. With his WWE position, Phillips — the stage name for Tom Hannifan, 26, who earned his Penn State journalism degree in 2011 — ranks as one of the more accomplished and visible young alumni from the College of Communications.

Earning an opportunity, and praise, as a WWE commentator puts Hannifan in good company. Many talented sports broadcasters and producers have collaborated or worked with WWE at some point during their careers. That includes on-air talent like Jonathan Coachman and Todd Grisham, both now at ESPN, and John Filippelli, president of the YES Network, who previously worked for ABC Sports, Fox Broadcasting and, briefly, WWE.

In addition, WWE broadcasts rely on state-of-the-art mobile production facilities built by companies such as Pittsburgh-based NEP Broadcasting, which has included a strong contingent of Penn State alumni through the years.

“What he’s doing is extremely challenging. I would say if you can broadcast sports entertainment efficiently that you could transfer those skills into virtually any other televised entity,” said Jim “JR” Ross, a pro wrestling/sports entertainment commentator for 40 years who was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007. His ongoing relationship with WWE includes work with the organization’s talent development efforts. That’s where he first met Hannifan in 2012.

“He’s a low-maintenance, hard-working kid,” Ross said. “He came with a good work ethic and an obvious desire to be good. I think that’s a testament to his upbringing and his education at Penn State. He’s got a great look, works hard, and his voice cuts through the clutter. He’s well on his way to establishing an excellent body of work in that genre, and only time will tell how far that will take him.”

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Sports TV News

Joe Buck: ESPN Is Letting Us Set Tone For Monday Night Football

“It wasn’t well, you are at ESPN, you have to figure out how we do it.”

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While Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will be calling football games on Monday nights for ESPN instead of Sunday afternoons for FOX this year, fans shouldn’t expect the broadcasts to be that much different, if at all, than what they’ve been used to over the last 20 years. 

Buck was recently a guest on the Green Light with Chris Long podcast and said that ESPN knows that he and Aikman have to be comfortable in order for Monday Night Football to be a success.

“I know we are in the honeymoon phase. I’m not dumb. That stuff wears off after a while. They are like ‘however you guys have always done a game, that’s the way we want you to do a game whether it’s with regard to meetings vs. conference calls or when you guys show up, how you like the booth set up. However you want it, we are going to do it your way’ and that’s to their credit. It wasn’t well, you are at ESPN, you have to figure out how we do it.”

Buck and Aikman are obviously already very familiar with each other. Buck said that it will be important not to take that for granted or second guess what they already know.

“I think the one thing Troy and I have to avoid is trying to be different than we’ve been. They hired us based on what we’ve done and who we are and how we relate to each other and the way we see a game,” said Buck. 

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Mike Tirico, Tom Brady, Manningcast Win Sports Emmys

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The annual Sports Emmys were handed out on Tuesday night, and some usual names and new names ended up taking home hardware.

Among the usual names were NBC’s Mike Tirico, who won for Outstanding Personality/Studio Host, and soon-to-be Sunday Night Football broadcast colleague Cris Collinsworth, who was named Outstanding Personality/Sports Event Analyst.

But among the new names as Sports Emmy winners include Tom Brady and both Eli and Peyton Manning.

Brady’s Man in the Arena saga won Outstanding Documentary Series, while the Mannings were rewarded for their work on the Monday Night Football Manningcast, which won Outstanding Live Series.

Here’s a rundown of some of the key Sports Emmy winners:

Here is a full list of winners and nominees for the 2022 ceremony.

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Joe Buck Says He Won’t Miss World Series

“This is the first time since I was 18-years-old, and I’m 53, that I’m not doing a baseball game.”

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USA Today

Among the bigger chain reactions set off by Joe Buck leaving FOX for ESPN was the sudden vacancy in FOX’s main MLB broadcast booth.

The 2022 World Series will mark the first time since 1995 that Buck will not be on the microphone.

Speaking to Chris Long on his podcast Green Light, Buck hopes to be in a more exotic location watching World Series games this fall.

“I would like to be in Cabo San Lucas with a margarita in my hand and a half-smoked cigar watching Game 7 of the World Series,” Buck said. “Cheering on Joe Davis and John Smoltz, and Ken Rosenthal, and Tom Verducci, and Pete Macheska and Matt Gangl and right on down the line.”

Buck added he’ll take pleasure in turning the broadcast off if it’s Game 7 and there’s an insurmountable lead. But the broadcasting legend said even on a bigger scale, not calling any baseball games at all this season, let alone the World Series, is a bit surreal after covering the sport for so long.

“This is the first time since I was 18-years-old, and I’m 53, that I’m not doing a baseball game,” he said. “And that’s really weird to me, but I walk away really proud of what I and we did.”

He added that he will not miss the opportunity, because he does not feel like he will “leave any unfinished business” in FOX’s MLB booth.

Buck further praised his FOX colleagues and said it was time for a change. He knows Joe Davis will thrive in the opportunity.

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